Roman and Mediaeval History, Illlustrated Travel Journals, Mediaeval Literature, Geology


4.3.12
  Random Roman Watchtower

When I visited Xanten in 2010, I rented a bicycyle - you can get them everyhwere in the area and there are lots of special cycle lanes - for one day to get to some interesting places, among them the amphitheatre at Birten. I then cycled along the Rhine for a bit and took a turn along a lake.

'South Lake' near Xanten

Where I found this. Well, I had seen a few of those along the Hadrians's Wall and the Limes and could make a good guess what the foundations were. There also was a sign telling people.

My compagnion for a day in front of the foundationas of a Roman watch tower

A Roman watchtower, 5 km from the former fort of Castra Vetera (the few remains of which are now buried beneath a grain field on the slope of Fürstenberg Hill). There must have been a chain of those along the Rhine - or rather, where the Rhine had been in Augustean times; its meanders have shifted a bit.

Closer view

The foundations of 4 x 4 metres are made of greywacke and mortar and are sufficient to support a wooden or half timbered construction of several storeys. There's no mention that this tower had ever been reconstructed all in stone like some of those at the Hadrian's Wall and Limes.

Different angle

Access would have been by a ladder to the second storey. The lower storey was used to store provisions, the middle one for living quarters, and the highest one was the actual lookout. Since the land around Xanten is rather flat, you could see far on a clear day.

View from the other side of the lake towards Xanten with the cathedral

I cycled along both the south and north lakes - artificial lakes made for recreational purposes, but very quiet on a dreary day like when I was there - and returned to Xanten in late afternoon. Though the weather wasn't bad for cycling at all; not too much wind and no rain.
 
Comments:
Our paths cross again, Gabriele, I'm in Colonia Agrippinensis at the moment (in a virtual fashion) having a conversation with Aulus Vitellius. Trying to imagine what the weather would be like in November and thinking cold and wet
 
Hi Doug,
cold and wet is a pretty good guess for November. Though the last one actually was very dry and rather sunny.

The weather also tends to be a bit warmer along the Rhine than where I live. The warmest pocket is the upper Rhine - down at Xanten it can get colder. West to south-west or north-west low pressure drifts are prevalent in Germany and they tend to bring not too cold (in summer not too hot) but wet weather. But when we get an eastern or north-eastern high pressure system like we did during the first weeks of Feburary, it tends to be dry and really cold in winter, dry and hot in summer.
 
What a great place Xanten is!
 
Kathryn, it definitely is. Have you mnaged to visit it by now?
 
Plot bunnies hopping by.....
 
What an interesting random discovery! Are the watchtowers along the Rhine similar to the chain of signal stations along the Yorkshire coast? 4m by 4m sounds smaller than the signal stations.
 
Sorry, Gabriele, missed the question! :-( Yes, but unfortunately only very briefly, and am really keen to spend a lot more time there.
 
Stag, Roman remains are always plotbunny infested. :D

Carla, unfortunately, we can't reconstruct the chain of watch towers since the Rhine covered a bunch of them (and the fort Castra Vetera II near Xanten); there's only a guess that there may have been a chain of such towers. If so, they likely were in signalling distance like along the Limes or the Hadrian's Wall.

Kathrym, you so need to go back. It'll take at least 2 days to see everything cool in Xanten. :)
 
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Miscellaneous musings of an aspiring Historical Fiction and Fantasy author. Illustrated essays on Roman, Dark Age and Mediaeval history, Mediaeval literature, and Geology. Some poetry translations and writing stuff. And lots of photos of old castles, cathedrals, Roman remains, and beautiful landscapes from Germany, the UK, Scandinavia, and the Baltic States.

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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I'm a writer of Historical Fiction and Fantasy living in Germany. I got a MA in Literature, Scandinavian Studies, Linguistics and History, I'm interested in Archaeology and everything Roman and Mediaeval, an avid reader, opera enthusiast, traveller with a liking for foreign languages and odd rocks, and photographer.


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