Whenever some natural disaster strikes a place where I’ve been before, there’s always a hint of a personal tragedy for me. (I don’t think I’m any different from most people, of course, but there it is.)
Such is the case with Ahrweiler in Germany, which lies on the banks of the Ahr River right before it empties into the Rhine at Remagen, and it’s a town that has many happy memories for me.
I remember that when I was there, about a dozen years ago, I thought that I could easily live in Ahrweiler — the town is gorgeous (although come the summer every year it floods, only with tourists), but the scenery everywhere you look is just spectacular.
The Romans thought so too: the mountainsides are festooned with grapevines dating back to those days, and there’s a large Roman villa outside the town that was only discovered a year or so before I got there.
Some pics I took when I was there:
And the town is shot through with drainage canals and pipes:
…which didn’t seem to help much.
One would think that Ahrweiler’s proximity to the Rhine outlet would spare the town from flooding — especially as the town itself is ringed by a wall dating back to medieval times or earlier:
…but that didn’t happen this time:
The people of Ahrweiler received no warning of the impending crashing waves.
Leonie from Ahrweiler had the terrifying experience of watching the water destroy the city. At about 11pm Leonie and her family had gone to bed, but before falling asleep she was disturbed by loud noises outside their home.
The electricity had gone out and it was pitch black. The only way they could see was with candles and flashlights.
She looked outside to notice that there was a lot of water running down the street, but didn’t realise the severity of the situation until the water level started to rise to her doorstep. She woke up her mother and grandfather and they started to bring food and water upstairs. However, the nightmare had just begun – a massive wave burst through the front door, obliterating everything in its wake.
I should point out that Ahrweiler lies at the very foot of the Ahr Valley, which starts way up in the Eifel Mountains. It’s a steep drop from up there to the Rhine Valley below:
I hurt when I think about it.