Friday, 6 December 2013


The Barbary Apes


The apes on the Rock of Gibraltar are a great tourist attraction, particularly when they are being fed by the army sergeant who is the Official Keeper of the Apes.   It is not known how they came to be on the Rock but they have certainly lived there in considerable numbers since at least the 18th century when the British took possession of the territory.

It is said that if the apes should ever leave the Rock, then so will the English.  Winston Churchill himself ordered that their number should never fall below 35.



Donkey taxi


The amazing village of Guadalest near Benidorm in Spain is built literally into the rocks at the top of a mountain, a place where it is impossible to drive a motor car.  It is very popular with tourists who are dropped off from their coaches on a car park way below the village itself, where they are left to walk up the steep paths and steps to reach the village.  All is not lost however because it is possible to get a taxi, but it would have to be one of the licensed ‘donkey taxis’ which ply for hire.




Prison guards


Thun is a pretty little town in the Bernese Oberland of Switzerland which lies on the River Aare at the point where it flows into Lake Thun.   A fine castle, which dominates the town, also houses a small prison.   A nice story is told about the ‘prison guards’ in the shape of a flock of geese which occupies a small area alongside the building and are said to be the best possible guards.




Schwarze Katz
The Mosel Region in Germany is noted for its fine wine.  Each village has its own distinctive vineyards and it is easy to find a wine which is suitable to ones taste.    The wine from the village of Zell is particularly notable and is known as ‘Schwarze Katz’ or Black Cat.   Legend has it that in 1863, three wine merchants from Aachen were in Zell to taste the wine and find out which was the best cellar to buy from.  In one particular winery they went into lengthy negotiations and finally they opted to choose from three casks.  Suddenly the owner’s black cat sprang onto one of the casks and arched its back in a threatening manner, whereupon the merchants took it as an omen that it was the best wine and without even tasting it, they bought it.   Since that time, Zell wine has been known as ‘Schwarze Katz’.





The Bridge Monkey
Just alongside the town gate on the bridge over the River Neckar at Heidelberg in Germany there is a bronze monkey or ‘bruckenaff’ holding a mirror. Installed in 1979 it was sculptured by Professor Gernot Rumpf and the theme of the sculpture is ‘humility’.   Alongside is a plaque which reads:
“Why are you looking at me?
Haven’t you seen a monkey in Heidelberg?
Look around and you will probably see
More monkey’s like me”.
Old drawings show that there was a brass monkey at this spot as far back as the 15th century when a traveller abroad brought a real monkey back to Heidelberg. The local people were amazed to see it and just stared at it – hence the legend. The original bronze disappeared during the Palatinian War of Succession of 1689-1693.
To touch the bronze is said to bring good luck!




Largest Cuckoo Clock

The largest free-hanging cuckoo clock in the world can be seen suspended outside a shop in St Goar on the Middle Rhine in Germany.  Some 33 years old, this time piece is 3.5 metres high and 2.5 metres wide.  It weighs about 5 cwts.  Carved from linden wood it is entirely handmade and handpainted.  Because the clock has two faces, the biggest problem faced by the designers was to arrange the working so that a cuckoo pops out on both sides to call time every half hour.  Music also plays as a stage at the top of the clock revolves, revealing a set of four dancing figures.





Lier Sheepheads
The people of Lier in Belgium are known as Schapekoppen or ‘Sheepheads’ .  The story goes that in the Middles Ages the populace had a choice of having a university or a flock of sheep, and they chose the sheep.  Nevertheless the town prospered and the economy of the town is textile industry.


The Elwedritsch
The Elwedritsch is a mythical egg laying creature with a long beak, described as chicken like with  small antlers. It has scales instead of feathers and the wings are of little use.  It supposedly originates from the cross breeding of domestic fowls and mythical wood creatures such as goblins and elves.  It is said to inhibit the area around Neustadt an der Weinstrasse in Germany living mainly in the undergrowth of forests and under the vines.   
Elwedritschen  in the Market Square at Neustadt an der Weinstrasse

The creature has increasingly been portrayed by artists as female by adding breasts  The Elwetritsch is supposedly very shy, but also very curious and gullable people are sometimes encouraged to indugle in a hunting process.  A hunting party consists of a "Fänger" (catcher), equipped with a big potato sack and a lantern, and the "Treiber" (beaters). The catcher is led into the woods where the Elwetritsch is supposed to live, instructed to wait in a clearing with his sack and lantern, while the beaters will supposedly disturb the Elwetritsch. The light of the lantern is said to be attractive to the curious creature, so it will come to investigate and will then be caught by the catcher. While he waits, everyone heads back to the pub to wait for the catcher to realize that he has been fooled!








A huge dam was  built near Verviers in Belgium in 1878 to hold back the waters of the Gillepe, a tributary of the Vesdre, which created a large reservoir to supply the area with drinking water.  One hundred years later the dam was raised to a height of 62 metres and a length of 320 metres, providing a capacity of 26 million cubic metres.  The dam is dominated by a huge stone lion constructed by A.F Boure in 1878.



De Moeflon

These beautiful wild sheep, De Moeflon, with huge curly horns can be seen in the forests of The Veluwe in the south east of the Netherlands. They were introduced to the area in the 18th century from Corsica and Sardinia and relatively small numbers have survived to the present day.

A very fine sculpture of one of these animals can be seen on the edge of the forest just behind the railway station at Nunspeet.  


I took this photograph many years ago alongside a canal near to Gouda in Holland.
I have never been able to find anything about it although it would appear to have a 'story' attacvhed to it. 

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