The Lost Fort

My Travel and History Blog, Focussing mostly on Roman and Mediaeval Times


2 Mar 2020
  A Virtual Tour through Kraków’s Old Town

It was Palm Sunday when I visited Kraków, an important day for Catholics in Poland, and the weather was fine to boot, so the town was rather crowded, not only with - mostly Polish - tourists, but with pretty much all inhabitants of the city and surroundings. Many women and children were carrying bouquets made of evergreen and spring flowers. The festive atmosphere was a nice addition to my visit.

Kraków, Easter market on the Market Square, seen from the balcony of the Cloth Merchants' Hall (St.Mary's Basilica in the background)

Since there were services and prayers going on all day, I didn't have a chance to seen any of the churches from the inside, but I didn't mind ‒ I got plenty of church photos in my collection. There was much else to see, after all. So let me give you a virtual walk through Krakow’s Old Town, the Stare Miasto.

Kraków, outer walls of Wawel Castle in the evening sun

The two defining features of the old town are the Wawel Castle and the Rynek Głowny, the Great Market with the Cloth Merchants’ Hall. A main street (today Ulica Grodska and Ulica Flórianska) runs all the way from the castle at the Vistula across the market and to the Florian’s Gate. Royal progressions once took that way from the gate to the castle, like they did in Gdańsk.

The Ulica Grodzka

Kraków has been the centre of Poland from the time the Piast king Kazimierz I moved his seat from Gniezno to Kraków in 1038 until 1596, when King Sigismund (Zygmunt) III Vasa relocated the court to Warsaw. It is still the second largest city in Poland and the one most dear to the Polish people. The Old Town was declared an UNESCO World Heritage in 1978. Architectural styles represented in the old town include Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque.

View from the town wall to the Ulica Flórianska

The Wawel Castle had been the main seat of the Kings of Poland for centuries and thus has been altered and enlarged several times, now including buildings from the Gothic to the Baroque. The inner yards are open to the public, but access to the rooms is limited to 30 people per hour, so it is a bit tricky to get tickets for the tour. Since photographing is not allowed inside, I skipped the Flemish tapestries and pretty furniture.

The Wawel, outer bailey with foundations of older buildings in the foreground and the cathedral in the background

There had been a settlement on the limestone hill at the Vistula river since prehistoric times. A Romanesque stone hall was built in the 11th century; though there may have been wooden structures predating it. The first castle and the town were destroyed during the Mongol invasion 1241, but both were rebuilt immediately. Some foundations have been discovered under newer buildings and in the outer bailey.

Wawel Castle, the Thieves' Tower

The upper castle, consisting of the main hall, the Wawel Church and other buildings, was expanded during the times of our friend Władysław Jagiełło, and Casimir the Great (who also built Ogrodzieniec Castle) in the Gothic style. Władysław Jagiełło added a Gothic pavillion to the main castle that came to be known as Danish Tower.

The Danish Tower

Casimir wanted a castle befitting a king that also offered space for a retinue and administrational staff. He also added buildings to the lower castle on the western part of the hill, like the Thieves' Tower and the Sandomierska Tower as part of the curtain walls. The Sandomierska Tower was the first artillery tower of the castle.

Sandomierska Tower

An outstanding part of the castle complex, and of great historical significance, is the 'Royal Archcathedral Basilica of St. Stanislaus and St.Wenceslaus', short Wawel Cathedral. The present building is a Gothic church dating to the 14th century, with some later additions like some Baroque chapels. The cathedral served as coronation site of Polish monarchs and is still a national sanctuary.

The Wawel Cathedral

The Wawel did not undergo any further significant changes until the great fire in 1499. After part of the castle was destroyed, King Alexander I (1501-1506) and his brother Sigismund (1506-1548) who was married to the Italian heiress Bona Sforza, had the main hall and ajacent houses rebuilt in the Renaissance style as a complex around an inner yard. They called in architects from Germany and Italy. The entire complex was finished in the 1550ies and remains almost unaltered. The rooms were furbished with Flemish tapestries some of which survived until today.

Arcades in the inner yard of the Renaissance wing

The Wawel lost its political importance after the court was moved to Warsaw. The representative halls and chambers and the cathedral were still used for weddings and coronations, though. Fires and plundering armies caused significant damage in the 18th and 19th centuries (the worst were the Austrians who turned the castle in to barracks; they occupied the Wawel several times between 1846 and 1905). Afterwards, the Wawel has been repaired and restored, a work that is still going on.

St.Peter and Paul Cathedral

When you leave the Wawel to make your way to the old town and the market square, you'll pass this pretty Baroque church, the St. Peter and Paul Cathedral. It is probably the first Baroque building in Poland. King Sigismund (Zygmunt) III Vasa, despite moving the government from Kraków to Warsaw, still wanted the Kraków to be a representative sight, and Baroque architecture was the latest fashion you could get at the time. The church was consecrated in 1635.

St.Andrew's Church

Not far from St.Peter and Paul is another church, St.Andrew. That one is the oldest surviving church in Kraków and one of the best preserved Romanesque buildings in Poland, dating to the 1090ies. It escaped the destruction of the Mongol raids in 1241, likely due to the fact that it was a fortress church with thick walls and small archery slits in the ground floor. The Baroque interior and the domes on the towers of the westwork have been added in 1639.

Kraków, Cloth Hall and belfry (left)

The town of Kraków was first mentioned in a document in 965. It already must have been a place worth holding. The town belonged to the territory of the Bohemian state until King Mieszko I incorporated Kraków into the budding Polish realm by defeating the Bohemians prior to his marriage with the Bohemian princess Dobrawa in 965. Mieszko was the first Christian ruler of Poland and by his connections to Christian Bohemia brought Poland into the sphere of western Christianity.

Houses at the market square

Kraków became the seat of the Polish kings / grand dukes in 1038. The town had turned into a centre of trade by the end of the 10th century. The setback caused by the Mongol invasion did not last long; the town was rebuilt immediately. It received the Magdeburg Law in 1257 by the grand duke Bolesław V the Chaste.

Kraków looked different than today; the Vistula river was divided into several arms and there may have been some man-made canals as well. One of those was running between the Wawel and the Market Square, adding to the defenses of both.

Cloth Merchants' Hall

One of the symbols of Kraków's prosperity is the Cloth Merchants' Hall. The first hall was built by the instigation of King Casimir the Great. Among the wares traded there was fine cloth from Flanders and England which gave the hall its name. The hall basically was a row of connected stores separated by a small, roofed lane. The Gothic building was destroyed by a fire in 1555 and rebuilt in the Renaissance style, with a barrel vault and a circumferential attic with arcades. A passageway was added in the middle of the long building in 1601, to ease access. Unfortunately, it was impossible to get a photo of the entire hall due to the Easter Market in front of it.

Arcades in the courtyard of the Collegium Maius of the university

Kraków has the second oldest university in central Europe (after Prague). It was founded by King Casimir the Great in 1364. He realised that the country needed an educated elite outside the church and obtained the permission to establish a university from Pope Urban V. The project stalled after his death, but was taken up again by Władysław Jagiełło and his wife Jadwiga. The early 15th century collegium maius with its arcaded courtyard is the oldest surviving part of the Jagiełłonian University and a fine example of late Gothic architecture on the verge to the Renaissance.

The Market Square at the back of the Cloth Merchants' Hall ‒
the quieter side since there was no Easter Market

The town continued to prosper under the Polish-Lithuanian Jagiełłonian dynasty; the 15th and 16th were considered Kraków's Golden Age. The town became a member of the Hanseatic League which further promoted trade. Renaissance arts and architecture bloomed, and the university attracted scholars from all over Europe.

Stephan's Square

With the death of the last Jagiełłonian king, Sigismund II, a time of elected kings, mostly of foreign origins with but vague connections to Poland, began. Not all of them were good picks. Wealth and importance of Kraków declined, furthered by an outbreak of bubonic plague.

In 1596, King Sigismund III Vasa moved the capital to Warsaw, though his interest in Baroque architecture left its traces; especially in the interior decoration of the churches but also in some buildings like St.Peter and Paul (see above).

Florian's Gate

After the Mongol invasion in 1241, the city was surrounded by defensive walls, and the next raid in 1287 successfully defeated. Over the next two hundred years, the town walls were expanded to 3 km, with 46 towers and eight gates. The part around the Florian's Gate is the only surviving piece of those curtain walls.

On the remaining town wall

The Florian's Gate was built in the late 13th century, probably commissioned by the High Duke Leszek the Black in 1285. It is made of local limestone in the early Gothic style and the only gate and tower to have survived intact until today. In the Middle Ages, it was the main entrance to the town. The gate tower is 33 metres high; the Baroque helmet was added in 1660.

The Barbican

Not far from the Florian's Gate, outside the former town walls, is the Barbican (Barbakan) that once served as additional defense . The barbican is made of brick on a limestone foundation; built in the late Gothic style in 1498. Only three such outposts remain in Europe and the one in Kraków is the best preserved. The barbican was originally connected to the Florian's Gate by a covered bridge across the moat.

Interior of the Barbican

Not many people purchased a ticket for the tour of their interior of the barbican, so I had some quiet moments doing one of my favourite things: photographing Mediaeval military architechture. *grin*

Kraków, view from the Barbican to the Florian's Gate

The Barbican is a circular tower of four storyes, with an open interior which has a diametre of 25 metres. The walls are 3 metres thick at the base and about 0.5 metres in the upper part. The building was further protected by a moat of its own (some of it remains). The barbican has an rectangular exterior gate at the outside facing wall, the Kleparz Gate.

The Plánty, the former town wall and moat

They town walls had become useless as defense against modern weapons, so the Austrian Emperor Franz I – Kraków belonged to Austria after the third partition of Poland in 1795 – ordered most of the town walls to be dismantled in 1810, and the moats to be filled in. The space was turned into a park which now surrounds the Old Town of Kraków. A very pretty place on a sunny April Sunday.

Grunwald Memorial on the Matejko Square

If you walk out of the perimetre of the old town to the Matejko Square near the Barbican, you will come across a momument celebrating the victory of the allied armies of Władysław Jagiełło of Poland and his cousin Vytautas, grand duke of Lithuania, over the host of the Teutonic Knights at the Battle of Grunwald (Tannenberg) in 1410. The memorial was unveiled in 1910. The monument was destroyed by the Germans in 1939, but recrafted after WW2.

Sunset at the Vistula river

Kraków became the headquarter of the German occupants in September 1939. The town was plundered, the Jewish population isolated in a ghetto, and the concentration camp Auschwitz set up nearby, but Kraków was not destroyed liked Gdańsk or Warsaw. Therefore it retained many of its historical buildings.

Kraków, the Wawel Dragon

I leave you with the legendary fire breathing Wawel dragon which harried the town until a brave shoemaker killed it by feeding it sulphur, so that it exploded.

A post about the quarters outside the old town, Kazimierz and Podgórze (site of the Jewish ghetto and Schindler's Factory), will follow.



 


16 Feb 2020
  A Former Wood Pasture Turned Jungle - Old Forest near the Sababurg

After the visit to the Hutewald in the Solling which is an example for a recreated and working wood pasture, let’s have a look at a former wood pasture that has been allowed to grow on its own without the influence of humans or domesticated animals for a long time now.

The Nature Reserve Urwald Sababurg

The Urwald Sababurg is a part of the Reinhardswald Forest (near Kassel) close to Sababurg Castle. The denomination as ‘jungle’, while popular, is misleading. It is no true primeval forest, but has been influenced by humans since the Middle Ages. But the enclave near the castle has been turned into a Nature Reserve and left to its own since 1907, so the forest had a lot of time to develop naturally.

The forest in spring

I have been hiking there several times, so the photos in this text present the forest in early spring and high summer; two very different vistas. Spring is the best time to see the boles, branches and twigs of the old trees. Summer is green and shady.

Gnarled old oak

The forest encompasses 92 hectares of former wood pasture. Due to its history, old oaks are one of the forest’s defining features. Some of them are 800 to 1000 years old, as are a number of beeches, often growing out of their roots with several boles due to former coppicing. Another typical feature are the high ferns that abound in the clearings.

Clearing with bracken fern

What makes the Urwald Sababurg a jungle is the fact that the wider space between the trees in a former wood pasture allowed for younger trees and shrubs to grow up during the last hundred years. Fallen logs and boles are left to rot, so outside the hiking paths, a pretty dense boskage has developed over time.

Why it’s called ‘jungle’

Oak and beech are not the only trees in the Sababurg Forest. Birches took their chance to grow up between the larger oaks. They are fast growing and shot up to a good size by now. Their silver-grey bark and the lovely pale green budding leaves are an epitomy of spring.

Birches in spring

The forest is unique in Central Europe, due to its past as wood pasture with those ancient oaks and beeches, and its biodiversity that developed together with the forest left to its own for a century by now.


Spring and summer

The oldest trees are individuals; most even got nicknames by the rangers working in the forest. While gnarled old oaks can be found in other places as well, if they meet with good conditions, a thousand year old beeches are very rare. Usually, beech populations in a forest have a shorter generation shift.

The forest in summer

The farmers’ rights to forest pasture and pannage had already been repealed in 1865, but it would take until the beginning of the 20th century for the forest to become a Nature Reserve. Some painters took an interest in the picturesque quality of those old trees and the burgeoning wilderness. Their paintings led to a growing interest in such forests, especially since the mythological quality of those mysterious places met with the spirit of the time.

A fallen tree

The first forest, protected since 1907, encompassed 61 hectares. In 1917, it was expanded to 181 hectares, but part of that were not ancient wood pasture, so the size was decreased again to 92 hectares which is also the present expanse of the forest. The ground and the forest belong the the County of Hessia.

Beeches finding their way to the sun

Many of the 800 year old beeches and oaks have reached their maximum age and are slowly dying. In the sunlit spots such giants leave behind, secondary forest grows, mostly birches, hornbeams and rowans. Alder trees have taken root in a wetter part of the forest.

One of the oldest oaks, the Rapp-Eiche

The natural development of a forest would have offered the best chance to common beeches. They are social trees that communicate and exchange nutrients via their root system (other tree species do that as well, but beeches are especially good at it). When a forest influenced by humans was abandoned again, they usually got the best start. Therefore Germany is rich in beech dominated deciduous and mixed coniferous forests. Beeches also thrive on low nutrient brown earth like in the Reinhardswald.

A labyrinth of branches and twigs

The unusual high distribution of oak trees in the Sababurg Forest is due to the human influence at the time when those forests were used for silvopasture, since oaks would offer the best shade to the animals and the acorns as fodder. So the limited human interference that is allowed in the Sababurg Forest has been to protect some of those old oaks from the competition of beech saplings since 1975.

Closeup of an oak

Ground covering vegetation is mostly whortleberry, wood hairgrass and purple reedgrass, as well as haircap moss (which likes the rotting, fallen trees) and bracken fern that grows up to two metres and abounds in the clearings.

One of the clearings

The high amount of dead wood is one of the distinguishing features of a forest left to itself (it would be transported off in a cultivated forest), and an oeceologically important factor. It provides growing space for funghi, moss and lichen.

Broken-off branch

The rotting wood and the chapped bark of the old trees offer a biotope for 2,000 insect and beetle species, a fifth of which are endangered, among them the stag beetle (which can also been found in the Hutewald in the Solling).

The forest in summer

And the forest is a lovely place for hiking - in every season.
 


3 Feb 2020
  Recreating Historical Land Use - Wood Pasture with Heck Cattle and Exmoor Ponies

Wood pasture was a way of using the resources of deciduous or sometimes mixed coniferous forests since settlements developed in wooded areas, and it lasted in parts until the 18th century. Forests that grew out of those old grazing sites are still around. They show some distinct features, and some have been recreated.

Hutewald in the Solling

Among them is the Hutewald Project in the Nature Park Solling-Vogler. The area of 170 hectares is situated near Nienover (Lower Saxony) and is used for wood pasture since 2000. There had been a former Hutewald – the German word forest pasture – before, so the old oaks made for a good basis. Now, Heck cattle (see below) and Exmoor Ponies are used to keep the undergrowth in check.

Oak trees

Driving cattle, sheep and pigs, even horses, into the woods for grazing on saplings, shrubs, mushrooms and fruits, and getting fattened on acorns and beech nuts, has been a first step to cultivation since prehistoric times. It was already common around the Mediterranean of Antiquity as well as in central Europe during the migration period.

In the forest

Fewer saplings that grow to a size where the cattle could no longer reach the shots meant that the forest turned into an open woodland when old trees died. Oak fared better as pasture forest than beech, since beech saplings remain short under the shelter of their mother tree for a long time and thus within grazing reach; oak shots grow faster and turn bitter, so some escaped the hungry mouths of the cattle. Over time, the herbaceous plants were pushed back in favour of ground vegetation that needed light, and thus increased the quality of the grazing material.

Wood pasture works best in forests with broadleaf trees, but some conifers produce edible seeds as well.

Sunlight on leaves

The trees also offered shelter for the animals. The forests not only served as pasture; they also provided timber for fuel, charcoal making and construction, often by coppicing (cutting the tree close to the root to grow several separate stems) or pollarding (pruning the crown to restrict the growth and get a denser crown). Some trees were allowed to grow to the full splendour of their height and crown, though. They provided nutrients and shade.

Tree crowns

Long term use of forests for pasture led to a blurred line between open woodlands and meadows with some trees (Huteweide in German). The latter not only included oak and other broadleaf trees, but also fruit bearing trees like apple or cherry trees that were planted by humans.

The Hutewald project in the Solling presents both types of woodland pasture. There are some marked ways for hiking, but to enter the forest proper you need to attend a tour guided by a ranger.

Meadow with brook

Wood pasture increased considerably in the 12th century and encompassed large forest areas between the settlements and fields. Even though most of the forests belonged to the nobility (or the church) who had the right of the high hunt and drew income from the use of the forest, the right of pasture and pannage was given to the local farmers, together with the right of gathering wood debris as firewood.

Alder grove

Pannage depended on the amount of acorns and beech nuts a forest would produce; there are three year cycles for beech nuts, for example. Other trees like maple or linden were often felled to make space for more oak and beech. Since pigs were the main provider of meat for the non-nobility, the quality of pannage was important for the overall value of a forest.

Cattle and horse pasture was seasonal. The animals would be driven into the forests for two months in early summer, after they had grazed off the open meadows, so those could regrow. The regrown grass then was cut and used as winter hay. The animals returned to the meadows in autumn.

Clearing, overgrown with saplings and herbaceous vegetation

During the late Middle Ages, meadow grazing became more common and the forests were mostly used for pannage of pigs. But wood pasture increased again after the Thirty Years War when large swathes of settled land were abandoned (Wüstungen). Increasing demand of timber caused a decline in silvopasture forests since the later 17th century. The remaining trees either were felled, or the woods were reforested to grow more timber. Changes in animal husbandry (larger breeds of cattle, f.e.) and agriculture that led to the abandonment of wood pasture during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Another clearing

In some cases, the process was reverted again, though. In areas where the meadows and fields had been overgrazed, oak forests suitable for pasture were planted which would serve both for grazing and timber industry. But pasture combined with wood cutting and taking out of leaf litter led to a decrease in the use of such forests again. Some have been allowed to revert to ‘jungle’, like the the Urwald’ at the Sababurg / Reinhardswald that exists since 1907.

One of the hiking trails in the Hutewald

It takes some 16 to 30 cattle or 100-200 pigs per 100 hectares to browse for several years to create a typical open forest. Maintaining that status works better with less animals, though.

The oaks in the Solling have been planted in clusters of 9x9 metres some 200 years ago. Today, the animals amount to about 20 Heck cattle and 20 Exmoor ponies on 170 hectares. That number proved to be most suitable to establish a light forest with a surprising biodiversity – 580 various species of animals, insects, plants and funghi listed in the Red List can be found today.

Lovely green

It is assumed that open forests may have been around before human settlement in some parts. Large herbivores like aurochs, European bison (Wisent), moose or wild horse may have influenced the development of the primary forests in a similar way. Moose and bison are no longer around in Germany, but a race that works well in recreated pasture forests are Heck cattle rebreeds. Modern milk cows would not thrive on the rougher fare.

Heckrinder - Heck Cattle

Heck cattle started as a dream. In the 1920ies, the brothers Heinz and Lutz Heck wanted to recreate the extinct aurochs. Heinz was the director of the Berlin Zoological Gardens, Lutz held the same position in the Hellabrun Zoological Gardens Munich. They both started their own rebreeding programs, using Alpine brown cattle, Hungarian Grey, Angel cattle, Corsican cattle and some other races which seemed to best represent the traits of aurochs. Lutz Heck also used Spanish fighting bulls, but since the Berlin line died out after WW2, the breeds we got today are descendants of the Munich line.

Out of the trees

The pseudo-‘aurochs’ got popular with the leaders of the Third Reich. Hermann Göring had a bunch of the Berlin line released into his hunting reserves in the Schorfheide in 1938, and returned more into the wild in Białowieża, Poland, in 1941. He wanted to transform northern Poland into a genuine German jungle with genuine German beasts. 20,000 Poles were forcefully relocated, several hundred died. No wonder they killed evey single ‘German’ cattle after the war.

Facing the intruders

What the Heck brothers got were not true aurochs rebreeds, of course, but a hardy race of domestic cattle than can cope with nutrient-poor fare and stay outside in winter, albeit they are not the only race capable of surviving such conditions. Heck cattle is today considered an official domestic breed.

Post war efforts to improve the Heck cattle also included Upland red cattle (Harzer Höhenvieh) and the Ankole Watusi from Rwanda. The various cross-breedings resulted in a rather diverse look of the Heck cattle lines in colour, size and proportion, or the shape of the horns.

Not so sure about those humans

Heck cattle are 20-30 cm shorter than the extinct aurochs; bulls average 4’5’’ (140 cm) with a weight of 1.300 lb (600 kg), females are about 4’3’’ (130 cm). That is not larger than some other domesitic breeds. An aurochs bull could tower at close to 2 metres and weigh a ton.

The aurochs had a more athletic shape with a high withers; Heck cattle are bulkier – like modern breeds – and with a flat back. The head is smaller and the shoulder musculature therefore less well developed than that of the aurochs. The brown and reddish colours – sometimes even with a dorsal stripe – dominant in Heck cattle, are the feature that comes closest to the aurochs. (Neverthless, some lighter shades can be found with Heck cattle as well.)

The horns are somewhat different, too. Aurochs horns grew outward and upward from the base, the forward and inward, at last upward again at the tips. They could be up to 100 cm in length. Heck cattle presents different horn shapes, but they are usually shorter and curve too much upwards and/or outwards (like Highland cattle).

Checking on the family

The cattle are kept in natural herds; excess oxen are slaughtered in autumn, their high quality beef sold locally.

Besides the Heck cattle, other animals to graze in the Hutewald in the Solling are Exmoor ponies. They are a hardy outdoor race native to the British Isles, recently often used for projects like this. Not to mention very cute. *smile*

Exmoor Ponies

Some Exmoor ponies still live semi-feral in the moorlands of Devon and Somerset, but they are classified as ‘endangered’. Ponies in Exmoor have been around since the 11th century at least (the Domesday Book mentions them), but probably longer. They came into the fore of interest when a privat buyer bought the Royal Exmoor Forest in 1818. The warden, Sir Thomas Acland, brought 30 ponies to his private lands. They became the nucleus of the modern breed; descendants of the first herd still live at Winsford Hill.

The rest of the ponies in Exmoor were sold, though some luckily ended up with local people who took care of their blood line, so some Exmoor ponies are still around on the moorlands.

Mare with foal

In 1921, the Exmoor Pony Society was founded. Its aim was to maintain the pure Exmoor breed. They suffered a severe setback during WW2, though. The moors were used as training ground, which caused the breed to become almost estinct. Only 50 ponies survived the war. By the 1990is, enough ponies had been born to spread them to various areas of England in small herds. And a few moved to other countries, like the herd that now lives in the Hutewald in the Solling. By 2010, the world wide stock was estimated to be about 800 animals.

Daddy

Exmoor ponies come in a size range of 45-50 inches (11.1 to 12.3 hands, or 114-130 cm), with the stallions usually being a bit taller than the mares. Their coats are variants of dark bay, with pangaré markings around the muzzles, eyes, flanks and underbelly – those are considered a primitive trait, as is the head which is somewhat large in proportion to the body.

The ponies have a stocky build with short legs, deep chest and broad back; they are strong for their size, and known for their endurance. They grow a winter coat of an insulating wooly underlayer and an oily topcoat. They had shed that one when I visited the Hutewald.

Pony family

The photos in this post were taken during two tours, a private hiking tour on the official ways, and one guided by a ranger that brought us directly into the forests.

 




The Lost Fort is a travel and history blog based on my journeys in Germany, the UK, Scandinavia, and central / eastern Europe. It includes virtual town and castle tours with a focus on history, museum visits, hiking tours, and essays on Roman and Mediaeval history, illustrated with my own photos.


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I'm a blogger from Germany with a MA in Literature and History which doesn't pay my bills, so I use it to research blogposts instead. I'm interested in everything Roman and Mediaeval, avid reader and sometimes writer, opera enthusiast, traveller with a liking for foreign languages and odd rocks, photographer, and tea aficionado. And an old-fashioned blogger who still hasn't got an Instagram account.
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Speyer
The Cathedral: Architecture
Cathedral: Richard Lionheart in Speyer
Jewish Ritual Bath

Stralsund
The Harbour

Wismar
The Old Harbour

Xanten
Mediaeval Xanten
The Gothic House

Collected Posts about Towns

Towns in Thuringia
Heiligenstadt
Treffurt

Castles

Brandenburg (Thuringia)
The Double Castle
Role of the Castle in Thuringian History

Coburg Fortress (Bavaria)
The History of the Fortress
The Architecture

Ebersburg (Harz Mountains)
Power Base of the Thuringian Landgraves
The Marshals of Ebersburg
The Architecture

Hanstein (Thuringia)
Introduction
Otto of Northeim
Heinrich the Lion and Otto IV
The Next Generations

Hardenberg (Lower Saxony)
Introduction
Hardenberg Castle Gardens

Harzburg (Harz Mountains)
The Harzburg and Otto IV

Hohnstein (Harz Mountains)
Origins of the Counts of Hohnstein
The Family Between Welfen and Staufen
A Time of Feuds (14th-15th century)

Kugelsburg (Hessia)
The Counts of Everstein
Troubled Times
War and Decline

Plesse (Lower Saxony)
Rise and Fall of the Counts of Winzenburg
The Lords of Plesse
Architecture / Decline and Rediscovery

Regenstein (Harz Mountains)
Introduction
The Time of Henry the Lion

Scharzfels (Harz Mountains)
Introduction
History

Wartburg (Thuringia)
A Virtual Tour

Weidelsburg (Hessia)
The History of the Castle
The Architecture
The Castle After the Restoration

Collected Posts about Castles

Castles in the Harz Mountains
Stauffenburg

Castles in Northern Hessia
Grebenstein
Reichenbach
Sichelnstein
Sababurg and Trendelburg

Castles in Lower Saxony
Adelebsen Castle: The Keep
Grubenhagen: A Border Castle
Hardeg Castle: The Great Hall
Salzderhelden: A Welfen Seat

Castles at the Weser
Bramburg: River Reivers
Krukenburg: Castle and Chapel
Castle Polle: An Everstein Seat

Castles in Thuringia
Altenstein at the Werra
Castle Normanstein: Introduction
Castle Scharfenstein

Abbeys and Churches

Bursfelde Abbey
The Early History

Helmarshausen Monastery
Remains of the Monastery
The Gospels of Heinrich the Lion

Königslutter Cathedral
The Exterior Decorations

Lippoldsberg Abbey
The Early History
The Interior of the Church

Walkenried Monastery
From Monastery to Museum

Collected Posts about Churches

Early Mediaeval Churches
Göllingen Monastery: Traces of Byzantine Architecture
Lorsch Abbey: The Carolingian Gate Hall

Churches in the Harz Mountains
Pöhlde Monastery: The Remaining Church
Steinkirche (Scharzfeld): Development of the Cave Church

Churches in Lower Saxony
Wiebrechtshausen: Nunnery and Ducal Burial

Churches at the Weser
Fredelsloh Chapter Church
Vernawahlshausen: Mediaeval Murals

Reconstructed Sites / Museums

Palatine Seat Tilleda
The Defenses

Viking Settlement Haithabu
Haithabu and the Archaeological Museum Schleswig
The Nydam Ship

Open Air Museums
European Bread Museum, Ebergötzen
Open Air Museum Oerlinghausen

Post-Mediaeval Sites
Historical Guns, Coburg Fortress
Vintage Car Museum, Wolfsburg


England

Towns

Chester
Roman and Medieaval Chester

Hexham
The Abbey - Introduction
The Old Gaol

York
Clifford Tower
The Guild Hall
The Minster - Architecture
Monk Bar Gate and Richard III Museum
Museum Gardens
The Old Town
Along the Ouse River

Castles

Alnwick
Malcolm III and the First Battle of Alnwick

Carlisle
Introduction
Henry II and William of Scotland
Edward I to Edward III

Richmond
From the Conquest to King John
From Henry III to the Tudors
The Architecture

Scarborough
From the Romans to the Tudors
From the Civil War to the Present
The Architecture


Scotland

Towns

Edinburgh
Views from the Castle

Stirling
The Wallace Monument

Castles

Doune
A Virtual Tour of the Castle
The Early Stewart Kings
Royal Dower House, and Decline

Duart
Guarding the Sound of Mull

Dunstaffnage
An Ancient MacDougall Stronghold
The Wars of Independence
The Campbells Are Coming
Dunstaffnage Chapel

Stirling
Robert the Bruce and Stirling Castle

Abbeys and Churches

Inchcolm Abbey
Arriving at Inchcolm

Other Historical Sites

Picts and Dalriatans
Dunadd Hill Fort
Staffa

Pre-Historic Orkney
Ring of Brodgar
Skara Brae


Wales

Towns

Aberystwyth
Castle and Coast

Caerleon
The Ffwrwm

Conwy
The Smallest House in Great Britain

Castles

Beaumaris
The Historical Context
The Architecture

Caernarfon
Master James of St.George
The Castle Kitchens

Cardiff
From the Romans to the Victorians

Chepstow
Beginnings unto Bigod
From Edward II to the Tudors
Civil War, Restoration, and Aftermath

Conwy
The History of the Castle
The Architecture

Criccieth
Llywelyn's Buildings
King Edward's Buildings

Manorbier
The Pleasantest Spot in Wales

Pembroke
Pembroke Pictures
The Caves Under the Castle


Denmark

Towns

Copenhagen
To come


Norway

Towns

Oslo
The Fram Museum in Oslo

Castles and Fortresses

Arkershus Fortress in Oslo
Introduction
Akershus at the Time of King Håkon V
Architectural Development

Vardøhus Fortress
Defending the North for Centuries


Sweden

Towns

Stockholm
The Vasa Museum

Historical Landscapes

Gotland
Gnisvärd Ship Setting


Finland

Towns

Porvoo
Mediaeval Porvoo


Russia

Towns

St. Petersburg
Isaac's Cathedral
Smolny Cathedral
Impressions from the The Neva River


Estonia

Towns

Tallinn
The History of Mediaeval Tallinn


Latvia

Towns

Riga
The History of Mediaeval Riga


Lithuania

Historical Landscapes

The Curonian Spit
Geology of the Curonian Spit


Poland

Towns

Gdańsk / Danzig
The History of Mediaeval Gdańsk
Mediaeval and Renaissance Gdańsk

Kraków
The Old Town

Wrocław / Breslau
The Botanical Garden
The Wrocław Dwarfs

Castles

Ogrodzieniec Castle
A Virtual Tour
From the First Castle to the Boner Family


Czech Republic

Towns

Karlovy Vary / Karlsbad
Brief History of the Town

Kutná Hora
The Sedlec Ossuary


Belgium

Towns

Antwerp
The Old Town

Bruges
Mediaeval Bruges

Ghent
Mediaeval Ghent

Tongeren
Roman and Mediaeval Remains


Luxembourg

Towns

Luxembourg City
A Tour of the Town


France

Towns

Strasbourg
A Tour of the Town


Hiking Tours and Cruises

Germany

The Baltic Sea Coast
The Flensburg Firth
Rugia - Jasmund Peninsula and Kap Arkona
Rugia - Seaside Ressort Binz
A Tour on the Wakenitz River

Harz National Park
Arboretum (Bad Grund)
Bode Valley and Rosstrappe Cliff
Ilse Valley and Ilse's Rock
Oderteich Reservoir
Rappbode Reservoir
Views from Harz mountains

Nature Park Meissner-Kaufunger Wald
Hessian Switzerland

Nature Park Solling-Vogler
Forest Pasture - Hutewald Project
The Raised Bog Mecklenbruch

Nature Park Reinhardswald
The Old Forest at the Sababurg

Thuringian Forests
Oberderdorla and Hainich National Park

Rivers and Lakes
The Danube in Spring
Edersee Reservoir
A Rainy Rhine Cruise
The Moselle
Vineyards at Saale and Unstrut
Weser River Ferry
Weser Skywalk

Wildlife
Harz Falcon Park
Ozeaneum Stralsund: The Baltic Sea Life
Ozeaneum Stralsund: The North Sea Life
Red squirrels

Seasons
Spring in the Botanical Garden Göttingen
Spring at the 'Kiessee' Lake
Spring in the Rossbach Heath (Meissner)
Memories of Summer
Summer Hiking Tours 2016
Autumn in the Meissner
Autumn at Werra and Weser
Winter at the 'Kiessee' Lake
Winter Wonderland - Views from my Balcony


United Kingdom

Mountains and Valleys
West Highland Railway

The East Coast
By Ferry to Newcastle
Highland Mountains - Inverness to John o'Groats
Some Photos from the East Coast

Scottish Sea Shores
Crossing to Mull
Mull - Craignure to Fionnphort
Pentland Firth
Castles Seen from Afar (Dunollie and Kilchurn)
Staffa
Summer Days in Oban
Summer Nights in Oban

Wild Wales - With Castles
Views of Snowdownia
Views from Castle Battlements

Wildlife
Sea Gulls


Scandinavia

The Hurtigruten-Tour / Norway
A Voyage into Winter
Along the Coast of Norway - Light and Darkness
Along the Coast of Norway - North of the Polar Circle

Norway by Train
From Oslo to Bergen
From Trondheim to Oslo

Wildlife
Bearded Seals
Dog Sledding With Huskies
Eagles and Gulls in the Trollfjord


The Baltic Sea

A Baltic Sea Cruise

The Curonian Spit in Lithuania
Beaches at the Curonian Spit
Geology of the Curonian Spit






Roman History
General Essays

Provinces
- Germania
- Gallia Belgica
- Britannia

Mediaeval History
General Essays

By Country
- Germany
- England
- Scotland
- Wales
- Denmark
- Norway
- Sweden
- Livonia
- Lithuania
- Poland
- Bohemia

Other Times
- Prehistoric Times
- Post-Mediaeval History
-
Miscellanea
- Geology


Roman History

General Essays

The Romans at War

Forts and Fortifications
Exercise Halls
Mile Castles and Watch Towers
Soldiers' Living Quarters
Cavalry Barracks

Roman Militaria

Armour
Early Imperial Helmets
Late Roman Helmets
The Negau B Helmet

Weapons
Weapon Finds at Hedemünden
The pilum
Daggers
Swords

Other Equipment
Roman Saddles

Life and Religion

Religion
The Mithras Cult
Isis Worship
Curse Tablets and Good Luck Charms

Public Life
Roman Transport - Barges
Roman Transport - Amphorae and Barrels
Roman Water Supply

Roman villae
Villa Urbana Longuich
Villa Rustica Wachenheim

Everyday Life
Bathing Habits
Children's Toys
Face Pots

Miscellaneous Essays

The Legend of Alaric's Burial


Germania

Wars and Frontiers

Maps
Romans in Germania

Traces of the Pre-Varus Conquest
Roman Camp Hedemünden
New Finds in 2008

The Battle of the Teutoburg Forest
Museum Park at Kalkriese

The Battle at the Harzhorn
Introduction

Along the Limes
The Cavalry Fort Aalen
Limes Fort Osterburken
Limes Fort Saalburg


Gallia Belgica

The Batavians

The Batavian Rebellion
A Short Introduction


Britannia

Roman Frontiers in Britain

The Hadrian's Wall
Introduction
The Fort at Segedunum / Wallsend


Mediaeval History

General Essays

Mediaeval Art and Craft

Mediaeval Art
Carved Monsters
The Choir Screen in the Cathedral of Mainz
The Gospels of Heinrich the Lion
Mediaeval Monster Carvings
The Viking Treasure of Hiddensee

Medieaval Craftmanship
Goldsmithery
Medical Instruments

Mediaeval Warfare

Mediaeval Weapons
Swords
Trebuchets

Castles and Fortifications
Dungeons and Oubliettes

Essays about Specific Topics

Feudalism

The History of Feudalism
The Beginnings
Feudalism in the 10th Century

Privileges and Special Relationships
The Privilege of the deditio
A Note on handgenginn maðr

The Hanseatic League

The History of the Hanseatic League
Introduction and Beginnings

Hanesatic Architecture
Examples of Brick Architecture

Goods and Trade
Stockfish Trade

The Order of the Teutonic Knights

Wars and Battles
The Conquest of Danzig
The Siege of Vilnius 1390

The Vikings

Viking Ships
The Nydam Ship


Germany

Geneaology

List of Mediaeval German Emperors

Geneaologies
Anglo-German Marriage Connections
Heinrich the Lion's Ancestors

Kings and Emperors

The Salian Dynasty
King Heinrich IV

House Welf and House Staufen
Emperor Otto IV, Introduction

Princes and Lords

Princes
Otto the Quarrelsome of Braunschweig-Göttingen
The Dukes of Braunschweig-Grubenhagen
Otto of Northeim
The Ludowing Landgraves of Thuringia
Albrecht II and Friedrich I of Thuringia

Counts and Local Lords
The Marshals of Ebersburg
The Counts of Everstein
The Counts of Hohnstein
The Lords of Plesse
The Counts of Reichenbach
The Counts of Winzenburg

Famous Feuds

Royal Troubles
Otto IV and Bishop Adalbert II of Magdeburg

Local Feuds
The Lüneburg Succession War
The Thuringian Succession War - Introduction
The Star Wars


England

Kings of England

King Henry IV
King Henry's Lithuanian Crusade

Normans, Britons, Angevins

Great Fiefs - The Honour of Richmond
The Dukes of Brittany and the Honour of Richmond
The Earldom of Richmond and the Duchy of Brittany

Contested Borders

Northumbria
King Stephen's Troubles with King David of Scots


Scotland

Kings of Scots

House Dunkeld
Malcolm III and Northumbria
Struggle for the Throne: Malcolm III to David I
King David and the Civil War, Part 1
King David and the Civil War, Part 2

Houses Bruce and Stewart
Robert the Bruce and Stirling Castle
The Early Stewart Kings

Scottish Nobles and their Quarrels

Clan Feuds
MacLeans and MacDonalds
A Scottish Wedding


Wales

Welsh Princes

The Princes of Gwynedd
The Rise of House Aberffraw

Rebels

A History of Rebellion
From Llywellyn ap Gruffudd to Owain Glyn Dŵr


Denmark

Kings of Denmark

House of Knýtlinga
Harald Bluetooth's Flight to Pomerania

Danish Rule in the Baltic Sea

The Duchy of Estonia
Danish Kings and German Sword Brothers


Norway

Kings of Norway

Foreign Relations
King Eirik's Scottish Marriages
King Håkon V's Swedish Politics
Beginnings of the Kalmar Union

A Time of Feuds

Famous Nobles and their Feuds
Alv Erlingsson of Tønsberg


Sweden

Troubles and Alliances

Scandinavian Unity
Beginnings of the Kalmar Union


Livonia
(Latvia and Estonia)

Towns of the Hanseatic League

Riga
The History of Mediaeval Riga

Tallinn
The History of Mediaeval Tallinn


Lithuania

The Northern Crusades

The Wars in Lithuania
The Siege of Vilnius 1390

Lithuanian Princes

The Geminid Dynasty
Troublesome Cousins - Jogaila and Vytautas


Poland

The Northern Crusades

The Conquest of Pomerania / Prussia
The Conquest of Danzig

Royal Dynasties

The Jagiełłonian Kings
Władysław Jagiełło and the Polish-Lithuanian Union


Bohemia

The Bohemian Kings of House Luxembourg
(to come)


Other Times

Prehistoric Times

Germany

Development of Civilisation
European Bread Museum, Ebergötzen
Hutewald Project in the Solling
Open Air Museum Oerlinghausen

Orkney

Neolithic Orkney
The Neolithic Landscape of Orkney
Ring of Brodgar
Skara Brae
Life in Skara Brae

Scandinavia

Gotland
The Ship Setting of Gnisvärd


Post-Mediaeval History

Explorers and Discoveries

Explorers
Fram Expedition to the North Pole
Fram Expedition to the South Pole

Discoveries
Otto von Guericke and the Magdeburg Hemispheres
Raising a Wreck, Now and Then (Vasa Museum in Stockholm)

Biographies

European Nobility
Prince Wilhelm Malte of Putbus


Miscellanea

History in Literature and Music

History in Literature

Biographies of German Poets and Writers
Theodor Fontane

Historical Ballads by Theodor Fontane
(Translated by me)
Archibald Douglas
Gorm Grymme
Sir Walter Scott in Abbotsford
The Tragedy of Afghanistan

History in Opera

Belcanto and Historicism
Maria Padilla - Mistress Royal
The Siege of Calais in Donizetti's Opera

Not so Serious History

Romans
Building Hadrian's Wall
Playmobil Romans

Mediaeval Times
Kings Having a Bad Hair Day
The Case of the Vanished Wine Cask

Other
Rules for Writing Scottish Romances
Tourist Kitsch in St.Petersburg


Geology

Geological Landscapes

The Baltic Sea
Geology of the Curonian Spit
Chalk Cliffs on Rugia
Flint Fields on Rugia

The Harz
Bode Valley and Rosstrappe Cliff
The 'Hübichenstein' Rock
Karst Formations in the Southern Harz
The Lonau Falls
The Rhume Springs

Meissner / Kaufunger Wald
Blue Dome near Eschwege
Diabase and Basalt Formations
Karst Formations

Solling-Vogler
Raised Bog Mecklenbruch
Hannover Cliffs

The Shores of Scotland
Staffa

Fossils and Other Odd Rocks

Fossilized Ammonites
The Loket Meteorite


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