Wertheim is nestled between two rivers, the mighty Main with its bustling shipping traffic, and the quieter Tauber, which can still kick up a good flood given the right circumstances, such as rapid snow-melt or excessive rainfall.
As a child here, I was fascinated by the spectacle of “Hochwasser”, that inundation of Wertheim’s streets by the waters of one or both rivers.
As with many towns in Europe (and elsewhere), flooding is a part of historical experience here. There are markings on many of its buildings, showing the years when water had its way, and the only thing there was to do, beyond what pumps can accomplish, was wait for it to recede. Thankfully, after major flooding five years ago, the town has mostly had a reprieve from this annual assault.
Yes, it’s terribly cliché to say that folks here go with the flow, yet after hundreds of years of doing just that, I can see how it has shaped the character of this place.
Perhaps it’s part of the reason that those who flowed in from other places — people like my American military family, and thousands of US servicemen, and those who’ve sought refuge from places that had been turned upside-down, or rendered unsafe by war and other calamity — have always found an easy welcome here.
And the pragmatism?
Well, when the flood waters do rise, and one major thoroughfare becomes a sort of tributary, these canny locals erect raised metal platforms that act as a network of pedestrian paths that thread through the streets “above it all”.