GOTHIC LADY OF NAUMBURG

Fascination captured in stone

Uta von Ballenstedt was the wife of Margrave Eckard II von Meissen, member of the German dynasty known as the House of Ascania. Their marriage created no heir, and any chance of furthering their line ended with Eckard’s death in 1046, followed shortly thereafter by Uta’s. Her entire estate was donated to the construction of Naumburg Cathedral being erected in the early 13th century.  A little bit later the anonymous Naumburg master created a dozen donor figures for the cathedral, including representations of Eckard II and Uta.

These life-size statues are relatively rare in the annals of art history, as they depict neither king nor emperor, and are considered masterpieces of Gothic art.Indeed, some art connoisseurs consider Uta von Ballenstedt’s sculpture to be of exceptional beauty, even placing her on the same level as Botticelli’s Venus. She attracts many visitors to Naumburg Cathedral to this day – an UNESCO World Heritage site.

Naumburg Cathedral, postcard of early 20th century

P S.  The very nice town of  Naumburg (Saale) is nearly 1,000 years old, and there one can visit also the Friedrich-Nietzsche-Haus, a museum dedicated to the life and work of this well known German philosopher.

Street scene near the cathedral / Sunday 9 August 2020 / 36,2° Celsius

 

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Jo’s Monday walk : From Bay to Beautiful Bay

 

STONE AGE(D) RELICS

Around 5500 BC the socalled Linear Pottery Culture did spread all over Europe. Migrating farmers and ranchers founded the first relevant culture with a large settlement area in the Neolithic period. 

Solar observatory and circle of Goseck (4800 BC), path between the palisades

The enclosure at Goseck in Germany was discovered by an air survey in 1991. It consists of an almost fully circular ditch and two concentric rings of palisades. Three cheek-shaped portals point towards the north, the south-east and the south-west and serve as aims for the observation of the sun at the winter solstice  The neolithic circular enclosure of Goseck had been already erected at around 4,800 BC, the oldest known facility and celestial calendar like this in Europe. As a place of assembly, trade, religious ceremony and jurisdiction it was the centre of an early micro-region. In 2005, the solar observatory and woodhenge of Goseck was reconstructed on its original site.

Dolmin Goddess (3,500 – 2,600 BC)
Menhir of Langeneichstädt

Hinkelsteins can be found everywhere in Europe. This is a rather small one and only the 2nd replica. The 1st replica had already been stolen some years ago by freaky people. Indeed when visiting the strange location there were sacrificed flowers on the ground because contemporary shamans still use such mythical places. Though the original menhir is safeguarded at the State Museum of Pre-History in Halle (Saale), Germany.

Megalithic grave of Trebenow (3,300 – 2,800 BC)

A regional legend tells of two giants who came to Trebenow and built castles there. They initially lived in harmony, but quarreled because a giantess came into the village and both wanted to marry her. The two giants entrenched themselves in their castles and threw huge boulders at each other. Finally one of the giants was fatally hit, the other repented and built this boulder grave for his friend.

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Lens-Artists Weekly Photo Challenge #108: Sanctuary

 

BEE-EATERS / PROFITEERS OF CLIMATE CHANGE

Visiting the northernmost breeding area of these multicolored summer guests

Photo created by Hwbund at Kaiserstuhl area, Germany, CC BY-SA 4.0
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Nowadays, the fabulous bee-eaters made their way even  to the very northeast of Germany close by the city of Prenzlau where they live in an operating surface mine which produces sand and gravel. In summer 2020 six breeding pairs stay actually here for a very short time, they usually arrive around 10 June and as real migrating birds leave again by 31 July when they will have already raised their brood.

Summer residence of the bee-eaters – a gravel pit near the village of Gerswalde (district Buchholz), Uckermark

Last Saturday I joined an ornithological excursion to this site led by ornithologist Derk Ehlert who is also the responsible Wildlife Officer of Berlin. Due to the ongoing COVID19 pandemic the group had to be reduced to 8 people for ensuring necessary security rules. Fortunately, weather was fine so the bee-eaters were very active outside of their nesting caves. Once a bee-eater even flew over our heads, but the birds live inside the pit, a restricted area, so we could watch them usually only from a distance of 200-250 m.

Spotting scopes and binoculars required for observation of birds

Bee-eaters (merops apiaster) belong to the bird genus merops, a name emerging also in Greek mythology. There, Merops used to be the mythical king of the Meroper on the Greek island of Kos who had been transformed to an eagle by the goddess Hera. And the bee-eaters also like the Mediterranean area and prefer warm climates.

Flowery view on the technical facilities of the gravel pit
 
Video produced by Heinz Sielmann Stiftung, Germany
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The bee-eater was considered extinct in Germany at the end of the 1980s, but has been migrating again since 1990 due to the ongoing climate change. His habitat is open landscapes with individual trees and bushes, and the birds breed in dug caves on steep slopes.
All what the birds require can be found in this gravel pit very well, and even when temperatures are not too high, the white sand is heated here by the strong July sun, so it should be always quite cozy for these birds.
Bee-eaters are often found in colonies. They like to sit, usually together with their peers, on outstanding branches, wires and masts. Through the spotting scope I myself could see 5 birds sitting on a distant bush, may be they just had a small siesta talk.

In a hill next to the gravel pit some holes and abandoned nest caves which might also be the work of black-tailed swallows (riparia riparia)

I found the place very fascinating, the mixture of technology, archaic steppe and wildlife an interesting symbiosis. The bee-eaters have seized a new living space here in the North where they apparently feel quite comfortable in summer.

Bird mural by Don Johnson for Urban Nation, Berlin

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PREHISTORIC MIDSUMMER AT WOODHENGE

Diving in an offbeat Stonehenge feeling at Saxony-Anhalt, Germany

The western gate (Beltane / Lugnasad)

On the occasion of solcistice 2020 we visited the Woodhenge Pömmelte (Ringheiligtum von Pömmelte), a circular sanctuary in Saxony-Anhalt; in the evening of years’ longest day time had come to discover this ancient and magical spot. During this period of the year people usually enjoy the very long days, so this archeological site offered special guided tours on June 20 at 8:30 p.m, followed by the sunset at 9:28 p.m.

View through the outer palisades at dusk

Although weather was not ideal with a more grey sky and even a little bit of rain, some nice light effects emerged at the distant horizon when the sun finally disappeared, impressive moments that we longingly look for.

View on the sanctuary from the visitor’s platform

Woodhenge Pömmelte is a reconstructed circular earthwork of Neolithic times and the early Bronze Age. South of Magdeburg, not far from the river Elbe, archaeologists discovered in 1991 the remains of a huge cult site. A complete excavation took place between 2005 and 2008. Afterwards, the circular ditch system was completely reconstructed at the original site. The complex structure comprises seven rings of wooden palisade rings, pits, ramparts and embankments with a total diameter of 115 m. 

A burial place – the engraving shows the position of the deceased

Inside the sanctuary at dusk

In terms of size, structure and function, the ring sanctuary resembled the English Stonehenge. However, the construction in Pömmelte did not consist of large stones, but of 1,800 wooden posts; both sites were erected by the socalled Bell Beaker culture at the end of the Stone Age. So we may assume that some kind of European community, travelling and exchange has already existed more than 4,000 years ago.

Inside the sanctuary – people waiting for sunset

View on the inner circles from the western gate

Many generations of prehistoric inhabitants utilized this place to cultivate their customs and practices, and to pass them down to their descendants in the time period 2,335 – 2,050 BC. The location was used as a central sanctuary with sacrificial pits and ritual dumpings; drinking vessels, animal bones, millstones, stone axes, pottery, grindstones, arrow heads and parts of human bodies were part of ceremonious sacrifices and burials those days and found here in diverse deposits.

More varied deposits in the ramparts
between the inner and outer palisades
 

While the world was changing radically, the Stone Age ended and the Bronze Age began, there was persistence here for quite a long time, a place of worship and assembly, a burial site, a victim’s place and an astronomical calendar in one.

The eastern gate (Imbloc / Samhain)

Like in Stonehenge the plant design was also guided by astronomical issues and aspectsThe two main gates and entrances to the complex (in the East and West) are based on the sunrise and sunset points of the days between the solstices and the equinoxes. So the site served as a huge calendar marking seasons, harvest time and New Year as well.

We were a bit disappointed because we had expected that the sunset would take place directly in the middle of the western gate as a special midsummer event when looking directly from the East. However, we surprisingly learnt that this effect appears instead on April 30 but the guide did not go in the details or just talked to quick. 

At home I could satisfy my curiosity regarding April 30 well known here as Walpurgis night when witches gather at particular places. Though, in the old Celtic belief (Beltane) in Ireland, Wales or Scotland it meant also the beginning of summer, an important date for successful agriculture.

So when April 30 was regarded in former times as the beginning of summer, I now understand better why solcistice is also named midsummer here in the Northern hemisphere.

All in all a very nice trip, and thanks for following this short time journey and midsummer excursion.

 

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Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #102: A Quiet Moment

The Cosmic Photo Challenge.

Jo’s Monday walk : a fishy tale!

HIKING BEHIND THE TIMES

“Here is not past, nor future;
everything just flows  in an eternal present.”
(James Joyce)

 

Thanks to the ongoing COVID19 pandemic,  we spend more time than usual in the rural countryside or urban nature which are actually the safest places to be.

More recently we have visited Hellsee / Bright Lake being situated 20 kms northern of Berlin. It is a fabulous nature reserve, so you may not be astonished that fallen trees are partially lying on the trail.

The beautiful lake is part of a glacial basin with a diversified landscape including wet meadows, marshland, forests, small streams, sandy gorges and moraines.

We were of course also looking for birds and then at the car park stumbled finally across this quite kitschy scene.

ARTBASE FESTIVAL 2019 – MURALS IN RURAL RUINS

Artbase is a festival of urban art moving in a vivid kaleidoscope between painting and party on deserted grounds. The first issue took place in 2011 at the former pulmonary hospital Grabowsee. During the last weekend of August 2019 it was realized again in the former and now abandoned lunatic asylum Domjüch close to Neustrelitz (80 kms north of Berlin). Nearly 150 international urban artists transformed these ruins into a wild, romantic and very alive place.

 

A smooth wind blows through the long abandoned houses‘ empty corridors, while a warm and friendly summer sun gleams through the ailing cracks. Inside the ruins, a conglomeration of fading colors and amazing street art works decorate the walls.

A place where nature has slowly recaptured the old walls. Deserted, long hallways, abandoned rooms with only faint memories.

 

But suddenly a soft hissing of a spray can sounds. Someone presses a button. Suddenly sounds are coming through the empty rooms. Loud voices echo through the old walls and the place awakens.

After WW II the buildings were used for military purposes by the Soviet Red Army which left the site in 1993, the start of a long and deep slumber which was interrupted abruptly now by all kinds of colors, visions and phantastic dreams painted on the crumbling walls of this remote place.

And last but not least on the premises you will find also the namegiver of the site, a beautiful forest lake called Domjüchsee.

Jo’s Monday walk : Alvor & the Estuary

 

WHAT CLIMATE CHANGE REALLY MEANS

When I see the news in TV it embarasses me that the true effects of climate change in my country are only seldomky to be seen. Weather reports indicate again nice and dry weather although the lands would just require 2 or 3 weeks of continuous rain. This effectively means that the drought which commenced in April 2018 continues in large areas of Germany. The featured photo above of a lake looks seemingly nice, but something is wrong because the reeds are not standing in water anymore as usual, instead you see a new created sandy beach due to missing rain.

Desertificating bank of Bernsteinsee / Amberlake near Prenden, Brandenburg

Now also ecological borderland – view on German Frankfurt/Oder from Polish Slubice

On the last photo you should see normally the river Oder being the borderline of Germany and Poland here. But instead we just observe a predominant huge sandbank which made the river simply vanishing to nearly nothing optically on this not modified picture. Well, the river is still there behind the sandbank but with much less water than normally. Now, I can imagine why deserts are growing worldwide.

All photos here just actual messengers of the ongoing climate change shot in Eastern-Germany, August 2019.

 

 

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

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