Elbe Valley Attractions
The Elbe, with a total length of 1165km/724mi, is a major waterway of great importance both for national and international shipping.Weisse FlotteThe ships of the Weisse Flotte ("White Fleet") offer visitors attractive opportunities of seeing the scenic beauties of the Elbe valley from the river itself.EcologyAs a result of the numerous industrial plants on both banks of the Elbe harmful substances of all kinds - salts, heavy metals, hydrocarbons - find their way into the river, endangering its biological system. This applies particularly to the upper part of the valley, around Pirna, Dresden and Riesa. Measures to reduce this pollution (e.g. extension of existing sewage and purification plants, improvement of purification installations within factories) are in preparation.The Elbe within the Czech RepublicThe Elbe rises at an altitude of 1,400 m/4,600ft in the Riesengebirge, flows in a wide arc through the Bohemian Basin (where it is known as the Labe), makes its way through the Bohemian Hills and enters German territory in the Elbsandsteingebirge (Elbe Sandstone Hills). In its course through Germany its most important tributaries are the Schwarze Elster, the Mulde, the Saale, the Havel and the Elde. Downstream from Hamburg it forms a funnel-shaped estuary and finally reaches the North Sea at Cuxhaven.Tourist centersThe towns in the Elbe valley which are of most interest to visitors include Pirna, Dresden, Meissen, Torgau, Wittenberg, Dessau, Magdeburg, Tangermünde, Lauenburg, Hamburg and Cuxhaven.LandscapeThe Elbe traverses a variety of landscapes in its passage through Germany - a canyon-like valley in the Elbsandsteingebirge, an open valley round Dresden, the depression between Riesa, Schnackenburg and Boizenburg and finally the Vierlande, the Marschlande (fenlands) and the Altes Land near Hamburg.Upper ElbeThe open stretch of valley on the upper Elbe, 40km/25mi long and 4-7km/2.5-4.5mi wide, extends northward from Pirna by way of the dense industrial concentration around Dresden to beyond Meissen. In the north it is sharply bounded by the Lusatian granite plateau, and in the south rises gently into the Erzgebirge. The favored climate of this area permits intensive market gardening, fruit- and vine-growing.Elbe depressionThe Elbe depression downstream from Riesa consists mostly of level meadowland of alluvial soil which is used for grazing livestock, with some areas of sandy soil and dunes.The low-lying land is protected from river spates by dikes, to the rear of which there are frequently dead channels or oxbow lakes. Along the edges of the depression there are expanses of dunes covered with pines and occasionally mixed forest.A masterpiece of European landscape gardening is the Wörlitz Park, on the left bank of the Elbe above Dessau.FenlandsBelow Wittenberge extend the Elbe fenlands, which lie partly below sea level and are in danger of flooding when the river is full. From here down to Lauenburg extends the Elbufer-Drawehn Nature Park. At Cuxhaven the river cuts between the two Wattenmeer National Parks, one in Schleswig-Holstein and the other in Lower Saxony.