My Illlustrated Travel Journal with Essays about Roman and Mediaeval History and some Geology
Places of Interest around Quedlinburg
My journey to the Harz and Quedlinburg was fun, but also very hot with about 32°C during the day and lots of sunshine. Fortunately, the nights were a bit cooler since the temperature in the Harz drops somewhat more than in Göttingen (which can be a steaming soup bowl in summer) and the hotel was situated at a little river that brought a cool breeze in the evenings.
There were several beers with my name on them every evening, and they just evaporated somehow. I don't even want to begin and try to figure out how many litres of water I drank; it must have been a small lake. Ice cream is a good thing on hot days, too, especially iced coffee with vanilla ice cream and dab of whipped cream on top.
One of the caves in the Regenstein
But it was definitely fun, including the climbing of some rocks in sandals. I'm the proverbial German when it comes to wearing shoes unsuitable for mountains. Maybe I should volunteer as test person for sandals - if they survive the ways I walk, they will survive about anything.
The Harz was always a politically important area throughout history, not at least because it's rich in ore, and so Mediaeval times saw a lot of castles on the tops of those hills and mountains. Many of the about 500 Harz castles have left nothing more behind than some tumbled stones and traces in the ground that point to an ancient trench or earthen wall, but some are still formidable ruins or even reconstructed to mirror their former beauty.
Arnstein Castle, remains of the keep and great hall
They are less grand than the Norman castles because space on summits is more limited, but their owners and the architects sometimes got very inventive when it came to making the land - or rather, the bedrock - part of the castle construction. The Regenstein
with its part natural, part artificial caves surrounding the keep is a fine example.
Arnstein, great hall
Not all castles were in the focus of the great history the way the Harzburg (which I hope to see in August) was, but they all have their stories. And legends. The Harz is rich in legends, and you'll learn some in the time to come.
I've got some Romanesque churches for you as well. There is a road - or rather, a number of connected roads all over Germany - leading to the most interesting Romanesque buildings. You can visit churches and a few castles and other buildings all the way from the Alpes to the Baltic Sea coast, following the Strasse der Romanik
Quedlinburg Cathedral, main nave
I got only inside views of this one because the towers were wrapped in scaffolding, and since the catherdral sits on a hill, surrounded by other buildings, the towers are pretty much the only thing you can see. The inside has been renovated already and looks a lot better than last time I was there, but unfortunately, the crypt is still closed.
Chapter Church Gernrode, south side
This one is really beautiful and in good condition. Nice and cool inside as well. *grin* Churches are a good place to visit on a hot day.
Both Quedlingburg and Gernrode were Canoness Chapters for noble ladies who would live more or less like nuns only without taking permanent vows. That way they could leave and marry if family politics changed. But some stayed all their life and the Abbesses, esp. the ones of Quedlinburg, held a lot of power.
Konradsburg Monastery, crypt
Not much remains of the Konradsburg Monastery, only the choir of the church and the crypt which is undergoing restoration (almost finished, so I got some good photos). But the history behind it is interesting; Konradsburg is the only monastery that started off as castle (Burg
= castle, you've seen that word in several names).
The Harz has some beautiful and even spectacular landscapes, from fir covered mountains and semi-Alpine meadows to charming little valleys with swift running rivers framed by birches, from windswept high mountains and cliffs to canyons with waterfalls and rivers whose brown waters gush over boulders in dangerous currents, singing louder than a Mahler symphony, from caves and abandoned mines to natural lakes, and reservoirs lying in silent beauty unmarred by boats. Not without reason has most of the Harz been declared a natural preserve, and the reservoirs are used to provide several towns with drinking water (hence the prohibition of any activity on the water).
Here are some impressions from my journey.
Cliffs at the Rosstrappe
The photos don't do them justice; you have to be there to see how steep those cliffs are and how far they go down into the Bode canyon. A place of myths and legends.Bode river near Thale
That's one of the icy cold, very swift and wild ones. I found a place where I could get down to the shore, sit on a boulder and put me feet into the water. There's nothing better on a hot day. Well, save a cold beer. Devils Wall (Teufelsmauer) near Blankenburg
It's a stone formation running over several miles like the giant version of an old Roman wall. The devil has been responsible for the messy look it has these days. *grin* He made a deal with God that all the land he could surround by a wall in one night would be his. Of course that didn't end well - it is a legend, after all - because an old granny who had bought a cock in a nearby town walked home to her little village at midnight, stumbled over a root (they are everywhere on the Harz pathes) and the cock got scared and started to cow. The devil thought it was already morning and smashed the wall in anger so that the boulders tumbled all over the place.Teufelsmauer, ridge way
And that was the easy part of the way. The ridge path on the Devil's Wall is one of the most difficult I've ever walked, second only to Ben Nevis (and I didn't wear sandals there). Thunderclouds gathering over Rappbode reservoir
The Rappbode reservoir is largest lake in the Harz and one of the technical wonders created by GDR engineers - a table on the wall says so. *grin* I think they kept that little piece of communist rhetorics for fun, or maybe nostalgia. There's a bit of that going on in the ex-eastern part of Germany.
Hiking in the Harz
I'll be off for a few days to Quedlinburg, a pretty Medieaval town with half timbered houses and a Romanesque cathedral. I'll use it as basis to explore the part of the Harz mountains farther from where I live. There should be a few castles on the list and probably another old church, and lots of spectacular landscape.
View from Adelebsen Castle Hill towards the village
The weather's hot but there should be some breeze on the mountains, and at least it seems the usual afternoon thunderstorms are going to take a break for some days. View over the valley
Normal posting will resume on Thursday or Friday. After I've unpacked and shoved the new plotbunnies under the bed.
The Local Nobility and Their Castles - Adelebsen Keep
Big towerz, we can haz them. lol.
One of them is the keep - Bergfried in German - of Adelebsen Castle, the only remaining Medieaval structure (the rest has been rebuilt into a Baroque palace). It's another of those old remains at my backdoor.
In 990, Emperor Otto III gave the land of Ethelleveshusen, situated on a military way (Heerstrasse), to his sister Sophie. Such places on the main roads criscrossing the land were important at a time where the royal court still traveled around, and where troops often had to move at fast speed. The whole system culminated in the King's Highway (Königsweg or via regia) that runs all the way from the Rhine to the Baltic Sea and was king's land, no matter who possessed the fiefs along it, while the military ways tolled to the lord who held the land. He had to care for the upkeep in return. The King's Way still exists as hiking way.
A sandstone promontory rises above Adelebsen which is suited for a castle, and in 1234 the Lords of Wichbike moved from their old land that they held since at least 1111, to Adelebsen and built a castle there. They called themselves Lords of Adelebsen since 1295. Since the land belonged to the Emperor's sister, the fief likely was held directly from the king; a nice catch for a minor lord.
The oldest part of the castle is the keep, 38.75 metres high, pentangular in the lower part and six-sided in the upper part - it looks a bit twisted from certain angles. The walls are up to 4.30 metres thick and the main entrance 4 metres above ground. There had been 9 floors but today the tower is empty inside with only a wooden staircase that leads to the roof running along the walls. But the keep is only open on special days so I haven't been inside yet. I don't really feel like climbing those open stairs, though the view of the surrounding landscape should be great.
But the exposed situation on the rock promotory made for some fine pics. Adelebsen Keep is only 15 km from Göttingen and the landscape where I live is really pretty albeit not as spectacular as Wales or the high mountains of the Harz.
The keep is one of the most impressive in Germany. The rest of the castle was mostly built in the 14th century as well but partly destroyed in 1466, during one of the many feuds between kings and nobles in Germany, and further during the Thirty Years War. In 1650, the castle was rebuilt in a more 'modern' style; and was changed into a Baroque palace in 1740; the trench between inner and outer bailey was then filled up. Several outbuildings were added, like a Hunter's Lodge and a Chamberlain's Office (Rentei, the yellow building in the first pic).
In 1947 the last Lord of Adelebsen gave part of his fortune to a foundation to ensure the castle, both the palace plus outbuildings and the Mediaeval keep, would remain in good condition. Yeah, it's not that much fun to inherit a drafty old tower with rotten floors even if it's been a family possession for 800 years. :)
Nessie of Loch Edersee
The lake looks peaceful on a warm summer afternoon. But the people in that sailing boat are not aware of the danger lurking in the cold, murky depths, seldom to surface. And if it does, beware!
If you look towards the bottom of the pic, in the wake of our boat you can see a fearsome monster rising its head. Or tail. Or whatever.
Behold, it is Nessie of Loch Edersee, the famous monster of Germany's largest reservoir lake, bane of boats and bathers alike. Sightings are rare, but for some reason she decided to follow our boat and allowed me to take some pictures.
Cute, isn't she? It's my niece's toy, and yes, she is called Nessie. The monster, not my niece. Her name is Mailin.
Here she is, giving Nessie some well deserved rest from racing through the cold water. The photo was taken last year; she's grown a bit since then.
Crossing the North Sea
Barbara asked me to get pics of the journey if I'd take the ferry to Scotland and see the Antonine Wall. I have no idea if I can afford another UK trip next year, but since I take the Amsterdam - Newcastle ferry for most of my UK travels, there are already photos, most from last years tour where the weather on sea was better.
Sunrise on the ferry
It's the best way to get to the Hadrian's Wall or Scotland, and while it's a bit through the backdoor and the kitchen into the hall, it also works for Wales; it's only 4 hours by train from Chester to Newcastle (Cardiff was a bit longer). It would not have been any easier to get from Chester to London, and the entire journey isn't more expensive than a line flight.
After all, the Romans did it that way too, sometimes, because Newcastle was a harbour already during their time in Britain. Morning at sea
A journey by train would really have been fun. Not. Change trains in Frankfurt (which is fine, I know that station very well), Cologne, Brussels (a platform change that includes half a miles walk or so), Dover, London (and manage to get from Paddington to St.Pancras in 20 minutes, in a city I've never been, no thanks). Not to mention crossing the Channel by that stupid tunnel costs your firstborn. No wonder that company is bancrupt; no one's going to pay their fees if the Channel ferries are so much cheaper. Lighthouse of North Shields / Newcastle
The DFDS Seaways ferry from IJmuiden / Amsterdam to North Shields / Newcastle is a lot more fun and they organise for bus transfer to/from the stations. You have a bed to sleep in (actually, an entire cabin with bathroom) and arrive the next morning, fresh and with a good breakfast in your stomach, instead of close to midnight, hungry and tired. Approaching Newcastle harbour
Another aspect I love when traveling by train, bus or ferry is that you get a better feel for the distances than traveling by plane, and it's a great way to see a country. Ok, I know the route from my hometown to Amsterdam by now, but the part through the Kasseler Berge, the Taunus and the montains between Frankfurt and Cologne is always beautiful. The superfast ICE that makes up to 310 km/h is fun, too.
The bus trip from Carmarthen to Caernarfon was one of the best examples that six hours travel can pay out. It presented me with some of the most spectacular scenery I've ever seen. North Shields up the Tyne river to the harbour
(some of the ship's safety boats to the right)
On the way back the sea was more than a bit rough this time. In fact, it the waves were high enough that the ship's stabilisators could not take out all movements and the ship rocked gently up and down. I loved
it. Some others didn't, though. Blawdy landlubbers. :)
Antonine Wall World Heritage
Since several readers alerted me of the great news, I thought I'd post myself as well. The Antonine Wall, Rome's nothernmost frontier in Scotland, has received World Heritage status.
From the article:
Falkirk councillor, Adrian Mahoney said: "Gaining world heritage status is a major achievement and there are so many new opportunities to maximise the benefit to our local area in the future."
I hope he will not only see the money but also the responsibility that goes with the acknowledgment, and clean the sites of empty coke bins and other trash a bit more often than I've seen on some sites in Wales.
Too bad I have no picture to accompany the news. A good reason to go and have a look and take some photos, isn't it? And visit some more places in Scotland I missed last time, while I'm at it. *grin* Geez, my father will kill me if I tell him I want to travel to the UK again next year. ;)
Reconstructed Roman Walls
One of the features the Roman border fortresses share is the combination of a stone wall - surrounded by additional ditches and earthen walls - with an earthen rampart on the inside that also serves as battlement.
The reconstructed fortifications of the German Saalburg fortress present a good, if rain blurred, example.
You can see the outside of the walls here, and the ditches on the first picture in this post.
I suppose this unsual combination goes back to the history of Roman fortresses. They all began as semi-permanent structures with earthen walls and timber palisades on top, a more elaborate version of the marching camps.
Along the frontiers (the limes Germanicus, the Hadrian's Wall, the Syrian limes, and the Welsh forts) the fortresses were later rebuilt in stone, most of them in the 2nd century AD. Besides the stone buildings inside the forts, the defenses of earthen walls and trenches got an additional stone wall, watch towers, and stone gatehouses.
Cardiff castle shows another example of the reconstructed earth ramparts.
The outside of the wall can be seen on the first picture in this post. There are no trenches here today because of the situation in the middle of a town.
The Bute family made the reconstructed Roman fortifications into a park, thus the trees that would never have been allowed to grow there in times when a praefectus castrorum had the say.
The ramparts added to the stability of the walls, definitely well enough to stop a ram, and neither the German nor the British tribes had any more elaborate siege engines. They usually tried to climb the walls or breach the gates only to meet with pointy pila poking at them. Attacks on fortresses were not very frequent; the tribes prefered to attack the Romans outside when they were stretched out in marching columns.