River Cruise Editor Michelle Baran is sailing through France's Alsace-Lorraine region aboard European Waterways' new hotel barge, Le Panache. Read her first dispatch here; her second dispatch follows.
I thought I had seen it all -- or much of it anyway -- when it came to river cruising. But clearly I hadn't. I was legitimately in awe as we turned a bend in the Canal de la Marne au Rhin as it wound through the forested Vosges Mountains, pulling up to a barge lift that transports boats up (and down) 146 feet, and across 422 feet.
At the Saint-Louis-Arzviller inclined plane, boats sail into a tank filled with water, and once the watertight gates are sealed, the tank is carried along tracks by engine-powered cables up the incline.
The lift was completed in 1969 and replaced a series of 17 hand-powered, antiquated locks that, according to our captain, previously took an entire day to pass through. Now, it takes 20 minutes from entry to exit. (View a video of the passage below.)
For die-hard lock enthusiasts, there are still plenty of locks throughout the rest of the sailing--as many as a dozen or so each day on certain stretches of this European Waterways barge cruise through the Alsace-Lorraine region of France on the 12-passenger Le Panache barge.
The lift and the locks are a reminder that in canal cruising, the extensive network of manmade canals throughout Europe, and the technology and engineering behind their intricate system of locks and lifts, can be as much of an attraction for passengers as the picturesque passing scenery.
Follow Michelle Baran on Twitter @mbtravelweekly.