Anyone who knows Hamburg will be familiar with the Alster. The twin lakes are a predominant feature of the cities skyline. But the Alster in actual fact is the name originally given to the river that feeds the lakes. The Alster river has its source in a wood near the village of Rhen, not far from Henstedt-Ulzburg. This is about 30 miles to the north of the city of Hamburg. On its way to the city, the river Alster is joined on its way by a couple of other tributaries, giving what is basically a small stream more volume.

Alster Source

The Source is anything but spectacular

Following a sudden bout of Wanderlust, I decided today that it was time to take a look at the source. To cut off any high hopes, I will say here that it is very unspectacular. Any hopes of water gushing out of an underground spring were completely unfounded. A wall has been built around three sides of the source. The source itself appears to be underneath a submerged grate. At the time we were there in mid-March of 2021 however, the water above the source seemd to be stagnant, and it gave for a pungent smell of rotting vegetation. Apparently though, it wasn’t bad enough to stop children playing in the water…

A glade with two single trees

However, we followed the stream for a few kilometers, and it turned out to be a very pleasant walk.

The Alster stream was a bit of a dissappointment as at this point it didn’t appear to be moving at all, let alone feeding two massive lakes just 30 miles south. Although the water table seemed quite high, the stream itself was mostly stagnant, and many parts of the river bed were dry. And this although the going was very soft and wet underfoot. Big pools of water filled with toppled trees and rotting branches were a frequent feature of this walk through what was basically marshland. These were interspersed with glades, where deer grazed nervously, keeping a watchful eye out for passing human beings.


After a few kilometers we turned back due to deteriorating weather. But in spite of the dissappointment at the source, it was still a good days outing and certainly worth a visit

Downstream things widen out

Alster at Grevenau

Only a few miles downstream the Alster turns into a full fledged river, obviously with the aid of its tributaries. In it’s present state, it is difficult to imagine the Alster feeding any lake at all. We had visited this section of the Alster a couple of weeks previously. It was certainly a completely different terrain.

Give a Comment