A BIRD AND THE MEAD OF POETRY

The red-necked phalarope is an extraordinary bird and a real wanderer between the worlds and above the sea of fog although it is not really big (length of 19 cms). The photo above shows the outlook during breeding, in autumn and winter the plumage will change to a simple white/grey. Quite exceptionally in nature the gender roles of these birds are completely different than normally while the male birds are breeding the eggs and also guiding afterwards the young birds while the female birds perform the courtship displays in order to attract the male birds and will as well protect the breeding site against external enemies.


Red-necked phalarope (Odinshühnchen) in breeding plumage,
photograph by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters

The birds are breeding from May until July all over the Northern arctic and subarctic hemisphere including Iceland, Sweden, Finland and Norway. During the rest of the year the birds are staying scattered over the tropical and subtropical oceans but also at the coastal side of Patagonia and the Southern part of Japan. The German name is a bit unusual Odinshühnchen (meaning literally Odin chicken) such making reference to the Northern & Scandinavian mythology – one of its glamorous homelands in the circle of the year.

Odin steals the Mead of Poetry while being chased by Suttungr,
illustration by Ólafur Brynjúlfsson, 18th century

In the old European mythology ‘Edda’ the divinity Odin (German: Wodan) steals the Mead of Poetry in the shape of an eagle out of Suttungr’s cave. The Poetic Mead is a real magic beverage and, whoever drinks it, soon thereafter can recite any information and solve any question. While being chased by Suttungr, Odin spits the Mead of Poetry into several vessels. But the chase was so fierce, that some spits dropped backwards. Hence, anybody could now drink this part, and subsequently poetry was finally gifted to mankind by a single bird.


Birdwatching excursion led by ornithologist Derk Ehlert
on Poel Peninsula/Baltic Sea in August 2016

In Central Europe the red-necked phalarope can only be discovered rarely during their passage to the South in August when making a rest in the German coastal region, sometimes as well in Austria at Lake Neusiedl. So in August 2016 I was really lucky to see an Odinshühnchen during an ornithological trip to Poel Peninsula/Baltic sea in large distance to the shore on an inland-pond which is one of their preferred sites. Then you need of course a very good binoculars / spotting scope for such purpose and without an experienced guide who knows where to look you will never have such a seldom chance. During such trips sometimes you can only hear the multiple birds, so we must also listen to their polyphonic concert starting early in the morning because birds can tell a lot of stories of their global wanderings around our world.

Postcard by artistampex, Canada, 1984

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #49: Favorite Things

 

EXPLORING THE ISLAND OF USEDOM / BALTIC SEA

In early June 2019 we spent again some days on the varied and ancient island of Usedom in the Baltic Sea which is connected by two shorter bridges with the German mainland being separated from the island only by the river Peene and huge coastal backwaters.

Anklam Gate in the old Hanseatic City of Usedom

Rural countryside near Mellenthin Castle

Usedom lies in Western-Pomerania (Vorpommern) and on the European Route of Brick Gothic architecture. In German there exists an old lullaby featuring Pomerania and sounding in fact more like a nightmare: “Maikäfer flieg, der Vater ist im Krieg, die Mutter ist im Pommernland, Pommernland ist abgebrannt.”  The besetting content most probably goes back to the Seven-Years-War (1756-1763) when the Swedish army devastated great parts of Pomerania. Why this dramatical song is used for making children sleep, likely remains a secret for me.

Abandoned barn near Grüssow

Hiking on the coastal path from Grüssow to Warthe

Today however, the island of Usedom means just a real nice and peaceful place at the wild shores of the Baltic Sea. In hot summers it is usually much cooler than on the mainland. You will find there long white beaches and spas, big forests with inland lakes, dreamy villages, old castles and beautiful natural reserves.

The medieval church of Rankwitz

Wildness at the natural reserve Lieper Winkel

We did some hiking on bikes which allows very well to reach the remote and original sites of this island. Some of these amazing and stunning places are featured here on a few photos which require to return sometime in the very future.

Ancient blue fisher house with a thatched roof at Warthe

Bathing area of Dewichow with view on the backwaters

Tuesday Photo Challenge – Ancient

OBSCURE MENHIR EVENT

You may have heard of the mythical menhirs (i. e. standing stones) in connection with the comic Asterix and Obelix but in fact they may be discovered in many countries of Europe, not only in Brittany. So when I learned that one example of megalithic culture can be found just 150 kms from my home at Langeneichstädt near the city of Halle in Germany, I had to go and see this place.

The menhir of Langeneichstädt (ca. 3,600 – 2,700 BC)

When visiting the neolithic site of Langeneichstädt comprising an ancient menhir and a stone cist grave in 2017 on 3 November (i. e. shortly after All Saints Day), former visitors had left fresh flowers at the place ritually to my real great surprise – hence I did hesitate instinctively moving forward for a while.

Carving on the menhir said to symbolize the dolmin goddess

Such places at times imply special energies and dynamics because a little bit later I heard a clear, mysterious and yelling voice out of nowhere although nobody else could be seen somewhere except me.  May be it was only the wind, you might certainly argue, but the incident made me shivering immediately while not finally falling into absolute delusive panic like people in the dark novels of H. P.  Lovecraft.

Cover-stones of the stone cist grave (ca. 3,600 – 2,700 BC)

A however deep and ice-cold irritation made me leaving this primeval location much faster than planned with the clear agenda not to return so soon again. A baffling and surreal message from the past must have passed my way at this very moment.

View inside the pristine burial place of Langeneichstädt

 

 

ARCHAIC ENCOUNTER AT LAKE CONSTANCE

In Unteruhldingen, Germany, on Lake Constance, wooden posts in the water still serve as reminders of the houses that once stood there.

During the Neolithic Period (4,000 BC), the first farmers settled by the lakes around the Alps. They often built their villages directly in or by the water and protected themselves from the wet grounds and floods by building their homes on wooden stilts. These pile dwellings are an early form of settlement offering the people protection against enemies and predators. And the close proximity to water was also vital for survival by the direct access to the lucrative fishing grounds.

The pictures here were all taken some days ago at the Pile Dwellings Museum of Unteruhldingen, Lake Constance. This site comprises an open-air museum with 23 reconstructed houses from the Stone and Bronze Age (4,000 until 850 BC). After archeological excavations in the lake the first houses were reconstructed in 1922 based on replicas and original findings making a fascinating submerged world visible again.

Towards the end of the Bronze Age (approximately 850 BC), a dramatically worsening climate and rising lake level pushed the settlers back inland into the surrounding hills. Since then, the remains of the sunken villages have been resting well protected at the bottom of Lake Constance. Complex underwater excavations brought numerous finds of building parts which allowed for accurate reconstruction of the houses.

Other diverse finds can be seen in a small museum, and in the houses you get also a deep insight of ancient living conditions being really worth a visit.

 

Tuesday Photo Challenge – Connections

ENCHANTED FOREST

In our neighbourhood at home one of our favourite trails for hiking leads through Briese Valley / Briesetal near the Northern gates of Berlin. The Briese is a small, not very long river flowing mostly in a glacial groover. Here you may find a wild alder swamp forest, beaver dams and marshland in quite original condition. During our recent visit nature has rested still in winter mode but at least some green to be admired on the watersurface.The nicest part of this trail starts at the village of Briese in the direction of Zühlsdorf over a distance of around 6 km. There it is possible to make a rest at a nice old forester’s lodge in the woods where you get small snacks (such as homemade deer sausage) and drinks during the weekend all year round and then go back on the other riverside with different views, a nice roundtrip of approx. 12 km.

 

 

Jo’s Monday walk : Natural beauty at Fonte Filipe

 

VOYAGE AT HOME

Each journey requires an appropriate device. This building in the East-German countryside at Gellmersdorf used to be a stable for pigs for very long time before changed to an airplane in 2012 by a local aviation enthusiast. The painted house shows “Aircraft 152” being built in the former German Democratic Republic starting from 1958. 12 jet aircrafts of this type were manufactured then production was stopped as it had turned out as simply too expensive. The premise serves as a small information centre and venue regarding aviation.

Voyager