Sunday, 13 August 2023

sunday drive: talsperre lütsche (10. 941)

On the way back from some window-shopping, we took a detour through the Geratal to Frankenhain for a stroll around the second biggest artificial lake in the region (previously). Dammed in 1935 by the Deutschen Reichsbahn in order to provide a source of water for stations in Erfurt and Arnstadt, by the time the reservoir (Stausee) was completed steam-powered locomotion was being superseded and it was converted to hydropower—and today the same supply-system to cool data centres in Neudietendorf and for brewery operations connected to the train stations that have repurposed the cisterns. The tributary rivers have their source near the winter sports destination Oberhof, whose ancient volcanic composition of quartz porphyry were also the quarry for the retaining walls. Used primarily for recreational activities currently, it was certainly a nice walk down to the beach and good to visit the area again.

Tuesday, 16 May 2023

bachstadt arnstadt (10. 746)

While waiting for our dog to recover after surgery at the veterinarian clinic there, H and I took a quick tour of Arnstadt, an old and storied town also known as the Gateway to the Thüringer Wald due to its location on the northeast corner of the forest, the oldest settlement once in East Germany due to its first documented mention in 704, a candidate for the origin of Bratwurst and Weizen beer outside of Bavaria thanks to a fourteenth century mention, and mostly famously for its native son Johann Sebastian Bach (see previously), who had his first posting in the New Church—now known as the Bachkirche—as organist. 

Granted a charter as a city by Hersfeld Abbey, heavy sanctions were levied against the town for aiding fugitives during the Peasants’ War in the thirteenth century and nearly a hundred rebels were burnt in the market square. 

The main landmark is the remaining tower of the ruin of the Neideck palace, already in disrepair by the end of the reign of the dukes of Schwarzburg by the beginning of the nineteenth century, the rest was bombed into rubble during World War II. The church’s Baroque pipe organ has been restored to its condition and appearance in 1703 when the eighteen year old prodigy first played it.  The monument is pure speculation as no portraits or physical descriptions of Bach and locals refer to the bronze as the ‘Marktflätz’—one whose sprawled out in the square—cf, Marktplatz.

Thursday, 20 October 2022

gerüste der republik (10. 239)

Via Present /&/ Correct, we directed towards a project curating all the varied playground climbing frame configurations from the former East Germany, der GDR—see also. The website not only maps the location of each structure, it also features pictures and schematics of each taxonomically and gives their fantastic names—Rubiks Würfel, Alcatraz and Dromedar plus a litany of rocketship and space-themed jungle gyms and playground equipment. Much more to explore at the links above.

Sunday, 4 September 2022

pegelstand oder die grüne 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 Preßwitz 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 Ziegenrück, 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 Reuß, 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.








 

Saturday, 3 September 2022

ausflug thüringenersee (10. 107)

H and took a summer’s end quick excursion to the dammed Saale river valley to tour the landscape that developed around the reservoirs (Stauseen) and how the natural intersects the artificial.


First we stopped to take a guided tour of the Saalfeld Fairy Grottos (die Feengrotten), a set of caverns in a former mine for alum shale (see previously) remarkable for their colourful mineral veins, called speleothems, owing to the porous soil.

Commercial operations halted in 1850 (the use of potassium aluminate as a preservative was antiquated) and was opened to tourist as early as 1914 due to the reputedly curative properties of the ambient radiation present, after the discovery of the third chamber, the Märchendom—the Fairy Tale Kingdom and the Grail Castle after various interpretations of the sedimentary creations.

Seeing this tableau inspired Siegfried Wagner to pattern the set design for his father’s opera Tannhäuser for the Bayreuth Festspiele in the 1920s.

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 Rhön 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.
 

Friday, 22 October 2021

komplementärwährungen

Introduced in Erfurt in October 1929, nearly coinciding with the US stock market crash Black Friday that set off the Great Depression world-wide, the alternative currency known as Wära, invented by Hans Time and Helmut Rödiger its name derived from the words Währung (money) and währen (lasting, stable), was freely exchangeable with the Reichsmark at parity.

As legal tender and a store of wealth, however, each banknote carried a monthly penalty (demurrage, the carrying cost) of one percent its face value which could be offset with stamps and had a expiry date so people and businesses were motivated to spend and not hoard their liquid assets, thereby countering inflation. Gradually other businesses and workers began to accept Wära and there was even a coal mining operation fully financed with loans, salaries and discounted consumer sales in the alternative currency. Marked improvement in the region’s economy attracted the attention of the finance ministry, which after deliberation ordered the experiment to be suspended, fearing this parallel form of payment would ultimately undermine rebuilding Germany’s industrial sector, which by that time in 1931 had spread to a network of fourteen cities and were accepted in several national banks and stores.

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.

Saturday, 4 September 2021

goethe-schiller-denkmal

Setting off what was called the “cult of monuments” with dozens of replicas subsequently installed throughout Europe and the North America, the original double-bronze statue (Doppelstandbild) of friends and revered literary figures Johann Wolfgang Goethe and Friedrich Schiller by sculptor Ernst Rietschel (previously) and commissioned by popular demand under the patronage of Karl Alexander August Johann, Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, was unveiled on this day in 1857 in the forecourt of the royal theatre where Goethe had served as director for nearly twenty-five years, the house hosting countless performances of Schiller’s plays over the years. Despite specious or wholly lacking affinities to these places, like monuments had been dedicated New York, San Francisco, Columbus Ohio, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Chicago and St. Louis prior to the outbreak of World War I and even during fighting, more ensemble pieces were erected in Omaha, Detroit, St. Paul, Syracuse and Rochester.

Thursday, 25 February 2021

hügel und tal


Taking a rather long, meandering afternoon walk now that Spring has arrived, I headed towards the former border and thought to follow the patrol road, the Kolonnenweg to its terminus understanding that there was a large tri-colour marker to be found there. I think I took a wrong turn or failed to go on long enough but came to a rise below the Hohe Schuhe and hill top clearing that provided a good view of Hermannsfeld and the border tower now a monument beyond. 
Believing I knew a way to return home without backtracking, I followed a logging trail around the mountain and down into a valley of pastures, which I though was familiar at first but then realised I had gone considerably further out of the way than I had intended and ended up in the fields north of Eußenhausen where the former control point and crossing to Meiningen is conserved as a monument.

Trying to get my bearings and finding a cycle path to follow, I discovered the ruins of a church belfry belonging to a settlement called Elmbach or Ellenbach—vacated along with surrounding property during the era of divided Germany as it was too close to the border (see previously), the ruin a reminder of a sixteenth century desertion but yet a poignant symbol, lonely in the fields whatever the circumstance. The tower houses a chapel and since 1989 has been re-consecrated as a symbol of reunion. 


 

 

Wednesday, 6 January 2021

zusammenleben

We really enjoyed pursuing the extensive portfolio of images captured of East Germany in the photography of Ute Mahler, who embarked in 1974 for a decade’s long mission to preserve and convey his fellow friends, neighbours and strangers as they were authentically cool and collected—both candid and posed—and unmediated by geopolitics. Much more curated by the Guardian at the link above and at the on-line gallery exhibition hosted by La Maison De L’Image Documentaire.