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The river rises in the Czech Giant Mountains. Here it is called the Labe. After Děčín it flows into Germany and is called Elbe.
There are various explanations for the origin of the river name “Elbe”. One often mentioned is the Latin name of the river “albia”, which means “bright water”. This would also explain why the stream is referred to with the feminine article “the Elbe”, since the Latin term “albia” is also feminine.
Rather poetic than linguistically probable, however, is the explanation that elves (Middle High German: alb) scurrying around the pines in the white river mists could have helped the river to get its name.
Geographically, the river can be divided into different sections: The Upper Elbe is the part from the source to about Riesa in the administrative district of Dresden, which is more characterized by mountains. The Middle Elbe, on the other hand, is a lowland river. It reaches as far as the Geesthacht dam just outside Hamburg.
The Lower Elbe is called the tidal part of the river. Here, the Elbe forms an estuary, a so-called estuary. At high tide, seawater enters this funnel-shaped delta at the mouth of the Elbe and mixes with the freshwater of the river. At low tide, the water then flows off to the North Sea. Finally, the continuation of the estuary funnel in the Wadden Sea is called the Outer Elbe.
In total, the Elbe is 1094 kilometers long from its source to its mouth, 727 kilometers of which flow through Germany. Its catchment area – i.e. the area from which the Elbe is fed with water via tributaries – covers an area of 148,268 square kilometers, making it just over twice the size of the German state of Bavaria.
After the Danube, Vistula and Rhine, the Elbe is the fourth largest river basin in Central Europe. Almost two thirds of this area lies in Germany, and a good third in the Czech Republic. Marginal areas of the catchment area extend as far as Austria and Poland.
A total of around 25 million people live in this region. The largest cities are Berlin, Hamburg and Prague. Within Germany, the ten federal states of Bavaria, Berlin, Brandenburg, Hamburg, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Lower Saxony, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Schleswig-Holstein and Thuringia lie in the Elbe catchment area.
Fascinating Wildlife on Europe's Wild River – The Elbe.
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