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The Kiel Canal

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Stretching for 98 kilometers through the countryside of Schleswig-Holstein, the Kiel Canal links the North Sea with the Baltic Sea between the towns of Brunsbüttel and Kiel. It was built in the late 19th century to prevent ships from having to make the much longer journey around the northern tip of Denmark and was originally called the Kaiser-Wilhelm Canal.

The first connection between the North and Baltic Seas was the Eider Canal that was completed under the reign of Christian VII of Denmark in 1784. It stretched 43 kilometers from Kiel to the Eider River’s mouth at Tönning, however, its shallow depth of only three meters significantly limited the vessels that could use it. The new canal was initiated in the late 19th century by merchants and the German Navy who wanted to link their bases in the Baltic and the North Sea without having to sail around the Jutland Peninsula. It took more than 9,000 workers around eight years to build the canal, with surviving footage of the opening of the canal preserved in London’s Science Museum.

While more than 100 ships sail along this busy artificial waterway each and every day, tourists are also welcome to explore its stunning route and idyllic backwaters on an excursion ship or paddle steamer. If you want to stay on land, there are also numerous spots where you can watch the massive ocean liners passing through the Kiel Canal like grand floating palaces. After passing through the flower-filled meadows and charming towns of Schleswig-Holstein, each of the ships is greeted with their flag and national anthem upon reaching the Rendsburg High Bridge. 

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