The Isar accompanies the people of Munich through all the stages of their lives. As a bathing and leisure paradise in the city or on the way to many attractive places up- and downriver. Our author is also very attached to the river.
Some of Munich’s children make the acquaintance of the Isar very early on, as the vicar of St. Luke’s Church baptises babies in the river near Prater Island. There are a lot of children in Munich’s Isarvorstadt district. Even before the infants take their first steps, they are packed into trendy Christiania bikes and deposited on blankets in the Isar meadows to kick their legs, sleep and marvel at their surroundings. There are often numerous favourite places for this on the banks of the Isar between the Deutsches Museum and the Grosshesseloher Bridge.
The source of the Isar is in the Karwendel. I find it very impressive that the source is melt water from a glacier from the Würm ice age. After almost 300 kilometres, the Isar flows into the Danube south of Deggendorf. As well as Munich, there are other towns that are worth visiting located on the Isar, such as Bad Tölz, Freising or Landshut.
The young residents of Munich take their first longer cycle trip up the Isar and through the wild nature conservation area of the Pupplinger Au to Wolfrathausen. A few years ago, I saw the ex-communard Rainer Langhans sitting there in the reeds, clad in white and sunk in meditation. Tired little legs do not have to cycle back; it is easy to take a bicycle on the S-Bahn.
“When I think of the Isar, I think of childhood and playing and the summer,” writes the Munich-born songwriter Konstantin Wecker. The blues singer and self-styled Isar Indian Willi Michl raves about the “shimmering of the Isar”. You can splash around and swim in the Isar in the centre of the city. That is how clean it is.
In the first decade of the new millennium, the Isar was restored, i.e. the eight kilometre long stretch of the river within the city was restored to a nearly natural condition with an accessible riverbank, gravel banks and islands. The water is not only purified by artificial UV radiation, but is really disinfected. This is good for the people and good for the river and its biodiversity.
The newly created pools at the Flauchersteg (a small wooden bridge) are a unique adventure play area. At the same time, the Isar is, according to the Fishing Association, probably the only river in the world that provides a home for the “huchen”, an endangered species of fish, in a city of over a million inhabitants.
Only a few hundred metres further out of the city is Munich’s Hellabrunn Zoo, which is located within the landscape conservation area of the Isar meadows. It is the world’s first geo-zoo; the animals live together in enclosures arranged by their continent of origin.
The Flaucher beer garden is a Munich institution. Anyone who doesn’t want to have their own barbecue by the Isar (it is permitted in designated areas) meets here with the whole family and brings their own food with them. On the lawn opposite, partners are often found for a spontaneous volleyball match, especially in summer.
The residents of Munich are sports fans. The Isar suits us perfectly. There are allegedly citizens who swim to work in the mornings. One of the most popular jogging routes leads out of the city, keeping along the river to the Thalkirchner Bridge at the zoo, and back again past the Flaucher beer garden on the other side. People training for a marathon can easily extend the distance by the kilometres up to the Grosshesseloher Bridge. The obligatory symbols of love in the form of keys hang from the railings on the bridge; below, the rafts go by on the Isar with wind music.
When my daughter was little, she always wanted to stop here to wave at the people on the rafts and to see whether someone on the raft was currently using the toilet cubicle that can be seen from above. It is also possible travel from Wolfratshausen to Munich in a rubber dinghy.
Everyone has their own sports project: “Woods, rock, sand, leaves, mud, water, up and down. Awesome!“ raves an enthusiastic mountain biker on “outdooractive.com”, apparently after he has mastered the technically challenging trail from Thalkirchen along the Isar to Munich-Grünwald. There is even a surfing spot near the raft landing stage in Thalkirchen.
My project is to cycle over the Alps to Venice and follow the Isar upriver for some of the journey. The outstanding natural beauties of the long-distance Munich – Venice, with its total of 3000 metres altitude difference, include the Sylvenstein reservoir and the Isar, where it is still completely natural and wild.
As soon as Munich’s children begin to flout their parents and teachers, they look for places of refuge by the Isar, where they take their music in rucksacks and where they skip PE or geography and read to one another from their chats. It is better not to know from precisely which bridges they cannonball into the Isar during a long adolescent summer, or about the trout that they fish and cook in secret. But I like their songs very much.
Just recently, I saw a solitary group sitting on stones at the bridge at Reichenbachkiosk and singing to a guitar at dusk. The refrain was: I am floundering, I don’t know where we are. I am floundering. Blind from now on, blind from now on ... Feelings like these do not simple stop at some point. Especially not when darkness falls on the river.
By the way: If you want to explore the Isar on a bike tour, we have the perfect route for you: Download our map including the entire route from the city centre to the Großhesseloher bridge.
Also interesting: A paddle tour along the Isar river offers a lot to see and experience. Our author did the self-experiment and drove from Bad Tölz to the rafting area.