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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sudetenland - Cheb, and Ostroh Castle, at the German border

 The Sudetenland

Petr writes that a Sudeten German, a railwayman, wanted an overcoat. Page 36. Clothing was being requisitioned for the Nazis, and individuals were left with little. This area is near the German border, and has been the site of conflict for centuries - and shifting borders. It is a gateway from the northwest into this area known as Sudetenland, annexed by Hitler in 1938.

Here is Cheb, about six miles from the German border. See more about the town and its castle at Czech Republic Road Ways, Cheb, our more complete site on the Czech Republic. 


Half-timbered houses, Cheb, Sudetenland, CZ

The half-timbered houses in Cheb date from the middle ages, and were those of German merchants from that time. There were centuries of ethnic group commingling between what is now Germany and the Czech Republic - boundaries were fluid.

See the walls leaning out, with the weight of the years.








The Savage Man fountain statue:

This is one of two apparent Rolands at the square, but it gets confusing.
  • This one, the Savage Man, with the club at fountain #1, is to the side, and 
  • The other, a Knight, is more in the center square, at a well-fountain. 
 It is not clear to us yet why such different representations, and if they are each "Roland."  See them side by side at ://www.tic.mestocheb.cz/EN/vismo/dokumenty2.asp?id_org=100427&id=709354&p1=26920/  It gets confusing how the Savage Man relates to the very kinght-like Knight Roland at fountain #2. The knight stands for Cheb's freedom. Knight Roland apparently symbolized the market privileges that were given to some towns, see www.mestocheb.cz/html/e_pamatky.htm/

See also the link to the Czech Republic for details.

It looks like the wild man represents the ferocious german tribes at the time of Charlemagne (800AD or so); and the Knight with the Unbreakable Sword represents the legend that grew up with Roland as champion of the newly emerging independence of cities against the nobility. Roland may have been Charlemagne's nephew, or just an officer.

Savage Man Fountain, Statue, Cheb, Sudetenland, Czech Republic

So, there are two fountains that claim Roland: this one looking more like Hercules with the club; and another, at "Roland's Well" in the center square, more knightlike, with a sword.

The knight with spear - or is it this one? - is a copy of the 1591 original kept in the Cheb Museum - and is (we are told) the Knight Roland.
  • But is the Roland of the market privileges, the same as Roland, the nephew of Charlemagne? This makes sense if we see the Savage as Germany of old, and the Knight as the legendary protector.
The time frames seem different. Charlemagne was, crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 800; but the rise of market towns and freedom came later.

The historical (with legends) Roland was retreating from a campaign against the Muslims in Spain, Battle of Ronceveaux, where he died at the hands of rebellious Basques.

Read the Song of Roland. See a teacher's guide to Roland and all this at novaonline.nvcc.edu/eli/eng251/rolandstudy.htm. Go in front of your own hall mirror and declaim out loud, emoting to the max, the poetry from the Song of Roland, excerpts there. Now. Louder. Gesticulate. Yes.

There is another Knight Roland statue in Bratislava, Slovakia; and we understand there is one in Bremen, Germany.  He got places.

Castle at Cheb.  

Ostroh Castle (Seeburg):  The Black Tower here dates from original Roman fortifications.  The rest stems from Slavic settlements in later centuries.

Black Tower, Ostroh Castle (Seeburg), Cheb, Czech Republic

Read a fine history at ://private-tours.net/ch_main.cgi/country_tour/number_71/index.htm?m-opt=12/, but the black background and yellow lettering is dizzying. The castle is called Ostroh (Seeburg) there.






The castle was built in the 12th Century, by the Holy Roman Emperor Barbarossa. A gamer's view of Barbarossa, and a succinct summary of his campaigns, is at pc.ign.com/articles/069/069876p1.html. Its old tower, is known as the "Black Tower." I believe I saw somewhere that it dates from Roman times. The overall style is Romanesque, but that does not mean "Roman." See Romanesque at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romanesque_architecture.

There had been a Slavic settlement there from the 9th-11th centuries. There is a rare Gothic-Roman chapel there. See www.mestocheb.cz/html/e_pamatky.htm.

Wall, Ostroh Castle (Seeburg), Cheb, Czech Republic

Part of the east wall  dates from Roman times.

Sudetenland, as with many areas populated by moving ethnic groups in centuries past, is considered by those later displaced by others to be their home even in "exile." Passions and the pendulum of rectitude swing - and run high among some today to "return" Sudetenland to Germany, although others would say that Slavs were there before Germans, and Romans before that, and etc.

After WWII there was a population exchange, Germans were evicted-pushed back behind German borders as then defined, and given harsher terms such as "cleansing" by some, then again others say should there be no consequence to what Germany did.... and etc. again. See sudetengermans.freeyellow.com/.

At that site, scroll down to the historical map and see the variable borders as historical events and religions and military efforts moved them. The forced movement of ethnic groups in the aftermath of WWII is still an issue - see http://www.wintersonnenwende.com/scriptorium/english/archives/sginferno/sgi00.html.

For a super site for medieval civilizations, history, migrations, boundary shifts through the centuries as the three major groups - Muslims, Orthodox-Byzantine-Eastern Christians and Roman Catholic-Western Christians and murder each other. Take an entire morning at www.uncp.edu/home/rwb/lecture_mid_civ.htm. Bookmark it now. Please.

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