My History Blog, Focussing mostly on Roman and Mediaeval Times

  History of Rugia: Prince Wilhelm Malte of Putbus

I've already mentioned Prince Wilhelm Malte I of Putbus (1783 - 1854) in my prior post. He was the scion of the Slavic noble family of Putbus (the lords of Putbus trace their lineage to the 12th century) whose members had intermarried with the Swedish nobility since Rugia belonged to Sweden in the aftermath of the Thirty Years War (1648). His father was the Swedish Marshal of Court Malte Friedrich of Putbus. His mother was Sophie Wilhelmine von der Schulenburg, a German noble family who - going back to the 13th century - would rise to important positions under the kings of Prussia. Malte's grandfather Moritz Ulrich of Putbus already renovated the family palace and built a hunting lodge in the forests of the Granitz; his grandson would expand on those and found the town of Putbus around the palace.

The Neo-Gothic hunting lodge Granitz

Malte, whose father died when he was three years old, studied at the universities of Greifswald (which is not far from Rugia) and Göttingen. In July 1800, he joined the Stockholm Life Hussars, two years later he was created chamberlain, and in May 1807, he was elevated to the rank of Prince by King Gustav IV Adolf of Sweden.

Malte must have been a skilled diplomat because he managed to rise under different kings. Swedish officers arrested King Gustav Adolf in a coup d'état in 1809, and forced him to adopt the French Marshal Charles John Bernadotte as heir; he acted a regent and became king in 1818. I don't know if Malte of Putbus was involved in that coup.

A few years later, Napoleon occupied Swedish-Pomerania and Rugia on his way to Russia (January 1812), which understandably angered Bernadotte - to the point that he opened up negotiations with Russia instead. He also nominated Malte of Putbus Governor-general of Swedish-Pomerania.

Hunting lodge Granitz in the afternoon sun

After the Congress of Vienna, Rugia fell to Prussia. King Friedrich Wilhelm III confirmed Malte's rank as Prince and his position as Governor-general, and bestowed the hereditary honour of a Lord Marshal (Erblandmarchall) upon him in 1817. This gave Malte of Putbus the right to preside over the regional council. King Friedrich Wilhlem entrusted Malte of Putbus with diplomatic missions, for example the representation of Prussia at the coronation of Queen Victoria in 1838 - there you got your English connection again. *grin*

Hunting lodge Granitz

Malte of Putbus took a keen interest in the economic and cultural development of Rugia. He founded a school for boys, established chalk factories, sugar mills and a shipbuilding wharf, and he distributed his land to farmers under hereditary leases. He founded the town of Putbus around the family palace, and added a fine ensemble of Neo-Classicist buildings, earning Putbus the name of 'white town'. I had no time to visit Putbus, only drove through the town and glimpsed some of the pretty buildings.

Seen from a different angle

Malte's grandfather first had built a hunting lodge on the Tempelberg in the Granitz forest; a building in half-timbered style. His grandson wanted something more comfortable and definitely more spectacular. He built a lodge that looks part Medieaval castle, complete with a keep from where you can look far over the land, part Renaissance palace. The construction took several years, since work was only done in summer, and would cost 100,000 thaler - it was finally finished in 1846. Malte of Putbus received several famous visitor there, including King Friedrich Wilhelm IV and the Chancellor Otto of Bismarck.

Not really Mediaeval towers

The family was disowned after WW2 - Rugia being in East Germany - but never regained their possessions after the reunification. The hunting lodge has been renovated and is now a museum. But I admit that none of the exhibitions currently on display was of sufficient interest to me to pay the high entrance fee.

  Impressions from Rugia - The Seaside Resort Binz

Binz is the prettiest of the seaside resort towns at the beaches of Rugia. It started out as fishing and farming village in the Middle Ages (its first mention on a tax collection chart dates to 1318). 'Byntze' belonged to the Principality of Rugia which later became part of the Duchy of Pomerania. After the Thirty Years war, the island came to Sweden until 1815, when it was integrated into the Prussian province of Pomerania.

The beach at Binz

In the early 19th century, Rugia was governed by Wilhelm Malte Prince of Putbus (1783-1854), first in service of the Swedish government and later as Prussian governor-general and president of the regional council. He achieved a lot of building work on the island (more about him in the next post).

The promenade in Binz

Wilhelm Malte liked having guests and he obviously like swimming as well. Since about 1830, he and his guests bathed in the Baltic Sea; the beginning of a veritable fashion that peaked in the 1870ies. At that time, Binz became a popular seaside resort. Pretty lodging houses were built, the pier, the spa house, the promenade .... But Binz still remained a charming town without large hotels, and I really hope they will never allow for those ugly concrete monstrosities to be built there.

One of the many pretty houses in Binz

Fortunately, the town has been restored to its 19th century splendour after the German reunification. The houses with their lovely carved wooden balconies and decorations, usually painted white or in pastel colours, have become an attraction of Binz (and other seaside resorts on Rugia).

Walking in the surf

I love the Baltic Sea ever since we used to spend the summer holidays there during my childhood (usually in Timmendorf which was nice, but did not have the typical resort architecture like Binz). So the town was different, but walking along the beach felt very much like coming home.

The pier of Binz

The first pier at Binz was built in 1902. At the time, most guests still arrived by ship and had to be transfered - together with all those big trunks - to smaller boats out at sea. The pier allowed the ships to dock directly. The first one was made of timber and 560 metres long. It was destroyed by a storm tide only two years later and immediately rebuilt. But in 1912, a severe accident happened when the pier broke down as the guests of a steamship disembarked; 17 people died in the water.

On the pier, looking towards the town

When the Rugia Causeway was built in 1937, allowing cars and trains to directly cross to the island from Stralsund, the need for a pier decreased. The existing pier was neglected and collapsed in 1942. It was not restored until after the reunification. The new pier, built in 1994, is 370 metres long and 3 metres wide. It serves mostly as jetty for cruise vessels, like the one I took to visit the chalk cliffs.

The Spa House (Kurhaus)

The first spa house in Binz had been built in 1890. It was a timber construction that burned down a few years later. A new one, this time of stone, was erected in 1907. It survived WW2 intact and served as quarter for Russian and later German soldiers. In 1960, it was returned to its original purpose as spa house for tourists in the GDR. The building was renovated after the reunification and today houses a high class hotel and restaurant.

Hooded beach chairs (Strandkörbe)

Now let's get to something very typically German: the hooded beach chair aka Strandkorb. You can find those all over the beaches of the Baltic and North Sea at the German coast. The special chair was invented by the basket maker Wilhelm Bertelsmann in 1882. One of his customers suffered from rheumatism but still wanted to enjoy the healthy sea air. Bertelsmann constructed a special two seated hooded windbreak - with adjustable hood, extendable footrests, sun awning and sidefolding tables - made of wood, wicker and canvas. The chair was a great success and soon in demand by other tourists.

A glimpse of Prora (on the spit north of Binz), from the ship

Prora is one of those huge Nazi building projects, intended as beach resort. The whole concrete structure, consisting of eight housing blocks, stretched to a length of 4.5 kilometres (2.8 miles). It should have provided space for 20.000 beds, offering affordable holiday package tours by the Strength Through Joy (Kraft durch Freude) project. But work on the coloss halted with the beginning of WW2 in 1939. After the war, parts of the building were used as Soviet and East German military base, others dismantled. Today, about 3 kilometres (1.9 miles) of the structure remain, listed as heritage. They are being brought to modern standards and turned into rather expensive appartments, a youth hostel and other uses.

Sunset at the Lake Schmachte in Binz

The Lake Schmachte, a lake at the landside of Binz which is the nesting site for a number of birds. It shores are a protected area, to the little pier is pretty much the only place where you can get close.

The beach at Binz after sunset

I'll leave you with another shot of the beach at Binz, this time after sunset, and a gull posing for the camera.

Juvenile herring gull

I also wish everyone a Happy New Year!

  Merry Christmas

I wish my readers a merry and quiet Christmas holiday.


  I did it Again

The fifth win in a row: National Novel Writing Month 2018. It was rather hard this time, but I kept going for the minimum of 1,667 words every day (on good days it was more) and it paid off.

Of course, I will continue writing until the end of November, but not forcing the daily minimum; just a few hundred more words every remaining day.

  It's That Time of the Year Again

November arrives and with it the annual National Novel Writing Month. I've set up my progress bar on the sidebar again. Hopefully, it will fill up in sync with the required wordcount every day or even go up beyond it.

A sailing ship in the bay of Prora / Rugia

My motivation is still on holiday somewhere in the Carribean. It better show up tonight, or I'll send an armed search troop, and it won't like that. *grin*

  The Flint Fields at Mukran / Rugia

The formation of the island of Rugia began about 70 million years ago during the Cretaceous period. The area was a shallow sea in which the accumulation of exoskeletons of dead microorganisms over several million years developed a 400 metres thick layer of very fine limestone. In between the chalk, layers of flint formed. Flint is a sedimentary cryptocristalline form of quartz. Its mode of formation is still discussed; the most widely accepted hypothesis is that gelationous material, like the spicules of siliceous sponges, filled cavities in the sediment (holes bored by molluscs, for example) and later became silicified.

Coastal line of the 'Schmale Heide' spit

We have seen examples of the chalk cliffs of Rugia in this post. Those are the result of the earth movements during the last three Ice Ages when glaciers from Scandinavia pushed across the area of what today is the Baltic Sea. Those glaciers moved large amounts of debris which accumulated in moraines at their fringes. The pressure upon the ground, in this case the chalk, was so great that it bulged in the places not covered by ice, especially during the last Ice Age. Those bulges would become the core islets of Rugia (see map linked in the post).

Northern end point of the flint fields

When the glaciers receeded, the Baltic Sea filled with meltwater (its detailed geological history can be found here) and wind and waves led to a process of erosion that formed the steep chalk cliffs and the sandy spits connecting the islets. As the chalk cliffs with their layers of flint stone eroded, the chalk dissolved in the water, but the flint was only moved during severe storms because the pebbles were heavier than the sand which formed the core of the spits.

Flint fields at Mukran

Such great storms happened several times some 3,500-4000 years ago.The result were walls of flint (with some crystalline drifts of northern origin mixed in) that accumulated in the area where the Schmale Heide spit connects with the Jasmund peninsula. Originally, there were 14 flint walls of 1-4 metres height, running parallel to the coastal line. At the time they built up, those flint walls were the coastal line (and the Jasmund Botten a bay). The sea level was about 1.5 metres higher than today; it has sunk due to the ongoing rise of the land.

Flint surrounded by juniper and heather

The flint fields are about 300 metres wide and 2.5 kilometres long. The fields and the surrounding juniper heath have been turned into a natural preserve in 1935. The flint fields had been free of vegetation until the afforestation of the Schmale Heide with pines in 1840. What was meant to stabilise the sandy spit (and worked quite well on the other spit, the Schaabe in the north of Rugia) caused problems for the flint fields which were soon overgrown with juniper and heath. Nowadays, they are kept free again, but around the fields the juniper, holly and other shrubs as well as some heath remain, creating an interesting ecosystem.

Flint fields

It is a nice hike to the flint fields, but unfortunately, I caught a really rainy day. The walk through the pine forest and juniper heath was still fine, but photographing turned out to be difficult without getting the camera wet, so I took only a few pics and didn't walk along the entire length of the fields. Well, compared to the midges that are said to abound in summer, the rain may have been the lesser evil.

  Impressions from Rugia - Jasmund and Königsstuhl, Kap Arkona

The island of Rugia (Rügen in German) is a fine place for hiking and I did a good deal of that. Of course, I also visited the best known sights of the Königsstuhl (King's Chair) and Kap Arkona, the latter on a very stormy day. There are still tourists around this time of the year, but not as many as in summer. Here is the first post about some of the places I've seen.

Chalk cliffs on the Jasmund peninisula, seen from the water

When you look at the shape of Rugia (see map) you'll notice that the mainland has 'caught' two other islands which are connected by small spits. The eastern peninsula is the Jasmund with its beech forests and chalk cliffs, the northern one is Wittow, a wind blasted land with few trees, but good ground for agriculture. The inland waters still connected with the sea are called Bodden, the largest is the Great Bodden of Jasmund. The spits are the 'Schmale Heide' in the south and the 'Schaabe' in the north, both with wonderful sand beaches.

The famous Königsstuhl (King's Chair)

The Jasmund peninsula is a chalk plate that has been banked when the Baltic Sea rose, forming the famous row of chalk cliffs (more information about the development of the Baltic Sea can be found here). The chalk itself developed during the Late Cretaceous era 50-100 million years ago when Pangaea broke up and the area - far into present day Germany - was flooded. The development of the spits by shifting sands happened about 3-4,000 years ago.

Viktoria's View (left) and Königsstuhl (right)

The part of the Jasmund between Sassnitz and Lohme has been created a National Park due to its beautiful beech forests and chalk cliffs. A good way to explore the cliffs is a ship tour from Binz or Sassnitz and from the landside. You can best see their scope from the water, but the walk along the cliffs offers the most pretty vistas. There are stairs and ladders leading down to the beach, but due to the ongoing autumn storms they are often in bad repair and closed off for safety.

View from the Königsstuhl to the Viktoria's View

The forest and cliffs attraced tourists already in the 19th century. The cliff called Viktoria's View is named after the Princess Royal Victoria Louisa, eldest daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. She married the future German emperor Friedrich III in 1858 (he only became emperor in 1888 and died soon thereafter, succeeded by his son Wilhelm II) - another of the many British-German connections. Viktoria visited Rugia in 1865.

On the Königsstuhl

The most famous cliff, the 118 metres high Königsstuhl - King's Chair - is named after an old legend which tells that the man would become King of Rügen who first climbed the cliff from the beach and took his seat on a chair which had been put on the cliff. The legend is already documented in the 16th century, but Rugia had long since been a principality and the prince inherited according to primogeniture.

View from Viktoria's View to the Königsstuhl

You get a great view of the Königsstuhl by being brave and stepping out onto the little skywalk above the Viktoria's View. Fortunately, it was a day with less wind and the skywalk open, and I did feel brave enough. Barely. But the photos I got were worth taking some deep breaths and not thinking about the hundred metres drop.

On the Viktoria's View cliff

Next I took a nice walk through the beech forest to a pretty little lake, the Herthasee (Hertha's Lake). That one, too, is connected with an old legend which goes back to Cornelius Tacitus' book Germania (~ AD 98). He describes the worship of a fertility goddess Nerthus / Hertha who drives around the land on a waggon drawn by cows, which is then washed in a secret lake. Everyone involved in the ceremony was killed afterwards. The Herthasee is one of the locations that claims to have been the lake where Nerthus bathed. It looks mystic enough, but there is no proof for it having been a religious site.

Hertha's Lake

The German goddess somehow gave her name to the ringwall near the lake as well, though that one is clearly a fortification from the time when Slavic tribes settled on Rugia since the 6th century, succeeding and maybe driving off the Germanic Rugii who had migrated into the island in the 2nd century AD and later continued south to the Danube, where they are mentioned among the allies of King Attila in 451. The old name of the remains of the fortification was 'Borgwall' which simply means 'castle wall'.

Hertha's Wall

The most important of those Slavic tribes were the Rani or Rujani who first appear in the chronicle of Widukind of Corvey, where they are mentioned to have participated in a battle against other Slavic tribes as allies of Gero, the margrave of the eastern march, in 955. We will meet them again later in this post. The ringwall on the Jasmund is likely a bit older, dating to the 8th century. It was not part of the net of fortresses of the Rani on Rugia.

Inside Hertha's Wall, now overgrown with beeches

We continue to the Wittow peninsula where another famous chalk cliff can be found; the Kap Arkona. It is situated near the village of Putgarten from where you can either walk or take a little electric train. There is no parking lot at the cape (neither is one near the Königsstuhl, for that matter).

Kap Arkona

The day I went there a storm was raging and the lighthouse closed - probably no one would take responsibility for people flying over the rail of the platform. But one could still get close to the cliff - after several people climbed a barrier and didn't get blown some 40 metres down into the sea, I dared to follow. *grin*

Lighthouses on Kap Arkona; the old one to the right

Kap Arkona is known for its twin lighthouses. The rectangular one is the older, built 1827 by the well-known architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel. It is quite pretty with its neo-classical brick facade, but with only 19 metres, it proved too low. So a new one was erected in 1901; that one is 36 metres high and still in use.

The way down the cliff

There is a way down to the beach (with rather rickety wooden stairs, truth be told), but with the high waves crashing ashore, it looked a pretty wet spot, so I went down but half of the way.

Storm around the cape

The Baltic Sea is non-tidal, so it's always there. :-) The ever changing mix of dark clouds and rays of sunshine made for some nice photos. I like the one above, though it doesn't really show the power of those breakers. It also doesn't come with the wind in you hair and the fragrant smell of seaweed and saltwater. It was a lovely day despite the storm.

View towards Kap Arkona

This one was taken on the way to the village of Vitt and gives a good view of the cape. You can see the sand washed into the water below the cliff. The Wittow peninsula is a windy land even on calm days, and during storms, the breakers will eat the material out of the cliffs and wash it westward to add to the spit called Bug. If not a shipping lane between Rügen and the island of Hiddensee (the little sea horse to the left on the map linked above) would be kept free, that spit would long since have connected both.

Marine navigation tower, with Jaromar's Castle to the right

There is a third tower near the cape, the marine navigation tower dating to WW2. Today it is used as exhibition and workspace for artists. To its right is another Slavic ringwall, usually called Jaromar's Castle. It once had been much larger, but the storms have washed part of it into the sea. The way on top of the remaining wall has been closed due to the danger of more bits breaking off.

Wall of Jaromar's Castle

Jaromar's Castle was one of three main fortresses of the Rani on Rügen; the other two were the Rugard near Bergen (not much is left of that one; I've been there) and Charenza near Gartz. The castle on Kap Arkona - which may also have sheltered the main temple - was conquered by the Danes under King Valdemar I and Bishop Absalon of Roskilde in Juni 1168. The other castles surrendered and the prince and his entourage accepted baptism (and delivered most of the temple treasure to bishop Absalon). The prince became a vassal of King Valdemar. In the years to follow, Rugia and the adjacent mainland was created the 'Principality of Rügen' under Danish rule; it was Christianised and a monastery founded in Bergen. After the wars of the Rügen Succession, the island fell to the duchy of Pomerania in 1355.

Old house in the village of Vitt

The charming little fishing village of Vitt, about a mile east of the cape, lies hidden in a cleft, surrounded by ash and elder, sheltered from the prevailing western winds and almost invisible from the plateau. The village retains its old, reed-thatched and whitewashed houses and has developed into a tourist spot. The place is no longer inhabited by fishermen and their families; instead there are restaurants and stands that sell knick-knacks. The houses are lovely, the commercialism less so.

The harbour of Vitt

But the little harbour is a pretty place. One can see Kap Arkona from the beach, and listen to the song of the waves. Once the fishermen went out for herring, but it has become so rare that fishing no longer pays off.

The next storm is coming

The next Rugia-themed post will be abut Binz and the Granitz area, the 'Schmale Heide' spit, and a pretty Romanesque church in Bergen.

  A Few Days on Rügen

I'll be away for a few days, traveling to the island of Rügen / Rugia near Stralsund for some hiking in the beautiful nature and enjoying the pretty 19th century spa architecture of Binz.

The new bridge from Stralsund to Rugia

I hope the weather forecast got it wrong; there's supposed to be a lot of cold wind and quite some rain. But those famous chalk cliffs would look so much nicer in sunshine. Better have a word with St.Peter about that. :-)

  Hiking in the Harz - Bode Canyon and Rosstrappe Cliff

The Harz has some beautiful and even spectacular landscapes, from tree-covered mountains and semi-Alpine meadows to charming little valleys with sparkling rivers, from windswept peaks and cliffs to canyons with waterfalls and rivers whose brown waters gush over boulders in vivid currents, from caves and abandoned mines to natural lakes and reservoirs lying in silent beauty. Not without reason has most of the Harz been declared a natural preserve.

View from the Rosstrappe Cliff into the Bode canyon

I've been hiking there a lot - often together with my father - but only posted a small part of my photos so far. So there will be a series of Harz posts, among others, in the next months.

In the Bode canyon

This time I'll cover another combination of river valley and cliffs framing it, like the Ilsestein and Ilse Valley: the Rosstrappe Cliff and the Bode Canyon which are even more spectacular, though there are not so many legends connected with them.

Bode river

The Bode canyon is sometimes called the 'German Gand Canyon', but there are quite some differences. For one, it's a lot smaller. The canyon proper is only the part of the Bode between Treseburg and Thale; some 17 kilometres. The ravine is 140 metres deep around Treseburg and 280 metres at Thale, the river is between 7 and 25 metres wide; the downhill gradient of the river in the gorge is 100 metres. Second, the Bode canyon is much younger: 450,000 years compared to the 5 - 6 million years the Grand Canyon took in developing.

Rapids and whirlpools

The river is allowed to run unchanged in the canyon. There are parts with rapids and whirlpools, sometimes the river runs so close to the rocks that only a small part remains for hiking along it, in other parts the valley widens and the river runs more gently. The riverbed is littered with rocks in some places, in others the tree branches touch the water. A lovely and almost primeval scenery for hiking.

Sometimes the river flows more calmly

Nowadays the Rappbode reservoir system influences the water regime in the valley. Extremes reach from an outflow of 350 m/s during spring floods to the river falling almost dry. Fortunately, a plan from 1891 to impound the Bode river in the canyon by a 150 metres high dam came to nothing. Instead, the valley became a natural reserve already in 1937, ecompassing 474 hectares.

Bridge across the Bode in the Hirschgrund

There is a tavern in the middle of the valley, with a nice beer waiting for a thirsty wanderer. I took the shot of the bridge from its terrace.

The microclimate in the Bode canyon varies a lot within a small area. Patches that are either sunny, shaded, dry or wet offer a lot of different vegetation and biotopes. The temperature is 1.5°C lower than the surrounding area, and there is a 150 millimetres higher precipitation. On a hot day, the valley is a slightly cooler place for a hike.

The Bode canyon

I've already given some information about the Bode river system in the post about the Rappbode reservoir. The river is 169 kilometres long; its two main headwaters, the Kalte Bode and Warme Bode (wich is indeed 2°C warmer than her 'cold' sister) rise in the Brocken Field beneath the Brocken summit at about 860 metres. They confluence shortly before they reach one of the forebay bassins of the Rappbode reservoir system, and leave the Wendefurth retention bassin to continue north-east through the canyon. After passing Thale, the Bode river runs through the Harz foothills and the town of Quedlinburg, and confluences into the Saale river near Nienburg.

Way along the river

The Bode cuts through some interesting rock formations in the ravine. There is the so-called Ramberg granite with quartz veins which rose to the surface about 300 million years ago. It dominates the highest rocks formations of the cliffs. Since the granite has a high share of feldspar, its colour is rather light; it looks like red sandstone in the sunlight. Other rocks are metamorphic hornfels and slate which developed in the contact zone of the granite. Those are much darker in colour. The oldest rocks - some 400 million years - are Devonian diabase and graywacke; those can mostly be seen in the bottom of the ravine.

Diabase rock formation in the valley

As usual, erosion has led to a lot of stones and boulders breaking off the cliffs which now litter the ground, their edges smoothed by rain and the floodwaters of the river. It was a game of 'pick your path' in a few spots.

Boulders on the way, again

One can climb up to the Rosstrappe Cliff, but one can also take the return hike along the river and drive up the mountain. We picked that option; a winding path covering a rise of 400 metres sounded a bit too much work for a hot day (not to mention we'd have to ascend again to get to the car).

There is a restaurant on the plateau behind the cliff, but while the Rosstrappe is a popular destination, it is not so overpriced and overcrowded by tourists as the nearby Witches' Dance Floor (Hexentanzplatz).

Way to the Rosstrappe Cliff

The Rosstrappe is one of the most impressive rock formations north of the Alpes. The southern cliff reaches out into the Bode valley, a 200 metres granite wall that rises almost vertically from the bedrock. The views from the cliff to the Witches' Dance Floor, the Harz footlhills and the Brocken, as well as down into the valley are spectacular.

On the Rosstrappe

Near the Rosstrappe cliff are the remains of the refuge fort Winzenburg, a rampart of rocks and earth, surrounding an area of 25 hectares, which had been in use from the Younger Neolithicum to the Iron Age. The wall offered protection for men and cattle, and likely was a a sacred area during some periods. Not much is visible today. A lookout tower had been built in 1860, but it is no longer in use and not safe.

Other cliffs seen from the Rosstrappe

Besides the ragged granite formations we also get some fine examples of spheroidal weathering (for an explanation see the post about Ilse's Rock, linked above) on the other side of the ravine.

Rock formation with spheroidal wheathering

The Witches' Dance Floor plays a role in the legends connected with the Harz witches. They used to gather there before they flew off to the Brocken on Walpurgis Night. Its origins - according to legend and local websites - go back to a Saxon cult place where the old Germanic goddesses were worshipped on the night to May 1st. When the Christian Franks conquered the Saxons, those celebrations were forbidden, but still conducted in secret; hence the name became connected with witches.

View to the cliffs below the Witches' Dance Floor

No Harz hike without at least one legend. This one tells about the beautiful king's daughter, Brunhilde, and her suitor, the giant Bodo. But Brunhilde did not want to marry Bodo and sent him away every time. Yet he would not give in - today we'd call him a stalker. One day, Brunhilde was out riding on her white horse when she beheld the giant coming after her. She spurred the horse into a gallop and they raced along the cliff, Bodo in hot pursuit. But then she found herself at the edge of the abyss, with the sound of Bodo's steed coming closer. She urged her mount to jump the ravine, and luckily reached the other side. Only her golden crown fell into the river below. Where the horse landed, it left behind a hoofprint in the rock.

The rock from where the princess jumped

The giant Bodo jumped after her, but his horse failed and he fell into the gorge. He was changed into a black dog as punishment for his evil lust, and he still guards Brunhilde's golden crown in the valley of the river that bears his name.

The hoofprint

The Rosstrappe proper (Ross is an old German word for 'horse' and Trapp[e] means 'step') which gave the entire cliff its name is a pear shaped hollow in the rock; 70 cm long, 55 cm wide and 13 cm deep. Some theories assume that it could be an old, man-made sacrifical bowl of Germanic origin since the plateau had been settled for 5,000 years, but there is no final proof; it could as well be a natural feature. But it's considered lucky to throw a coin into it. Most of them are 'European' cent pieces.

Another view into the Bode canyon

I'll leave you with two more photos of the Bode and Rosstrappe, just because I have so many pretty ones I can't decide which to use for the blog.

The Bode river, seen from the bridge

And here is a final shot of the spectacular cliffs framing the canyon. One wonders how the trees manage to cling to the granite - that's another difference to the Grand Canyon in the US.

Another view from the Rosstrappe

I got another hiking tour from that summer a few years ago, which will cover the Devil's Wall, another rock formation near the towns of Thale and Quedlinburg (where we stayed for several nights).

The Lost Fort is a history blog based on my journeys in Germany, the UK, Scandinavia, and eastern Europe. It includes essays on Roman and Mediaeval history and architecture, as well as some Geology, illustrated with my own photos of old castles and churches, Roman remains, pretty towns and beautiful landscapes.

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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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The Mithraeum of Brocolita
Mithras Altars in Germania
A Roman Memorial Stone


Attempted Conquest

Romans at Lippe and Ems
Anniversary Exhibitions in Haltern am See
Varus Statue, Haltern am See

Romans at the Weser
The Roman Camp at Hedemünden
Weapon Finds

Provinces and Borderlands

The Limes and its Forts

The Discovery
The Cohort castellum
The Annex Fort
The Garrisons

Main Gate
Shrine of the Standards
The Walls
The vicus

The Cavalry Fort in Aalen
The Fort in Aalen - Barracks

Romans at the Rhine

Settlements and vici
Boppard - A 4th Century Roman Fort

The Villa Rustica in Wachenheim
Baths and Toilets
The Cellar

Roman Towns

Colonia Ulpia Traiana (Xanten)
History of the Town
The Amphitheatre in Birten

Moguntiacum (Mainz)
The Temple of Isis and Mater Magna

Gallia Belgica
(Including the lands at the Moselle)

Roman Towns

Atuatuca Tungrorum (Tongeren / Belgium)
Roman Remains in Tongeren

Augusta Treverorum (Trier / Germany)
The Amphitheatre
The Aula Palatina
The Imperial Baths - Roman Times
The Imperial Baths - Post Roman
Porta Nigra - Roman Times
The Roman Bridge

Country Life

Villae at the Moselle

Longuich and Mehring
The Villa Urbana in Longuich


Frontiers, Fortifications, Forts

The Hadrian's Wall
Introduction / Photo Collection
Fort Baths
Fort Headquarters
Building the Wall
The Wall as Defense Line

Wall Forts - Banna (Birdoswald)
The Dark Age Timber Halls

Wall Forts - Segedunum (Wallsend)
The Museum
The Viewing Tower
The Baths

Signal Stations
The Signal Station at Scarborough

Roman Towns

Eboracum (York)
Bath in the Fortress
Multiangular Tower

The Romans in Wales

Roman Forts - Isca (Caerleon)
The Amphitheatre
The Baths in the Legionary Fort

Mediaeval and Early Modern Places

Living Mediaeval
Dungeons and Oubliettes
Pit House (Grubenhaus)
Medical Instruments

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 - The Historical Context
The Viking Treasure of Hiddensee - The Craftmanship

Mediaeval Weapons
Combat Scenes


- Towns
- Castles and Fortresses
- Churches and Cathedrals
- Other Sites


Medieaval Braunschweig, Introduction
Lion Benches in the Castle Square
The Quadriga

A Virtual Tour through Mediaeval Erfurt

Magdeburg Cathedral
St.Mary's Abbey - An Austere Archbishop
St.Mary's Abbey - Reformation to Reunion

A Virtual Tour through Mediaeval Paderborn

The Cathedral: Architecture
Cathedral: Richard Lionheart in Speyer
Jewish Ritual Bath

A Virtual Tour through Mediaeval Xanten
The Gothic House

Towns in the Harz

A Virtual Tour through Mediaeval Goslar

A Virtual Tour through Mediaeval Quedlinburg
The Chapter Church

Towns of the Hanseatic League

St. Mary's Church, Introduction

The Harbour

The Old Harbour

Castles and Fortresses

Castles in Bavaria

Coburg Fortress
The History of the Fortress
The Architecture

Castles in the Harz

The Architecture
Power Base of the Thuringian Landgraves
The Marshals of Ebersburg

The Harzburg and Otto IV

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

The Time of Henry the Lion


Hidden Treasures
The Stauffenburg near Seesen

Castles in Hessia

Castles in Northern Hessia

The Counts of Everstein
Troubled Times
War and Decline

The History of the Castle
The Architecture
The Castle After the Restoration

Castles in Lower Saxony

Adelebsen / Hardeg
The Keep of Adelebsen Castle
The Great Hall of Hardeg Castle


Rise and Fall of the Counts of Winzenburg
The Lords of Plesse
Architecture / Decline and Rediscovery

Castles in the Solling
Salzderhelden - A Welfen Seat

Castles in Thuringia

The Double Castle
Role of the Castle in Thuringian History

Castles in the Eichsfeld
Altenstein at the Werra
Castle Scharfenstein

Otto of Northeim
Heinrich the Lion and Otto IV
The Next Generations


A Virtual Tour

Castles at the Weser

River Reivers

History and Architecture
Outbuilding 'Shepherd's Barn'

The Castle and its History

Sababurg / Trendelburg
Two Fairy Tale Castles

Churches and Cathedrals

Churches in the Harz

Steinkirche near Scharzfeld
Development of the Cave Church

Walkenried Monastery
From Monastery to Museum

Churches in Lower Saxony

Exterior Decorations

Nunnery and Ducal Burial

Churches in Thuringia

Göllingen Monastery
Traces of Byzantine Architecture

St.Martin's Church
St.Mary's Church

Churches at the Weser

Bursfelde Abbey
Early History

Fredelsloh Chapter Church
History and Architecture

Remains of the Monastery

Lippoldsberg Abbey

Mediaeval Murals

Reconstructed Sites

Palatine Seat Tilleda
The Defenses

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


Other Mediaeval Buildings
Lorsch, Gate Hall
Palatine Seat and Monastery Pöhlde

Along Weser and Werra
Uslar - Pretty Old Houses
Treffurt - A Walk through the Town
Weser Ferry
Weser Skywalk



A Virtual Tour of the Town

Old Gaol

Clifford Tower
Guild Hall
Monk Bar Gate and Richard III Museum
Museum Gardens
Old Town
Along the Ouse River


Castles in Cumbria

Henry II and William of Scotland
The Edwards

Castles in Northumbria and Yorkshire

Malcolm III and the First Battle of Alnwick

From the Conquest to King John
From Henry III to the Tudors

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

Churches and Cathedrals

Hexham Abbey

York Minster



Views from the Castle

The Wallace Monument


Central Scotland

A Virtual Tour
History: The Early Stewart Kings
History: Royal Dower House, and Decline

Robert the Bruce and Stirling Castle

West Coast Castles

Dunollie and Kilchurn
Castles Seen from Afar

Guarding the Sound of Mull

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

Abbeys and Churches

Inchcolm Abbey
Arriving at Inchcolm

Other Historical Sites

Picts and Dalriatans
Dunadd Hill Fort



Walks in Welsh Towns
Aberystwyth: Castle and Coast
Caerleon: The Ffwrwm
Conwy: The Smallest House in Great Britain


Edwardian Castles

The Historical Context
The Architecture

Master James of St.George
The Castle Kitchens

The History of the Castle
The Architecture

Norman Castles


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

The Pleasantest Spot in Wales

Pembroke Pictures
The Caves Under the Castle

Welsh Castles

Llywelyn's Buildings
King Edward's Buildings



Castles and Fortresses

Defense over the Centuries
Akershus Fortress: Middle Ages
Akershus Fortress: Architectural Development
Vardøhus Fortress



The Vasa Museum

The Baltic States


Historical Landscapes
The Curonian Spit


The Splendour of St.Petersburg

Isaac's Cathedral
Smolny Cathedral

The Neva
Impressions from the The Neva River

Poland and the Czech Republic



Gdansk (to come)

Belgium and Luxembourg

Belgium / Flanders


The Old Town

A Virtual Tour through Mediaeval Bruges

A Virtual Tour through Mediaeval Ghent

Roman and Mediaeval Remains


Luxembourg City
A Virtual Tour of the Town

Other Places

Strasbourg / France
A Virtual Tour of the Town

Other Times

Neolithicum to Iron Age

Ages of Stone and Bronze

Development of Civilization
European Bread Museum, Ebergötzen
Open Air Museum Oerlinghausen

From Stone to Bronze
Paleolithic Cave 'Steinkirche' in the Harz mountains
Gnisvärd Ship Setting on Gotland

Pre-Historic Orkney
Ring of Brodgar - Introduction
Ring of Brodgar - The Neolithic Landscape
Skara Brae
Life in Skara Brae

Post-Mediaeval Times

Powder and Steam

Development of Weapons
Historical Guns

Steampunk and Beyond
The Fram Museum in Oslo
Vintage Car Museum, Wolfsburg

- Germany
- United Kingdom
- Scandinavia
- Baltic Sea

Beautiful 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
The Hutewald Forest
The Raised Bog Mecklenbruch

Thuringian Forests
Oberderdorla and Hainich National Park

Rivers and Lakes
The Danube in Spring
Edersee Reservoir
A Rainy Rhine Cruise
River of the Greenest Shores - The Moselle
Vineyards at Saale and Unstrut

Parks and Palaces
Botanical Garden Göttingen
Hardenberg Castle Gardens
Wilhelmsthal Palace and Gardens

Harz Falcon Park
Ozeaneum Stralsund: The Baltic Sea Life
Ozeaneum Stralsund: The North Sea Life


Spring at the 'Kiessee' Lake
Spring in the Rossbach Heath (Meissner)

Memories of Summer
Summer Hiking Tours 2016

Autumnal Views from Castle Windows
Autumn Photos from Harz and Werra
Autumn in the Meissner
Autumn at Werra and Weser

Spectacular Sunset
Winter at the 'Kiessee' Lake
Winter Wonderland - Views from my Balcony

Across the Channel - United Kingdom

Mountains and Valleys
Sheep Grazing Among Roman Remains
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
Summer Days in Oban
Summer Nights in Oban

Wild Wales - With Castles
Hazy Views with Castles
Shadows and Strongholds
Views from Castle Battlements

Sea Gulls

Land of Light and Darkness - Scandinavia


The Hurtigruten-Tour
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

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

Shores of History - The Baltic Sea

Baltic Sea Cruise


Nida and the Curonian Spit
Beaches at the Curonian Spit


Comblogium (Blog Roll)
Conexiones (Links)

- Roman History
- Mediaeval History
- Other Times / Miscellanea

Roman History

Wars and Frontiers

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

Along the Limes
Limes Fort Osterburken
Limes Fort Saalburg

Roman Frontiers in Britain
Hadrian's Wall

The Batavian Rebellion

Roman Militaria

Early Imperial Helmets
Late Roman Helmets
The Negau B Helmet

The pilum

Other Equipment
Roman Saddles

Life and Religion

The Mithras Cult
Isis Worship
Curse Tablets and Good Luck Charms

Everyday Life
Bathing Habits
Children's Toys
Face Pots
Styli and Wax Tablets

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

Roman villae
Villa Rustica Wachenheim

Legend of Alaric's Burial

Mediaeval History

Feudalism, Beginnings
Feudalism, 10th Century
The Privilege of the deditio
A Note on handgenginn maðr

The Hanseatic League
Introduction and Beginnings
Stockfish Trade

History by Country
- Germany
- England and Normandy
- Scotland
- Wales
- Scandinavia



List of Mediaeval German Emperors

Anglo-German Marriage Connections
Heinrich the Lion's Ancestors


Kings and Emperors
King Heinrich IV
Emperor Otto IV, Introduction

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

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

Royal Troubles
Otto IV and Bishop Adalbert II of Magdeburg

England and Normandy

From the Conquest to King John

Normans, Britons, and Angevins
The Dukes of Brittany and the Honour of Richmond

From Henry III to the War of the Roses

Great Fiefs
The Earldom of Richmond and the Duchy of Brittany


Kings of Scots

House Dunkeld
Malcolm III and Northumbria
Struggle for the Throne: Malcolm III to David I
King David and the Civil War (1)
King David and the Civil War (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


Princes and Rebels

The Princes of Gwynedd
The Rise of House Aberffraw

The Rebellions
From Llywellyn ap Gruffudd to Owain Glyn Dŵr


Kings and Vikings

Kings of Norway
King Eirik's Scottish Marriages

Famous Nobles and their Feuds
Alv Erlingsson of Tønsberg

Other Times / Miscellanea

Neolithicum to Iron Age

Scandinavia and Orkney
The Neolithic Landscape of Orkney
Life in Skara Brae
Ship Setting on Gotland

Post-Mediaeval History

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

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

European Nobility
Prince Wilhelm Malte of Putbus

History in Literature and Music

History in Literature

Biographies of German Poets and Writers
Theodor Fontane

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

My own Novels in Progress
The Roman Trilogy
The Saga of House Sichelstein
Kings and Rebels

History in Opera

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

Fun Stuff

Not So Serious Romans
Aelius Rufus Visits the Future Series
Building Hadrian's Wall
Playmobil Romans

Royal (Hi)Stories
Kings Having a Bad Hair Day
The Case of the Vanished Wine Cask

Historical Memes
Charlemagne meme
Historical Christmas Wishes
New Year Resolutions
Aelius Rufus does a Meme
Rules for Writing Scottish Romances

Funny Sights
Tourist Kitsch in St.Petersburg

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

Raised Bog Mecklenbruch
Hannover Cliffs

The Shores of Scotland




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History Blogs - Ancient

Roman History Today
Ancient Times (Mary Harrsch)
Bread and Circuses (Adrian Murdoch)
Following Hadrian (Carole Raddato)
Mike Anderson's Ancient History Blog
Mos Maiorum - Der römische Weg
Per Lineam Valli (M.C. Bishop)
Zenobia (Judith Weingarten)

Digging Up Fun Stuff
The Anglo-Saxon Archaeology Blog
Arkeologi i Nord
The Journal of Antiquities (Britain)
The Northern Antiquarian
The Roman Archaeology Blog

History Blogs - Mediaeval

Þaér wæs Hearpan Swég
Anglo Saxon, Norse & Celtic Blog
Casting Light upon the Shadow (A. Whitehead)
Norse and Viking Ramblings
Outtakes of a Historical Novelist (Kim Rendfeld)

Beholden Ye Aulde Blogges
A Clerk of Oxford
Daily Medieval
Historical Britain Blog (Mercedes Rochelle)
Magistra et Mater (Rachel Stone)
Michelle of Heavenfield (Michelle Ziegler)
North Ages
Senchus (Tim Clarkson)
Viking Strathclyde (Tim Clarkson)

Royal and Other Troubles
Edward II (Kathryn Warner)
Henry the Young King (Kasia Ogrodnik)
Piers Gaveston (Anerje)
Lady Despenser's Scribery
Simon de Montfort (Darren Baker)
Weaving the Tapestry (Scottish Houses Dunkeld and Stewart)

A Mixed Bag of History
English Historical Fiction Authors
The Freelance History Writer (Susan Abernethy)
The History Blog
History, the Interesting Bits (S.B. Connolly)
Mediaeval Manuscripts Blog
Mediaeval News (Niall O'Brian)
Time Present and Time Past (Mark Patton)

Thoughts and Images

Reading and Reviews
Black Gate Blog
The Blog That Time Forgot (Al Harron)
Parmenion Books
The Wertzone

David Blixt
Ex Urbe (Ada Palmer)
Constance A. Brewer
Jenny Dolfen Illustrations
Wild and Wonderful (Caroline Gill)

German Travel Blogs
Alte Steine
Sonne und Wolken
Unterwegs und Daheim

Highland Mountains
The Hazel Tree (Jo Woolf)
Helen in Wales
Mountains and Sea Scotland

The Colours of the World


Past Horizons
Archaeology in Europe

Roman History
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Internet Ancient Sourcebook
Roman Army
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The Romans in Britain
Vindolanda Tablets

Mediaeval History
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Internet Mediaeval Sourcebook
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Mediaeval Crusades
Viking Society for Northern Research

Exploring Castles
The World of Castles

Miscellaneous History
Heritage Daily
The History Files

Ancient History
Encyclopedia Mythica

Online Journals
Ancient Warfare
The Heroic Age
The History Files

Travel and Guide Sites

Germany - History
Antike Stätten in Deutschland
Strasse der Romanik

Germany - Nature
Naturpark Meissner
Naturpark Solling-Vogler

English Heritage
Visit Northumberland

The Chain Mail (Scottish History)
Historic Scotland
National Trust Scotland

Books and Writing

Interesting Author Websites
Jacqueline Carey
Bernard Cornwell
Dorothy Dunnett (Dorothy Dunnett Society)
Steven Erikson
Diana Gabaldon
Guy Gavriel Kay
George R.R. Martin
Sharon Kay Penman
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Tad Williams

Historical Fiction
Historical Novel Society
Historia Magazine

Writing Sites
Absolute Write
National Novel Writing Month


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