Der Hofstetter Frauenwald


A few months ago I quickly photographed a field of grave mounds along the main road from Hofstetten to Pürgen. / Vor ein paar Monaten habe ich schnell ein Feld von Grabhügeln entlang der Hauptstraße von Hofstetten nach Pürgen fotografiert.


The Wikipedia entry for the nearby community of Pürgen mentions a Totenstadt; that there once were said to be 200 grave mounds, and that by 1908 that number was down to 63. / Der Wikipedia-Eintrag für die nahegelegene Gemeinde Pürgen erwähnt eine Totenstadt; dass es einmal um die 200 Grabhügel gewesen sind, und dass  um 1908 diese Zahl auf 63 gesunken war.



Today I took a tour of a large patch of woods, called the Hofstetter Frauenwald, across the road from that field. I don’t know why it’s called a “Ladies’ Forest” but postulate that the land had once belonged to a convent. I suspected that there may be many more grave mounds inside the forest. / Heute habe ich eine Tour durch einen großen des Waldes gemacht, dem so genannten Hofstetter Frauenwald, gerade jenseits der Hauptstraße dieses Felds. Ich weiß nicht, warum es eine “Frauenwald” genannt wird, aber nehme an, dass das Land einst zu einem Kloster gehörte. Ich vermutete, dass viele weitere Grabhügel im Wald sind.

IMG_1583And indeed, from the path alone I counted 28 of them. A visit in the winter, when one can leave the trails (too much thorny underbrush growing there right now) will surely lead to more. With the ten visible in the field across the main road, that’s 38 at least. / Und tatsächlich –  vom Weg aus zählte ich bereits 28 von ihnen. Ein Besuch im Winter, wenn man die Wege verlassen kann, wird sicherlich zu mehr führen (zu viel dornigen Gestrüpp dort wächst dort im Augenblick). Mit den zehn sichtbaren Grabhügeln im Feld gegenüber die Hauptstraße sind es dann mindestens 38.


A dozen photographs of x-thousand-year-old grave mounds eroding in the woods might bring to mind Monty Python’s tree slide show, especially since they all look more or less alike… / Ein Dutzend Fotos von x-tausend Jahre alten Grabhügeln in den Wäldern Erodieren erinnert an Monty Pythons Baum Dia-Show, vor allem da sie alle mehr oder weniger gleich aussehen …

…and so I’ll spare you from any more! Suffice to say that I am very pleased to have found the Bronze Age necropolis in the woods just outside our village. There are no signs at the site and very little information online, but once you know where to look, they are all around you… / Und so erspare ich ihnen mehr davon! Es genügt zu sagen, dass es mich sehr freut, die Bronzezeit-Nekropole in den Wäldern vor den Toren unseres Dorfes gefunden zu haben. Es gibt keine Hinweise auf dem Gelände und sehr wenig Informationen online, aber wenn Sie wissen, wo sie suchen müssen, steht man schon mittendrin.

Cambodunum – Kempten


An artist’s rendition of the stone layers of an inside wall in the kleine Therme.


Kempten, in the Allgäu region, is one of Germany’s oldest cities. Earliest mention appears to be by the ancient Greek geographer Strabo, who called it Kambodunon and wrote that it was a town of the Celtic Estiones. When the Romans  invaded in 15 BCE, they built a classical Roman city on the plateau overlooking the current modern town. Cambodunum‘s buildings were initially made of wood, and after a fire destroyed the town in 69 CE, it was rebuilt in stone, and it is these remains which the visitor sees at the Cambodunum Archaeology Park (g).




Above, the remains of the Temple District (top). The population of Cambodunum consisted not only of Romans but of assimilated (“romanized”) locals and immigrants, and each group had their own set of gods to worship. In Cambodunum, the temples of local gods and Roman gods existed side by side. The low stone walls define the excavated walls and foundations, as for example the Forum in what is now a large lawn.


The kleine Therme (“small bathhouse” — I was unable to figure out it there was a large one as well, possibly reburied for conservation purposes or lost to centuries of urban construction) is on display inside a protective building. It was built for the town’s chief magistrate, his staff and guests, and featured hot and cold baths, a steam room, and latrines. When Rome abandoned its transmontane colonies and eventually went down itself with the invading hordes, it unfortunately took its knowledge of its infrastructure maintenance with it. In a 2007 interview for Salon, historian Katherine Ashenburg explains why the following centuries of life in Europe were filthy ones.


Random piles of building stones within the park. Not everything can by reconstructed.

Forgotten Innsbruck: The Irrwurzel

Fellow-blogger Paschberg has posted the following 1966 article from Innsbruck’s local newspaper, about a mysterious root found in certain places  which, should you step on it, will send you wandering through the mountains, completely disoriented. Here is an English translation by me, because I find weird legends like this kind of cool.


from the Tiroler Tageszeitung, Innsbruck, 25 October, 1966, Nr. 247, S.6

“Was terrestrial radiation to blame for the mental state of Johann König from Gnadenwald?

In response to Dr. Dietmar Assmann’s article “300 Years of Pilgrimages to Maria Larch near Terfens” in the October 8 issue of “TT”, I would like to tell a story which is interesting on ethnological, scientific, psychiatric and mountaineering levels.

The history of Maria Larch the legend is exhaustively discussed in the article. In conclusion the author writes, “like many other cultural sites of this kind, we see close ties of nature with the desire for protection from its violence.”

The saga tells of such violence. According to it, a mythical root grows in the Larch valley. The Tyrolean ethnologist Johann N. from Alpenburg wrote over 100 years ago, “in the forests and meadows, on mountain and valley grows a root which possesses such powers, that whoever steps upon it will meander aimlessly for days, just as the witches and masters of the dark arts understand how to distract a person and lead him astray.” Such persons would wander the entire night and came to only by the morning call to prayers. Such instances are said to have been frequent in the Larch Valley, although no one knew anything for certain.

Dr. Guido Hradil, Adjunct Professor at the University of Innsbruck, described such occurrences as terrestrial radiation which, like that which has been measured in the Gastein Valley, may also be observed in Gnadenwald.

On January 4th, 1912, innkeeper Josef Heiss, whose inn stood at the edge of the Larch valley and who also owned a timber business, was busy with his men and horses pulling logs on sleds from the forest near Maria Larch to Gnadenwald on sleds. They had been delayed by the shying of the horses and it was getting dark.  Hansel, a boy from a nearby farm, rode by on his sled as they were bustling about to go. The woodsmen called out, “Hey, where are you off to, so late?”, but he gave no answer. The company left the unfriendly boy alone and hurried home, as night was already upon them.

The next day word got out that the boy hadn’t come home. His family, the workers, the neighbors and soon the whole village was searching for him, along with the police. Soon enough they found tracks of the boy’s sled. The tracks led from Maria Larch, through the so-called Sau Valley through the woods, crossed the Umlberg road, went straight up nearly vertically on the steep and icy slope of the Walder Pass, cut through the meadow there to the summit and descended the north side into a gap, where with a sleepwalking instinct he had made his way between the cliffs down to the stream. Here his sled broke. His body was found frozen by the stream. He had pulled off his shoes and stockings.

The discovery caused an uproar in the region. Why did the boy leave the marked road in the Larch valley and sled through the fields? Even if he’d become snow-blind, how did he cross the road without noticing it? Why had he not noticed the village lights, clearly visible on the way up the mountain? How did he find his way through the pathless gorge in the dark? There were no answers, and no one wished to mention the Irrwurzel out loud.

In the Gnadenwald church’s chronicle the priest had written: “Johann König, single, farmer’s son, in the night of January 4th-5th, 1912, strayed in confusion, found frozen in the Vomp Gap and brought home.” In the city one spoke of an epileptic fit or schizophrenia, perhaps brought on by an unknown force of nature. — I.M. Metzler”

Also included in the post is an article written by the blog author’s father and found among his papers, and in English at that. Here with permission:




By Alois Schönherr

In the Tyrolean, Austrian and German folklore, there is the tradition of the so called “Irrwurzel”, a mythical root, which, if stepped on, allegedly distorts the orientation of the wanderer to such an extent that he or she will become unable to find one’s way even in a perfectly familiar environment. 1)

Alpenburg writing in 1857 relates that according to tradition the Irrwurzel is very frequent in the pastures below the Tratzberg castle, between Schwaz and Jenbach (30 kms east of Innsbruck), “where everybody is careful, not to walk through with bare feet” , but just how it looks – nobody knows. He also writes that “today the Irrwurzel is no longer known” (i.e. the term is not associated with a certain botanically known plant or root) because in 1803 a dying oil-trader from the Ziller-valley burnt the last specimen by order of a priest. 2) It seems that similar to the personifactions of natural forces like wind or ligthtning as gods, the Irrwurzel constitutes a sort of botanic rationalization for certain mysterious effects.

At least in the Tyrol, stories about the Irrwurzel aren’t always located in a vague, hazy, undated past or associated only with unknown persons and places. The following tale, also related by Alpenburg, can be considered as typical:

One day in 1832 at three o’clock in the morning the porter Jakob Tunner from Alpbach departed from the Kupal alp in the Hinterriss with a load of 100 pounds of butter for Jenbach. After a quarter of an hour, fog fell in but the porter proceeded as he knew the way very well, having used it a “thousand times” in both directions before. He walked for hours, but he never reached the pass leading to the Inn-valley. At noon he rested and prayed, then he went on again. Finally, late in the night, he perceived a hut in the distance. It was the Kupal alp, from where he had started twenty hours before. He was so confused that he asked after the name of the alp. The herdsmen there said he must have stepped upon an Irrwurzel. 3)


1) In Germany the term “Irrfleck” is more popular, which means a definite spot, a sort of haunted place so to say, where orientation is distorted.

2) Alpenburg, Johann Nepomuk Ritter von, Mythen und Sagen Tirols, Verlag von Meyer und Zeller, Zürich 1857, p. 409.

3) Ibid. p. 410

below the Tratzberg castle, between Schwaz and Jenbach (30 kms east of Innsbruck)”

Here And There In America: The Pine Forge

This post brings us to another kind of railroad: the Underground Railroad, neither a railroad nor underground, the unofficial “tracks” of which were laid in the early nineteenth century.

Dieser Beitrag bringt uns zu einer anderen Art von Eisenbahn: Der „Underground Railroad“, weder eine Eisenbahn noch U-Bahn, sondern geheime „Geleise“ (für die Flucht der Sklaven aus den Südstaaten) die im frühen neunzehnten Jahrhundert gelegt wurden.

Several routes passed through the Quaker and German farmlands of southeastern Pennsylvania. Thomas Rutter, an ironmaster who built the first ironworks in Pennsylvania in 1716, was a former Quaker and active opponent of slavery, and although he died in 1730 his heirs must have felt the same way, for the Rutter mansion is said to have been a safehouse for sheltering fugitive slaves on their way to Canada in the 19th century. Pennsylvania’s Quaker reputation for tolerance is not 100% deserved; nearby Boyertown is known to have been a Klan area in the 20th century, so my mother tells me.)

Mehrere Routen führten durch das Anbaugebiet von Quäkern und Deutschen des südöstlichen Pennsylvania. Thomas Rutter, ein Eisenfabrikant, der die ersten Eisenhütte in Pennsylvania im Jahre 1716 errichtete, war ein ehemaliger Quaker und aktiver Gegner der Sklaverei, und obwohl er im Jahr 1730 starb, waren seine Nachfolger der gleichen Meinung, da man sagte, dass das Herrenhaus der Familie Rutter im 19. Jahrhundert eine Unterkunft für flüchtige Sklaven auf ihrem Weg nach Kanada war. Der tolerante Ruf von Pennsylvanias Quäkern ist aber nicht 100% verdient; das nahe Boyertown ist dafür bekannt, im 20.Jhdt. ein (Ku-Klux-) Klan-Bezirk gewesen zu sein, wie mir meinen Mutter sagte.

IMG_1465The Pine Forge Institute (now Pine Forge Academy) was founded on the grounds in 1945 and is in continued use to this day as an African American boarding school, owned and run by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The church has expressed interest in turning the Rutter mansion into a museum; at the moment it’s still closed up.

Das Pine Forge Institut (heute Pine Forge Akademie) wurde auf dem Gelände des Herrenhauses im Jahr 1945 gegründet und ist seither als afroamerikanisches Internat in Verwendung, im Besitz und unter Verwaltung der Siebenten-Tags-Adventisten. Die Kirche hat ihr Interesse daran erklärt, das Rutter Herrenhaus in ein Museum umzubauen; im Moment ist es aber immer noch nicht öffentlich zugänglich.

One of my Pennsylvania German ancestors, one Samuel Schaeffer, worked at the Pine Forge ironworks.

Einer meiner Pennsylvania-deutschen Vorfahren, ein Samuel Schaeffer, arbeitete in der Pine Forge Eisenhütte.

Interestingly, Pine Forge was once a stop on the old Colebrookdale Railroad, which serviced several iron forges and plating works (Thomas Rutter also built the Colebrook Dale Furnace). A re-opening of the line is planned for the autumn of 2014 as a tourist ride called the Secret Valley Line. My parents rode it a few years ago when the community was trying to raise funds for the restoration. I look forward to riding it myself on my next visit.

Interessanterweise war Pine Forge einmal ein Halt auf der alten Colebrookdale Eisenbahn, die mehrere Eisenwerke versorgte (Thomas Rutter baute auch die Colebrookdale Hochöfen). Eine Wiedereröffnung der Linie ist für Herbst 2014 als Touristenbahn, genannt Secret Valley Line, geplant. Meine Eltern fuhren sie vor ein paar Jahren, als die Gemeinde versuchte, Mittel für die Wiederherstellung zu lukrieren. Ich freue mich auf eine Fahrt bei meinem nächsten Besuch.

Here And There In America: Strasburg PA

IMG_BfI’m not actually a train buff in the traditional sense of the term. Then again, when I write that, it brings to mind Nick Hornby, in the Bob Dylan chapter in his book “31 Songs”

I’m not a big Dylan fan. I’ve got Blonde On Blonde and Highway 61 Revisited, obviously.
And Bringing It All Back Home and Blood On the Tracks… And I’m interested enough to have bought The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3, and that live album we now know wasn’t recorded at the Royal Albert Hall…There are…around twenty separate Bob Dylan CDs on my shelf; in fact I own more recordings by Dylan than by any other artist. Some people – my mother, say, who may not own twenty CDs in total – would say that I am a Dylan fanatic, but I know Dylan fanatics, and they would not recognize me as one of them.

A recent trip to central Pennsylvania allowed me a chance to swing down to Strasburg, where there is a very popular Railroad Museum and the Strasburg Railroad, a stretch of track where historic engines and cars offer rides through the Pennsylvania Dutch countryside. It was a beautiful day and I was right there in the area, so why not?

Ich bin kein Eisenbahnfan im herkömmlichen Sinn. Während ich das schreibe fällt mir das Bob Dylan Kapitel in Nick Hornby´s Buch „31 Songs“ ein:

Ich bin kein großer Fan Dylan. Augenscheinlich habe ich „Blonde On Blonde“ und „Highway 61 Revisited“. Und „Bringing It All Back Home“ und „Blut Auf den Geleisen“ … Und ich bin interessiert genug, um die Alben zu haben wie, Raubkopien der Serie 3.1, und dieses Live-Album, das wie wir jetzt wissen, nicht in der Royal Albert Hall aufgezeichnet wurde … Es gibt … um zwanzig eigene Bob Dylan CDs in meinem Regal; tatsächlich besitze ich mehr Aufnahmen von Dylan als von jedem anderen Künstler. Einige Leute, z.B. meine Mutter, die insgesamt kaum mehr als zwanzig CDs besitzen dürften – würde sagen, dass ich ein Dylan-Fanatiker bin, aber ich kenne Dylan-Fanatiker, und sie würden mich nicht als einen von den ihren erkennen.

Eine kürzliche Reise ins Zentrum Pennsylvanias eröffneten die Chance eines Abstechers nach Straßburg, wo es eine sehr bekanntes Eisenbahnmuseum und die Strasburg Railroad gibt, eine Bahnstrecke, auf der historische Lokomotiven und Wagen Fahrten durch die holländische Landschaft Pennsylvanias. Es war ein schöner Tag und da ich genau dort in der Gegend war, warum nicht die Gelegenheit ergreifen?

IMG_buchThis was the Open Air car, between rides. There was also the options of Coach (3rd class), First Class and the President’s Car, the last two with plush decor and air conditioning. I soon had found a new friend in B., a 6-year-old with a season pass, who was in the process of learning everything he could about this particular engine. His mother said they’ve been on this ride more times than she could count. Finding a new victim, he quickly took to me as his Favorite Aunt For This Ride, which also worked out for me as even the train fanatics with big cameras had friends or wives with them.
Das war der offene Wagen, zwischen zwei Fahrten. Es gab auch die Optionen Waggon (3. Klasse), 1. Klasse und Salonwagen, letzter zwei mit Plüsch-Dekor und Klimaanlage. Ich hatte bald einen neuen Freund in B. gefunden, einem 6-jährigen mit einer Saisonkarte, der gerade dabei war alles Erreichbare über eine bestimmte Lokomotive in Erfahrung zu bringen. Seine Mutter sagte, sie hätten diese Fahrt bereits unzählige Male gemacht. Nachdem er nun ein neue Opfer gefunden hatte, nahm er mich schnell als seine „Lieblings-Tante für diese Fahrt“, was mir auch gepasst hat, nachdem auch die Zug-Fanatiker mit großen Kameras von Freunden oder Ehefrauen begleitet wurden.

IMG_ausweicheWe rode through the fields and farmlands of Amish Country, through acres of corn and (above) tobacco.
There were several small highlights for the passengers, including a passing loop for the next scheduled ride. B. could barely contain himself, waiting for the next steam locomotive to pass.
Wir fuhren durch die Felder und Ackerland von Amish Country, hektarweise Mais und (oben) Tabak.
Es gab mehrere kleine Highlights für die Passagiere, darunter Zugkreuzung mit dem nächsten fahrplanmäßigen Zug. B. konnte die Vorbeifahrt der nächsteb Dampflokomotive kaum erwarten.

The rail yard near the station was populated with engines and cars of all shapes and sizes. These bear a strong resemblance to the old Lionel train set we kids used to set up in the living room.
Der Rangierbahnhof in der Nähe der Station ist mit Lokomotive und Wagen in allen Formen und Größen bevölkert. Diese haben eine starke Ähnlichkeit mit dem alten Lionel Zug, den wir als Kinder gerne im Wohnzimmer fahren ließen. (die US Firma Lionel war ein ähnlich altehrwürdiger Modellbahnproduzent, wie z.B. Märklin oder Trix.)

IMG_1451A Good Humor Man, in full retro garb and an old authentic truck near the museum entrance. Of course I bought an ice cream bar from him.
Ein Good Humor Man (ein Berühmtheit aus dem 60-er und 70-er Jahre) ähnlich zu einem Langnese Eisverkäufer), in voller Retro-Uniform vor einem alten authentischen LKW in der Nähe des Museumseingang. Natürlich kaufte ich mir einen Eisriegel von ihm.

IMG_1460Nearby, the Red Caboose Motel in Ronks, PA. Instead of rooms, guests stay in individual, restored, air conditioned caboose cars. In their restaurant (in the dining car, natürlich), diners can watch the passing Strasburg Railroad trains from the windows.
In der Nähe befindet sich in Ronks, PA das Red Caboose Motel. Anstatt in Zimmern, wohnen die Gäste in individuellen restaurierten Güterzugbegleitwagen mit Klimaanlage. In ihrem Restaurant (im Speisewagen, natürlich), können die Gäste die Vorbeifahrenden Züge der Strasburg-Bahn beobachten.