Meeting at the castle Grünau
The castle hosts a modern outdoor visitor center opened in 2008. It was established by the district of Neuburg-Schrobenhausen, in order to underline the importance of the natural heritage and to support the renaturation of the Danube. The center is a „package“ of the entire competence of the European outdoor subject – from experiences of the past and awareness of the current situation to development of future visions and strategies for the region. It serves research, information of the public and the exchange of experience on the topic floodplain and river, thanks to the fact that it contains three main pillars under one roof, cooperating closely with each other: Aueninstitut, Aueninformationszentrum, and Auenforum.
What is on the menu today?
The visitor center’s home specialty is the whole Danube on a buffet – please serve yourself.
And there are some other scenes to enjoy in the theatre of Nature.
Ready for "Brennen"!
Wait… is it dangerous? Ahem… not really, see below.
Dr. Ebner's other serious life preoccupation is the "Slow Food". As a treasurer and international counselor, he preaches a food philosophy that is not much different from any fair ecology approach: „Food should be: good, clean and fair. “Good” (taste) does need more explanation, „clean“ means that it should not contain any harmful ingredients and "fair" means that it should be produced without economic, social or political exploitation of the workforce and small manufacturers in general.
One kilometer from the castle we crossed the stream Ott-Heinrich. This was actually a canal made in 2010 as a joint effort of Ingolstadt and Bavarian administration in order to turn the zone back again into a regular flooding area.
(Do we want to put efforts and even money into creating of flooding areas? Off course we do… it is just a matter of choosing the right places.)
Riding along the young and still shy Danube
When a pebble bed gets colonized with plants adapted to such lean and dry site, a new special biotope, so-called “Brennen” is born. These semi-arid grasslands contain even a number of alpine plants that were transported by the river and its tributaries, and in the wake of the plants, diverse wildlife settles on. Orchids species, various gentians and other flowering plants, special insects, butterflies (some of them on the Red List of threatened animals in Bavaria) can be found in these dry, nutrient-poor habitats.
Considered as wastelands in the past, dry grasslands are still endangered today. Thomas explains that the biotope we are looking at the moment supports its plants with app. 5 cm thick layer of hummus. Leaves and other organic material was brought by the river during periods of high water levels, but pebble was necessary to crush and grind that material into a fine-grained mass containing the necessary minimum amount of nutrients. Numerous hydroelectric power plants built in the second half of the 20th century block pebble transport and distribution along the river so the big “organic mill” barely works today.
“We need to bring more people to see dry grasslands and to learn how important and at the same time how fragile they are”, says Thomas. “We already had some actions of that type, but need to do even more.”
On a "Brenne", with Thomas explaining the details
Secret roads to Ingolstadt
Grazing is important to keep dam sides in good condition. And herds consisting of sheep and goats (like this one) are an especially efficient tool: sheep cut the higher grass while goats do fine trimming, eating what is close to the ground.
Ducking the dyke
Then suddenly – high above Ingolstadt!
This the charm it spells in front of a curious eye perched on top of the city tower.
(But don’t look too far away, or medieval romantic will give place to the sheer power of 45000- souls-strong Audi kingdom that takes the better part of the horizon.)
Morning briefing: The same team, but our cycling guide today will be Mr. Thomas Kirchhammer from ADFC
Humans and animals: (how) can we live together? Which brings us to…
“Animal-Aided Design”: closing the gap between landscape architecture and conservation of the nature
"Ingolstadt Natur" is a project of which Thomas is particularly proud as it brings a new quality in city’s habitat and offers a potential to bridge the gap between landscape architecture and nature conservation.
The basic idea behind it is that the „green infrastructure“ is as important to the human society as other infrastructures such as electricity grids, road networks, etc.
Standard urban planning procedures do not create a green infrastructure. On the other hand, the focus of the nature conservation is usually just on sensitive remaining areas that already see little influence of humans – it does not target places with no wilderness left (including urban zones, off course). As a consequence, such places do not get in scope as candidates for green infrastructure. Urban planning and conservation actually often work against each other.
Animal-Aided Design® is developed in cooperation with Dr.Thomas Hauck (University Kassel) as a methodology for open spaces design that can help to overcome this discordance. It includes the presence of animals as an integral part of the green infrastructure final concept:
- The desired species are chosen at the beginning of a project.
- The requirements of the target species (i.e. their life-cycles) then set a frame / boundary conditions and serve as an inspiration for the design.
You can find here a very interesting booklet that describes the whole concept in detail (in German only but shown design examples speak for themselves).
High gas price is the reason why this 5 years old power plant between Mailing and Großmehring works only during quite rare emergency situations in the electric network.
River water is used for cooling the plant and projected increase of its temperature at the exhaust side is only 1 degree Celsius. But even that much brings quite considerable strain to the habitat: warmer water contains less oxygen, which is not suitable for some fish and plants species.
Changing side, changing point of view...
Crossing the river every so often is a popular sport, thanks to the perfect cycling network: there is usually a path at both sides and there surely is no shortage of bridges and ferries.
We went by boat from Weltenburg to Kelheim.
But before that, the famous monastery Weltenburg is a must see. Here is a scene from the church.
So here we are - six kilometers of sailing. Or was it six degrees Celsius? My memory fails when it comes to these numbers, but one is sure: that was a memorable passage through one of the most beautiful results of water-vs- stone outsmarting game along the Danube.
As a strange twist and a strong accent, the Hall of Liberation appears above pristine cliffs. It was commissioned by King Ludwig I, to commemorate the victorious battles against Napoleon in the Wars of Liberation, 1813-1815. Behind it lies Kelheim, the terminal of our sail and at the same time the point from which ships are allowed to navigate the river. (Before this small town the minimal demanded depth of 2 meters is not guaranteed.)
Before continuing solo: dear group thank you for the company,
and thank you Thomas for sharing your knowledge with us :)
Next stop - Landkreis Passau