The Elbe is one of Europe’s major rivers, flowing through the Czech Republic and much of Germany. It is nearly 700 miles long, has its source in the Krkonoše Mountains and travels all the way to the North Sea, where it discharges close to Hamburg. Rather unimaginatively, the word Elbe comes from the Germanic word ‘albiz’, which simply means ‘river’.
Through the use of canals such as the Kiel and Elbe-Lubeck, more extensive trade routes across Germany have been forged. These examples allow passage all the way to the Baltic Sea but others help to connect the Elbe to major cities such as Berlin. The trade routes can be traced all the way back to the days of the Hanseatic League, which dominated commercial movements in this part of the world for around 400 years at the end of the Middle Ages and beyond.
With areas of spectacular natural beauty, such as Saxon Switzerland and the Elbe Sandstone Mountains, the river lends itself to some excellent scenic cruising. There is even a picturesque cycle path that runs parallel to the Elbe, which is very popular for those looking for a more active holiday.
Major ports which may be included on your Elbe river cruise include Dresden, Wittenberg and Meissen. Shore excursions will include walking tours of charming Old Towns; visits to palaces, art galleries and museums; and, in the case of Meissen, a look around the famous porcelain factory that has been in operation since the 1700s.