A dam at the end of the valley

Leaving this charming view across Brandenberg behind, we travelled along gorges and steep valleys towards the Erzherzog Johann Klause. My first trip on an e-bike led me into the mountains following the clear waters of the Brandenberg river.

For my family, this route holds memories from long ago. In the 1930s, my grandfather walked along the road towards Germany. It is a shortcut to Bavaria and a good walker can reach Munich in a day. When my grandfather walked the road it was winter, in the snow and getting dark.

He slipped and fell into the icy river. My grandmother was told the following day that the body of her husband had been dragged out some 15 miles downstream.

On a sunny autumn day, the road holds no danger. It led us to the Erzherzog Johann Klause, where we crossed the river on top of a dam.

When closed, the dam created a lake 500 metres long. The water was released and in one big swoop it floated thousands of tree trunks downstream – to the same place where my grandfather was fished out all these years ago.

The dam in this location was opened in 1837, replacing earlier, simpler ones that had been in use since the 16th century. It was rebuilt a number of times, most recently in the 1950s.

When floated on the swell, the trunks often got tangled up and formed large heaps that got stuck in a gorge. Somebody had to climb on to disentangle the wood. No health and safety officer there!

The very last use was in 1966. Ever since, the lumber is transported out on trucks along forestry roads.

I found an essay – in German – that gives a much better insight into this this way of lumbering than I could ever do.

On our bikes, at all times, I was well behind the other two. I did, though, enjoy the help of a motor on any incline and wish the bike was not just rented, but my own.

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