Friday, February 23, 2007

The Red Baron

I just came home from a 7-day trip to Germany. We fly into the Frankfurt airport,and stay at a hotel in Wiesbaden. While there I went to visit the grave of the most famous air ace of World War I, Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen. He was born on 2 May 1892 in Breslau, which is now part of Poland. He was commissioned in April 1911 and he started out in the cavalry, but transferred to the German Air Force in May 1915.

Richthofen was appointed commander of the Flying Circus in June 1917. This new unit was comprised of Germany's top fighter pilots. It highly mobile and could be quickly sent to any part of the Western Front where it was most needed.

His success in his brightly painted red aircraft, a Fokker DR-1 Dridecker led to his being named der Rote Kampfflieger by the Germans, le petit rouge by the French, and the Red Baron by the British.

After scoring 80 confirmed kills, Richthofen was finally shot down as he flew deep into British lines. Buried in France by the British with full military honours, Richthofen's body was later exhumed and reburied in the Invaliden Friedhof Cemetery in Berlin. After World War II, the Berlin Wall passed directly over this grave site, and the family had the remains moved to the family plot at Südfriedhof cemetery at Wiesbaden.

This is the entrance to the cemetery:

This is the family plot.

The "Red Baron" was here in the front.

Somebody placed a very small airplane on the site:

The cemetery had many interesting and elaborate graves and I found myself browsing as I walked back out. I was surprised this famous ace's grave was so understated.

Thursday, February 15, 2007


Well, I've finally managed to write a post about Budapest. I went there 2 times last month. The weather wasn't particularly nice, but I saw quite a bit of this impressive city anyway. Until 1873 Budapest was 2 cities, Buda and Pest, separated by the Danube River.

I walked all over the city, mainly of the Buda side. Our hotel is on the Pest side, and one way I got to Buda was by crossing the Chain Bridge, which was built between 1839-1849 and rebuilt after WW II, after being blown up by the Germans. The bridgehead is guarded by 2 stone lions sculpted by Janos Marschalko. According to legend, he was heartbroken because he forgot to give them tongues, so he drowned himself in the river. (The lions do have tongues, but they aren't easily visible.)
Here it is at night:

Another beautiful bridge is the Liberty Bridge built between 1894-1899. It was also blown up by the Germans and rebuilt after WW II. On top are the legendary Hungarian turol birds and royal crests. This picture was taken from the entrance to the cave church:

This picture was taken on Liberty Bridge, with a nice view of the statue of St. Gellert:

Near Liberty Bridge is Gellert Hill. In 1046, citizens led by Prince Vata, brother of King Istvan, threw a sealed barrel containing Bishop Gellert from the hill, killing him. He was trying to convert the people to Christianity. In 1904, the Statue of St. Gellert, the patron saint of Budapest, was constructed with a statue of a Hungarian convert at his feet on the site of his death. Here it is from behind, as I climbed down the hill to see it:

And from the road below:

On the side of this hill is the Cave Church. It was built for the Pauline order of monks in 1926. In 1934, 150 years after Joseph II had dissolved the order in Hungary, 15 friars returned to the city from exile in Poland. In the 1950's the Communists suspended activities in the church, accused the monks of treasonable acts and sealed the the entrance. It was reopened in 1989. (The entrance is on the left side of the hill.)


I climbed up the hill behind the cave church to the Citadel, where the Liberation Monument stands. The Citadel was built by the Austrians in 1851 to intimidate the population. It had 60 cannons. The Austrians left their barracks there in 1897. During WW II, the Germans built a bunker here. There is a WW II museum in there now, which was very interesting.

The Liberation Monument is a woman holding a palm leaf above her head. It was originally intended to honor the memory of Istvan, son of Hungarian Regent Miklos Horthy, who disappeared in 1943 on the eastern front. But after the liberation of the city by Russian troops, it was reassigned to commemorate the liberation of Budapest by the Russian army in 1945. At the base, 2 statues, one representing progress (on the left) and one representing the battle with evil. After communism fell, a statue of a Russian soldier was removed from the monument and put it in Statue Park. (Statue Park contains 41 communist monuments removed from various parts of the city in the early 1990's. Some had been erected by the communists as late as the 1980's. The park was open to the public in 1993.)

Here are some pictures of the monument. I could not fit the whole thing in one picture without falling down the mountain:


The "battle with evil":

On the Buda side I also saw Fisherman's Bastion. It was designed in 1895 on the site of Buda's old defensive walls. It was never used in a defensive role, but is used as a viewing terrace.

I took this picture from here, looking across the river at the beautiful Parliament Building:

Here is a better picture of the Parliament Building:

Here it is from the front. Note the flat top modern building on the right side of this picture. It is the Hilton hotel, built in 1976, amid much controversy. The historic remains of a medieval church and part of the Jesuit monastery which formerly occupied the site are incorporated into the design of the hotel.

Matyas Church, which was undergoing some renovation, is near here also. It was originally built in 1255 by King Bela IV. Turks converted it to the Great Mosque in 1541. It was destroyed after Buda was liberated in 1686. It was rebuilt by Franciscan Friars from 1874-1896. Inside is the tomb of King Bela III and Annede Chatillon their remains brought here in 1860.

There is also a statue of St. Stephen (Istvan) that was erected in 1906. He was the first crowned king of Hungary and he accepted christianity for his people. (As mentioned above, his brother, Prince Vata, led the group that killed Bishop Gellert.)

Here is a close-up of the base of the statue:

On the Pest side of the river is St. Stephen's Church. It is the prominent building in this picture I took from Fisherman's Bastion at sunset. In the church there is a little room used to describe the history of the church. The is a picture from the turn of the century that shows the same view of the skyline, only there are a lot of smoke stacks all around it. The top of the church collapsed during construction, but it is not known if it was due to poor building materials/workmanship or due to the fact that the architect revised the plans to make it taller, so it would dominate the skyline.


And at night:

The inside of the church is beautiful.

In the church is a room dedicated to the right hand of St. Stephen, which is somehow preserved here. I refer to it as "the creepy hand":

Here is the hand in its case. Deposit a few coins and the light comes on so you can see it. From this side, the fist is facing you:

This is a picture on a display board describing the hand and the various archaeological tests done on it:

This is the very large front door.

Here is a close-up. I call it "Dudes on a Door". Actually they are the 12 apostles, but they were probably dudes in their day, right?

I also walked 30 minutes out of the city to see Hero's Square. It was built for the Millenium Celebrations of 1896. It was hosted by the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, celebrating modernization, such as gas lighting, and Europe's first underground transport system was opened. On one side of the square is the Museum of Fine Arts, built in 1895.

The Palace of Art is on the other side and was also built in 1895.

The Millenium Monument was actually completed in 1929.

Budapest is a lovely city with many things to see. I'm hoping I will see even more on my next trip!

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentines Day!

Apparently my snow dance worked! The kids are home from school today -- it was cancelled yesterday based on the weather forecast. This morning the winter storm warning has been upgraded to a blizzard warning. Yeah!

The boys headed outside bright and early to try to shovel the driveway, but it was already getting too deep for them. And it's only just getting started...:))


In other news, the boys gave me some sweet surprises this morning.

I hope you all have a terrific Valentines Day!

And, Happy Birthday to you, b-logger!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Almost Enough Snow

We FINALLY got a little more snow last Friday. Yesterday Cranky and I took out our snowmobiles, joining Raymond's in the front yard:

Father and son sleds:

Here's Raymond having a good time:

Bob also did a little riding. Here he is heading outside:

Bob rode his snowmobile a short distance, but decided he would rather ride with me.

While the kids were in school and Cranky was at work, I went for a ride out on the trails. They were in somewhat bad condition, but I got to HAUL ASS across the pond near our house. I also cruised down to the lake, but it was very windy, resulting in drifting snow and bare ice spots, which is not all that fun. Especially when the temperature is -9 F with the wind chill factor.

In other news: Mary and I went to Atlanta this weekend to bring our guest dog, Toby, back home. Everyone was sad to see him go, but he was so happy to see his family again! We had a nice visit with our friends and got home in plenty of time for the Super Bowl...

This afternoon, Mary and I had a cooking lesson at King Arthur's Flour Company in Norwich Vermont. We made stromboli and apple crisp, as well as a tasty salad to bring home for dinner. The class was a Christmas gift from Cranky. We both had a fun time.

Busy, busy, busy! Now if I could just find a good snow dance...

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