Saturday, 4 December 2021


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: gemünden 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 (Höhenburg) above the village of Gössenheim, 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 Würzburg, 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 Würzburg 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. Gemünden 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.

the wartburg song contest

Melding two separate folktales, the legendary errant knight, poet and minstrel Tannhäuser and the above titled tale of the Sängerkrieg auf Wartburg, the 1845 opera in three acts whose narrative arc plays out the struggle between sacred and profane love and its redemptive powers by Richard Wagner (previously) was the inaugural performance on this day in 1903 for the newly opened concert hall (Stadttheatre) in Bern.

Sunday, 12 September 2021

bergruine hutsburg

Having lost the trail a couple weeks ago trying to hike up to the ruined donjon, isolated and nearly forgotten though once one of the most imposing fortifications in the area due to its location on the former border between East and West Germany, whilst trying to approach it from the Bavarian side, we ventured up the Hutsburg to see the eponymous fortress from the thüringischer side.
First passing through the ghostly remnants of villages deemed a liability owing to their nearness to the border (previously here and here), we slowly climbed up the mountain and at the wooded summit encountered the tall of the shield wall and foundations, with the sun shining through the otherwise dark forest through the ancient portal.
Though far older than its first documented reference in the early twelfth century (possibly from the four hundreds in some form of fort), I suspect that these runes were a more recent graffito. It was a strategic possession of the counts of Henneberg and degenerated over the years as the power of the family waned to little more than an outpost for slum lords—Raubritter, literal robber barons in the sense of unscrupulous feudal landowners who imposed higher taxes without the approval of a higher authority and expropriation, culminating with the intervention of the king in the fabled execution of a gang of such bandits after a a siege lasting weeks (the subject of a German nursery rhyme:
Ernst war sie eine stoles Feste / doch heute sieht man our noch Reste. Mit Nürnberge Schraubenzeug ward sie gebrochen / Und zweiundviersig Räuber kamen hervorgekrochen. Noch erhobenen Hauptes und voller Stolz, / kürtze man sie gleich um selbiges, was Solls.
Basically, Once a proud Fort, but today only rubble remains / Battered with catapults / forty-two robbers emerged / Hoisted by their own petard) and was passed through the lordship of Tann and Kere.
The bulwark was not to meet its final fate and fall into ruin and disrepair until the Peasants’ Revolt of 1525 (die Bauernkrieg, see also) when the rebellion successfully stormed and took the castle, the Hutsburg being one of the few castles of the Rhön active at the time of its taking, most empty and irrelevant at this point in history and under the administration of a bailiff. Though the victory was not strategically significant, it was important symbolically as overthrowing the trapping and tool of oppression and serfdom.

Sunday, 18 July 2021

läckö slott out the southern aide of Lake Vänern, we ventured up the peninsula of the municipality of Lidköping and onto the picturesque island of Kållandsö, the second largest of the enormous lake and visited the medieval castle at land’s end. Originally a fortification of the local diocese, with the sweeping reforms of our Gustav I. Vasa, the nearly deposed, who made the monarchy heritable rather than elective of the landed gentry, converted the country to protestantism and appropriated church property and made Sweden a European power, it fell to various favourites of the court and caretakers who oversaw its expansion as an impressive receiving stage for visiting dignitaries. Today it is a national monument and hosts a series of outdoor operas in the courtyard during the summer.

Wednesday, 14 July 2021

After departing from our natural campground in the woods at the border of the farmstead on the shores of Helgasjön, we first visited the nearby ruins of the fortress Kronoberg, built originally as a summer retreat for the bishop of Växjö, destroyed during the Dano-Swedish War in 1470, rebuilt and fortified and eventually appropriated by Gustav I with the country’s conversion to protestantism.

 Our rebel leader Nils Dacke captured the castle in 1542, nearly repudiating the king’s authority by depriving the army, albeit temporarily, of this strategic stronghold.
The eventual retreat of the border from Småland to Öresund meant Kronoberg lost military significance and fell into disrepair.  Continuing north towards the Vättern region, the lesser of the great lakes—we stopped to inspect the old church of a village called Hjälmseyrd 

Sunday, 30 May 2021

sunday drive: wasserschloss roßrieth and walldorfer-kirchenburg

For what was the first time in a long time, H and I took advantage of the fine and sunny weather and visited a few sights from outdoors on either side of Mellrichtstadt and Meiningen first with the moated castle located within a small farming village of the same name. Existing as the seat of a lordship since the twelfth century before being destroyed for harbouring highwaymen in 1401, the rebuilt sixteenth century compound was in the ownership of the rulers of Ost- and Nordheim until the mediatisation of imperial immediacy at the beginning of the nineteenth century (die Reichsdeputationhauptschluss von 1803) when transferred to the Free State of Bavaria. 

The castle is in private hands and cannot be visited by the surround grounds and agricultural outbuildings were nice to explore. Next we came to the fortified church (see links above) of the town of Walldorf, now a suburb of Meiningen. Originally a medieval defensive Höhenberg (a hill castle) along the old trade route from Frankfurt to Erfurt—a good vantage point to monitor for smugglers and other potential disruptions, the complex on the promontory has been an episcopal fort since 1008 when the archbishopric of Würzburg took over the area. 

The high keep with residential structures and a garden was used as a protected farmyard through the ages as it is today, restored after reunification and a fire in 2012 that caused extensive damage. Beyond its historical value as a monument, designs for restoration undertaken and achieved have made it moreover a “biotope church” with a replacement roof optimised for nesting kestrels, a colony of jackdaws (Dohlen), bats, bees that visit the old cottage gardens plus a nesting stork with a young brood.

Saturday, 12 December 2020

umleitung: bedheim

We made a brief stop in the village outside of the town of Römhild in the county of Hildburghausen to take in the architectural ensemble, typifying a Baroque manor, of the three-wing castle and fortified church. First constructed in the thirteenth century and coming into ownership of the aristocratic family Rühle von Lilenstern once ennobled by Hapsburg Emperor Charles VII after 1743, chiefly then as a summer residence for Prince Joseph Friedrich von Sachsen-Hildburghausen, it is still the ancestral home of the heirs and an interesting architectural footnote on its own. 

The village became more intriguing, however, seeing that its crest features a pipe organ and a dinosaur. I don’t think we’d ever encountered this sort of charge before on a coat-of-arms and the raptor is definitely not a mythological griffin.  It turns out that one of the notable descendants, Hugo, was an avid paleotologist and had made many finds in the surrounding area, discovering among others an example originally referred to as the leaping lizard (Halticosaurus, springende Echse) and later renamed Liliensternus

I recall my grade three teacher, Miss Friday, one day bringing in a cast of a fossilised dinosaur foot discovered on their property with the taxonomical classification of Arkansaurus fridayius, which I thought was an odd instance of show-and-tell to end all show-and-tell sessions. A museum was established in the castle to display skeletal remains, but once the family could reestablish residence after the war in 1969, the collection was transferred to the Museum of Natural History in Berlin. The organ of the coat-of-arms is in deference to the pair of instruments installed in the church, a greater and a lesser installed in the early eithteenth century a decade apart (and can be played in tandem) by prominent local master builders and is adjacent to the entombment place of many members of the family Rühle von Lilienstern. We weren’t able to glean much about the war years and there was a sombre and intriguing memorial plaque to all those who underwent forced sterilisation during Nazi times and research yielded little. In better times, we’ll return to learn more, go to the Schloss café and maybe take in an organ concert.

Sunday, 6 September 2020

fränkische schweiz

Located in the uppermost pocket of the Franconian Jura and originally bearing the name the Muggendorfer Hills, we had the privilege of touring the region previously “rediscovered” and romantically marketed at the end of the eighteenth century by a couple of law students from the University of Erlangen who wrote about enthusiastically, followed by a 1820 volume by a local historian who coined the new endonym die kleine Schweiz and now had the chance to see it again for a few fresh impressions over the weekend.
First we entered in County Kulmbach the market town of Wonsees with its medieval Felsenburg (rock castle) Fortress Zwernitz, hewn into the dolomite stone, originally the family seat of elevated peasants called the Walpoten—a so-called ministerialis line, that is serfs raised up as servitors and agents into positions of responsibility within the class system of the Middle Ages.
While not technically free and independent, these families held social power and could cultivate their estates and pass along their wealth to the next generation, with equal status accorded to men and women.
Beneath the tower and keep is a seventeenth century cliff garden called Sanspareil landscaped around some strange rock formations and with oriental follies—reminding H and I of the gardens at Veitshöchsheim or Schwetzingen.

Next, following the Burgen- und the Fränkischen Bierstraße (the region having the one of the highest concentrations of traditional breweries in Europe) we came to a village called Aufseß, named for the stream that flows through it, dominated by a castle and chapel with a clutch of some pretty fancy chickens in the property opposite the courtyard who were eager to have their pictures taken by us paparazzi.

With a few detours through Plankenfels and Waischenfeld, we stopped at Burg Rabenstein—a well-preserved Spornburg, a spur castle which is constructed where natural topography aides in its defences that also featured a quite good restaurant, a dripstone cavern and a bird-of-prey demonstration. The intact castle is one of the best conserved—most are ruins but romantic ones—along the route and was originally also in the capable hands of the Rabenstein ministerialis family, who were eventually able to buy the property and ennoble themselves. The castle appears as the main stage for the 1995 wildly popular PC game Gabriel Ritter sequel “The Beast Within”—I was not familiar but I think it was like the equivalent of the King’s Quest saga.
After securing a campsite (we had miscalculated a little and instead of the season’s end like we thought it was busier than expected) in the Veldensteiner Forest outside of Pottenstein, we returned to Gößweinstein with its Burg and basilica minor designed by Balthasar Neumann as a pilgrimage destination.
Our last stop on the way back to the campsite, we drove back through Pottenstein and visited the town, crisscrossed by canals, more fowl not shy of the camera and a row of sleeping ducks (I did not know they did this) and dominated by towering karst towers.
The town is absolutely awash with roses of all sorts; learn more of the story behind that and Saint Elizabeth of Thüringen at the link up top.
We looked at the rock formations from another perspective in the Tüchersfeld neighbourhood of Pottenstein on the way out of Little Switzerland and on our way home.
While not on the itinerary, our last impression for this visit was of the ruin of Burg Neideck, towering above the Wiesen river valley and considered the icon of the region, just outside of the town of Muggendorf