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


29.5.10
  5 Years of Blogging

I almost missed this anniversary. I started my blog back in May 2005, so that makes it five years of blogging, and a number of photos I didn't even count. I've met online friends through this blog (some I even met in real life), and photographing - something I always liked doing - is even more fun when I know I can share the pictures with my readers.

I hope I'll be around for the next five years with more interesting posts about the Romans, Mediaeval emperors, old castles, and beautiful cathedrals. And I hope you'll stay with me, because readers are the ones who bring a blog to life. Thank you for that.

Pshaw

Found this particularly haughty looking lion outside the Romanesque church in Boppard. I don't know how old the statue is, but he really amused me.

A note about Followers: I don't use the widget showing the followers that many bloggers display in the sidebar because it doesn't work under Classic templates. But I can see who's following my blog on the dashboard. I for my part follow (= read regularly) all the blogs I've listed on my sidebar.
 


26.5.10
  A Rainy Rhine Cruise

The Rhine between Koblenz (the ancient Confluentes, where the Moselle confluences into the Rhine) and Mainz (where the Main river joins up with his big brother) is considered the most scenic. Because of the mountains, the river could not be straightened like it was done in other places to make naval transport easier; only some of the riffs and sandbanks that made travel on this part of the Rhine dangerous in Roman and Medieaval times have been eliminated, albeit the sandbanks are an ongoing problem that has to be dealt with regularly.

One of the cruise ships

There are a number of cruise ships that travel this part of the Rhine, and sometimes further. I picked one from Boppard somewhat upriver of Koblenz to Bingen near Mainz; a trip that took four hours (it's some 25 minutes by train). The fleet is called Köln-Düsseldorfer which is a bit of a joke, because the towns of Köln and Düsseldorf (both further north) are old rivals. The ships are modern, with a restaurant and a bar. Because of the weather there were not many people onboard.

Leaving Boppard

Boppard is a pretty little town like so many along that part of the river - there's no space to develop into big, ugly cities. Most of them have a long history dating back to Medieaval or Roman times and some, like Boppard, are even older.

There's a bit of sunshine, but you can see the dark clouds ominously gathering over the mountains.

Dark waters and dark sky

It didn't take long for the rain to pour down, and it more or less stalked us - I suppose bad weather uses river valleys as highways. Photographing became a challenge because of the light, or lack thereof, and the rain that made the pics blurry. It can be a veil indeed. Most of the few tourists on the upper deck vanished downstairs, but I ordered a hot tea and held out until St.Goar to take photos. But I could not stay the entire 4 hours, so during the later part of the journey I only went up for special sights.

A meandering river

In former times, the Rhine meandered its way like that from its origins in Switzerland to the North Sea; it's the Rhine the Romans knew. Today it has been straightened where possible, leaving old bends as lakes (the Altrheinarme) in some places, while they were filled up in others. Part of the flood problems is caused by those changes.

The Rhine is an important shipping route, and the transport ships are long, unwieldy things with houses at one end where the shipper and his family live. Complete with curtains and potted plants in the windows, and a car parking on the upper deck.

Amnis viridissime ripas

When the sky lit up a bit one could see how green those mountains are, covered with woods and vineyards. A 'river of the greenest shores' indeed, even though Ausonius said that about the Moselle. I remembered his poem I came to know when I visited Trier at the Moselle back in 2006.

I wonder if any Roman ever waxed poetic about the Rhine. It was mostly a frontier for them, and an unruly one at that.

Shoals and currents

I mentioned that the most dangerous rocks have been blasted and currents diverted, like the (in)famous Binger Loch, but there are still a few left outside the fairway. I would still not recommend to cross the Rhine by swimming, and not only because of all the ships. There are whirls that can suck you in and you'll find yourself on the ground, playing with the Daughters of the Rhine, to Wagner's music.

A glimpse of sunshine

That's how the tour may look on sunny days. Though there's a flip side to it; I'm sure the ship would have been full of tourists.

The mountains along the Rhine are littered with castles; some genuinely old ones, but most of them have been altered in the 18th and 19th centuries, and a few even built only then. They look more like Victorian (now with Extra! turrets and oriels) versions than Medieaval German castles. But I took a series of photos from the ship, so there will be a castle post.

Lorelei

The bend in the river here was one of the old dangerous spots. And not only that; there sat a beautiful maid on the top of that mountain, combing her long, blond hair and singing enticing songs, so the sailors would only look up to her and not care about the right course, and they'd end up in the currents and whorls and drown together with their boats. The maid is called Lorelei and can still be spotted sometimes today. Though obviously not during bad weather. There's a song about the legend that was played on the ship as it passed. Safely.
 


20.5.10
  Back, With a Bunch of Photos and a Cold

Suitcases have been unpacked, dinner eaten, and I took a look at my photo collection. An impressive number again, but a lot of photos I took inside dark cathedrals and museums, and I bet there'll be a bunch that will end up deleted. A few teaser pics are in the post below.

Isn't that chap a cutie? His name is Hugo, and he's quite a star in front of the camera. He and some fellow birds (falcons, and an eagle who didn't feel like posing for pictures when I was there) were one of the attractions at the Siegfriedspektakel, a medieaval market, or renfair as it's called in the US, taking place in Xanten while I was there. Lucky coincidence, because it turned out the largest and most fun I ever attended. Since there was also a small Roman reenactment group camping in the Archaeological Park, I was a happy camper myself.

BTW, my hair style is called Wind Blown Witch. *grin*

The weather was less fun. Horizontal rain is no longer a monopoly of the UK; Germany can do that quite well, too, thank you very much. Well, some days were at least dry-er, but still rather cold. There was basically one nice and sunny day in a week. Sigh. No wonder I managed to catch a cold in that weather. But I enjoyed most of the tour nevertheless.

I changed one point of my plan and didn't visit Rheinfels Castle. When the cruise ship passed it before stopping at St.Goar, I thought it looked too ugly and 17-18th century to be worth the hassle, and instead took the ship all the way down to Bingen which gave me a number of beautiful views of the most spectacular part of the Rhine valley.

The Rhine had been the border between the Roman Empire and 'free' Germania until the empire collapsed in the 5th century (I'll leave out the Limes intermezzo at this point), and Roman remains on the western, or left, shore of the river are plenty. I hunted down a few fine examples of Roman architecture, plus some Romanesque churches.

And now I'll take something for that cough and go to bed.
 


  Some Things I Found on the Way

Here's the usual teaser post with some first impressions from my Rhine tour. The sky is grey on most of them because the weather tried its best to fulfill all clichés the Romans had about Germany - wet, cold, dark, and full of trees (yes, the latter belong to the weather because they throw branches at Romans, *grin*).

-- Reconstructed Roman buildings

Harbour Temple, Archaeological Park Xanten

The Archaeological Park Xanten (APX), with a number of completely or partly reconstructed buildings of the Roman town Colonia Ulpia Traiana is definitely worth a visit. Judging from some photos I had seen I suspected it might be a bit like a Roman Disneyland, but it's not like that at all, but a genuine glimpse into a Roman town with spotlights onto some chosen buildings.

-- Remains of Roman buildings:

Römersteine, Mainz

The Römersteine (Roman Stones) are the real thing: remains of a row of pillars that once supported the aquaeduct delivering fresh water to the town of Moguntiacum. The outer layer of smothely hewn stones has found its way into other buildings centuries ago, but the inner part made of opus cementitium, the Roman concrete mixed with stones or sometimes pottery shards, has survived until today. Something you can't say about most modern concrete.

-- Bling:

Golden horse figure, 5-6th century, APX Museum Xanten

There's a new museum in the APX (opened last year, in time for the Varus Battle Anniversary) which has an interestingly presented display of all things Roman. Besides the Roman bling (and other Roman finds) I also discovered some Celtic and Merovingian shinies in other museums.

-- Churches and cathedrals:

St.Martin Cathedral, Mainz

The Rineland has a good number of old churches. Often the later Romans introduced Christianity into the area and built the first churches. Larger places like Xanten or Mainz would soon develop into religious centres and erect churches to match their importance. Most of them have been rebuilt on the foundations of older chapels, enlarged and altered over time, but you can still find some genuine Romansque and Gothic cathedrals. And even smaller towns often have pretty, old churches.

-- Rain at the Rhine:

Cruise ship on the Rhine

Rain showers at the Rhine can compete with the Scottish ones any day. I stayed on the upper deck nevertheless - fortunately part of it had a roof though no protections on the sides. I suspect it was that day that gave me the nasty cold, and I could blame my readers and their greed for photos, but I'll be honest and blame myself for not bringing the warmer jacket. When the sun came out - which she surprisingly did a few times - it was quite warm, though.
 


9.5.10
  I'll be Away For Some Days

On that journey to the Rhine I mentioned before. The weather looks very British right now, except the rain isn't horizontal. Let's see if the sun decides to peep out a bit to give me some nice photos.

I'll be hunting some Roman remains, old cathedrals and castles and whatever other fun I can find on the way.

Roman fetter

Here's the Roman fetter that was found in Hedemünden in 2008. It has been cleaned and was displayed in an exhibition last year. The neck goes in the large loop, the wrists in the smaller ones, then the whole thing is fixed with the bar. It looks decidedly uncomfortable and the iron was probably going to chafe after some time.
 


1.5.10
  The Newest Booty

On my bookshelves. I don't post every book I purchase, but sometimes I can't resist showing a few particularly yummy catches. *grin*

A new biography of Richard Lionheart (in German, sorry Sharon) which is said to take a critical view on Richard. It's from the Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft that usually publishes well researched books, so I have high hopes for that one.

The Harold Lamb book, Swords from the West, is a collection of stories taking place during the crusades. Lamb is a classic of Sword and History / Sorcery / Planet stories like RE Howard or Burroughs. It promises some good battle scenes.



The third book is Christian Meier's biography of Caesar, considered a Must Have for people interested in Romam history. It's another addition to the series of biographies of famous Romans I collect. So far I have Augustus, Hadrian (the Birley one), Marc Aurel, Septimius Severus, Constantine the Great, and Theodoric - if you can call the latter a Roman.

This brings my library of books about Rome and the Roman army to 65. And I still got some from our university library which are simply too expensive to buy.

Anyone else got some interesting books recently?
 


Miscellaneous musings of an aspiring Historical Fiction and Fantasy 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 and Scandinavia.

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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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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