One of the major inland waterways for freight carried across Germany, the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal, is currently closed to traffic…


It has been below freezing point for several weeks now (apart from a couple of days around Christmas), at times reaching -17°C and frequently staying at around -9°C during the day. I have seen the canal freeze over once before, but it never freezes completely, being built into the bed of a slow-flowing river. Last Monday it was officially closed to traffic, as the locks froze up and no ice breakers could get through.


The canal links up the North Sea (Rotterdam in the Netherlands) with the Black Sea, and millions of tonnes of heavy building materials, grain and coal are transported via this route on long deep barges each year. Passenger cruises also regularly use this route, the most popular trips being from Rotterdam or Nurenberg, down past us to the Danube, and then on to Vienna and even Budapest. This part of the canal near to us was the last section to be built, involving high costs to reduce the environmental impact and secure habitats for wildlife. The completed canal is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.


Today it is a balmy +1°C, with +3°C  forecast by the weekend. Still cold at night though, so it will take a while before we see boats coming this way again. In the meantime it is pleasantly quiet…


Have you seen local waterways freeze this winter?

Stay safe and warm everyone!

56 thoughts on “Freeze-Froze-Frozen

  1. Our waterways are open.We are happy to see kingfishers and white-throated dippers from Scandinavia diving into creeks. I didn´t know how young parts of the canal are!

    • Hi Uta! Yes, this last section completed the missing link, although it had already been used as a canal in Ludwig’s age but was not navigable for today’s barges.

    • Yea, it was so nice to have a bit of snow and a long period of clean walking boots too! But the thaw next week will be unpleasant I suppose… But maybe I will see snowdrops in a couple of weeks after all!

  2. Now that is cold…..we have had a long thaw this January and it has felt like spring….December we had 6 feet of snow and everything froze. My pond is still thawing but I doubt it will thaw completely before March as I am sure we will get cold weather again. Lots of ice in January too with freezing rain. I prefer the snow. Stay warm.

    • How lovely to hear from you Donna! Hope all is well. All that snow, wow! Yes, at least it is clean when everything is frozen. Thawing snow and ice refreezing overnight makes walking around here more of a hazard. It was nice while it lasted. I wonder if this will be the end of our cold spell with the milder days forecast for next week. We will see!

    • Last year was very mild, with no long freezes, and the year before wasn’t too bad either, so I was lulled into a false sense of security regarding planting decisions… I wonder if my Gaura and Cupressas will survive this!

  3. Lots of frozen waterways in central Maine. However, the winters are getting warmer, and the ice doesn’t begin as soon or stay as long as it once did.

  4. Wow, I didn’t realize that you were experiencing a prolonged cold period. That is normal for us, but conversely, we are having a mild January. More global weirding. Enjoy the peace and quiet. 🙂

  5. [J] Scarcely even a frost so far this winter, Cathy. A thin film of ice on a car windscreen one morning. I recall winter in Ochsenfurt am Main, big rafts of ice building up by the banks, as the waves of barges broke up the thin ice over shallow water, the sheets slid over each other then re-froze overnight into a frozen tumble. It was so cold that soon all the moisture in the air was gone, and it no longer felt so cold as it in realit was. Das Eis friert … Es fror … Es ist gefroren. In Bayern, ja gibt’s Kalt und Eis ; aber hier in Uist – gar nichts!

    • And yet many people think of Scotland as being so cold! The barges will all be queuing up on the Main now, so it will be busy once the canal is free again. I am looking forward to some milder weather now, Enough is enough!

    • I can imagine you giggling at those ducks! Hope you threw them some of your lunch! 😉 The duck pond near our canal hasn’t frozen completely as a little stream runs into it, so the ducks are all huddled in one corner!

  6. My goodness! What surprising photos, Cathy! I’d heard about the freeze you’re experiencing, but somehow seeing the photos makes a much bigger impact than reading about it. Our winter in California is completely “changed” from the past many by the fact that we’ve had rain, and lots of it. And it’s been a cold rain, too. It doesn’t snow in Los Angeles, but our local mountains have record snowfall this season. It’s been very surprising. I suppose with your extremes right now you aren’t very hopeful of an early spring, but maybe you’ll be surprised! 🙂

    • I don’t think spring will come for a while – all the snow has to melt first before the ground can warm up, so my hopes are on a mild February and then we will see! I wonder if you are growing tired of the rain yet. Cold rain is not particularly pleasant. 😉

  7. Reading about the rivers reminded me of my Geography A level when we learned about the Rhine and associated rivers – I guess the canal may not have been started then. It must have intersted me as when at Uni a friend and I had a holiday driving the route of the Rhine (and eating chocolate cake and visiting castles!!) – but not in winter 😉 As you will have heard our cold spell is nothing in comparison to yours – only hovering a few degrees below or above zero. Thanks for sharing the pictures and info Cathy

    • Chocolate cake and castles sounds right up my street! Yes, the winters here were a bit of a shock at first, but we often have mild winters like in the UK too.

  8. Ours are freezing and unfreezing this year – back to refreezing now. A couple years ago, though, everything froze – things no one had seen freeze before were solid, and many of them stayed partially frozen until the end of spring/beginning of summer. I’d never seen anything like it before or after.

  9. It has been cold! Wow! Nothing freezes like that around here, unless you count a millimeter of ice on the birdbath. 😉 It’s amazing to hear your rattle of Vienna, Budapest and the Black Sea. They’re all iconic. Do you ever pinch yourself and think “yes, I live here!”

    • I suppose we take it for granted that the great European capitals are all within reach – like California sounds like a dream to me! (Although the Black Sea does sound very far off to me too.)
      We still haven’t reached zero °C, but maybe the thaw will come tomorrow… 😉

      • Oh my goodness that’s cold! I toured Europe with a backpack in 1989 and fell in love with it’s charm. I didn’t get to all the countries, but after a month in the UK (England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland) I sailed to France. From there I spent a bit of time in Switzerland, Germany and Belgium and also Spain. I love traveling, and hope to do more of it when my youngest son heads to college and I’m not as tied to his schedule. What a joy it would be to host you here in California one day, Cathy. Tuck that away and perhaps it will happen.

        • My partner hates flying, so unless we go by ship I doubt we will make it. 😦 But if you ever come our way it would be great to meet you one day! 🙂 I also did a bit of backpacking in my youth, but stuck to France and Germany, and then Japan and Korea when I lived in Japan for two years. Loved it – such a great way to meet people!

          • Oh, that’s a shame. Well then I’ll just have to meet you in Europe. Not much of a hardship, though. 🙂 I’ve heard wonderful things about Japan. Are next door neighbor’s son just returned from a two year stay teaching English. It’s on my list, too.

              • I can fully understand how that would be true. I’ve often thought that if everyone lived in a different culture for at least a year, that we would all be better people. There is so much value in stepping out of your own reality and seeing how others live. I admire your worldly ways.

  10. Oh that looks seriously cold Cathy. I imagine that all the goods normally transported via water will be clogging up the motorways instead. Our much smaller local canal the Bridgewater does freeze over from time to time but so far there have been no real problems this winter.

  11. Your cold January must have created a huge back log on the canal. When it thaws it will certainly be crowded with barges. While it never gets really cold in our part of Florida, we did have a low of 34 the other day. I’m happy it didn’t get any lower as it would have created problems with our tropical gardens.

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