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Steeped in legend, countless songs and stories have been written about the picturesque Rhine River. The inhabitants of Cologne may not have found the Nibelungen gold, which was said to shimmer at the bottom of the Rhine, but the river has still provided the city with economic influence. Cologne has been a river-port ever since the Romans founded their city of Colonia on the bank of the Rhine. Nowadays, more than ten million tons of goods are turned over in the docks each year.
One of the major and most scenic rivers in Europe is the Elbe. The river originates in the Czech Republic's Krkonoše Mountains and travels through the country and into Germany where it flows out into the North Sea. Many cruises are operated on the river which provide a great opportunity to get a scenic glimpse of both cities and countryside. The river is 1,094 kilometres (680 miles) long.
Gushing through some of the biggest German cities and towns, the Main river is one of the most significant ones in the country. Running for 525 kilometers (326 miles), the river starts its course in Franconian town of Kulmbach. One of the most navigable rivers in Germany, Main is connected to Danube as well as Rhine through artificial canals and dams. Important for industrial purposes, the river is used for hydroelectricity and as inland ports in cities like Offenbach, Frankfurt and Wurzburg. With its glistening waters, Main adds a beautiful charm to the cities it dissects with its undulating flow.
Many of the city's most important buildings and historical sights are situated on the banks of the River Spree. Examples include the 13th-century Nikolaiviertel, Schloss Charlottenburg, Palast der Republik and Schloss Bellevue. Several new government buildings including the Chancellery, where German Chancellors have their office, are boarding the river in a quarter called the Spreebogen. Broad paths along the Spree make it ideal for a peaceful stroll, best of all through parks like the Tiergarten, Treptower Park or Schloss Charlottenburg's Royal Park. A boat trip is also a great way of doing a bit of sightseeing (boats depart regularly from Museum Island or from Schlosspark Charlottenburg). However, the river is at its most attractive in the Spreewald, a beautiful biosphere reserve 50 miles south-east of Berlin. It is here that the river splits into hundreds of canals and streams, surrounded by rain forest. An extremely popular day-trip destination, the Spreewald is also home to Germany's minority Sorbian community, well-known for their colorful costumes and lively festivals.
A tributary of Elbe, Havel flows through three German states and other cities like Berlin. Its total length is 325 kilometers (201.94 miles) of which only 30 kilometers (18.64 miles) is covered in the city. Spree is the main arm of this river. It is joined by canals and various natural water-bodies such as lakes and streams.
A tributary of the Rhine River, Neckar is one of the longest rivers in Germany. German cities located along its vast expanse include Rottenburg am Neckar, Tubingen, Mannheim, Stuttgart and Esslingen among others. This major river is used for transportation as well as tourism purposes. Taking a cruise to explore the waters of the Neckar is highly recommended. Dilsberg Castle, Zwingenberg Castle and Hornberg Castle are some of the most popular historic attractions situated along the Neckar River.