The Lost Fort

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


18 Mar 2011
  The Wartburg, Main Seat of the Landgraves of Thuringia - A Virtual Tour

I was doing some research on the landgraves of Thuringia to go with the Ebersburg photos, and that gave me the idea to revisit their main seat, the Wartburg, which is in driving distance. And I want to show you that we not only have kaput castles in Germany but some intact ones as well. :)

Wartburg, eastern front.
The buidling to the left is the 12th century palas, followed by the 19th century keep;
the half timbered part is from the 15th century on older foundations

We'd been there shortly after the Wall fell, and the place was stuffed to the brim with tourists who got the same idea. The castle had been preserved during GDR times because it played such an important role in German history. Well, there were fewer tourists this time since it's not yet holiday season, but there already were international; groups from the US, Mexico, and France. A few Germans, too, but we were outnumbered.

The Wartburg, today part of the World Heritage, combines buildings from the 12th, the 14th and 15th, and the 19th centuries. The rooms can only be visited by guided tours and thus I could not avoid to have some people on those pics, but it was much better photographing than last time, overall. So here's a little illustrated tour to give you some first impressions.

The outer gate

There's a parking lot some way up but we (my father and I) still got to do some climbing. German hilltop castles are good for your health, lol. You get the first view (photo above) from the former bulwark, the outermost fortifications that had been dismantled in the early 19th century.

The Wartburg sits on a 200 metres high promontory overlooking a former trade road near the town of Eisenach. The oblong site covers an area of 45x80 metres and can only be accessed from the north; the other slopes are too steep. It's the sort of place that called for a castle in the Middle Ages.

The castle was founded by Ludwig the Leaper some time between 1067 and 1080 (it is mentioned in Bruno of Merseburg's De bello Saxonico in context of the war of the Saxon nobles against Heinrich IV). No traces of this first castle have been found; it most likely was a timber construction protected by earth walls which was not that unusual for the time.

The Romanesque palas, seen from the yard

The next important step in the development of the Wartburg took place in 1158 when Landgrave Ludwig II, son in law of the Emperor Barbarossa, built a palas, a representative house with living quarters and a hall, in Italian style. The palas remains until today (though the first version had only two storeys) and is one of the most important examples of Romanesque palaces in Germany.

Other features dating back to the time of Ludwig II are the curtain walls and the outer gate. His keep had been replaced with a new one in the 19th century - it had been a ruin at that time. The south tower dates to the 14th century, and the new keep does a pretty good job imitating its style.

More changes were made after a fire in 1317 (the castle already was in the hands of the Wettin family at that time). Besides the construction of the south tower, a third floor was added to the palas, and the chapel moved inside the palas to replace the destroyed one on the castle grounds.

Outer bailey with the bailiff's house (left) and Elisabeth hallway (right)

The half-timbered buildings in the outer bailey or forework (in German usually called Vorburg), the knight's house and the bailiff's house (Vogtei), were added in the late 15th century. The battlements were roofed in and became hallways that connect the buildings of the outer bailey with the - then still existant - old keep and the guest house.

The Wartburg declined in importance and became but a minor residence of the landgraves of Thuringia, but the castle is still considered as 'well preserved' by a chronicler from Eisenach in 1769. A few years later the famous author and minister at the ducal court of Weimar, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, visited the Wartburg and got the idea to establish the castle as museum for Mediaeval exhibits.

View from the herb garden to the inner yard with the palas and keep to the right,
guest house to the left, and the 19th century gate hall in the background

But it would take until 1853 for the Wartburg to get a makeover under supervision of Carl Alexander Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach (no, I didn't make that name up). Carl Alexander chose the place as his main residence again. Fortunately, the buildings still intact were preserved and only those in bad shape were replaced with new buildings in old style (Historicism). New buildings are the guest house, the inner gate, and the so-called Dirnitz, a representative house with fire places (a second, somewhat smaller palas, in a way).

Following Goethe's suggestion, Carl Alexander collected Medieaval furniture and artefacts and displayed them in the Romanesque palas. The palas also got a makeover of the interior in the style of Historicism. Most important are the frescoes by Moritz von Schwindt.

Sängerkrieg fresco in the singers' hall

Several important events took place on the Wartburg. The first is the Wartburg Song Contest (Sängerkrieg auf der Wartburg) in 1206. Landgrave Hermann I was a great patron of troubadours, the Minnesänger, and saw the most famous ones of his time, men like Walther von der Vogelweide, Wolfram von Eschenbach, or Heinrich von Ofterdingen, at his court. Legend has it that a contest was held, but instead of giving the winner a contract for some CDs, the loser would lose his head (that would probably increase the quality of the European Song Contest somewhat).

The scene of the fresco shows poor Heinrich von Ofterdingen, who was stupid enough to sing the praise of Duke Leopold of Austria instead of Landgrave Hermann, pleading for grace and be spared the executioner's axe. There's a happy end, of course. The story inspired Richard Wagner to his opera Tannhäuser (1845).

Elisabeth's chamber; mosaic ceiling

Another event that left strong traces in the 19th century decorations is the fact that Saint Elisabeth lived on the Wartburg 1211-1228. Elisabeth von Hungary was the wife of Landgrave Ludwig IV. She lived in the ascetic traditon of Francis of Assissi even though her charity and poverty went far beyond what was expected of a noble lady. After her husband's early death she moved to Marburg where she died of exhaustion (or anorexia, is my guess) at the age of 24.

There is a chamber, today called Elisabethkemenate, in the palas that was decorated with mosaics in a mix of neo Byzantine and Art Nouveau style in 1906. Emperor Wilhelm II liked not only the Romans but the Middle Ages as well and paid for the shiny fun. The artist who did the work was August Oetken. Some of the mosaics - 4 million tiny glass pieces - show scenes from Elisabeth's life as well.

Martin Luther's room

Much less sparkly but historical is Martin Luther's chamber in the bailiff's house. Luther (born 1483) had gotten himself deep into trouble with his anti-indulgence theses and other 'heretic' texts when he was called before the diet of Worms in 1521. Of course, he refused to renounce anything he had said and thus was declared outlaw by Emperor Charles V after he already he been excommunicated a few years before. But Luther had one stout supporter, Friedrich III Elector of Saxony. Friedrich had Luther spirited away to the Wartburg where he lived in disguise for ten months and used some of the time to translate the Gospels - in their Greek version - into German.

Legend has it that Luther was visited by the devil one night and could only get rid of him by throwing an ink pot at the intruder. Maybe it was the vision of an overworked and frightened man, maybe it was just a good story embellishing Luther's remark that he had 'fought the devil with ink'. Whatever, in the following time there was an ink stain at the wall and Protestant pilgrims used to chop off little bits of the roughcast as souvenir. The stain was renewed a few times but by now that has stopped (thought a somewhat damanged part of the wall is left behind).

The great hall

Another fine example of Historicism is the Rittersaal, the great hall in the uppermost floor of the palace. The building itself is from the 12th century, but the trapezoid wooden ceiling as well as the decorative paintings are 19th century. The hall, as well as the chapel, are used for concerts today which is the reason for all the chairs. Wagner's opera Tannhäuser is played here in summer, but tickets are sold out for several years in advance.

Ludwig II of Bavaria used this hall and the singers' hall as models for some of the rooms in Neuschwanstein Castle.

The guest house with the south tower in the background

OK, time for a piece of cake and a cup of tea in the guest house, I think. We'll visit the museum in the Dirnitz the next time. :)

The guest house is from the 19th century as well, built on the foundations of the old stables. Its half timbered style corresponds well with the buildings in the outer bailey.


Sources:
Günther Schuchardt, Welterbe Wartburg. Regensburg, 2010
 
Comments:
It is nice to see an intact castle for a change (although the x's on the front gate just scream: Catapult rock here...).

I love the picture of the great hall, really puts the size in perspective for me. Thanks!
 
You'll have to get a catapult up that hill first. :P

Yeah, the whole palas is an amazingly large building. The six rooms in the two lower floors together make for a nice little house of 300 square metres living quarters. With underfloor heating. :)
 
Beautiful, I want one!
Thank You.
http://woodsrunnersdiary.blogspot.com/
 
Wowee, what a superb place. Amazing. I love the half-timbered houses (am a really big fan of half-timbered houses...;)
 
Gabriele

Great photos.

That garden is fantastic.

Looks like it was a good hike from the parking lot, it it doesn't kill you great for the heart.
 
Le Loup, and the staff to keep the place tidy. ;)

Kathryn, you should be able to hunt down some nice Fachwerkhäuser in Germany. The smaller towns along the Middle Rhine got them, for example.

Hank, my father and I take the climbing slowly. The doc told him it was good he had a daughter chasing him up some castles. :)
 
What a beautiful place! And I was particularly interested in the reference to Martin Luther, as I remember studying him in-depth for A level European history, and the time he spent hidden away.
 
Great post, Gabriele. You're a fine tour guide.
 
Anerje, the room is pretty much the same Luther lived in, only the copy of the Cranach protrait showing Luther after his hair and beard had grwon out, was put up later.

Thank you, Charles.
 
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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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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.
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European Bread Museum, Ebergötzen
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Palatine Seat Tilleda
The Defenses

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

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

Romans Remains

Traces of a Failed Invasion
Roman Exhibitions, Haltern am See
Varus Statue, Haltern am See
The Roman Camp at Hedemünden

Limes Fort Aalen
The Barracks

Limes Fort Osterburken
The Discovery
The Cohort castellum
The Annex Fort
The Garrisons

Limes Fort Saalburg
A Reconstructed Limes Fort
Shrine of the Standards

Roman villae at the Moselle
The Villa Urbana in Longuich

Roman villae at the Rhine
The Villa at Wachenheim: Introduction
Wachenheim: Baths and Toilets
Wachenheim: The Cellar

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England

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Chester
Roman and Medieaval Chester

Hexham
The Abbey - Introduction
The Old Gaol

York
Clifford Tower
The Guild Hall
Monk Bar Gate and Richard III Museum
Museum Gardens and Mulitangular Tower
The Old Town
Roman Bath in the Fortress
York Minster: Architecture

Castles

Carlisle
History: King David
History: Henry II and William of Scotland
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Richmond
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Scarborough
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Roman Remains

Wall Fort Birdoswald
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Wall Fort Segedunum
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The Mithraeum at Brocolita
The Signal Station at Scarborough


Scotland

Towns

Edinburgh
Views from the Castle

Stirling
The Wallace Monument

Castles

Doune
A Virtual Tour
History: The Early Stewart Kings
History: Royal Dower House

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

Stirling
History: Robert the Bruce

Castles at the Scottish West Coast
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Inchcolm Abbey
Arriving at Inchcolm

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Neolithic Orkney
Ring of Brodgar
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Clava Cairns
The Brochs of Gurness and Midhowe - Introduction

Picts and Dalriatans
Dunadd Hill Fort
Staffa


Wales

Towns

Aberystwyth
Castle and Coast

Caerleon
The Ffwrwm
The Roman Amphitheatre
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Conwy
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Master James of St.George
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Chepstow
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Conwy
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Criccieth
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Pembroke
Photo Impressions
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Castles in Southern Wales
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Denmark

Museums and Reconstructed Sites

Viking Museum Roskilde
To come


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Akershus Fortress in Oslo
History: The Time of King Håkon V
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Vardøhus Fortress
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The Fram Museum in Oslo


Sweden

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The Vasa Museum in Stockholm

Neolithicum and Bronze Age

Gotland
Gnisvärd Ship Setting


Finland

Towns

Porvoo
Mediaeval Porvoo


Estonia

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Tallinn
The History of Mediaeval Tallinn


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The History of Mediaeval Riga


Lithuania

Historical Landscapes

The Curonian Spit
Geology of the Curonian Spit


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Ogrodzieniec Castle
A Virtual Tour
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Czechia

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A Tour of the Town


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Impressions from the Neva River

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A Tour of the Town


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Rappbode Reservoir
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Nature Park Meissner-Kaufunger Wald
Around Bad Sooden-Allendorf
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Bruchteiche / Bad Sooden Allendorf
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Ozeaneum Stralsund: The Baltic Sea Life
Ozeaneum Stralsund: The North Sea Life
Red squirrels

Seasons
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Spring in the Hardenberg Castle Gardens
Spring at the 'Kiessee' Lake
Spring in the Meissner
Memories of Summer
Summer Hiking Tours 2016
Autumn in the Meissner
Autumn at Werra and Weser
Winter at the 'Kiessee' Lake


United Kingdom

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
Staffa
Summer Days in Oban
Summer Nights in Oban

Scotland by Train
West Highland Railway

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



Mediaeval History
- General Essays
- Specific Topics

History by Country
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- Wales
- Denmark
- Norway
- Sweden
- Livonia
- Lithuania
- Poland
- Bohemia

Roman History
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- Roman Life and Religion

Other Times
- Neolithicum to Iron Age
- Post-Mediaeval History
-
Miscellanea
- Geology


Mediaeval History

General Essays

Mediaeval Art and Craft

Mediaeval Art
The Choir Screen in the Cathedral of Mainz
The Gospels of Heinrich the Lion
Mediaeval Monster Carvings
The Upside-Down World
The Viking Treasure of Hiddensee

Medieaval Craftmanship
Goldsmithery
Medical Instruments

Mediaeval Warfare

Mediaeval Weapons
Swords
Trebuchets

Castles and Fortifications
Dungeons and Oubliettes


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

Hanseatic Architecture
Examples of Brick Architecture
Hall Houses (Dielenhäuser)

Goods and Trade
Stockfish Trade

Towns of the Hanseatic League
Riga
Stralsund
Tallinn / Reval

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


Some historical events are linked under more than one country / subtitle due to the overarching nature of history.


History by Country

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
Duke Otto of Northeim
The Ludowing Landgraves of Thuringia
Albrecht II and Friedrich I of Thuringia
Prince Wilhelm Malte of Putbus

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

Feuds and Rebellions

Royal Troubles
Otto IV and Bishop Adalbert II of Magdeburg

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


England

Kings of England

King Henry IV
King Henry's Lithuanian Crusade

Normans, Britons, Angevins

Great Noble Houses
The Dukes of Brittany
The Earls of Richmond

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
The Early Stewart Kings

Local Troubles

Clan Feuds
MacLeans and MacDonalds
A Scottish Wedding

Scotland and England

The Wars of Independence
Alexander of Argyll
The Fight for Stirling Castle


Wales

Welsh Princes

The Princes of Gwynedd
The Rise of House Aberffraw

Wales and England

A History of Rebellion
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

Feuds and Rebellions

Rebels
Alv Erlingsson of Tønsberg


Sweden

Troubles and Alliances

Scandinavian Unity
Beginnings of the Kalmar Union


Livonia
(Latvia and Estonia)

Livonian Towns

Riga
The History of Mediaeval Riga

Tallinn
The History of Mediaeval Tallinn


Lithuania

Lithuanian Princes

The Geminid Dynasty
Troublesome Cousins - Jogaila and Vytautas

The Northern Crusades

The Wars in Lithuania
The Siege of Vilnius 1390


Poland

Royal Dynasties

The Jagiełłonian Kings
Władysław Jagiełło and the Polish-Lithuanian Union

The Northern Crusades

The Conquest of Pomerania / Prussia
The Conquest of Danzig


Bohemia

Royal Dynasties

The Bohemian Kings of House Luxembourg
King Sigismund and the Hussite Wars


Roman History

The Romans at War

Forts and Fortifications

The German Limes
The Cavalry Fort Aalen
Limes Fort Osterburken
Limes Fort Saalburg

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

Border Life
Exercise Halls
Mile Castles and Watch Towers
Soldiers' Living Quarters
Cavalry Barracks

Campaigns and Battles

Maps
The Romans in Germania

The Pre-Varus Invasion in Germania
Roman Camp Hedemünden
New Finds in 2008

The Battle of the Teutoburg Forest
Museum Park at Kalkriese

The Battle at the Harzhorn
Introduction

The Batavian Rebellion
A Short Introduction

Miscellaneous Events

The Legend of Alaric's Burial

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


Roman Life and Religion

Religion and Public Life

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

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

Architecture
Roman Public Baths

Domestic Life

Roman villae
Villa Urbana Longuich
Villa Rustica Wachenheim

Everyday Life
Bathing Habits
Children's Toys
Face Pots


Other Times

Neolithicum to Iron Age

Germany

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

Neolithic Remains
Stone Burials of the Funnelbeaker Culture
The Necropolis of Oldendorf

Bronze Age / Iron Age
The Nydam Ship

Scotland

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

Bronze Age / Iron Age
Clava Cairns
The Brochs of Gurness and Midhowe - Their Function in Iron Age Society

Scandinavia

Bronze / Iron Age
The Ship Setting of Gnisvärd / Gotland


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)


Miscellanea

History in Literature and Music

History and Literature

The Weimar Classicism
The Weimar Classicism - Introduction

Theodor Fontane
Short Biography of Theodor Fontane
Fontane Ballads, 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


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
Sandstone Formations: Daneil's Cave
Sandstone Formations: Devil's Wall
Sandstone Formations: The Klus Rock

Meissner / Kaufunger Wald
Blue Dome near Eschwege
Diabase and Basalt Formations
Karst Formations
Salt Springs at the Werra

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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