Today I will take you on a journey both in time and space. Imagine that you are a man (or a woman) born in the Bronze Age. Or let's be ambitious, born even earlier, in the Neolitic, so the Stone Age. You have found a nice place to live around the mountains that your great-grandchildren will call Alps. There is just one problem, the area is full of lakes and marshy lands, putting your house at risk of flooding. Do not think of the Flintstones, this was not a documentary. The real people who lived around the Alps somewhere between 5000 and 1000 BC found a solution to this equation. A solution that was recognised by the UNESCO as having a universal value for humanity.
To discover it, I will take you to the open air museum in Unteruhldingen, at the shore of Lake Constance (called in German Bodensee). As we approach the lake some wooden constructions are visible through the leaves.
As we get closer we finally see a full village that is literally standing on water!
Obviously wooden houses would not survive (especially in such proximity of water) thousands of years. These are reconstructions prepared by archaeologists based on meticulous research. We know that the individual houses were constructed on piles hammered into the bottom of lake.
Some of these piles can still be found in various places around Lake Constance but also in Switzerland, Italy, Austria, France and Slovenia.
Those individual houses are connected by roads. Or better said by bridges, standing of course on piles.
Let's come closer to one of the houses.
Inside you can see a reconstruction of what the archaeologists believe could have been a dwelling of people living in this area thousands of years ago. One room for a big family, often with some animals.
One of the major challenges for our prehistoric ancestors who could not use refrigerators was the storage of food. Especially on the shore of a lake, the humidity and the insects did not help to protect the crops. So special houses were usually built to store grain.
To protect themselves from invaders, the owners of the pile dwelling were building palisades. Standing on piles of course.
Next to it you have surely spotted the Rolls-Royce (or the Volkswagen, since we are in Germany) of the prehistoric times. It does not look either safe or comfortable.
When you look through the window of a pile dwelling, the lake does not look impressive. One could almost start to wonder why someone would put so much effort into building a whole village on high piles.
But do not underestimate Lake Constance. In the last 20 years it has already twice risen substantially (in 1999 by two meters!). It is calm when it is calm but it is still a large amount of water.
The life in the pile dwellings around the Alps was surely difficult. In all honesty, I prefer my warm and dry stable. Even if the view here is magnificent.