Wednesday, 18 October 2017


We had not realised that the upper Rhein valley acquired its present appearance not by Nature but rather through extensive engineering until reading this profile on Johann Gottfried Tulla.
Of course many of the ancient palaces and fortifications that lend the river its romantic airs existed prior to Tulla’s excavation and construction that worked to straighten meandering sections, deepen the bed to improve navigation and remove numerous islets that began in the first decade of the nineteenth century, but the character of place was really transformed by the efforts to tame the marshlands and regulate flooding. Transportation infrastructure was the primary motivation and not tourism, but the manicured embankments did make for a good monumental showcase. Virtually unrecognisable from an ecological standpoint, Tulla’s landscaping and construction would be considered criminal today and an assault on the environment, it’s hard to imagine villages developing in swampier climes and malaria (which Tulla himself ultimately succumbed to) was rampant in the area. The efforts to mitigate flooding in the industrially-important cities of Koblenz, Bonn and Köln produced flooding further downstream, and presently work is being undertaken to re-naturalise and de-constrain the river as much as possible and allow it to choose its own course.