Roman and Mediaeval History, Illlustrated Travel Journals, Mediaeval Literature, Geology


31.7.08
  Hot Fun

No, it's not about pics of girls who forgot to wear their bra, though that should give me some Google hits, lol. But the title fits the fact that my journey to the Harz and Quedlinburg was fun, but also very hot with about 32°C during the day and lots of sunshine. Fortunately, the nights were a bit cooler since the temperature in the Harz drops somewhat more than in Göttingen (which can be a steaming soup bowl in summer) and the hotel was situated at a little river that brought a cool breeze in the evenings.

Regenstein Castle

There were several beers with my name on them every evening, and they just evaporated somehow. I don't even want to begin and try to figure out how many litres of water I drank; it must have been a small lake. Ice cream is a good thing on hot days, too, especially iced coffee with vanilla ice cream and dab of whipped cream on top.

One of the caves in the Regenstein

But it was definitely fun, including the climbing of some rocks in sandals. I'm the proverbial German when it comes to wearing shoes unsuitable for mountains. Maybe I should volunteer as test person for sandals - if they survive the ways I walk, they will survive about anything.

Falkenstein Castle

The Harz was always a politically important area throughout history, not at least because it's rich in ore, and so Mediaeval times saw a lot of castles on the tops of those hills and mountains. Many of the about 500 Harz castles have left nothing more behind than some tumbled stones and traces in the ground that point to an ancient trench or earthen wall, but some are still formidable ruins or even reconstructed to mirror their former beauty.

Arnstein Castle, remains of the keep and great hall

They are less grand than the Norman castles because space on summits is more limited, but their owners and the architects sometimes got very inventive when it came to making the land - or rather, the bedrock - part of the castle construction. The Regenstein with its part natural, part artificial caves surrounding the keep is a fine example.

Arnstein, great hall

Not all castles were in the focus of the great history the way the Harzburg (which I hope to see in August) was, but they all have their stories. And legends. The Harz is rich in legends, and you'll learn some in the time to come.
 


  Harz Impressions

The Harz has some beautiful and even spectacular landscapes, from fir covered mountains and semi-Alpine meadows to charming little valleys with swift running rivers framed by birches, from windswept high mountains and cliffs to canyons with waterfalls and rivers whose brown waters gush over boulders in dangerous currents, singing louder than a Mahler symphony, from caves and abandoned mines to natural lakes, and reservoirs lying in silent beauty unmarred by boats. Not without reason has most of the Harz been declared a natural preserve, and the reservoirs are used to provide several towns with drinking water (hence the prohibition of any activity on the water).

Here are some impressions from my journey.

Cliffs at the Rosstrappe

The photos don't do them justice; you have to be there to see how steep those cliffs are and how far they go down into the Bode canyon. A place of myths and legends.

Bode river near Thale

That's one of the icy cold, very swift and wild ones. I found a place where I could get down to the shore, sit on a boulder and put me feet into the water. There's nothing better on a hot day. Well, save a cold beer.

Devils Wall (Teufelsmauer) near Blankenburg

It's a stone formation running over several miles like the giant version of an old Roman wall. The devil has been responsible for the messy look it has these days. *grin* He made a deal with God that all the land he could surround by a wall in one night would be his. Of course that didn't end well - it is a legend, after all - because an old granny who had bought a cock in a nearby town walked home to her little village at midnight, stumbled over a root (they are everywhere on the Harz pathes) and the cock got scared and started to cow. The devil thought it was already morning and smashed the wall in anger so that the boulders tumbled all over the place.

Teufelsmauer, ridge way

And that was the easy part of the way. The ridge path on the Devil's Wall is one of the most difficult I've ever walked, second only to Ben Nevis (and I didn't wear sandals there).

Thunderclouds gathering over Rappbode reservoir

The Rappbode reservoir is largest lake in the Harz and one of the technical wonders created by GDR engineers - a table on the wall says so. *grin* I think they kept that little piece of communist rhetorics for fun, or maybe nostalgia. There's a bit of that going on in the ex-eastern part of Germany.
 


26.7.08
  Hiking in the Harz

I'll be off for a few days to Quedlinburg, a pretty Medieaval town with half timbered houses and a Romanesque cathedral. I'll use it as basis to explore the part of the Harz mountains farther from where I live. There should be a few castles on the list and probably another old church, and lots of spectacular landscape.

View from Adelebsen Castle Hill towards the village

The weather's hot but there should be some breeze on the mountains, and at least it seems the usual afternoon thunderstorms are going to take a break for some days.

View over the valley

Normal posting will resume on Thursday or Friday. After I've unpacked and shoved the new plotbunnies under the bed.
 


23.7.08
  The Local Nobility and Their Castles - Adelebsen Keep

Big towerz, we can haz them. lol.

One of them is the keep - Bergfried in German - of Adelebsen Castle, the only remaining Medieaval structure (the rest has been rebuilt into a Baroque palace). It's another of those old remains at my backdoor.

In 990 Emperor Otto III gave the land of Ethelleves-husen, situated on a military way (Heerstrasse), to his sister Sophie. Such places on the main roads criscrossing the land were important in a time where the royal court still traveled around, and where troops often had to move at fast speed. The whole system culminated in the King's Highway (Königsweg or via regia) that runs all the way from the Rhine to the Baltic Sea and was king's land, no matter who possessed the fiefs along it, while the military ways tolled to the lord who held the land. He had to care for the upkeep in return. The King's Way still exists as hiking way.

Above Adelebsen rises a sandstone promontory suited for a castle, and in 1234 the Lords of Wichbike moved from their old land that they held since at least 1111 to Adelebsen and built a castle there. Since the land had belonged to the Emperor's sister, the fief may have been a royal one with no other nobles in between the king and the lords, who called themselves Lords of Adelebsen since 1295.

The oldest part of the castle is the keep, 38.75 metres high, pentangular in the lower part and six-sided in the upper part - it looks a bit twisted from certain angles. The walls are up to 4.30 metres thick and the main entrance 4 metres above ground. There had been 9 floors but today the tower is empty inside with only a wooden staircase that leads to the roof running along the walls. But the keep is only open on special days so I haven't been inside yet. I don't really feel like climbing those open stairs, though the view of the surrounding landscape should be great.

But the exposed situation on the rock promotory already made for some fine pics I'm going to post soon. Adelebsen Keep is only 15 km from Göttingen and the landscape where I live is really pretty albeit not as spectacular as Wales or the high mountains of the Harz.

The keep is one of the most impressive in Germany. The rest of the castle was mostly built in the 14th century as well but partly destroyed in 1466, during one of the many feuds between kings and nobles in Germany, and further during the Thirty Years War. In 1650 the castle was rebuilt in a more 'modern' style; in 1740 it was changed into a Baroque palace and the trench between inner and outer bailey filled up. Several outbuildings were added, like a Hunter's Lodge and a Chamberlain's Office (Rentei, the yellow building in the first pic).

In 1947 the last Lord of Adelebsen gave part of his fortune to a foundation to ensure the castle, both the palace plus outbuildings and the Mediaeval keep, would remain in good condition. Yeah, it's not that much fun to inherit a drafty old tower with rotten floors even if it's been a family possession for 800 years. :)
 


18.7.08
  Nessie of Loch Edersee

The lake looks peaceful on a warm summer afternoon. But the people in that sailing boat are not aware of the danger lurking in the cold, murky depths, seldom to surface. And if it does, beware!


If you look towards the bottom of the pic, in the wake of our boat you can see a fearsome monster rising its head. Or tail. Or whatever.


Behold, it is Nessie of Loch Edersee, the famous monster of Germany's largest reservoir lake, bane of boats and bathers alike. Sightings are rare, but for some reason she decided to follow our boat and allowed me to take some pictures.


Cute, isn't she? It's my niece's toy, and yes, she is called Nessie. The monster, not my niece. Her name is Mailin.


Here she is, giving Nessie some well deserved rest from racing through the cold water. The photo was taken last year; she's grown a bit since then.
 


14.7.08
  Crossing the North Sea

Barbara asked me to get pics of the journey if I'd take the ferry to Scotland and see the Antonine Wall. I have no idea if I can afford another UK trip next year, but since I take the Amsterdam - Newcastle ferry for most of my UK travels, there are already photos, most from last years tour where the weather on sea was better.

Sunrise on the ferry

It's the best way to get to the Hadrian's Wall or Scotland, and while it's a bit through the backdoor and the kitchen into the hall, it also works for Wales; it's only 4 hours by train from Chester to Newcastle (Cardiff was a bit longer). It would not have been any easier to get from Chester to London, and the entire journey isn't more expensive than a line flight.

After all, the Romans did it that way too, sometimes, because Newcastle was a harbour already during their time in Britain.

Morning at sea

A journey by train would really have been fun. Not. Change trains in Frankfurt (which is fine, I know that station very well), Cologne, Brussels (a platform change that includes half a miles walk or so), Dover, London (and manage to get from Paddington to St.Pancras in 20 minutes, in a city I've never been, no thanks). Not to mention crossing the Channel by that stupid tunnel costs your firstborn. No wonder that company is bancrupt; no one's going to pay their fees if the Channel ferries are so much cheaper.

Lighthouse of North Shields / Newcastle

The DFDS Seaways ferry from IJmuiden / Amsterdam to North Shields / Newcastle is a lot more fun and they organise for bus transfer to/from the stations. You have a bed to sleep in (actually, an entire cabin with bathroom) and arrive the next morning, fresh and with a good breakfast in your stomach, instead of close to midnight, hungry and tired.

Approaching Newcastle harbour

Another aspect I love when traveling by train, bus or ferry is that you get a better feel for the distances than traveling by plane, and it's a great way to see a country. Ok, I know the route from my hometown to Amsterdam by now, but the part through the Kasseler Berge, the Taunus and the montains between Frankfurt and Cologne is always beautiful. The superfast ICE that makes up to 310 km/h is fun, too.

The bus trip from Carmarthen to Caernarfon was one of the best examples that six hours travel can pay out. It presented me with some of the most spectacular scenery I've ever seen.

North Shields up the Tyne river to the harbour
(some of the ship's safety boats to the right)

On the way back the sea was more than a bit rough this time. In fact, it the waves were high enough that the ship's stabilisators could not take out all movements and the ship rocked gently up and down. I loved it. Some others didn't, though. Blawdy landlubbers. :)
 


9.7.08
  Antonine Wall World Heritage

Since several readers alerted me of the great news, I thought I'd post myself as well. The Antonine Wall, Rome's nothernmost frontier in Scotland, has received World Heritage status.

From the article:
Falkirk councillor, Adrian Mahoney said: "Gaining world heritage status is a major achievement and there are so many new opportunities to maximise the benefit to our local area in the future."

I hope he will not only see the money but also the responsibility that goes with the acknowledgment, and clean the sites of empty coke bins and other trash a bit more often than I've seen on some sites in Wales.

Too bad I have no picture to accompany the news. A good reason to go and have a look and take some photos, isn't it? And visit some more places in Scotland I missed last time, while I'm at it. *grin* Geez, my father will kill me if I tell him I want to travel to the UK again next year. ;)
 


6.7.08
  Reconstructed Roman Walls

One of the features the Roman border fortresses share is the combination of a stone wall - surrounded by additional ditches and earthen walls - with an earthen rampart on the inside that also serves as battlement.

The reconstructed fortifications of the German Saalburg fortress present a good, if rain blurred, example.


You can see the outside of the walls here, and the ditches on the first picture in this post.

I suppose this unsual combination goes back to the history of Roman fortresses. They all began as semi-permanent structures with earthen walls and timber palisades on top, a more elaborate version of the marching camps.

Along the frontiers (the limes Germanicus, the Hadrian's Wall, the Syrian limes, and the Welsh forts) the fortresses were later rebuilt in stone, most of them in the 2nd century AD. Besides the stone buildings inside the forts, the defenses of earthen walls and trenches got an additional stone wall, watch towers, and stone gatehouses.

Cardiff castle shows another example of the reconstructed earth ramparts.


The outside of the wall can be seen on the first picture in this post. There are no trenches here today because of the situation in the middle of a town.

The Bute family made the reconstructed Roman fortifications into a park, thus the trees that would never have been allowed to grow there in times when a praefectus castrorum had the say.

The ramparts added to the stability of the walls, definitely well enough to stop a ram, and neither the German nor the British tribes had any more elaborate siege engines. They usually tried to climb the walls or breach the gates only to meet with pointy pila poking at them. Attacks on fortresses were not very frequent; the tribes prefered to attack the Romans outside when they were stretched out in marching columns.
 


3.7.08
  That 100 Books Meme

Since that dang meme pops up everywhere, I felt I can't escape any longer. Here we go.

Instructions:
1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read.
3) Underline the books you LOVE.
4) Reprint this list in your own blog so we can try and track down these people who've read six and force books upon them.

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien

3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
(4 Harry Potter series – J.K. Rowling)
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty-Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D'Urbervilles– Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger
19 The Time Traveler's Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With the Wind – Margaret Mitchell

22 The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy

25 The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens

33 Chronicles of Narnia – C.S. Lewis
34 Emma – Jane Austen
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen

36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli's Mandolin – Louis de Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh – A.A. Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel García Márquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables – L.M. Montgomery
47 Far From the Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid's Tale – Margaret Atwood

49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafón
57 A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley

59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love in the Time of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck

62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones's Diary – Helen Fielding
69 Midnight's Children – Salman Rushdie
70 Moby-Dick – Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker

73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From a Small Island – Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses – James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal – Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray

80 Possession – A.S. Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte's Web – E.B. White
88 The Five People You Meet in Heaven – Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery

93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down – Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare

99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

The list somewhat mirrors the fact I've attended school in Germany; I think there are some books I didn't bold that are on the school canon in English speaking countries. Though we did have to read Orwell.

I put Harry Potter in brackets because I only read the first two and skimmed 3 and 4 - YA isn't for me most of the time; the reason there's no C.S. Lewis ony my list. And even The Hobbit is a book I read only once while I reread Lord of the Rings regularly. Same for Pullman.

I'm missing more Dostoyevski on the list and German and Scandinavian authors are sadly underrepresented - is there one at all?

I also didn't italic books I intend to read because there are none of those left I want to read - life is too short and there are too many interesting books to spend time reading stuff that doesn't call to me. My You Must Read That for the Examn days are over. *grin*

Anyone want to play?
 


Miscellaneous musings of an aspiring Historical Fiction author. Illustrated essays on Roman, Dark Age and Mediaeval history, Mediaeval literature, and Geology. Some poetry translations and writing stuff. And lots of photos of old castles, cathedrals, Roman remains, and beautiful landscapes from Germany, the UK, Scandinavia, and the Baltic States.

All texts (except comments by guests) and photos (if no other copyright is noted) on this blog are copyright of Gabriele Campbell.

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Location: Germany

I'm a writer of Historical Fiction living in Germany. I got a MA in Literature, Scandinavian Studies, Linguistics and History, I'm interested in Archaeology and everything Roman and Mediaeval, an avid reader, opera enthusiast, traveller with a liking for foreign languages and odd rocks, and photographer.


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