The River Elbe:
I am the great River Elbe. Descending from the Giant Mountains, I have flowed through Bohemian and Saxon Switzerland, the Elbe Sandstone Mountains – that bear my name – the North German Plain and on through the Elbe glacial valley to the North Sea.
Since time immemorial, people have settled on my banks, because they find fertile meadows and grazing land there, for their fields and livestock. My water brings them fish, and my current drives their mills. The people use my life-giving strength – but they are also familiar with my destructive aspect.
Usually, I meander peacefully through the landscape in my riverbed. But in some years, more snow than usual melts in the Giant Mountains, or it rains for days on end. Then, I am beyond control. I need space, my water breaks my banks and floods entire tracts of land. And then, only a few hills stand proud above the water as islands on either side of my bed.
From the earliest days, people have settled on these islands. They had watched me closely and discovered how we can live together amicably side by side.
But people have grown proud and forgotten about my power – the power of Mother Elbe. A few years ago, they built an entire settlement on my bank – opposite the old town of Riesa. The settlement rose precisely where one of my branches had once flowed. And in 2002, when my waters had swelled beyond all measure and burst the embankments … people’s houses were engulfed by the water. They had disregarded their ancestors’ knowledge and built their settlement on a flood plain.
But once the water had retreated, they thought better of the whole matter. They left their houses and moved to more distant, better protected villages. And since then, the humans and I once again live in harmony and mutual respect.