On the Beautiful German Danube
Up until now, for the life of me I could never remember that the Danube river originates in Germany, and is mainly known as a German river. What I did know about it—or so I thought—was that its name means “blue river” in some language; it turns out that its name derives from the Latin Danubius, which means flow; even in German, where blue is blau and red is rot, there’s no trace of blue in the name (either the English name or the German name for the river, Donau).
No, I never pictured Germany when I heard “Danube;” what I pictured, instead, was a man standing on a wooden raft and pushing himself along through a bayou with a long stick as an oar, humming to himself. He might have suspenders on. At any rate, bayou: that’s where the association was, because the words bayou and Danube had that similar sound in the middle, a sound which I assumed was French; consequently, the Danube seemed like it’d be a French river.
But that’s the wrong side of Europe: the Danube is mainly eastern, not western. Precisely, it originates in a German town called Donaueschingen, when two smaller rivers, the Breg and the Brigach, merge together to form the Danube. Being the second-longest river in Europe, and being part of a canal which crosses over into the Rhine, it serves a vital role in Europe’s economy, which is probably why Johann Strauss composed the song An der schonen, blauen Donau about it: the name translates to “On the Beautiful Blue Danube,” and we can certainly see the German “blue” in there, and you’ve certainly heard it more often than you think.