Initially, we might question the Rhine being considered ‘Europe’s greatest river’. But Ben Coates makes a persuasive and entertaining argument for the accolade as he leisurely traverses his way from sea-to-source, sampling the cultures and landscapes that lie between his home in the Netherlands, and the striking alpine environment surrounding Lake Toma, the Swiss source of the Rhine. By the end, my picture of the Rhine as a tough, industrial waterway was replaced by visions of an eclectic and beautiful river.
As Coates reminds us, it was the Rhine that once halted the progress of the Romans as they marched across Europe, doing the same to the Allies two millennia later. Thanks to the Rhine, Duisburg in Germany is capable of being Europe’s largest inland port, despite being located 120 miles from the sea and the Swiss city of Basel is easily able to ship goods down river and out into the North Sea.
My eagerness to devour each chapter was dependent less on the overall theme of the book, but almost entirely on Coates’ engaging writing style and the playful way he reveals the history of this part of Europe. He cleverly intertwines personal observations and experiences with historical accounts in each location he visits, enabling us to easily digest the significance of this undervalued waterway.
Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox by signing up to our weekly newsletter and get a free collection of eBooks!