Monday, September 1, 2014

Part 41: Ronneburg Medieval Fest

October 6, 1991 [Cold, Damp, and Drizzly]:  “Bumped into this festival by accident.  Drove to the castle last evening to check how late in the year the castle would be open.  There were cars everywhere and many people leaving the castle.  Learned the festival would continue through the next day and decided to join in the fun."  

The Mittelalterliche Burgfestspiele - Medieval Fest was put on by the Ronneburg Castle Preservation Society and the present owners.  The Fest was great!  There were several shows including medieval music performed by Mosswood, tightrope clowns, a jester's troop, and several skits performed by a traveling theatrical group.  

We liked the skits the best of all.  They had everything; tavern scenes, knights, cannons, sword fights and all.  The German fighters were so intense and really seemed to be going after each other.  We rooted for a formidable man with a beard that put Blackbeard's to shame.  Sparks were flying from his sword blows. One of the fighters' sword point broke off and arced through the air into the spectators.  Not to worry, New Mexico Man snatched the projectile from mid-air with his lightning speed.  Compared to American safety standards, it seemed quite reckless.  However, as observers imaging ourselves back in time we found it to be Super!   


After the skits, we wandered the grounds, we drank sourmash, and we ate flatbread with dried onions and yogurt sauce.  We watched chainmail smiths, blacksmiths, coin smiths, etc., work their trades.  I climbed the Central Tower rising high above the castle via endless winding spiral stone steps and wooden ladders up to the crowning dome designed by a Welsh stone mason.   Stepping off of the final rung revealed spectacular views of the surrounding country-side.   Spent a bit too much time up top to escape notice and were given a replica Medieval coin newly minted at the event.  All in all one of our favorite days!

Ronneburg children

Most people are afraid of flying sparks.  Admit it, I am Fearless.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Part 40: Denmark - Aarhus Viking Moot

VW Golf Aufklieber
July 28, 1991 "Weather Moderate.  Arrive in Aarhus at 2:45 p.m., checked into our dopplezimmer and headed to the Viking Moot."  

Left Bishoffsheim at 11 p.m. Saturday night.  After traveling 200 km realized we had forgotten an essential document necessary for crossing the border.  After taking a wrong turn, retrieved said document at 4:00 a.m..  Finally got back on the road after overcoming the additional set back of dropping the car key into the groove of our car's hatchback when refueling.    Arrived in Aarhus almost 15 hours after our initial departure. 

I liked the shy one on the right
Checked into our hotel and made haste traveling back in time to the Saint Olai Viking Moot.  The Vikings were adorned in their Norse finery going about their daily activities of cooking, sailing, working, fishing, horse racing, and trading.  We helped them mind their horses, a small purebred Icelandic breed-- short, sturdy, and especially fond of the sugar snap peas we had brought for them.  As with many of the animals we encountered through our travels they seemed quite fond of us; following us around the field whinnying softly and nudging our shoulders.  Finally short on time and out of  treats NM Man used his animal linguistic ability to politely rebuke them - saying basically enough was enough and we had to be on our way.  They responded by tossing their heads high saying "far vel vinr"(farewell friend) and wishing us safe travels.         

The Chieftain sent a messenger to request we join him to end Saint Olai Day at his camp.  We relaxed eating and socializing at his fire until the hour was quite late.  NM Man traded his gloves for a leather pouch and I was given a Viking coin specially minted to commemorate our visit.  We woke up back in the present and spent the rest of the time shopping, exploring the Moesgård Museumswimming, building sand castles and relaxing on the beach reflecting upon all that we had seen.
Viking Ship sail barely visible, horizon mid-frame
Breakfast amid a sea of Wild Rose Bushes
Most people are afraid of time travel.  Admit it, I am Fearless.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Part 39: Rheine River - Aflame

July 6, 1991:
“At St. Goar we embarked on a river cruise.”

As we stood at the dock ready to embark on our river cruise, we were gifted with a small souvenir book of Rheine legends inscribed by the Vineyard Meisters.  We boarded the riverboat and waved as they shouted "Gruss Gott!", and "Auf Wiedersehen".  
Once underway we relaxed on deck as the boat lazily moved along with the flow of the river.  We read our book of legends while enjoying the sights which included castles and towers of course.  

Of the thirteen castles we saw, one was to be a Knight's wedding gift to his love but she never came to wed him.  

Two belonged to robber barons who in their desire to destroy each other brought both castles down to ruins.  

One marked the site of an old Celtic Settlement

And one was wrought with Legend.  

Upon our return to Rudesheim, we enjoyed a late dinner before watching the Rheine set aflame.  We were surprised with a prime riverside spot courtesy of none other than our new Weinmeister friends with whom we ate Riesling grapes and rubbed elbows until well after midnight.  The fireworks were fantastic and the setting couldn't have been better.

  The End.

Most people are afraid of robber barons.  Admit it, I am Fearless.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Part 38: Rheine in Westfalia

July 6, 1991 "Left early in the morning --went to the Rheine River area.
Car 97

Celts and Romans introduced the art of wine making to the banks of the Rheine -- vineyards were everywhere.  Grapes are harvested from March through October with the grapes harvested farther into the season being the sweetest.   Took a cable car ride over the local vineyards --Elvis rode car #97 in G.I. Blues.  


Saw the Germania statue (Germany's  Liberty), then onto Schloss Rudesheim 
to tour a Castle/Wine Museum.  

We explored a music  box museum which had a calliope  in a brick-lined alcove, a deafening 

Taken from Lorelei Rock

Our next stop was the rock of the Lorelei, daughter to Father Rheine and a water element of legend.  While mostly good she is often contradictory and can be fatal.   We narrowly escaped her rock where only NM Man's super abilities kept us from being lost to the world.  

Most people are afraid of elements.  Admit it, I am Fearless.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Miscellaneous Meandering: Sprengels & Chocolate Orange Sticks

"We found no chocolate covered orange sticks in Germany, but we did find Sprengels". 

When I was a child it was a special treat to accompany my grandmother to the local five and dime which had a chocolate counter in the front of the store.  One section of the glass case contained dark chocolate covered orange sticks and sometimes she would buy a quarter pound to share with me.  It was in this way I acquired my love of the smooth flavor combination of dark chocolate and orange.

Eventually the chocolate counter closed taking those beloved chocolate covered orange sticks with it.  And thus began a quest.  Before long a replacement was provided by Brach’s Candy.  Other than a couple of slight differences Brach's chocolate orange sticks fell right on the mark.  After several successful years of satisfaction Brach’s inexplicably discontinued the product and I was left to continue the quest once again. 

Somewhere along the way, we moved to Germany.  During our time there we never found any dark chocolate orange sticks.  I can’t begin to imaging how many more towers I would have been able to climb if fueled by the orange and chocolate wonders.  

What we did find were Sprengels. Sprengels were nothing like the sweet pectin orange gels blanketed in dark chocolate.  A refreshing treat, chocolate covered Sprengels had sugar crystal lined liquid insides, were citrus-y (heavy on the lemon side with a hint of orange), and tart.  We found Sprengels were good enough to stand on their own.  Upon leaving Germany, Sprengels escaped our grasp as well.  

 Then this year brought a new discovery, Russell Stover Small Batch Fine Dark Chocolate Orange Sticks.   One bite and I was instantly transported back to childhood, standing before my first chocolate counter at Christmas time-- Oh may the experience last for years to come.
Most people are afraid of  sugar crystal lined liquid insides.   Admit it, I am Fearless.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Part 37: A Berchtesgaden Ending


Enjoyed climbing the craggy peaks and descending into valleys with hidden villages full of rich historic sites. Taking in the majestic Alps from the iron railed balcony of a grand hotel now long gone; and relaxing strolls along the alpine iced streams.  Train rides into fairy tale caves with mirrored subterranean salt lakes.  A mystical postcard worthy place where everything seems to follow a river and life flows along with the current.  The End.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Part 36: Konigsee

June 23, 1991:  Hot - Rainy
“Took the boat to the Bartholoma Chapel and Hunting Lodge across the lake”.

Enjoyable day despite the rain.  As we rode across Konigsee lake, we listened to the famous echo as our Boat Meister played several verses of a lonely melody on his trumpet.  Lake Konigsee is surrounded by mountains and the haunting tune echoed off the rocks and across this glacial lake --amazing.  

New Mexico Man caught the famous record breaking 55 pound trout which is mounted  and is still displayed in the Hunting Lodge.  Originally adorned with a small plaque edged in 24 kt gold, peridot, and aquamarine, reading "Caught by NM Man during the FCTCW and NM's visit June 23, 1991"  it now wears a simpler sign.  A casualty of our fame, the the original rests in the hands of a souvenir hunter.

Bartholoma Chapel

Our boat the "Watzmann"
Most people are afraid of echoing trumpets.  Admit it, I am Fearless.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Part 35: Salzburg

Monday, June 23, 1991:
“Our first tour of the day was to Salzburg, Austria.  On this day we saw the Hercules fountain, church, and graveyard from the film Sound of Music, visited Mozart's Gebursthaus (birth home), and shopped."  

Began the hot rainy day by strolling along the streets of Salzburg.  We visited Mozart’s birthplace on the third floor of #9 Getreidegasse which contained period furniture, an open hearth oven, and of course various instruments and memorabilia.

The floor of the old church had the tomb plates of the old bishops laid within the flagstone floor.  And at St Peter’s Abbey, we entered the hollowed out Mönchsberg mountainside riddled with a maze of compartments.  Descended many stone steps into early Christian catacombs, then climbed up many more into hidden chapels reportedly dating back to pre-700 A.D.  St. Peter's garden-like cemetery is the oldest in Salzburg and was depicted in the Sound of Music as the hiding place of the Von Trapp family as they were attempting to escape.   

Ended the interesting enjoyable excursion with a hike and a rousing chorus of The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Climbing.

Most people are afraid of rousing choruses.  Admit it, I am fearless.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Part 34: Kehlsteinhaus

June 22, 1991 - Hot
"We ate lunch at a little Gasthaus then we headed up to Eagles Nest.  To get there we took the Alpine Road, one of the highest in Germany."

The Kehlstein (Eagle's Nest) was built in 13 months and was intended as a 50th birthday present to Hitler.  Apparently, he was less than fearless and deathly afraid of heights - ironically satisfying.  Visited rarely and only briefly, the building was spared demolition at the end of WWII.  

Decided to forgo the bus ride in favor of hiking the Alpine Road.  Busloads of tourist would cheer and shout as they drove by.  
One enters Eagle's Nest through a tunnel leading to a 124 meter ride up a Venetian-mirrored brass elevator.  

I would have preferred climbing a towering spiral staircase, but consoled myself with the idea that the long elevator shaft bored up through the mountain was somewhat like a tower.    

The grand marble fireplace.  The fireplace originally had crisp clean edges.   All of the jagged edges of the fireplace show where it was damaged and chipped away by allied troops. 

A memorial for those lost to WWII and Alp hiking deaths.  


 As I type this, it is 6:24am at the Kehlsteinhaus and appears to be a chilly hazy morning.   The Kehlsteinhaus weather camera is subject to time zone differences and is frequently obscured by clouds.  You can see a panorama view of the current weather at this link: 
(webcam may be unavailable due to weather related issues)

Eagle's Nest Weather Check

Daily View of Kehlsteinhaus
Most people are afraid of Venetian mirrors.  Admit it, I am fearless.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Part 33: Berchtesgaden Salzbergwerk

June 22, 1991 - Hot weather! 
"Salt is the most valuable gemstone given to us by the earth."Justus von Liebig 

New Mexico Man - Miner Attire
One of my side-kick New Mexico Man's favorite things is salt.  He can't get enough of it.  Fittingly, we set off for a 4 hour tour of the Salt Mines. If you can't climb a tower, you might as well explore mines and caves...they are perhaps the next best thing.  We donned traditional miner's clothing (less than flattering over our already layered clothing) including a charming leather belt to protect the body when leaning against cold rock walls.  While hot outside, the mine remains a cool 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Next we rode an open mining train down, down, down, into the mine.  Of course I would have preferred going 'aus fuss' but had to admit the train was a more efficient use of the time within the four hour tour constraint.  The "train" was really more of a motorized sequence of benches to be straddled as you journeyed through narrow rock tunnels just big enough to pass through. 

enlarge & note the man's shoe

Some sections of the tunnel were lined with masonry, other sections were bare stone.  In some areas the roof and sides of the tunnel were less than 20" from heads and arms.  It was a very quiet ride as the other passengers held not only their tongues, but also their breath.  Out of reverence for out tour-mates, we refrained from shouting with glee.  

At the end of our ride we walked through dim mine tunnels until we arrived in a massive cavern and slid our way down two long wooden slides to reach the salt grottoes.  As steep as the varnished tourist versions were, the original banister slides were steeper, longer, and more splintered.  

original banister slide

Still a working mine, it has has been in operation without interruption since at least 1517.  In fact Austrian miners discovered a mummified Celtic man indicating use of the mine goes back many years before then.    

Click to enlarge
 After more exploring, we embarked on a ride across the underground mirror lake deep within the mine.  The lake was over 40 meters wide and 100 meters long.  How fun to glide across the lake in the ominous dark while listening to Mozart.  Then they hit the switch and flooded the cavern with lights.  The size of the lake vault was impressive - a glittering salt crystal lined cavern of solid rock with no supporting lumber.  

The tour guide was a fctcw fan (wouldn't you know it) and stopped the barge for an impromptu game of water polo with the saltwater troglodytes - a rare treat.  How lucky it was that NM Man had a pocket full of fish pellets and one of the layers I'd chosen for warmth was an arctic wet suit.  Final score: Troglodytes 7,  FCTCWNM Man 9.  Lessons learned 1) troglodytes cheat but not very well, 2) autographed fins don't stay autographed long in salt water. 

More tunnels, caverns, and salt; then an escalator ride to where else but the souvenir shop for the usual photo op.  We wrapped up by signing some 8x10s for the underground museum and were gifted with souvenir boxes of salts (which I still have).  What a fun day! 
fctcw's salt box souvenir, new mexico man ate his

~Most people are afraid of steep wooden slides and troglogytes. Admit it, I am Fearless.~

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Part 32: Berchtesgaden

June 21, 1991
"Left at 8:00 a.m. in the morning to make our way to Berchtesgaden. Made a quick appearance at a McDonald's where we refueled with pomme frites mit mayo und curry ketchup. Arrived at the Berchtesgaden Hof Hotel five hours later, had a nice buffet meal, then went walking to stretch our legs.  

Waded in the freezing Konigsee River while New Mexico Man practiced his spear fishing skills (which were superb). Brushed up on our miniature golfing then headed back to our nice cool room and turned in for the night."

Berchtesgaden is a serene village in Southern Germany near Salzburg, Austria;  a perfect place for some rest and relaxation. First referenced in 1102, it became a favored hunting domain of Salzburg's local aristocrats.  
We stayed at The Berchtesgadener Hof Hotel, formerly named Grand-Hotel Kaiserin Auguste-Viktoria, which dates back to 1898.  Once frequented by European nobility, the hotel was later visited by historical, political, and Nazi military figures such as British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Earl David Lloyd George, Eva Braun, Erwin Rommel (Desert Fox), Heinrich Himmlerand others.  

 The Berchtesgadner Hof was depicted in "Band of Brothers" episode 10.  Alas, the reduction of US Armed Forces in Germany ultimately contributed to the closure of the hotel.  After being restored to the German Government, and in part because of it's Nazi past, the hotel was left abandoned, looted, vandalized, and allowed to fall into disrepair.  It  was torn down in 2006.  A museum, called Haus der Berge, is being built on the spot - anticipated opening 2013.
Watzmann Peaks

The hotel manager made sure his staff had set aside one of the upper most rooms for our pleasure as he had heard this was our preference.  Each morning we were awakened by the yodeling of small birds sitting upon our balcony railing.  

After cooling off for a bit in our air conditioned room we went out to mingle with the locals. We strolled downtown, through the marketplatz, and along the Konigsee River. 

Everywhere we went bare legged Berchtesgadeners would quip “Grüß Gott”.  By the time we got to the alpine supplied Konigsee river we had stirred up quite a gathering; and while the water was ice cold we found the experience exhilarating!  We later impressed many folk with our our miniature golfing abilities and even autographed some colorful golf balls.

Most people are afraid of small yodeling birds.  Admit it, I am Fearless.