The River Elbe... it’s around 1,090 kilometres in length, from its source in the Sudeten Mountains to its North Sea estuary. Through bizarre mountains like those in Saxon Switzerland, it flows past historical places such as Meißen, Lutherstadt Wittenberg, Tangermünde and the Hansestadt Hamburg – but it shows off its most beautiful aspects when it reaches Dessau-Roßlau.
Welcome to the UNESCO biosphere reserve Middle Elbe (Biosphärenreservat Mittelelbe). This is the land of beavers, black and white storks, eagles and cranes and the warmth-loving river valley plants and orchids; and welcome to around 126,000 acres of nature. Part of the reserve belongs to the Dessau-Roßlauer municipal area, and it lies right on the town’s doorstep, something which occurs in no other town of this size in all of Germany.
This is something guests who visit our town want to see... and they can, but not in the core zone, unfortunately, because flora and fauna are allowed to develop completely undisturbed there. In many other locations, however, such as the beaver open-air enclosure, not far from the Auenhaus Info Pavilion on the eastern outskirts of the town, Mother Nature rules.
Castor fiber albicus – the Elbe beaver – like many of the ideas that came and come from Dessau-Roßlau – was an ‘export hit’, until beaver stocks in other German states and in the Netherlands and Denmark had been built up sufficiently.
The River Elbe, and the Mulde which flows into it, characterise the entire landscape of Dessau-Roßlau and Wörlitz. The largest hardwood floodplain forests in Europe can be found in the biosphere reserve of Middle Elbe – Mr. Beaver knows why he likes living here! – and old arms of the Elbe, such as the Kühnau Lake, are under the patronage of UNESCO, but twice! Once as part of the Middle Elbe biosphere reserve and once as the Garden Realm of Dessau-Wörlitz. This landscape characterised by the Flemish (water construction artists par excellence!) has been an example of sustainability since the times when the concept was totally unknown…
All this has of course left its mark on the history of Dessau-Roßlau – and this history can be traced, for example, in the shipbuilding and shipping museum (Schiffbau- und Schifffahrtsmuseum) in the district of Roßlau. All water sports are popular at and on the Elbe. Guests who prefer a pleasant river cruise will enjoy our passenger ships – but canoeists, rowers and the owners of sailing and motor yachts will also find anchorages and overnight accommodations to satisfy every taste.
Silence is golden for many of us nowadays and you can find it at many locations and in many variations on the Elbe around Dessau-Roßlau: sitting on a raised platform at the river's edge, for example, or lying on its white sand when the water level of the Elbe is low; on your bicycle on the Elbe cycle route; spreading a white tablecloth for a picnic on the meadows of the floodplains; and here’s something special... gliding quietly on the current with your car. What? With my car on the river, you ask? Yes! Your car doesn’t have to be an amphibious model, of course, but you can glide along on one of the yaw ferries, which can only be found in such numbers here. They use the force of the current to float from shore to shore without using any motor or muscle power – and our guests are sorry that the trip is over when they drive on to dry land again.
The River Elbe. The Kornhaus trip restaurant was built in 1929/30 by Bauhaus Master Carl Fieger – and you’ll find it where the Elbe describes a wide curve to leave the Dessau-Roßlau municipal area. Try sitting there with a cool white wine in the summer evening sun – you’ll soon share the great Walter Gropius’ enthusiasm for Dessau!