Rafting on the Isar River has a long tradition reaching back all the way to the 12th Century! Passengers and wares could be transported all the way to Vienna and even Budapest. Steamships and trains took away the core business of the rafters and eventually the flow of the Isar was harvested for power. However, there are now special channels just for the rafters in order to preserve this Bavarian tradition.
It takes 6 hours to navigate just 30 km these days. The point, however, is enjoyment, and not productivity. There are a number of firms that offer rafting trips on the weekends and none of them cater in particular to non-German speakers. We booked through DER and the rafts were handled by Angermeier.
We met our bus at the Neptune Fountain between Karlsplatz and the Munich Hauptbahnhof. We were transported down to Wolfratshausen where the rafts depart. We were told to bring along solid shoes (not flip flops) and “sporty” clothing. Lots of guys were dressed in Lederhosen and a hat and sunscreen would have been a great idea. Each raft holds about 50 people and there is plenty of space for a small bag or backpack under your bench. Before boarding we were issued a ½ liter ceramic mug to use with our on board beverages.
The raft itself is the same design as has been used for centuries. The logs are held together with cables and there are two paddlers up front and one in back. As we departed, the raft was spun around and we were off! The water flows right between the loosely bound logs, but there is a platform where the guests are seated which stays dry (well, almost) during the whole trip.
As soon as we got going, the first 50 liter keg of Augustiner Helles was tapped and the beer started flowing at 9:30 AM. Non-alcoholic drinks were also available, but everything was self-service and it was fun trying to walk the logs along the side of the raft to get to the kegs in back. As this was happening, our live 4 pience band got rocking. Each raft has a different band – ours was a drummer, bass player, guitar/vocalist and a girl on the accordion. They play all crowd favorites and many American tunes.
Next came the “Brotzeit.” A snack consisting of a Semmel and a slab of Leberkäs with a dollop of mustard. After a while, the raft master gave the all-clear for people to swim and 5 or 6 people dove in and swan alongside the raft on the chilly waters of the Isar.
Sometime around noon, we pulled up to a “Wirtschaft” for lunch. Service was quick and everyone got a piece of Schweinebraten, potato dumpling and Kraut Salad. Drinks there were extra. After the one-hour lunch break, we reboarded the raft and did our first “rutsch” – slide. Since a dam is built there, there is small slide built alongside for rafters. With an 11 meter drop, we zipped down the slide and the entire front of the raft was briefly submerged. People in the front got a little spray, but nothing too serious – you get wetter at Splash Mountain.
The tunes continued and the beer flowed – three 50 liter kegs were emptied! We passed the Brückenwirt and the Castle of Grünwald before landing in Thalkirchen. Once there, we reboarded the bus back to the Neptune Fountain, In the meantime all the rafts are disassembled and are tucked back to Wolfratshausen to be rebuilt for the next day’s trip.
For all this we paid € 134 per person. Not so bad when you consider all the work involved, Keep in mind that this is weekends only and the trips go in all weather. If it rains, they erect a cover for the passengers, but the show goes on! Also, English is not spoken – but everything is pretty self-explanatory anyways. Of course, if you need more help, someone on board can help you out.
I highly recommend this trip and will be trying to work it into a future BayernTrips tour!
PS: If are wondering about all that beer on board...There is a IWC on board - "Isar Water Closet" It's a crude outouse on the back of the raft, but there is at least a little privacy.