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Monday, 30 May 2016

The castle at Schosdorf

We returned today to the castle at Schosdorf where my great-grandfather, Felix Thode, lived with his uncle, aunt and cousins in the late 1870s and early 1880s.  We were last here in 2012.
The castle was built in the period in 1850-52 and had several owners.  The Thodes owned it between 1866 and the early 1900s.  It became a ruin gradually in the early 1950s through vandalism, neglect, looting and Russian policy.  All that stands today are the tower, parts of what I believe may have been the kitchen area and the back staircase.
To the right of the tower is the rest of the ruin.  Here we see the old staircase at the back of the castle which reached all floors.  Before its destruction, the castle was 48 metres long.
When I came here four years ago, the place had been severely overtaken by nature.  Someone has recently removed a lot of vegetation, allowing the ruin to be seen more easily from the road.  However, right at the edge of the ruin, it seemed much worse than before, making it very difficult to have a good look.
Christine stands within the old back staircase, and takes a photo of the back door.  I recall on my last visit there was a hinge or some evidence of which way the door used to open.  That evidence seems to have gone.
The back staircase reached each floor in the castle, including the cellar.  In the above picture, the steps leading into the cellar are buried.  Irena Buca, who lives right near the castle, has lived her for over 60 years.  Back then, she grew lots of potatoes and stored them in the castle cellar.  She said the cellar was quite small compared to the rest of the castle.
'Inside' the castle from the back door, is this strange shape in the building.
Looking into various parts of the castle
This is the entrance to the inner part of the back staircase.
Standing outside what used to be the back staircase, at the rear of the building, looking at a piece of the castle that stood between the tower and the castle's middle.
A panoramic showing the tower at left and the remaining ruin.
Christine and Renate 'inside' the castle, near the back staircase.  The ground floor used to contain rooms such as bathrooms, toilets, a flower room, kitchen and dining rooms.  Once inside the front entrance, which no longer exists, two marble staircases used to lead to the first floor. 

The back staircase from the rear.

A non-panoramic showing the tower and the rest of the ruin.
Christine inspecting the ruins of a castle which once belonged to her great-great-great uncle, Robert Thode.
The castle was made of bricks rocks and rendered.  At one time, there was a brickery in the area, and the bricks for the castle may well have come from there.

We met Irena Buca first in 2012, and again now.  She took us around the castle grounds, through its thick vegetation, and gave a good commentary.
Irena pointed out the Schneekoppe in the distance, the highest mountain in the Riesengebirge.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Arrival at Zamek Czocha

Late in the afternoon, we arrived at Castle Czocha in the south-west of Poland.  The castle was built in the 13th century.  We were all very excited to be here, and, after carrying all our luggage to our rooms on the 4th floor (no lifts), we went exploring.  

Outside the main castle gate is this medieval figure.  Note AD 1241.
This is the stone bridge leading to the front entrance.  The previous wooden bridge was replaced after Henryck von Uechtritz's funeral in 1719.  A group of mourners crossed the bridge with the coffin, and the bridge collapsed into the dry moat below.  Several mourners died.
There are various paths around the castle you can follow.
In various places, you find slits in the stone walls where medieval defenders would have shot the enemy with their bows and arrows.

The river Kwisa flows through the modern reservoir lake below the castle.

In search of the Johanneum

We drove from Dresden to Görlitz and then on to Zittau, before finally reaching our destination, the castle Czocha in Poland, but more about that in the next blog post.
We found Görlitz to be a very charming, beautiful old city, not without culture.  Henry Thode, my great-grandfather's cousin, studied here for a time.  
We didn't stay too long, just had a quick look.  Görlitz is cut in half by the river Neise.  In fact, the other half of the city is in Poland.
We drove on to Zittau.  The above is the Johanneskirche, a church on the edge of the Markt (market).  I particularly wanted to see the city because my great-grandfather, Felix, went to school here in the Johanneum, which we hoped to locate.
Just up from the Johanneskirche, we found the Johanneum.  Felix Thode began lessons here after Easter 1879.  He stayed until about 1881.  This we know from records.  
Today was Sunday, so we couldn't enter the school.  A sign on the window announced there were currently many cases of chicken pox.

Me outside the main entrance to the Johanneum

The Johanneum is on the corner of Pfarrstrasse and Theaterring.
Renate, Christine and I climbed to the top of the Johanneskirche.  The Johanneum is the four-storey building in the middleground, right of the foreground tower.
Looking down on the Markt.
All around the horizon are hills and mountains.
The Johanneum is at the right of this picture - with the tower at its left.

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Dresden's Hiroshima

When you visit Dresden, you can't escape the destruction of Dresden that occurred on the night of 13-14 February 1945, in the final months of the Second World War.  That event was Dresden's Hiroshima; indeed the city is still recovering today.  Virtually all the buildings that look centuries old are in fact almost new, having been completed in only the last decade.  

At the old gasworks on Gasanstaltstrasse, an exhibition of a very different kind - Panometer Dresden - is currently on display about the bombing of Dresden, which killed 25,000 people on a single night.  It features photographs taken at the time, but which have been enlarged to such massive proportions that visitors need to climb a 15-metre high platform to view the panoramic scenes of destruction, draped around a large inner wall 30 metres high and 100 metres in circumference, inside a circular building.  The photographs, I understand, were then painted over to result in a product unlike anything seen before of that tragic event.  The exhibition is by Asisi. See
Scenes of Dresden, following its destruction in February 1945.  The bare facades remind one of New York on September 11, 2001.
This is the Kreuzkirche, which inexplicably survived the bombing.
British and American bombs rained mercilessly on Dresden, reducing it to rubble at a time when its defences had been removed, owing to the belief it would not be attacked by the Allies.  The city also had a tremendous influx of refugees and forced foreign labourers.  
Building facades stand alone like empty shells.  Their former interiors, and the lives and workplaces that once existed there, all gone.  
In November 1940, the Nazis bombed the English city of Coventry, wreaking utter destruction.  Some parallels are made between it and Dresden, although the actual death toll paled when compared to that of Dresden.  After Coventry, the Nazis invented a new verb - 'to coventrate' (coventrieren), meaning to destroy a city through German air power.  Today, there is a Coventry-Dresden association of some kind.  Indeed, when the rebuilding of the Frauenkirche was nearing completion, its golden tip was donated by Britain.
Anita John lost her parents in Dresden at the age of 12 on the night of the raid.  The city itself is still recovering today.  Not everything has been rebuilt yet and may never be.