blog Blog 2020


Arnhem is perhaps most famous for the WWII battle made famous by the movie “A Bridge Too Far.”  It sits with a few kilometers of the German border and on two rivers, the Nederrijn and the IJssel.  The Allies sought to cross the Rhine (Nederrijn) there.  The bridge became the focal point of the battle.  Near the bridge is the Airborn at the Bridge Museum, which briefly recounts the battle.    Below is the rebuilt bridge as seen from the museum.  There is a larger version of the museum outside the city.

We entered the Rhine at the end of the Rheine-Herne-Kanal and thence north to Doesberg, famous for its mustard factory. I will cover that and our scare near Arnhem at the bottom of this article.

After the battle

Arnhem today is one of the country’s larger cities at 160,000 residents. Between Arnhem and Nijmegen, also enveloped in the battle, house some 700,000. It was beautifully rebuilt after the war.

It’s a tough job but someone has to do it
Eusebiuskerk aka the Grote Kerk
The magnificent organ in the  Eusebiuskerk.
The Musis Sacrum, theater and concert hall

As you no doubt expect, settlement in the area dates from way back. Neanderthals lived in this part of Europe. Two firestones (fire resitant stones) are dated to 70,000 years, of Neanderthal origin. A hunters camp dates to 5000 BCE, grave mounds to 2400 BCE. The earliest settlement dates to 15000 BCE. The first written mention is in 893. It’s location near the two rivers makes it very convenient for shipping and transport. It entered the Hanseatic League in 1443.

It was occupied by the French from to 1795-1813. Later in the 19th century it became known for its city parks, which remain a major feature today.

After entering the Rhine at the terminus of the Rheine-Herne-Kanal we proceeded north. We were not alone. Huge barges came along with us, at times squeezing us close to the shore line. Several times I had to cross to the other side to allow them room, each time trying to determine what side of the river they wanted, as they would choose the side with less current, which was running at 5 kilometers per hour, boosting our speed by 50%. One double wide barge kicked up 1 to 1 1/2 meter waves, not a problem for the boat. They lasted just a minute or two, just enough to remove the large fender we’d just bought and nearly getting a second. We should have lifted them to the deck.

Horse and cattle came to drink along Rhine’s edge. There was a heat wave, up to 34c!

Doesburg has a mustard factory that has been around since circa 1800. It has a small museum and shop. Of course we had to try to the local mustard soup. It’s basic ingredients are stock, mustard and cream. I figure every chef has their own version.


Doesburg became a city in 1223. It was fortified until 1923, if you can imagine that.

One of many charming buildings and houses in Doesburg
Many towns have small lovely sculptures.

We continued north to Arnhem. As we approach a large barge was going slowly as we approached. Perhaps the river was too shallow so he had to reduce speed. As we neared his stern he swung toward us, sucking us in with his large prop. Fortunately the pilot noticed and cut his prop so we were able to move past him. It was a bit of a scare. We entered the harbor with ease.

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Münster is another neat small city in the path taking us back to the Nederlands. The name comes from the Latin monasterium, a clue to it’s origins. Like the others it has quite a long history. It was in 793 that missionaries were sent by Charlemage to convert the people in the area. A monk named Ludger, called the Apostle of Saxony, founded a school during this period, which helped establish the city as an important center, as did its location on a ford and crossroad.

Anabaptists took power in 1534. Private property was abolished, all books aside from the Bible were burned. They called the city “New Jerusalem.” Its leader John of Leiden believed he would conquer the world and eliminate evil as preparation for the Second Coming. This unusual situation lasted about a year. The Anabaptists were tortured and killed. The corpses were placed in metal baskets. The baskets are still be suspended from St Lambert Church.

St. Lambert’s. You should be able to see the baskets just above the clock

The University of Münster was established in 1780. It is now a major university with 40,000 students and curriculua in all the major fields. The city has major research facilities.

The Bishop of Münster, Cardinal Clemens August Graf von Galen, was a prominent critics of the Nazis. As a result Hitler placed many troops in the city. Five large barrack complexes remain. 

The current Cathedral in Münster dates from 1265. The first church on the site was built in the 9th century and a second in the 10th or 11th, demolished to build the current structure. It was badly damaged in WWII. It was not restored to its state before the war. The rose window has been vastly simplified, for instance.

munster cathedral
Jesus in an unusual posture, in the Cathedral

The city has a lively atmosphere. There are lots of shops and eateries. It is notable for its quality of life with its many parks and pedestrian zones. There is good transport, lots of bike lanes and in normal years there is much to do.

August Mack, Artist’s Wife with Hat, in the Westphalian State Museum of Art and Cultural History

There is a Picasso Museum and several others. I’d say this city and the areas close by are worth a longer visit. I think I could find enough to see and do there to stay for a few weeks or maybe a month.

Art blog Blog 2020 Pen and ink sketches

The Cathedral in Münster

munster cathedral
Cathedral in Münster, pen and ink

The current Cathedral in Münster dates from 1265. The first church on the site was built in the 9th century and a second in the 10th or 11th, demolished to build the current structure.

It was badly damaged in WWII. It was not restored to its state before the war. The rose window has been vastly simplified, for instance.

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Bremen has been attractive to human population since circa 12,000 BCE and remains so today, with some 750,000 people. It became an important trade center due in large part to its location on the River Wesser. Interestingly it was exempt from feudal laws once it gained city status, making it a beacon of freedom in the middle ages. Property was not subject to feudal ownership, and even serfs could own property if they resided in the city for a year and a day, at which point they were freed.

By 1350 the population reached 20,000. Over the next centuries the importance of the city made it a participant in the seemingly endless upheavals and reorganizations of German states. There is a detailed account of the comings and goings at, including the notation that the first German steamship was manufactured here in 1827.

Part of the Rathaus, Town Hall. Its intricate facade 1612, the Gothic building 1405

There is a restaurant in the Rathaus featuring original decor and a huge exclusively German wine list. Included are a dozen of the oldest wines in the world in their original barrels. The building and the Roland statue are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

We visited just the old town. Less than half of its architectural wealth remains with us due to the ravages of the second war. Airplanes were manufactured here, accounting in part for it’s target status. There was a concentration camp as well. It was captured in late April 1945, becoming part of the American occupation zone, which city leaders preferred to the British.

Roland. A Roland statue was displayed in cities trading in the Hanseatic League

The donkey, dog, cat and rooster of the Grimm Brothers fairy tale.

Part of the main square, the Marktplatz

There are several impressive churches. St. Peter’s Cathedral is from the 13th century. There are sculptures of Moses, David, Peter and Paul. The Liebfrauenkirche is the oldest (11th c).  Martinikirche (St Martin’s Church) is from 1229.

We walked through the Schnoor, a neighborhood with narrow streets and small houses from the 17th and 18th century


We just had a day here as we came by train, leaving the boat at a boat club in Osnabrucke. Brennen is worthy of a longer visit.

We set aside time to visit the Kunstehall Bremen, one of the best art museums around. From its website:

“The Kunsthalle houses the extensive and diverse collection of the Kunstverein in Bremen: with European painting from the Middle Ages to the present day, international modernism, sculptures from the 16th to the 21st century and outstanding works of media art, it spans an arc from the 14th century to the present day. The Kupferstichkabinett, with its more than 220,000 drawings and prints, is one of the most important graphic collections in Europe. In permanent and temporary exhibitions, you can take an exciting journey through art history when you visit the Kunsthalle.” There is an English version of their website.

There is a rare Monet portrait, not his forte clearly but a good one nonetheless. I really liked the expressionist collection and its modern art in general. It includes Munch’s Child and Death. There are paintings and sculptures by Pablo Picasso, Fernand Léger, André Derain, Juan Gris and André Masson.

If I lived here I’d be a regular visitor. Top notch curation!

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Burg Vischering

burg vischering ariel

Burg Vischering is home to the Museum of the same name. It is a castle dating from the 13th century. It is one of the most interesting castles we have visited in part due to the excellent written narrative, as well the views afforded by the attractive moat and the good condition of the structure. My remarks mostly come from the information provided on the museum’s plaques.

The first written reference is 1271, when the Bishop of Münster entrusted it to Knight Albert von Wulfheim, who was to defend the castle to assure its availability for the bishop. The primary concern was the ambition of the Hermann and Bernhard von Lüdinghausen, who resided in the nearby castles Lüdinghausen and wanted the bishop’s castle; we visited the latter, exterior only, no entry.

The castle is built on an island in the River Stever. There is a circular wall containing a courtyard with a diameter of 35 meters. The Vischering family occupied the castle starting in the 14th century. There was a major fire in the castle 1521. The subsequent rebuilding of the castle increased the living space. A staircase turret was completed in 1620, a bay window in 1622.

The Münster region is known for its many moated castles. Nordkirchen Castle is the most famous castle in the area, but is much younger, built between 1703 and 1734. There are three castles in tiny Lüdinghausen, including this one.

burg vischering2

Napoleon’s conquest completely transformed Germany. The prince-bishoprics, secular ruler combined with religious leader, were abolished. The Holy Roman Empire and the feudal system went by the wayside as well. You might think that the end of feudalism in Germany was rather late. However In Europe generally the feudal system lived on until 1861 when Russia finally gave it up.

painting of the family
The Vischering family

During the WWII the mill was destroyed, while the castle sustained considerable damaged. The castle was restored shortly after the war’s end. The castle was occupied by a family until 1968.

courtyard view sm
View of the courtyard

The museum’s official website has a 3D presentation that gives you a good sense of what the exterior is like.

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Entering a lock

I filmed this video as we were entering a lock on the Mittleland Kanal in Germany. I had to stop as we were close to docking as I need both hands and sometimes more to get us to the side of the lock where we can secure the boat for the ride up or down.

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Pergamon: The Panorma

Pergamon Museum houses artifacts from Pergamon, an ancient Greek and later Roman city in what is now Turkey.  In the 1880’s a German archaeologist came across workers breaking down marble columns and carvings to use as fuel.  He made arrangements with the Ottomans to excavate the site and share the finds.  The most fabulous find was the Pergamon Altar (180–160 BCE).   It is a frieze depicting the Olympian gods fighting giants.  This and other monumental and daily life aspects of Pergamon are the subject of a 50 meter high 360 ° panorama by Yadegar Asisi.  The panorama can be viewed most dramatically from a five story staircase erected for the purpose.  From the top the ceiling towers above and spreads out to near floor level. 



As you view the various areas the sun moves overhead until night falls and the sun rises again.


The famous altar is visible but very difficult to photograph well, not that any of it was easy for non-professionals . The relief was vividly painted when first complete. They show it that way.

The Altar

The altar is a scene of animal sacrifices and burning fires. People congregate for leisure activities or work. A slave market is on-going. The crowd murmurs in the background. Trajan is visiting.

Gary-Bob says check it out-  even if there nothing else to see in Berlin, this alone would make the journey worthwhile.  

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Potsdam, the residence of the Kaiser until 1918, was planned on the ideas of the enlightenment “…through a careful balance of architecture and landscape.” (Wiki) It is indeed a lovely city with some magnificent architecture, including Charlottenburg Palace with its surprisingly attractive decoration, paintings and objects. The city borders what was once called West Berlin.

On the Havel River

The area has been occupied since the Bronze Age. The city was established by Slavs in the 7th century.  The earliest written reference dates to 972.  It was granted a  town charter in 1345. By the late 1800’s it was a steel producer and for that became a major target of the Allies in WWII.

The surrounding area has many lakes and the views from the river are quite lovely. The Potsdam Conference was held at Cecilienhof Palace. Babelsberg is a major film studio and has been an important studio since the fall of the wall, when this region joined Western Germany. The city is home to the University of Potsdam, three colleges and many research institutes. The Glienicke Bridge is also called the Bridge of Spies. It connected Potsdam to West Berlin, where exchanges of spies took place.

Sansoucci Palace is a World Heritage Site, I believe for its magnificent and large gardens.

Sansouci Palace

Sansouci Palace gardens
The Nieuw Tower
Bridge of Spies

The Alter Markt (Old Market) contains several magnificent buildings on a large square adjoining the Havel River.

St. Nicholas’ Church and the New Palace on the Alter Markt

Charlottenburg Palace is far more opulent than I expected. The Prussian kings were comparatively minor in the history of Europe. They managed to filch quite the fortune to build this joint.

Chapel of the Charlottenburg Palace
Organ in the Chapel
The huge crown

Getting around by bike is quite pleasant. There are bike paths most everywhere. We used them to see the Dutch section, with houses in the Dutch style. The parks are peaceful and aplenty. The marina is well located and very near tram lines, which we used to visit the Russian section, where there are a half dozen or so old wooden houses in excellent condition.

There was more to see and much to do than we allocated time for, as we are on to Berlin!

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Brandenburg on the Havel is the capitol of the region of Brandenburg, southwest of Berlin by about 70 km. It was first settled by the Slavic Slavic tribe Stodoranie. In 929 King Henry the Fowler conquered the town. Its earliest written reference dates to 948. There was a Slavic uprising in 983, and remained under Slavic control for nearly two centuries. Circa 1157 under Albert I it became Germanic.

Probably because of its navigable river and business development it joined the Hnaseatic League in 1314. By the late 19th c it had significant industry. Bicycles became an important product as were toys. Toy trains were exported across Europe and the US until the beginning of WW1. The outbreak of hostilities did not end the demand for toy trains, thus Lionel was born.

This comparatively rosey past end with the Nazis. A concentration camp was established In 1933, one of the first. The old gaol was used for the Brandenburg Euthanasia Center. People with mental disorders were murdered, even children.

The Arado Aircraft Company began producing planes in 1935. This factory attracted heavy bombing. The Allies destroyed about 2/3 of the city. Enough remains to lend considerable charm, however.

The Altstädtisches Rathaus (Old Town Hall) is build in the late Gothic brick style with. Here you see a sandstone statue of Roland dating to 1474. The knight is a common feature in northern German towns, starting in the 12th century, then made of wood. The presence of the statue signified that the settlement has been granted town privileges, a coveted legal status that allowed for tax collection.

Rathaus with Roland

There are four watchtowers: Steintorturm and Mühlentorturm (in the New Town), and Rathenower Torturm and Plauer Torturm (in the Old Town).


We drove around on our bikes. Some of the old cobblestone streets make for rough going. The views along the river are very pleasant if not idyllic when the weather cooperates, which mostly it did.


We biked to Cathedral Island, in the historic center of the town, under an occasional drizzle. There you see the Dom St. Peter und Paul (Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul), the oldest building. Construction began in 1166 in the Romanesque style. It became Gothic in style, however, by the time it was finished in the 14th century. The interior is magnificent. The pulpit is intricately carved. The skillfully painted altar piece is in excellent condition. The altar is on a second level, over a large crypt area. The Wagner organ (1725) towers above the main auditorium but at eye level with the high altar, the chorus one level below the organ.

The ornate altar piece

I find this piece below fascinating. This is decoration on the seating for the privileged, close to the altar:


I’d say this would be a neat place to live or at least stay in for a month or two, in summer anyway. It is small, just about 70,000 people, down from 90,000 when the wall fell, when, I figure, residents fled to the west. Although it is small, it is close to Potsdam and Berlin. There seems to be very good public transport.

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Bülstringen and Wolfsburg, Germany

We continued along the Mittelland kanal to Wolfsburg. A large part of the city was built in 1938 to provide housing for workers at the VW plant, where the Beetle was manufactured. The city’s roots, however, date to the 13th century. In 1302, it was first mentioned as the seat of the the Bartensleben family.  There was a residential tower, later fortified and turned into a moated castle . A predecessor was probably the Rothehof tower, built around 1200 .  The Neuhaus Castle was built circa 1372 . 

The VW plant in Wolfsburg

Today as home to the one of the world’s largest automobile manufacturing plants, it has the highest standard of living in the country. There is a large modern art museum without much art in it when we visited, just two temporary exhibits, both good.

Futher along the canal we came to Bülstringen, a small historic town right on the Mittelland Kanal. It dates from the 1300’s.

Bülstringen church small
The church dates from the 13c. It has a fine baroque interior but the church was closed when we visited. Also there is a large pulpit. Pen, brush and ink.

The baroque church building was added to a Romanesque tower in 1708.  The baroque church was probably designed by the Braunschweigian master builder Hermann Korb. The interior is octagonal, an uncommon shape for these structures. The rich furnishings, including a large pulpit altar, date from the time of its creation.  There are two bells from the 13th and 14th centuries. The Gothic crucifix is from the 16th century.


Another unusual feature is the semicircular seating arrangement formed by the two-story octoganal wooden galleries.  The Romanesque west tower and the baptismal font inside (early 13th century) belong to the oldest part of the church. The bright bell dates from the end of the 13th century.

One of a number of half timber structures in the village.

The village has one hotel and perhaps two or three other businesses. There is a fair amount of traffic passing through but otherwise it’s a sleepy village. You could use for filming scenes of the middle ages.