Posts Tagged ‘History’

Personal thoughts during a visit to a museum in Leiden, the Netherlands, primarily to view its Etruscan exhibition


Looking at pots, trinkets, wares left behind
By those lost in time but the same human kind
Living their lives in the way they knew how
Much still mysterious to us here now

Where did they come from? No one is quite sure
Perhaps from the north to that Italian shore
Ancient Greek influence, gods that abound
No written texts but one have yet been found

Much that we know of them comes from their tombs
That we have the right to rob now one assumes
Personal items fill halls of renown
Next to the statues whose eyes look not down


Romans next-door and Egyptians nearby
Both telling their stories whose bones are quite dry
To eyes and ears of those distant in years
Advanced in some ways but with much the same fears

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Carefree I of mad intent
Crossing fingers, heaven sent
Fleeing from hot breath of souls
Changing ways and digging holes
Cartwheels turning creaking down
Muddied tracks to one such town
Fresh the air that breathes inside
Filling spaces long denied
Creatures watch with whispers wild
Calling to this lonely child
Sun sinks now behind the eyes
Into calm and emptied skies
Carefree I of mad intent
Crossing fingers, heaven sent

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Stilled life


A quiet street in Pompeii – image thanks to Paul Vlaar (from Wikipedia)

I tempted Vesuvius to no avail
It stayed quietly sleeping
While I stood there peeping
Down into its crater
With face somewhat pale

Pompeii, a city by its ash entombed
With stones flying, falling
Death came swiftly calling
The remnants in silence
Now tell of those doomed

Slaves sold at the hardware store, tools to be used
Mosaics, frescoes, showing
The temple, bar, knowing
Roads, houses, shops, gardens
Scars* of those abused

I left filled with memories: Fires down below
The frozen life grasping
As fumes left them gasping
Those Romans so gifted
Cruel times long ago.

*The word “scars” refers to vulgar Roman graffiti on the walls of rooms in the brothel at Pompeii

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Image courtesy Michelle Meiklejohn

Rob the poor to pay the rich.
Our vehicle’s heading for the ditch.
If you or I should not survive
then would the other be alive?

Politics and industry
bedfellows long in sophistry.
Just guinea pigs and servants plain
are we, the ones with nought to gain.

Truth breaks through: the way things are
for all to see, it’s most bizarre.
No holds barred in the fight to tame
and force us all to play their game.

Futures buried in the past.
Their cunningness revealed at last.
A world designed by wanton power
that in the end all may devour.

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“Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.
Adolf Hitler

Together we stand and together we fall
doubts rising from logic we can’t have at all.
We fight for a greater good going for bust
to divide and conquer is really a must.

The fools do not know it, the clever are stilled.
The riches are flowing, our coffers near filled.
We’re turning the corner with no looking back
immune as we are from dissenters’ attack.

No stone left unturned, their perfection revealed
our plans near fruition and all fates are sealed.
Soon power absolute we will have in our hands
no ear we will lend to their plaintive demands.

We’ll be kings and queens, dukes and duchesses too
and rule as of old with the rest in the zoo
all caged and protected with nothing to say.
We’re rubbing our hands thinking of judgement day.

It could be tomorrow or may take a year
much longer than that you will not have I fear.
So let’s see your mettle and give us some fight
to vanquish the kneeling will bring no delight.

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Royal flush

The thirtieth of April is a national holiday in the Netherlands to celebrate the Queen’s birthday.

Queen’s day approaching Friday next
and feverish endeavor
by those who walk on fluffy clouds
turns all to Never-Never.
Security a blemish on
what otherwise should be
a peaceful celebration of
this bordered unity.

Cracks now appear in sculpted forms
worked by those hands of old
to protect from all enemies
and now from some too bold.
Horizons whither, ideas bloom
so fresh, unheard before
while pageantry still nods and waves
within that frayed décor.

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As I’ve mentioned before there is to be a national election in the Netherlands in June this year. Strangely, many leading politicians including a number of ex ministers have recently resigned from politics saying that they need more time for their private life. While I can understand the human aspects of such a decision it is somewhat curious that so many are all at once involved.


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It’s emerging from that place,
dimensions moved from home.
Rising? Falling? Who’s to know
in that pleasure dome?

Empires: Persian, Roman, Greek,
the many wilted, gone.
Blood flows on of promise strained
that they will be one.

Eyes of fear peer to the sky;
bones rattle down below.
Stilled the last cries of those who
were too wise to know.

Hope the bandage for their wounds
or sword for might that fades.
Futures lost in emptiness
aging thought pervades.

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“Thought is an interloper, which thrusts itself into the affairs of the senses.
It has a profit motive: thought directs the activity of the senses to get something out of them, and uses them to give continuity to itself.”
U.G. Krishnamurti

The following was written by someone who arrived later

Once there was Mother Thought
who gave birth to Baby Thought.
How this happened is not known
to this day.
Baby Thought wouldn’t listen
to Mother Thought.
It knew everything better.
Mother Thought and Man
were inseparable.
Baby Thought wanted more
and in its frustration
devoured Man
and its Mother.
But Baby Thought was then alone
using Man to weave its dreams.
Mother Thought looked on sadly
helping Man whenever she could
from inside.
Baby Thought eventually went mad
and Man with it.
Mother Thought departed
and was never seen again.

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Inspired by a scientific analysis of the Bible’s Old Testament message.
(The helix refers to the Earth’s true orbit through space)

An ancient text not understood
just symbols to an alien mind
that dredges thoughts from rivers deep
to paint worlds of a different kind.

Myths, legends, show a truth disguised
from those to whom the written word
emerged from Nature’s wondrous hand
and voice that beckoned to be heard.

Three thousand turns the helix makes
as on they speed to journey’s end
those motes searching for paradise
that’s waiting always round the bend.

Perhaps one day when hope’s denied
these revelations will be clear
and man will see with opened eyes
what lies behind the web of fear.

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I’m sorry to be swinging around my conspiracy cudgel again, but the thought of a world government run by megalomaniacal tycoons and political morons is so dispiriting, so un-Christmassy, so anti mom-dad-and-the-kids, so anti good-morning-neighbor, so Nature-rapingly sinister, so creeping-under-the-bed disquieting, that I feel I have to.
What we have now isn’t much for alien visitors to write home about, I agree, but I’m almost certain that it is a near paradise for we less-rich-and-powerful compared to what they have in mind.
The political ravings of some heads of state are becoming increasingly unsettling to the educated mind and too often reach the heights of sublime disbelief. These obviously worried and distraught leading figures might be carried of in straight-jackets in other circumstances for their mind jerking idiocies and their toad secreting lies. There is a sense of panic that one can almost smell as they are pushed out onto podiums by their masters with such poorly written scripts that they fool no one except fools, charlatans and mouth gaping devotees.
Of course, this is only one way of looking at the present yes-we-can philosophy. My own preference for the no-we-won’t-not-on-those-terms alternative might be construed as a weak attempt to avoid necessary change. “What’s so good about the situation now?” some might say. “World government would eradicate wars and prevent unscrupulous elements messing around with people’s hard earned cash.”
Well it would yes, if such a body could be run with a Santa Claus mentality, but what if it adopted a Scrooge one, which in my humble opinion would be more likely? Would conscience alone be a sufficient correcting influence as in the famous story by Dickens?
Are their signs already as to what might await us?
Well, there is an obvious increase in surveillance and policing, and freedom of speech is being eroded almost day by day. Taxation is on the increase as is the amount of government control over their populations. Western nations are continuing to strengthen their influence over others using force and subterfuge in the name of furthering world democracy and peace, while it is obvious to most that an insatiable thirst for control of natural resources is the real motive.
So greed and oppression would seem to be hot favorites to be the ruling influences of any world authority of the future.
If they eventually are, History will laugh and say, “I told you so.”

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Time to wake to the danger of an approaching Orwellian nightmare

You want a billion, here’s a trillion;
if that’s not enough,
as long as you still play our game
we’ll make more of the stuff.

For money’s not worth anything
it’s power that really counts.
We’ll get to own all they will need
by spreading fear that mounts.

With viruses and climate change,
soon aliens from space,
we’ll shake the pillars of their faith;
subdue the human race.

The UN’s in our pocket now;
its troops will heed our call,
as nations lose their sovereignty,
the writing’s on the wall.

Our birthright is to rule the world
and bring about at last,
a peace that some have dreamt of
– dictators of the past.

So join us in our worthy cause
or pay the price of those,
who think that they can thwart our plans
and soon will stand in rows.

Sleep on you fools and imbeciles
so gullible and lame,
and waken to the trumpets call;
no one but you to blame.

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“The money power preys on the nation in times of peace, and conspires against it in times of adversity. It is more despotic than monarchy, more insolent than autocracy, more selfish than bureaucracy. It denounces, as public enemies, all who question its methods or throw light upon its crimes.” – Abraham Lincoln

Those interested in the future of our race must view the latest video of Alex Jones entitled “Fall of The Republic” available here. It is also already circulating on YouTube – now freely viewable in its entirety here

Latest on the H1N1 vaccine hysteria

What your doctor and the government might not tell you about the H1N1 virus and vaccine – see herehere and here

I stand here in this vacant space
A member of the human race
And just like you or her or him
Born with free will to sink or swim

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There are those who believe that we
climbed down from some perch in a tree,
and while perusing gathered nuts
saw suddenly some ifs and buts.
These formed new pathways in the mind
those of the search-for-answers kind.

So somehow revelations came.
We stood, and went in search of game
with tools and weapons we had made,
worked by the fire that came to aid.
The cave gave shelter and safe rest;
we thrived, the equal of the best.

Our tools and weapons grew in size
Their forms took on a new disguise
And caves became new structures too
Where many lived, not just a few
No predators came in the night
Their eyes lit by the fireside light.

So did millennia pass by.
We never ceased to wonder why
and marvels wrought by hand and mind
changed how we thought of humankind.
No longer one with all the rest,
some of whom now were second best.

Fights turned to wars with millions dead.
A madness filled our hearts with dread
as death appeared to roll the dice
and saviors told of paradise,
the wrath of God and that called sin,
which drove our thoughts deeper within.

Although our origin’s in doubt
we still are here to rant and shout,
strike out at dangers all around,
ghosts born of fear, ideas unsound.
The peace man seeks that he once knew
stays close but ever out of view.

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Humankind has not woven the web of life.
We are but one thread within it.
Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.
All things are bound together.
All things connect.

Chief Seattle, 1854

We hear a lot about change. Man, as an entity of society, is constantly involved with change.
Should we seek change without full knowledge of the consequences of our actions or just let things take their natural course?
At first sight, it might seem foolish to release all control and choose for the latter but the facts do not support the former either. The Native Americans have a saying: ‘When a big wind comes, the trees must bend or break.’ Man’s history shows many examples of misplaced good intentions. Krishnamurti (UG) always said he had no desire to change anything. Well, he had no desire – period – so the question had no meaning for him.
I suppose that because the thought process is external to the flow of reality, it can only have a disruptive influence when operating outside its true survival role of delivering a reaction in response to external stimuli. As man’s history also shows, peace is but an interlude between wars, which kind of proves the point doesn’t it?
So, it would seem that we should not seek change but let it find us.

When you were born, you cried
and the world rejoiced.
Live your life
so that when you die,
the world cries and you rejoice.

White Elk

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As driving a car in unfamiliar places is increasingly likely to bring on panic attacks, I don’t do it any more. So to get away from it all, my wife and I usually throw ourselves into a package holiday. During our stay in Apulia this meant that we found ourselves for a time each day sitting in a touring car heading to and from or some place of historic or picturesque interest.
We often sleep badly on holiday even though we always take our own cushions with us to reduce the odds. This affliction occurs mainly because when we finally do get to sleep we proceed to loudly imitate forest creatures both large and small. Of course, the consumption of the unmissable bottle of wine the evening before also encourages this nightly ritual. So most mornings, after a large, filling breakfast and as soon as the bus (let’s call it that for simplicity) began to roll, we predictively fell asleep and were fated for much of the outward journey to undergo nodding absences interspersed with periods of willed attention.
Our enthusiastic female guide was always armed with lots of historical background information and amusing anecdotes which she told to the mostly attentive audience as we trundled through the Apulian countryside, shunted through small towns and villages, or sped humming over motorways. Of course, she must have viewed the few inattentive, sleeping passengers with a mixture of sympathy and frustration. When I did return to consciousness I often caught her looking at me with a blank, but what I assumed was an accusing, expression. Well, that’s life.
The motorways in Italy, which allow a less attractive means of seeing the countryside and its inhabitants but are often unavoidable in getting from A to B, have recently gained another unattractive feature in the form of prostitutes. These can be seen dotted along the secondary roads that run parallel to the main highway, sitting waiting for clients at the entrance to huge plantations of olive trees. Dressed in revealing brightly colored exaggerations often trimmed off with Marge Simpson hairdos, they contrast remarkably with the surroundings. This appears to be a real problem in Italy as these young ladies, mostly from far away and often apparently exotic locations, are enticed to come to this fair land with stories of exciting modeling contracts. They end up, however, being forced to undergo a drastic career change before they’ve even had a chance to say cheese. It seems that for every one “rescued” from the criminals that exploit them two more come in her place – a tragic, sad reality of modern times.
Then there are the toilets. It’s almost impossible to find a complete and clean one outside hotels and posh restaurants. It seems that either toilet seats are being stolen at an alarming rate or that the owners are removing them before they can be stolen. Perhaps they end up at a toilet branch of the Mafia that resells them or on the walls of eccentric collectors. It seems that the woman’s toilets often suffer the same disgrace. Even in public conveniences with personnel, leaving a tip is often voluntary, probably as an apologetic gesture to foreigners with wet feet and bacterially infested extremities.
I’m in two minds about the view of Italian café owners with regard to payment. If one orders at the bar, which a lot do because its cheaper, then one has to pay before one receives one’s wares. For non Italian-speaking visitors this is a tricky business as often one cannot simply point because the cash-desk is often at the opposite end of the room to the food bar. The easiest way is to sit at a table and await the attentions of a waiter, though one must then pay a surcharge for this added comfort.
Anyway, Italians are hard-working, self-effacing, sincere, polite people who don’t put on airs and graces of grandeur. Eating in Italian cafes or restaurants is like eating in someone’s home. Indeed, at one small but very pleasant restaurant we visited for lunch, we were jovially and expertly served by the whole family including the children, while a pair of traveling musicians serenaded us through an open window after receiving a modest sum from one of our more jubilant companions. When the delicious meal was over, and lead by our guide, the family was treated to a resounding applause – a memorable moment.

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Welcome to Aboriginal land

Pukul ngalya yanama
Ananguku ngurakutu.

—Yankunytjatjara welcome

Pukulpa pitjama Ananguku

—Pitjantjatjara welcome

The Pitjantjatjara, Yankunytjatjara and Ngaanyatjarra peoples form collectively the Anangu, the inhabitants of the area.

Tjukurpa panya tjamulu, kamilu, mamalu, ngunytjulu nganananya ungu, kurunpangka munu katangka nintirinkunya kanyintjaku.
This Law was given to us by our grandfathers and grandmothers, our fathers and mothers, to hold onto in our heads and in our hearts.


Ayer’s Rock, Uluru, rising, dreamer’s home
A place where spirits of the ancients roam
Tjukurpa guard that one primordial light
Holding at bay the cold advancing night

Look on, you traveler standing there below
And rejoice with your fellows in my glow
For I was born before the time of man
When Tjukuritja woke and all began

Beware those who would trespass to disgrace
Adventure calls from one who has no face
Eyes lingering can twist the mirror’s shine
And waken one whose purpose is malign

Anangu people, children of this land
Protect creations forged by ancient hand
And welcome those drawn to this sacred place
To walk awhile within the dream’s embrace

Flowers of the desert reaching out to me
With tales of how our world was meant to be
The message of your oneness fills my heart
And joins those who have never been apart.

Those wanting more information can start here

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Hello, well I’m in a bit of a philosophical mood this early afternoon. The coffee was reviving and the cheese sandwiches all you could wish from sandwiches with cheese inside – even the sharp tang.
I’ll skip over lunch as breakfast was rather late due to a lingering hangover from Saturday night caused by lateness and admittedly a slight excess libation.
Anyway, anyway, I’ve noticed lately that I’m saying everything twice, or has it always been so? (How worrying). If you’ve followed my posts then you’ll probably have known this a lot longer than I, of course. Is it for emphasis or is there some feeling of insecurity lurking heavily in the dark recesses of somewhere dark and recessed? Who knows? Who cares? Yes, well, anyway, yes. Now what was I going to say?
Oh yes, of course.



The Great Pyramid of Cheops – Credit Nina Aldin Thune in the immediate vicinity of the image.

Yesterday evening I was watching a program on the National Geographic TV channel about the ancient Egyptians and there irritatingly stupefying pyramids that continue to defy a good robust scientific theory of how the heck they got built and what the structures inside all represent. There was a building expert who also appears to hover around the pyramids together with crafty local businessmen selling miniatures and freshly carved ancient relics and other puzzled looking scientists getting older though perhaps not much wiser. He gave us an interesting account of how, approximately 4500 years ago, the builders of the Great Pyramid of Cheops, using nothing but bits of wood, string and soft copper tools, could manage to scrape and gauge out the 600,000 huge limestone blocks, some of granite and weighing as much as 70 tons, to less than a millimeter precision. How they dragged them around and lifted them into place is another puzzle whose answer is still unknown although there are enough theories. Strangely, the mortar used is still unknown and even today cannot be reproduced even though its chemical composition is known. Astoundingly, in its original state this pyramid was covered with a layer of highly polished white limestone whose reflective properties would have made it visible from the Moon. It must have been a wondrous sight.
No mummies have been found inside the three discovered chambers: The King’s Chamber, the Queens Chamber and one unfinished Chamber lying twenty eight meters below ground level.
Well, I suppose it could all be true, but it does seem rather like something that an Egyptian Pharaoh would dream of rather than attempt, even though there was a strong sense of outdoing their forebears. Of course, as gods on Earth they and there advisors did tend to take a rather universal view of things. It remains strange that no writings have been found concerning the building methods used.
One thing I found fascinating was his description of an intriguing way to make a simple leveling tool which might have been used by the Egyptians (see below).
Even today, according to our expert, construction of the Great Pyramid would be a formidable undertaking, apparently taking about six years at a cost in the region of five billion dollars.
Apart from the burial chambers and passages there are mysterious small shafts in the Great Pyramid connecting with the outside walls. These are believed to be either fresh air vents designed to aid the suffocating workers or perhaps to give a breather to buried kings and queens when they secretly wake to travel to the next life. They could also be receivers of cosmic energy emanating from distant stars. They could be … .
At the inside end of one of the shafts is a thin wall which has recently been penetrated by a boring robot (in the sense of making holes). According to a small attached camera, behind this wall is another and behind that may lie secrets that will change mankind forever, or just more golden artifacts and hieroglyphics, perhaps a mummy or two, or yet again a mystifying and creepy nothingness. There are those who are waiting with baited breath, I can tell you. Aren’t you?
There are theories connecting the Giza Pyramids with the stars in the constellation of Orion. Some even think that the Great Pyramid contains a portal to these stars, at least at the spiritual level.
The Egyptian authorities are extremely reluctant to allow more excavation and general tampering of these ancient sites and probably rightly so. They have been ruthlessly looted down through the ages and what’s left should be preserved, though a little careful examination might still reveal something exciting. Research is happily ongoing.


There are so many of these fantastic, seemingly impossible structures, like the Pyramids and Stonehenge, dotted around our planet and made of enormously massive stones laid down with unbelievable precision. One can imagine their builders laughing, in their graves or wherever else they may have ended up, at our attempts to explain the methods used and the ideas behind their construction.
That these ancient peoples had an understanding of mathematics and astronomy is beyond doubt, though why those of the Americas: the Inca, the Aztec, and the Maya, never got around to inventing the wheel, remains another source of great mystery. Perhaps they foresaw the arrival of the industrial revolution with its pollution if knowledge of the wheel should leak out.
The question many ask (including me) is whether they may have had the help of some advanced, perhaps even more ancient, knowledge – outside help so to speak. A method for levitating huge blocks of stone would have been a decided advantage and would answer in one fell swoop a lot of other questions. The figures carved out of the desert in Peru, called the Nazca Lines, which can only really be appreciated from a great height might also have benefited from someone high up giving instructions.
Unidentified flying objects (UFO’s) have been seen so often that it is almost certain they exist, though what they are and where they come from are still debated topics. A fact that emerges is that most of them are capable of sudden rapid changes of direction and of hovering for substantial periods. In any case, the gravity of Earth doesn’t seem to be a great hindrance unless the motor or whatever drives these craft cuts out, of course. At least one is purported to have crash landed. They have been tracked by radar undergoing accelerations which no human could survive and also appear to be unexpectedly and unnervingly silent.


So I got to thinking. When I was young and had spasms of believing my parents and nearly everyone else I came into contact with were aliens, I read everything I could about these fascinating and hopefully not just imaginary creatures. I sincerely hoped they would eventually come in the night and step out of a bright white light to take me off to some exciting Utopian environment. There would be non-polluting vehicles zipping through its clean, fresh atmosphere, lots of open spaces with fountains of cold, refreshing lemonade, and a sense of feeling good all the time. Ah, those were the dreams. The aliens themselves would always be kind and smiling and never tire of answering my questions. They would teach me only things I really needed or wanted to know, such as how to levitate, pilot a spaceship, become a clever-clogs, and extend life expectancy.


I hear the scientists beginning to cough and splutter as they join ranks and wave their fists at me, but let them; the dreams of one man can become the reality of a whole race when Nature finally reveals her secrets.


The construction of the Leveler is as follows:



1. Make a small flat A-frame construction (60 degree angles) out of three pieces of wood and attach a nail or screw just below the apex of the triangle formed and fasten a string to it with a weight on the end.

2. Gauge out a thin and shallow trough on a hard surface, impermeable to water, and fill it with water.

3. Gauge out two small troughs, as wide as the feet of the A-frame, at right angles to and on the same side of the first trough, until their bases are level with the water.

4. Place the feet of the A-frame in the two smaller troughs and where the string crosses the horizontal piece of wood make a mark.

5. You now have your Leveler.


Information on the treasures of Egypt can be found here, for example

For an actual view of the Pyramids look here

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The region is noted for the production of olive oil and olive trees dominate the landscape to tight and left as one drives through rolling hills and valleys with the Adriatic never far away.
Italy, as someone said, is just one great big museum and although Apulia’s historical buildings are perhaps less overwhelming than those in other regions, there is much of interest.
One gifted fellow of the region was Frederick II who as Holy Roman Emperor ruled over an area including Germany, Italy, Sicily and Burgundy around the beginning of the thirteenth century and had his seat in the region. History records that he spoke six languages, was a scientist, mathematician and artist and wrote poetry and music. He also took part in one of the crusades which no doubt brought him into contact with Arabian philosophy.
He appears to have been acquainted with the “secret” knowledge of the mysterious order of the Knights Templar. He built a most intriguing castle in Apulia called Castel del Monte


Castle del Monte

around 1240, which is shrouded in mystery. Numerologists have had a field day studying the layout: there is the recurrent use of the number eight (external perimeter of the courtyard, shape and number of towers). Indeed, it appears to be full of symbolic meaning and then there is its uncertain destination. Although the inside has been destroyed partly due to vandalism there are intriguing leftovers such as the doors, made of a softer composite stony material called breccia corallina that could never have remained in tact for long without constant repair. Their were originally three levels connected by winding stairways. There is no moat or drawbridge, features normally associated with castle strongholds.
A fuller description can be found here
No documentation has survived concerning its construction except for a tantalizing short note written by Frederick to someone saying that it must be hurriedly finished for some event (not described). It might just have been used for recreational purposes – perhaps an extremely elegant hunting lodge. No one knows for sure thus far.
Our guide told us that the castle stands over a network of underground streams which some believe emit strange forces. There are four mysterious circles to be found in one of the rooms on the ground floor which are perhaps a sort “beam me up, Scotty” device (transport mechanism for those unfamiliar with Star Trek). If one stands within them one is supposed to feel lighter or heavier. I believe I did, though auto-suggestion is also a strong force. Anyway, it was a strange and thoughtful experience and definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area.
As I mentioned above olive oil is a major product of the area accounting for seventy percent of the nations needs and there is a large export market. When not crushing olives the factories involved crush other products of nature of which Apulia has a rich assortment due to its warm, humid climate and rich soil. Apparently good olive oil is expensive because of the processes involved so don’t choose the cheapest when you’re buying.
I like Italy, partly because in its cities, as well as small towns and villages, one can still find lots of delightful small, personalized shops, cafes and businesses with generally helpful enthusiastic owners and staff. For many European countries these have long been lost to supermarket chains and mass-producing factories. Although Italy has these too, smaller businesses are still thriving, though one wonders for how much longer. Hopefully a lot longer.

Another link to Caste del Monte

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Well, just to liven things up a bit again I thought I’d tell you something about where I’ve been while the computer was having its makeover (it just smiled contentedly).
My companion and I took a week’s holiday in Apulia, Italy which is in the southeastern corner of that fair land – at the back end of its “boot”. We were part of a group of thirty eight rather elderly folk heading for new horizons (please don’t sigh!). Although we’d been in Italy before we hadn’t been this far south. The trip was memorable in many ways.
As everyone knows, holidays are not supposed to be too relaxing.
We had to miss a night’s sleep to take a two hour bus trip to an airport across the border in order to catch an early flight there. This was obviously meant to cut the travel organization’s costs, as airport tax and that sort of thing are apparently cheaper there.
We had a transfer in Rome, which was rather exciting as they changed departure gates at the last minute, before finally arriving at the small but pleasant Bari airport late the same morning.
Not that it often occurs, but when transferring from one aircraft to another at the same airport I have a nagging worry that my baggage might be thrown into the wrong one and arrive at a different final destination than myself, perhaps even ending up in some dark corner where the contents gradually turn to dust or becoming distributed amongst the local needy or greedy. Imagine ones carefully chosen undergarments disintegrating or being stretched out of all recognition!
Anyway, all our travel companions, whether embellished with wheels or feet, arrived safely and after another hour’s journey by bus we finally set our extremities on the floor of our hotel’s reception area. It was a remotely situated hotel forming part of a holiday enclave with privately owned holiday accommodations sprinkled around. It was beautifully laid out with luxurious Mediterranean plants and trees everywhere, including palms of course. Abnormal facilities might include archery, five-side-football and a small train to take one to the sandy Adriatic beach around three hundred meters away. It was the end of the summer season so many facilities were either behind cobwebs, disappearing inside those being spun or sadly empty. The well stocked bar, which was open all day, got the most attention from our lot and provided enough recreation. A few even dared to immerse their variously proportioned bodies in one of the swimming pools to the delight of the bronzed attendant who largely had nothing to do but polish the life-vests and strut around showing his muscles.
After a too hasty though filling breakfast, we were picked up each day by a touring car that brought us to places of cultural, historical and scenic interest, usually all at once. Our jovial, authoritative and enormously enthusiastic female guide was an Art Historian and Archaeologist and a leading expert on the area so that meant lots of info and hurrying up. I won’t bore you with descriptions of churches – one place had forty for the twenty thousand inhabitants – and tales of Popes and the clergy who, in general, spent much of their time on their knees often while cowering before heavily weaponed relative heathens.
There were places that especially evoked the harshness of older times: The small, dark but cozy and conically shaped “Trullo” houses of Alberobello built of stone and slates without mortar, some of which are still lived in today. The cave dwellings of Matera that were hacked out of the soft stone forming the steep slopes of a gorge which splits the town in two and were inhabited into the nineteen fifties.
According to information received, an important purpose of these “primitive” dwellings was to avoid paying un-payable taxes to inhuman overlords who somehow couldn’t find a way to convince those above them that these abodes fell into the housing class.
As we all know, medieval times in Europe were not known for their leisurely and tranquil nature. Facts melt into legends. One particularly evil ruling bastard of the period – it seems that every town worthy of a name had one – apparently liked to shoot arrows down from a tower into the headdresses of women working below. Though this seems insane enough, he was apparently also cross-eyed so that arrows often fell in other lethal places. The locals eventually managed to gather enough courage to send him where he had long deserved to go. Let’s hope the little devils that now plague him are also cross-eyed :-)Yes, like most places in Europe, the area has been royally abused over the millennia by many, many races and their armies jostling for a place in the history books and not caring much how they did their abusing or what the local people thought about their lack of courtesy. The general red color of the extremely rich soil could quite easily be partly due to earlier spilled blood, me thinks.
The area has apparently been overrun by Ancient Greeks, Romans, Goths, Lombards, Byzantines, Normans, Germans, Spanish, Turks, Venetians, French ( I may have missed a few) until in 1861 it became part of Italy.
I saw Turkish cannon balls three feet wide that were used to attack this coast in an attempt to overrun Europe together with the Moors. They obviously meant business and though the local people suffered enormously under their cruelty their expansion plans were eventually thwarted by those who obviously had a strong aversion to smoking hookahs, praying five times a day and giving up alcoholic beverages.
Many works of art have been destroyed by those who came along and for whatever reason didn’t take a shine to the works of earlier periods, generally making a mess of the careful and dedicated aesthetic explosions of those who are probably still turning in their graves.
Next time on to more pleasant things.

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