The beauty and tranquility of Germany’s Mosel Valley has been disrupted by the plan to build a huge bridge spanning the river at Ürzig, one of the area’s picturesque villages. If the proponents get their way, the 160 metre high structure will dominate the landscape.
The massive bridge is viewed as a threat to several of the unique Mosel vineyards, whose precipitous topography and slate-rich soils produce grapes that could not be grown anywhere else in the world to the same standard.
The €280 million project, which has been on the planners’ agenda for 40 years, has recently been making international headlines with horror struck wine-lovers heading the protests along with environmentalists from around the world. Prominent among the protesters is top Mosel winemaker Ernst Loosen, whose family has been growing grapes in the region for 200 years. Joining him in the anti-bridge struggle are artist/musician Sarah Washington, an English-born Mosel resident, along with celebrated British wine commentators like Hugh Johnson, Stuart Pigott and Jancis Robinson and former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer.
On a recent tour of the vineyards I had a chance encounter with Sarah Washington who explained that the fight was far from lost despite work having started on an approach road. She explained that the recent visits by Jancis Robinson, Hugh Johnson and Stuart Piggot had generated a lot of interest in the British and international media, with BBC Radio 4 about to broadcast a feature on the controversy: The more we’re in the press, the harder it is for the politicians to justify it – if you look into all the reports – the traffic reports, the tourism reports, everything that puts the arguments for the road – there’s holes in all of it – there’s really no justification for having a motorway here.
The anti-bridge group points out that the project has its roots in the Cold War era, with the bridge intended to provide American troops with a quick getaway route to the northern coast if needed.
Local opposition is less solid with many residents seeing the bridge as a fillip for local tourism, but winemakers like Loosen fear that the drilling will have a deleterious effect on the water table quite apart from the ugliness that would be visited upon an area of such outstanding beauty.
The words of Hugh Johnson sum up the view of most wine afficiaonados: There is a great folly and desecration about to be committed. I never expected to see the German government make such an assault on such a precious and prestigious wine region.
Ernst Loosen calls for common sense: My common sense tells me that I’m not going to stay in a hotel where I have to look out of the window at a huge, ugly bridge. Why would I want to look at that?