A vital commercial and cultural line of communication since Roman times, the Rhine rises in the European Alps, flowing 820 miles on its way to the North Sea. Defining regional and international borders, it is a well-known feature of Switzerland, France, Germany and the Netherlands. At its most picturesque, the beautiful Upper Middle Rhine Valley is a romantic gorge where vineyards cloak steep-sided hills. Featuring strongly in history and legend, the stretch is also famous for its numerous castles. As well as a cruiser, the coin’s obverse portrays a scenic view of the Rhine near Bacharach, Germany, where Burg Stahleck, originally dating from the 12th century, commands outstanding views of the river.
Europe’s longest river is often referred to as ‘Mother Volga’, such is its importance to the people of Russia. Rising in the Valdai Hills northwest of Moscow, its flows majestically through the western part of Russia before discharging into the Caspian Sea more than 2,000 miles away. Many of Russia’s most historic cities and picturesque towns lie within close proximity of the Volga, including the 11th century town of Yaroslavl. Among its remarkable buildings is the Tolga Monastery, originally constructed on a site of religious significance more than 700 years ago. As well as a river cruiser, the coin’s reverse depicts the distinctive roofline of the famous monastery in colour.
The Yangtze is the longest river in Asia and third longest in the world. Known as Chang Jiang (long river), it rises on the Plateau of Tibet in Qinghai Province from where it sweeps almost 4,000 miles eastwards towards Shanghai and the East China Sea. Much of the river’s course runs through spectacular natural scenery, none more impressive than the Three Gorges region. At its heart lies Wu Gorge, a serene and secluded waterway towered over by the 12 Peaks of Wushan, described in legend as the spirits of 12 fairies. The coin’s reverse depicts a bamboo sailing raft amid a coloured image of the famous Gorge, where rising mists and cloud add to its ethereal beauty.
Rising in Lake Itasca, Minnesota, the ‘Mighty Mississippi’ flows south across the United States for more than 2,300 miles until discharging through a vast river delta into the Gulf of Mexico. Meaning ‘big river’ in the language of the Algonquin Indians, the Mississippi is ingrained in America’s national conscience through literature and song such as Huckleberry Finn and Ol' Man River. One of the busiest commercial waterways in the world, the Mississippi is invariably associated with paddle-wheel steamboats, which revolutionised 19th century river commerce and remain familiar sights. As well as a steamboat, the coin’s reverse depicts a coloured scene featuring the Greater New Orleans Bridge.
More than 4,000 miles in length, the Nile is the longest river in the world. Rising in Burundi south of the equator, it flows through north-eastern Africa towards the Mediterranean Sea. The lower Nile snakes across the deserts of Egypt, where its fertile valley gave rise to one of the most extraordinary civilisations in history. Ancient Egyptians thrived on the river’s annual inundation, which enabled them to turn the floodplain into an oasis of agriculture. The coin’s reverse depicts a colossus of the powerful Egyptian pharaoh Ramesses II, located in the historic riverside Temple of Luxor. Two feluccas, traditional sailing boats, and a coloured representation of the river bank also appear in the design.