The Lost Fort
My Travel and History Blog, Focussing mostly on Roman and Mediaeval Times
Lithuanian Impressions 2 – Vilnius, with Trakai and Kernavė
The hightlight of the tour was Vilnius, of course. There will be more detailed posts (I got enough photos, lol), so here’s just a little teaser.
View over Vilnius’ old town from Gediminas’ Tower
Vilnius is a town of churches, Roman-Catholic, Orthodox, and a few Protestant ones. Most of them have been altered at a time when the Baroque flourished in Lithuania, but there are some Gothic ones as well, and others keep traces of older architecture.
The Cathedral Basilica of St Stanislaus and St Ladislaus of Vilnius, as it is officially called, goes back to a church built by King Mindaugas in 1251. A few foundations of that one remain. Next was a Gothic church from 1429 – some pillars can still be seen – altered in the early 16th century after a fire. More fires in 1610 and 1654 led to the Baroque restorations that today dominate the church.
Vilnius, St.Nicholas Church
The first church named after St. Nicholas was commissioned by the Orthodox wife of Duke Algirdas in 1350. It was rebuilt in Baroque style in 1740 and later in neo-Byzantine style (1840). Since Vilnius was under Russian rule since the Nothern War (ended 1721) until WW1, the town has several Orthodox churches.
Church of St.Anne and Bernardine Church (in the background)
This one – the ensemble of the Churches of St.Anne and of St.Bernardine – is the most stunning example of Gothic brick architecture that remains mostly unaltered on the outside (the interior shows some Baroque elements). St.Anne dates to 1495 and is a fine example of the flamboyant Gothic style. The Church of St.Francis and St.Bernard shows the older Gothic brick architecture style. It was built by Bernadine monks as part of a monastery.
Church of St.Casimir
The Church of St.Casimir is the oldest original Baroque church in Vilnius, built in 1618. A cupola was added in the middle of the 18th century.
Those are just a few examples of the churches in Vilnius. I visited several more, though at some point I stopped hunting them down; there are too many; and most of them predominantly Baroque which gives the city a homogenous appearance, but it’s not my favourite style.
Gates of Dawn
The Gates of Dawn are the last remaining gate of the former town fortifications; the others were destroyed in the late 18th century. It was built around 1520 – you can still see its defensive purpose on the outside. On the inside, the most interesting feature is a chapel in the second floor, open to the outside and dedicated to an icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is an important place for pilgrims even today.
Vilnius, Gediminas’ Tower
Gediminas‘ Tower is the most outstanding remains of the Upper Castle in Vilnius. The first castle was constructed in timber by Gediminas (1275-1341) and rebuilt in bricks and stone by Grand Duke Vytautas in 1410 (you may remember him from this post). Most of the castle is in ruins, but the tower was repaired in 1933; some more remains of the castle have been preserved as well.
Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania
The palace, located in the Lower Castle, was built in the 15th century and saw its peak as living quarters of several grand dukes of Lithuania and kings of Poland (both countries becoming a union at the time) in the 16th-17th centuries. The palace was demolished in 1801, but finally restored in the Renaissance style of its main period in 2018.
Vilnius, lane in the old town
There are some small lanes in the old town, somewhat outside the main tourist routes along the showy streets, with cafes, restaurants, small shops and such. Some of those were part of the Jewish quarter of Vilnius until the German occupation in summer 1941 when the quarter was turned into a ghetto and most Jews in Vilnius were killed.
Vilnius, houses at the Town Hall Square
We’ll leave Vilnius with a view of the Town Hall Square and move to the town of Trakai (an easy day trip from Vilnius). What attracted me – and lost of other tourists – well ....
A castle, of course. *grin* Trakai Island Castle is the best preserved castle in Lithuania, and an important site in its history during the Middle Ages.
Trakai, the keep and the great hall
The castle was built by Duke Kęstutis in the 14th century and expanded – esp. the inner ward with the 35 metres high keep and the great hall with its several storeys – by his son Vytautas after he had reconciled with his cousin (the castle had been besieged several times during their quarrels) in 1409. The outer curtain walls were strengthened and three major towers added in mid-15th century.
Galleries in the inner yard
Trakai suffered the fate of many castles in later times when it would no longer protect against modern weapons, and fell into decline. It was reconstructed in the years 1951-1961 (against Russian opposition, since the Sovyet government disliked the idea of rebuilding a national icon).
Trakai Castle, the main gate, seen from the outer ward
I took a guided boat tour on the lake to get some photos from different angles, and because it was a nice, sunny day and a boat tour just the right thing to do after a 4 kilometres walk to get there from the train station.
Wooden houses in Trakai
The town of Trakai inlcudes an ethnic minority of Crimean Karaites, a Jewish group that speaks a Turk language and was considered apostate by the Yiddish speaking diaspora. They settled there in 1398 after Vytautas defeated the Golden Horde, and were considered a semi-autonomous group during most of history since; even the Hitler government accorded them a non-Jewish status (though many were killed nevertheless). The pretty, colourfully painted wooden houses represent their style of building.
The hills of Kernavė with the river Neris in the background
Kernavė in the Pajauta Valley was the first known capital of Lithuania, mentioned in a chronicle from 1279. It was destroyed in the wars with the Teutonic Knights in 1390 and not rebuilt – at the time, Vilnius had already become another major town with a castle – though smaller settlements remained on the hill forts. But what must have been a devastating event for the grand dukes of Lithuania turned out a blessing for archaeologists. The remains of the city were covered by an alluvial layer of the river Neris and thus well preserved.
Between the Kernavė hills
Excavations began in the 1980ies, and in 2004, Kernavė was included into the UNESCO World Heritage list. Settlement on the site goes far beyond the time of Kernavė as Lithuanian capital; there are finds dating as far back as the 9th millennia BC. Many of the finds are shown in the local museum, though the most outstanding feature are the five hill forts which once protected the settlement.
Kernavė, partly reconstructed Mediaeval town
The area of almost 195 hectares includes the town and the impressive defensive line of five hill forts. But due to the many layers of civilization, settlements of different periods, burial sites, defense structures etc. that can be found in the soil at the river, Kernavė is considered the ‘Lithuanian Troy’.
Some of the houses
Some of the houses of the Mediaeval town have been reconstructed on a higher site, out of any floods of the river Neris. They follow finds of timber remains, post holes and other traces. As in Rumšiškes, the entire archaeological site was visited by but a few tourists, so I could take photos free of time travelers.
Kernavė; pretty bling in the museum
Those pieces of silver and gold alloy, some with glass beads and other additions, were part of headbands; they were sewn onto leather or cloth. The finds date to the 13th-14th century.
The next day was the beginning of the long journey back first to Klaipeda and then to Kiel by ferry. A slow way to travel, but more fun than flying.
Lithuanian Impressions 1 – Klaipeda, Kaunas, Rumšiškes
It’s quite some time we last had a real Back with Booty post due to that Evil C and some private reasons. But this year I did a longer tour outside Germany and spent two weeks in Lithuania.
Klaipeda, Theatre Square
One way to get to Lithuania is to take the ferry from Kiel to Klaipeda, so Klaipeda (formerly the German Memel) was my first stop on the way.
Pretty lane in Klaipeda
Klaipeda is predominantly a rather large harbour city, but it has an old town with some charming cobblestone lanes and older houses. Usually a quiet place, it sometimes gets swarmed by cruise tourists for a few hours.
At the river Danė
The river Danė runs through the town, offering some nice photo motives, especially when the sun came out the second day and would never leave during the rest of my tour (except at night, of course).
Remains of Klaipeda Castle (Memelburg)
Klaipeda had a castle dating to the 13th century, founded by the Teutonic Knights, but today only some ruins remain, and an earthen wall that had been re-fortified in the 18th century. The keep of the castle is presently being recontructed.
Beach on the Curonian Spit
It is only a short crossing from Klaipeda to the Curonian Spit with its dunes, pine forests and lovely beaches with fine sand – and not so many visitors in September. A nice place to walk around.
Kaunas, Laisvės alėja (Liberty Avenue)
Next stop on the tour was the city of Kaunas; the second largest city in Lithuania after Vilnius, at the confluence of the Neris and the Nemunas rivers.
Of course, I’ll post more about all the places I’ve visited; this is only a short teaser post that won’t cover all the interesting buildings.
Kaunas, the town hall
The town hall of Kaunas is a mix of Gothic and Renaissance elements. Its outstanding feature is a 53 metres high tower which gave the building the nickname ‘White Swan’. Unfortunately, most of it was scaffolded in.
Kaunas, St. Michael’s Church
Another pretty white building. This church was built in early 19th century in the neo-Byzantine style as orthodox church for the Russian garrison. Today it is a Catholic church.
Lane in the Old Town of Kaunas
The settlement at the river confluence dates back to the 11th century and received town rights in 1408. The area was contested between the Lithuanian grand dukes and the Teutonic Knights, so it comes as no surprise that there is a castle.
Kaunas, remains of the castle
The history of the castle is complicated; it was built by the grand dukes, taken by the Teutonic Knights, destroyed, reconquered and rebuilt .... The present remains represent mostly the castle from the late 14th century with some older foundations.
The castle was considerably larger than the – partly reconstructed – remains, but the earthen and stone walls and the keep give an impression what it must have looked like in the later Middle Ages.
Rumšiškes Open Air Museum; market square in the 19th century town
An interesting and very photographable (is that a word, lol?) place is the Open Air Museum of Lithuania in Rumšiškes, not far from Kaunas. A pleasant way to spend a sunny, warm afternoon by walking around (the complete way is almost 8 km) and look at old houses.
A house in the Rumšiškes museum
The museum was opened in 1966 and has been expanded over time. It represents town houses, farmsteads and other buildings from the 18th to early 20th century – all of them have been transplanted from their original sites.
The museum encompasses 195 ha, with houses from all regions of Lithuania, including the matching interior furnishing. Most of the houses are still open – in summer, people in period dress would show historcial crafts and ways of working a farm, smithy etc. – but in September, there was not much activity.
On the positive side, I met barely a dozen other visitors during my visit of several hours, which made for an almost private hike through forests and fields with extra motives.
Rumšiškes, view out of a farmhouse
The second part of my Lithuanian Impressions about my visit to Vilnius and some other places will follow in the next days.
Half-Timbered Houses and a Graduation Tower – Bad Sooden-Allendorf
I’ve mentioned the German spa town Bad Sooden-Allendorf at the Werra in my post about the Bruchteiche reservoir and already told a bit about its history and the geological foundations of the salt deposits. I recently visited the town itself and collected a whole bunch of photos of half-timbered houses ‒ Bad Sooden-Alledorf is famous for those ‒ and the fascinating history and processes of salt destillation by graduation towers for you.
Allendorf, half-timbered houses in the Kirchstrasse
The town was badly destroyed during the Thirty Years War (1618‒1648), so almost all of the houses in the old town of Allendorf date to the 17th century, which gives Bad Sooden-Allendorf an unusually harmonic look. The style of the houses is a mix of the local half-timbering traditions of Hessia, Thuringa, Lower Saxony and even Franconia, since the craftsmen hailed from various districts, yet forming a coherent whole; one could almost call it the Allendorf style. :)
Bad Sooden-Allendorf, bridge across the Werra
So let’s do a virtual walk through the twin towns – separeted by the Werra river – with some little history lessons included. We start at the bridge across the Werra which in the Middle Ages provided a harbour and a way to transport the salt ‒ the foundation of Allendorf’s and Sooden’s wealth ‒ by ship as well as by road
Allendorf, Fischerstad (fishermen’s quarter)
When we move in direction of Allendorf, the first scenic sight is the Fischerstad (fishermen’s quarter). The quarter lies outside the old town walls and has been the place where the fishermen lived; a group less wealthy than the merchants and artisans who had their houses in the town. Nowadays, those houses make for a lovely addition to the town (no hovels at all).
There is still fish in the Werra, but today it’s only fished for private use or a little extra income. Most of the inhabitants of the quarter have taken up fishing, and they all have boats to cross the Werra to their gardens on an island in the river. Hence the district got nicknamed ‘little Venice’.
Lane in the Fischerstad outside the town wall (to the right)
On this photo from the back lane you can see that the houses along the river are outside the town wall whose remains are to the right. The town wall once was about 5 metres high, with three gates and seven towers, but not much remains except for a tower and a reconstructed section along the Werra (unfortunately obscured by some ugly party tents when I visited).
The Kirchstrasse (Church Lane) is one of the major streets in Allendorf with some of the prettiest and most finely decorated houses. The whole ensemble dates to the 17th century. Under the week, you won’t find many tourists; they tend to be around in the spa town of Sooden.
The house called Löwe (Lion)
The most impressive of those houses is the one called Löwe (Lion), also known as Bürger’sches Haus. It was built in 1639 by a rich cloth merchant named Jakob Oderwaldt. The house has not been altered until today.
I’ll use the following collection of photos to ‘decorate’ a little essay about the history of Bad Sooden-Allendorf.
More pretty houses in Allendorf
Tacitus (59‒120 AD) mentions that the tribes of the Chatti (the predecessors of the Hessians) and Hermunduri (now Thuringia) quarreled about salt deposits at a border river. It is assumed that this may have been the Werra – border river between Hessia and Thuringia frequently during history – and the salt deposits those at what is today the Sooden side of the twin spa town Bad Sooden-Allendorf. Those are not the only salt wells along the Werra, but they are the ones at a tribal border.
Closeup of some decorations
The next witness for a settlement in the area is a charte by Charlemagne, dating to some time between 776‒779 in which the village of Westera, the salt deposits, the income thereof, the market and tithes were granted to the monastery of Fulda. Westera might mean something like ‘west of the river’ (aha / a being an Indoeuropean ‘river’-word). A ringwall fort that has been dated to Carolingian times can be found near the town.
More decoative woodwork
The name changed in the 13th century. In a charte by Landgrave Ludwig IV of Thuringia, the village is called Aldendorf (Old Village) which was later shortened to Allendorf. This charte from 1218 granted Allendorf the rights of a town and market.
Houses in the Schusterstrasse (Shoemakers’ Lane)
The town of Allendorf proper, once surrounded by a town wall, lies at the right of the Werra. This was the place where the wealthy borghers, the merchants and artisans lived.
On the left side of the river was the settlement of the salt workers and the owners of the salt pans, the Pfänner (from German ‘Pfannen’) in which salt was destilled by heating the brine, a process that required particular skills (see also below). This settlement was called Sooden since the Middle Ages.
Allendorf, the marked square
Salt was much needed as preservative in the Middle Ages, so the salt production and salt trade enriched the salt mine owners and merchants, who could afford to build pretty houses. Even though the town was badly damaged by fire in 1637 (see below) we can assume that the houses of wealthy burghers looked quite splendid back then.
The town hall of Allendorf
The town hall of Allendorf is a curiosity. The original Gothic building dating to 1500 was destroyed in 1637, but already a year later, the town purchased a half-timbered house in Sooden from the heirs of the salt master (Siedemeister) Jakob Lips for the amount of 640 gulden – Sooden had fared less badly during the Thirty Years War attacks – and reconstructed in on the stone foundations of the fomer town hall.
The Stone House (Rathofstrasse 3)
The Stone House is one of the few buildings that survived the 1637 fire. It was built in 1381 by the lords of Bischoffshausen, a local noble family. It served as town hall for some time prior to 1500 when the new hall was built. The half-timbered upper floor was added in the 19th century.
Stone house, the backside
Many towns lost their independency during the Late Middle and Early Modern Ages. The burghers of Allendorf and Sooden were obliged to pawn out the salt springs and graduation works of Sooden to the landgrave of Hessia in 1554 and lost them perpetually in 1586. Allendorf by that successively lost its influence on Sooden which eventually was considered a town in its own right; a stauts officially acknowledged since 1808. Allendorf also remained under the influence of the landgraves of Hessia, but managed to retain greater independency. Both towns were reunited as Bad Sooden-Allendorf in 1929.
Allendorf, St. Crucis Church, the tower
The main church in Allendorf is St.Crucis. It is assumed that there had been an older building on the site (the name St.Crucis points at a foundation of bishop Boniface which would date the origins of the church back to the 8th century, the time of Charlemagne; see above). The first official mention of a church dates to the above mentioned charte by Ludwig IV of Thuringia (1218). The present church was completed in 1386 ‒ some older Romanesque pieces were reused in its construction ‒; the tower in 1424.
St.Crucis, the southern side with parts of a Romaesque ashlar wall
The plan may have been for the three naved transept basilica, but it ended up as a two naved hall church (which is a bit of an oddity; hall churches use to have three naves) with a single tower. The church was damaged in the Thirty Years War and remained a ruin for about 50 years. Then a roof was put back on, but without the damaged Gothic cross grain vaults – the inner roof today is flat. The Baroque cupola on the tower was added in 1719.
The Bible Garden
The church is partly surrounded by a Bible Garden. It was planted in 2007 and contains plants and flowers which are mentioned in the Bible but can also cope with the local climate. It is a quiet place with several banks, tablets with biblical quotations, and other features for contemplation and relaxation.
View to St.Crucis from the Werra bridge
We move across the Werra bridge towards Sooden. Unfortunately, the sun decided to hide while I visited that part.
I’ve already mentioned the Thirty Years War and the damage it caused to the town of Allendorf. The town had managed to buy off marauding troops several times since 1623, but in April 1637, the burghers had run out of money, and the troops of Isolani and Geleen plundered the town, which resulted in an great fire that destroyed most of the buildings.
The bridge across the Werra from a different angle
Many people managed to flee and, upon return, lived in cellars. The death rate rose in the years after the conflagration. It was questioned whether to rebuild the town at all, but in 1639, the town council allowed timber harvesting in the town forests. Rebuilding happened quite fast; carpenters came from neighbouring regions, which led to the unique mix of styles and the coherent whole mentioned above. Yet, Allendorf never fully regained its former importance.
Sooden, the graduation tower
The town of Sooden on the other side of the Werra suffered less by marauding troops because it was under the protection of the landgrave of Hessia. Before we enter the town proper, we come across the graduation works – once the main source of wealth of the town, today one of the main attractions of the spa facilities.
Graduation tower, detail
The graduation tower was a 16th century invention and addition to the old way of condensing the brine in large pans. Now natural evaporation was added to increase the salt concentration in the brine. This was achieved by having the 4-6% salt water drip down a 10 metres high wall of blackthorn (originally, straw was used, but it rotted too fast) where wind and sun allowed some of the water to evaporate and thereby condense the brine to 20-25%. At the same time, unwanted additions to the brine as gypsum and calcium would deposit in the thorn brushwood which needs to be replaced every few years. Thus the process of turning the brine into pure salt by heating, which needed a lot of wood and later charcoal, was shortened considerably.
Graduation tower, the way along the blackthorn wall
The level of the salt-carrying water had been closer to the surface at the time when the tribe of the Chatti used those salt deposits, as well as during the Middle Ages. In the middle of the 19th century those wells dried up. New salt wells were discovered which had a higher salt concentration up to 12%, and the new steam technology allowed to pump water from a a greather depth. One of those wells from 1852 is still in use.
Closeup of the blackthorn wall
The brine is pumped up from a 334 metres deep well today (by modern pumps), and led to an open runnel with 300 taps on a length of 140 metres. The brine is collected in tubs at the bottom of the blackthorn wall.
At its heighday, there had been 22 graduation works in Sooden (a complex also known as Saline), but only the number 5, dating to 1638, survives until today. Though the complete structure had to be dismantled and rebuilt to the original design in 1999-2002, because the timber had proved to be in a bad shape.
Graduation work with pump tower and canal
In the 19th century, the production of salt became increasingly uneconomic (and the Prussian taxes didn’t help). But at that time, the healing properties of brine were discovered and the town attracted visitors who came to improve their health. Sooden was acknowledged as spa town (Bad Sooden) in 1881.
The covered walk along the perimeter of the gaduation tower was added in 1887, as it was noticed that the graudation process creates a microclimate like the one at the sea. I spent half an hour there just breathing the wholesome air.
The Baroque Söder Gate, seen from the outside
The town of Sooden proper begins at the Söder Gate – nowadays, it stands there without the protection of a town wall, but when it was built by Landgrave Carl of Hessia in 1704, it was the only way to enter and leave the town. The salt deposits and salt works belonged to the landgrave, and no pound of salt was to be transported out of town without customs paid if he could be helped.
Söder Gate, inner side
Sometimes, he couldn’t. Contraband trade of salt was a popular occupation, of course, as was theft and weighing down the salt by adding water (the Salzfrevel). Therefore, the gate house had a prison cell where such miscreants could be kept until their trial.
The so-called Pfennigstube
This little house is one of the oldest in Sooden, and once was one of the most important. It housed the tax and customs office of the Saline Sooden. Two pfennig per one Achtel (eighth; those old measures are a mess) of salt was the toll the carters had to pay. The would receive an official grant to transport salt – the ‘salt passport’. There were some 350 salt carters in service of the landgrave of Hessia in 1630.
With the Scales Monument at the customs office (now the Tourist Information), we’ll move into the town and have a look at the history of Sooden. The houses here are of more different styles and date to different times.
View of houses in Sooden, with the Scales Monument in the foreground
In the Middle Ages and the early Modern Times, Sooden had about 80 Siedehäuser (‘boiling houses’, though the translation is not correct, the brine was not boiling, but simmering). The brine was heated in pans called Kot of 3.50 metres length, 3 metres width and 30 cm depth, a process going on day and night under permanent stirring of the brine turning into a paste until it became pure salt. Every house held such a pan which was a family heritage of the Siedemeister (boil master, or salt master). Salt masters were not allowed to purchase land, but they were highly valued specialist craftsmen with a good income.
Some pretty houses in Sooden
The pans were owned by borghers from Allendorf and nobles from the surrounding lands which formed a sort of union and called themselves Pfänner (see above). When Sooden fell to the landgraves of Hessia, they had to pay a tithe, but at first, the landgraves didn’t install Kots of their own. But for one, the salt production declined, and on the other hand, the position of the landgraves became more powerful, so they finally set up their own pans, which promptly led to troubles with the local salt masters. As a result, Landgrave Philipp I took over all pans and the forests (which were needed for firewood) in 1540, paying the former Pfänner a rent; but they had no longer any influence on how the salt production was run.
Lane in Sooden, the ‘Weinreihe’
The salt production and distribution became organised. At the top was a Obersalzgrebe (salt reeve; verbatim ’high salt count’, though that’s not a noble rank but an administrative title) with two salt counts one of whom was also the town major in Allendorf while the other led the administration of the salt works. He had a staff of scribes, comptrollers and such, and a well master (Brunnenmeister) responsible for the pumps, graduation works, canals etc. About 1600, the output of the salt works was 9.000 pans = 113.000 hundredweights of salt.
Sooden, the market square
One of those salt reeves was Johannes Rhenanus (1528-1589) who had studied Theology and served as curate until he was called by Philipp to oversee the salt works in 1559. Rhenanus was interested in technical matters and traveled to see other salt production sites. He was the one to install the first graduation tower in Sooden, and introduced brown coal from the Meissner Mountains as firing instead of wood (the surroundings of the town becoming deforested); he increased the temperature of the coal by adding a chimney to his stove, which was used to dry the salt as well. He also wrote a large tome about salt works – the New Saltzbuch.
Another view of the graduation tower
Another famous salt reeve was Jakob Sigismund Waitz von Eschen (1698-1776; the family was ennobled in 1764) under Landgrave Friedrich II. He changed the straw graduation with blackthorn (see above) and replaced the former pump system that was worked by horses with a water-wheel powered system of pumps, wheels and pivots (a so-called Wasserkunst), a technolgy also used in mining.
Houses at the spa park
When Hessia-Kassel was annexed by Prussia during the Austro-Prussian War in 1866, the landgrave lost the salt monopoly. Sooden (and Allendorf as well) thereby lost the foundation of its wealth, the salt pans went out of use, unemployment increased. But in 1876, the town mayor Hedwig Lange got the idea to turn the salt wells into the basis for a spa. A bath already existed since 1818, but now new bath houses and hotels were built, and within a few years, many inhabitants of the town could live off the spa business. Today, Bad Sooden-Allendorf is still a popular spa town with public swimming pools, hotels, sanatoriums and wellness clinics.
View to the Werra weir and St.Crucis in Allendorf
Only online sources this time: The website with places to see, a site by the local home club and a Wiki site.
The Lost Fort is a travel and history blog based on my journeys in Germany, the UK, Scandinavia, the Baltic Countries, and central 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.
This blog is non-commercial.
All texts and photos (if no other copyright is noted) are copyright of Gabriele Campbell.
- Name: Gabriele Campbell
- Location: Goettingen, Germany
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.
(See here for Archives for mobile devices)
View my complete profile