Tag Archives: Castles & Palaces


Mis en scène – the ruin of Clisson castle, 30km south east of Nantes, in Brittany – west France.

View from the bridge

The famous lioness of Brittany, Jean de Clisson lived there.

Her husband was accused of high treason by the king of France. He was decapitated, his body dragged through the streets and his head displayed in Nantes on a pike.

The nobility was agast, since there was no public proof of his treason and it was not at all done to treat the body of a nobleman like that.

His wife also took umbrage and swore to revenge his death, which she saw as a cowardly murder.

She sold her estates and raised an army of soldiers who where loyal to her husband and Breton sympathisers.

They attacked two castles and a garrison where her husband used to be stationed. Everyone was killed save for a man or two to carry the message to the king of France.

Then she had three war ships built, painted black and fitted with red sails. The flagship she called ‘My Revenge’.

For thirteen years she plies the English channel and wreaks havoc on French ships. Once again all the men are killed save a few to take the message back to the king of France.

Eventually her luck runs out and her flagships is sunk. She drifts on the see with her two sons for five days before they are rescued by de Montfort sympathisers. But her one son had already died of exposure.

She marries for a fourth time and lives in castle Hennebont on the Breton coast until her death in 1359.

Back to the town.

They have a beautiful Roman style church

With priceless contemporary murals.

and an old wooden roof

Clisson is at the confluence of the Sèvre de Nantes and the Moines.

Tamed rivers

They have beautiful park land beside the river.

It being a beautiful summer day I picknicked by the river with the other French.


A glimps of the sundrenched city of Salamanca.

They are in the dry western side of the country, just 200km to the west of Madrid and also in the province of Castile y León, or if you understand English better, Castle and Lion.

Suddenly I yearn for the sight of the blue sky through their open bellfries.

The university of Salamanca was founded in 1218. It is one of oldest Spanish universities and one of the oldest three in the western world.

If I remember correctly Vilnius in Lithuania has the oldest one and Bologne is also in the top three.

Perhaps the best know part of the university.

The Baltic states took many Jewish immigrants quite early and they brought their knowledge and planted it at the university of Vilnius.

Spain, in their turn, had many people come in from North Africa and they brought knowledge that was lost in the west during the middle ages. Our modern knowledge of medicine was founded from Epypt.

Lucern also came to us from the middle east. King Darius brought lusern along with his soldiers. The first thing they would do when laying siege to a city was to plant lucern, to feed both themselves and their horses. Lucern has a higher protein content than beef. Perhaps make a lucern stew next time you feel like trying something new. Apparently it is highly nutritious.

If you are American, lucern is known as alfalfa in your part of the world.

Is it not the most beautiful sight, the stone is like ivory in the hot sun.

A want to reread Sol y sombra, by the South African, Uys Krige. It is a travel book he wrote about his time in Spain.

I think the title and the country do justice to each other, ‘Sun and shade’, if you translate it.

He was war correspondent in North Africa during the Second World War and escaped from a prisoner of war camp in Italy in 1943.

More of my favourite authors were prisoners of war.

They know how to build there in Spain, that’s for sure.

I wish I could have spent more time there.

And finally, the famous casa de las conchas, or shell house.

Today a library, it was build by Rodrigo Arias de Maldonado, a knight of the order of Sint James. There are 300 shells on the facade, the symbol of his order and off course today, the symbol of the pilgrim on the route to Compostela. Or the Camino of you will.

To top it..

Till next time!

San Marino – the most Serene Republic of..

A tiny little enclave in Italy, San Marino is nevertheless the oldest constitutional republic in the world. The monastic community got their independence from the Roman Empire no less. On 3 September 301 🙂

Their motto is Libertas – freedom 🙂

This is what it looks like in San Marino


starting to get the idea of how they managed to convince the Romans to leave them alone?



The theme is expended on with more walls, towers, cliffs and castles

and then people and monks can also call on a higher power




Nothing like a fire on a chilly spring morning..


Doesn’t matter how small your country is, you get your own international code and EU number plate. You can also put an Afrikaans word on your Italian car to make it more romantic…






San Marino – Build good walls + Write a good constitution + Pray = Freedom



Seems ‘Most Serene’ to me 🙂

Nazrid Palaces – Al Hambra, Granada

In Granada, the famous Palaces of the last Moorish rulers in Europe.


A view on one of the courtyards.

Wood inlay on a ceiling board


You simply can’t do justice to the grace of these designs.

All 17 mathematically possible wallpaper groups are represented at the Al Hambra. A feat not repeated in architecture anywhere else.

And you still have to imagine the whole lot in colour. Some remaining colour here and there gives us some idea.


Those Majorica tiles were added by a later and somewhat less subtle stylist.

Another charming courtyard.



The Catholic Kings Ferdinand and Isabella set up their cannons on a opposing hill in 1492 and threatened to bombard the Al Hambra. This was too much for the emir of the time and he surrendered.

According to legend the emir’s mother berated him on the way out of the region, – you couldn’t fight like a man to keep the city and now you are crying like a woman because you lost her.

Well perhaps he was right, they survived him by centuries, even in a ravished state, and we can still wonder at them today.

The Generalife are gardens surrounding and completing the palaces. They are a story on their own. Here is just a glimpse.


The water for the gardens and fields for feeding the city comes from these mountains. Its is one of those magic spots where you can ski in the morning and go to the beach in the afternoon.

Cathar Castles

In the south of France, – the Corbières district – (reputedly the biggest vineyard in the world), on the French side of the Pyrinees you find the Cathar Castles.

06-Uitsig Corbiere distrik

The Cathars were a religious group in the late Middle Ages. According to some they were mystics and according to the church, – heretics.

Their name is from the Greek katharoi, – the pure ones. Interestingly enough, not a name they chose for themselves but given to them by their enemies.

By the middle of 12th century they were spreading over western Europe. They had quite a lot of support from the nobility and were a thorn in the flesh of the church, who at the time was ruling. It is decided to get rid of them and crusades follow.

The region today en route to the mountains.

The medieval town of Carcassonne was one of their main strongholds and is restored to look almost new. Alas not a single photo, the camera’s battery if I remember..

When this town fell, the Cathars retreat to the mountain castles which were a lot more difficult for their enemies to access. Puylaurens (Laurens Mountain) and Queribus are two of the most well known. Fighting continues another twenty year. Where they are caught the whole group is gathered in a group and burnt alive.

07-Chateau Puylaurens
Chateau Puylaurens

As you can imagine the road is quite steep. When I arrived back down there was an old guy waiting on a bench. He wanted to know if I had seen a women of a certain age on my way; – I had not. Ah, perhaps she’s dead he says 🙂

Down in the valley is an old Roman viaduct.

Lapradelle viaduc
Lapradelle viaduc

and Queribus castle on the horizon.

32-Chateau Queribus op afstand
Chateau Queribus

Some say these castles are much older than the Cathars and they used them but did not build them.


As promised the post on the czar’s palace on the Baltic.

The palace is situated outside Saint Petersburg. After walking two blocks in St Petersburg your feet are black even on top, so I can understand anyone wanting to get out of the city. Whether it is those terrible cars they drive or the ships or perhaps the factory where they make those terrible cars I don’t know..

But if you have a little place outside of town life is good. Just a short boat ride and you reach your own little paradise on the Baltic, – let them eat cake.




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