Sunday, 11 September 2022

blร r drochaid shruighlea (10. 125)

As part of the First War of Scottish Independence, on this day in 1297, the forces of Andrew Moray and William Wallace took the strategically important crossing of the River Forth and defeated the English armies of the Earl of Surrey and Hugh de Cressingham, the much reviled treasurer of the English administration in Scotland and suggested the losing course of action—which cost him his life by flaying and reportedly ended up being turned into a belt and thongs. After Scottish king John Balliol submitted to Edward I, landholders, the clans were made to acknowledge the overlordship of England, soon afterwards precipitating a revolt. Wallace teamed up with Moray in Dundee and marched on to Stirling (see previously)—commanding a contingent of agile spearmen to advance on the English heavy cavalry. Taking control of the Stirling Bridge, it became impossible for the English to send reinforcements, thus retreating to the stronghold of the castle and effectively surrendering the Lowlands to rebel forces. In the aftermath, Wallace was proclaimed Guardian of Scotland, and the pictured tower is a nineteenth century monument to his exploits in view of Stirling Castle and the Forth crossing.

Sunday, 4 September 2022

pegelstand oder die grรผne herz deutschland (10. 108)

 

Afterwards we embarked on a circuit of the series of five progressively higher reservoirs (Stauseen) built from 1935 over the next decade to harness hydroelectric power by damming and flooding river valleys. 

Though a sparsely populated area, villages had to be abandoned and resettled when constructing the Hohenwarte and its gravitation cascade that turns potential energy kinetic were constructed and owing to the low water levels because of the global drought (and floods) we thought we might witness PreรŸwitz or others rise from the waters but we’ve been spared the worst so far. The forests were dry and the pines especially dying but an evening of steady rain was some reprieve. 


We saw various gradients and differentials from high vistas before choosing a campsite near Ziegenrรผck, heir to some more patrimony now underwater. 


Packing up the following day, we completed our tour with the reservoir at Burgk and its eponymous castle and keep, a quite well preserved residence dating from the Middle Ages and seat of the House of ReuรŸ, a princely line who named all male children Heinrich, in honour of Barbarossa’s son, Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI. 

The engineering and the attendant landscaping was impressive and inchoate. On the way back, we visited the town of Saalburg on the Bleiloch reservoir that had the atmophere of beach resorts along the Baltic Sea.








 

Monday, 29 August 2022

drizzle, drazzle, druzzle drome—time for this one to come home (10. 094)

Alternately titled St George and the Dragon and The Seven Curses of Lodac, the 1962 adventure fantasy by Bert I Gordon (King Dinosaur, The Amazing Colossal Man, Village of the Giants, etc.) loosely based on the legend of St George and his conquests was subjected to the Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment, airing for the first time on this day in 1992. Our hero in this version, George (Gary Lockwood, later Lieutenant Commander and navigator Gary Mitchell on the Enterprise and astronaut Frank Poole in 2001: A Space Odyssey)—of royal parentage but fostered by a sometimes ineffectual sorceress played by veteran actor of stage and screen Estelle Winwood—embarks on a quest to rescue the princess Helene and prevent her from being fed to the dragon of the evil wizard Lodac, played by the equally esteemed Basil Rathbone.

Thursday, 28 July 2022

west lothian (10. 023)

Though certainly the numerous landmarks we saw did not disappoint, quite a few places we visited were closed for access and undergoing repairs, including one of the final stops we made at the royal palace of Linlithgow. We had a nice time touring the grounds, the Peel, and learning about its residents of renown including the Steward line,




James V, his daughter Mary Queen of Scots—subject of royal intrigue and crisis of succession and the first target of the so called Rough Wooing, who found allies in France and the papacy coinciding with Henry VIII’s turning away from the Church in Rome and eventually forced to abdicate herself in favour of her infant son James VI & I, ruling a united England, Scotland and Ireland—but the inter court was closed pending repairs. From a safe distance, H tried launching his drone for a glimpse from above but the gulls tried to hunt it down and had to quickly abort the mission. Linlithgow was originally established as an English fort to disrupt the supply route between Edinburgh and Stirling castles (the baby Mary was spirited away to the more defencible latter), destroyed and rebuilt for the monarchy, embellished over generations until falling into disrepair from disuse as courtly life was now centred in The south. The palace lies on the banks of the eponymous loch in the city centre behind the church of Saint Michael with its modern steel steeple and has a gangway with the dates and reigns of all the Scottish kings and queens. Mary’s cousin Elizabeth, who kept Mary confined to various castles in England after she relinquished her title and claim and eventually had her beheaded—after eighteen years—for conspiring against her majesty, is not referred to by her ordinal designation and rather as Palatine Electoress as she never ruled over Scotland. To this end, after the coronation of the current monarch, some Royal Mail post boxes were vanalised, objecting to Elizabeth II because there never was a first.

eilean donan (10. 022)

In search of coffee and a light lunch and more intent to explore more of the northwest Highlands’ natural beauty, we happened on the small tidal island at the confluence of three sea lochs named for Irish missionary Donnรกn of Eigg—a saint martyred when trying to convert the Picts—with a very spectacular and picturesque castle that was once the stronghold of Clan Mackenzie, demolished for their involvement in the Jacobite rebellion, garrisoning a contingent of Spanish mercenaries and a magazine of gunpowder, prompting the English government to send in three heavily armed frigates to quell the uprising, in the early seventeen hundreds but restored over two decades in the early twentieth century according to its original thirteenth century design. 

Once the focus of clan feuds, the castle and its destruction—and subsequent rebuilding—is seen as a symbol of resistance and loyalty to the House of Stuart. The striking building has had several cameos in film and television, including The Highlander franchise, Braveheart and the 1999 Bond movie The World is Not Enough, as well as the short, once thought lost film Black Angel that features the castle and island prominently and was exclusively screened as a double-feature with The Empire Strikes Back in UK cinemas in 1980.

Sunday, 24 July 2022

unthirldom (10. 014)

After six years of heavy battles to establish full dominion over Scotland, the last bastion of resistance to rule by Edward I of England, Stirling Castle (updated with pictures of ours) finally fell on this day in 1304 after four months of besiegement under attack by a dozen war machines—towers, battering rams and catapults, hails of cannon balls, Greek fire and possibly a primitive form of gunpowder

Impatient with the slow progress though the Scots garrison holding the castle were ready to sue for surrender at this point commissioned a more massive trebuchet from master architecture James of Saint George to be christened the Warwolf. Edward refused the request of William Oliphant, constable and commander, until he got to test his Warwolf. Once the castle was taken, all the land-gentry excepting William Wallace pledged their fealty to King Edward.

Friday, 22 July 2022

and i would walk five hundred more (10. 011)





Following the North Coast 500 back towards the North Sea and open waters, we stopped at the stately ancestral home of the Clan Sutherland in the Highlands, Dunrobin Castle, the medieval fortification extensively remodelled in the 1830s in Scottish Baronial style for the second duke—whose father was a touch megalomaniacal having commissioned a colossal statue of himself build atop Ben Bhraggie visible at every point in the county and whose land reform practises were responsible for the Highland Clearances, landowners evicting crofting communities (tenant farmers) to make room for the far more profitable raising of sheep for wool.  

Dunrobin takes its present form thanks to these gains. We opted not to take the guided tour owing to the large amount of tour coaches parked in the forecourt—including a Rotel bus with a sleeper carriage (see previously) so instead we walked around to the beach of the Firth of Dornach to see the residence from that side before later claiming a patch of strand as our own.

Friday, 24 June 2022

daytrip: bacharach am rhein

For a work-outing, we took a cruise on the Rhein from Rรผdesheim to the picturesque village dominated by the twelfth century fortified castle, Burg Stahleck, overlooking the Steeg gorge and Lorelei valley, and once residence to the advocatus (Vogt) of the archbishop of Kรถln but now a youth hostel. We spent the afternoon on the portico taking in the view, having hiked up from the river bank. Along the way we passed not so much as an architectural folly—though it looked the part and the castle itself was destroyed during the Thirty Years War, abandoned and not restored in its present form until 1927 (see also) and pointedly as a retreat for Hitler Youth and re-education centre, in the Gothic ruins of the Wernerkapelle, the unfinished chapel preserved in this state as a reminder of Germany’s and Christianity’s rampant, historical intolerance of other peoples and other faith traditions, the shell of a structure itself originally dedicated to the memory of a youth supposedly murdered by the region’s Jewish residents who were in turn expelled and their property seized—a common ploy and false excuse at time, and put into context with a dedication and prayer from Pope John XXIII, asking for forgiveness and reconciliation. It was a bright and glorious day out of the office by the privilege of the photogenic ought not sanitise the past but rather enhance our understanding of it. 


 

Saturday, 14 May 2022

mise of lewes

Reviewing the chronicle of historic events that happened on this day, I was reminded of something spotted on our 2016 trip across England and this marker in the town of Lewes that commemorated the settlement (a rare English term from legal French, the past participle of mettre—to put) struck on this day during the
Second Barons’ War in 1264 between embattled Henry III and the rebellious gentry under the leadership of Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester. On the brink of civil war, displeased with high taxation and tribute and foreign influence in the royal court, landholders and king negotiated a series of reforms that placed policy decisions in a council of magnates but was soon diluted and returned to status quo ante bellum, particularly after arbitration by Louis IX, a champion of royal prerogative and who certainly didn’t want a revolt on his hands, fighting broke out again at the fields of Lewes. Though with his victory,
Simon de Montfort was effectively made ruler of England, he was not able to hold power or maintain a stable government was was himself killed one year later during the Battle of Evesham. The monument to the battle and peace treaty was erected in 1964, the seven hundredth anniversary.  It was a nice occasion also to revisit some impressions (which I think we’ve not shared before) of this ancient town in Sussex with castle ruins and venerable brewery.

Sunday, 8 May 2022

himmelsscheibe




Coming home from Saxony we took a detour and finally got the chance to check out the Arche Nebra—a museum and planetarium near the archeological site where the prehistoric skydisc was discovered. The actual artefact is usually kept in Halle and was presently on loan to the British museum as part of an ancient astronomy exhibit that couples it with the megalithic timepieces like Stonehenge and the nearby counterpart, the Goseck circle, a solar observatory from neolithic times—but there were plenty of detailed replicas on hand to study and gain an appreciation in situ of this rather overwhelming tool. From the perspective of the promontory where it was discovered (Fundort), the golden bands ringing the edge form an arc precisely corresponding with the Sun’s pendular journey between the peak of the Brocken and the peak of the Kyffhรคuser in the Harz rising and setting at the spring and autumn equinoxes and indicating by the appearance of the New Moon and its proximity to the Pleiades (see above) when to plant and whether the year will be a common year or will need an intercalary month inserted to keep the stars aligned with the cycle of the seasons, this earliest known representation of the Cosmos features no gods or heroes, only the calendar of the night sky. In the area, we also stopped at the village of Zingst on the Unstrut river to inspect this manor house by the road that looked like it had seen time conscripted as a factory with the addition of an industrial smoke-stack and the vista of the largest medieval castle complex—similar in scale and composition to the Wartburg—in middle Germany, Burg Querfurt, something to see another day.

Saturday, 4 December 2021

townscaper

Via Web Curios, we had a lot of full building our own thassolocracy in the lagoon cell-by-cell with this aesthetically intriguing and genuinely calming diversion with animated, embellished utopia-builder, replete with architectural conventions to discover, for instance a tower composed of alternating red and white blocks will turn into a lighthouse. Copying the link and pasting it later will let you continue your civil engineering work in progress. Give it a try and share your creations with us.

Saturday, 9 October 2021

burgruine osterburg

Taking advantage of the sunny Autumn weather, we took a drive through the countryside and made the short hike up to the clearing on a summit facing the Kreuzburg to explore the ruins of the hilltop fortress called Osterburg near Bischofheim, a tenth century fortification that was the stuff of legend until its accidental rediscovery in 1897 by a forester, its strategic importance having waned into oblivion as the valley below gained in strength and control of the region’s trade. The aerial shots are courtesy of H’s drone and we enjoyed the impressive vistas all around. 

 One could easily imagine what the grounds might have been like intact and manned. The outpost mysterious and isolated among the peaks, the place was imbued in the last centuries with a few elements of folklore including a lost treasure whose finding would prove redemptive for some souls tethered to castle and keep.

Saturday, 25 September 2021

day-trip: gemรผnden am main

Taking advantage of the nice weather, H and I took a tour past the outskirts of Bad Kissingen and beyond Hammelburg to explore again the small town at the confluence of four rivers, the Sinn, Saale and Werra all discharging into the River Main—first stopping at the ruins of a hill castle (Hรถhenburg) above the village of Gรถssenheim, one of the largest of its kind in Frankonia. 




First erected in the eleventh century for a ministerialis family—that is those ennobled from the ranks of serfdom but yet unfree—in service of the bishopric of Wรผrzburg, later divided between the counts of Rieneck, the dukes of Henneburg and the imperial abbey of Fulda, the hereditary owner’s family branch eventually going extinct. Though surviving the Peasants’ War in the early fifteenth century, the castle lost its strategic importance, efforts forced on holding the waterways and one of the last caretakers, Prince-Bishop Rudolf II von Scherenberg (namesake of our next destination), gifted the lands back to the monastery of Wรผrzburg and established fortress in order to control trade (particularly in wine) and river traffic. 






It was a lot of fun to explore and imagine what it looked like before falling into neglect and disrepair. The aerial shots are courtesy of H’s drone. Gemรผnden am Main was just a short drive further on and first explored the ruins of the Schrenburg—a customs post, a Zollburg, that dominated the town and commanded view of the river valley below. The remaining curtain wall and bergfried—now a home to bats—hosts open-air theatre in the summer.