Jena Canoe Trip

Nathalie wished to go canoeing for a long time and we found out a while ago that this is offered in Jena. But since it could be boring for two and a small canoe is more likely to tip over, we also invited Dominik and René. We chose Jena-Porstendorf as the route, which is only a 2-hour boat trip of around 9 kilometers. We booked an appointment on a Sunday and the weather was fine – just a little cloudy, but no rain. The fact that it had hardly rained in the last few weeks was to be a small disadvantage.

The three of us – Dominik, Nathalie and I – took the train from Weimar to Jena West, from where it was about a 30-minute walk to the Saalbahnhof, where the starting point of the canoe trip was in the immediate vicinity. We didn’t go directly to the train station because there weren’t any trains going there that early. The starting point was under the Griesbrücke, where we also waited for René until he arrived. In the meantime, some school classes have already gathered at the boats, which fortunately started earlier, so we didn’t have to wait for them when our appointment came. Before we could start, small formalities had to be clarified and then we were let to our canoe, which was a canoe with four seats. We put on our life jackets and put valuables things that shouldn’t get wet in a bin. There were a few other couples and families who were scheduled to start in the same time slot as us and we all got a little introduction. However, this consisted only of a schedule and directions, which even in retrospect turned out to be slightly incorrect. In the background we could already see boats being lowered into the water. In the shallow water you had to carry the boat into the water first and only then could you get in.

So we went back to our boat and planned how to get the boat in the water and get into it. Since we didn’t have sandals or anything like that with us, we had to go barefoot for better or worse and put our shoes and stockings in the canoe. We also have the paddles ready there. The canoe was a bit heavy, but easily portable with four people. The river bank was a bit rocky and muddy, but in the water itself you could wash off the dirt and get into the boat easily. We chose to sit in order from front to back: Nathalie, René, me and Dominik. That would mean that Nathalie and I would paddle on the left (which was good for Nathalie because she’s left-handed) and René and Dominik on the right. At first I didn’t care that I had to paddle on the left because I assumed (like in Stausee Hohenfelden and in the Retiro Park in Madrid) that Nathalie would paddle enough for both of us. Unfortunately, this didn’t work out at all. We made fun of a canoe in front of us for spinning and going backwards right at the start… but then the exact same thing happened to us. We just couldn’t balance rowing and kept drifting left or right, which also resulted in a turn. At some point Dominik stopped paddling actively and was more concerned with counteracting when the canoe deflected too much in one direction. This went well for the most part, but sometimes he made matters worse when he accidentally turned in the wrong direction. In general we struggled to row properly to stay on track and a better introduction or tips at the beginning would have been appreciated.

After a while we got the hang of it, but then other unthought-of hurdles came up. Sometimes the river was a bit narrow and then trees and bushes protruded from above or from the side. Most of the time we were able to dodge them, but twice we crashed right through them. Then the branches were also in our boat. Later the river got quite wide and we wondered how the canoes in front of us zig zag through it. We didn’t see anything, so we just drove in such a way that we could overtake the boats in front of us – and there was a ruckus. We got stuck with the boat because the water level was so low. Here we had to push the boat back into the lower water with paddles and body swings. This took a while, because we were quite stuck and “jokingly” already saw our downfall. After a while, we also overtook some of the classes’ inflatables that started way ahead of us. Since the people here sat in a circle and hardly rowed, they were also quite slow.

The last evil arose when the river divided. During the introduction we were told that we should definitely follow the river to the left, as it would pass the destination (i.e. Porstendorf) on the right. Only then, shortly before the end of the trip, should there be an exit that you had to do because the river was blocked there. When the river splits, practically both river routes were blocked. On the right was a small waterfall and on the left the bulkheads under the bridge were closed. Like many in front of us us, we had to moor to the left at one point and carry our boat about 50 meters. Actually not that hard, but since the water entry was quite steep afterwards and we still only went barefoot, it was a bit exhausting and a traffic jam had formed.

After about 1.5 hours we arrived at the campsite in Porstendorf – despite bad rowing, small trailers and traffic jams. But we still had fun! The two-person canoes actually looked quite interesting to us, in case you want to repeat the whole thing again. We had hurried because there is only one train back to Jena every hour. So we had to wait about 45 minutes for it. There was a restaurant at the campsite, but as we had agreed beforehand we preferred to eat in town. We got off at the Jena Paradies train station and went to the JEN Ramen Restaurant. The only thing we noticed here was how the ramen and gyoza were actually better than those in the Erfurt branch. After dinner we went back to Weimar.