The Bohemian Massif

Bohemia sits on and in a lump. If the story of Hungary was written by the Danube Basin, the huge sub-surface sink that gradually filled with sediment until it became a broad, flat, water-logged grassland, then the story of Bohemia started with the rise of a lumpy plateau, the Bohemian Massif.

It’s not exactly a plateau, but four chunks of folded, faulted, uplifted, and generally mangled rock that started shifting and rising during the Variscan Orogony – the same episode that led to the creation of the Vosges in France. Two other continents collided, and what became Bohemia was one of the lumps caught in the middle as Pangea formed. All that pushing at the edges led to the compressional faulting and folding that shoved the Bohemian Massif upward, in some places over 10,000 feet. Continue reading


Odd Vibes

Blogger note: I’m still out of internet access, so if you are in moderation, I’m sorry, but I can’t “free” you for a while yet.

I should not have gotten the creeps at Kutna Hora. It’s a lovely old mining town with an amazing parish church – St. Barbara’s – and a nice cathedral. The old town is a bit vertical but well preserved, and the place has a lot of fascinating history. The day started sunny, a few showers rolled though, then the sun returned. But still… Continue reading

Eagles all the Way Down?

Poland, the Habsburgs, Hungary, the Byzantines, Russia, you can’t go anywhere save Bohemia without tripping over an eagle. Bohemia, just to be different, has a two-tailed lion.

The Hungarians claim descent from a steppe princess who was seduced by an eagle and bore five sons. They were the founders of the five major clans that went west and eventually took over the Pannonian Plains. This was recorded in the early Middle Ages, by churchmen, so any influence from Greek mythology… However, given the traditions of totem animals among steppe peoples, I wouldn’t bet against there being some pre-Christian core in the legend.

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Castle, Festung, Burg

A re-run from 2015. I’m still somewhere without internet.

“Well, it’s really more of a schloß than a burg.” One of those lines that make no sense out of context, unless you speak German (or the NATO version of Deutch-lish). The building in question happened to have a medieval core with extensive Renaissance additions, to the point that it really had become more of a palace than a castle, although it still had -burg in the name. Confused yet? Continue reading

Which Red River?

The Red River of the North? The River Rouge? The Red River? The Rio Rojo? The Colorado?

Ah, North American place names strike again. Just as English borrows from every passing language (OK, hits them over the head, drags them into alleys and steals their vocabulary and occasionally their grammar), so too did the United States adopt place names in multiple languages, leading to multiple rounds of confusion. Continue reading

Towns that Time Forgets

Krakow, Poland is rather like Bruges, Belgium, in that a lot of history bypassed it. For those of us interested in seeing actual old things rather than reconstructions and museum dioramas of old things, this is wonderful. For the people who lived in the cities during those periods of neglect, it wasn’t so wonderful.

The good news is that, unlike Warsaw, the Nazis didn’t level things out of spite, with the Soviets following up just because they were Soviets. Krakow lost its status to Warsaw during the late Middle Ages, much like Bruges, and a lot of things bypassed it. Also unlike Lemberg/L’vov/L’wow/L’viv, it wasn’t in between two armies times three offensives.

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D-Day plus 75

Grandpa Carl’s first visit to France began with the emergency bail-out signal. His plane had been hit by flack and the pilots could not keep it in the air (it was sort of on fire.) Windy, loud, dark, and dangerous was his impression of Normandy on June 6, 1944. He landed in a hedgerow, upside-down. Not the best way to begin an all expenses paid walking tour of western Europe.

He said he was lucky – he wasn’t in one of the gliders or in a tank. Tanks attracted unwanted attention. Continue reading

Rivers: Gaining and Losing

Blogger Note: I am without reliable Internet due to being on the road. Posting will be every-other-day, and I cannot release comments from moderation. I’m not closing comments, so please don’t get out of hand. Thanks.

Hydrology people talk about gaining and losing streams. This doesn’t mean what it sounds like—as usual.

The short version is that a stream gains if it collects water as it crosses the landscape. A stream is a losing stream if it emerges smaller than when it entered the area. Some, like the Humbolt River, never return from the desert. Continue reading

Soviet Jokes…

no, not just their leadership and cars (although I think the Lada was better than the Trabant. Which is praising with faint d-mns, I know.)

Last month, RES over at According to Hoyt posted a link to Jay Nordlinger’s piece about jokes from and about the Soviet Union. I immedeatly got both of the ones RES copied, and laughed fondly. I’m a child of the Cold War, and “Russkie” jokes were common when I was growing up. Watching the planes from SAC Headquarters launching every day probably had something to do with that.

One of my favorite political cartoons from that era showed a table, with a banner over it labeled “Politburo Central Committee.” Behind each chair was a parking meter. Several of the meters read “Expired,” and the occupant of the chair was obviously deceased (feet sticking up and the only thing visible, body sprawled out on the table, and so on). This was from the time when the Soviets went through three First Secretaries in four years (Brezhnev, Andropov, Chernenko, then Gorbachev).  This led Pres. Reagan to complain that he couldn’t get anything done with the Soviet leadership because they kept dying on him. He was older then they were, which says a lot about the hard lives of the Soviet leaders before they became leaders, and about the quality of Soviet medicine, even for the elite. Continue reading