You think you know the Danube River, but do you really? Most of us know it from the many cruises that travel down it. However, I was going back way to the beginning of the Danube to learn more about it’s history and creation.
Danube River Facts
When I arrived in Germany I knew the facts about the Danube:
- It’s the second longest river in Europe at 1,780 miles.
- It travels through 10 countries in Europe.
- It’s unique for the simple reason that is flows into not one, but two seas: the North Sea and the Black Sea.
However there were plenty of other surprising facts I encountered on my trip along the Young Danube River that few people know. In fact, I suggest you see them to believe them!
The Beginning of the Danube River
It all starts at a spring, next to a royal castle in Donaueshigen. This spring is so important that it’s practically regarded as holy. A circular cement balustrade was the center of attention in the beautifully landscaped park highlighting the beginning of the Danube. The balustrade circled the Danube spring so that people could walk down the stairs and see it up close.
The Danube Travels Upwards in Donaueshigen
I stared at the water, it was pure and clear, I saw glimmering coins in the bottom next to green plants. I looked closely, squinted my eyes, and honed in on the little bubbles coming up to the surface; the Danube was trickling upwards, yes upwards.
As the spring waters flow underground, it meets up with two headwater streams, the Brigach and Breg, just east of Donaueshingen. There, they’ve built a small temple to mark the ‘birth’ of the Young Danube River. This spring is known as the source of the Danube and it’s just the beginning of the fascinating facts I learned about the Danube River.
Now You See It, Now You Don’t
The surprising Danube facts continue a bit further downstream near Immendingen where the Danube puts on the greatest show around…a disappearing act.
I walked with Ranger Samantha and local expert Anita into the Upper Danube Nature Park, past the campground, and along the marked path. They told me that just last week the whole Danube riverbed was dry. It was hard to believe as I stopped and looked at the river flowing in front of me. It left me to ponder, where does all of this water go in a week? As we kept walking down the path, the water level became less and less and what seemed to start as a river, looked more like a little trickling stream.
The Danube River Sinks Underground for miles!
As Ranger Samantha explained to me about the limestone that the Danube water sinks through, she suddenly told me to stop. She pointed at a little swirling eddy of water and told me to listen. I crouched down next to the water and it sounded a bit like a drain in a bathtub sucking the water in – shlurrrrpppp.
This is the disappearing act of the Danube – it sinks into the limestone and travels underground through limestone caverns for nearly 7.5 miles and then reappears. You can hear Samantha’s explanation as we stand on the nearly dry riverbed/sinkhole:
As we continue hiking along the path we talk about this beautiful, and relatively little known area of Germany known as Donaubergland. Donaugberland is the mountainous area between the source of the Danube, the Danube Sinkhole, and the Swabian Grand Canyon, where the young Danube carves its way through a steep gorge.
A man passes us on the trail with a stand up paddle board. I looked in surprise wondering where he’s going to find enough water to do that! The riverbed here in the Danube Nature Park is dry approximately 155 days of the year. As I stood there on the rocks with just little streams of water passing beneath my sandals, I thought about how this is the same body of water that large cruise ships and barges travel down throughout Europe.
How to Visit the Danube Sinkhole
To see this for yourself, Park at the camping area of Nina’s Ess Art and follow the path past the camping area. The path goes along the Danube where sometimes you’ll see water, and sometimes you won’t.
The Danube Flows Through a Grand Canyon!
My next surprise was nearby – it was less scientific, and more jaw dropping as we entered the ‘Swabian Grand Canyon’ in Donaubergland. We wind our way up a mountain road full of hairpin turns, to a lookout point. I was stunned when I looked down 500 feet into the canyon and viewed the Young Danube from above; an entirely different angle to view this surprising river.
I had never seen the Danube River like this; a twisting, turning river running poetically through the limestone canyon. This is definitely a place where cruise ships can’t go on the Danube!
Down in the canyon along the winding river there are a myriad of adventures you can have along the river such as canoeing, climbing, and a bike trail runs along the riverbed.
A big smile forms across my face as I know that this is the Danube few tourists see. Not only did the Danube intrigue me with its scientific surprises and facts, but it also grabbed me with its little known beauty in this region where the river begins its journey.
I was a guest of Germany Tourism during my time along the Young Danube River, however all opinions expressed here are my own.
By dan Unger October 5, 2016 - 9:53 am
Always with a new interesting goal fact you are Sherry. I spent 83 days biking that river in 09 and never knew where it started.
By Sherry October 5, 2016 - 11:38 am
Cool – can’t believe I stumped you on something about Germany!!
By Darlene Foster October 5, 2016 - 10:15 am
I love this post! It is so great to learn about the origin of this river and the sinkhole!! The pictures of the Swabian Grand Canyon are fabulous. I just released my book, Amanda on the Danube and am excited about sharing these amazing facts!
By Sherry October 5, 2016 - 11:37 am
I didn’t know you were writing a book about it! Did you ever make it to this section of the Young Danube in Germany – it’s fascinating and a completely different feel than what most people know and see of the Danube!
By John Rodgers October 5, 2016 - 10:16 am
Great information and the part about the disappearing act was really interesting . I have never heard of anything like that before. I have only seen the Danube much further down in Romania.
By Sherry October 5, 2016 - 11:36 am
Great! Glad I could let you know about it John. The ‘young’ section of the Danube that runs through Germany really is so different than the rest! I loved it for how small it was. I have lots more writing about the area coming up!
By Annika October 5, 2016 - 10:50 pm
This is jaw-dropping, I just can’t believe that sinkhole but doesn’t doesn’t look like one. This is my first time hearing about Danube River. Glad that I came across here.
By Darlene Foster October 7, 2016 - 9:16 am
No, I didn´t get there yet but wish I had before writing the book. Oh well, I´ll just need to write another one!! As always you inform us of the most amazing places. Thanks!!
By London October 9, 2016 - 10:08 am
It is amazing to see where this huge river starts. I have see the end of it in Romania, and it is huge. Compared to the begining where you can barely see water.
By Sherry October 9, 2016 - 11:03 am
I’ve never seen the end of it – someday I’ll have to get there and see how it matures! I’ve never traced a river back to it’s beginning before – it was really fun to see and learn about! I hope you make it to the Young Danube one day!