For those of you with property in the immediate vicinity of the river, flooding is always going to be in the back of your mind particularly with the current rainfalls being experienced across Europe. However, don’t despair too much as there are two very useful websites where you can monitor river levels from anywhere in the world allowing you to better decide when to either phone a neighbour and ask them nicely to clear out your ground floor or to make sure your insurance covers flood risk.
The first site is “Mosel Webcams“. As the name suggests, from there you can get real time video images streamed to your computer or smartphone from selected locations in several of the larger towns along the Mosel. The cameras are on all 24/7 and after the storms we have recently experienced the footage can be quite dramatic.
The website was started by two couples – Harald and Bernadette Mohr and Rüdiger and Heidi Mitscher – originally just to show off their home town of Traben-Trarbach, but the idea proved so popular that they added eleven more cameras in other locations and I am jolly grateful they did. Please do make use of the site and click on their sponsors from time to time so that they can continue to provide this excellent service. The site is in German only but is very easy to use even if you don’t speak the language.
The other website I find really useful if a little scary at times is the official “Hochwassermeldedienst” or “Flood Reporting Service” which covers all the major rivers and tributaries in the state of Rhineland Palatinate. Although it is also in German, much of it is pictorial and self-explanatory. For example, clicking on “Mosel” then “Karte” (which means maps) takes you to a simple map showing the monitoring points on the river, each identified by a coloured point representing the current river level status with green being less than the 2 year high water level (or in laymans terms, flood that occurs about once every 2 years in the statistical average) all the way up to purple which is the highest level i.e. greater than the fifty year flood level. It all depends where your property is located which colour is the one you need to watch out for. My house was last caught by the hundred year flood back in 1993, so I only need to start panicking when the alert hits purple.
Clicking on “Hochwasserfrühwarnung” or “High water early warning” reveals a simple map of the region similarly colour coded – green means all is okay, purple means inflate that dinghy and batten down the hatches. Although the map shows no place names, hovering your mouse over each section of the map will identify the municipality and you can click on those to get a bit more detail.
This site also offers graphs showing the current level of the main rivers (“Hauptpegel) as well as the tributaries (“Nebenpegel”) for each of the main rivers in the state.
When I bought my house in Zell, it was always in the back of my mind that the proximity to the river means that flooding is a distinct possibility. The house was advertised as being in a “high water free” location, and indeed it does sit a bit above the surrounding houses that I know do flood from time to time.
Anyway, I was scouting the internet for old pictures and I was not sure whether to laugh or cry when I found a picture of my street with water half way up the front doors, and my house was in the centre of the picture! The picture was taken in the flood of 1993, which was regarded as the “hundred year flood”. So I figured that – statistically at least – my place should be reasonably safe for a few years to come!
The prospect of being flooded out is to a total land lubber like me freaky to say the least. But the locals don’t seem to share my concerns – water off the proverbial duck’s back to them, if you’ll pardon the pun. They are obviously used to the river bursting its banks, and they know when and how to prepare for it, to minimize the risk, to limit the damage and how to clear up quickly afterwards. This is beautifully illustrated in this German video:
I was astounded when I saw this. The river roars past, quickly claiming large swathes of the adjacent land, flooding the cellars and ground floors of premises located in its way, but with the efficiency the Germans are noted for, those premises are swiftly cleared and everyone resorts to living upstairs and getting around by rowing boats. What Impressed me most was the community spirit and the camaraderie – watch out for the two ladies in the rowing boat before and after they have had a drink!
So watch out for future videos of the Mosel “Hochwasser” – you might see me paddling away from my lounge window on my way to the pub!
Now this is something I really want to try this year with my son. I can imagine it is a superb way of seeing things from a new perspective, although coming up against one of the huge barges must be pretty humbling!
Has anyone tried canoeing or kayaking on the Mosel? Any advice for a total beginner would be welcomed.
In August Traben Trarbach had the pleasure of hosting Amphib 2014, an international rally for amphibious vehicles which is now in its 28th year but has only been held in Germany on three other occasions previously.
Unfortunately I could not make the event but judging by the video it looks like a great time was had by all and there was an impressive collection of amphibious vehicles, some of which look very robust and road/river worthy, but others look really precarious and guaranteed to put a smile on everyone’s face!
All I can say now is, I want one! The official rally website (in English) can be accessed here.
A short while ago I posted a picture of the source of the Mosel in France where is but a mere trickle from a spring – amazing considering the size of the river running through Germany.
Well, this picture is one of the reasons why the river is so large. It is the river Ueßbach which joins the Alfbach just above the lovely town of Alf. The Alfbach is one of the numerous tributaries of the Mosel which constantly feed it from the surrounding hills, and as you can see it carries a fair amount of water through some lovely woodland scenery.
A lot of people just explore the Mosel valley, but you don’t have to go far up the hills to come across more stunning places and it is a great way of getting away from the bulk of the tourists in summer. So put on your boots and waterproofs and get out there – you won’t regret it!
Of course, no trip to the Mosel is complete without a river cruise. It is arguably the best way to see the countryside from a different perspective as unlike from land based transport, you get to see both banks at the same time! And I can guarantee there is something to make you “ooh”, “ah” or even gasp on every slow bend of the river, be it a stunning town, dramatic fortress or just another amazing vista.
Tours are available which last for a few hours to as many as several days if you take in the Rhine too – the latter takes place on board the impressive floating hotel ships. Or why not a romantic evening dinner cruise watching the sunset over the vineyards? And if you are feeling really adventurous, why not rent your own holiday boat? Trust me, there are so many options to suit all tastes and budgets.
Here is a flavour of what you can expect on a trip down the river:
Have you ever considered what the source of our mighty Mosel river looks like or indeed where it is? Well, believe it or not, the picture above is that source at Ballon d’Alsace in the Vosges Mountains of France where it is called the Moselle.
It is incredible to believe that the river increases in size so dramatically as it wriggles 545 kilometers through the French, Luxembourgish and German landscape on its way to its final destination, the Rhine in Koblenz. Of course, the river picks several tributaries along the way as well as draining surrounding lands, all of which contributes to the heavy floods which often hit the region in winter. These floods have become a way of life for the people living close to the banks who have learned to live on the upper floors of their homes, relegating the ground floor areas to utility rooms in order to avoid excessive flood damage.
Picture generously shared by Didier Misson Of Braine-l’Alleud, Belgium and Wikimedia Commons.
As you can see from my “Who Am I?” section, I am a Brit (yes, I can still call myself that now that the UK remains intact following yesterday’s referendum!) Germanophile currently trying to juggle a career in the Arab world with a life in the Mosel. I like to think that my situation is unique and that I am the only “foreigner” living in Zell. Yeah, I know that sounds selfish but the region is so special I would hate for it to get overrun with people wanting pie and chips and the Daily Mirror in the same way the Spanish Costas have. Thankfully, that is not likely to happen as the region is not known for being a haven for sun worshipers which is ironic as when the sun shine over the river, it really shines and the river offers aquatic activities on par with most seaside resorts!
Whilst it is no secret the region attracts tourists from many places both near and far (I regularly see cars from Sweden, Denmark, Italy and such places), there are also numerous folk who have – like me – decided it really a nice place to be. Most of those invest in holiday homes which gives them an income whilst also allowing them the opportunity to grab a weekend or more here and there to quaff the lovely local plonk, whilst others are living here either as retirees, workers or even business owners. Originally I bought my place in Zell as a base where I could escape the madness of the Middle East from time to time. Previously I had a flat in the industrial Ruhr region of Germany. That was okay, but not the kind of place I want to spend the rest of my life. So for now, I fly to my new ‘home’ as often as I can, and I am looking forward to the day when I can be permanently part of local life.
So what attracted me to this region in particular? Well, it is unquestionably an area of outstanding natural beauty offering so many leisure opportunities for everyone. Personally, my favourite activities are exploring the region on foot or by bike and discovering the numerous historic towns, villages and castles that the area is so abundantly blessed with. Luxembourg, Belgium and Holland are on the doorstep and other places are within easy reach. Then of course, there is the wine which really does speak for itself, and being in Germany, the beer is not half bad either! I am also a bit of a motorbike fan and the region attracts bikers from all over Europe seeking thrilling rides against a backdrop of thrilling scenery. Oh, and I almost forgot the river – boating and canoeing for starters? Yes please! But above all – and excuse me if this sounds corny – it is the people who are wonderfully friendly and welcoming.
If you have never visited the region, do so. You will not regret it. But shhh, keep it to yourself as we don’t want to spoil the place!