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2017 July, Egypt, Sailing on Lake Burullus

Lake Burullus is located in the North of the Nile delta, about halfway between Alexandria in the West and Port Said in the East. The lenght measures about 50 kilometers and the with between 5 and 15 kilometers. The shallow brakish lake is separated from the Mediterranean Sea only by the beach – which is at the narrowest place about 600 meters wide.

Lake Burullus is certainily not one of the top destinations for a traveler coming to Egypt – but when I saw it for the first time a few years back, I became interested in the very special type of sailboat the fishermen were using. I just had the impression that such tiny boats without any kind of keel would simply have to turn over once the wind caught the giant sails.

Now I took the chance to go there and see what happens with these boats. I can confirm that they don't turn over but I still don't know why…

The time of old Deutz and Bedford trucks in Egypt appears to slowly come to an end. It is not too often anymore that you see those old sturdy “workhorses” and I fear that in a rather short time from now they will all have been replaced by modern types of trucks. I think I will miss the view of them.

2017 July, Egypt, the Fayoum

It was not only the Lake Burullus which had attracted me but also some other lakes – those of the Fayoum. The biggest one is Lake Qarun, the remnant of the much larger ancient Lake Moeris.

Wikipedia states the following:

Lake Moeris (Ancient Greek: Μοῖρις, genitive Μοίριδος) is an ancient lake in the northwest of the Faiyum Oasis, 80 km (50 mi) southwest of Cairo, Egypt. In prehistory, it was a freshwater lake, with an area estimated to vary between 1,270 km² (490 mi²) and 1,700 km² (656 mi²).
It persists today as a smaller saltwater lake called Birket Qarun. The lake's surface is 43 m (140 ft) below sea-level, and covers about 202 square kilometres (78 sq mi).

What a giant lake it must have been in its time!

There are plenty of “visitworthy” locations around the Fayoum and Lake Qarun, some of which are shown in below photographs:

Wadi el-Hitan, the “Whale Valley” is a very impressive site. Millions of years ago this area was a shallow lagoon and witness of these days are the fossilized sceletons of countless “whales” – actually they were the acestors of today's whales.

What impressed me most in this area is how it was kept and presented to the visitor. The visitor centre consists of some very tastefully built buildings and a magnificent new museum which is half burried into the soil. I really loved to stay at this place and can only congratulate those who planned and constructed it!

But finally – I have to admit that I liked most to stay in the desert. It was just a very short time but I could thoroughly enjoy it. Most stunning landscape and our driver Mohammed an absolutely skilful driver! These two days at the end of my stay in Egypt were really worth the journey itself.

Many thanks to Tarek el-Mahdi, Dorothee Rieche and Mohammed – that was all just what I hoped to see and experience in your Country.

2017 July, The Company of Saint George

Adrian von Bubenberg is about to finish his second term as bailiff on Lenzburg, and is looking forward to return to Berne. But before he leaves the castle to his successor, he wants to demonstrate to the townspeople of Lenzburg, that Berne has come, conquered and intents to stay.

Thus men at arms practice their skills, and the rest of the camp falls in with the display of Bernese power and wealth. Come and visit us, the camp is open to visitors from Friday 28th to Sunday 30 July, daily 10-17h

That's the announcement on the website of the Company of Saynt George. In fact this “living-history-group” exists since 25 years and they display (or “re-enact”) a small artillery company dating back to the period of Charles the Bold (1467-1477)

I took the chance to visit them at the Schloss Lenzburg and found some noteworthy things:

  • Guns at that time were also “breach loaders” not only the old fashioned “muzzle loaders” – that means that the poder could be prepared in advance and allowed a considerably faster rate of fire. I did not know that such guns existed at that time before.
  • The hand guns of that time do neither look good nor were they any good, in particular they were not accurate at all. The only thing they could really do good was Noise & Smoke.
  • The *Shoes” used in the 15th. century had only leather soles – no profile at all. Difficult to walk up hill, difficult in winter time, difficult on wet surface and difficult to keep them water thight. I am happy that we can choose from other shoes nowadays – although there are still plenty of crappy shoes available one should actually not buy.
  • Trousers of that time were neither comfortable nor practical nor anything good. Whilst Skyths, Germans and Celts had used real trousers more than a thousand years before… they were considered as “barbaric” by the romans and even banned. Whyt was then used in the 15. Century was a development of “legings” which were an intermediate step on the re-invention of real and practical trousers as we know them today. They were made of wool (which I think is not the best material for trousers) and they were connected to the jacket with an number of strings – which was the possibly most un-practical method to hold trousers. But this is as it was…. and if we look around today, seeing the boys with “trousers down” we may ask ourselfes if we are still on the right path. Fashion. Not to be discussed here.

So. Small things I have learned which are not described in contemporary reports and history-books. You can only see them with the “living history groups” and find it our by talking to them. It was a nice day.

31.07.2017 11:26 | Kuno Gross

2017 June - Lissunov Li-2

When I was in Budapest last year I have missed to see the Goldtimer Foundation's Lissunov Li-2.

The Li-2 is a licence built version of the Douglas DC-3 manufactured in the widely used as an airliner, also in Hungary with the former national carrier Malev. The Goldtimer Foundation's Li-2 ist the last airworthy machine of this type! And only this was reason enough to try to get a flight with it.

We took off from Budaörs, flew for about half an hour to land on a small private airfield. There we had a “rest”, took a lot of photos and once it was time we flew just back to Budaörs, the former International Airport of Budapest.

Now I could write endles and enthusiastic statements – I won't. But very clear: If you are going to Hungary one day, you should definitely not miss to have a flight with with this unique aircraft!

Swastika over the Aegean, Churchill's Folly & Air Battle over Malta
Swastika over the Aegean, Churchill's Folly & Air Battle over Malta

Anthony Rogers

Swastika over the Aegean, Churchill's Folly & Air Battle over Malta

Tony Rogers with whom I am in contact since many years (and whom I have still not met in person…) is not only “The” specialist if it comes to the WWII-campaigns in the Aegean but has also written about the air battle over Malta. Have a look at his books and I am sure that you won't be disappointed – I myself will for sure have a much closer look again on his “Aegean books” before I will travle to these islands one day (which is hopefully rather soon…)

Have a look at Anthony's books!

Bombenangriff auf die Brücken von Koblenz
Bombenangriff auf die Brücken von Koblenz - Februar 1945

Kuno Gross & Rudolf Meier

Bombenangriff auf die Brücken von Koblenz - Februar 1945

On February 16. 1945 bombs fell on the village where I was born. I recall the stories told when I was a boy… but now we thought it would really be time to research the topic in depth and found a fascinating new subject for a little book… the other projects are postponed at the moment so that there is sufficient time to complete this one until the end of the year.

Koblenz - Kulturnacht 2017

In May we had attended the “Kulturnacht 2017” in the vilage of Koblenz. Actually it is a regional event taking place every two years where local artists present their skills and works. This year, in Koblenz, it took place on an island in midst of the river Rhine – a spectacular and also “romantic” environment for such an event.

It is obvious that our book about the bombing raid on the bridges of Koblenz in February 1945 did not really match the “artistic environment”. We were really sceptical on how the visitors would see our presence in this event – but these thoughts were all wrong. Except for the weather all went perfectly well. We got a lot of response from people who had already read the book and also a lot of interest of others. It is really something good for an author to have the direct contact to the readers of his book; in particular if the readers did like it.

16.06.2017 12:15 | Kuno Gross

2017 March Greifensee

Who would expect a regular ferry-service across a lake in Switzerland wehre this lake is not even one kilometre wide? It exists and the name of the lake is Greifensee. Not far from Zürich but somehow already in a different world. Today all looked calm, peaceful and pittoresque and the ferry is crossing the lake every hour.

But this was not always the case. The little town with the same name as the lake was the place of a horrible story in the medieval ages. It was during the “Alter Zürichkrieg” (literally “The old war for Zürich”) when the unsucessful and frustrated “Swiss”(called “Eidgenossen”) troops returned to their homes in the inner of today's Switzerland. The tiny city “Greifensee” was the only fortified place belonging to Zürich on their way and it was just too tempting…

But not as expected by the “Eidgenossen” who outnumbered the defenders by far, the defenders under Wildhans von Breitenlandenberg did not surrender but resisted the siege for four weeks until 27. September 1444. Then they could no longer hold out since the last tower, the “Castle” was expected to collapes soon.

Breitlandenberg had only a very few soldiers with him, the others of the all in all 62 surviving defenders were citizens of the town and farmers of the surrounding area. The “Eidgenossen” were full of anger about the long resistance and the losses it had caused to them and so it was soon decided that all the captives shall be executed.

On 28. September 1444 all but two of them died by the sword. One after the other and the killing only ended when it was already dark.

05.03.2017 14:42 | Kuno Gross

2017-01 Snow, finally

A happy new year to all of you! It did really not start bad here – since last night we have a layer of snow. Ok, it is a very thin layer but it is the first time for this year that we really have snow in Northern Switzerland. I thought that this is reason enough to take a day off and just go for a long walk…

Oman - the Mountains in the North-East
Flag of Oman
Flag of Oman

I am currently doing some research for a small article about the Royal Air Force of Oman and that just brought back memories of my (until now) only visit to this country in December 2012.
I thought I could share some photos. Not about the famous “Rub al-Khali* or about the Wahiba sands but rather of the stunning mountain-landscape in the north east of Oman.
Beautiful country, freindly people, impressive landscape – always worth a visti:

THE SAS AND LRDG ROLL OF HONOUR 1941
THE SAS AND LRDG ROLL OF HONOUR 1941-47

Ex-Lance-corporal X, QGM

THE SAS AND LRDG ROLL OF HONOUR 1941-47

“I am proud to have been asked to write a foreword to this astonishing document. I have not been party to its creation. That has been entirely due to the enterprise and determination of its author who has lived and worked with it for thirteen years and travelled extensively, at his own expense, to produce facts and photographs to support the remarkably detailed accounts of the lives and deaths of those for whom this work was undertaken. The result is here for all to see, a reference and history unique in its nature and purpose put together to unite as one in remembrance of the Second World War casualties of the Special Air Service, the Special Boat Squadron [later Service] and the Long Range Desert Group.”

Jim Patch, Former Navigator of Y Patrol, LRDG – Kent, 2016

The project has already raised £15,000 for Combat Stress, a charity helping former servicemen and women with PTSD, and will go on to raise a further for them, plus additional moeny for memorials, once the remaining copies have sold.

In Volo Su Zerzura
In Volo Su Zerzura

Roberto Chiarvetto, Alessandro Menardi Noguera, Michele Soffiantini

In Volo Su Zerzura

In November 1932 an Italian expedition undertook a most secret aerial and ground reconnaissance of the northern area of the Gilf Kebir, just months after the first and only flight by Sir Robert Clayton-East-Clayton, making a detailed topographical and photographical survey that survives to this day. This expedition was the absolute first to reach the area overland from Kufra. This is the story of that secret mission, of the men that undertook it, of the correspondence between the Ministries and the colonial units that prepared it in the utmost detail to make it possible.

03.01.2017 17:53 | Kuno Gross