In the basement of the restaurant: "I hope we can open again next week."
Photo: Armin Himmelrath / DER SPIEGEL
In the beginning, says Ulf Lucassen, in the beginning they were joking.
That was on Wednesday evening around 8 p.m. when he and his wife Katrin looked at the Wupper, which flows through the idyllic valley 20 meters behind their house.
The family runs an Altbergisches Gasthaus in Solingen, in a small village with perhaps 50 or 60 inhabitants.
"Haus Rüdenstein" has been in the family since 1929.
When the first caravans drove past in the Wupper, she was still recording videos with her cell phone, says Katrin Lucassen.
The vehicles swayed in the current, apparently swept away from the campsite a few kilometers upstream.
But even then, says her husband, he still thought: "It probably won't get much worse."
Ulf Lucassen was wrong.
At midnight the order came to evacuate the village. "I grabbed our four children and two more from the neighborhood," says Katrin Lucassen. In the apartment of her stepbrother, which was vacant because of the holiday season, she found shelter with the small emergency daycare center, while the other adults in the village tried desperately to secure garden tables and chairs. At Lucassens, that's a few hundred pieces of furniture that are normally available for guests in the meadows on the bank. Everything was hectically put together, Ulf Lucassen grabbed the computer, the cash register and a few technical devices.
But how should they secure the stairs and the door to the guest rooms? If the parquet floor got wet, that would be the worst, says Katrin Lucassen: "I really thought that was it for our future." Sandbags? There was no and no chance to get it from anywhere. "That's when my husband had the idea to take our supplies from the dry store." Breadcrumbs, salt, rice - everything that was sealed in waterproof plastic bags was dragged outside the front door by the helpers. In addition, they hurriedly filled the split from the parking lot into garbage bags. Little did they know then that the water would come to a standstill two centimeters below the top step.
On Saturday, two days after the flood, when Katrin Lucassen told about the catastrophe night, the sun was shining.
The traces of the devastation can still be seen everywhere, in the cellar broken pieces and undamaged wine bottles are wildly mixed up.
The climbing ship on the playground is only a wreck, the footpath behind the house has been washed out almost half a meter deep, pipes are exposed.
Several pumps move the water out of the house, continuously bubbling.
Read the latest news on the flood disaster here.
"It looks bad, yes," says Ulf Lucassen.
"But that's nothing compared to what the people in the Eifel had to experience." The pictures and news from the Ahr would have shocked him.
The property damage in the »Haus Rüdenstein«, on the other hand, can be repaired, the food supplies have been saved, the parquet floor has not been damaged, there were no injuries in the village.
And then the innkeeper says a sentence that is not meant as a joke at all: "I hope we can open again next week." In the night from Wednesday to Thursday, he was still afraid that after Corona and such a flood Losing livelihoods.
But now, two days after?
The family is already looking ahead again.
Tremendous willingness to help
Also because the willingness to help is enormous not only in the small town, but beyond. Around 20 helpers came to Lucassens this Saturday - one brought a wheel loader, another an emergency generator. Fire brigade, the Solingen city administration, craftsmen, utility companies, but above all friends and neighbors: Ulf Lucassen is full of praise for everyone he has dealt with in the past few days. It is simply impressive how hard everyone tries, he says: "Having big discussions or taking action now because of alleged mistakes, that doesn't help."
Katrin Lucassen also prefers to look ahead.
She does not want to let the humor be taken away from her, she says, because this is the only way to deal with such a blow.
She tells about the farmer a few towns further on, where some chickens drowned.
He said: "The clever fluttered up, the stupid just stayed where they were" - a rough way of dealing with the losses.
And then Katrin Lucassen has to laugh a little: "That's how they are here, the people in the Bergisches Land."