Close to the Water

Amazing Water Stories from Baden-Württemberg 

Schwäbische Alb, Wimsener Höhle

The Wimsen Cave in the Swabian Alb | © Schumann

STUTTGART – Submerged rivers and lakes, a water pipeline of superlatives, and unique water events: Southwest Germany has some curious water facts and stories to tell, and you can even keep your feet dry when you visit. The following overview shows where the most surprising water stories come from.


Committed to Sharing Water Knowledge: Baden-Württemberg’s Water Guides

Rhine and Danube, Kocher and Jagst, Neckar and Rems – Baden-Württemberg’s rivers are as diverse as the regions through which they flow. More than 140 trained water guides have dedicated themselves to conveying the rivers’ characteristics. You can go on an expedition with them and explore the water’s ecology and the sustainable development of rivers, and learn about their stories and legends. Spring adventure trails, water rallies, river experiences in the city and tours to real natural treasures combine water knowledge with fun. For example, when you go to the source of the Rems River with water guide Susanne Lipp, you will become a water researcher yourself and find out where the water in the Rems River comes from and which animals and plants live on and in it.


Built by the Water: Fountain Metropolis Stuttgart

Stuttgart is known as the “city by the Neckar River,” even though the river only passes through the city away from its centre. The Nesenbach Stream is much closer, but flows underground. Instead, more than 250 fountains and water features provide cooling. They have earned the state capital the nickname ‘fountain metropolis’. Stuttgart has the second-largest mineral water reserve in Europe after Budapest. In fact, mineral and medicinal water gushes from many of the fountains producing 500 litres (132 gallons) per second. The oldest fountain is probably in the Heslach district and has been known as the ‘Schlenklinsbrunnen’ since 1343. The 19th-century Galatea Fountain is a popular photo opportunity. The Stuttgart Fountain Foundation is committed to preserving the numerous fountains and awards sponsorships. You can get an overview on a guided or individual fountain tour.


Formed by Water: Neidlingen Marble Mill

The marble pieces dance back and forth in the rushing water of the Neidlingen Marble Mill as if they were made of Styrofoam. The edges grind down further and further until perfect marbles are formed. Each one is unique: the inner structure of the Jura stone is only revealed when they are polished. Anyone who decides to buy a marble will be spoilt for choice. The Neidlingen Marble Mill (Neidlinger Kugelmühle) is one of the few of its kind still running and is a great place to visit in both summer and winter. In cold weather, the mill creates enchanting ice formations, and it is high season for the marble millers as the water is denser and heavier. In addition to the mill itself, you can also visit the marble factory a few meters upstream. There is even a small museum.


Matured by the Water: Cave Stollen from the Wimsen Cave

The Wimsen Cave (Wimsener Höhle), also known as Friedrich Cave (Friedrichshöhle) after Elector Friedrich of Württemberg, is located in the Glastal Valley in the Swabian Alb. It is the source of the Zwiefalter Aach River and the only water cave in Germany that can be accessed by boat. A barge can take you 70 meters into the cave, then the only way forward is underwater. On the way into the low Wimsen Cave, with its shimmering green water, in autumn, you pass a mysterious box in. This is where the Beckabeck Bakery’s ‘Cave Stollen’ (Höhlenstollen) are stored to develop their fine flavour in a constantly cool and humid environment. Afterwards, they are ceremoniously taken out of the cave and put on pre-Christmas sale. It's worth ordering in advance, as the pastries are not only popular with the locals.


The Danube’s Secret Passage: The Danube Seepage near Immendingen

Rising in Baden-Württemberg, the Danube is one of Europe’s mightiest rivers and always good for a surprise. Even its source is disputed. For some it is the Breg River near Furtwangen, for others it is the Donaubach Stream in Donaueschingen. The ‘Danube Seepage’ near Immendingen is a natural phenomenon that is unique in the world: During the summer months, the young Danube seeps away completely into the karst rock and only reappears 12 kilometres further and about 183 metres lower in the Aachtopf, Germany's largest spring. The water then flows with the Aach River into Lake Constance and on down the Rhine to the North Sea. From mid-May to mid-September, depending on the weather, you can hike through the riverbed on dry feet and find prehistoric fossils.


Supplying Needed Water: Lake Constance Water Supply Centre in Sipplingen

Lake Constance is not only Germany's largest lake, nicknamed the ‘Swabian Sea’. It is also Europe's largest drinking water reservoir, supplying around four million people in Baden-Württemberg every day for more than 60 years. The water is treated in the Lake Constance Water Supply Centre in Sipplingen. This is somewhat unusual, as drinking water in Central and Northern Europe is usually obtained from groundwater. However, there are water-scarce areas in Southwest Germany that rely on lake water. After being thoroughly filtered, it is distributed across the country via thousands of kilometres of pipes using hydroelectric power and pumping systems. The water takes two days to reach Stuttgart and a whole week to reach the Odenwald Forest, where the supply network ends.


Street Streams: Freiburger Bächle

Centuries old and crystal clear, they are considered to be a trap for singles and offer space for games. We're talking about the ‘Freiburger Bächle’, a wide network of man-made, paved streams that have been running through the city since the 12th century, providing a pleasant climate and refreshment. The streams are fed by the water of the Dreisam River. In the Middle Ages, the cobbled canals were used to supply industrial and fire-fighting water. Today, they are the venue for the unique Bächle Boat Race and a glimmer of hope for long-term singles: As the saying goes, if you accidentally step into one of the Bächle Streams, you will have to marry a Freiburg man or women. The ‘Bächleputzer’ (stream cleaners) ensure that your feet stay clean and the streams keep flowing. On a ‘Bächleputzer Tour’ you can learn even more curious facts about the topic.


The Disappearing Lake: Eichener See

Sometimes it's there, sometimes it's gone: Lake Eichener See near Schopfheim in the Southern Black Forest is a rare occurrence, and therefore even more interesting. It appears unexpectedly and only temporarily when the groundwater rises in the underground cave system of the doline. The lake can then reach a depth of up to three meters and submerge approximately 2.5 hectares of land. Unsurprisingly, this mysterious body of water is the stuff of tales, as it has claimed several lives and is home to a rare ‘living fossil’. The milky-white ‘Tanymastix lacunae’ or ‘fairy crayfish’ is a survivalist: it lays its offspring in eggs that can survive up to three droughts and the digestive tract of predators. Once the eggs have been excreted, the animals move to new habitats until Lake Eichener See reappears.