Alte Donau, Vienna:
Old Danube River Branch gone Lake

The Alte Donau is a dead branch of the Danube and ideal for sailing

The "Alte Donau" or "Old Danube" in Vienna is a dead end of a former river branch of the Danube, separated from the actual Danube by a dam. Since the Alte Donau has no direct connection to the main course of the river, it is a shallow lake that is popular as a recreational area. The Alte Donau is one of the very few attractions of the otherwise boring suburban district of Floridsdorf, the 21st district of Vienna. The Alte Donau is divided into two sections by the Kagraner Brücke, a bridge. The north-western part is called "Obere Alte Donau" and extends between the Floridsdorfer Brücke and the Kagraner Brücke. The south-eastern part is called "Untere Alte Donau" and extends to the Praterbrücke, where you also find the previously mentioned dam.

The Alte Donau is 1.6 square kilometres big and on average 2.5 metres deep; the deepest bits are 6.8 metres. The Alte Donau contains two islands, the Großes Gänsehäufel and the Kleines Gänsehäufel ("Big and Small Pile of Goose Shit"). The bigger one is what you normally refer to when you say "the" Gänsehäufel, since it holds Vienna′s most legendary public lido. It is by far not the only lido of the Alte Donau.

Leisure Area Alte Donau: Sea of Vienna

In fact, the Alte Donau is something like the sea of the Viennese labourers and the typical 1920ies-working-class-pride can be felt at many spots. Other lidos include the Angelibad, the Eisenbahnerbad, the Arbeiterstrandbad, the Strandbad Alte Donau and the Bundessportbad - all in the Obere Alte Donau. In the Untere Alte Donau, you find the Gänsehäufel, the Polizeibad and the Straßenbahnerbad. Many of these lidos are owned and run by unions or representative groups for certain professions, such as policemen, tram staff or railway staff. This is typical for European countries with a strong socialist tradition.

The neighbourhoods of the Alte Donau are mostly Kleingartensiedlungen (allotment gardens, often with small houses that are permanently inhabited nowadays); the area around the UNO City has developed into a premier business area with several office towers. The Alte Donau is popular for dinghy sailing and windsurfing - according to local sailors, the office towers have changed the way winds "behave" in this area.

The old river course of the Danube can be easily detected on maps. The Danube left a few lakes just around the Alte Donau. Throughout the centuries, the Danube was rather frivolous in terms of floods - the course of the Alte Donau was the result of particularly disastrous floods in the 18th century. In 1870, after another pretty bad flood, Emperor Franz Joseph I ordered a proper training of the Danube. For more on this, please read my article on the Wien River Valley. The rather straight, current course of the Danube was manually dug between 1870 and 1875; with the construction of the dam, the Alte Donau was finally made a lake.

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Further Reading

"Official Website" of the Alte Donau (a society)

City of Vienna on the lidos of the Alte Donau