Why is the Danube River referred to as the Blue Danube?:
The Danube River has many aspects and features, but the colour Blue is certainly not one of them. On my first Danube River cruise from Vienna to Budapest many years ago, I kept hoping that we would come to a stretch where I might see the Blue Danube. Sadly, I didn’t see any.
On subsequent Danube cruises I was still hopeful of seeing a trace of blue in the Danube, but no such luck! So how did the Danube come to be referred to as the “Blue Danube”, a question that is frequently asked.
Source of the Danube
The Danube River, the second longest in Europe, originates in Germany’s Black Forest. From there it winds its way through 10 countries in central and eastern Europe to the Black Sea. It may have been blue in earlier centuries when the environment was more pristine, but these days it is a murky brown.
In Passau, where the Inn, Danube and Ilz rivers meet, it was interesting to see the distinct difference in colour of the three rivers from the Veste Oberhaus, Passau’s medieval fortress. None of them were blue.
Johann Strauss’ Blue Danube
The Blue Danube is one of the most famous waltzes ever written. Often associated with Vienna, it has become the unofficial Austrian national anthem. Certainly this piece of music is the cause for many of us thinking that the Danube is blue.
When Johann Strauss II, composed the waltz in 1866, he was inspired by a poem by Karl Isidor Beck (1817-79). Each stanza of Beck’s poem, ends with the line: ‘By the Danube, beautiful blue Danube’. Incidentally, Beck’s hometown of Baja is in Hungary and not Vienna.
The Danube may not be blue, but it nevertheless has been an artistic inspiration for artists, composers, film makers, writers, etc. And, for the romantics and those in love, the river will always be the Blue Danube.