Canals, Bridges, and Alternative Perspectives to a City

Leipzig’s Elster River has plenty of canals floating around it.

Kayaking, canoeing, and paddle boarding are a few activities folks can participate in on the water.

Recently, as I was traveling on one of the trams, I looked up to follow along which stops were coming up next, and on the next screen was a little bit of trivia, including the information: Leipzig has 450 bridges!

Keeping 450 bridges in mind, I was well aware of each bridge I passed under on my morning kayak trip earlier this week.  I apologize for the inconsistency with the blog posts, I was recently back in Canada for a couple of weeks, followed by back-to-back visitors from family – not that this is an excuse – I will do better, thanks for your patience and following along on this journey.  Since moving to Leipzig in March 2018, I have been curious about kayaking through the city.

I went to Stadthafen to rent kayaks, and the going rate at the different points around the city looks to be 6 EUR/hour for a one-person kayak.  The folks at Stadthafen provided a map with a suggested route for a two-hour kayak adventure, they also offer dry sacks for 3 EUR, and i am glad I paid for one because it turns out I am a messy kayaker! I got water everywhere INSIDE the kayak. No joke, one of the folks who helped bring the kayak out of the water at the end thought that the others splashed me with water! You can also buy a beer or non-alcoholic drink for your ride (or bring some water bottles of you own along) – I did both: one beer and my one water bottle.

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I do not have a lot of experience with kayaking, actually I’ve been canoeing at least double, maybe even triple, the amount I’ve kayaked, yet I prefer kayaking if it’s for a few hours, I think. Camping every summer in Canada at least two to three times each season, the group would most often rent canoes because we’d then go for day-trips and short portages to interior lakes, and make a whole thing of it.  The last time I kayaked was two years ago! I’m a bit rusty and my form was shotty at best. It’s still a lot of fun, and I find doing any activity in or on water provides heaps of enjoyment.

I love swimming and floating in the water during summer months. I was fortunate enough to grow up with a swimming pool and a boat to go out on the lake. I also grew up a short distance from most of Canada’s great lakes, which are the largest freshwater lakes in the world. I think I was a little bit spoiled with awesome water! I was just missing an ocean.  Even writing about water in this moment I’m thinking about how I want to be swimming RIGHT NOW. But that’s alright, it’s early July and there are still plenty of opportunities to get my feet wet.  My partner even jokes that I’m part fish because of how much I love to be in the water (I don’t eat fish or seafood so we also joke I don’t eat that to not be cannibalistic). Sommerzeit ist die besten für mich because the sun provides vitamin D for the body, which definitely helps my energy levels and makes my skin feel nice, and that leads to more physical energy to go out and about, and then, I’ll circle right back to swimming.  I feel a little bit like Bill-Nye-the-Science-Guy while adding that hyperlink about vitamin D, especially considering I’m laughing right now at myself and how silly this must read (here’s to hoping everyone knows Bill Nye – are you singing the song? I am…).  

Let me get back to the reason for this post: seeing the city from a different perspective. As I’ve written about before, I enjoy walking, and seeing the city via different transportation methods, cycling, walking, etc. changes the way that you experience it. Add going through different waterways and it’s a really enjoyable way to see the city.

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I began my journey kind of in Zentrum-West and continued West through some canals, across the Elster River, and towards Plagwitz and Lindenau. I’ve walked around these areas a number of times now, as well as taken the tram (I stayed in a couple of Airbnb’s in these areas last Fall). It was fun for me to actually recognize where I was and to be able to situate myself. I have the sense of direction of an ant; I just don’t seem to have one, even when looking at a map, I can go the wrong way – I do always end up where I want, but sometimes it just takes me longer.  

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The morning kayak trip was beautiful, it was gorgeous and sunny out. There were some other kayakers and canoers on the water, and a couple of tour boats, but nothing like heavy traffic.  I am not sure if it’s in the same in Germany, but boating friendliness is a thing in Canada. What I mean by that is that you wave or say hello to every boat you pass on the water, and sometimes you even have a short conversation with others.  For example, when we were younger, a boat with wakeboarders took my sister on board to help teach her because we all stopped on the water and we told them it was our first time out with the wakeboard. I followed my childhood instincts and started smiling and saying Hallo or Morgen to different folks and received the same in return.  Because it’s a bunch of canals and a river, there aren’t any speedboats (at least not that I’ve seen) which means that no one is in a hurry, everyone in their watercraft is just enjoying the flow of it all – or so it seems.  

I was a little freaked out going under my first bridge, it was also the lowest one I went under. I didn’t need to be concerned, but it was still dark and I have an active imagination – water creatures! I quietly screamed and squeaked, while the friends I went with who shared a two-person kayak, went the other side and came out laughing at me. There was so much seaweed in the water, that we all took turns laughing at ourselves for stirring some up and then taking it on a ride on the paddle.  

Seeing the restaurants that are along the waterways is also really nice, and watching folks go via their watercraft for drinks or lunch or dinner.  For example, while kayaking near Holbeinstrasse, I saw a tour boat stop at Heimathafen. I imagine that different tour boats have partnerships with the restaurants on the water, which helps both of their businesses. I’ve now been to Heimathafen a couple of different times, and I enjoyed the atmosphere, the patio has a few levels and is full of plants, it’s like a wild kingdom on the water.  Across the way from that is an Italian restaurant that has a couple of gondolas, we even saw a couple taking a gondola ride! Although, for this to be worth it, you’d probably want your own canoe or kayak, like the one woman I briefly chatted with on the dock there last time I went as she owns her own paddle board and went for a glass of wine.

I’ve been told you can also make your way down to Cospudener See through the river for a beach day, however, for me, it would be one hell of a mission to get BACK to where the rentals are from at the end of a day lounging at the beach. To do this would also involve a full-day rental, and at that point, it makes a lot more sense (again, to me at least) to take the tram or bus down to the beach. People are creative and active here, so I am positive that some folks take that adventure.

Summer is awesome, being out on the water is fantastic, taking the time to see how buildings and spaces look while exploring through a different transportation method are all really wonderful. I try to slow down and take life in when I remember to do so.  Sometimes professional life or personal life can become overwhelming and high stress, and having the ability and time to enjoy everything that surrounds you can be medicinal in itself. I recommend to everyone to get outside and have some fun. I even have to do this to myself sometimes, and it can be a challenge itself to make that step to get out the door and soak it all up.  

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