Well now, that was entertaining!
While I certainly take the severity of the flooding in Germany and the Czech Republic seriously and sympathise with the destruction that it has caused, it was quite an education to see how the Swiss dealt with this last weekend’s heavy flooding of pretty much all waterways.
After weeks of rain, the bout we had last week must, despite the icy temperatures and even snowfall above 1200 metres, have brought a lot of spring waters down with it, and from Thursday night onwards, flood warnings were everywhere in central Europe as streams and rivers rose and rose, threatening to overflow and swamp cellars and streets in any of the towns and villages on their shore.
By Saturday morning, the more mountainous areas of Switzerland had released so much water into the valleys that the Thur and Murg rivers no longer converged, but simply flowed into each other, both having burst their banks… On the other side of the bridge we were standing on, the Thur was almost triple its usual width, having taken in the water meadows on either side. That is actually the water meadow – the river is on the right…!At this particular point, a fireman on either side of the road made sure that nobody attempted to take the riverside paths. All our firemen are volunteers who had been up all night in shifts to pump out cellars and stand watch at strategic points along the rivers, on call in case of any emergency – the chap we spoke to said someone had driven a chopper motorbike across a semi-submerged wooden bridge. Some people! Although there were quite a few people there to see the flooding, there was no panic, no over-excitement and no exaggerated control – several cars had parked along the roadside and as long as they didn’t obstruct traffic, the police who stopped by while we were there made nothing of it nor did they try to distribute any kind of ticket. The atmosphere was relaxed, businesslike and friendly. Nobody worried about all the logs being carried along on the flood waters to the Rhine – they will all be fished out at Schaffhausen by the latest, as there is filtering equipment fitted there (necessary because the Rhinefalls are at Neuhausen!).
We decided to drive on to Stein-am-Rhein, a very pretty little mediaeval town on the Rhine, almost at the German border. The sky had been lightening as we stood on the Thur bridge and by the time we reached Stein, there was even some sun. To my surprise, where the Thur and Murg had been a murky brown brew, the Rhine was crystal clear as it rippled along happily, unlike the rush of the flood waters from the smaller rivers. Here, the water was about 3 feet higher than usual – and just to the right of this photo is the main bridge into town, which delineates the change from the Untersee (Lake Constance) to the River Rhine, which flows through the lake and emerges here. As we watched, one of the pleasure boats went under the bridge – it just fit, and the reason it did was another fact that made us chuckle about the efficient Swiss: the top of the cockpit (where the captain stands) folds down so that when the water is high, it can still get through to Schaffhausen! It takes a good 2-3 metres off the total height of the boat. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture of it.
A popular tourist destination, the little town is famous for its painted houses and intact centre, so even if it had still been raining, I suspect there would have been just as many people there! If you do ever go, there are lots of little boutiques and shops as well as plenty of nice places to stop for coffee, cake, crêpes or a meal, either on the riverside or up in the market place! The astounding thing is, I drove over the Thur this morning again (Tuesday). Only 2 days after the above pictures, this is what it looks like: That’s the same tree as in the picture above (see the pink house in the background!).