Sunday, May 27, 2012


Hameln (2nd image) in Lower Saxony, Germany, prides itself on its connection with the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin (1st image). I sorted out truth from fiction in 2009, when the town was celebrating the piper's 725th anniversary. So I'm sure the tourism industry did not consider it a bad thing when international news gained traction that rats have again invaded. "Hamelin needs another Pied Piper!" trumpets London's Daily Mail. "German city of Pied Piper fame facing off with rats again," states Canada's Edmonton Journal. "Rats run amok in Germany," declares Ohio's Columbus Dispatch. It seemed a bit exaggerated, so I have gone to the German newspaper sources and with the help of Google Translate offer the following:

Hamelin does have a rodent problem. "But unlike the [legend], the city is not completely infested by rats, there is a problem area on the outskirts of the city, an overgrown allotment. There is a lot of rubbish around, it's like a table laid for the rat," explains city spokesman Thomas Wahmes. Rats have damaged a fountain (not this one) by biting through a cable, and have caused problems in an adjacent housing development. The vermin were drawn to the fountain at the railway station road by food that tourists, commuters, and passers-by left for birds. As it happens, high costs of maintaining the fountain and keeping it free of fallen leaves meant that it was due to be closed anyway. The city does employ an exterminator, but he is not obliged to wear colorful clothes or play a flute. Wahmes assures that the infestation was not manufactured for the media: "No! It is not part of a PR campaign, it certainly is not."

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