Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Weihnachtsmarkt in Bremen

Image of the Rathaus (Town Hall) of Bremen (Germany) behind part of the Weihnachtsmarkt (Traditional Christmas Market).Dear Gentle Reader,

Yesterday your humble scribe arrived in Bremen via a long journey by car and by train.

Julia, a very good friend, drove your scribe from Geneva, Switzerland, to Hardt in Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany, just south south-east of Stuttgart, where her parents live.

Upon arriving in Hardt, Julia and her parents surprised your scribe with a traditional German Christmas dinner. Lecker...

Gaensebraten, Kloesse, Rotkohl, und Bratapfel. Lecker. (Roast goose, potato dumplings, red cabbage, and baked/roasted apple. Very tasty.)

After schnapps, coffee, and various specialty Christmas cookies, Julia drove me to the nearest train station where an ICE (InterCity Express) train whisked me from the south to Bremen in the far north.

The train certainly lived up to its InterCity name.

Many towns were visited...

Stuttgart, Mannheim, Frankfurt, Bonn, Cologne, Duesseldorf, Duisburg, Essen, Bochum, Dortmund, Muenster, and Osnabrueck... then, finally, Bremen.

I will tell you more about Bremen on my next hosting of My Town Monday, when I will be in Venice and will truly be having a difficult time reaching anybody. But, yesterday, I promised to show you something very special. I said that I would try to show you the traditional Christmas market in the UNESCO heritage site that is Bremen´s town square.

Imagine a medieval square, centuries old.

There are historical references to people living in Bremen for almost two thousand years. The stone walls demarcating Bremen´s city walls, enclosing people and the regional market, were laid almost one thousand years ago.

That first stone city wall was laid in 1032.

Bremen's market square is bounded by the city hall on one side, the most powerful guildhall, the Merchant´s Guild, on the other side, the Senate House on a third side, and a series of medieval buildings on the final side. The Apotheke, or apothecary, or pharmacy has been here since the 1500´s.

Not much has changed in this square.

Image of Roland in the town square of Bremen, GermanyA statue of the knight, Roland, a secular protector of the people with his great sword of justice named "Durendart", faces off against the Bishophric represented by the Cathedral of St. Peter, where your humble scribe and your Heroine were married.

Roland has been standing on guard against the Church, in this square, since 1404 when he was commissioned by the Town Fathers in their Rathaus.

The Church has been extraordinarily powerful in secular and economic affairs for centuries, but Bremen is not a Free City for nothing; Bremen´s Rathaus, or Town Hall, has protected the rights of her merchants for years, and merchants rights are nothing without a venue to sell their wares.

The main venue for Bremen´s merchants was the Bremen Market, Bremen´s town square.

So here is Bremen´s town square, just before sunset, on the penultimate day of the Weihnachtsmarkt, Bremen´s traditional Christmas market.

As it has been for centuries, even millenia, the town square, today, was briskly active with buyers walking amongst stalls, examining wares, and proffering money for goods.

Image of the Schuetting, Guild House of the Merchants, in Bremen Germany, behind the traditional Christmas Market.
The building at the back of Bremen´s Town Square is the Schütting (Schuetting if your screen does not show umlauts), which is the Guild Hall of the Merchants. More on this next Monday...

Night is falling fast as your scribe races in front of the Bremer Dom, or the Bremen State Cathedral (dedicated to St. Peter but not visible to you, tonight), to take another shot of the historic town square... The Rathaus, or Town Hall, is the building on the right, crowding in the throngs of people who are coming to shop in the square...

Image of Bremen´s Town Square, and a side view of the Rathouse, from in front of the Bremen Cathedral.
And now the light is truly failing as the sun prepares to sleep beneath the horizon...

Image of Bremen´s town square, during the Christmas market, at night.But the Weihnachtsmarkt will continue for the next few hours, picking up steam and revellers as the night grows longer and the Feuerzangenbowle grows stronger.

(Feuerzangenbowle is burnt rum, molten sugar, spices, and red wine... and Feuerzangenbowle translates, sort of, to flaming fire tongs brew. It probably deserves its own post... we will see...)

Bremen´s Christmas market extends for many blocks and over many streets.

Down by the river, the Weser, there is the Middle Ages market, a medieval-themed market where everyone is in costume and they attempt to not be anachronistic...

But your humble scribe has no tripod with him, so there was no chance to take workable pictures in the dark, lit only by flaming torches and firepits...

Besides, your humble scribe´s favourite part of the market is found in Bremen´s historic town square which you have now seen.

After Gluhwein and Bratwurst, your scribe, your Heroine, and her parents headed home to a magnificent dinner of cheeses, meats, and breads.

Your scribe was not so humble regarding his selection of the Brillat-Savarin cheese, truly one of the smoothest and creamiest cheeses on the planet and surely the cheese of the night. You might recall that your scribe considered Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin one of his culinary heroes here...

Your Heroine procured two lovely contenders for cheese of the night, a black truffle enriched brie and a very creamy mascarpone/gorgonzola mix.

The traditional German stinging nettle cheese (Brennesselkaese) also deserved special mention. A German cheese meal without Brennesselkaese is really not a meal at all. The only reason this cheese has not ranked higher is that your humble scribe has this all the time he is visiting, but not so the Brillat-Savarin...

Your scribe will gloss over the next six or seven cheeses, the meats, and the liverwursts, mostly because the deadline for posting is drawing ever nearer, but he must pause briefly over the fantastic Zamburinas in a Viera sauce.

(Sorry, I have no idea how to put the spanish "n"´s mark on that "n" in Zamburinas.)

Zamburinas in a Viera sauce were brought back from Spain... scallops in a reduced sauce derived from another type of scallop... ...magnifique, non?

Well, it is almost nine o´clock, ante meridien, in Hong Kong, which means that your scribe must hurry and post from Bremen, now.

Tomorrow is the last day of the Bremer Weihnachtsmarkt and you can be sure that your humble scribe and Heroine will be back one last time. If you listen you might hear the songs and the laughter, the tinkle of coins, the hiss of the molten sugar, and the gurgling of hot rum and red wine down the throat of your scribe.

Chris, Regina, and Pommes in spirit if not in spirits

Monday, December 22, 2008

Lighting the Buildings... Hong Kong in Christmas

Image of Hong Kong buildings at night over Christmas from beside the Star Ferry pier on the Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon. Photo taken by Ann Light, used with the permission of the photographer.Dear Gentle Reader,

Your humble scribe had a friend take the pictures for me today because he forgot...

People have recently been showing pictures of their town lit up at Christmas time. Your scribe thought he would share the same.

Hong Kong is not necessarily the most religious or spiritual place on the planet, unless Mammon is your god, but its residents understand a good selling opportunity when they see one...

In Hong Kong the buildings get lit up for Christmas like nowhere else that your scribe has seen...

This is my town on Monday, December 22.

Merry Christmas for those who celebrate.

Happy Hanukkah, which began at sundown, yesterday, for those who celebrate that.

A belated, joyous Eid al-Adha which started a fortnight ago and ended eleven days ago for those who celebrate that.

Finally, a belated happy Yalda Eve for the Zorastrians (and Parsis) celebrating the birth of Mithra.

And thus endeth the monotheistic recognitions of today. Being Canadian (among others), and a citizen of a country with slightly fewer people than there are gods in the Hindu pantheon, your humble scribe is not about to enter into notes on polytheistic religions' festivals in December. At least not on this Monday...

Your scribe is happy enough with the lit trees and Merry Christmases wished to all in Hong Kong this Monday.

My Town will be pretty bright this Monday night... I can see them from Germany and you can see them from wherever you are...

Image of buildings in Hong Kong lit up for Christmas, at night. Photo taken by Ann Light, used with the permission of the photographer.
I wish the same brightness and light for you and yours, just not the same level of mercantilism, whatever your faith is or is not.

Tschuess with Holiday Greetings,
Chris, Regina, and a now-a-bit-lonely for his parents Pommes who is very happy, however, to have a lovely couple looking after him in Hong Kong.

My Town Monday Post Hosting for
Travis Erwin...

MTM posts in December are co-hosted with

Junosmom takes us to the loveshack and then leads us to the dampness here...

Cloudia takes us to Hanukkah Tigers...

Barbara takes us to back to Seaton Village in Toronto...

Pattinase gives us reasons to visit Detroit...

Chuck takes us on a timely visit to Christmas Kentucky...

Jennifer Jilks ponders traditions at Christmas and how they change...

Debra´s Skilled Hands offer the warmth of her Peninsula...

...more to follow... sorry for the delay, I have just arrived in Germany...

...leave a note telling me that you are up and I will add you to the list...

Sepiru Chris

Friday, December 19, 2008

On the Origin of the Species ...

Image of white cocoons in the trees in the English Garden on the banks of Lake Geneva in Geneva, Switzerland.Dear Gentle Reader,

Your humble scribe flew to Europe the other day.

Your humble scribe flew into Switzerland; into Geneva in particular.

I know that the pilots amongst you would rather that I had said that I "landed in" rather than "flew into".

But, trust me, you were not on this particular flight, or, more importantly, on this particular "landing".

We flew into Switzerland.


I am not sure how Switzerland is doing now; not so well, I think.

I think its a wonder the plane stayed in Switzerland; I was expecting us to skid or skip into France.

Skipping into France, from Geneva's airport, is actually easy because the airport (GVA) straddles France and Switzerland.

It is fairly hard to stay in Switzerland when you are in Geneva. Walk in a straight line, for a couple of kilometers, and end up in France.

If you walk a few kilometres in any of 270 directions from a total possibility of 360 directions (360° returns you to your starting direction), then, voila, you enter France.

Walking in most of the remaining 90° of directions will see you walking into the lake... Canton Geneva extends, like an amoeba's pseudopod, into the side of France, and most of the Swiss portion backs onto Lake Geneva.

The friend who was picking me up at the airport was a bit late, so I headed into town on the train to confuse him and to do some banking and stuff.

(Doing stuff means buying and consuming chocolate and cheese. Voraciously. My belt takes a beating every time I enter Canton Genève... Paradoxically, when I leave, I find myself having to tighten my belt...)

Happily perched on a bench by the lake, sipping hot chocolate and munching on some other chocolates, imagine my surprise at looking up and seeing the white blobs in the trees above my head that I showed at the start of today's post.

Not sure what those blobs are?

Let me give you a closer look...

Close-up image of an egg sac of a Spider of the Apocalypse, found in the English Garden on the banks of Lake Geneva in Geneva, Switzerland.
See those legs in their formative state, coiled springily in those protective cocoons... ...Does that not look like the egg sac of a Spider of the Apocalypse?

It sure does to your scribe.

Imagine my horror.

If you are a newcomer to e-cuneiform scratchings, look up related posts via the keyword "Spiders" to learn more about these beasts that beset me in various lands and the revenge I have recently had on these blighters of the apocalypse...

Upon gathering my wits, both of them, I quickly called my friend who by now was at the airport, looking vainly for me...

"Emyr!" I panicked, "I am not at the airport anymore! Stop searching for me there and come and get me in town! We need to leave soon!"

Sensing my fear, Emyr arrived with alacrity and conducted us both to the safety of his farmhouse in France.

Pillowy blankets of snow covered the ground on top of the mountain where he and his partner live. Snow is good because Spiders of the Apocalypse are not warm-blooded. The cold slows them down.

I, however, spotted the breach in Emyr's defences; the entirely too large chimney...

Never fear, Gentle Reader. Your humble scribe quickly lit a fire and found himself a bottle of wine to empty and have at his side, as a weapon, should a Spider of the Apocalypse attempt to enter though the chimney.

As you can tell, we made it safely through that night. The bottles of wine did not.

Back in Geneva, today and tomorrow, I am on my guard. I will soon be heading out to find more bottles of wine to deaden my fears and any baby Spiders of the Apocalypse who attempt to burst out of their cocoons...

Hopefully I will stay one step ahead of the spiders. I suppose it is better that I now know where the origin of the species, the Spiders of the Apocalypse, is.

Who knew I was this close to destruction when I lived here?

For those of you who live here still, do not be fooled by the sign saying "Festival of Lights" in the trees. Obviously all of the other installations are in fact man-made.

But these egg sacs in the English Garden by Lac Leman (Lake Geneva in English)... ...obviously they are spider made. Obviously this is the Origin of the Species of the Spiders of the Apocalypse... Do not go gentle into that good night, nor into that good wood...

Consider yourself warned...

Chris, Regina, and Pommes who informs me by SMS that he is now happy that he stayed behind in Hong Kong...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Iconic Khmer architecture in Cambodia

Image of Lokesvara faces on towers in the Bayon temple complex in Angkor Thom.Dear Gentle Reader,

Here are the iconic images of what people generally, though incorrectly, call Angkor Wat... the towers with the faces...

The faces incised into the blocks of sandstone are of the compassionate bodhisattva, Avalokitesvara or Lokesvara.

The compassionate bodhisattva has achieved enlightenment, and is therefore able to leave the wheel of life and enter nirvana, but instead the compassionate bodhisattva chooses to stay behind and help unenlightened humans try to find enlightenment, or at least learn how to ease their karmic burden.

These images are from the Bayon complex, inside Angkor Thom.

Angkor Thom is a large complex that includes Angkor Wat, and the Bayon complex, as well as many other temples (Wats). The Bayon complex is the state temple of both Jayavarman the VII and Jayavarman the VIII (reigning from 1181-1220 and 1243-1295 respectively).

Over the course of three reigns, Jayavarman the VII and Jayavarman the VIII with Indravarman II coming in between those two, the Bayon temple complex was significantly changed as different kings had different religious beliefs and different levels of tolerance for religious differences.

Here is an overview of the Bayon complex. In order to get the bulk of the towers into the photo (and in reality there are towers behind the ones you see here) we lose the clarity of details to make out the faces well...

Image of the Bayon temple complex in Angkor Thom.
Most of these towers have the faces carved into them. Most of the faces are carved in each of the four directions. There used to be forty-nine towers; only thirty-seven towers are still standing.

It is still a lot of towers. When walking up, down, through and around the Bayon it is easy to become a bit disoriented. But one look up, or across, at one of the Lokesvara-faced towers is enough to calm your scribe.

Here is a close-up again of two of those towers with a Lokesvara pointing in each of the four cardinal directions...

Image of towers with the Lokesvara pointing in each of the four cardinal directions at the Bayon temple complex in Angkor Thom.
To your scribe and your Heroine, these are the iconic images of Khmer architecture, though they only represent a small portion of the architectural output of the Khmer's and are only found at very few sites.

Chris, Regina, and Pommes

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Does this sign work? What is it saying?

Dear Gentle Reader,

This placard is posted upon numerous walls in Cambodia today.

It is an advertisement for L&M cigarettes.

I just don't get why it is meant to work.

L&M, so hot they burn?

Burns in the hands, not in your mouth?

Singes your belly, burns off his button, if you don't smoke, you're tougher than mutton?

I just do not get how this advertisement is meant to entice me to buy a pack and smoke.

Of course, your scribe is a non-smoker anyway, but I like advertising.

Any suggestions as to why this is meant to work?

Chris, Regina, and Pommes

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Transience and Volatility

Image of the Hang Seng Bank building in Hong Kong.
Dear Gentle Reader,

If you look closely, the building shown in this image is a bank. It is called the Hang Seng Bank.

The Hang Seng Bank was founded in 1933 as a money-changing operation. It is now the second biggest bank in Hong Kong, although its majority owner is HSBC (Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Corporation), an old overseas British bank from the days of mercantilism and colony.

The corners of the Hang Seng Bank building are not.

Not corners that is, or not sharp corners at least.

The corners of the Hang Seng Bank building in Hong Kong are rounded. This is because feng shui (literally wind water) beliefs state that sharp corners are dangerous and bad for business.

Arguably (your scribe is guessing) feng shui practitioners determined, in the past, that because you could not see around a sharp corner it was easy to be ambushed at sharp corners. And ambushes are always bad for business--unless you are the bandit...

So the superstitious board of directors directed round corners for the bank.

When you watch your stock portfolio plunge each day, and they tell you what Asian markets are looking like, you probably hear about the Hang Seng Index. The Hang Seng Index is Hong Kong's version of the Dow Jones Index. Now you know where that index is calculated.

Why do I have this picture here, today?

Yesterday, I mentioned the relative advantage Spain once had.

Spain had huge forests of sea-worthy hardwood timber. The Spanish harvested and converted these forests into vast navies to explore the world.

The Spanish were lucky enough to find lands rich in silver and gold, and sparse in armaments, in the New World.

Spain's last great harvest of trees should have allowed them to invade and conquer England, but their Armada was destroyed by a storm and there were no more trees left in Spain to build a new fleet, not to mention the loss of human life and materiel (and no, that is not a typo) that an army runs upon.

Prior to the Great Armada fiasco, the Spanish had been, pragmatically, the most important nation in Europe.

Due to the phenomenal wealth the Spanish were deriving from the New World, they achieved the remarkable anti-alchemical trick of converting gold to stone. This also led to their downfall.

One glance at the Spanish surplus of grandiose churches and cathedrals, constructed in a very short time, proves this point. For clarity, the oversupply of grand stone churches proves the anti-alchemical trick, not the downfall of Spain--but the fact that at a certain time all new construction and acquisitions ceased does implicitly point to a financial downfall, or at least to a significant shift in fiscal priorities.

In their heyday, when the gold and silver from the New World was pouring in, the Spanish spent faster than their ships full of gold and silver would arrive (once a year) from the New World.

The Fuggers, a wealthy banking family from the Swabian Free City of Augsburg, starting buying up the next year's delivery of the shipments of gold and silver, at a discount, by providing the Spanish crown with massive loans. The Fuggers were also the majority underwriters for the loan that allowed Charles V sufficient funds to secure the votes he needed from the Electors to become the Holy Roman Emperor.

When the shipments of gold and silver from the New World faltered, Spain fell. When there were no more forests to build fleets to go get more gold or silver from the New World, the bankers called in all their loans, and some of the bankers fell too.

Spain went from being a country controlling Europe through its riches, and almost the conqueror of Britain through it forests (the Armada), to a country in ruin.

Spain stayed, relatively speaking, in rags until the English, with rising equity in their houses, came on an Iberian campaign (reenacting their staging grounds from the Peninsular War of 1808-1814) and started buying up the Spanish countryside.

Now that the financial storms have unleashed their turbulent winds, or, more aptly, bagged the zephyrs that drive the sails of commerce, that campaign, the Anglo-Iberian campaign, two centuries later, has foundered as the value of land in Spain has collapsed. What outcome will flow from the current financial distress has yet to be determined.

I mention all of this because something similar happened with the Khmer civilisation.

The Khmers spent much of their wealth, and time, building structures in the middle of a swampy lake, the Tonlé Sap.

As we reviewed Khmer architectural history, in snippets, yesterday, the Khmers went from bricks to laterite to sandstone as the materials of their trade.

Their sandstone was hewn from Mount Kunlun about 60 kilometers away and ferried by raft in the wet season and dragged by elephants in the dry season to the middle of the marshy Tonlé Sap (lake).

There was no stopping the Khmers in their building frenzy until their treasuries were empty, their people unhappy, and the country was unable to defend itself against predations by its neighbours.

The architecture of the Khmer civilisation survived the Khmer collapse because it was so much work to transport the stone to the middle of the swampy lake that it did not seem worthwhile to cart it back out again.

So the architecture, the physical manifestation of culture, wealth, and civilisation, was covered up by the jungle where it remained hidden for centuries.

Image of the jungle taking over the temple complex of Ta Prohm in Cambodia, built in the reign of Jayavarman VII (1181-1220).

Everything is transient. Wealth, power, and glory; all are volatile commodities.

The Khmer temples and palaces of Cambodia have now been uncovered and the tourists flood in, bringing riches to a very poor country.

But even the greatest wealth and power is transient, as Ozymandias discovered, or rather as others (specifically the English poet, Shelley) disovered of Ozymandias...

Ozymandias (by Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1792-1822)

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Your scribe has stood atop the vast and trunkless legs of stone at the mortuary temple of Ramses II, what the French philologist Jean-François Champollion (1790-1832) called the Ramesseum, on the west bank of Thebes in Egypt. Looking at the toes of the ruined statue of the Egyptian Pharoah, Ramses II, was the first time your scribe recognized the transience of fame, power, and glory.

After the collapse of the New World gold and silver trade, and of the Spanish Armada, Spain as a nation was poor. Spain was poor until the recent global housing boom, and the influx of European Union support and fiscal equalisation funds for infrastructure projects made Spain wealthy again. The global housing boom is collapsing and the economy of Spain is following.

Khmer culture and civilisation was famed throughout South East Asia in its time. It collapsed and disappeared into the jungle.

Refound, those Khmer temples that led to collapse now lead to rebirth and prosperity. But for how long?

Maybe it's time to appreciate the now again.

Image of a lake of water lilies in bloom in the Angkor Thom complex in Cambodia.

Chris, Regina, and Pommes

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Khmer civilisation, in stone, in Cambodia

Image of the Cambodian countrysideDear Gentle Reader,

We all come from somewhere, and that somewhere provides each of us with special advantages or challenges.

If you are born in Darfur, you are very likely not reading this. Be born into the British Royal Family, and you have different opportunities and challenges to those of a millwright's son born in Port Huron, Michigan.

As it is with people, so it is with countries.

Spain had huge forests of sea-worthy hardwood timber. They harvested and converted these forests into vast navies. The Spanish were then lucky enough to find lands rich in silver and gold held by people poor in armaments in the New World.

The Khmer people of historical Cambodia were also fortunate.

Cambodia is, largely, very flat as you can see from the picture at the top.

Anyone coming from the Canadian prairies, the American Midwest, the Netherlands, or Northern Germany, would feel at home there. Well, apart from the heat and the humidity. (Pretty much 35°C and 90% humidity for our visit.)

The heart of the Ancient Khmer homeland is modern Cambodia, and it was just as flat then as it is now.

Cambodia has two main rivers, the Mekong River, which snakes through South East Asia, and the Tonlé Sap River. The Tonlé Sap River drains the Tonlé Sap (a large lake) into the Mekong River.

Wait--that's not right...

Half the year the Tonlé Sap River drains the lake into the Mekong River while the other half of the year sees the reverse--the Tonlé Sap River fills the lake with water from the Mekong River...

Because Cambodia is so very flat, when the monsoons, the great seasonal rainstorms, arrive they dump vast quantities of water on the land. But, being flat, the land does not drain well; there is nowhere for the excess water to go.

Brimming with excess water, the lake swells overs its banks and sends water flooding down the Tonlé Sap River.

At the same time, however, the Mekong River takes up the excess water from a much more massive portion of South East Asia, and the Mekong River overflows too... ..the Mekong River overflows up the Tonlé Sap River.

This means that Tonlé Sap, the lake, regularly overflows it length and breadth and becomes four times larger, or more, yearly.

This flooding, caused by water laden with silt flowing with the Mekong River from all of South East Asia, meant that there was phenomenal irrigation and fertilization of the Tonlé Sap on a yearly basis.

This flooding would not be good if you grew wheat or barley, but it is phenomenally valuable for growing rice. Over time, one rice species thrived whose stalk can grow up to 1 meter (3 feet) in one day, to keep up with the pace of flooding in the lake.

Other things that grow well in lakes are fish. And, when the water recedes and the lake becomes smaller and shallower, harvesting those surplus fish is also quite easy.

Image of a fish carved in bas-relief at the Leper King's Pavilion in Angkor Thom
Bas-relief image of Khmer paddlers in a boat, close up on the paddles and the omnipresent fish in the Tonlé Sap
The Khmer people were blessed with a heartland that provided them with not only a constant, substantive diet, but one rich in protein that did not require much work to harvest. This allowed them to focus their activities on other things.

The historical, architectural Khmer kingdom that people come to see in Cambodia essentially started with Jayavarman II, whose reign was from 790 AD to 835 and ended 25 kingships later when Jayavarman Paremesvara took power in 1327.

For the Euro-centrics amongst us, what does the time frame 790 to 1327 cover?

In 790, Emperor Constantine VI was installed as Emperor in Byzantium. The great schism in Christianity is still 264 years away (from 790 AD) but the Council of Nicea is already three years old. The monastery on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne will be sacked by Vikings in three years. The Vikings will then move onto Scotland for the first time the following year and start to pillage Ireland another year later.

OK, what about the end of the Khmer reign?

In 1327, Edward II of England will be deposed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and poor Edward II will, later that year, be murdered in Berkeley Castle. In two years Charlemagne's dynasty will peter out and the House of Valois will start to rule France. In three years Frederick of Austria will die and Louis IV of Bavaria will ascend the throne of the Holy Roman Empire. Most importantly, to your scribe, in 1330, William of Occam will suggest that the simplest solution is best (Occam's Razor).

So, back to Cambodia and to the sodden Khmer people with tons of food due to the annual flooding of their land.

When food is not a problem and your people have wet feet and not so much to do, the simplest solution is to build, apparently.

The Khmer people started a building regime that climaxed with the reign of Suryavarman II from 1113-1150.

There was mud all around the Khmer people, because of the silting from the monsoon-driven flooding. So, initially, the Khmer people took that mud and made bricks which they built temples with.

Image of Prasat Kravan, consecrated in 921 and built in the reign of Harshavarman I (915-923)
They would then carve those bricks to create figures in bas-relief like this figure of the Hindu god Vishnu riding his mount, the magical garuda, half woman, half bird--visually a bit like a harpy from European mythologies.

Bas-relief image of the garuda that Vishnu is riding from the inside of the central room in Prasat Kravan, consecrated in 921 in the Khmer reign of Harshavarman I (915-923).

Image of a laterite wall at the Ta Prohm complex built by King Jayavarman VII (1181-1220).The Khmer also found stone under their feet.

When they dug deep enough, they encountered a spongy stone called laterite. When wet, laterite was soft and malleable. It could be cut like a big slab of peat and slowly lifted out of the sodden ground, or out of a river basin.

Once the water had drained out of the porous laterite, it dried in the sun and became a stone suitable for foundations or for infill for walls. It was far too porous to be sculpted, but was a good base to lie finely carved sandstone upon.

The image above is a wall made of laterite at the Ta Prohm complex built by King Jayavarman VII (1181-1220).

At East Mebon, below, kids played amongst the foundations of the raised temple. Around the laterite blocks are finer sandstone blocks.

Image of kids playing amongst the laterite foundations of East Mebon, consecrated in 953, and built during the reign of Rajendravarman (944-968).
Climbing to the top of East Mebon, built in the reign of King Rajendravarman (944-968), we see, on top of the laterite foundations, brick constructions again.

Image of brick built temple built upon laterite foundations of East Mebon. East Mebon was consecrated in 953, and built during the reign of Rajendravarman (944-968).

Many consider the pinnacle of Khmer architecture to have been created during the reign of Suryavarman II who reigned from 1113-1150. (In this period the Knights of the Hospital of St. John formally resolved to fight for the Holy land and the University of Paris was founded.)

Suryavarman II built structures like Angkor Wat which became a city, a royal palace, and a state temple dedicated to Vishnu, the Preserver among the ruling triumvirate of gods (Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva) of the Hindu pantheon.

At Angkor Wat the laterite foundations are not visible and bricks were not used. Here the foundations are covered and the visible stones are all finely carved sandstone.

This is the heart of the Angkor Wat complex built by Suryavarman II.

image of the central palace and temple of Angkor Wat, built in the reign of Suryavarman II (1113-1150).
It is still visited by monks,

Image of a Buddhist monk sitting under a lintel in Angkor Wat
and nuns,

Image of Buddhist nuns sitting in the courtyard of Angkor Wat
even though they are Buddhist and this temple is dedicated to a Hindu god, Vishnu.

The corridors of Angkor Wat

Image of a monk wandering down one of the corridors at the main temple of Angkor Wat
are famous for their massive depictions of battle scenes and stories.

Image of a battle scene from a corridor in Angkor Wat, image 1 of 3.Image of a battle scene from a corridor in Angkor Wat, image 2 of 3.Image of a battle scene from a corridor in Angkor Wat, image 3 of 3.
And that is all for today. I will be back with more.

I am flying to France today, and my cache of postings was used up by the Cambodia trip, so there may be a brief pause in postings.

Scroll down to see links to other MTM postings for this week.


My Town Monday Postings, this week, are being hosted by myself and by
Junosmom of Lifetime Learning on behalf of Travis Erwin.

As an aside, Pattinase has a first class story published here yesterday... on David Cranmer's e-zine Beat to a Pulp