The Hunger Stones
A Rhine cruise boat close to Oberwesel navigates sandbars and rocks exposed by a lack of rain at the height of the hot 2015 summer. Hungersteine, or “hunger stones”, were first named as such probably in the summer of 1947 when drought dropped the level of the river to just 30cm, stopping the river traffic that supplied the Rhine towns with food and other vital supplies, and causing a near famine. An inscription on a rock close to Worms reads “HUNGER 1947”, and though another rock nearby reads “ANNO 1857”, it is unclear if the latter is genuinely from that period. Similar inscriptions on rocks also can be seen in the Elbe. Many of these hunger stones also carry annotations from more recent summers such as 1959, 1963, and 2003, but obviously these are more the results of nostalgia than of any famine, since while the Rhine and Elbe rivers still carry heavy cargo traffic like the barge seen in the background above, they are no longer Germany’s lifelines.