von Richthofen’s Express

8 Dec

Even the bloody Red Baron is a character in Falkenstein.  His adventure starts sometime during the Civil War when his grandfather Walter came to the United States to survey the West.  By this time he was already a famous traveler and surveyor of exotic lands.  He was credited with coining the term “Silk Road” during his time in Asia.

He must have enjoyed the U. S. very much because not only did he build a castle in Denver, CO, but he also had a mountain named after himself.  Mt. Richthofen lies in the Never Summer Range of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Incidentally, the castle is up for sale.  Here is some info and more pictures:

If you’d like to climb Mt. Richthofen, here’s all the info you need from Peakbagger.


What Did Stupor Mundi do This Time?

16 Nov

Israeli researchers reported yesterday that they deciphered a rare inscription attributed to the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II von Hohenstaufen – stupor mundi.  What did the wonder of the world have to say about himself?

The inscription, written in Arabic but using the Christian calendar, partially reads “1229 of the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus the Messiah.”   The marble slab was found in Tel Aviv but its origin was probably Jaffa. 

What makes this most interesting is the event of the Sixth Crusade.  Led by the emperor, it resulted in at least three unique occurences:

  • The emperor won the crusade through diplomacy.  Al-Kamil ceded Jerusalem to Frederick without a fight.  This made a lot of people at the Vatican very angry.
  • The emperor crowned himself king after his victory, even though the pope had excommunicated him,
  • The emperor did not claim the temple mount.  He left it to the Muslims.

These events created some rather unusual tension in my book Falkenstein.



Walt Disney World Vacation

8 Nov

I have to admit that not only do I love going on vacation to anywhere Disney, I also do a little research while I’m there.  The photos help me to remember details for the story.  As I walk around, ride the rides, and enjoy the shows, the little wheels in my mind spin stories faster than I can write them down.  Sometimes I jot down notes and voice memos on my Droid.  Other times I tell my kids my ideas and we discuss them, just not too loudly so nobody else around us gets any ideas.  You just can trust those sneaky writers.

My dream vacation to Walt Disney World includes at least a one night stay in the new apartment suite atop the castle.  This opportunity first availed itself during the Year of a Million Dreams.  That’s about the only thing that would top my 40th birthday stay in the Grand Floridian (with a perfect view of the castle across the lake).

My favorite characters are Chip and Dale.  One year I became very sick.  I felt barely well enough to go out for dinner at the Garden Grille.  My buddies Chip and Dale came by to greet us.  One of the guys saw I was really feeling awful so he gave me a great shoulder massage.  In the meantime, the other one (can you tell the difference between who is Chip and who is Dale?) walked away and came back shortly with two aspirin.  Pure magic.

My youngest son has Asperger’s Syndrome.  One time he became very upset about something while we walked around the World Showcase.  Snow White stood outside Germany signing autographs.  She saw my little teary-eyed boy and ran right over and gave him a big hug.  The tears stopped and the whole crowd went, “Awww.”

I hope I can capture some of that magic and share it with you in Falkenstein.  I wish that editing happened by magic but alas, it is just hard work.  Not even the sorcerer’s apprentice could make it any easier.  So until publication, happy dreams everyone.  See you at the park.

BTW – my favorite it probably Disney Tokyo.  The night show is awesome.

Bigger, Badder, or Just More

17 Oct

Emperor Frederick II von Hohenstaufen (1194-1250) and King Ludwig II (1845-1886) both built a lot of castles.  Frederick’s were purely functional while Ludwig’s were simply fantastic.  Falkenstein castle in Pfronten was built in 1280 by Count Meinhard II von Tirol.  Its purpose was territorial.  It did not become known as Falkenstein until sometime in the 15th century.  If you Google the name, you’ll see there are many castles by this name as it became quite popular during this time.  In 1646 during the Thirty-Years War, the castle was burned and destroyed, never to be built again.

Ludwig purchased the castle in 1883 and had a road built to the top.  He also had running water supplied to the summit.  His Falkenstein was never built.

Besides Falkenstein, Ludwig built relatively few other castles.  Neuschwanstein, Herrenchiemsee, and Linderhof count among his greatest building achievements.  Ludwig did not build Hohenschwangau.  Along with Nymphenburg, this castle was one of his boyhood homes.  The Residenz (not built by him) in Munich served as his official royal quarters.

On the other hand, Frederick II was a prolific builder of castles, many of which remain to this day.  Some estimate his building accomplishments at 111 including 23 fortified castles and 28 domiciles.  As we saw earlier, Castle del Monte was an aviary for his falcons.

Go here for some history and pictures of other castles built by Frederick.  They still stand today.  Let’s hope that Ludwig’s castles last as long.

Falcon Shmalcon

8 Oct

Okay what’s so great about falcons and why the fixation?  What did Emperor Frederick II find so fascinating about these birds of prey?  Was it a matter of exclusivity and class distinction?  Only the highest royals could hunt with the peregrine.  Or was it just the pure thrill of the hunt itself?  Watch this video and see just what a rush it is to see this bird in action.

Maybe he wanted to figure out the physics of the flight.  After all, how can a bird so small go so fast?  The skydivers quickly reached their terminal velocity.  They outweigh the falcon by more than ten-to-one.  Yet the peregrine passed them in its stoop.  In Frederick’s day, they obviously had no high speed cameras or other mechanical means to oberve such speeds and altitudes.  For centuries, men wondered exactly how the falcon made its kills.  Some thought it was through sheer impact.  One group believed the falcon hit is prey with its talons folded like knuckles with which to knock out its prey.  Others thought the falcon rammed the prey by impacting with its chest.  Scientists today believe that would fatally impact not just the prey but he falcon too.  Whether crushed knuckles or breast, the falcon could not survive.  F=ma!  So how does a bird of such small mass accumulate such a massive acceleration?  Aerodynamics.  Watch this video to see what scientists have learned about the peregrine and used that knowledge in jet design.

But that does not explain how the falcon survives the g-forces of its flight.  While tucked in its stoop one can easily understand its acceleration.  But when it opens its wings for maneuvers, this bird pulls up to 25 g’s.  Not even a human can survive that.  Most of us pass out around 8.  Each g multiplies our body-weight by that amount.  One would think that such a fragile-looking bird would tear itself apart at 25-times its own body weight.  Jet fighters and humans certainly would.  We have much to learn from this marvelous creation.

Are They Twins?

27 Sep

How often have you heard folks characterize the castles at Disneyland and Walt Disney World as modeled after Neuschwanstein?  Indeed, Uncle Walt visited the iconic castle in 1935.  Disneyland was just a dream, nay, perhaps not even a thought back then.  His movie studio was broke and Walt needed fresh ideas.  He spent some of that trip to Germany in the company of the infamous Leni Riefenstahl (Triumph of the Will – 1934).  This forever branded Disney as a Nazi and anti-Semetic.  While neither of those accusations withstood the test of time and testimony, everyone still believes his visit to Neuschwanstein was the seminal event, forever forging in the artist’s mind his concept of both Cinderella’s and Sleeping Beauty’s castles. 

Now, do you remember which castle is at which park?  And do you think they are twins (hmmm, triplets?) of King Ludwig II’s Neuschwanstein?  You decide.

Are you a Guglmann?

22 Sep

The Guglmann describe themselves as a group of anonymous, black-clad brotherhood whose sole purpose is to declare their belief that Kind Ludwig II was murdered.  They believe that on the evening of June 13, 1886, a group of secret Prussian conspirators assasinated the king.  They shot him in the back.  The Guglmann formed in the 12th century to protect the royal Wittelsbach family.

As you can see, there are quite a few of them.  While most are Bavarians, some reports claim there is at least one American member.  Who is this mysterious person?  If you want to learn more about this group, extensive publications exist this year concerning their participation in the 125th anniversary of the death of the king.  A good place to start is their own webpage.