The Grand Curtius

On my way to Lille I stopped at Liege and checked out the Grand Curtius museum. It is actually several museums in one – but, as is usual, it was undergoing renovations while I was there and the arms & armour collection (it’s near Herstal, of FN/Fabrique Nationale fame) was mostly not on display in the one spot, or even at all. Still, a chunk of it was …

A Mitrailleuse, one of the precursors of the true machinegun and, like early MGs, treated as artillery. You can clearly see the multiple barrels at the muzzle.
A european version of the Gatling type ‘machine gun’ … also treated as artillery.
FN-2000 in the centre … ring any bells, Adrian?
P90 SMG so beloved of Stargate SG-1 teams, just above the FN-2000.
WW1 Bergmann MP-18, the one with the Luger snail drum magazine rather than the post-war MP-28 which had a more practical ‘stick’ magazine.
German FG-42, a failed attempt at the ‘assault rifle’ concept. Fired a full size 7.92 mm cartridge rather than the 7.92 ‘kurz’ used by the later Sturmgewehr series.
Sorry about the fuzzy picture … crappy lighting … but the centre rifle is a Karabiner 43 automatic Rifle. Not an assault rifle, but a step in the same direction … more so than the FG-42 which was overly complex and too heavy.
Lewis LMG with the horrible pan magazine.
They also had an impressive selection of period furniture and clocks … including this one, which, IIRC, was 2nd Empire … possibly Napoleonic.
There was also the usual selection of religious-y things, including this elaborate gold (or silver-gilt) tryptych. Not medieval, though.


The Mons city museum covered WW1 and WW2 overall and as it affected the local area.

A ‘French’ 75 mm cannon.
Different types of WW1 gas masks.

As usual, piss poor lighting and badly placed glass cases made most of the displays unphotographeable … but the museum was actually quite good despite all that.


There are a lot of WW1 museums and memorials in the area … wonder why?

The famous Menin Gate. A replacement of the original medieval one destroyed in WW2 … built by the Imperial War Graves commission to list the names of all those MIA … but someone didn’t do their sums properly and … there wasn’t enough space. So the Canadians and some others are listed elsewhere. As new bodies are discovered and (occasionally) identified their names are removed from here as they will now have an actual marked grave.
One of the two Lions, one on either side of the gate. These aren’t the originals – Menin/Belgium gave them to Australia as a ‘thank you’ for our part in WW1 … but we had exact copies made and re-gifted them to Menin in 2017.

Passchendaele Museum

This small but excellently presented museum is at Passchendaele – unfortunately most of the displays are, you guessed it, behind glass, poorly lit and almost impossible to photograph.

However, the basement has a reconstruction of a Trench Bunker system and this leads ourtside to the reconstruction of a section of German and of British trenches … but, again, the lighting in the Bunker was piss poor and only the trench sections were possible to take decent photos of!

A section of reconstructed trench – the use of wickerwork to reinforce the sides is indicative of German works (they were running out of raw materials of all sorts by the end of the war) and you can see the shelter in the rear, probably for ammo storage for a trench mortar or the like …
Better quality work indicates this was a British or Allied trench … and, of you look carefully, you’ll note that the trench proper isn’t all that deep … it only goes up to the sandbag level. This sort of arrangement was used where trenches couldn’t be dug deep enough, sometimes because of underlaying rock, but more often because the ground was too waterlogged … as was all to common at the end of the trench lines in Belgium.
A more conventional section of allied trench … note the duckboards at the left edge, designed to try and keep the solders’ feet out of water, and usually failing to do so, especially after any sort of rain. Also note the ‘zig-zag’ arrangement designed to limit the damage radius of any grenades lobbed in … and make it impossible for a raiding party to fire down more than a a dozen feet or so if they managed to take a section of the trench … turning any corner and they could be in the line of fire of waiting defenders.
Inside of one of the prefab shelters for ammo.

Diekirch, Luxemburg

National Museum of Military History

Never heard of it, you say? Well, if you know a little about the Battle of the Bulge you may have. Diekirch was one of the locations attacked by the Germans during that period and the civilians were only just evacuated in time by elements of a US army unit whose officer realised that the Germans were going to make a huge mess of the town.

The town was substantially damaged, but is now rebuilt – and the old Kaserne (military barracks, originally for the Luxemburg contribution to the Belgian Army and later for their own forces has been converted into a museum with lots of WW2-Occupation-Bulge memorabilia as well as a comprehensive look at the Luxemburg armed forces and their pre- and post-war existence (lots of contributions to UN ops and the like).

As is all too common, displays are either so dimly lit that you can’t take decent photos without flash … and flash isn’t permitted … or they’re behind glass and lit so that reflections from the poorly placed lighting make photography impossible … and in a number of cases they are simply so jam-packed together that you can’t get a decent angle on anything.

Still, I managed to get a few shots …

Better equipped than they probably were in real life, this mannequin is meant to represent one of the Volksturm units’ Anti-Tank elements … a guy on a bicycle with two Panzerfausts (90s or 150s, not sure which). Like the guy in Band of Brothers shouts at the German POWs marching along the centre-line of an autobahn with the occasional horse drawn waggon (from the back of a truck) … What were you thinking?
The box contains two different types of Panzerfausts — 60’s, I think, on the right, which were probably obsolete by the time of the Ardennes offensive, but still around (obviously) and the ones on the left are 150’s, I am pretty sure, which were the very latest.
Three generations of the late war German assault rifle … from top to bottom, MP-43, MP-44, and Sturmgeschutz-44. They’re really the same basic weapon with a few minor changes to make production easier and cheaper … and very few were available. Some were, however, used by elements of the various Volksgrenadier units during the Ardennes offensive.

They have a large hall (in the process of being expanded) on one of the top levels which contains a large number of soft-skinned WW2 era vehicles (and some light armoured cars and the like) … but, well, remember what I said about things being jam packed? That was the case. For the most part you simply couldn’t get an angle that would show the whole vehicle without something else getting in the frame.

There are, however, several large items (tanks and artillery) outside at the front of the museum … see below …

A US early model cast-hull Sherman with long 76mm gun. This sort of tank would have been used in US Armoured/Mechanised Divisions during the Bulge (this particular one wasn’t, IIRC, it’s merely representative).

Luxemburg was interesting … cheaper by far (for fuel) than Germany or Belgium since they have either no fuel tax or a much reduced one and, interestingly, open on Sundays. The place I stayed at was actually built over a huge shopping mall less than a dozen klicks from the Belgian border and not more than a half hour from the German one … and it had huge numbers of German and Belgian number plates in their parking areas, and was massively crowded inside … probably because Belgians and Germans (some of them, at least) are normal people and don’t really like having the entire country close down on Sundays … so they go to Luxemburg to shop!

Germany is like Australia was in the 1950’s, bugger all is open on Sundays … Belgium and France are like Australia in the 1960’s, there are usually limited trading hours, with supermarkets opening late (9-10) and closing way early (usually 12-1:30). Backward as all get out.


Not a lot of things to see along the Rhine between Munich and Mainz/Trier … or not in the time I had left in Germany, so I prioritized and did a long drive up to Mainz where there is the …

Gutenberg Museum

Gutenberg was a Mainz boy – born into a wealthy family there. Need I explain why he is a rather important figure?

Unfortunately, the lighting inside the museum was absolutely piss poor and I simply couldn’t get any worthwhile photos … of the printing presses.

Still, they had quite a few … and two Gutenberg Bibles.

Museum of Ancient Seafaring

This was the unexpected sleeper … technically speaking it’s not really about seafaring so much as it is about riverine craft. Building on actual boat remains excavated at various nearby sites the museum has reconstructed actual full size replicas of several riverine craft from the Roman riverine forces as well as commercial craft.

Roman riverine warship taken from above, stern. Note the steering oar and the simply rigged square sail. With such a low freeboard this would not have been the craft you’d want to actually take to sea with … heck, it’d be darned unsafe even for inshore coastal work.
Another of the reconstructed ships … this is more seaworthy and actually has a higher freeboard. It also has a typical rear ‘cabin’ … see below.
Yeah. Not much of a cabin for seagoing. But remember, Roman (and ancient ships in general) usually didn’t sail out of sight of land for long periods … they hugged the coastlines or island hopped and more often than not pulled up on shore or in a safe anchorage at night and slept on shore. For very short hops this would probably have been adequate. Notice the outriggers for the steering oar.
A Scorpion – medium tension engine (there were smaller models) usually used for throwing spear-like ‘bolts’ – they were carried into (some) battles on carts and commonly found on Roman warships or city/camp defences. They were light enough so that they may well have been left set up, but with the skeins of rope/fibre used to keep the throwing arms under tension) not twisted and under strain. Most of the time, however, they were probably stored away, disassembled and, indeed, only the metal parts may have been kept in store with the wooden parts constructed as needed to reduce transport requirements

The museum also has many dozens of wooden models of Roman and Classical era ships, ocean going (well, mediterranean going) and riverine.

A typical riverine/coastal or even north-seafaring boat of the type used by the Veneti on the Rhine.
A Roman Quinquireme – it used to be thought that these vessels had five banks of oars, based on the fact that Triremes had three – but it is now believed (as is shown here) that they only had two, but that the oars had multiple rowers … three on the lower bank and two on the upper, most likely. These large vessels were the Roman Imperial equivalent of a Battlecruiser or Battleship. There were larger vessels, but they were rarely built except in wartime, and rarely even then.
Two variants on the ‘typical’ Roman merchant ship design … some of these are known to have carried 1200 tons of grain on the Alexandria-Rome run (many days out of sight of land – an exception to the normal rule of pulling in to shore each night … and only done for around six months a year, those with the best expected weather).

Munich II

The Antiquities Museum

Being an actual Kingdom, and a pretty large one in pre-1870 terms for Germany, the Wittelsbachs (the ruling dynasty) managed to collect some nice stuff … a lot of which is in the Residenz, which I covered in my last blog post. However, they also encouraged the development of a number of major museums, including this one, which has a really nice collection of Greek, Roman and miscellaneous antiquities, mainly pottery (which wass both ubiquitous and has the fortunate property of being damn near eternal, even when broken).

Bronze Griffin heads, Greek, pre-classical.
Greek Bireme or Trireme on a wine serving dish … Black Figure ware, classical period. It’s from surviving (reconstructed from smashed bits, usually) pottery like this that we get a lot of our understanding about Greek technology, culture and society … in this case we can get details on the rigging, the shape of the sail, the shape of the bow and stern and the arrangement of the steering oars for the ship
Polychrome ware – late Classical or Alexandrian/Successor. Hairstyles, fashion, trade (the leopard skin) etc can be gleaned. It’s also pretty great art.

The Egyptian Museum

When I was in Munich last portions of what’s on display here were evidently on display in the Residenz, but not optimally … so they built a new, smallish, museum in the museum precinct to contain a much large selection of the items they have on hand … and display them much more advantageously …

A lot of what we know about Ancient Egypt’s ‘everyday life’ comes from relics found in tombs belonging to the upper classses … here we have some poor sod grinding grain into flour. The much more efficient rotary quern was not yet invented … regardless, it is estimated that it would have taken a whole morning’s work to grind enough grain into flour to bake the bread needed for a ‘typical’ family … whatever that was. Such work was, of course, mostly done by women … or slaves/servants, if you were wealthy enough to have such!
Cats were very popular – keep those bloody rodents out of your food (grain) supply. It is now thought that cats were first domesticated (actually domesticating themselves … deciding that humans were OK since they provided all those nice cat-sized rodents to snack on!) in Mesopotamia sometime after 4400 BC … the Egyptian variety, however, is a different lineage and only appears around 1500 BC … self selected for their character (aka ‘dogs have masters, cats have servants‘ … they decided humans would make their lives easier, and we did!)
They also liked Ibises … a lot. There are tens of thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands, of mummified Ibis and Cat bodies all over Egypt. This isn’t a mummy, however, but, I think, ceramic?
Strangely enough, the museum also has an Assyrian collection. When they were doing the original collection catalogue in the late 19th century they found they had a significant amount of Assyrian and Babylonian stuff … and it seemed to fit in best with the Egyptian stuff, so it’s remained connected ever since. Typical four winged Assyrian/Bablonian deities on a gold armband.
Another four winged deity in enamel on gold.

More tomorrow, probably of Mainz.

Munich I

Munich … the last time I was here I didn’t manage to see the Residenz (i.e. the residence of the Bavarian Dukes/Electors/Kings) … but this time I did. The Treasury is quite amazing … the things the rulers managed to pick up over the years!

The Residenz Treasury

A 10th century crown supposedly belonging to Queen/Saint Kunigunde, wife of the Holy Roman Emperor/Saint Henry II. There’s no actual evidence it ever did belong to her, of course, and the earliest mention of it is several centuries later, but the style is consistent with what would be expected of the period 901-1000 AD. Note the use of Pearls and the fact that the gemstones are polished rather than faceted.
A Portable Altar – since early medieval Noble households were peripatetic, they needed to have the necessities for performing Mass while moving around the countryside. One of those requirements was that the Host (? some physical component of the Mass) could only be rested on sanctified surfaces … hence this portable altar. The greenish stone square in the centre of the base is the blessed bit … the rest is embellishment. The gemstones remaining are all polished rather than cut.
St George slaying the Dragon – jewels, enamel, gold, silver and silver-gilt statuette on top of a reliquary supposedly holding a relic of St George. Dating to the 16th century, IIRC. Really over the top (the relic, of course, is long gone).

The Residenz Rooms

There are supposedly close to 300 rooms in the Palace, and you can visit over 200 of them … though not always the same ones. I must have had a good crack at seeing almost all that were open … here are some highlights …

The Hall of Statues/Great Hall. This is, IIRC, the largest (or very close to it, see below) room in the entire Residenz as well as one of the oldest. Though that’s evidently a bit moot as it has been extensively remodelled … partly to hold the extensive collection of greek and roman statues (or copies thereof) of one of the Dukes/Electors and partly because it was used for banqueting etc back in the day (the ceiling artwork is, of course, a later addition).
The other candidate for ‘largest room’ … much later construction, there is a throne at the end behind me. It was, of course, used for formal presentations and court functions as well as Balls and Banquets. Lots of art, even in the ceiling.
One of the early 19th century rulers was a family-loving man and preferred smaller, intimate, rooms … this was one of the family sitting rooms … the portraits are of his children.
One of the several State bedrooms – it was the fashion from the late Middle Ages through to the 18th or early 19th centuries for the local ruler to sleep in private quarters but to ‘wake up’ in a State bedroom … really meaning they simply wandered in there in their bedclothes and got in the bed to receive favoured courtiers …
Silver and Silver Gilt table service … one of several large formal table services (the other two on display were china/porcelain) used by some of the Bavarian rulers. This particular one wasn’t originally owned by them – it was sold by an impecunious noble – and it dates to the Napoleonic period.

That’s all for today, folks. More on Munich … later …

Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Notable mainly because it was rendered a backwater before the place could fall into the hands of ‘Developers’ who would have levelled pretty much everything in sight – and what remains is a remarkably well preserved medieval-renaissance-30 Years War melange …

Actually this is, again, out of chronological order – I visited it between Wurzburg and Nuremberg.

One of the remaining major city gate complexes (the south one, I think). A bastion built in front of the older (original) medieval gate (marked by the tower you can just see poking above the left side of the bastion gateway).
The Bell-tower Gate – originally it divided the older town from the (relatively) newer one – and would have fallen foul of those (fortunately nonexistent) developers … you can see the narrow s(and steep) streets. This is from the ‘old town’ side of the tower and you can see one of the original public water-fountains in front of the half-timbered house on the right.
This is the opposite direction from the above – looking toward the main square of the town. Sure, the street is lined with touristy shops and the like, as well as some private homes, but it’s pretty much what it would have been like back in the day …
That’s the town from the castle grounds which is off to one side (the west, I think) … you can see the town walls and the clock tower gate. The Castle grounds are just that, the grounds where the castle used to be. It was destroyed by an earthquake in the 14th century and all that remains is one tower … and the grounds, which the Town has turned into a lovely park with plenty of shade trees and a great overlook on the town commons below.
That’s the Tauber river valley (the trees mark the course) from the outlook over it from the Castle Park (evidently a favourite hangout for local teenagers making out) and the Town common lands below … still commons (well, owned by the Town now).

The town has a fairly good museum for such a relatively small place … with, amongst other things, an excellent collection of arms and armour. Some of which were even photographable! Sadly, of course, most were behind glass and badly lit so they were all reflection … what else is new?

Renaissance and Late Medieval Polearms plus a nice Mail Hauberk … not sure of the provenance of that. It could be late Medieval (i.e. late 13th or early 14th century) or intended to be ‘High Medieval’ (i.e. 15th century) and intended to be worn under Partial Plate, though probably not Full plate, so probably not later than the end of the 15th century (or so).
A nice example of one of the many possible varieties of the medieval Falchion.
Some more medieval Swords … including three rather more high quality versions of the basic Falchion in front.

Nuremburg III

Then there was the Deutsche Bahn (German Railway) museum …

A full sized replica of what was probably the first German railway carriage – two 2nd class and 1 1st class compartments.

… which was actually a Transport & Communications museum as well.

Very early printing Cash Register – they took ‘communications’ quite loosely.
Post WW2 rotor cypher machine – IIRC this model used a paper tape to set the Rotors electro-mechanically unlike the earlier purely mechanical rotor ENIGMA machines.
S-Bahn rolling stock. These are suburban trains, but they may run in tunnels under major cities just like the U-Bahn (underground) … they serve the outer suburbs and may even connect nearby cities to a central major conurbation. Much of their route will be above ground.
The cream and maroon train is an Intercity train – but not one of the really high speed ones. If I got the German description correct this would often be on ‘all stops’ or ‘regional’ services with limited stops rather on major routes such as Munich-Berlin.

A lot of the indoor stuff was badly lit and behind reflective glass – or, just as bad, was placed in such cramped spaces that you simply couldn’t get a shot of more than a meaningless fraction … and the outdoors stuff, while better lit and not behind glass was also often in such cramped quarters as to make getting any sort of meaningful shot impossible.

Nuremburg II

Like I said, more to follow –

The German Museum

No, not the German History Museum (that is in Berlin), just the German Museum – though it covers a fair chunk of history while, theoretically, covering German culture.

Medieval Reliquary Case (Rock Crystal and metal … probably bronze/brass or iron covered in gold plating and with silver-gilt ornamentation. Not quite large enough to take a whole corpse of a Saint … but his disarticulated or semi-disarticulated bones? Sure. The inscription in German wasn’t, I think, clear as to what or who had been contained in the reliquary as by the time reliable records referring to it came into being it was already empty. Yes, you can see reflections – but they weren’t too bad.
Medieval Book Cover – again, I am not entirely certain what the German caption said, but I think that the book inside it at present probably wasn’t the original one … Renaissance recycling, I suppose! Note that the gems still remaining are polished, and not even cabochon cut (i.e. with a flat base). Yes, fuzzy – rubbish lighting and reflecting glass playing havoc as usual. Win some, lose some.
A selection of Migration era (roughly late 4th through to early to mid 8th century AD) edged weapons, spear-heads and stirrup. Note the fact that all the spear heads are roughly the same basic type. No massive D&D differentiation!
Ostrogothic Brooch or Cloak Clasp in the Byzantine style – probably a gift from the Byzantine authorities. Niello (enamel) and gold work.
Roman helmet, probably for Hippika Gymnaiska (‘Cavalry Games’) or parade use – probably late 3rd or 4th century AD. Yes, fuzzy and reflections again – it was that sort of museum. <sigh>
Late (probably late 4th or 5th century AD) Roman helmet … probably for better grade (Field Army) Infantry or, possibly, light to medium cavalry. Hard to tell since it is missing cheek guards and other bits.
Late 14th or early 15th century plate armour suit. Reasonably sharp despite the unavoidable reflections.
Medieval folding chair of the Scissors type – just take the backboard off and it folds more or less flattish. Just the thing for a travelling noble.


Last time I was in Germany I took the train from Munich to Berlin … didn’t have time to do Nuremberg on the way. This time, driving, I *did* …

The site of the Nazi rallies was quite accessible – a tram ride from the central station which, in my case, was a direct line from my hotel on the outskirts of town. Unfortunately, as is all to common, the museum (‘Documentation Centre’) while excellent was full of video clips (not photographable, obviously) and cases full of items so cunningly lit and glassed in as to make them also unphotographable!

I had intended to do a walk around the site (it’s huge) and see some of the remaining structures – but it was raining. Nice weather for the Geese on the lake shore, not so much for any pedestrians.

The City Proper

One of the days I was there I headed off to see the Imperial Castle which overlooks the city (well, the Old city) … and walked through parts of the old historic district …

One of the reasons Nuremberg is such a nice city is that the city fathers resisted the call back in the day to pull down the city walls and towers … they’re all still there … and this is the one just off the Hauptbahnhof square (the station is actually off camera behind the tower).
They also emphasised their status as a Free Imperial City by decorating everything official with all sorts of ornate heraldry indicating this status (a FIC was a direct subject of the Holy Roman Emperor, not part of one of the princely or territorial states). This is one of the ceremonial entrances to the Rathaus (Town Hall) complex off the old Market Square.
The Schoner Brunnen, a 14th century fountain in the Old Market Square – there are close to 100 figures of various sizes representing biblical and religious personalities as well as the Prince Electors (the seven guys who actually elected the Holy Roman Emperor) of the time. Did I mention the city fathers were big into preserving old things?
A different angle of the fountain.

The Imperial Castle

You know all about Town & Gown with differences between medieval Universities and their local towns? Well, Nuremberg had issues with Town & Emperor … the Imperial Castle overlooking the town was, from time to time, either seen as a threat to the Town’s civic rights or occupied by the town.

Of course, McGregor luck being what it is, most of the exterior was covered in hoarding and scaffolding as they rebuild and refurbish large swathes of the site … and after I’d hiked up this bloody steep hill to get there!

The views from the top, however, were pretty good …

View down over the ‘old town’ and the spires of some of the medieval churches … those steep roofed houses are mostly, as far as I can tell, medieval or renaissance … many are half-timbered … and the streets are narrow and winding for the most part. And steep … did I mention how steep the bloody hill was?
Strictly speaking, out of sequence, as I took this on the way back down … but it shows the sorts of houses we’re talking about.

The tour of the interior was, of necessity, only of the interior … but it was pretty good, too

The main hall of the castle – those wooden beams are originals. Yes. They are bloody big and thick … and those are some of the annoying tourists who have plagued my every step <grin>
The Castle Chapel – from the Imperial balcony. Separate entrance and above the other courtiers and hangers on who were accommodated below. Remember, this is in the period when only the Priest consumed the wine and the host, with his back turned to the congregation. The modern participatory Mass is much much later.
One of the illuminated Manuscript/Books on display in the treasury … one of the few things that were lit appropriately and didn’t have glass that reflected poorly placed lighting.
One of the Renaissance suits of armour (well and truly post-medieval) in the Armoury.
A case for Crossbow Bolts – and a variety of different types of Bolts. You can see a cranequin in the background (a device for recocking one of the later metal ‘strung’ and metal ‘bow’ Arbalests)
A model of the Castle as it was in its early years.
And one of it as it was at its greatest late medieval extent. There were further Renaissance and 30 Years War era additions, some of which resulted in bits shown here being modified or to torn down … and which, in turn, have often been modified or torn down.

There’s more on Nuremberg, but not tonight …


The main palace of the Bishop, the local feudal lord back in the day. It was severely damaged by bombing and fire during WW2 but, right at the end of the war, some of the American Monuments Men (per the movie) actually managed to put a temporary roof over the remnants and pretty much save a lot of it … and lots of reconstruction work has been done on the damaged and even some of the destroyed parts … with lots more to go, of course.

Actually, this is the Schloss, which was the seat of the Prince-Bishops until they decided they wanted something less medieval and more comfortable and homey …
The grand entrance. Just a little something the Bishop(s) had knocked up!
The rear, from the formal gardens outside at the back … must have been quite the place to hold a garden party back in the day … though there’s no place for Trump’s helicopters to land (which is, perhaps, fortunate, given the damage they did to Buck House’s lawns!)
One of the fountains in the grounds … had to have water features, of course!

The interiors were OK, but, again, lighting and the ‘no flash’ rules made it impossible to get decent exposure times. Still, there are other places I will Blog about ‘real soon now’ where there were much better conditions!