More than four-hundred years ago, Joachim III Frederick, Elector of Brandenburg, decided that a shipping canal was needed to connect the city of Berlin with the Baltic Sea. There was a lot of international commerce then, but roads were scarce and traffic was slow.
So what do you do if you have a river going north (the Havel), and not too far from it and parallel to it another river (the Oder) with its seaport of Stettin? Especially if half the distance is already covered by that little river, the Finow, with its access to the plenty of lumber and clay, exactly what you need to build a big city?
Well, you dig a canal and connect the two rivers.
That’s what the Prince-Elector of the Margraviate of Brandenburg ordered to do in 1603.
Barely completed in 1620, the canal fell victim to the 30-year war, and it took another two centuries before Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, ordered another canal built in its former place.
The shipping of lumber and steel, bricks and brass soon contributed to the Finow Canal’s expansion to a point where more than 100 vessels a day required day and night operation of the 12 double locks on the canal.
Yet, there was a growing need for more capacity, and so in 1914 a bigger canal, the Oder-Havel Canal, was inaugurated. Instead of 12 stages of the old canal, 4 huge locks of 9m each covered the 36m required to climb down from the highest point of the canal to the level of the Oder.
Technological progress soon allowed engineers to conceive and build the impressive ship lift of Niederfinow which is visited by several hundred thousands of tourists each year.
Unfortunately for the old Finow Canal, it was no longer needed for shipping of merchandise. One of each of the double locks were removed, and only nowadays water tourists from all over Europe are rediscovering its scenic beauty and the thrill of traveling on German’s oldest artificial waterway still in use today.
So let’s enjoy the old Finow Canal as long as it lasts. Any moment now the first lock will have to be shut down for safety reasons, and the canal will no longer be shippable for any type of motor craft.
If interested, please contact the Friends-of-the-Finow-Canal Initiative for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org