Day 16: Edersee and Bad Wildungen

Edersee Dam

Edersee Dam on the Eder River. Some of the arches along the top have red brick. These show the setion that was destroyed by the Allies in 1943.

The Edersee

(Tuesday - June 19th, 2018)

Ortwin took me to the Edersee Dam, only a short drive from his home in Bad Wildungen. I didn't know much about the dam, but he explained to me that the dam is used to regulate the water on the Weser river to aid shipping. The large dam, itself, does not produce electricity. However, a nearby man-made pumped-hydro system (which is of particular interest to me due to my work at Seattle City Light) does produce electricity. The water is pumped up to the higher lake when electricity prices are low (usually at night) and allowed to spill down through hydroelectric generators, when electricity prices are high, into the lower lake.

Naturally, this made the Edersee of interest to the Allies in World War II. Ortwin explained how the dam was bombed spilling millions of gallons of water and damaging several towns downstream (and, unforunately, killing a lot of people). I recalled something about this raid just before writing this entry, as I had heard about the "Dam Buster" raid before.

In 1955, a British film, "The Dam Busters" was released, chronicalling this nighttime bombing run on several dams in Germany. Each bomber had one run and had to fly very low and hit the dam precisely. Flak and machine guns tried to shoot them down. Pretty harrowing, right? Sound familiar? Turns out, the movie "The Dam Busters" was a major inspiration for the attack on the Death Star in the original Star Wars... and as you know, I am a pretty big Star Wars fan. So very interesting connections between the real event, an early post-war movie, and the original Star Wars.

The dam was actually rebuilt fairly quickly in 1943. After the war, as before, the Edersee (the reservoir created by the dam) became a major resort area. You can see in the photos the hotels and sailboats. In addition, a few towns were submerged when the dam was built in 1916. We couldn't see the towns as the reservoir is at 98% capacity.

Ortwin and I took a small bike/foot ferry to shorten our ride. The entire Edersee is, I think, about 100+ miles in circumference. Not unlike the Seattle City Light dam reservoirs on the Skagit River in Washington. I tried to tell Ortwin in my pidkin German that I found it funny: yesterday I was riding through landscape with cows and barns that looked a lot like Wisconsin. Today, we rode around a dam resrvoir that looked a LOT like the Ross Lake (albeit without the Cascade Mountains).

We both had a lot of fun and really enjoyed the cloudy (though not rainy!) day.

Bad Wildungen Altstadt (Old City)

Later, Ortwin and Grunhild took me to the old city center of their town, Bad Wildungen. After bicycling down the Rhine and seeing large cities like Bonn, Koln, and Essen that were extensively rebuilt after the war and have had a lot of real estate development since the 1950's, it was almost shocking to see the number of well-preserved old half-timbered (fachwerk) houses and shops.

Bad Wildungen also has large stretches of the original town wall preserved, and a tower. Grunhild told me that at one time suspected "witches" - women accused of witchcraft - were kept in the tower. Likely a similar story to our own sad tale of the Salem witchcraft trials.

They showed me the tallest fachwerk building in Bad Wildungen - 4 stories tall. I told them I heard that wood laminate beam construction of tall apartments and offices, some over 20 stories, are being built in the United States. It is a very new concept, but is environmentally more sound than steel, but just as durable.

Ortwin and Grunhild took me out to dinner and we talked about their upcoming trip to Wisconsin to visit Dick and Julie. the four of them are driving around the circumference of Lake Superior starting at the Apostle Islands and up through Minnesota's North Shore, Ontario, etc. I told them I am a bit jealous as I've always wanted to do that, and even considered by bicycle! We'll see...

Ortwin and Grunhild have been wonderfully kind and gracious, letting me stay two days and driving me to Kassel. Dick and Julie, thank them for me once again!

Check out the photos below - click on them to enlarge!

This Post Has 3 Comments
  1. It is so awesome to help you make this connection! They are truly wonderful friends who love to share their village with others. Now trying to get your parents to come here on Monday for a backyard party for Gunhild & Ortwin. Bonnie & Larry will be here! Safe travels the rest of your amazing bike trip!

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