My Illlustrated Travel Journal with Essays about Roman and Mediaeval History and some Geology


18.9.16
  Castles, Celts, and some Churches - Summer Tours 2016

I undertook no larger journey this year, but my father and I - sometimes together with some friends - did a number of day tours and hiking trips which accumulated a fair amount of photos. So there will be a Back With Booty post.

Of, course, we can haz castles and castle ruins. *grin*

Castle Scharfenstein

Castle Scharfenstein near Leinefelde in Thuringia dates to the early 13th century, though it suffered from a severe fire in the 1430ies and was rebuilt in a more moderate scale. Like so many historical buildings in the former GDR it was neglected, but restoration is going on since 2006 and by now the castle is in pretty good repair.

The ruins of Castle Altenstein near Bad Sooden-Allendorf

The castle is known as Altenstein (Old Rock) or Altenburg (Old Castle). It's a pretty obscure 14th century castle, and I couldn't find much information about its history. Its lords were vassals of the landgraves of Thuringia in the 15th century, but the castle eventually fell to Hessia. It was returned to the county of Thuringia after WW2. Today, only some ruins are hidden in the woods.

The great hall of Castle Grebenstein

The walls of the impressive great hall (palas) of Castle Grebenstein near Kassel still survive. The 13th century castle played an important role in the ongoing quarrels between the landgraves of Hessia, the archbishops of Mainz and the landgraves of Thuringia. It was in possession of the Counts of Everstein in the late 13th century who also held Castle Polle at the Weser. Thus Castle Grebenstein is another knot in the net of the connections of local noble families.

Remains of Castle Greene

The keep of Castle Greene has been restored like in many other castles, but only some ruins are left of the curtain walls and other buildings. The castle controlled the river Leine and has seen a fair amount of interesting history which I'll have to hunt down.

Castle Tannenburg on a hazy summer day

This one, situated near the village of Nentershausen in Hessia, has been restored and offers a nice place for weddings and other celebrations. They also serve Mediaeval food, though adapted to modern tastes - you can get coffee. *grin* When I asked for a guidebook, the reply was that some historians are working on it but it'll take time because there are so many contradictory sources. I know that problem only too well.

Remains of Castle Sachsenburg in the Harz mountains

Of the famous Castle Sachsenburg near Walkenried, one of the main Harz fortresses of the emperor Heinrich IV, only a few ruins remain. He was forced to dismantle the castle after the peace with the rebellious Saxon nobles, and it was never restored. Though I'm sure there is more hiding under the earth than one can see - a bit of archaeogical digging should prove interesting. Anyone got the funds? ;-)

We also revisited two castles.

Castle Weidelsburg, the western hall which had been scaffolded in during our first visit

When I visited the Weidelsburg in 2008, repair work had been going on and the western keep had been scaffolded in. I wanted to return once the whole sandblasting, mortar replacing and cleaning of brambles in the zwinger would be done with. The castle looks really nice now - and it was impressive already before.

Hanstein Castle

The Hanstein is not so far from where I live, so it was not a big deal to go there again with my new camera. The posts about that castle need to be rewritten, and I could do with some additional photos.

Remains of the palatine seat in Gelnhausen

Another visit brought us to the palatine seat in Gelnhausen. It played an important role in the history of the Staufen family (esp. in the feud of the emperor Friedrich Barbarossa with Heinrich the Lion), which is why I wanted some photos of that one for a long time. I had been there as child, so it was a trip down the memory lane as well. It seemed larger to me back then.

There was more than castles, of course.

Glauberg, the tumulus

On the way back from Gelnhausen we stopped at the famous Celtic Museum on the Glauberg. That's another place that had been on my wish list for quite some time. Those Celts are just fascinating.

Glauberg, head shot of the famous statue

And here's the guy which graces the cover of at least two thirds of all books about the Celts, the 'Celtic prince with the leaf crown'. The statue probably stood on top of the tumulus once; now it is inside the museum. I was surprised that the guy isn't much taller than I am - somehow I got a mental image of a 8-10 feet tall statue.

The Romanesque church of Wahlshausen monastery

St. Mary's Church in Wilhelmshausen near Kassel is all that remains of the monastery of Wahlshausen. It is another of those pretty Romanesque churches you can find in German villages. It is also the burial site of the last Lord of Sichelnstein, Bardo, who died in 1239 (though the tomb doesn't remain).

Salzwedel, the castle keep, with the Monk's Church in the background left

Salzwedel had been an important town involved in the salt trade in Mediaeval times, and member of the Hanseatic League. Unfortunately, it was situated in the GDR and thus neglected. Much has been done after the reunion, but it can't rival its big sister Lüneburg.

Salzwedel, interior of St.Laurent Church

The architecture is mostly brick, typical for the nothern German Hanseatic towns. The keep of the castle remains as well as several churches of Romanesque and Gothic style. But else the place is rather quiet, and some houses still in bad need of repair.

Arendsee monastery, the church

The Benedictine monastery (or rather, nunnery) in Arendsee was founded in 1183. It is a beautiful example of Romanesque brick architecture. The church survives intact, but of the other buildings only ruins remain. Pretty, picturesque ruins on a hill at a lake that shone with a clear blue on that sunny afternoon.

Arendsee, remains of the monastery buildings

Lovely and peaceful.

Don't miss the second post about our summer tours below. That one gives glimpses into our hiking tours.
 


  Rocks, Romans, and a Ringwall - Hiking Tours in Summer 2016

I've already presented the hiking tours in the juniper heath near Rossbach and the 'Hessian Switzerland'. Here are some more we did this year.

Karst landscape in the Meissner

The tours included a second - and more extended - visit to some of the most interesting karst formations in the Meissner, with its pretty white limestone rocks and hidden sinkholes. One better remains on the official paths if one doesn't want to end up in a hole (and not a Hobbit one). *grin*

Basalt and red sandstone on the Blue Dome (Blaue Kuppe)

Another interesting geological formation is the Blue Dome (Blaue Kuppe) near Eschwege. That one consists of volcanic olivine basalt from 12 million years ago, which pressed through a layer of coloured sandstone. It had been quarried until 1920, but today the area is a nature reserve.

Devil's chancel, Werra valley

Of course it wasn't the devil - who gets blamed for all sort of odd rocks that stick out in a landscape - but geological processes that shaped the protruding rock of coloured sandstone which offers a nice view into the Werra valley. But the name Teufelskanzel (Devil's Chancel) sounds more fun than something like 'Red Sandstone Cliff'.

Nature reserve with very old trees near Sababurg Castle

It is no genuine jungle, but the forest near the Sababurg has been left to grow since 1907 and it looks fairly primeval by now. The land had formerly been a forest where the pigs and cows would be driven to feed, so the vegetation was kept short except for some large trees. The sunlight reached the ground, and after the place became a nature reserve, younger trees could grow up between the old veterans. Some of the old ones look really twisted now.

Carolingian ringwall near Bad Sooden-Allendorf

Remains of a Carolingian earthen ringwall can be found on a mountain looming behind the town of Bad Sooden-Allendorf at the Werra. It is so overgrown that it really takes some imagination, though. Even less - that is, nothing - remains of the timber and wattle-and-daub houses inside the fortification. It was likely erected to protect the salt mines at the Werra, but little is known of the history of the site.

The Bruchteiche lakes near Bad Sooden-Allendorf

On the way up to the ringwall one passes some artificial lakes, the Bruchteiche, which were dug out in 1910 to cover the increasing need of drinking water in the spa town of Bad Sooden. The salt has been used for medical purposes since that time. The twin town of Bad Sooden-Allendorf is still a spa town today.

The Roman battlefield at Kalefeld / Harzhorn

The 3rd century battlefield at Kalefeld / Harzhorn, where Romans fought against Germans and which had been discovered in 2008, now includes a hiking way with information tablets and marked spots in the landscape that explain the battle. It is indeed very informative and interesting. And a nice walk, too.

The Oder in Bad Lauterberg / Harz

I'll leave you with some cold water: the Oder river in the spa park in Bad Lauterberg in the Harz. After the route diversions between Göttingen and the Harz, which had annoyed us for several years, have finally been cleared up, we'll plan to go there more often again.
 


The Lost Fort is a travel journal and history blog based on my travels in Germany, the UK, Scandinavia, and other places. It includes essays on Roman and Mediaeval history, as well as some geology, illustrated with photos of old castles and churches, Roman remains, and beautiful landscapes.

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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Location: Germany

I'm a blogger from Germany with a MA in Literature and History which doesn't pay my bills, so I use it to research blogposts instead. I'm interested in everything Roman and Mediaeval, avid reader and sometimes writer, opera enthusiast, traveller with a liking for foreign languages and odd rocks, photographer, and tea aficionado. And an old-fashioned blogger who hasn't yet gotten an Instagram account. :-)


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