One day, when my dirndl is tucked to the very back of my wardrobe (consigned purely to fancy dress parties in other climes), and my antique cow bells (my Steel wedding anniversary present from Mr R a couple of years ago!!) hang high upon new walls (and not ever around my neck in case you were wondering), I am sure I will think back to our days here with fondness (and quite possibly, at times, with rose tinted spectacles)…
Of courses it’s not all been a whirlwind of travel, bier fests and mountain exploration, there have been hundreds (if not thousands) of “normal Bavarian days” too, and some far less than ordinary!
If you were to ask me about a favourite day in particular in the entirety of our time here, then there have been a few, – but perhaps my favourite of the lot has to be the day we spent floating down Bavaria’s infamous river Isar on a giant raft, known in these parts as a slightly windy sounding Floßfahrt (pronounced flossfart!) – which literally translates as “raft trip”. Whilst the very term “rafting” might conjure up unappealing images of some hideous and strenuous white water rafting experience (definitely not my cup of tea!), might I calm your visions with the fact that these giant traditional rafts glide calmly and (mostly!) serenely downstream, past some of the most stunningly beautiful (and very protected so that it remains that way!) Bavarian countryside…
Used as far back as the 12th century to transport both people and important goods up and down Bavaria and beyond (as far away as Vienna and Budapest), we aren’t talking teeny tiny rafts here – at around 18 metres long and at around 20 tonnes in weight you could probably fit two or possibly three elephants on one, or around 52 people, a band, a few barrels of beer, a couple of guys to steer the boat and a pub umbrella for shade. Position yourself near that umbrella on a warm day, you will thank me later…
Our day started out at the crack of dawn – quite literally – in a little communication error that saw me drive to my friends house to then go to meet everyone else at a hotel, get on a coach and then drive directly back past the end of my very own road, but it was nice to be sociable in any event, larks squawking at that time of day or not. Fear not those who find getting out of bed a bit of a problem (especially on a weekend), this really is well worth it and I didn’t even begrudge that extra couple of hours tacked on to the start of our adventure!
After the 40 minute drive to picturesque Wolfratshausen some 30 kilometres south west of Munich, we turned a corner to the banks of the river, where our floating chariot awaited (along with at least 15 others!) having been put together that very morning (the rafts are taken apart at the end of each journey, the tree trunks are plonked on to the back of an artic and taken back to the start once again for a repeat Floßfahrt the following day- no mean feat given the size of everything, and the fact it’s like a giant jigsaw to put back together again!)… Then, after loading some extra supplies for the day and taking our seats on slightly bouncy benches, the oarsman pushed us away from the edge of the riverbank, and our journey began…
civilised bridge admiring
first tapped bier…
As you might expect for a group of 50 odd people that don’t really know each other, the day started off quite conservatively, with polite conversation and the pointing out of wild birds on the riverbanks, the admiring of antique bridges, and a few polite greetings to fishermen on the banks, who are doubtless used to such spectacles. From the back of the raft the resident oompah band began to play a few gentle Bavarian tunes, then someone ceremoniously tapped the first barrel of beer and that was that – the excuse being it’s not a true Floßfahrt experience unless you have a pure Bavarian bier in hand! I didn’t hear anyone complaining too loudly about it, and before too long, as is the natural progression of such things, everybody felt like they had known each other for years.
On we glided past yet more spectacular scenery, and as the day progressed and the sun got higher in the sky (and as the people around me got pinker and pinker still) I was suddenly grateful for that pub umbrella – especially as one of those types of English people that the German’s lovingly term “shade lovers”. Thankfully though, more leafy shade was in sight as a little like an oasis appearing on the horizon, we found ourselves stopping off at a beautiful riverside bier garten for lunch (included in the price!) along with the passengers from the other rafts. You don’t see much of the other rafts by the way, there’s usually plenty of space between them… It was interesting to note the mix of people – from the traditionally dressed (and by now perspiring!) to the not so, and the rather reserved, to the definitely not so…
parked up for lunch…
Obazda for lunch – a kind of Bavarian Cheese spread, served with plenty of fresh pretzels
After around an hour and a half, and with bellies full, it was time to get back on board for the remainder of our journey (at just over 28km, this day can last several hours!) with a couple of surprises in store!… Somewhere in my archives my PC has eaten a few of the videos that I took of this next part of the adventure (if I can ever find them, I will update this post) and as much as I had heard rumours about it beforehand, I wasn’t quite prepared for the almost immediate descent via 365 metre long, 18 metre high raft slide (the longest in Europe in fact!) as our raft switched from river to canal for the next section of our trip. It had all the anticipation of a roller-coaster and the screams and laughter to match as we splashed down into the waiting canal. There are two more smaller slides in this section of the journey, but the first slide was by far the best!
Just before the first slide, you can just about see the drop to the bottom left of the picture
And then back to the serenity of the river, and the by now not so serene passengers, many of whom cooled off for a swim in the crystal clear waters (I was staying under that umbrella) for a swim alongside our raft, and our crew who were busy navigating us past trickier sections of river (look out for the Georgenstein, complete with St George on the top – this is particularly dangerous section that has to be carefully navigated – no swimming here!), accompanied by the Oompah band who were now taking requests and were busy playing anything from The Beatles to Queen… Incidentally, I am guessing that the ancient law that it was a punishable offence to transport intoxicated passengers has long long been forgotten.
The infamous Georgenstein complete with ancient St. George
By now we were gradually edging closer into Munich, and the quiet countryside gradually gave way to more buildings and more and more people along the riverbanks. It’s not uncommon to experience Floßfahrt pirates as you get closer into town, as a few boys chance their arms climbing on board to see if you have any bier left – it’s all part of the tradition, and anyway they were unlucky on our raft, as by now all barrels were empty! Until eventually the raft passed into the very edges of the Englischer Garten at Thalkirken.
And there our journey ended. The guys took the raft apart again to be hauled onto the waiting lorry, and we dispersed into Munich and beyond with great memories of a brilliant day out. Something definitely not to be missed if you are visiting Bavaria this summer, or any summer come to think of it.
- Wear suitable clothing for all weathers, in good weather take sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, and don’t forget about that umbrella;
- Floßfahrts usually take place from the beginning of May to the middle of September;
- It costs around €130 for the day, which might sound steep but typically includes transport to the raft, food, drink, lunch at the bier garten. You must reserve this well in advance if you want a particular day, although raft companies are happy to fill any last minute spaces if you give them a call;
- This is very much a grown up day out, children over the age of 12 are generally accepted, but as it can last several hours, they might not find it hugely interesting;
- If you want to swim, check with the crew first, they know the safest places in the river given there are strong currents;
- Take a few snacks if you think you will need them, a sense of humour for those slides, and good stomach muscles to cope with all that laughter…
- Don’t forget your camera, and don’t lose the videos you take on your PC!
- Specialist companies are as follows: IsarFloßfahrt, Flosserei Josef Seitner; Bayern Flossfahrten amongst others. In a moment of complete memory lapse, I didn’t actually get the name of our guys, so I am more than hoping the company we used is amongst the above, if it’s not, and anybody happens to recognise them from the pictures, please do get in touch as I would love to give them a shout out, they were fantastic!
melody pittman says
Bavaria is my favorite part of the whole world. I am so in love with this region in Germany. I HAVE to do this river float. What fun! We do things like this where I am originally from in West Virginia but definitely not quite to this production level. PLUS we do not have the German beer and yummy pretzel with spread either. Enjoyed this so much!
Thanks Melody, it’s a great day out! :)
That is so my cup of tea, and what a beautiful day for it! I imagine it might not be quite so much fun in the rain! You have had some lovely experiences x
I think once you were past the getting soaked bit, and the beer was flowing it might be just as much fun in the rain! :D Thanks Helen xx
What an amazing experience – something I’d love to do with my husband for a child free day ;-)
I am hoping Mr R gets to experience this before we leave, I went with friends last time. Thanks Cass! (:
wow those rafts are so quaint! would love to visit bavaria soon
Thanks Sher! (:
Erica Price says
I love the idea of an old-fashioned raft which seems very American, but the rest seems so Bavarian.
This version is about 800 years old though! :D Thanks Erica! :)
Looks like the perfect laid back activity! You can just take in the views from the raft while sipping a beer, or even a enjoy a nice swim! I love it! Thanks for sharing!
It makes for a really fun day out! Thanks Sarah! :)
Lauren Craving Sunshine says
I had no idea things like this existed! It looks like so much fun! I’ll have to do it next time I’m in that part of the world!
You must, it’s brilliant! Thanks Lauren! :)
Sounds like a great adventure! Bavaria is definitely a place to visit and it’s been on my mind for quite a while now. This post is giving me some good ideas on what to do there :)
Thanks Rea, there’s so much to see! :)
Kara Guppy says
What an experience, it sounds wonderful. Your photo’s are amazing, I bet it was so peaceful
The first part of the day was sooooo peaceful! The second half less so! :D
This looks like a blast to me. Living in Germany, we’re always looking for fun things to do. I’ll have to try this.
You absolutely have to do this at least once! Thanks Corinne! (:
JuggleMum, Nadine Hill says
I love how strangers at the start of the day were friends by the end of the day – the bier probably helped!
It definitely helped! Thanks Nadine! (:
Carol Colborn says
Wow what a giant raft complete with music, food and drinks on an infamous river!
Yep, it is indeed! :D
Now this is my kinda travel! How could you not have a good time.
You would have to be the most miserable person on the planet not to have fun! Thanks Lisa! (:
Trish @ Mum's Gone To says
Now this is my kind of rafting – not that scary type I did in Iceland where I thought I was going to die.
Love the idea of the increasing intoxication of the passengers and the wide range of music played by the oompah band!
I know you would absolutely LOVE this kind of rafting! Such a fun day out! Thanks Trish! (: x
Floating around on a river with beer and cheese? I swear, Bavaria is my true spiritual home. I must must MUST get there for a holiday one day.
You would love it Jayne! Thank you (:
the Pigeon Pair and Me says
Travelling down a river with beers and an Oompah band – this sounds incredible! I do like the sound of the slide, too.
The slides were hilarious. That first one especially! Thanks Nell! (:
Oh, Emma – I didn’t even know this was a thing! Have already shown MrL and it is going on the ‘to do’ list for next time! It sounds absolutely fantastic! Thanks so much for this post!
I know that you two would have so much fun doing this, you must do it next time around! Thanks C! :) x
Lovely memories of your amazing adventure. Stunning photos. My stomach lurches at even the merest hint of a glimpse at that first slide! xx
I was slightly apprehensive beforehand, but it was sooo funny! Thanks V xx
Lauren Belle du Brighton says
This sounds like so much fun! I love learning about traditional activities in countries I’ve not been to!
Thanks so much Lauren! (:
I’ve never seen anything like that on such basic rafts but it seems to work so well. Looks like an amazing way to experience all the sights along the river.
Basic but pretty effective! :D Thanks Ness! (:
Sonya Cisco says
I can see why it was such a memorable day – such a unique experience, and what beautiful scenery!
Thanks Sonya! (: