Czech plastic bottle crew “abandons ship” in face of German red tape

Earlier this month, a group of Czech adventurers set out on a 900-km journey to the German port of Hamburg, peddling down the Elbe River on a boat made of plastic bottles. But their voyage has come to an early end as Germany’s river traffic rules made it impossible for them to continue. The group now wants to complete their trip on dry land.

Photo: ČTKPhoto: ČTK A group of friends left their home town of Nymburk on July 12, peddling on a boat made of 5,000 plastic bottles. Their destination was the German port of Hamburg, some 900 kilometres down the Elbe River.

After seven days, the unusual vessel, named Petburg, reached Děčín, the last Czech port on the way to Germany. But there the crew learned that sailing into Germany would not be as smooth, says one of the boat’s captains, Jan Kára.

“You need to have a certified small vessel operator, you need an engine on the boat to be able to steer clear of big boats, and so on.

“We can normally handle this by peddling but these were the conditions the German authorities set for us. But these issues only came to light here in Děčín.”

Jan Kára (centre), photo: ČTKJan Kára (centre), photo: ČTK The boat has spent 10 days moored in the Děčín port while its crew has been trying to fulfil the German authorities’ requirements. But Jan Kára says that time has become an issue, and on Wednesday, they decided to abandon ship and continue on dry land.

“As we haven’t been to meet all the conditions, we decided to complete the journey in a different way. We are leaving the boat moored in Děčín.

“We will now finish the journey on old bikes that will be decorated with plastic bottles. When we come back, we’ll have the boat taken back to Nymburk.”

The voyage has attracted a lot of attention in the Czech Republic, both in the media and on the banks of the Elbe River. The sailors say people would sometimes give them food, and some asked for a ride. Many onlookers also gave them messages to take with them to Hamburg.

Děčín, photo: Ondrej.konicek, CC BY 3.0 Děčín, photo: Ondrej.konicek, CC BY 3.0 Jan Kára says he does feel regret the trip along the river has ended in Děčín, after only around 100 kilometres. But he also feels grateful for the time they have spent on the boat.

“The first seven days were great, living on the boat and so on. But we got quite annoyed when we got stuck here. It will be different now when we go by bike but I think I’ll be glad for all of this after all.

“It has been a huge project we spent eight months on. It’s a pity we won’t make it there on our boat but the important thing is whether we have inspired others and whether it enriched us. And I believe this is in fact more valuable than if everything had gone as planned.”

Photo: ČTKPhoto: ČTK It’s not clear when Jan Kára and the rest of the crew will eventually reach their destination. But the adventures say they have already started thinking about a new project for next summer.

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