“See you tomorrow,” says Werner Mändli to the passengers as they leave his boat to climb onto the rocks at the Rhine Falls.
But the 1.5 million tourists per year who visit Europe’s largest waterfall need not fear being stranded, as Mändli always returns a few minutes later to pick them up.
Situated at Neuhausen in north-eastern Switzerland, the 150-metre-wide and 23-metre-high Rhine Falls have become one of the area’s biggest tourist attractions.
The best way to get an impression of the full power of the falls is by boat and Mändli’s family have been running trips to the Rhine Falls for 110 years.
“Water is practically the most important thing in my life,” says Mändli, who has built the business up so that it now runs six boats, with six in reserve for the busy summer period.
But Mändli says that this summer the Rhine Falls are not as spectacular as they have been in previous years.
HeatwaveThis content was published on July 28, 2003 - 10:20
The heatwave has more than halved the amount of water that normally comes down the falls – so much so that rocks in the waterfall, usually covered with cascading water, are bare.
“Today, we have 290,000 litres of water per second at the Rhine Falls. The record was in 1999 with 1.26 million litres per second. On average we have in the summer around 600,000 to 700,000 litres per second,” Mändli told swissinfo.
But this does not seem to deter the tourists. Monika und Jörg Wassmer from Baden even got up early to have a romantic champagne breakfast for two at the Rhine Falls.
A small table was set up for the couple on a vantage point in the middle of the falls, and the Wassmers certainly seemed to enjoy the experience.
"It’s a totally different experience, right in the middle of nature and surrounded by the cascading water,” said Jürg Wassmer.
"It’s quite noisy but we still managed to have a conversation with each other.”
swissinfo special correspondent, Isobel Johnson in Neuhausen am Rheinfall
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