Saturday, 20 August 2022

erlebnis bergwerk (10. 073)

Decommissioned since 1993 but revitalised since as a living museum and working mine and venue, I had a chance to visit with H’s father the salt and potash (Kalisalz, used as an important agricultural fertiliser) extraction operation near the village of Merkers on the Werra river not far from Bad Salzungen.  

 Aside from the long history of mining and a comprehensive lesson on the enterprise and geology that bores under the Rhรถn mountains, the location is also the hiding spot for hundreds of tonnes of gold, silver and paper currency (amounting to around eighty percent of the holdings of the Reichsbank at the end of the war) and many priceless works of art looted by the Nazis, discovered per chance by the advancing United States army (tipped off by slave labour transporting treasures to the mine) who then worked quickly to clear it out of Soviet occupied territory before the borders were demarcated.

After being lowered in safety gear—like actual miners beginning their shift—in a hoisting cage that descended into the dark, and driven in flatbed transports from five to eight hundred metres below the surface through a network of tunnels that covers an area the size of Munich. 








Though the vehicles were only taking the dips, curves and ascents at under twenty kilometres an hour, the darkness, wind and narrowness of the shaft made it seem much faster, like a roller coaster ride stretched out for some two hours, with intermissions, lastly in the above Goldraum, a pair of excavated former bunkers that now serve as a machine exhibit, theatre and a concert hall with uncommonly good acoustics and unique crystal grotto with accompanying bar for refreshments—the deepest in the world.  

It was definitely worth the visit and would drag H along next time.
 

Thursday, 18 August 2022

hawa h 1 vampyr (10. 070)

On this day in 1922, engineering and hang-gliding pioneer Arthur Martens—lieutenant and front-line pilot with the Red Baron’s fighter squadron—participating in the Rhรถner Gliding Competition (Segelflugwettbewerb) took to the air, launched from a rubber rope in a glider of his own design from the Hannoversche Waggonfabrik (HaWa—see also), on the Pferdskopf slope of the Wasserkuppe, the highest mountain in the range, and set three records for endurance, altitude and distance in an unpowered craft. Flying for over an hour, Martens flew a distance of just under nine kilometers circumnavigating the Wasserkuppe ten times, taking advantage of updrafts to glide in a figure-eight, demonstrating for the first time a technique that’s employed by all pilots a century later.

Monday, 27 June 2022

macroglossum stellatarum

The butterflies have discovered our patch of lavender for sometime now and there’s always at least half a dozen of them swarming about but now it seems the community of hummingbird hawk moths (Taubenschรคnzchen) is enjoying nectaring a la cartรฉ as well. An example of convergent evolution, recognising the same quiver of behaviours and adaptations with its long proboscis to probe flowers works across species. Unlike other moths which are either diurnal or nocturnal, these hawk moths can be found active at all hours and display no visible sexual dimorphism—even in the antennal lobes size, serving a comparable role as the olfactory bulb in vertebrates and which is a prominent marker for most moths in distinguishing between male and female.

Saturday, 18 June 2022

proboscis

We weren’t quite sure what attracted this Aglais io—Peacock butterfly a member of the anglewing tribe, see previously here and here, to our windowsill long enough to photograph (click to magnify) but this individual probed around for quite a few moments before flitting away, tolerating our curiosity on the other side of the glass pane. The eyespots are the most obvious defensive mechanisms for passerine predators—also see above—but they also apparently emit a hissing sound that deters hunters.

Saturday, 11 June 2022

pfarrdorf, kirchdorf

H and I took a quick tour of Nordheim von der Rhรถn (previously) and snapped a few images and got an aerial perspective of the picturesque village on the Streu. Parking outside of the former Zehnthaus (tax, tithing authority), we took a moment to admire its decorative half-timbering and reliefs and inscriptions on the balustrade of the second storey dated to 1681. Several of the historic buildings feature figurative columns and corner posts. We climbed up through the fortified Kirchberg to the parish (pfarr-) seat (the outlying community of Neustรคdtles with the auxiliary place of worship is the Kirchdorf) dedicated to John the Baptist (Sankt Johannes der Tรคufer) from the fourteenth century. The exterior and forecourt were renovated in the mid 1970s but the overall structure and interior elements are true to the original with the high altar and pulpit crafted in the 1700 by artist and sculptor Benedikt Lux from Bad Neustadt an der Saale in Rococo style.

Sunday, 29 May 2022

wasserfall eisgraben

Taking advantage of the fine weather and long weekend, H and I headed just south of the Schwarzes Moor and took a long hike through the Hochrhรถn to the cascading valley of pools that is the main drainage outlet of the marshy region, flowing into the Fulda river. Named for the cold winds that flow through the rift—and it was quite brisk for the end of May—this watershed courses over basalt boulders and goes deep underground after emerging from the forest. This area below the boglands is part of a larger nature preserve and criss-crossed with wooded paths and is a protected biome. Introduced spruces harvested for timber in the nineteenth century displaced much of the original forest but logging was stopped in most areas in 1971 and native sycamores and elms are returning. Discovering the waterfall at the end of the Wanderweg was especially rewarding and are eager for more exploration soon.


 

Saturday, 21 May 2022

motacillidae

H snapped a very good picture of a avian pal who’s been visiting and running about on the deck lately, Bachstelze or more descriptively a pied wagtail (Motacilla alba—a mistranslation of the Latin term “little-mover” from the medieval notion that cilla meant tail). I had seen these passerine birds on the path that runs by the pond (= Bach) with their distinctive gait, swift but halting after a few paces to bounce their tail feathers, but they hadn’t before ventured to our backdoor—apparently they prefer the bare range of pavement for foraging where it can best see and pursue and the deck met these conditions too. This comical, constant tail wagging is observed in all related species but the behaviour is poorly understood—possibly a tactic to flush out prey or signal vigilance to potential predators.

Friday, 6 May 2022

all-seeing or the eyes have it

Though apparently gregarious with most of the village as well, a young peacock—we thought it was a peahen but learned it was young one and the signature plumage and dimorphism does not develop until they reach three years of age—has adopted H and I and roams our yard and roosts in various spots on the balcony and the front stoop, friendly in guest territory but possibly territorial in his own backyard. He belongs to a neighbour and is called Charlie and often appears before the French doors and jarringly at times at the kitchen window sill. Apparently this behaviour in peafowl, congregating before glazed faรงades, is to examine themselves in the glass, like a mirror. I held up my cell phone display in front of Charlie to reflect back his image and he regarded it with interest, rather than destructive pecking at the screen and my hand. I remember the controversy a few years back over an airline passenger trying to board with their therapy peacock and at the time siding with those who condemned the act as performative and over-the-top but getting a sense of their calm demeanour and engagement, I have come around to the other side in thinking these are legitimate therapy animals, tail-feathers and all. We are looking into getting our own. The collective term for a group of peafowl is an ostentation.

Saturday, 25 December 2021

weiรŸe weihnacht


 

Friday, 12 November 2021

nebelig


 

Thursday, 11 November 2021

herbstlich


 

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.