STUTTGART – Submerged rivers and lakes, a water pipeline of superlatives and unique water events: Southwest Germany offers some curious facts and stories about water that you can literally get to the bottom of when you visit. The following overview shows where the most surprising water stories have their sources.
Committed to Sharing Knowledge of Water: Baden-Württemberg’s Water Guides
The Rhine and the Danube, the Kocher and the Jagst, the Neckar and the Rems – the rivers in Baden-Württemberg are as diverse as the regions through which they flow. Over 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, learn about their stories and legends. Spring adventure trails, water rallies, river experiences in cities and tours to true natural treasures combine water knowledge with fun. People who go to the source of the Rems with water guide Susanne Lipp will become water researchers themselves. Not only will they find out where the water comes from, but also which animals and plants live on and in it.
Flowing with Mineral Water: Fountain Metropolis Stuttgart
Stuttgart is considered a “city on the River Neckar,” even though the river only passes through the city away from its center. The Nesenbach is actually much closer but you would not know it as it flows underground. It provides the water for the over 250 fountains and water features throughout Stuttgart which not only cool off the capital but also give it the nickname the “fountain metropolis.” Stuttgart has the second largest mineral water reserve in Europe after Budapest. In fact, the mineral and medicinal water bubble out of many of the fountains producing 132 gallons per second. The oldest fountain is probably in the Heslach district and has been known as the “Schlenklinsbrunnen” since 1343. The Galatea Fountain from the 19th century is a popular photo opportunity. The Stuttgarter Brünnele Foundation is committed to maintaining the numerous facilities and awards fountain sponsorships. You can get an overview on a guided or individual fountain tour.
Formed by Water: Neidlingen Marble Ball Mill
In the rushing water of the Neidlinger ball mill, the marble pieces dance back and forth as if they were made of Styrofoam. The edges continue to grind away until perfect round shapes are created. Each ball is unique: the internal structure of the Jurassic rock from Swabia is only revealed through the round cut Alb. Anyone who decides to buy will have a difficult time making a decision between the many choices. The Neidlinger Kugelmühle (Marble Ball Mill) is one of the few of its kind still active and is a suitable excursion in summer and winter. When it's cold, enchanting ice formations form at the mill and it's high season for the Kugelmüller because the water is denser and heavier. In addition to the mill itself, the ball factory can also be visited a few meters upstream where there is a small museum.
Stored Near Water: Cave Stollen from the Wimsen Cave
In the Glastal on the Swabian Alb lies the Wimsen Cave, also called “Friedrichshöhle” after Elector Friedrich of Württemberg. It is the source of the River Zwiefalter Aach and Germany's only water cave accessible by boat. You can reach the interior by boat for 70 meters, after which it just sinks into the ground. On the way to the low cave with the green shimmering water, you pass a mysterious box in autumn. The special Stollen with the nickname, “cave tunnels,” from the Beckabeck bakery are stored in the box to develop their delicate aroma in the cool environment with high humidity. Afterwards, the Stollen are ceremoniously taken out of the cave and go on pre-Christmas sale. It's worth ordering in advance because the pastries are very popular with the locals.
The Danube’s Secret Passage: The Young Danube in Immendingen
The Danube starts in Baden-Württemberg and is one of the most powerful rivers in Europe but it is full of surprises. Even its source is controversial. For some it is the Breg stream near Furtwangen, for others it is the Donaubach stream in Donaueschingen. A natural phenomenon that is unique in the world is the “Danube seepage,” or sinkhole, near Immendingen: The still young Danube sinks completely into the karst rock in the summer months and only resurfaces 12 kilometres further and about 183 altitude metres in the Aachtopf, Germany's largest spring. The water then flows with the Aach into Lake Constance and further over the Rhine to the North Sea. Depending on the weather, you can hike through the riverbed on dry feet from mid-May to mid-September and find prehistoric fossils there.
Supplying Needed Water: Lake Constance is Not Just a Playground
Lake Constance is Germany's largest lake and is therefore nicknamed the “Swabian Sea.“ It is also Europe's largest drinking water reservoir and has been supplying around four million people in Baden-Württemberg every day for over 60 years. The water is treated in the Lake Constance water supply in Sipplingen. It is an absolute specialty because drinking water in Central and Northern Europe is usually obtained from groundwater. But there are water-stressed areas in the south that rely on lake water. After thorough filtration, it is distributed across thousands of kilometers of pipes across the country using hydropower and pumping systems. The water takes two days to reach Stuttgart and a whole week to reach the Odenwald, where the supply network ends.
Street Streams: Freiburger Bächle
They are centuries old and crystal clear, are considered to be unique and offer space for games. We're talking about the Freiburger Bächle, a wide network of man-made, paved streams that have run through Freiburg since the 12th century, ensuring a pleasant climate and refreshment. The water courses are fed by the water of the River Dreisam. In the Middle Ages, the paved channels 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, anyone who accidentally steps into one of the Bächle must marry a Freiburger. The “Bächle cleaners” ensure that your feet stay clean and the streams always flow. On a “Bächleputzer/cleaner tour” you can learn even more curious details 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 rare and, therefore, all the more interesting. It appears completely unforeseen and always only for a short time when the groundwater builds up in the underground cave system of the sinkholes and pushes upwards. The temporary lake can then reach a depth of up to three meters and submerge approximately 2.5 hectares of land. It is not surprising that the mysterious body of water provides material for all sorts of stories, as it has already claimed several lives and is home to a rare “living fossil.” The milky-white “Tanymastix lacunae” or “fairy crab” is considered a survivor: it lays its offspring in eggs that can survive up to three dry periods and the digestive tract of predators. With the excretion, the animals move into new habitats until the Lake Eichener See can be seen again.