The transformation of Bad Muenstereifel from a picturesque but sleepy German resort town into a shopping mall, put it on the map for millions of visitors.
Floods then dumped debris on its medieval streets and half-timbered buildings, underscoring the vulnerability of Europe’s highest economy to an increasingly unpredictable climate.
Beyond the city, the flood spread from an area near the western city of Cologne to southern Bavaria, hitting the historic centers of Aachen and Trier and leaving a trail of destruction behind it.
In recent years, other major floods have hit other parts of Germany, flooding the shores of waterways that have played such an important role in its prosperity.
The floods have caused tens of billions of euros in damage – a much bigger economic blow than any of Germany’s neighbors have suffered from the floods, according to a study by Swiss Re, which provides insurers.
The images have rocked Germany, sparking a debate ahead of national elections that could oust Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats and support the Green party.
The network of rivers and canals remains the widest in Europe and is used to move around 200 million tonnes of goods each year, from grain to coal and oil. But it is fast becoming a threat.
These were the third major floods to hit Germany since the turn of the century.
The July floods are set to be the most costly Germany ever, according to the German Insurance Association, which estimated the claims alone at up to 5 billion euros.
The total cost, with torn roads, train tracks and telephone lines, already seen in the billions, will exceed it.
Even before this latest catastrophe, Swiss Re estimated the economic cost of floods in Germany in recent decades to more than double that of France or Britain.
But the public debate, in a heavily industrialized country that relies on diesel cars, machinery and other goods to advance, was silent among large sections of the population.
That may be about to change.
Anders Levermann, who has advised the German government on climate, said he feared floods could disrupt the economy and political order if they become much more common occurrences.
“What if extreme weather becomes so frequent that we do not have time to recover in the middle?” he said.
Germany’s role as an exporter means that supply chains across the globe could also be at risk, Levermann added.
In the Netherlands, where roughly half the country is below sea level and where they have spent centuries holding water, planning has been going on for decades.
It turned out better in the recent floods.
The Dutch are also slowly starting a debate that may need to take place in Germany – whether they should simply hand over land in the advancement of water.
“Many people think they can protect everything with property. “What they do not understand is that seawater is seeping into the ponds,” said Maarten Kleinhans of Utrecht University.
Deggendorf, a city of 37,000 in Bavaria hit by floods and a dam collapse in 2013, is still recovering, said Viola Muehlbauer, head of the mayor’s office.
“It will certainly be a very, very long process until everything returns to normal.”
Translated and adapted by Reuters / konica.al