The Grosse Wiener – and Ruder Things

Die Grosse Wiener Regatta – The Big Viennese Regatta.

14 August 2018

By Tim Koch

Tim Koch travels in cyberspace to the land of his ancestors.

While the British claim to have invented (or at least codified) rowing as a sport, Germany and Austria-Hungary were among the earliest and most enthusiastic of the countries that subsequently adopted it as a popular pastime, both quickly developing their own traditions. Notably, many boathouses in the two Germanic nations were large, elaborate affairs, unlike most of those in Britain. I speculate that most of the finance for these came from two sources. Firstly, the ruderclubs often had attached restaurants and cafes that were open to all and which must have brought in a welcome income. Secondly, there was – and is – a tradition not just of racing boats over short distances, but also of long-distance touring in slow and stable craft. I suspect that the latter less demanding pastime kept a large membership on the books, effectively subsidising the racing members. Both of these factors may have made many Germanic clubs more family orientated and women-friendly than their strictly ‘men only’ equivalents in the UK.

I hope that this very random collection of pictures that I have collected over time goes at least a little way to illustrating Germany’s and Austria’s love of rudersport.

Founders of the ‘Der Hamburger Ruder-Club’ in their first boat “Victoria”, c.1841. Der Hamburger Ruder Club (since 1934, part of Der Hamburger und Germania Ruder Club) was founded in 1836 and claims to be the second-oldest existing open rowing club in the world. The Scots-German, Edg(ar) Ross (marked ‘x’) may have been responsible for the crew’s traditional Scottish ‘Balmoral’ caps. Picture: Wikipedia/Public Domain.
A regatta in Frankfurt, 1881.
The opening of the watersports season, Berlin, 1928.
Some successful members of Die Ulmer Ruderclub Donau (The Ulm Rowing Club on the Danube).
One of the many rowing clubs based at Grünau, a suburb of Berlin, 1904.
A bank tub.
Indian Clubs were a popular way to exercise in the late 19th and early 20th century.
Members of Berlin’s “Victoria” club at Henley in 1904. In 1903, Klaus and Ehrenberg had won the Silver Goblets.
Members of the Berlin Students Rowing Club that won at the Grünau Regatta in 1911 display their trophy – and some interesting outerwear, including what seems to be a dressing gown.
Postcard greetings from the Frankfurt Regatta.
A postcard of 1907 marking 25 years of Die Meissner Ruderclub “Neptun”. Meissen is on the Elbe river in Saxony, eastern Germany.
A postcard from an unknown club, the ‘DRV’ possibly standing for ‘Deutscher Ruder Verein’.
An Austrian print of 1899, “Der Schönste Ruderpreis” (“The Most Beautiful Rowing Prize”). A coy young girl is pinning a flower onto the rowing suit of a victorious oarsman.
Winter rowing in the cellar of the Hohenzollern School, Schöneberg, Berlin, 1912. Presumably, once the bow/starboard side rowers had finished in this one-sided tank, the stroke/port-siders rowed facing the other way. Hanging on the wall behind the boys on the left are rowing charts showing the style of the time. The stroke man conforms to Germanic stereotypes by wearing a monocle.
The text reads: ‘A row past by 3000 rowers in 600 boats in honour of the Emperor at the Grünau Emperor’s Anniversary Regatta. The picture at the bottom right shows the winning crew in the Imperial Fours from Mainz Rowing Club’. This impressive display was in 1913, marking the 25th anniversary of the reign of Kaiser Wilhelm II.
1919: Members of Ruder-Verein Deutschland based in Hanover, Lower Saxony, unveil a memorial to their comrades lost in the 1914 – 1918 War.
An official postcard from Frankfurt Regatta, 1902.
Members of Schweinfurter Ruder-Club Franken von 1882 e.V. in 1900. Schweinfurt is a city in Bavaria and its website contains some splendid historical pictures of the club.
Ruder-Club Franken after bombing on 2 February 1944.
Cologne: The delightful interior of Kölner Ruderverein von 1877 e.V.
The boathouse of Rudervereins Sturmvogel, Leipzig, pictured in 1906, perhaps typical of many of the large and well-built German rowing clubs of the time.

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