3.5 out of 5 Stars
It has been one of the key trade routes for over 2000 years now with a history going back before the Roman Empire. However, it was in the 1800s that the rise of Germany nationalism meant that the Rhine grew in significance in that country and was seen as a source of German Strength. I had always considered the Rhine purely a German River, and that is probably why. Until reading this book I hadn’t even thought any more about it. It turns out that it also flows past and through a number of other European countries. Starting in his new home country of the Netherlands, Coates will take us on an 800-mile ride and run from the mouth at Hoeck van Holland where it flows into the North Sea all the way to the source in the Alps.
This river now has 50 million people living along its length and as he passes through notable cities then we are told some of their histories with a little on what he thinks of the place at the time. It is full of relevant snippets of information, for example, I didn’t know that Basle had a port and access to the sea via the Rhine and there is actually a Swiss merchant navy!
I did wonder when reading it that if he had undertaken the journey in stages. Sometimes he seems to have his dog with him and other times not, as well as switching between running and cycling. It did feel a bit disjointed because of this. He does occasionally come up with the odd amusing moment, but he is no Bill Bryson. It is a reasonable blend of travel, history and personal experience and a reminder that sometimes you don’t need to travel far to discover things.