Full steam ahead
Frederick Augustus I the Just was never known as a reformist monarch. After the defeat of Saxony on the side of Napoleon he had even less time for innovations. From 1815 on, the Saxon king regularly refused licensing applications for a regular service with steam ships. It was not until 1834, a few years after his death, that the first stern-wheel steamer of the sugar mill owner Heinrich Wilhelm Calberla was allowed to operate between Hamburg and Dresden. In 1836 Calberla became a shareholder in the Elbe Steamer Company (“Elbdampfschiffahrts- Gesellschaft”). In 1837 Andreas Schubert, who was later to build the first functional German locomotive, constructed the “Königin Maria”, the first passenger steamer in Germany. Based in Dresden, the oldest and largest paddle steamer fleet in the world now travels the Elbe between Diesbar-Seusslitz and Bad Schandau, even venturing to Ústí nad Labem in the Czech Republic on special occasions. Seven of the nine side-wheel steamer in use completed their maiden voyages in the 19th century, including the “Diesbar” from 1884, which is coal-powered and whose steam engine dates back to 1841, making it thus the oldest regularly operating paddle steamer engine in the world. Anyone wanting to experience all the ships at full speed at once should come to the steamer parade that takes place on May 1 every year. Those looking for more exclusiveness can charter a boat for private and official purposes.