While the Main and Danube rivers weren’t officially connected until 1992, an intercontinental canal linking the Rhine, Main and Danube isn’t a modern idea. Records show that man has contemplated linking these passageways for over 1,000 years, with King Ludwig I of Bavaria coming the closest to realizing this dream in the 18th century.
The Danube, Rhine and Main rivers have been an essential part of European trade since the Roman Age. For centuries, these waterways acted as frontiers between warring nations, as well as vital passageways on which to transport goods across the continent.
It makes sense, then, that generations of rulers, inventors and engineers pained over the task of linking these three passageways. Accomplishing this feat would have a profound impact on trade routes across the continent, affecting not just Germany but nations from the North Sea to the Black.
But alas, no such link was completed, until, in 1921, the German Reich and the Free State of Bavaria commissioned the construction of a trade route from Aschaffenburg to Passau. In the coming decades, major works took place along the route of the Main, though much of this progress was halted and later abandoned in the fallout of WWII.
In the post-war years, however, when Germany was seeking to rebuild its status and wealth, works began to rebuild and develop the Main-Danube canal, with the project officially completed in 1992. Since then, countless ships have cruised the passage, providing seamless travel through the heart of the continent.