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For themes of conflict, present in any country, see Studying War.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Kassel - and the Fairy Tale Road. German Prefab Tourist Routes.

2012 marks the 200th anniversary of the publishing of Grimm's Fairy Tales.  Bremen is at the northern end of Germany's tourist-friendly Fairy Tale Road: move south from the Musicians at Bremen, standing on each other to see into the robbers' house; and find Hamelin, and the Pied Piper, then Sababurg with its Sleeping Beauty castle (others are found in other countries), Kassel and the Grimm Museum, Waldeck and Marburg where the famous medieval university -- the first Lutheran university --  still lures. The Brothers Grimm attended there.  Frankfurt, near where the brothers Grimm were born, is at the southern end.  Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, the eldest of the five Grimm children, were sent to live in Kassel with their aunt, when their father died and their mother was in dire straits.

Following any prefab tourist road is good for the nervous, and useful as a side benefit for the rovers. The Financial Times lays it all out at its Life & Arts section p. 9, from April 21-22, 2012.  See also

Other kits for travel:

 These get overwhelming.  Best to go, and see what happens in your path.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Itineraries: After the fact: 2006, 2010 (as part of larger Scandinavian trip)

Germany is ideal for trips that include other countries.  Do the central-south on one circular trip, begin and end in Frankfurt; then, second trip, begin and end in Copenhagen.  We veered down from Denmark to Germany in the north, enjoyed the Baltic areas of Germany, then boarded an overnight car-ferry back to Scandinavia, this time to Sweden, ultimately back to Copenhagen.  In this way we have enjoyed two improvised road trips in Germany, and without repeats.   Towns and places follow in summary. Itinerary road trip 2006, itinerary road trip 2010.

A thematic undercurrent in Germany is the violence of war, and the Holocaust against not only Jews, but other minorities, conditions;  a study in means of persuasion to convince people it is justified, and then the fairy tales and castles, with their lessons of rewards for ingenuity, time lapses for justice to be done. 

2006:  Frankfurt, Marburg, Fritzlar, Kassel, Wartburg, Weimar and Buchenwald, Wittenberg, Potsdam, Berlin, Dresden, Chemnitz, Bamburg, Nurnberg, Regensburg, Altotting, Berchtesgaden, Munich, Oberammergau, Garmisch, Neuschwanstein, Hohenschwangau, Schongau, Wies-Kirche, Augsburg, Dinkelsbuhl, Rothenburg, Wurzburg, Schwabisch Hall, Heidelberg, Speyer, Trier, Aaachen, Koln, Burg Eltz, Koblenz, Rhine castles, Mainz and Frankfurt.

2010:  From Denmark.  Hamburg, Bremen, Verden, Osnabruck, Teutoburg (Varusschlacht), Hanover, Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp at Loheide, Luneburg, Schwerin, Rostock (and ferry overnight to Trelleborg, Sweden)

See also

Kalkreise. Varusschlacht. Germanic Chieftain Arminius and Roman General Varus. Clades Variana

Varus' Battle. Battle of Teutoborg Forest.
Roman General, Varus, and Turncoat Germanic Chieftain, Arminius.
An insurgency.
Clades Variana: The Varus Battle.
Many names to research, many spellings.


Famous battles assume a place in history for their strategy and impact; with individual identities and roles often subsumed.  Here, focus on the Roman general Varus, in 9 CE, who, with his three legions, was defeated by Arminius and local Germanic tribes.  Varusschlacht.  Kalkreise. Search all the terms.  A broad overview is found at Archeology Magazine, not only as shown below in 1992, but in 2005 with a review of books on the topic.  See Saga of the Lost Roman Legions, Nov-Dec 2005, review of book on how the site was located, identified;  by Tony Clunn, The Quest for the Lost Roman Legions.  One Marcus Aius emerges as a Roman soldier, killed, and identified through a clasp for armor with his name.  Other fictional elements may be less reliable; the review is only available by archive order.  Think Afghanistan, Russia and America fallen before local dedicated chiefs and their loyal tribes against incursion. 

This was a case of ambush; our account building on an earlier post,  The ambush stemmed from the betrayal of the Romans, by one who had set himself out as an ally of Rome.  A book have depicted it:  The Quest for the Lost Roman Legion, by Tony Clunn in 2005, see; and an earlier article, "Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, Sept-Oct 1992, Archeology Magazine. The magazine's archives do not reach back to 1992, however.

Weather -- rains; difficult terrain;  and thousands of Germanic tribesmen, all laid out in an interpretation combining archeological finds with a story line in fiction about one Marcus Aius, whose name is actual and stems from the finding of a unique cloak clasp.

Varusschlacht.  The Varus Battle; Clades Variana

  • Varus -- Publius Quinctilius Varus.  After years of service in various parts of the Roman Empire, see biography at, Varus became governor of Germania, perhaps in 6 BCE.   By 9 CE, Rome was again planning a campaign against Bohemia (Czechia) and, with Germania under Roman control, had imposed taxes and tribute obligations upon the Germanic tribes of the area, as was customary.  The tribes sought freedom, conspired against the Romans, and united under Arminius.  His father-in-law betrayed them, but was not believed.  Varus at the time had 3 legions, heard of another insurrection, and headed to meet it.  That meant passing through forest and marsh areas, with only a narrow road accessible through.

The area is north of Osnabruck, between the Elbe and the Rhine. The first reports are known as the Clades Variana.


Arminius was a chieftain of the Cheruscian Tribe, see He had been an auxiliary to the Romans from 1-6 CE, learning military skills as part of the Roman effective absorption and use of indigenous persons.  Whether Arminius joined with intent to use those skills against Rome is not clear.  Perhaps Arminius had already earned Roman citizenship status, see site.  The area, however, was subject to intertribal conflict, warfare, and machinations for power, and Arminius some 15 years later was killed by members of his own extended family.

He came to embody Germany unity and independence, however, and for that the battle is largely known to Germans at the site now.  

Some 20,000 people died, the Romans, strung out in a line, were slaughtered, and Varus committed suicide. The Germans decapitated the body, hoping to incite more Germans to join the effort to oust Rome.  However, that failed, and the head was returned to Rome and Augustus buried it in his own family mausoleum.

Although later treaties were made, the Romans never regained the area between the Elbe and the Rhine at Kalkreise.  See also overview at

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Dresden: Survivor Lessons of Loss. Vonnegut, Klemperer

The firebombing of Dresden was stated as necessary for the Allied war effort, strategic.  But Germany was about to surrender anyway, there was little manufacturing there, and the real purpose seems to be the punishment of Germany, by virtually leveling this culturally rich area.  Demoralize a defeated people further.  See  Was the bombing also to impress Russia of the mighty Allies' power?  To tilt negotiations? See

An additional consideration, not measurable in the same way as numbers of factories destroyed, is the annihilation of people, their talents, what they might have been.

In Dresden, we do have some measure of otherwise-losses that survived,

1.  Here, provided in an unlikely way.  An American, Kurt Vonnegut, was there as a prisoner, captured at the Battle of the Bulge.  With other soldiers, he was working at the time of the bombing in an underground meat locker, making vitamins.  See

He died on April 13, 2007.  Vonnegut poem Worship. a The NYT published earlier in 2005, but not well known. Vonnegut's poem, Worship.  Find it at  His religion:  disorganized, an unholy disorder. 

Sect name: "Our Lady of Perpetual  Astonishment."  Read it all.  I'll join!  I'll join!

2.  Victor Klemperer, professor of Romance Languages at the Dresden Technical University: I Will Bear Witness. A Diary of the Nazi Years 1933-1941, translated by Martin Chalmers.  See  A review in the New York Times Book Review is challenged on some points, see  What remains is the overview, the daily affronts, the progress that a crusading dictatorship makes in small ways accelerating, humiliating, the unbelievable becoming real.  Klemperer wanted a better post for his scholarship, more ranking than at a technical school.  But he got life, even through decisions made on flawed (short-sighted, inadequate judgement as to changing circumstances) grounds to stay, forego dependencies, his loyalty to his homeland.

The divestment of property, dignity, pension, yet his marriage to a non-Jew saved him from deportation west, to the camps.

He died, in Dresden, in 1960.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Hamburg. Clergy, scribes, and church wealth? The will of Johan Widingh.

 Medieval Script Translation Effort

A.  Translating the Johan Widingh Will.
B.   The Script possibilities
C.   The setting for wills
FN 1   A start at translating.  An ongoing effort.
A.  Translating the Johan Widingh Will

In Hamburg, we looked up a medieval will disposing of part of the estate (land passed by deed, not will, we understand) of one Johes Widingh.  In records, the name is given as Johan, but the script is hard to read, and looks more like Johes. Here, mentally rotate this until I can find it and edit. Top is lower left.  About 2" into the first line, see Johes Widingh.

B. The script looks like

1. Early or Later Curialis,  see that at Medieval Writing, at  The style is also known as Littera Romana from the 11th Century, location, "the papal curia in Rome".   It was to be used for papal bulls, and also (at the site) the example appoints an abbot with privileges.Pass the cursor over the English letters to see the Curialis equivalent.  The home page at Medieval Writing sets the stage, and the difficulties. see

2.  Or German Gothic, see 

3.  Or, Late Caroline or Carolingian script, German 13th Century, see Script Samples from Manuscript Leaves at; also called Caroline Minuscule at the medievalwriting site, glossary. It was developed from various sources, but "established" at the Court of Charlemagne. A/k/a Carolingian minuscule, free download available they say at This sample is similar to ours Other samples look too Gaelic.

4.  Or Romanesque Documentary, see example at;

5.  Or Pointed Anglo-Saxon Minuscule, with the lines above letters but an earlier script, see

Find our efforts at translating at FN 1. 

C.  The process of drafting and executing and authenticating medieval wills: was there room for skulduggery (of course, as now).  Is there a way to determine what and where and why centuries later?  Probably not. See an overview of the bequest process and implementation at Medieval Sources Bibliography at, wills as proven in ecclesiastical courts and executed among the well to do.

 How educated were people then? Was literacy generalized, were wills made in advance by themselves by prudent folk, who then authenticated the document in some way;  or written at death's door, and, if so, by whom.  How to authenticate the desires of the dying, in extremis.When did the sacrament of last rites become "enacted" so that someone would be bound to call in the priest at the end lest the dying lose paradise. Was there a conflict of interest, if the priest, there for last rites, or a healing even, chose to write down some bequests other than the dying had directed; or if the priest told the dying one that leaving property to the church would unlock the gates of paradise very well.
The issue arose later when we were at a large Cistercian monastery in Denmark, Esrom or Esrum Abbey, see, where the information given stated that the Cistercians in the space of, say, 200 years, had acquired huge holdings of land, farm after farm after farm was left to them.  How easy to pass a deed to a dying person for signature. Did that happen?This followed the directives of Bernard of Clairvaux, to firm up the institution.  The materials describe the life of the monks within the Rule.

At the bottom of this is our Johan Widingh. What did he leave, and to whom, in his will. Does the "h" suggest hof or farm?

The setting:  In 1376, there was no whiff of a Reformation.  That came in the 16th Century, with a series of reformers like Martin Luther.  See a timeline of German history at House of Names,  In 1439, the doctrine of purgatory was confirmed, and the seven sacraments fixed, see Dogma Timeline. Earlier, in 1215, the doctrine of auricular confession, the priest as necessary confessor, confess in the priest's ear, became doctrine. See a negative view of that at Cutting Edge, So, the Roman branch of Christianity was moving ahead with firm ideologies. Johan Widingh would have needed the priest as confessor, if he was a believer.  And we do not know the circumstances of his will.


FN 1.  Translating the will, best efforts. Nothing quite fits the alphabet forms, so individual styles make deciphering difficult.  We think we have a d with top fancy loop, and with that, and ignoring lines and ovals over letters and gaps in spacing syllables. We include as is the capitalizations.

In noie Dmime (domine?) Ego Johes Widingh hret corpore debilis mentis--- [no, this takes an expert -- have to quit].

[there is a] Margarete mee sororis in Lubeck(?)
[and is there a/an]  Albertj Widingh filho '

The low long f's could be s's

[I know some Latin  but just can't make this out]

Monday, January 23, 2012

Germany Timeline: Nationalism. The German Sense of Self.

National, Territorial Identity,
How it Develops.  Perspectives on Germany.
The First Millennium Sets the Stage, Starts the Lessons.
Romans Fail to Conquer Germanic Tribes. See Teutoburg. Lesson: Distance conquest cannot hold. Rome gives up. Then, 400 years later, local Franks under Charlemagne, and with the church's resources and motivators, does. 
Holy Roman Empire forces conversions, with death as the alternative; even that does not last.
How to visit another country and come away with a coherent idea of its history.  It often takes a timeline of major invasions, military or religious; with the dominant characters and movements.
9 CE:  Germanic tribes, allied under command of one Arminius, defeat the Roman army, the 17th, 18th and 19th Legions, at Teutoburg Forest, see  This place is also known as Varusschlacht, for the Roman General, Publius Quintilius Varus.  The name of the forest is Kalkreise; and the word for it, forest, is more properly translated as "narrows" -- the Teutoburg Narrows. The museum exhibits proclaim the fear that the tribes inspired in the Romans, and fed later brutalities of the Holy Roman Empire in moving north yet again; even fear of Germans inspiring the rest of Europe's reluctance to engage Germany in World Wars.
Test the theory.
400 CE :  Roman Empire never conquers the German tribes. Rome extended to north of the Alps, to Augsburg and the Danube, and north-west only to the Rhone River, including areas of  Triere, Worms, Strasburg, see  That left cultures such as the Alamani, Saxons, Angles, Thuringians, Franks, Burgundians, Lombards, and the Vandals still independent.
782 CE:  Charlemagne, King of the Franks goes on the march to conquer tribes for Christianity,  slaughtered 4,000 Saxon prisoners in Northern Germany who would not convert.  How much of history is a data-record; and how much laid out to create or make a point. History itself is a grain of salt. Take it that way.
793 CE:  Vikings raid Lindisfarne, Christian Monastery. What did that have to do with the Franks on the march in German lands?  For scholars:  was the Viking violence against Christians, especially monasteries with their riches, and so suddenly bursting on the scene, related to knowledge of Christian slaughters in Germany, Northern Europe, Saxons and others often trafficking with the Scandinavian tribes, and having migrated already to Britain.
Read that site carefully, past the predictable outrage against attack, to the "un-Christian" acts that led to it, according to Alcuin, That still leaves unaddressed the "un-Christian" slaughters in compelling conversions, something
814 CE.  Charlemagne was first the King of the Franks, and then the Frankish Emperor (Tribe of the Franks) and later Holy Roman Emperor,  and the Holy Roman Empire.  By 814 AD or so, they had fought their way north and east.  This resulted in substantial geographic area increases for the heirs of the Roman Empire, the one under the guise of "God's Will", the Holy Roman Empire.  Empire just the same. 
By 843 CE, however, the Frankish empire shattered, and Germany emerged as a concept on in its own direction, see  They were still, although not dominated by the Franks, part of the Holy Roman Empire, is that so?
In 845 CE, the area subdivisions showed many tribes, accordingly, most already subdued and allocated by the HRE, see
962 CE:  German King Otto, the new Holy Roman Emperor, gained control of Northern Italy and centered the Empire in Germany, with expansion efforts north into Denmark. See
By 1000 CE, this "Holy" Roman Empire had spread from the border at roughly Poland to France.
1250 CE- Empire collapses into Princely Territories.
By the 14th Century, territories had fractured back.  The Empire could not hold. See
1517 CE - Martin Luther and the Reformation; further diminution of Roman presencce.
1618-1648 CE -- Thirty Years' War.  Roman presence reasserted. The Habsburgs try to reinstate Roman Catholicism.  At Osnabruck, photo at top,  Treaty of Westphalia is signed in 1649 and affirms independence of the individual states.
1806 CE - Napoleon imposes French rule over most of Germany.  In 1814, Napoleon was defeated, Battle of Leipzig.
1848-1890 CE- Revolutions, industrialization Bismarck unifies much, Kaiser Wilhelm continues, with colonial expansion and militarism, workers' movements (SDS).

1914-1918 -- WWI; defeat; heavy reparations ordered
1923 - See site for rise of Hitler, economic collapse, depression, unemployment, and, in 1933, The Third Reich under Hitler as Chancellor. Increase in persecutions of Jews, other minorities. Weimar Republic to a one-party state, and so on into modern history, see


With that framework, all the sites that appear on the way as they happen on a road trip, make sense. Don't try to learn it before you go: when you return, lay out photos and places with the milestones in mind.