What is an international river


The Danube is the only major river in Europe that flows from west to east. It was and is one of the most important trade routes in Europe. On its long course it takes on all shapes that a river can have: from almost standing water to a torrent.

A river without a source?

In contrast to almost all other rivers, the Danube does not have a clearly defined source. The origins of the mighty river lie in the Black Forest. Two small rivers named Breg and Brigach unite at Donaueschingen to form the Danube.

Before these two rivers converge, another small stream flows into the Brigach, which has its source in a castle park near the Donaueschingen church hill. In the course of history, residents have argued time and again as to which of these three tributaries is the real source of the Danube.

Around 1584 the beginning of the Danube was defined where the castle spring flows into the Brigach. Later efforts were made to name the Breg - at 48 kilometers the longest of the three tributaries - as a source of the Danube. This can even be found in school books from the 1960s.

In the meantime, the beginning of the Danube at the confluence of the Breg and Brigach rivers is generally accepted - although there are still voices who regard the spring in the Donaueschingen castle park as the "real" Danube spring.

This long-running dispute led to the Danube - in contrast to rivers with a clear source - being measured backwards from the mouth. The 2850 km length is measured from the Danube Delta to Donaueschingen and indicated accordingly on the bank stones.

Where does the name come from?

"Danube" - that's the name of the river in German-speaking countries. In English it is called "Danube". The origin of these names is not clear. It is assumed that the term "Danube" has its origin in the language of the Celts who once lived in the headwaters. There was "Dona-aw" for "deep water" and "Do-avv" for "two waters", which could refer to the two source rivers.

"Danube", on the other hand, has its origin in the Indo-European "danu", which means something like river. The Romans had a god of water called "Danubius". In early documents the river is called "Tonach", later also "Donaw" and from 1763 "Danube".

From trickle to stream

The Danube covers 663 kilometers in German territory, measured from Donaueschingen to Jochenstein. On this stretch it grows from a small river to a powerful stream. Numerous rivers participate as water suppliers, above all the Iller, Lech, Altmühl, Isar and Inn.

The German area of ​​the Danube not only impresses with its scenic diversity, there is also a lot to discover culturally. In the course of history, among others, Celts and Romans, princes, emperors and kings have left numerous traces. You will therefore find impressive buildings all along the Danube.

The Danube submerges

The "Upper Danube" in Baden-Württemberg is the most pristine part of the river in Germany. Here you can see in impressive landscapes how the Danube moves with difficulty towards the east. The most unusual point is between Immendingen and Möhringen, it is known as the Danube sinking or Danube infiltration.

Much of the water seeps into limestone cliffs, and depending on the season, all of the water disappears and the river bed behind it dries up. The seeped water flows through a cave system that has hardly been explored until today. Part of it comes back to the surface twelve kilometers further south as the source of the Aach. The other part then feeds the river bed of the Danube with water again from Möhringen.

Basically the "Upper Danube" is a relatively calm body of water, in places one has the impression that it is even standing. Thus it is relatively uninteresting for the economy in this area: as a waterway neither deep nor wide enough and only usable as an energy source to a limited extent.

Accordingly, there was less interference with the landscape, which is why the Danube in Baden-Württemberg in its original form is a special attraction for tourists today.

The Danube gets work

In Bavaria, the Danube is slowly taking on the dimensions of a real river, which is why it is also interesting for the economy: From Ulm, the river is "navigable" and is also used by the energy industry. The water is used, among other things, to cool power plants.

First barrages and weirs change the natural course. From Kelheim, a good 20 kilometers from Regensburg, the Danube is wide enough for large ships.

This is also where the Main-Danube Canal starts, creating a continuous connection from the North Sea to the Black Sea. Serious interventions in nature were undertaken to enable international shipping. The river was straightened, natural landscapes disappeared.

Through the old Danube monarchy

In Austria at the latest, the Danube will become one of the most important trade routes in Europe. Already in the Middle Ages there were around 80 toll and customs stations for ships. On the approximately 350 kilometers of the Austrian Danube, narrow gorges alternate with wide valley landscapes. One of these broad plains is the Vienna Basin.

Hardly any other city is so closely connected to the Danube as the Austrian capital. Whether the Danube Monarchy, the Danube Wave, the modern Danube City or the old Donaustadt district: In Vienna, many things are adorned with the nickname Danube. In 1867, Johann Strauss even created a musical monument for the river with his Danube Waltz, which soon became Austria's secret anthem.