Meanders are puzzling phenomena because a meandering river seems to contradict the principle of least action. Different approaches to explain this paradox are outlined by adopting a topological view, which allows for a classification of different types of meanders and to discuss the relevant mechanisms in a rather general manner. It is shown that secondary flows of helical type are the features responsible for the increase in the sediment transport when the slope of rivers decreases due to meandering and that the increase in the discharge is due to a partial Beltramisation of the flow and to a reduction in the friction at the boundary of the helical cells. The review article contains 78 references.

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