Sunday, October 28, 2012

Befreiungshalle (Liberation Hall) in Kelheim, Germany

A few weeks ago, I talked about the Völkerschlachtdenkmal, a grand monument in Leipzig, commemorating victory over Napoleon at the Battle of the Nations.  At the time of the Napoleonic wars, today's Germany was not yet unified and Leipzig was in Saxony.  Like Saxony, the Kingdom of Bavaria also sought to commemorate victory over France, and built the Befreiungshalle (or Liberation Hall) in Kelheim, Bavaria (about halfway between Nuremberg and Munich).

Befreiungshalle was built by decree of King Ludwig I on a picturesque hilltop above the Danube River.  Construction began in 1842, but it was not complete until it's opening on October 18, 1863 (the 50th anniversary of the Battle of the Nations).  

The area hasn't really changed that much since it was built.

Post Card from 1900

After Napoleon's disastrous retreat from Russia, his humbled military faced the newly united armies of the Sixth Coalition at the Battle of Leipzig (or the Battle of the Nations).  As the Sixth Coalition seized the initiative on the battlefields of Central Europe, French forces were successively driven back towards France.  This series of setbacks for Napoleon would eventually culminate in the liberation of German states and the eventual French defeat at Waterloo.  So while the English speaking world saw this as the gradual undoing of Napoleon, those in Germany saw these series of battles from 1812 to 1814 as their liberation from France.  It's only fitting then that so many locales chose to commemorate their freedom.

The approximately 150 foot tall memorial is heavy with symbolism related to the number eighteen.  This is because the Battle of the Nations occurred on October 18, 1813, and the Battle of Waterloo was fought on June 18, 1815.  On the outside of Befreiungshalle, there are eighteen statues holding placards for each of the historic Germanic tribes:  Franconians, Bohemians, Tyroleans, Bavarians, Austrians, Prussians, Hanoverians, Moravians, Saxons, Silesians, Brandenburgers, Pomeranians, Mecklenburgers, Westphalians, Hessians, Thueringians, Rheinlaenders, and Swabians.

Exterior Balcony

Inside, the large domed hall is supported by 54 columns (3 times 18) and an equal number of pillars, and 36 columns (2 times 18) in the upper gallery.  Around the edge of first floor are eleven-foot tall winged Victories in a ringed circle representing the members of the German Confederation, alternatively holding hands and shields.  On the shields are displayed the battles in the liberation of Germany and above the upper gallery are inscriptions for key generals and recaptured strongholds.

In the center of the hall on the floor is inlaid the following:

Translated into English, it reads:

the Germans
never forget what
made necessary
the struggle for freedom
and by what means they

Of course the Nazis were always up for a good monument to honor German struggle and unity and the site wasn't overlooked for their exploitive purposes.

But I have to wonder what Hitler thought of the gold six-pointed stars surrounding Ludwig's words in the center of the hall.

Saturday, October 27, 2012


Welcome to Cipher Saturday!  You've found the home of everyone's favorite weekend pastime, where a stylized photo of an obscure place from history is provided here for you to identify.

Additional clues may be found in the cipher below:

Vjku dwknfkpi encf kp agnnqy uvqpg fqgu pqv eqoogoqtcvg c igaugt,
agv tgecnnkpi vq “dct c cnqpg qrrqpgpv” yqwnf ocmg aqw cnn vjg ykugt.
Pqy cv tguv cnn ctqwpf, ngv’u egngdtcvg vjg lwdkngg!
Vjqwij aqw’f fq ygnn vq tgecnn pqy ‘vycu dwknv da “cpita og.”

So, where could I be?  That's the mystery!  Go ahead and take a guess and then go enjoy your day.  Check back tomorrow and I'll reveal the answer.  The first correct post will be declared the winner.

If you'd like to make sure that your guess is correct, enter the name of this place into Google Images and images similar to this will be found in the image results.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Howard Fasnacht and Erwin Frantz

Today I'm highlighting a photograph of Howard Fasnacht and Erwin Frantz (based on the names written on the back).  This photo was in the collection of my great-grandmother Jessie Burrows and was I believe a picture of two of her friends from back in Kansas.  Neither of these two men were originally from Kansas, but their families must have somehow wound up there and I would guess that these two were in Jessie's circle of friends from college.

Fasnacht is a name I recognize as my grandmother's cousin latter married Howard's son, Kenneth Fasnacht.  I don't know what ever became of Erwin Frantz.

One old family story I always found interesting was that Jessie's father, Charles Burrows, was the Chief of Police in Wichita.  One day, there was a baby girl left at the railway station with no identification other than a handkerchief embroidered with the letter H tucked next to the baby.  After the parents could not be located, Charles Burrows took her home and one of Jessie's married sisters, Maud Roton, took her home to care for the baby.  Although newspaper ads were run and messages were sent to towns along the rail line, the parents were never located, so after several months, Maud decided to adopt the girl and give her the name Helen because of the handkerchief.  Helen would eventually be the one who married Kenneth Fasnacht, the son of the man in the photo.  I've always been curious about this story.

Anyway, as I have no connection to this photograph, if there are any descendants of either of these two men who would like the image, just send me an e-mail and I'll mail it to you.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Greetings from Caldwell, Kansas

Postmarked Caldwell, Kansas, March 7, 190?, 12 M
Miss Jessie Burrows
1153 University Ave.
Caldwell, Kans.
Thursday A.M.
   Dear Jessie – I arrived in C– last night.  We closed the meeting Tuesday so I came home.  Haven't seen the folks yet.  Do not know just when I will be back but will let you know soon.
   I have lots to tell you when I see you again.  Will bring the "ginger cookies" back with me.

* * * * *

Just for comparison sake, here's a screenshot of the same location from Google Maps today:

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Hamilton Mausoleum – Home to the World's Longest Lasting Echo

Congratulations to Rob from Amersfoort, winner of yesterday's Place-of-Mystery Contest.  He correctly identified the Hamilton Mausoleum in Hamilton, Scotland, as the place in the image.

Hamilton Mausoleum

Recently, I was reading about acoustics for musical venues when I read a line about the Hamilton Mausoleum in Hamilton, Scotland.  The person was commenting about the lengthy echo of the chamber.  At a full 15 seconds, it's reportedly the longest echo in any man-made structure.

The Hamiltons were one of the most influential families in Scotland and the Duke of Hamilton is the senior dukedom in the Peerage of Scotland (excepting the Sovereign's eldest son).  At one time they had a grand estate esteemed to be the largest non-royal residence in the Western world.

Hamilton Palace

The main house was built on the site of a 13th century tower house having been continually enlarged over the years beginning with the South Front erected in 1695 for the 3rd Duke of Hamilton.  The North Front was planned by the 5th Duke in the 1730s, but not complete until the time of the 10th Duke in 1842.  The home contained a great deal of fine furniture and art including works by Rubens, Titian, and Van Dyck.  The 10th Duke in particular was an avid collector of fine art and travelers from afar came to the home to admire his home, grounds, collections, and historical treasures.

The Gallery at Hamilton Palace

Chimneypiece in Gallery

Stone Hall


Ambassadorial Throne and Canopy

Dutchess' Bedroom

Classical Statues in Stone Hall

Great Dining-Room

North Front Vantage

North Front Portico

South Front Vantage

Detail of the Center of the South Front

While it may have been fashionable in the 1800s to publicly display your wealth, large and opulent homes fell out of fashion by the 1900s.  By the twentieth century, nearby mining (from the family's own coal mines) had created noticeable subsidence.  Increasing tax levies and the cost of upkeep necessitated the eventual sale of some of the Hamilton treasures.  The Palace was used as a military hospital during World War I, but after the war, the state of neglect was beyond repair and in 1921 the Hamilton Palace was demolished.

Châtelherault Hunting Lodge

Hamilton Palace lay at the center of extensive lands owned by the Hamiltons, that included a hunting lodge with kennels and stables, known as Châtelherault, completed in 1734.

Ruins of Cadzow Castle as seen in 1882

Included in the grounds were the ruins of Cadzow Castle (Hamilton was originally known as Cadzow), an occasional royal residence since the time of King David (1084-1153) and an earlier hunting lodge for the kings of Strathclyde before him.  It was destroyed in the late 1500s in retaliation for the Hamilton's support for Mary, Queen of Scots, who stayed at the castle following her escape from Loch Leven Castle.  To this day, the Hamilton family retains Mary's death mask, the famous silver casket where the damming letters were located, and her sapphire ring.

Alexander Douglas-Hamilton, the 10th Duke of Hamilton

It was during the time of the 10th Duke, the one responsible for the enlargement of Hamilton Palace, that he decided to replace the family burial vault at the local church with a mausoleum on his grand estate.  Construction on the 123 foot structure began in 1842 and was complete in 1858, five years after the death of the 10th Duke.  It was originally conceived that the upper story of the mausoleum would be a working chapel holding his remains in an Egyptian sarcophagus from the Ptolemaic period he had purchased for that purpose below the chapel lay the crypt where he had moved the bodies of 17 of his ancestors.

Hamilton Mausoleum

After its completion, the Hamilton Mausoleum revealed a remarkable but unintended acoustic quality of allowing complex and noisy reverberations throughout the structure including an echo of up to 15 seconds in length.  This echo made the chapel unusable for its intended use, but became the subject of intense curiosity by travelers and tourists.  The high stone vault with its Roman styled dome and marbled floors produce the world's longest lasting echo of any man made structure in the world.  Like many domed structures of stone, tourists have fun whispering from one side wall to a friend at the other side who may perfectly hear the quiet words.

Hamilton Mausoleum Chapel Interior

Stonework Detail on Vault

Looking Upwards Towards the Oculus

The same subsidence that had required the destruction of Hamilton Palace also threatened the hunting lodge and the mausoleum.  The structural danger required the removal once again of the Hamilton family including the 10th Duke to a new resting place in nearby Bent Cemetery, still in his Egyptian sarcophagus.  Although both structures have felt the effects, efforts have been made to save and right the remaining buildings.

Now Empty Crypt Below the Chapel

Engraving from the 1800s Showing Visitors at the Mausoleum

Sarcophagus Photographed in the Hamilton Mausoleum

Black Marble Pedestal Today without Sarcophagus

Now for those of you musically inclined, you may be wondering about the acoustics.  I used to play the cello and I tried to imagine what a 15 second echo would produce.  Since the grounds became a county park back in the 1970s, there have been a number of concerts with most saying that the echo produces a unique challenge to the musician.  Here is a short video of the Kronos Quartet performing in the Mausoleum:

Finally, I had no place to put another little bit of Hamilton trivia, so I'll place it here at the end.  In later years, the 14th Duke of Hamilton, an accomplished aviator and the first to fly over Mount Everest in 1933, became the subject of intense interest during World War II, when Rudolf Hess, Deputy Führer of Nazi Germany, flew a solo mission and parachuted into Scotland on May 10, 1941.  Upon landing he asked to see the Duke of Hamilton for the purpose of negotiating a peace treaty between Great Britain and Germany.  Although the Duke had visited Germany during the 1936 Olympic Games, it is not known how well the two knew each other.  After visiting Hess in prison, the Duke of Hamilton promptly reported the matter to Winston Churchill and Hess was imprisoned for the remainder of the war.

Rudolf Hess with Hitler in 1938

Hess' Airplane Wreckage in Scotland

After the war, Hess was sentenced to lifetime imprisonment for his position in the Nazi regime and although later efforts were made to secure his release from an Allied prison in East Germany, he mysteriously took his life or was killed in 1987.  Today there is a small memorial to Hess' quixotic peace attempt in Scotland.

Details of this curious episode will not be known for years as the British files on the episode are sealed by state order until 2041.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


Welcome to Cipher Saturday!  You've found the home of everyone's favorite weekend pastime, where a stylized photo of an obscure place from history is provided here for you to identify.

Additional clues may be found in the cipher below:

C rac hktb’r ejikru oajl 
Er jcqqkxejd uk eur ajl; 
Oazkjl, chh rviiaq-dqaaj, uba wchhaz hear 
Tqclhal ej Behhr -- c Bedbhcjl mcqclera.
Baqa’r uk uba Thcjricj’r bkqj 
Atbk nqki atbk okqj 
Dqkxr nceju cjl ncejuaq cr xa uahh uba rtkqa 
Cjl ncjtz uk uba ncejuaru cllr kja ikqa.

Jkx icjz c xejuaq hkjd 
Bcr rhamu uba atbk-rkjd; 
C wcjerbal fkz - c mqauuz ubejd hcel oz 
Ej rkia nkqdkuuaj lqcxaq kn iaikqz.

Ovu ej iz acq ukjedbu 
Qawewar uba khl lahedbu, 
Rmkjucjakvr cr c ikqjejd hcqg - uk rucqu 
Hkjd uqcejr kn rviiaq atbkar ej iz bacqu.

So, where could I be?  That's the mystery!  Go ahead and take a guess and then go enjoy your day.  Check back tomorrow and I'll reveal the answer.  The first correct post will be declared the winner.

If you'd like to make sure that your guess is correct, enter the name of this place into Google Images and images similar to this will be found in the image results.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Seeing Through the Eye

One of my delights this year is teaching Literature – a course I have not taught before.  In preparing my lessons I've had the ability to read or re-read many things that I haven't looked at for quite some time.  My post on Saint-Exupéry led me to take another look at the Little Prince and I noticed some of my favorite lines once again.  One such was from Chapter 21, where the fox is speaking with the little prince and says, "And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."

It reminded me of a portion of a work from one of my favorite poets, William Blake:

This life's five windows of the sole
Distorts the Heavens from pole to pole,
And leads you to believe a lie
When you see with, not thro', the eye

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

I don't know how he does it, but Brian is once again the champion of this week's Person-of-Mystery contest – correctly identifying Antoine de Saint-Exupéry!

Today, he is best known for being the author of the children's novel, The Little Prince, but in his day he was perhaps better known as a pioneering aviator.  Commencing in 1921, he received his aviation training in the French Army Service Aéronautique.  After leaving the military in 1923, he worked several jobs until he went back to flying in 1926 as a pilot for Aéropostale, a private airline that delivered mail between France, French Africa, and its colonies in South America.  Saint-Exupéry's route was Toulouse to Dakar, and by 1927, he was station chief of the Cape Juby airfield in Southern Morocco.

Saint-Exupéry monument at the old Aéropostale strip in Tarfaya, Morocco (near Cape Juby)

In 1929, he was transferred to Argentina, where he worked for Aéropostale in finding new air routes across that continent and occasionally making daring reconnaissance missions to look for downed pilots.

While serving as a pioneering aviator in exotic locales, he penned a number of books on aviation including The Aviator, Southern Mail (France to North Africa), and Night Flight (Chile-Paraguay-Argentina).  In 1931, he married Consuelo Suncin, a twice-widowed Salvadoran countess and artist.  The two would carry on a stormy on-again-off-again relationship over the years, as their union was marked with numerous affairs.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry with his friend and fellow pilot, Henri Guillaumet

The early days of long-distance flying were fraught with perilous atmosphere, sketchy mechanics, and adventure.  In late 1935, Saint-Exupéry set out with his navigator, André Prévot, on an air race (called a raid) from Paris to Saigon, in an attempt to capture a prize of 150,000 francs.  After about 19 and a half hours, they crash landed their plane in the Sahara after hitting a plateau when they descended in an attempt to avoid a mass of clouds.  Having no radio, few provisions, and only one day's supply of liquid, they wandered in the desert and began to hallucinate.  While the world had given them up for dead, on the fourth day and near death, a Bedouin happened upon them and saved their lives.

Saint-Exupéry's Plane

He returned to France a hero and this experience formed the basis for much of his famous memoir Wind, Sand and Stars.  At the outbreak of World War II, Saint-Expuéry rejoined the French Air Force and served until he was demobilized at the French surrender.  He then escaped to the United States, where he encouraged American entry into the war.  While in North America he and his wife traveled between New York and Quebec City.  While in America, he also developed an intimate relationship with the wife of Charles Lindbergh, Anne Morrow Lindbergh.  During this time he authored three more books including his most famous, The Little Prince.

Antoine and Consuelo de Saint-Exupéry

The Little Prince is a story (pulling from Saint-Exupéry's experiences) about an aviator who crashes in the Sahara and meets the Little Prince, who gives an account of his journeys across the universe and also talks about his home planet or asteroid where the Prince had spent his days pulling out baobab trees that are constantly trying to take root there.

I really haven't done a good job selling the story, but it's a very interesting and short read.  Although it's a children's book, it's really well written and rather poetic (as is much of Saint-Exupéry's other work).  It was this imagery of the Prince pulling out the alien trees from his desolate planet that reminded me of the images I posted of the Dragon's Blood trees on Socotra Island.

Saint-Exupéry aboard his P-38

He returned to the war in 1943, traveling to North Africa with American forces, but as he was eight years too old for a combat pilot, he had to receive a special exemption from General Eisenhower.  This achieved, he was assigned a P-38, but allowed only limited missions.  On July 31, 1944, while on his ninth reconnaissance mission from Corsica to the Rhone Valley, his plane disappeared.  An unidentifiable body in a French uniform was recovered in the water off Toulon several days after he had gone missing.

Although his body was never positively identified, in 1967, Saint-Exupéry was honored by having his name placed alongside the other heroes of France in the Panthéon.  Although, perhaps the greatest honor is the fact that his book, The Little Prince, has been one of the most widely read in the entire world, having surpassed over 200 million copies since it was first published.