Posts Tagged ‘travel’

Almost nine months ago, I left Germany… and my nostalgia is reaching the point where I want to relive some of my time there by making at least one of the posts I never got around to.

By now, all of the mundane anxieties about reading maps and meeting trains have faded into the deep mist of the German forest* and all that’s left is golden, rosy memories of quaint medieval towns like…



*NOTE: I didn’t find German forests particularly misty; it’s just that I’ve been gone from Germany for so long now that when I try and picture it all I can see are Caspar David Friedrich paintings.



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My local history research continues apace, but it was blown out of the water last [week] when I (FINALLY) discovered the interactive aerial satellite map that marks and describes all the archaeological sites in Bavaria. It’s called the BayernViewer-Denkmal.

It doesn’t contain very much specific information, though, and as I was reminded [the day I started writing this post], it lists everything (I think) that has ever been logged — not which sites are visible today. This is obvious when it comes to graves or settlements paved and built over with street grids and new houses. But not so obvious when it’s something in the middle of the woods or a field — and since the Google Satellite images seem to be significantly out of date, I often can’t tell whether something will be there or not when I show up. Theoretically, that is okay; it’s exciting just to be in a place where I know something was once upon a time. But in practice, when you’ve walked a couple miles out into a field and you find nothing, and aren’t sure if you are in the wrong place or just aren’t seeing something or whether there’s nothing left to see, and then have to turn around and walk back — it’s a bit deflating. That’s what happened to me [the day I started writing this post] — and then I got lost in the woods because of my dumb map — so to cheer myself up I’m going to post about some of my recent successful finds!

So, let’s see. Sometime in the spring I visited another three Keltenschanzen (Celtic ring forts), a different part of the Roman road, and my first ever BARROW MOUNDS or grave mounds with Peter-language-exchange-friend, but in a terrible stroke of unluck (as the Germans would say) I had forgotten to bring my camera that day. So I don’t have pictures of those first mounds — I might go back by myself in the two weeks before I leave, just because those schanzes and the road were more impressive than others that I’ve seen, and I’d like pictures of them. But in the meantime, I finally did my homework and found out (pre-BayernViewer) that I had some in my own backyard: in the woods near Allach, the village just to the north of my own.

Actually, as I mentioned on Facebook, I read through my books and found maps and located where I thought the grave mounds would be, and then as I was leaving the house, I took along the map of Munich that I bought on my first day in Germany. And it was marked: “Grabhügel.” So much for my research skills! And I still got lost, as you’ll see.


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I am skipping all kinds of stuff just to show you what I did this past weekend! I saw my first actual CASTLE RUINS.

This is Castle Ehrenberg (in Reutte, Austria), which lies on the Via Claudia Augusta, the Roman road that stretched from Venice to Augsburg. It’s part of a complex of fortifications — this castle, from the 13th century with multiple additions to the 17th century; an 18th century fort on the hill just above it; a 13th-14th century “klause” or hermitage guarding the road (the Via Claudia Augusta) through the valley; and a smaller 16th century fort on the opposite hill across the valley. This gorge along the River Lech was a strategic point from the Romans on up, and the Romans actually had a fort down in the valley, in Breitenwang, just next to the town of Reutte.

If that’s a little confusing, no worries… just look at the pretty pictures. (more…)

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So this past weekend, I went to France to partake in that most medieval of Christian pastimes: a pilgrimage… we walked from Notre Dame de Paris to Chartres Cathedral, a distance of about 90-95 kilometers. But I still have other posts to finish, that I don’t want to get completely behind on, so you’ll have to wait a bit to hear about it (or you can, you know, talk to me personally, on email and such. I still have email. And Facebook.)

Until then:

The Germans entering the symbol of France.

I’m compelled to link you to the intro sequence of what is probably my favorite anti-medieval medieval movie of all time: The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Disneyfied Victor Hugo could not be anything but anti-medieval, really, but there are still enough great moments in this movie that it remains a sentimental favorite. SANCTUARY! SANCTUARY! Who is the monster and who is the man??

(And if you want to see which classic Latin texts Alan Menken used in his score, check out this cool version of the final scene, which plays the score louder than the dialogue and provides subtitles. Dies irae, O salutaris hostia, and more.)

Part of the northern facade of Chartres Cathedral. If you want to learn more about Chartres, you could watch this documentary (in 5 parts) that I uploaded a few years ago. It has its sillier moments, and downplays some of the more robustly Christian symbolism for a more palatable “world spirituality” emphasis, but that in itself is not uninteresting, and they include lots of cool stuff about how medieval cathedrals were built and why they were built. It starts getting really good in the third section, so hang on through the more blah-blah spiritual-tourism parts.

Okay, now to go back to work on my Oxford post…!

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City of dreaming spires, etc etc! When I first got back I sent an exhausted and rather breathless email to Heidi saying: “London actually exists. Oxford is such a perfect place it makes me feel guilty that I saw it.” And it wasn’t just for effect. I actually felt guilty for finally seeing Oxford, which might tell you a little more about me than about Oxford, but nevertheless. A northwesterner like me can’t really believe these places weren’t just invented for bookish convenience.

We were staying in Katherine’s friend’s apartment, who was out of town for the weekend. The whole place was covered in books, which is exactly the kind of place I like. We got there pretty late at night and immediately went to bed, but when I woke up in the morning and looked out the window, I saw this:


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Before I start making my longer posts again, I wanted to post the tail end of my pictures from my Venice trip. I always meant to, but I forgot. It’s just a bunch of pictures I took out the train window, but hopefully they will serve to show (1) how fun it is to travel by train in daylight, (2) the landscape outside of cities with the castles and things, and (3) how the Alps differ from American mountains.

It was so cool to travel straight from the coast of (northern) Italy, through the lowlands, then up through the Italian and Austrian Alps (the region of Tyrol), and down again to Munich — though it was pretty much dark out by the time we got to Innsbruck (in Austria). (more…)

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On my second day Katherine was able to come with me, which was much more fun and less intimidating. (I sort of like and sort of don’t like the riskiness of traveling in a strange city on my own…) But there was still risk involved — for instance, when I kept crossing the street and forgetting which way to look for cars, and was nearly hit by a bus. Killed by a double-decker bus in London, what a way to go.


We went to see the London (or Brompton) Oratory, which meant…

We were in Newman country. (more…)

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