My Illlustrated Travel Journal with Essays about Roman and Mediaeval History and some Geology

  Happy New Year

Ich wünsche allen ein gutes und erfolgreiches Neues Jahr.
I wish everyone a good and successful New Year.)


  Christmas Pyramid

Toymaking is a great tradtion in a south-eastern area of Germany called Erzgebirge, and among their most famous Christmas decorations are pyramids. They come in all sizes from table decorations with one "floor" to big ones for market places (those work with electricity, though, not candles). The one my parents have is a three floor table pyramid in natural woods. Every figure, every detail is handmade.

I have a one floor painted pyramid that has been in the family for three generations. The larger one my parents bought some 20 years ago and it has for many years now replaced the Christmas tree.

We got other Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains) Christmas decorations as well.


  Christmas Poem

A poem by the German writer Theodor Storm

Theodor Storm (1817 - 1888): German poet and a novel-writer (and lawyer). He lived most of the time in a town by the shore of the North Sea called Husum and many of his poems describe this landscape.

You can find another poem I translated here.


From Heaven into valleys deep
The mild light of a star descends,
From fir tree woods a fragrance sweet
Ascends and through the cold night breathes;
And lit by candles is the night.

My heart is startled now with joy,
It is the Christmas time so dear!
Afar I hear the church bells toll,
So dear and homely they call
Me back into a fairy tale.

Again, I stand in adoration,
The old enchantment holds me still;
Before my eyes, from deep oblivion
Lost childhood's golden dreams return.
I feel, a miracle has happened here.

(My attempt at translation)

Ich wünsche allen ein fröhliches und gesegnetes Fest.
(I wish everyone a happy and blessed holiday.)

  A poem and a wee lesson in German Literature

The German author Theodor Fontane (1819-1898) is primarily known as a novelist, though he did not begin to write fiction until he was almost 60 years old; before he had written journalistic essays, poetry, Gedichte (poems, 1851) and Balladen (ballads, 1861), as well as accounts of his travels (Wanderungen durch die Mark Brandenburg, published as book series in 1880). He was also a drama critic for many years.

Theodor Fontane was born to a Huguenot family. His father would have liked the son to take over his pharmacy store. Theodor dutifully apprenticed with an apothecary but wasn't happy about it. After some years work in the area and dabbling in newspaper essays and poetry, he quit in 1849 to become a fulltime journalist. He worked as correspondent for Britain for some years and lived in London (which led to several travel diaries, including one about a tour to Scotland, Beyond the Tweed, 1860). When he served as war correspondent in the Franco-Prussian war he managed to get captured and wrote a book about it (Kriegsgefangen, 1870).

After the first novel, the historical epic Vor dem Sturm (1878), Fontane soon emerged as one of the masters of the realistic novel in Germany. He wrote perceptive novels revealing the state of contemporary Berlin society and delineating the characters of its inhabitants. They include L’Adultera (The Woman Taken in Adultery, 1882), Irrungen, Wirrungen (Trials and Tribulations, 1888), Frau Jenny Treibel (1893), and his masterpieces Effi Briest (1895) and Der Stechlin (1899). He also wrote some novels with settings outside Berlin, like Unwiederbringlich (1891) that takes place partly in Danmark, and the autobiographical Meine Kinderjahre (My Childhood Days, 1894).

Fontane adored the novels of Sir Walter Scott and visited Scott's home at Abbotsford. But he was well able to poke a wee bit fun at Sir Walter. As he did in the poem I translated here.

Walter Scotts Einzug in Abbotsford
(Theodor Fontane, Poems vol. 5, 1898)

Sir Walter, he comes from Edinburgh town
To Abbotsford Manor, still empty and lone,
Therefore he brings with him to fill
The many rooms as to his will,
Chests and caskets, large and small,
And servants, dogs, to roam the hall;
And in between the things he found,
And gather'd and collected the countries round -
To set in a museum, the people to show.
Twenty-three wagons amounted the row.

The first wagon has old mem'ries to hold
Of noble king Bruce and Lord Balliol;
A stonecross, a comb, an ashfilled urn,
The lot came from the battle of Bannockburn.
An old sword, too, with runes engraved
That king Robert to the Earl Douglas once gave.

And second: a stone from the very donjon
That was the prison of Coeur de Lion;
Blondel's harp (lacking many a string);
The jewelled sable king Saladin did swing;
An ashen bow and a piece of old rug
Belonging to Robin and the gallant priest Tuck.

From Nancy, the third one already is here,
Containing the tent of Charles Temeraire -
A peasant had killed him too early in life -
And the lance he used, in the Manor'll arrive.
Some barber's basin (of gilded bronce)
That dates to the times of Louis Once;
And the ladder on which hangman Tristan stood,
Believe me, 't was made entirely of wood.

And then, a prettiliy mixed-up collection
From many a country and many a section.
A cape belonging to old Master Hans;
A saddle, directly from Prestonpans;
A spindle that was used by queen Maud,
The crozier that was held by archbishop Laud.
Two portraits, finely made of pastell
Showing the famous While Lady of ruined Avenell.
A white laced jabot that fit Darnley well,
And another that graced his murd'rer, Bothwell.
A mother-of-pearl cradle in which Mary lay
When she was baptized, for one single day;
The scaffold, directly from Fotheringhay;
And a book of prayers from unhappy Joan Gray.
The pulpit from which his sermons prayed John Knox,
And a giant whitepowdered wig from the older Fox.
A pistol from Cromwell, that one was still charged;
And from the battle of Flodden a whithered old targe.
And still things are coming, and more yet, and more,
A long row of wagons, three over score.

And on the last one, in sunrays' bliss,
Sir Walter himself, a happy man, sits.
He smiles, and he dreams, and he guides the wand
That will distribute all, with a knowing hand.
Be sure, a good place the whole lot will see
In Kenilworth, Woodstock, or Waverly.
To an abbey, a castle, a cot they will go
In Quentin Durward or Ivanhoe;
In Midlothian they may find their rest,
Or in Montrose's noble quest.

A chamber of treasures and memories
In twenty-three wagons the onlooker sees.
Disload them, servants, lend a hand -
Sir Walter, swish your magic wand.

The Lost Fort is a travel journal and history blog based on my travels in Germany, the UK, Scandinavia, and other places. It includes essays on Roman and Mediaeval history, as well as some geology, illustrated with photos of old castles and churches, Roman remains, and beautiful landscapes.

All texts (except comments by guests) and photos (if no other copyright is noted) on this blog are copyright of Gabriele Campbell.
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Location: 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 hasn't yet gotten an Instagram account. :-)


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