Canada Slim and the City at the Crossroads

Landschlacht, Switzerland, Saturday 6 July 2019

In previous posts in both my blogs I have written about the quiet majesty and remarkable beauty of the French region known as Alsace.

 

Location of Alsace

 

As evidenced by the post you are reading, I continue to wax poetically about this region, simply because I find myself consistently drawn to exploring it every opportunity I have, even though I no longer live as close to the French border as I once did in the days when I lived in Freiburg im Briesgau, in southwestern Germany’s Black Forest, with my wife.

The easiest, and perhaps inevitable, introduction to Alsace is to first begin your explorations with the departmental capital, Strasbourg, for it is here that not only does the explorer develop a sense of what it means to be Alsatian, French and European, but as well it is here where the visitor finds a sense of what it means to be human, for better and for worse.

This particular travel description will differ from others in that I will not be prefacing it with datelines as I usually have done with other places I have visited, because I have visited Strasbourg on so many occasions that my actual moments stand out less significantly than the overall impression that the city has given me.

This city is one of those places where each visitor must discover and claim Strasbourg as their own in their own personal way.

I have visited Strasbourg on my own without any financial resources.

I have visited Strasbourg alone, with friends, and with my wife, flush with funding.

Each experience was entirely unique and original in itself.

I doubt there will ever be a time when I will ever say that I know Strasbourg, for Strasbourg is like the nearby Rhine….

You can never step into it the same way twice, for that what was of yesterday is a world alien to that of today and what will be tomorrow is unimaginable today.

 

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Strasbourg is situated at the eastern border of France with Germany.

This border is formed by the Rhine, which also forms the eastern border of the modern city, facing across the river to the German town Kehl.

The historic core of Strasbourg however lies on the Grande Île in the river Ill, which here flows parallel to, and roughly 4 kilometres (2.5 miles) from, the Rhine.

The natural courses of the two rivers eventually join some distance downstream of Strasbourg, although several artificial waterways now connect them within the city.

 

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Above: Gare de Strasbourg (rail station)

 

The city lies in the Upper Rhine Plain, at between 132 metres (433 ft) and 151 metres (495 ft) above sea level, with the upland areas of the Vosges Mountains some 20 km (12 mi) to the west and the Black Forest 25 km (16 mi) to the east.

This section of the Rhine valley is a major axis of north–south travel, with river traffic on the Rhine itself, and major roads and railways paralleling it on both banks.

 

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Above: Notre Dame Cathedral, Strasbourg

 

The city is some 397 kilometres (247 mi) east of Paris.

The mouth of the Rhine lies approximately 450 kilometres (280 mi) to the north, or 650 kilometres (400 mi) as the river flows, whilst the head of navigation in Basel, Switzerland, is some 100 kilometres (62 mi) to the south, or 150 kilometres (93 mi) by river.

 

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The city has warm, relatively sunny summers and cool, overcast winters.

Precipitation is elevated from mid-spring to the end of summer, but remains largely constant throughout the year, totaling 631.4 mm (24.9 in) annually.

On average, snow falls 30 days per year.

 

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Above: Palais Rohan, Strasbourg

 

The 2nd highest temperature ever recorded was 38.5 °C (101.3 °F) in August 2003, during the 2003 European heat wave.

This record was recently broken, on 30 June 2019, when it was registered 38.8 °C (101.8 °F).

The lowest temperature ever recorded was −23.4 °C (−10.1 °F) in December 1938.

 

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Strasbourg’s location in the Rhine valley, sheltered from the dominant winds by the Vosges and Black Forest mountains, results in poor natural ventilation, making Strasbourg one of the most atmospherically polluted cities of France.

Nonetheless, the progressive disappearance of heavy industry on both banks of the Rhine, as well as effective measures of traffic regulation in and around the city have reduced air pollution.

 

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Above: Palais du Rhin, Strasbourg

 

Strasbourg is the capital and largest city of the Grand Est region of France and is the official seat of the European Parliament.

Located at the border with Germany in the historic region of Alsace, it is the capital of the Bas-Rhin department.

Strasbourg is the 9th largest metro area in France and home to 13% of the Grand Est region’s inhabitants.

 

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Strasbourg is the seat of over twenty international institutions, most famously of the Council of Europe and of the European Parliament, of which it is the official seat.

Strasbourg is considered the legislative and democratic capital of the European Union, while Brussels is considered the executive and administrative capital and Luxembourg the judiciary and financial capital.

 

Circle of 12 gold stars on a blue background

 

Strasbourg is the seat of the following organisations, among others:

  • Central Commission for Navigation on the Rhine (since 1920)
  • Council of Europe, with all the bodies and organisations affiliated to this institution (since 1949)
  • European Parliament (since 1952)
  • European Ombudsman
  • Eurocorps headquarters,
  • Franco-German television channel Arte
  • European Science Foundation
  • International Institute of Human Rights
  • Human Frontier Science Program
  • International Commission on Civil Status
  • Assembly of European Regions
  • Centre for European Studies (French: Centre d’études européennes de Strasbourg)
  • Sakharov Prize

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Above: Hemisphere, European Parliament, Strasbourg

 

It is the second city in France in terms of international congress and symposia, after Paris.

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Success did not come at the head of a city that had passed almost without transition from a quiet regional capital to a European city.

It has not frantically thrown itself into the hands of promoters for a 21st century concrete facelift, even if its new status as a metropolis in a wider region is now pushing it to develop new neighborhoods, along the Rhine or at the gates of the old city.

It is no coincidence that its historic center, a real big island restored to life by a well-studied traffic plan, from which the car was largely driven out, was the first urban center in France in to be listed by UNESCO as World Heritage.

The former imperial German district Neustadt is also UNESCO-honoured since July 2017.

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Strasbourg is immersed in Franco-German culture and although violently disputed throughout history, has been a cultural bridge between France and Germany for centuries, especially through the University of Strasbourg, currently the second largest in France, and the co-existence of Catholic and Protestant culture.

It is also home to the largest Islamic place of worship in France, the Strasbourg Grand Mosque.

 

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Above: Strasbourg Grand Mosque

 

But do not believe, discovering the impressive number of monuments and neighborhoods waiting for your visit, that it is a city frozen in history that welcomes you.

Strasbourg, which has managed to put at its head women of character as well as skilled men, sailing skillfully between right and left, is a city that has also demonstrated its industrial and commercial dynamism.

Strasbourg proved that it knew how to win:

  • The TGV Est Europe is there, putting Paris at 1h50 from the Alsatian capital
  • The tram has reorganized the entire city center and brought some places to life:

All old Strasbourg is largely pedestrian now, and cyclists reign there as masters.

In short, in addition to its rich architectural heritage, you will discover a city with exceptional quality of life, which has found a rare commodity: silence and singing birds!

And if the sacrosanct winstubs, believed to be eternal, have disappeared for the most part after the retirement of those who made their reputation (they have kept their name but have become tourist restaurants essentially), tea rooms, terraces, trendy places, and even today’s trendy winstubs are opening up neighborhoods that have not been seen before.

 

 

Economically, Strasbourg is an important centre of manufacturing and engineering, as well as a hub of road, rail, and river transportation.

The port of Strasbourg is the 2nd largest on the Rhine after Duisburg in Germany, and the 4th largest river port in France after Nantes, Rouen and Bordeaux.

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Above: The port of Strasbourg

 

Yet despite all of this, Strasbourg rarely receives the admiration and attention that greater-sized metropolises do, especially in popular culture.

 

Musically, Strasbourg is a sidenote.

 

Several compositions have specifically been dedicated to Strasbourg Cathedral by church componists Franz Xaver Richter, Ignaz Pleyel and John Tavener.

 

Above: Notre Dame Cathedral, Strasbourg

 

Strasbourg pie, a dish containing foie gras, is mentioned in the finale of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Cats.

 

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On their 1974 album Hamburger Concerto, Dutch progressive band Focus included a track called “La Cathédrale de Strasbourg“, which included chimes from a cathedral bell.

 

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British punk band The Rakes had a minor hit in 2005 with their song “Strasbourg”, featuring witty lyrics with themes of espionage and vodka and a cleverly inserted count of “eins, zwei, drei, vier” even though Strasbourg’s spoken language is French.

 

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Havergal Brian’s Symphony #7 was inspired by passages in Goethe’s memoirs recalling his time at Strasbourg University.

Brian’s work ends with an orchestral bell sounding the note E, the strike note of the bell of Strasbourg Cathedral.

 

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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart called his 3rd Violin Concerto (1775) the Straßburger Konzert because one of its most prominent motives, is based on a Strasbourg minuet dance that had already appeared as a tune in a symphony by Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf.

 

Above: Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf (1739 – 1799)

 

In literature, Strasbourg is a footnote.

 

A sole chapter, albeit a long one, of Laurence Sterne’s 1767 novel Tristram Shandy, “Slawkenbergius’ Tale” takes place in Strasbourg.

 

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Above: Laurence Sterne (1713 – 1768)

 

(Hafen Slawkenbergius is a fictional writer referenced in Laurence Sterne’s novel Tristram Shandy.

Slawkenbergius was “distinguished by the length of his nose, and a great authority on the subject of noses“.

Sterne gives few biographical details relating to Slawkenbergius, but states that he was German and that he had died over 90 years prior to the writing and publication (in 1761) of the books of Tristram Shandy in which he appears — i.e., circa 1670, although Slawkenbergius’ tale includes a reference to the French annexation of Strasbourg in 1681.

Slawkenbergius is primarily known for his scholarly writings in Neo-Latin, particularly his lengthy monograph De Nasis (“On Noses“), purporting to explain different types of noses and their corresponding significance to human character.

The second book of De Nasis is said to be filled with a large number of short stories illustrative of Slawkenbergius’ characterizations of noses.

Only one of these stories is reproduced in Tristram Shandy.

Slawkenbergius is first referred to in Volume III, Chapter XXXV.

Volume IV opens with the relatively lengthy “Slawkenbergius’s Tale.”

This tale recounts the journey of a courteous gentleman, Diego, who was endowed with a massive nose.

Diego attempts to pass inconspicuously through Strasbourg on his way from the “Promontory of Noses“, but the sight of his giant nose sends the Strassburgers, especially the nuns, into a restless frenzy.

The tale relays the results of the upset in Strassburg and the travels of Diego to his admirer Julia.)

 

 

A solitary episode of Matthew Gregory Lewis’ 1796 novel The Monk takes place in the forests that once surrounded Strasbourg.

 

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(Baptiste is a robber living outside of Strasbourg.

He lets travellers stay in his house so that he may rob and murder them.

His two sons by a previous wife, Jacques and Robert, assist him to this end.

He then forced Marguerite to marry him.

Marguerite, however, is disgusted by his life of crime.

Marguerite is first introduced as a short and unwilling hostess and wife of Baptiste.

Her first husband dies after receiving wounds from an English traveller.

The group of banditti do not trust Marguerite to keep their secret and she becomes the property of Baptiste.

She has two sons, Theodore and a younger unnamed boy.

She saves Don Raymond’s life by revealing Baptiste’s true intentions through mysterious bloody sheets and significant glances.

She stabs and kills Baptiste as Don Raymond tries to strangle him, allowing them both to escape.

Don Raymond is the son of the Marquis and is also known as Alphonso d’Alvarada.

He takes the name Alphonso when his friend, the Duke of Villa Hermosa, advises him that taking a new name will allow him to be known for his merits rather than his rank.

He travels to Paris, but finds the Parisians “frivolous, unfeeling and insincereand sets out for Germany.

Near Strasbourg he is forced to seek accommodations in a cottage after his chaise supposedly breaks down.

He is the target of the robber Baptiste but with help from Marguerite, he is able to save himself and the Baroness Lindenberg.

Grateful, the Baroness invites Don Raymond to stay with her and her husband at their castle in Bavaria.)

 

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Above: The Monk (2011 French film)

 

Sadly, these are books rarely read today by our generation of techno tots.

 

In film, Strasbourg is merely backdrop.

 

The opening scences of the 1977 Ridley Scott film The Duellists take place in Strasbourg in 1800.

 

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(Fervent Bonapartist and obsessive duellist Lieutenant Gabriel Feraud (Harvey Keitel) of the French 7th Hussars, nearly kills the nephew of the city’s mayor in a sword duel.

Under pressure from the mayor, Brigadier-General Treillard (Robert Stephens) sends a member of his staff, Lieutenant Armand d’Hubert (Keith Carradine) of the 3rd Hussars, to put Feraud under house arrest.

As the arrest takes place in the house of Madame de Lionne (Jenny Runacre), a prominent local lady, Feraud takes it as a personal insult from d’Hubert.

Matters are made worse when Feraud asks d’Hubert if he would “let them spit on Napoleon” and d’Hubert doesn’t immediately reply.

Upon reaching his quarters, Feraud challenges d’Hubert to a duel.

The duel is inconclusive.

d’Hubert slashes Feraud’s forearm but is unable to finish him off, because he is attacked by Feraud’s mistress.

As a result of his part in the duel, d’Hubert is dismissed from the General’s staff and returned to active duty with his unit.

The war interrupts the men’s quarrel and they do not meet again until six months later in Augsburg in 1801.)

 

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The 2007 Spanish film In the City of Sylvia is set in Strasbourg.

 

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(In the City of Sylvia (Spanish: En la Ciudad de Sylvia) is a 2007 film directed by José Luis Guerín.

The film follows a young man credited only as ‘Él‘ (English:’Him‘) as he wanders central Strasbourg in search of Sylvia, a woman he asked for directions in a bar six years earlier.

 

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Guerín, born in Barcelona, is a prolific and original documentary filmmaker who has made only a handful of fiction features, averaging one per decade.

He is often characterized as “inquisitive”, is never seen without a flat cap tucked over his forehead, and is fascinated with silent film, meta-fictional conceits, journals, and the relationship between person, place, and memory.

 

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Sylvia may represent a real person from Guerín’s past (like his experimental companion piece, Some Photos In The City Of Sylvia) or she could be someone he made up, a purely rhetorical figure.

She is the girl with the white parasol remembered by Bernstein in Citizen Kane, a movie that’s all about the way fleeting moments stick like splinters in memory.

(“Rosebud”)

 

Poster showing two women in the bottom left of the picture looking up towards a man in a white suit in the top right of the picture. "Everybody's talking about it. It's terrific!" appears in the top right of the picture. "Orson Welles" appears in block letters between the women and the man in the white suit. "Citizen Kane" appears in red and yellow block letters tipped 60° to the right. The remaining credits are listed in fine print in the bottom right.

 

Or she is Madeleine, Vertigo’s woman that never was.

 

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José Luis Guerín’s 2007 film In The City Of Sylvia doesn’t have much plot beyond what’s implied in the title.

An unnamed young man (French actor Xavier Lafitte) is visiting Strasbourg, a picturesque city just off the border between France and Germany.

He remembers a woman named Sylvia or Sylvie, whom he met very briefly at a bar called Les Aviateurs while visiting Strasbourg six years earlier.

She drew him a map on a beer coaster.

Perhaps he hopes to run into her again.

The movie is broken up into chapters (identified as “1st night“, “2nd night” and so on), which presumably correspond to the length of the young man’s stay in Strasbourg, during which he doesn’t appear to do anything except look, draw, and – in a series of scenes that takes up a third of the film – follow a woman that he may think is Sylvia or Sylvie.

It’s something of a masterpiece, filled with beguiling intangibles and apparent contradictions.

Part of what makes the film so elemental is the way it uses elementary techniques, be it close-ups, reverse angles or natural light.

There is nothing fancy about it, but, as is often the case, the simplest steps lead to the most sophisticated results, building to the crescendo of the final sequence, in which glimpses of strangers at a Strasbourg tram stop – alone or in groups – suggest a world of mystery, possibility and unacknowledged beauty.

Guérin romanticizes looking, by taking something completely mundane and, by breaking it down on film, makes it seem extraordinary.)

 

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The opening scene of the 2011 movie Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows covers an assassination bombing inside Strasbourg Cathedral.

 

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(“The year was 1891.

Storm clouds were brewing over Europe.

France and Germany were at each other’s throats, the result of a series of bombings.

Some said it was nationalists, others the anarchists, but as usual my friend Sherlock Holmes had a different theory altogether.

Strasbourg bombing.  Read all about it.  Anarchists suspected in Strasbourg bombing.”)

 

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Before the 5th century, the city was known as the Roman camp of Argantorati, first mentioned in 12 BC.

That Gaulish name is a compound of -rati, the Gaulish word for fortified enclosures, and arganto(n)-  the Gaulish word for silver, but also any precious metal, particularly gold, suggesting either a fortified enclosure located by a river gold mining site, or hoarding gold mined in the nearby rivers.

 

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After the 5th century, the city became known by a completely different name Gallicized as Strasbourg (Lower Alsatian: Strossburi; German: Straßburg).

That name is of Germanic origin and means “town at the crossing of roads“.

Gregory of Tours was the first to mention the name change:

In the 10th book of his History of the Franks, written shortly after 590, he said that Egidius, Bishop of Reims, accused of plotting against King Childebert II of Austrasia in favor of his uncle King Chilperic I of Neustria, was tried by a synod of Austrasian bishops in Metz in November 590, found guilty and removed from the priesthood, then taken “ad Argentoratensem urbem, quam nunc Strateburgum vocant” (“to the city of Argentoratum, which they now call Strateburgus“), where he was exiled.

 

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Above: Statue of Gregory of Tours (538 – 594), Louvre Museum, Paris

 

Strasbourg celebrated its 2,000th anniversary in 1988.

 

Between 362 and 1262, Strasbourg was governed by the bishops of Strasbourg.

Their rule was reinforced in 873 and then more in 982.

In 1262, the citizens violently rebelled against the bishop’s rule (Battle of Hausbergen) and Strasbourg became a free imperial city.

 

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Above: Battle of Hausbergen, 8 March 1262

 

It became a French city in 1681, after the conquest of Alsace by the armies of Louis XIV.

 

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Above: King Louis XIV of France (1638 – 1715)

 

(Marguerite LePaistour was born in 1720 in Cancale.

Hated by her stepmother, she rebels against her family, runs away, and to go unnoticed, dresses as a man.

Under the name of Henri, she became a servant, soldier, and executioner in Strasbourg and Lyon.

Unmasked, she ends up behind bars, gets married on leaving prison.

And everything returns to normal!)

 

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In 1871, after the Franco-Prussian War, the city became German again, until 1918 (end of World War I), when it reverted to France.

After the defeat of France in 1940 (World War II), Strasbourg came under German control again.

Since the end of 1944, it is again a French city.

In 2016, Strasbourg was promoted from capital of Alsace to capital of Grand Est.

 

 

Strasbourg played an important part in Protestant Reformation, but also in other aspects of Christianity, such as German mysticism, Pietism, and Reverence for Life.

Delegates from the city took part in the Protestation at Speyer.

 

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Above: Martin Luther’s Ninety-five Theses that sparked the Reformation

 

It was also one of the first centres of the printing industry.

 

 

(Johannes Gutenberg, fleeing Mainz for political reasons, took refuge in Strasbourg and there developed his brilliant invention, but in developing the printing press, he went bankrupt.

And yet it was the most important invention of the time.

It must be said that Bibles of 1,200 pages were complex to manufacture and complicated to sell.

And yet, today, they are worth more than $30 million each!

He must be spinning in his grave.)

 

Above: Place Gutenberg, Strasbourg

 

Among the darkest periods in the city’s long history were the years 1349 (Strasbourg massacre), 1793 (Reign of Terror), 1870 (Siege of Strasbourg) and the years 1940–1944 with the Nazi occupation (atrocities such as the Jewish skeleton collection) and the British and American bombing raids.

 

Above: The Strasbourg Massacre

 

The Strasbourg massacre occurred on 14 February 1349, when several hundred Jews were publicly burnt to death, and the rest of them expelled from the city as part of the Black Death persecutions.

It was one of the first and worst pogroms in pre-modern history.

 

 

The Reign of Terror, or The Terror (French: la Terreur), refers to a period during the French Revolution after the First French Republic was established.

Several historians consider the “reign of terror” to have begun in 1793, placing the starting date at either 5 September, June or March (birth of the Revolutionary Tribunal), while some consider it to have begun in September 1792 (September Massacres), or even July 1789 (when the first lynchings took place), but there is a consensus that it ended with the fall of Maximilien Robespierre in July 1794.

Between June 1793 and the end of July 1794, there were 16,594 official death sentences in France, of which 2,639 were in Paris.

 

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Above: Siege of Strasbourg (14 August to 28 September 1870), Franco-Prussian War

 

(During the siege of Strasbourg in 1870, the Prussian authorities allowed the wounded to communicate with their family, provided that the writings were readable by censorship, therefore without envelope.

Thus, no military secret could be disclosed.

The postcard was born.)

 

Above: Bombardment of Notre Dame, Siege of Strasbourg

 

Above: Plaque in memorium of the 86 victims of the Jewish Skeleton Collection, Université de Strasbourg

 

Some other notable dates were the years 357 (Battle of Argentoratum), 842 (Oaths of Strasbourg), 1538 (establishment of the university), 1605 (world’s first newspaper), 1792 (La Marseillaise), and 1889 (the discovery of the pancreatic origin of diabetes).

 

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Above: The Oaths of Strasbourg

 

Above: The world’s first newspaper, Relation aller Fürnemmen und gedenkwürdigen Historien (Account of all distinguished and commendable news), published by Johann Carolus (1575 – 1634), Strasbourg

 

Above: Rouget de Lisle sings “La Marseillaise” for the first time at the home of Strasbourg Mayor Philippe-Frédéric de Dietrich, 25 April 1792

 

(It is said that Rouget de Lisle imagined the national anthem in a single night in Strasbourg.

Not so complicated, when we see strange similarities with “Esther“, an oratorio of a certain Grisons, composer in Saint Omer.

Note for note.

To listen on the Internet is edifying.

It must be said that Rouget de Lisle was captain of the garrison at Saint Omer.

Well, well.

No wonder he composed “La Marseillaise” in one night!)

 

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Above: Marseillaise volunteers, Arc de Triomphe, Paris

 


Strasbourg was also the home of a bizarre epidemic, the Dancing Plague of 1518, where hundreds of citizens danced for several days, some even dying of exhaustion.

 

Above: The Dancing Plague of 1518

 

The dancing plague (or dance epidemic) of 1518 was a case of dancing mania that occurred in Strasbourg in July 1518.

Around 400 people took to dancing for days without rest and, over the period of about one month, some of those affected collapsed or even died of heart attack, stroke, or exhaustion.

 

Strasbourg has been the seat of European institutions since 1949: first of the International Commission on Civil Status and of the Council of Europe, later of the European Parliament, of the European Science Foundation, of Eurocorps, and others as well.

 

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Those are the facts.

They speak little of beguiling intangibles and apparent contradictions.

They do not offer glimpses of this strange world of mystery, possibility and unacknowledged beauty.

They offer no romance and no hint of the extraordinary connection between people, places and memories.

 

City with many faces – the often strained phrase really hits the spot here.

In the center of the Alsatian capital, the majestic Gothic cathedral towers like a memorial of permanence in the sky, surrounded by medieval romantic slices, and not far away, ultramodern glass palaces testify to the spirit of the 21st century.

In the vibrant economic center with a cozy Winstub flair – a bit of a metropolis, a bit of a small town – enjoyable Alsatian ways of life complement well with cosmopolitan European government institutions and German neatness with French esprit.

If you walk through the streets of the old town, it seems hard to imagine that in the Greater Strasbourg area live about 470,000 people.

 

 

In addition, there are numerous guests, such as the MEPs, who come to town once a month, like locusts, and disappear just as quickly after a week.

During the parliamentary sessions, many hotels are fully booked, taxis are constantly on the move, and there is hardly any free space in the better restaurants.

The presence of these institutions, rich with well-off elected officials and their collaborators who are not less, represents a sacred manna for the city.

In some sectors, real estate prices rival those of the beautiful Parisian or Nicois neighborhoods.

The economic difficulties that the new Europe is experiencing daily have brought the city to more humility in recent years.

Even if it is more than difficult to stay here during the parliamentary sessions (it is then necessary to push up to Kochersberg), one can find accommodation at reasonable prices, especially if one knows how to play specials at certain periods.

 

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Above: Logo of the European Parliament

 

As a long-term guest one can designate the overwhelming majority of nearly 50,000 students enrolled at the various colleges of the city.

In the cafés and pubs they prefer, there is the typical atmosphere of a university town.

 

 

Important guests for Strasbourg are, of course, the tourists who visit the city in large numbers – far more than four million a year.

To seduce a public who, more and more numerous, come here for a weekend in love or a few days with family, Strasbourg has no shortage of assets, winter and summer, by the way.

From traditional markets to the ever-popular Christmas market through the Musica festival, Strasbourg knows how to charm you.

And they are offered something truly extraordinary:

The picturesque Old Town island enclosed by the Ill, a unique district of Wilhelmine monumental buildings, the European Mile, a large number of important museums, just to name a few worth mentioning.

All sights are comparatively close to each other and are within walking distance.

In addition, there are some other ways of exploring the city by boat, a ticket, even by taxi or – very sporty – by bike.

And of course you can take a pleasant break: romantic on the banks of the Ill, in beautiful squares, in lively street cafes, quaint Winstubs or fine gourmet restaurants.

They are places of rest welcome between two visits of museums or churches, a walk on the quays or in the parks.

Strasbourg can be visited, it will never be said enough, first on foot, nose in the air, at one’s own pace.

Even in the evening, there is no boredom.

Various theaters, the opera, bars full of variety, music bars and discos provide entertainment.

 

 

Strasbourg also includes tens of thousands of people from the former French colonies in Africa.

Only a few of them are guests, most of them now own a French passport, their descendants have already been born in Strasbourg.

The visitor will usually encounter only a few of them as dealers near the tourist attractions.

Most live in run-down suburban neighborhoods, e.g. in Neuhof or in Elsau, where the social problems have led to more violence for years – this too is one of the many facets of the Alsatian capital.

 

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Strasbourg is a unique destination filled with special eccentricities.

Take the Cathedral for example.

Unique in France, the building became Protestant in 1529, and was so until 1681, when Louis XIV took Strasbourg.

Even today, ecumenical services are held regularly in the Saint-Laurent Chapel (entrance, left side).

On this occasion, Protestants and Catholics pray together.

 

Above: Rose window, Notre Dame Cathedral, Strasbourg

 

There is so much to see and do in Strasbourg that one blogpost will not suffice.

Among the variety are:

  • Strasbourg Cathedral
  • Notre Dame Museum
  • Pharmacie du Cerf
  • Kammerzell House
  • Place du Marché aux Cochons de Lait
  • Chateau Rohan
  • Museum of Decorative Arts
  • Archaeological Museum
  • Place de l’Homme de Fer
  • Place Kléber
  • Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art
  • Place Gutenberg
  • St. Thomas Church
  • Petite France
  • Rhine Palace
  • St. Paul’s Church
  • The Council of Europe
  • Human Rights Building
  • Palais de l’Europe
  • Parliamentary Assembly
  • Museum of Fine Arts
  • Museum of Engraving and Drawing
  • Tomi Ungerer International Centre of Illustration
  • Le Vaisseau Science and Technology Centre
  • The Rhine Navigation Museum
  • The Strasbourg Bar Association Museum
  • The Zoological Museum
  • The Gypsothéque / Adolf Michaelis Museum
  • Museum of Seismology and Magnetism
  • Pasteur Museum of Medical Curiosities
  • Mineralogy Museum
  • Egyptology Museum
  • The Star Crypt
  • The Museum of Chocolate Secrets
  • The Pixel Museum

 

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Above: Strasbourg Observatory

 

Europe’s Crossroads lies at the very heart of western Europe, closer to Frankfurt, Zürich and Milan than it is to Paris.

Strasbourg is the seat of internationally renowned institutions of music and drama.

 

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It also has a long history of excellence in higher education at the crossroads of French and German intellectual traditions.

The University has attracted eminent students such as Goethe, Metternich and Montgelas.

Its people have been awarded 19 Nobel prizes, thus making Strasbourg University the most eminent French university outside Paris.

The Université de Strasbourg includes:

  • The IEP (Institut d’études politiques de Strasbourg), the University of Strasbourg’s political science & international studies center.
  • The EMS (École de management Strasbourg), the University of Strasbourg’s Business School.
  • The INSA (Institut national des sciences appliquées), the University of Strasbourg’s Engineering School.
  • The ENA (École nationale d’administration). ENA trains most of the nation’s high-ranking civil servants. The relocation to Strasbourg was meant to give a European vocation to the school and to implement the French government’s “décentralisation” plan.
  • The ESAD (École supérieure des arts décoratifs) is an art school of European reputation.
  • The ISEG Group (Institut supérieur européen de gestion group).
  • The ISU (International Space University) is located in the south of Strasbourg (Illkirch-Graffenstaden).
  • The ECPM (École européenne de chimie, polymères et matériaux).
  • The EPITA (École pour l’informatique et les techniques avancées).
  • The EPITECH (École pour l’informatique et les nouvelles technologies).
  • The INET (Institut national des études territoriales).
  • The IIEF (Institut international d’études françaises).
  • The ENGEES (École nationale du génie de l’eau et de l’environnement de Strasbourg).
  • The CUEJ (Centre universitaire d’enseignement du journalisme).
  • TÉLÉCOM Physique Strasbourg,(École nationale supérieure de physique de Strasbourg), Institute of Technology, located in the south of Strasbourg (Illkirch-Graffenstaden).

 

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The Bibliothèque nationale et universitaire (BNU) is, with its collection of more than 3,000,000 titles, the 2nd largest library in France after the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

It was founded by the German administration after the complete destruction of the previous municipal library in 1871 and holds the unique status of being simultaneously both a student and a national library.

 

Above: The BNU, Strasbourg

 

The municipal library Bibliothèque municipale de Strasbourg (BMS) administrates a network of ten medium-sized librairies in different areas of the town.

A six stories high “Grande bibliothèque“, the Médiathèque André Malraux, was inaugurated on 19 September 2008 and is considered the largest in Eastern France.

 

 

As one of the earliest centers of book-printing in Europe, Strasbourg for a long time held a large number of incunabula – documents printed before 1500 – in its library as one of its most precious heritages.

After the total destruction of this institution in 1870, however, a new collection had to be reassembled from scratch.

 

Above: The Nuremburg Chronicle incunabula, 1493

 

Today, Strasbourg’s different public and institutional libraries again display a sizable total number of incunabula, distributed as follows:

  • Bibliothèque nationale et universitaire
  • Médiathèque de la ville et de la communauté urbaine de Strasbourg
  • Bibliothèque du Grand Séminaire
  • Médiathèque protestante
  • Bibliothèque alsatique du Crédit Mutuel
There is a great longing within me to have you, gentle readers, discover this city for yourselves.
I want you to feel as I have felt and understand as I have understood why Strasbourg once experienced compels a person to want to return.
There are places to explore and tales to be told.
We shall return…..
Sources: 
- Wikipedia
- Google
- The Rough Guide to France 
- Antje and Gunther Schwab, Elsass 
- Le Routard Alsace (Grand-Est) 
- Marie-Christine Périllon, Alsace 
- Michèle-Caroline Heck, The Golden Book of Alsace 
- Patrick Schwertz, Alsace: 100 lieux pour les curieux
- Ignatiy Vishevetsky, "An overlooked masterpiece about looking", The AV Club, 22 March 2016

 

Canada Slim and the Swedish Pinot

Landschlacht, Switzerland, 20 April 2019

The Norwegians find them insufferably puffed up.

The Danes consider them to be party poopers.

The Brits see them as sexy but cold.

The Americans think they are Swiss!

 

Flag of Sweden

Above: Flag of Sweden

 

Author Sven Linquist summed it up thus:

The Swedes look at the world through a square frame nailed together by Martin Luther, Gustav Vasa (the founder of the Swedish state), the Temperance Movement and 100 years of socialism.

Luther contributed the Swedish taste for simplicity.

Vasa gave the Swedes a national identity.

The Temperance Movement gave rise to the Swedish tendency to be sanctimonious.

Socialism gave the Swedes a mentality of work as necessary but not everything.

 

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Foreigners living in Sweden find the natives socially impenetrable, as neighbours mind their own business and colleagues go straight home after work.

The Swedes themselves don’t actually dislike any nation in particular, because they are quietly confident in Swedish superiority.

Foreigners are good news, because with their funny faces and horrific habits they remind Swedes how wonderful it is to be Swedish and normal.

 

 

I have vacationed in Sweden with my wife and I have worked with a Swede in Switzerland and I find very little that is objectionable about the Swedes.

I find them less puffed up than Parisians, more party hardy than my fellow Canadians, as sexy as teenage voyeurism once suggested but not tempting enough to test my marriage vows, and I see in them more similarities with their Scandinavian neighbours than they would care to admit.

 

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Simple?

Maybe the architecture and IKEA furniture is, but a Swedish woman is no less and no more complicated than her international counterparts.

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Patriotic?

Certainly, they are not more patriotic than Canadians or Swiss.

Though they display their national flag everywhere as the Americans do theirs, the Swedish are far more secure in their superiority than the Americans are.

 

The Swedes don’t need to boast.

They simply and quietly know their own value.

 

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Above: The coat of arms of Sweden

 

Sanctimonious?

Perhaps the women are, for the Swedes believe that they are the first in the world to achieve total equality between the sexes, thus a man who isn’t taciturn and submissive is a threat to that uneasy balance between the sexes.

I feel that in the quest to be emancipated the Swedish female feels threatened if the male requests the same.

Only a woman dares tell a man how wrong he is.

A man dares not do the same to her without serious conflict and consequence.

 

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As for the work ethic, I can only say that the Sweet Suede that I once worked with was a hardy and competent and well-respected worker beloved by both staff and customers.

 

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I never thought that I would even think about Sweden and Swedish women during my visit to the Alsace Wine Route.

I was wrong.

 

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Alsace, France, 2 January 2019

Alsace is the smallest region in France as regards area, but the most highly populated as regards density.

Alsace has 1,734,000 inhabitants – 209 inhabitants per square kilometre, whereas the average number of inhabitants per square kilometre in Metropolitan France is 108.

This is by no means the only peculiarity of this region….

 

Location of Alsace

 

Officially the Alsace Wine Route is broken into two sections: the one most folks travel and the northern section most don’t.

The northern section begins in the town of Wissembourg.

 

Wissembourg 3.JPG

 

I have written about Wissembourg before.

A monastery town and former garrison, Wissembourg offers numerous attractions such as the Abbey Church of St. Peter and St. Paul with its gigantic representation of St. Christopher, the Fritz House built in 1550, and the Bruch – the town’s old quarter.

 

 

(Please see Canada Slim and the Burning King of my other blog Building Everest for more on Wissembourg.  https://buildingeverest.wordpress.com)

 

Far away from the traditional half of the famous Alsatian wine route between Marlenheim and Thann, quite competitive wine is also being produced near Wissembourg at the base of the first foothills of the northern Vosges in heavy, fat clay soil.

 

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Viticulture here has a long tradition.

Introduced by the roamin’ Romans, later promoted by the monks of Wissembourg, today 200 sideline wine makers cultivate some 175 hectares of all sorts of grape varieties like Graubünden, Pinot Blanc and Gewürztraminer, from the five villages of Rott, Oberhoffen, Steinseltz, Riedseltz and Cleebourg.

 

 

Private wine sales are not common as the wine makers deliver almost all of their grapes to the Cleebourg Wine Cooperative which wine lovers should not miss.

 

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In the lovely hilly countryside around the five villages with their vineyards and numerous fruit trees you can also go for a walk and then stop in at the Ferme Auberge Moulin des 7 Fontaines (Mill of the Seven Fountains) in the area – a particularly beautiful place.

 

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A 47 minute, 3.5 kilometre stroll south west of Wissembourg finds the pedestrian in the village of Rott (population: 473) where one finds a barrel that the enterprising Mayor Louis Andres Rott turned into a bar, engraved with the worthy maxim:

If you drink, you die.

If you don’t drink you die, so….

 

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Above: Rott, Alsace, France

 

Rott is one of 50 Alsatian communities with a simultaneum (or shared church) with different Christian denominations meeting at different times and presided over by different clergy.

Above the village on the Col de Pigeonnier stands the electric tower, the Émetteur de l’Eselsberg.

 

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The Cleebourg vineyard is at the northernmost point of the Alsatian winemaking area and covers all its communes as well as Wissembourg, the main town in the canton.

The vineyard stretches from Rott, with its belfry / clock tower overlooking the cemetery that doubled as a defensive hideout in the 18th century, to Riedseltz on the banks of the Rhine.

Planted mainly with hybrids or fallen into disuse until the end of the Second World War, the vines were uprooted and the vineyards replanted with the now-famous classic Alsace varieties since the 1950s.

The local wine producers belong to the Cleebourg cooperative, which has an excellent reputation for all things Pinot, including a blanc de blanc crémant, the Prince Casimir.

 

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Follow the signs of the small rural routes to the village of Oberhoffen lès Wissembourg.

With about 300 inhabitants, Oberhoffen-lès-Wissembourg is one of the smallest communes in the community of communes whose main resource comes from the communal forest.

 

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Orchards and vineyards surround the village.

The vines that contribute to the development of the Karschweg, the Pinot gris (formerly Tokay pinot gris) local vinified by the Cleebourg cooperative cellar.

 

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The discovery of the village can also be done by taking the tree path that crosses the town.

 

Located at the foot of the Vosges hills, Oberhoffen-lès-Wissembourg was first attached to the bailiwick of Cleebourg, then passed under the influence of Puller de Hohenbourg to finish as the Duchy of Deux-Ponts where it will remain until the revolution.

It was not until 1927 that the town became known as Oberhoffen-lès-Wissembourg because of its geographical proximity to Wissembourg.

 

 

Close by is the equally small village of Steinseltz by the River Hausauerbach in the region known as Outre-Forêt (“beyond the forest“).

 

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The origin of the history of Steinseltz is closely linked to that of the Abbey of Wissembourg, founded in the 8th century by the monk Dagobert of Speyer.

Locals still bear witness to this distant time like that of Auf der Hub.

A hub was a plot of land rented by the convent to private individuals against a well-defined tenancy.

In 1401, after the decline of the Abbey of Wissembourg, the lords of Hohenbourg, seized the village as well as those of Cleebourg, Oberhoffen-lès-Wissembourg and Rott.

His successor Wirich II built Castle Cleebourg in 1412.

 

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In 1475, Wirich III allied with Duke Louis de Deux-Ponts against the Elector Palatine Frédéric.

Victorious, the latter annexed the village of Steinseltz.

 

In 1504, Maximilian of Habsburg attributed the village of Steinseltz to the Duchy of Zweibrücken, which thus exercised a right of collation.

They integrated Steinseltz to the Bailiwick of Cleebourg, which they held until the Revolution.

 

On 4 August 1870, the Imperial Prince Frederick William went to the locality of Schafbusch to bow before the remains of Abel Douay.

 

In Steinseltz, every August in odd years, there is a feast in honor of the geranium, a symbol of Alsace.

 

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At the heart of the village, Ferme Burger welcomes, every first Wednesday of the month, a market of local and organic products.

There are food products (breads, vegetables, fruits, oils, chocolate, honey) as well as aesthetic products such as essential oils, soaps or herbs.

 

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And Steinseltz produced Marie….

 

Marie (Trautmann) Jaëll (17 August 1846 – 4 February 1925) was a French pianist, composer and pedagogue.

 

 

Marie Jaëll composed pieces for piano, concertos, quartets, and others.

She dedicated her cello concerto to Jules Delsart and was the first pianist to perform all the piano sonatas of Beethoven in Paris.

She did scientific studies of hand techniques in piano playing and attempted to replace traditional drilling with systematic piano methods.

Her students included Albert Schweitzer, who studied with her while also studying organ with Charles-Marie Widor in 1898-99.

Her father was the mayor of Steinseltz in Alsace and her mother was a lover of the arts.

 

She began piano studies at the age of six and by seven, she was studying under piano pedagogues F.B. Hamma and Ignaz Moscheles in Stuttgart.

Marie’s mother served as her advocate and manager.

A year after she began lessons with Hamma and Moscheles, she gave concerts in Germany and Switzerland.

In 1856, the ten-year-old Marie was introduced to the piano teacher Heinrich Herz at the Paris Conservatory.

 

 

After just four months as an official student at the Conservatory, she won the First Prize of Piano.

Her performances were recognized by the public and local newspapers.

 

The Revue et gazette musicale printed a review on 27 July 1862 that read: “She marked the piece with the seal of her individual nature.

Her higher mechanism, her beautiful style, her play deliciously moderate, with an irreproachable purity, an exquisite taste, a lofty elegance, constantly filled the audience with wonder.

 

On August 9, 1866, at twenty years of age, Marie married the Austrian concert pianist, Alfred Jaëll.

 

Above: Alfred Jaell (1832 – 1882)

 

She was then known variously as Marie Trautmann, Marie Jaëll, Marie Jaëll Trautmann or Marie Trautmann Jaëll.

Alfred was fifteen years older than Marie and had been a student of Chopin.

The husband and wife team performed popular pieces, duos, solos, and compositions of their own throughout Europe and Russia.

As a pianist, Marie specialized in the music of Schumann, Liszt, and Beethoven.

They transcribed Beethoven’s “Marcia alla Turca Athens Ruins” for piano.

The score was successfully published in 1872.

Alfred was able to use his success and fame to help Marie meet with various composers and performers throughout their travels.

 

In 1868, Marie met the composer and pianist Franz Liszt.

A record of Liszt’s comments about Marie survives in an article published in the American Record Guide:

Marie Jaëll has the brains of a philosopher and the fingers of an artist.

Liszt introduced Marie to other great composers and performers of the day—for example, Johannes Brahms and Anton Rubinstein.

 

By 1871, Marie’s compositions began to be published.

With the death of her husband in 1881, Marie had the opportunity to study with Liszt in Weimar and with Camille Saint-Saëns and César Franck in Paris.

She also had composition lessons with César Franck and Camille Saint-Saëns, who dedicated his Piano Concerto No. 1 and the Étude en forme de valse to her.

Saint-Saëns thought highly enough of Marie to introduce her to the Society of Music Composers—a great honor for women in those days.

 

After struggling with tendonitis, Jaëll began to study neuroscience.

The strain on her playing and performing led her to research physiology.

Jaëll studied a wide variety of subjects pertaining to the functioning of the body and also ventured into psychology:

She wanted to combine the emotional and spiritual act of creating beautiful music with the physiological aspects of tactile, additive, and visual sensory.

Dr. Charles Féré assisted Jaëll in her research of physiology.

 

Her studies included how music affects the connection between mind and body, as well as how to apply this knowledge to intelligence and sensitivity in teaching music.

 

Liszt’s music had such a tremendous influence on Jaëll that she sought to gain as much insight into his methods and techniques as possible.

 

This research and study lead to Jaëll creating her own teaching method based on her findings.

Jaëll’s teaching method was known as the ‘Jaëll Method‘.

Her method was created through a process of trial and error with herself and her students.

Jaëll’s goal was for her students to feel a deep connection to the piano.

An eleven-book series on piano technique resulted from her research and experience.

Piano pedagogues have since drawn insight into teaching techniques of the hand from her method and books.

In fact, her method is still in use today.

As a result of her studies, Jaëll was able to compile her extensive research into a technique book entitled L’intelligence et le rythme dans les mouvements artistiques.

This text is used by pianists and piano pedagogues as a reference, specifically with hand position and playing techniques.

She died in Paris.

 

 

Walk out of Jaell’s Steinseltz and head west and then south following signposts to Cleebourg.

Cleebourg is a quiet village, with some half-timbered winemakers’ houses built on sandstone bedrock.

Cleebourg’s vineyards are the northernmost point of the Wine Route and though they are planted with the classic varieties, Pinot Gris is indisputably the most successful wine made here.

The grapes, grown on a rocky volcanic soil, produce crisp wine with a characteristically smoky aroma with lily undertones.

Cleebourg used to belong to the Palatin Zweibrückens, but a curious love story in the 17th century brought it under the Swedish crown….

 

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John Casimir, Count Palatine of Zweibrücken-Kleeburg (1589 – 1652) was the son of John I, Count Palatine of Zweibrücken and his wife, Duchess Magdalene of Jülich-Cleves-Berg and was the founder of a branch of Wittelsbach Counts Palatine often called the Swedish line, because it gave rise to three subsequent kings of Sweden, but more commonly known as the Kleeburg (or Cleebourg) line.

 

Johan Kasimir, 1589-1652, Count Palatine of Zweibrücken (David Beck) - Nationalmuseum - 15921.tif

 

In 1591 his father stipulated that, as the youngest son, John Casimir would receive as appanage the countship of Neukastell in the Palatinate.

Upon their father’s death in 1611, however, the eldest son, John II, Count Palatine of Zweibrucken, instead signed a compromise with John Casimir whereby the latter received only the castle at Neukastell coupled with an annuity of 3000 florins from the countship’s revenues (similarly, John Casimir’s elder brother, Frederick Casimir, received the castle at Landsberg with a small surrounding domain, instead of the entire Landsberg appanage bequeathed to him paternally).

On 11 June 1615, Casimir married his second cousin Catherine of Sweden, and their son eventually became King Charles X of Sweden.

Five of his children with Catherine survived infancy:

  • Christina Magdalena (1616–1662)
    • married Frederick VI, Margrave of Baden-Durlach.
    • King Adolf Frederick of Sweden was her great-grandson.
  • King Charles X Gustav of Sweden (1622–1660)
  • Maria Eufrosyne (1625–1687)
    • married Count Magnus Gabriel De la Gardie
  • Eleonora Catherine (1626–1692)
    • married Frederick, Landgrave of Hesse-Eschwege
  • Adolf John (1629–1689)

 

Catherine of Sweden (Swedish: Katarina) (1584 – 1638) was a Swedish princess and a Countess Palatine of Zweibrücken as the consort of her second cousin John Casimir of Palatinate-Zweibrücken.

 

Katarina, 1584-1638, prinsessa av Sverige pfalzgrevinna av Zweibrücken (Jacob Heinrich Elbfas) - Nationalmuseum - 15100.tif

 

She is known as the periodical foster mother of Queen Christina of Sweden.

 

Catherine was the daughter of King Charles IX of Sweden and his first spouse Maria of the Palatinate-Simmern.

Her personality was described as “a happy union of her father’s power and wisdom and her mother’s tender humility“.

Her mother died in 1589 and Catherine was placed in the care of the German Euphrosina Heldina von Dieffenau, whom she praised much later in life.

 

In 1592, her father remarried to Christina of Holstein-Gottorp.

She reportedly got along well with her stepmother and was close to her half siblings, especially her eldest brother, the future King Gustavus Adolphus, who is noted to have been very affectionate toward her.

In later letters to her consort, however, it seems that she was not always as much in agreement with her stepmother as she gave the impression to be.

 

Her father became regent in 1598 and was crowned king in 1607.

 

In 1611, her brother succeeded her father as King Gustavus Adolphus.

Her brother found Catherine sensible and wise and she is reported to have acted as his confidante and adviser on several occasions.

 

Catherine married late for a Princess of her period.

Although she was a great heiress, her status on the international royal marriage market was uncertain because of the political situation in Sweden after her father had conquered the throne from his nephew Sigismund.

Her parents’ marriage had been an alliance with the anti-Habsburg party in Germany, which in turn was allied with King Henry IV of France and the French Huguenots.

 

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In 1599, there were plans to arrange a marriage between her and the Protestant French Prince Henri, Duke of Rohan, leader of the French Huguenots.

Henry married Marguerite de Béthune in 1603.

After the Treaty of Knäred in 1613, her status became more secure.

 

With the support of her stepmother Queen Dowager Christina, the queen dowager’s brother Archbishop John Frederik of Bremen arranged the marriage between Catherine and her relative (Count Palatine) John Casimir of Palatinate-Zweibrücken.

Though relatively poor, he had contacts which were deemed valuable to Sweden, though Count Axel Oxenstierna opposed the marriage.

The marriage took place on 11 June 1615 in Stockholm.

 

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Above: Stockholm Royal Palace

 

Catherine was, by the will of both her parents as well as by the law regarding the dowry of Swedish Princesses, one of the wealthiest heirs in Sweden.

As the economic situation at the time was strained, she remained in Sweden the first years after her marriage to guard her interests.

 

In January 1618, she left for Alsace.

There, the couple was given the Kleeburg Castle as their residence.

The year after, John Casimir started to build a new residence, the Renaissance Palace Katharinenburg near Kleeburg.

 


 

In 1620, the Thirty Years’ War forced them to flee to Strasbourg.

In 1622, her brother King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden asked her to return to Sweden with her family.

The death of her younger brother in Sweden, as well as the lack of heirs to the Swedish throne was evidently the reason why the monarch wished to move her to safety away from the Thirty Years’ War.

Catherine accepted the invitation and arrived to Sweden with her family in June 1622.

At her arrival, the birth of her son Charles immediately strengthened her position.

 

In Sweden, she and her consort were granted Stegeborg Castle and a county in Östergötland as their fief and residence and as payment of her dowry:

Catherine was styled Countess of Stegeborg.

Catherine and John Casimir settled in well at Stegeborg, where they maintained a royal standard of living:

They kept a court with 60 formal ladies-in-waiting and courtiers and an official table.

 

 

Catherine actively engaged herself in the management of the estates, and was in 1626 given Skenas Royal Estate as her personal fief.

 

Catherine was on very good terms with her brother King Gustavus Adolphus, who is known to have asked her for advice.

During his trips, he often asked her to try to console and control his consort, Queen Maria Eleonora.

 

Catherine was exposed to certain intrigues at court with the purpose of blackening her name in the eyes of the royal couple, but she managed to avoid these plots.

She was on good terms with the dynasties of Pfalz and Brandenburg, with whom she corresponded and who considered her to be wise and to have good judgment.

 

In 1631, Catherine was given the custody of her niece, Princess Christina, the heir to the throne, when the queen was allowed to join the king in Germany, where he participated in the Thirty Years’ War.

Christina remained in her care until Maria Eleonora returned to Sweden upon the death of Gustavus Adolphus in 1632.

 

After the death of King Gustavus Adolphus, the couple came in conflict with the Guardian Government of Queen Christina over their position and rights to Stegeborg.

When John Casimir broke with the royal council in 1633, the couple retired from court to Stegeborg.

Catherine did not show any interest in participation in state affairs.

 

In 1636, however, Queen Dowager Maria Eleonora was deemed an unsuitable guardian and deprived of the custody of the young monarch, and Catherine was appointed official guardian and foster mother with the responsibility of the young queen’s upbringing.

The appointment was made upon the recommendation of Count Axel Oxenstierna and she reportedly accepted the task with reluctance.

This appointment destroyed her relationship with Maria Eleonora.

 

The years in Catherine’s care are described by Christina as happy ones.

Princess Catherine personally enjoyed great respect and popularity in Sweden as a member of the royal house and as the foster parent of the monarch:

 

However, this respect did not include her consort, who was given no task or position at court whatsoever.

John Casimir was himself careful to point out her rank as a Royal Princess, but he was himself exposed to some humiliation because of their difference in rank.

One example was at the opening of Parliament in 1633, when Catherine in accordance with the wish of the Royal Council followed Queen Christina in the procession, while John Casimir was given the choice to stand and watch the ceremony from a window or not be present at all.

 

Catherine died in Västerås, where the royal court had fled from an outbreak of plague in Stockholm.

At her death, Axel Oxenstierna said, that he would rather have buried his own mother twice, than once again see “the premature death of this noble Princess“.

After her death, the royal council appointed two foster mothers for the queen to replace her: Countess Ebba Leijonhufvud and Christina Natt och Dag.

The Katarina kyrka in Stockholm is named after her.

 

Katarina kyrka January 2013 02.jpg

 

The marriage of John and Katarina reminds me of two other marriages: Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, and my own.

 

 

Victoria and Albert were, like John and Katarina, cousins.

The Princes Consort were considered less worthy of respect than their lady heiresses to major kingdoms’ thrones.

Both royal couples gave birth to children who would rise to great power.

 

My wife and I are not cousins nor nobility of any sort, but, like Katarina, my wife is considered sensible and wise.

She, like many women, could certainly have married a man far more appropriate for her and her ambitions, and yet we, like John and Katarina, like Victoria and Albert, have remained together despite our inequalities.

Like John and Katarina, my wife and I lived apart from one another for years despite our union.

I, like John, followed my bride to her home country.

 

 

(Less than 4 kilometres south of Cleebourg is the municipality of Drachenbronn-Birlenbach, where one can find both the original site of Katharienburg as well as the Musée Pierre Jost.

The Pierre Jost Museum is situated near the Ouvrage Hochwald, one of the major fortifications of the Maginot Line in France, which documents the story of the fortifications before, during and after World War II.

The Ouvrage Hochwald fortification was built in the Hochwald massif between 1929 and 1935 and was the strongest in Alsace.

It was capable of housing 1,200 men.

It had eleven blocks, with turrets, casemates to house the infantry, three entry blocks and an anti-tank ditch.

 

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Construction of the Museum in honor of the builders and defenders of the Maginot Line began in 1972, led by Pierre Jost.

The Museum was set up in the old M1 magazine.

The original museum was closed in 2009 since it no longer met public safety standards.

On 12 September 2011 the museum was re-opened in building T4 at airbase 901 in Drachenbronn-Birlenbach.

The new premises, opened in time for Heritage Day on 18 September 2011, has more than 350 square metres (3,800 sq ft) of space.

 

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The first room has some artillery pieces, in use until 1940, and press clippings of the early days of liberation towards the end of World War II.

The Museum has rooms for exhibits that cover each period in the life of the fortification:

  • Construction in 1930–1935
  • Occupation by the French in 1935–1940
  • Occupation by the Germans in 1940–1945
  • The Cold War, when the fortification was viewed as defense against Soviet tanks advancing towards Paris.
  • The room for the 1935–1940 period has the equipment, arms and personal effects of soldiers of that period.
  • The 1940–1945 room has German propaganda posters and relics from the liberation.
  • Part of the Museum also tells the story of the airbase.
  • There are many photographs showing the daily life of the soldiers during the different periods.

Sadly, the Musée Pierre Jost is open only during the Journées des Patrimoine, three days each September.)

 

Alsace is wine-growing country.

 

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It has long been so and will probably long be so, but Sweden, on the other hand….

 

 

Sweden is well north of the area where the European vine, Vitis vinifera, occurs naturally.

 

There is no tradition of wine production from grapes in the country.

 

Some sources claim that some monastic vineyards were established when the Roman Catholic church established monasteries in Sweden in medieval times, when Sweden’s climate was milder, but traces of this supposed viticulture are much less evident than the corresponding activities in England, for example.

Small-scale growing of grapes in Swedish orangeries and other greenhouses have occurred for a long time, but the purpose of such plantations were either to provide fruit (grapes) or for decoration or exhibition purposes and not to provide grapes for wine production.

 

Towards the end of the 20th century, commercial viticulture slowly crept north, into areas than the well-established wine regions, as evidenced by Canadian wine, English wine and Danish wine.

This trend was partially made possible by the use of new hybrid grape varieties and partially by new viticultural techniques.

 

The idea of commercial freeland viticulture in Sweden appeared in the 1990s.

Some pioneers, especially in Skåne (Scania), took their inspiration from nearby Denmark, where viticulture started earlier than in Sweden, while others took their inspiration from experiences in other winemaking countries.

 

Perhaps surprisingly, the first two wineries of some size were not established in the far south of Sweden, but in Södermanland County close to Flen (in an area where orchards were common) and on the island of Gotland, which has the largest number of sunshine hours in Sweden.

Later expansions have mostly taken place in Scania, though.

 

There are also small-scale viticulturalists who grow their grapes in greenhouses rather than in the open.

 

Small quantities of a few commercial wines made their way into the market via Systembolaget from the early 2000s.

Only a handful of Swedish producers can be considered to be commercial operations, rather than hobby wine makers.

In 2006, the Swedish Board of Agriculture counted four Swedish companies that commercialized wine produced from their own vineyards.

The total production was 5,617 litres (1,236 imperial gallons; 1,484 US gallons), of which 3,632 litres (799 imperial gallons; 959 US gallons) were red and 1,985 litres (437 imperial gallons; 524 US gallons) white, and this amount was produced from around 10 hectares (25 acres) of vineyards.

The Association of Swedish winegrowers estimates 30-40 vinegrowing establishments in Scania, but this number includes hobby growers with a fraction of a hectare of vineyards.

 

 

And here’s the thing, the point I am trying to make….

 

Sometimes things, sometimes people, thrive where no one thinks they will.

Sometimes places, sometimes people, have a past never imagined by others.

 

There is absolutely no reason to imagine that this quiet obscure section of the Alsace Wine Route could produce anything or anyone worthy of attention.

And yet the wine is very fine and the region has fostered both talent and royalty.

 

 

There is absolutely no proof in my possession that John and Katarina ever inspired Swedish wine production through their Alsatian experiences, but nonetheless I am seduced by the possibility.

 

There was no reason why the Maginot Line should not have defended France for centuries to come.

Unless invading Germans simply go around this line of walled fortifications.

 

(Trump could learn from the Maginot Line that a border wall is useless if desperate folks use desperate tactics like simply flying over the thing.)

 

There is no just cause why Alsace should be considered either French or German despite centuries of struggle and bloodshed, for even the smallest of walks through the Alsatian countryside reveals that these people are neither French nor German but are instead indefatiguably, eternally, proudly and uniquely Alsatian.

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Is life in this tiny corner of France simple?

It is no less fascinating, no less complicated, than anywhere else humanity has chosen to settle.

 

Flag of France

 

Are Alsatians proud French patriots?

In the sense of defending their homes against the destructiveness of invasion, Alsatians are patriotic, but this patriotism is reserved for Alsace alone.

 

Flag of Alsace

 

For here the visitor hears both French and German spoken, and sees le francais and Deutsch written everywhere.

Alsace once upon a time was conquered by the French, was then conquered by the Germans, then liberated once more by the French.

But it is a long way, both geographically and philosophically, from Berlin and Paris.

 

 

Could one suggest that Alsatians are sanctimonious?

Perhaps.

But only because they quietly know their own value and sense their own superiority.

 

 

Today is Saturday and all of this conversing about wine has given me a craving for a fine glass of pinot.

I wonder whether the wine shop between Starbucks and the train station in St. Gallen will be still open after my shift ends.

I wonder whether I will buy a bottle of the Alsatian or the Swedish.

 

 

Sources: Wikipedia / Google / Peter Berlin, Xenophobe’s Guide to the Swedes / Marie-Christine Périllon, Alsace: A Tourist Guide to the Entire Region / Jacky Bind & Jean Claude Colin, Alsace: The Wine Route / Michèle-Caroline Heck, The Golden Book of Alsace / Antje & Gunther Schwab, Elsass / Rough Guide France / Lonely Planet France

Canada Slim and the Family of Mann

Landschlacht, Switzerland, 12 August 2018

Perhaps I should have been recovering from yesterday’s Street Parade in Zürich, at present the most attended techno-parade in the world.

Officially it is a demonstration for freedom, love and tolerance attended by up to one million people.

In reality it has all the character of a popular festival, despite (technically) being a political demonstration.

The streets are packed, the music is loud and live, electronics throb and flash, dancing till dizziness, alcohol flows, drugs dispensed….

Somehow the message is we should all live together in peace and tolerance.

In my experience a mob of drunken stoned revellers doesn’t suggest peace and tolerance.

Instead I quietly celebrated a sad anniversary today.

 

On this day in 1955 the Nobel Prize-winning German author Thomas Mann died.

 

Kilchberg, Swizerland, 12 August 2018

German author Thomas Mann and his family made their home in Kilchberg near Zürich overlooking the Lake of Zürich, and most of them are buried here.

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As well, Swiss author Conrad Ferdinand Meyer lived and died in Kilchberg and is honoured by a Museum here.

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(Today was my third and finally successful attempt to visit this Museum.

More on this in a future blog….)

The chocolatier David Sprüngli-Schwartz of the chocolate manufacturer Lindt & Sprüngli died in Kilchberg, now the headquarters of the company.

(More on Lindt in a future blog….)

Lindt & Sprüngli.svg

 

Prior to moving to Switzerland in 2010, I had never met nor heard of anyone named Golo, which to my mind sounds like an instruction….

I’ll take the high road. 

You, go low.

In this region, Golo is associated with, among other things, Thomas Mann (1875 – 1955), the Nobel Prize (1929) winning author of Buddenbrooks and The Magic Mountain, and his brood.

Thomas Mann 1929.jpg

Above: Thomas Mann

Thomas and his wife Katia (1883 – 1980) had six children:

  • Erika (1905 – 1969)
  • Klaus (1906 – 1949)
  • Golo (1909 – 1994)
  • Monika (1910 – 1992)
  • Elisabeth (1918 – 2002)
  • Michael (1919 – 1977)

With the notable exception of Klaus who rests in peace in a cemetery in Cannes (France), Thomas lies buried with his wife and their other children in the same final resting ground of Kilchberg Cemetery just south of the city of Zürich.

 

Thomas, Katia, Erika, Monika, Elisabeth and Michael all share the same gravesite in the Kilchberg Cemetery.

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Though Golo is in the same cemetery, his grave stands separated away from the rest of his Kilchberg-interred family, in fulfillment of his last will and testament.

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There is no denying that Golo’s desire to be buried separately from his family made me curious….

 

During my convalescence in Klinik Schloss Mammern (19 May – 15 June) I took a day trip across the Lake of Constance to the German village of Gaienhofen with its Hermann Hesse Museum’s exhibition: “The Manns at Lake Constance“.

Above: Hermann Hesse Museum, Gaienhofen, Germany

(More on Hermann Hesse in future blogs…)

 

Also, I have long known that Golo Mann brought his family, in the summers of 1956 and 1957, to Altnau (the next town east on the Lake from Landschlacht).

Above: The guesthouse Zur Krone where Golo worked on his German History of the 19th and 20th Centuries, Altnau, Switzerland

 

In this day and age where many of us forget what we ate for supper without a photo on Instagram, many people (predominantly German speakers) still recall the name of Thomas Mann, but, as is common with the passage of time, we rarely recall the obscure names of the children of the more-famous parents.

 

Pop Quiz:

What were the names of the children of world famous William Shakespeare (1584 – 1616) or Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955)?

Give up?

So did I.

I had to search on Wikipedia.

 

William’s:

Shakespeare.jpg

Above: William Shakespeare

Susanna (1583 – 1649), Hamnet (1585 – 1596) and Judith (1585-1662)

 

Albert’s:

Einstein 1921 by F Schmutzer - restoration.jpg

Above: Albert Einstein

Lieserl (1902 – 1903), Hans (1904 – 1973) and Eduard (1910 – 1965)

 

This is not to suggest that these six individuals are not worth remembering but rather that their memory is overshadowed by the fame of their fathers and the passage of time.

 

(To be fair, famous children have also been known to overshadow their progenitors.

Who knows the names of Sammy Davis Sr., Martin Luther King Sr., or Robert Downey Sr. without the fame of their sons?)

Robert Downey Jr 2014 Comic Con (cropped).jpg

Above: Robert Downey Jr. (Chaplin, Air America, Iron Man)

 

So, I confess, my repeated encounters with the name of Golo Mann made me curious about him and his famous father.

 

Paul Thomas Mann (full name) was born in Lübeck, Germany, the second son of Lutheran Thomas Mann (grain merchant/senator) and Brazilian-born Roman Catholic Julia da Silva Bruhns.

Mann’s father died in 1891 and his trading firm liquidated.

Julia moved the family to Munich, where Thomas studied at the University of Munich to become a journalist.

Thomas lived in Munich until 1933, with the exception of a year spent in Palestrina, Italy, with his elder brother Heinrich.

Above: Heinrich Mann (1871 – 1950)

 

Thomas’s career as a writer began when he wrote for the magazine Simplicissimus, publishing his first short story “Little Mr. Freidemann” in 1898.

In 1901, Mann’s first novel Buddenbrooks was published.

Based on Mann’s own family, Buddenbrooks relates the decline of a merchant family in Lübeck over the course of three generations.

 

That same year, Mann met Englishwoman Mary Smith, but Mann was a friend of the violinist/painter Paul Ehrenberg, for whom he had feelings which caused Mann difficulty and discomfort and were an obstacle to marrying Smith.

By 1903, Mann’s feelings for Ehrenberg had cooled.

 

In 1905, Mann married Katia Pringsheim (1883 – 1980), daughter of a wealthy, secular Jewish industrial family.

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Above: Thomas Mann and Katia Pringsheim-Mann

 

Erika was born that same year.

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Above: Erika Mann-Auden (1905 – 1969)

Mann expressed in a letter to Heinrich his disappointment about the birth of his first child:

It is a girl.

A disappointment for me, as I want to admit between us, because I had greatly desired a son and will not stop to hold such a desire.

I feel a son is much more full of poetry, more than a sequel and restart for myself under new circumstances.

 

Klaus was born the following year, with whom Erika was personally close her entire life.

Klaus Mann.jpg

Above: Klaus Mann (1906 – 1949)

They went about “like twins” and Klaus would describe their closeness as:

Our solidarity was absolute and without reservation.”

 

Golo (remember him?) was born in 1909.

Above: Golo Mann (1909 – 1994)

 

In her diary his mother Katia described him in his early years as sensitive, nervous and frightened.

His father hardly concealed his disappointment and rarely mentioned Golo in his diary.

Golo in turn described Mann:

Indeed he was able to radiate some kindness, but mostly it was silence, strictness, nervousness or rage.

Golo was closest with Klaus and disliked the dogmatism and radical views of Erika.

 

Monika, the 4th child of Mann and Katia, was born in 1910.

Above:(from left to right) Monika, Golo, Michael, Katia, Klaus, Elisabeth and Erika Mann, 1919

 

Mann’s diaries reveal his struggles with his homosexuality and longing for pederasty (sex between men and boys).

His diaries reveal how consumed his life had been with unrequited and subliminated passion.

In the summer of 1911, Mann stayed at the Grand Hotel des Bains on the Lido of Venice with Katia and his brother Heinrich, when Mann became enraptured by Wladyslaw Moes, a 10-year-old Polish boy.

Above: Grand Hotel des Bains, Venezia

This attraction found reflection in Mann’s Death in Venice (1912), most prominently through the obsession of the elderly Aschenbach for the 14-year-old Polish boy Tadzio.

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Mann’s old enemy, Alfred Kerr, sarcastically blamed Death in Venice for having made pederasty acceptable to the cultivated middle classes.

Alfred Kerr, by Lovis Corinth, 1907.jpg

Above: Alfred Kerr (né Kempner)(1867 – 1948)

 

That same year, Katia was ill with a lung complaint.

Above: Wald Sanatorium, Davos

In 1912, Thomas and Katia moved to the Wald Sanatorium in Davos, Switzerland, which was to inspire his 1924 book The Magic Mountain – the tale of an engineering student who, planning to visit his cousin at a Swiss sanatorium for only three weeks, finds his departure from the sanatorium delayed.

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In 1914, the Mann family obtained a villa, “Poshi“,  in Munich.

Above: The Mann residence “Poshi“, Munich

By 1917, Mann had a particular trust in Erika as she exercised a great influence on his important decisions.

Little Erika must salt the soup.” was an often-used phrase in the Mann family.

Elisabeth, Mann’s youngest daughter, was born in 1918.

That same year, Mann’s diary records his attraction to his own 13-year-old son “Eissi” – Klaus:

5 June 1918: “In love with Klaus during these days“.

22 June 1918: “Klaus to whom I feel very drawn“.

11 July 1918: “Eissi, who enchants me right now“.

25 July 1918:  “Delight over Eissi, who in his bath is terribly handsome.  Find it very natural that I am in love with my son….Eissi lay reading in bed with his Brown Torso naked, which disconcerted me.

 

In 1919, the last child and the youngest son, Michael was born.

 

On 10 March 1920, Mann confessed frankly in his diary that, of his six children, he preferred the two oldest, Klaus and Erika, and little Elisabeth:

“….preferred, of the six, the two oldest and Little Elisabeth with a strange decisiveness.”

(Golo and Michael are not mentioned.)

17 October 1920:  “I heard noise in the boys’ room and surprised Eissi completely naked in front of Golo’s bed acting foolish.  Strong impression of his premasculine, gleaming body.  Disquiet.”

 

Klaus’s early life was troubled.

His homosexuality often made him the target of bigotry and he had a difficult relationship with his father.

 

In 1921, Erika transferred to the Luisen Gymnasium (high school).

While there she founded an ambitious theatre troupe, the Laienbund Deutscher Miniker and was engaged to appear on the stage of the Deutsches Theater in Berlin for the first time.

The pranks she pulled with her Herzog Park Gang prompted Mann and Katia to send her and Klaus to a progressive residential school, the Bergschule Hochwaldhausen in Vogelsberg, for a few months.

Increasingly sensing his parents’ home as a burden, Golo attempted a kind of break-out by joining the Boy Scouts in the spring of 1921.

Sadly, on one of the holiday marches, Golo was the victim of a sexual violation by his group leader.

 

New horizons opened up for Golo in 1923, when he entered the boarding school in Salem, feeling liberated from home and enjoying the new educational approach.

There in the countryside near Lake Constance, Golo developed an enduring passion for hiking through the mountains, although he suffered from a lifelong knee injury.

 

Klaus began writing short stories in 1924, while Erika graduated and began her theatrical studies in Berlin, which were frequently interrupted by performances in Hamburg, Munich, Berlin, Bremen, and other places in Germany.

In 1925 Klaus became drama critic for a Berlin newspaper and wrote the play Anja und Esther – about a group of four friends who were in love with each other – which opened in October 1925 to considerable publicity.

Actor Gustaf Gründgens played one of the lead male roles alongside Klaus while Klaus’s childhood friend Pamela Wedekind and Erika played the lead female roles.

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Above: Gustaf Gründgens (1899 – 1963)

During the year they all worked together, Klaus became engaged with Pamela and Erika with Gustaf, while Erika and Pamela and Klaus and Gustaf had homosexual relationships with each other.

That same year Golo suffered a severe mental crisis that overshadowed the rest of his life.

In those days the doubt entered my life, or rather, broke in with tremendous power.

I was seized by darkest melancholy.

 

For Erika and Gustaf’s honeymoon in July 1926, they stayed in the same hotel that Erika and Pamela had used as a couple, with Pamela checking in dressed as a man.

 

In 1927, Golo commenced his law studies in Munich, moving the same year to Berlin, switching to history and philosophy.

Klaus travelled with Erika around the world, visiting the US in 1927, and reported about this in essays published as a colloborative travelogue, Rundherum: Das Abenteuer einer Weltreise (All the Way Round) in 1929.

 

Klaus broke off his engagement with Pamela in 1928.

Golo used the summer of 1928 to learn French in Paris and to get to know “real work” in a coal mine in eastern Germany, abruptly stopping because of new knee injuries.

Erika became active in journalism and politics.

 

Golo entered the University of Heidelberg in 1929.

Erika and Gustaf divorced.

Meanwhile Mann had a cottage built in the fishing village of Nida, Lithuania, where there was a German artists colony, spending the summers of 1930 – 1932 working on Joseph and His Brothers.

(It took Mann 16 years to complete this.)

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Above: Joseph the Provider, the 4th and last volume of the Joseph and His Brothers tetralogy (1943)

(Today, the cottage is a cultural centre dedicated to him.)

Above: Thomas Mann Cultural Centre, Nida, Lithuania

Mann was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1929.

That same year, Klaus travelled with Erika to North Africa, where they made the acquaintance of Annemarie Schwarzenbach, a Swiss writer and photographer, who remained close to them for the next few years.

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Above: Annemarie Schwarzenbach (1908 – 1942)

 

In 1930, Mann gave a public address in Berlin (“An Appeal to Reason“) strongly denouncing National Socialism (Nazis) and encouraging resistance against them by the working class.

Golo joined a socialist student group in Heidelberg.

Meanwhile, Monika, after boarding school at Schloss Salem, trained as a pianist in Lausanne and spent her youth in Paris, Munich, Frankfurt and Berlin.

 

In 1931, Erika was an actor in the Leontine Sagan film about lesbianism, Mädchen in Uniform (Maidens in Uniform) but left the production before its completion.

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With Klaus, she published The Book of the Riviera: Things You Won’t Find in Baedekers.

 

In 1932, she published Stoffel fliegt übers Meer (Stoffel flies over the ocean), the first of seven children’s books.

That year, Erika was denounced by the Brownshirts after she read a pacifist poem to an anti-war meeting.

As a result she was fired from an acting role after the theatre concerned was threatened with a boycott by the Nazis.

She successfully sued both the theatre and a Nazi-run newspaper.

She had a role, alongside Therese Giehse, in the film Peter Voss, Thief of Millions.

Peter Voss, Thief of Millions (1932 film).jpg

In January 1933, Erika and Klaus and Therese Giehse founded a cabaret in Munich called Die Pfeffermühle (the pepper mill), for which Erika wrote most of the material, much of which was anti-Fascist.

The cabaret lasted two months before the Nazis forced it to close and Erika left Germany.

She was the last member of the Mann family to leave Germany after the Nazi regime was elected.

She saved many of Mann’s papers from their Munich home when she escaped to Zürich.

 

Heinrich, Mann’s brother, was the first person to be stripped of German citizenship when the Nazis took office.

When the Nazis came to power Mann and Katia were on holiday in Switzerland.

While at Sanary-sur-Mer in the southeast of France, (where Monika joined her parents) Mann learned from his children Klaus and Erika in Munich that it would not be safe for him to return to Germany due to Mann’s strident denunciation of Nazi policies.

A view of the harbour and waterfront in Sanary-sur-Mer

Above: Sanary-sur-Mer, France

Golo looked after the Mann house in Munich in April, helped Monika, Elisabeth and Michael leave the country and brought most of his parents’ savings via Karlsruhe and the German embassy in Paris to Switzerland.

On 31 May 1933, Golo left Germany for the French town of Bandol.

He spent the summer at the mansion of the American travel writer William Seabrook near Sanary-sur-Mer and lived six weeks at the new family home in Küsnacht.

Above: List of literary celebrities who fled the Nazis and once lived in Sanary-sur-Mer (Not mentioned are Jacques Cousteau, Frederic Dumas and Ernest Blanc – oceanographers Cousteau and Dumas lived and invented the aqualung here while native Blanc was a famous opera performer.)

In November Golo joined the École Supérieure at Saint-Cloud (near Paris) as a German language teacher and wrote for the emigrants’ journal Die Sammlung (The Collection) founded by Klaus.

 

In 1934 Monika studied music and art history in Firenze, where she met Hungarian art historian Jenö Lányi.

In November 1934 Klaus was stripped of German citizenship by the Nazi government.

He became a Czechoslovak citizen through Czech businessman Rudolf Fleischmann, an admirer of Mann’s work, who arranged Klaus’ naturalization to his Bohemian town of Prosec.

Golo wanted to take the opportunity to continue his studies in Prague, but soon stopped the experiment.

 

In 1935, when it became apparent that the Nazis were intending to strip Erika of her German citizenship, she asked Christopher Isherwood (1904 – 1986) if he would marry her so she could become a British citizen.

Above: Christopher Isherwood (left) and W.H. Auden (right)

He declined but suggested the gay poet W.H. Auden (1907 – 1973) who readily agreed to a marriage of convenience.

Erika and Auden never lived together, but remained on good terms throughout their lives and were still married when Erika died in 1969, leaving him with a small bequest in her will.

In November, Golo accepted a position to teach German and German literature at the University of Rennes.

Golo’s travels to Switzerland prove that his relationship with his father had become easier as Mann had learned to appreciate his son’s political knowledge.

But it was only when Golo helped edit his father’s diaries in later years that he realized fully how much acceptance he had gained.

In a confidential note to the German critic Marcel Reich-Ranicki, Golo wrote:

It was inevitable that I had to wish his death, but I was completely broken heartedly when he passed away.

 

In 1936, the Nazi government also revoked Mann’s German citizenship.

Mann also received Czechoslovak citizenship and passport that same year through Fleischmann, but after the Nazis took over Czechoslovakia, he then emigrated with Klaus to the United States where he taught at Princeton University.

Klaus Mann’s most famous novel, Mephisto, a thinly-disguised portrait of Gustaf, was written this year and published in Amsterdam.

Die Pfeffermühle opened again in Zürich and became a rallying point for German exiles.

Auden introduced Erika’s lover Therese Giehse to the English writer John Hampson.

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Above: Therese Giehse (1898 – 1975)

Giehse and Hampson married so she could leave Germany.

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Above: Howard Castor as John Hampson (1901 – 1955)

 

In the summer of 1937, Klaus met his partner for the rest of the year Thomas Quinn Curtis.

Erika moved to New York where Die Pfeffermühle reopened its doors again.

There she lived with Klaus, Giehse and Annemarie Scharzenbach, amid a large group of artists in exile.

 

In 1938 Monika and Jenö left Firenze for London, while Erika and Klaus reported on the Spanish Civil War.

Erika’s book School for Barbarians, a critique of Nazi Germany’s educational system, was published.

 

Mann completed Lotte in Weimar (1939) in which he returned to Goethe’s Sorrows of Young Werther (1774).

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Katia wrote to Klaus (in Princeton) on 29 August that she was determined not to say any more unfriendly words about Monika and to be kind and helpful.

 

Monika was NOT her parents’ favourite.

In family letters and chronicles, Monika was often described as weird:

After a three-week stay here (in Küsnacht) she is still the same old dull quaint Mönle (her nickname in the family), pilfering from the larder….

 

Klaus’s novel Der Vulkan (Escape to Life), co-written with Erika, remains one of the 20th century’s most famous novels about German exiles during World War II.

Early that year Golo travelled to Princeton where his father worked.

Although war was drawing closer, he hesitantly returned to Zürich in August to become the editor of the migrant journal Maß und Wert (Measure and Value).

Monika and Jenö married on 2 March 1939.

On 6 March 1939, Michael married the Swiss-born Gret Moser (1916 – 2007) in New York.

With her he would have two sons, Frido and Toni, as well as an adopted daughter.

The outbreak of World War II on 1 September 1939 prompted Mann to offer anti-Nazi speeches in German to the German people via the BBC.

Erika worked as a journalist in London, making radio broadcasts in German, for the BBC throughout the Blitz and the Battle of Britain.

Monika and Jenö left for Canada on the SS City of Benares, which on 17 September was sunk by a torpedo from a German submarine.

SS City of Benares.jpg

Above: SS City of Benares

Monika survived by clinging to a large piece of wood, but Jenö drowned.

After 20 hours Monika was rescued by a British ship and taken to Scotland.

Also in 1939, Elisabeth married the anti-Fascist Italian writer Giuseppe Borgese (1882 – 1952), 36 years her senior.

Above: Giuseppe Borgese

As a reaction to Hitler’s successes in the West in May 1940, Golo decided to fight against the Nazis by joining a Czech military unit on French soil.

Upon crossing the Swiss border into Annecy, France, he was arrested and brought to the French concentration camp of Les Milles, a brickyard near Aix-en-Provence.

Above: Camp des Milles, Annecy, France

In August, Golo was released through the intervention of an American committee.

On 13 September 1940, he undertook a daring escape from Perpignan across the Pyrenees to Spain with his uncle Heinrich, Heinrich’s wife Nelly Kröger, Alma Mahler-Werfel and Franz Werfel.

They crossed the Atlantic from Lisbon to New York in October on board the Greek Steamer Nea Hellas.

Once in the US, Golo was initially condemned to inactivity.

He stayed with his parents in Princeton, then in New York.

Monika reached New York on 28 October 1940 on the troopship Cameronia and joined her parents.

They showed little sympathy for her.

Monika’s traumatic loss of her husband and her attempts at a new beginning were ignored.

In October 1940, Mann began monthly broadcasts (“Deutsche Hörer“- “German listeners“), recorded in the US and flown to London where the BBC broadcasted them to Germany.

In his eight-minute addresses, Mann condemned Hitler and his “paladins” as crude Philistines completely out of touch with European culture.

“The war is horrible, but it has the advantage of keeping Hitler from making speeches about culture.”

During the war, Klaus served as a Staff Sergeant of the 5th US Army in Italy.

 

In 1941, Elisabeth became an American citizen.

 

Mann was one of the few publicly active opponents of Nazism among German expatriates in America.

In 1942, the Mann family moved to Los Angeles, while Golo taught history at Olivet College in Michigan.

Between 1942 and 1947 Michael was a violinist in the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra.

 

Klaus became a US citizen in 1943 as Golo joined the US Army.

After basic training at Fort McClellan, Alabama, Golo worked at the Office of Strategic Services (OSS)(forerunner of the CIA) in Washington DC.

Office of Strategic Services Insignia.svg

Above: OSS insignia

As intelligence officer, it was his duty to collect and translate relevant information.

From 1943 to 1952 Monika lived in New York.

After attempts to renew her career as a pianist she turned to employment as a writer.

 

In April 1944, Golo was sent to London where he made radio commentaries for the German language division of the American Broadcasting Station (ABS).

On 23 June 1944, Thomas Mann was naturalized as a citizen of the United States.

After D-Day, Erika became a war correspondent attached to the Allied Forces advancing across Europe, reporting from recent battlefields in France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

 

For the last months of World War II Golo worked for a military propaganda station in Luxembourg, then he helped organize the foundation of Radio Frankfurt.

During his journeys across Germany he was shocked at the extent of destruction, especially that caused by Allied bombing.

In the summer of 1945, Klaus was sent by Stars and Stripes to report from postwar Germany.

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Erika entered Germany in June and was among the first Allied personnel to enter Aachen.

As soon as it was possible, she went to Munich to register a claim for the return of the Mann family home.

Arriving in Berlin on 3 July 1945, Erika was shocked at the level of destruction, describing the city as “a sea of devastation, shoreless and infinite.

She was angry at the complete lack of guilt displayed by some of the German civilians and officials that she met.

During this period, as well as wearing an American uniform, Erika adopted an Anglo-American accent.

She attended the Nuremberg Trial each day from the opening session on 20 November 1945 until the court adjourned for Christmas.

Above: Nuremberg Courthouse where the Trials were held

She interviewed the defense lawyers and ridiculed their arguments in her reports and made clear that she thought the court was indulging the behaviour of the defendants, in particular Hermann Göring.

Above: Nuremberg Trial – Hermann Göring (far left, 1st row)

When the court adjourned for Christmas, Erika went to Zürich to spend time with Klaus, Betty Knox and Giehse.

 

Erika’s health was poor and on 1 January 1946 she collapsed and was hospitalized.

She was diagnosed with pleurisy.

After a spell recovering at a spa in Arosa, Erika returned to Nuremberg in March 1946 to continue covering the war crimes trial.

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Above: Arosa

In May 1946, she left Germany for California to help look after Mann who was being treated for lung cancer.

That same year, Golo left the US Army by his own request, but nevertheless kept a job as civil control officer, watching the war crimes trial at Nuremberg in this capacity.

Also in 1946, Golo saw the publication of his first book of lasting value, a biography of the 19th century diplomat Friedrich von Gentz.

Black and white drawing of Friedrich von Gentz

Above: Friedrich von Gentz (1764 – 1832)

Mann completed Doktor Faustus, the story of composer Adrian Leverkühn and the corruption of German culture before and during World War II in 1947.

From America, Erika continued to comment on and write about the situation in Germany.

She considered it a scandal that Göring had managed to commit suicide and was furious at the slow pace of the denazification process.

In particular, Erika objected to what she considered the lenient treatment of cultural figures who had remained in Germany throughout the Nazi period.

Her views on Russia and on the Berlin Airlift (24 June 1948 – 12 May 1949) led to her being branded a Communist in America.

In the autumn of 1947, Golo became an assistant professor of history at Claremont Men’s College in California.

In hindsight he recalled the nine-year engagement as “the happiest of my life“.

On the other hand he complained:

My students are scornful, unfriendly and painfully stupid as never before.”

 

With the start of the Cold War, Mann was increasingly frustrated by rising McCarthyism.

As a “suspected Communist“, Mann was required to testify to the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) who accused him as being “one of the world’s foremost apologists for Stalin and company“.

Both Klaus and Erika came under an FBI investigation into their political views and rumoured homosexuality.

 

On 21 May 1949, Klaus died in Cannes of an overdose of sleeping pills, though whether he committed suicide is uncertain, but he had become increasingly depressed and disillusioned over postwar Germany.

He is buried in Cannes’ Cimetière du Grand Jas.

Klaus’s death devastated Erika.

In an interview with the Toledo Blade (25 July 1949), Mann declared that he was not a Communist, but that Communism at least had some relation to the ideals of humanity and of a better future.

Image result for toledo blade

He said that the transition of Communism through revolution into an autocratic regime was a tragedy, while Nazism was only “devilish nihilism“.

Being in his own words a non-Communist rather than an anti-Communist, Mann openly opposed the HUAC allegations:

“As an American citizen of German birth I finally testify that I am painfully familiar with certain political trends.

Spiritual intolerance, political inquisitions and declining legal security, and all this in the name of an alleged ‘state of emergency’….

That is how it started in Germany.”

As Mann joined protests against the jailing of the Hollywood Ten (ten individuals working in Hollywood cited for contempt of Congress and blacklisted after refusing to answer questions about their alleged involvement with the Communist Party) and the firing of schoolteachers suspected of being Communists, Mann found “the media had been closed to him“.

Hollywood Sign (Zuschnitt).jpg

In 1950, Mann met 19-year-old waiter Franz Westermeier, confiding in his diary:

Once again this, once again love.

(In 1975, when Mann’s diaries were published, creating a national sensation in Germany, the retired Westermeier was tracked down in the United States.

He was flattered to learn that he had been the object of Mann’s obsession, but was shocked at its depth.)

 

Due to the anti-communist red scare and numerous accusations from the McCarthy Committee, Mann was forced to quit his position as a consultant in Germanic literature at the Library of Congress in 1952, the Mann family left the US and moved back to Switzerland .

Erika began to help her father with his writing and became one of his closest confidantes.

Monika was granted US citizenship, but she had already planned to return to Europe.

In September she travelled with her sister Elisabeth’s family to Italy.

Elizabeth’s husband Giuseppe died that year and she would raise their two daughters, Angelica (b. 1941) and Dominica (b. 1944) as a single parent, though she would live with a new partner, Corrado Tumiati, from 1953 to 1967.

After a few months in Genoa, Bordighera and Rome, Monika fulfilled her desire to move to Capri, where she lived in the Villa Monacone with her partner, Antonio Spadaro.

In Capri she blossomed.

During this period she wrote five books and contributed regular features to Swiss, German and Italian newspapers and magazines.

Monika would remain in Capri for 32 years.

 

In March 1954, there were finally prospects of progress that Thomas Mann could buy a house in the old country road in the municipality of Kilchberg.

Above: Mann residence, Alten Landstrasse 39, Kilchberg

Kilchberg is an idyllic place, surrounded by meadows, vineyards and flower gardens.

The church on a hillside, with views over the Lake, dominate the place.

Mann would not live long to enjoy the home that was finally his.

Thomas Mann died on 12 August 1855, at age 80, of arteriosclerosis in a hospital in Zürich and is buried in Kilchberg.

 

Katia was not just the good spirit of the family, but the connection point that kept them all together.

She taught her children, was her husband’s manager, and was the family provider.

Katia outlived three of her children (Klaus, Erika and Michael) and her husband.

She died in 1980 and is buried in Kilchberg.

 

Erika died in 1969, age 63, of a brain tumor in a hospital in Zürich and is buried in Kilchberg.

 

Golo, after years of chronic overwork in his dual capacities of freelance historian and writer, died in Leverkusen in 1994, age 85.

A few days prior to his demise, Golo acknowledged his homosexuality in a TV interview:

“I did not fall in love often.  I often kept it to myself.  Maybe that was a mistake.  It also was forbidden, even in America, and one had to be a little careful.”

According to Tilman Lahme, Golo’s biographer, he did not act out his homosexuality as openly as his brother Klaus but he had had love relationships since his student days.

His urn was buried in Kilchberg, but – in fulfillment of his last will – outside the communal family grave.

 

Monika, after her Capri partner Antonio died in 1986, spent her last years with Golo’s family in Leverkusen and died in 1992.

She is buried in the family grave in Kilchberg.

 

Elisabeth was in the mid-1960s the executive secretary of the board of Encyclopedia Britannica in Chicago.

At the age of 52, she had established herself as an international expert on the oceans.

Elisabeth was the founder and organizer of the first conference on the law of the sea, Peace in the Oceans, held in Malta in 1970.

From 1973 to 1982, she was part of the expert group of the Austrian delegation during the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

At the age of 59, in 1977, Elisabeth became a professor of political science in Canada’s Dalhousie University.

She became a Canadian citizen in 1983 and was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1988 at age 70.

Elisabeth kept up her teaching duties until age 81.

She died unexpectedly at the age of 83, during a skiing holiday in St. Moritz in 2002, and is buried in Kilchberg.

 

Michael, the youngest, made concert tours as a viola soloist until he was forced to give up professional music due to a neuropathy.

He then studied German literature at Harvard and later worked as a professor at the University of California in Berkeley.

Michael suffered from depression and died from the combined consumption of alcohol and barbituates in Orinda, California, in 1977.

He too lies in Kirchberg Cemetery, by the church on a hillside, with views over the Lake of Zürich, that dominates the town.

Kilchberg, 27 November 2017

It all began with an impulse.

As regular followers (both of them!) of my blogs (this one and Building Everest) know, I have, over the last year, retraced the “steps” of and written about the Swiss reformer Huldrych Zwingli using the literary travel guide, Zwingli-Wege: Zu Fuss von Wildhaus nach Kappel am Albis – Ein Wander- und Lesebuch, by Marcel and Yvonne Steiner.

(See Canada Slim and…. the Privileged Place, the Monks of the Dark Forest, the Battle for Switzerland´s Soul, the Thundering Hollows, the Road to Reformation of this blog.)

For various reasons, I have not always been able to follow the Steiners’ suggested itineraries religiously.

Their 8th itinerary (Wädenswil to Zürich) has the hiker travel above the hills of Kilchberg rather than visit the town itself, which I felt remiss of the Steiners.

I went off-book and decided to explore the town.

Though Kilchberg may lack Zwingli connections, it is both an aestically pleasing and historically significant place worth lingering in for an afternoon.

A windswept day finds me asking a black cemetery caretaker for the location of the Mann burial plot and the English teacher/wordsmith in me sees the irony of the English word “plot” being both the chronology of a story and a final resting place.

I marvel at the history of this remarkable family and see irony in Thomas’ first real success as a writer was based on the fictional retelling of his own family’s past in Buddenbrooks, when his own family’s real history was equally, if not more, fascinating post-Buddenbrooks.

I am also left with many other reflections:

  • I ponder the individual dilemmas Thomas, Erika, Klaus and Golo underwent in the expression of their sexual natures, and though in many Western nations in 2018 there is far greater openness and permissiveness towards non-heterosexual relationships, I can’t help but feel that there still remains stigma, confusion and miscommunication in mankind’s navigation of sexuality, gender and other boundaries towards loving relationships.  (Perhaps a new Buddenbrooks of Thomas Mann and his offspring needs to be written to explores this ageless dilemma that keeps so much of humanity lost and alone.)
  • I also wonder: What makes one person LGBT and another not?  Thomas and Katia produced six children: two openly gay, one a closet gay, the other three – to the best of what is known – probably straight.  So, what then determines a person’s sexual orientation? Genetics? Environment? Choice?
  • And then there is the wonder of individuality where six children all grew up together yet lived very different lives from one another.  How do we each develop our own separate personalities?
  • I ask myself whether Thomas and Golo were right to conceal their hidden selves, yet when I see how imperfect the lives of the demonstrative Erika, Klaus and Monika were, I wonder if being themselves truly made them happier.
  • I think of the Mann family and what comes to mind is conflict.  Conflict between what they desired and what they were allowed.  Conflict between their own expectations and the expectations of others. Conflict that results when speaking truth to power whether defying Nazis or HUAC.  Conflict against disease, both physical and psychological. Conflict between their changing values and the inflexibility of old hierarchies being challenged.

The Manns were a restless family living in relentless times.

Though they now rest in peace, the world they helped create remains conflicted.

Sources: Wikipedia / Facebook / Ursula Kohler, Literarisches Reisefieber / Padraig Rooney, The Gilded Chalet: Off-piste in Literary Switzerland / Steffi Memmert-Lunau & Angelika Fischer, Zürich: Eine literarische Zeitreise / Albert Debrunner, Literaturführer Thurgau / Manfred Bosch, Die Manns am Bodensee / Thomas Sprecher & Fritz Gutbrodt, Die Famille Mann in Kilchberg / Conrad Ferdinand Meyer Haus, Kilchberg / Friedhof Gemeinde Kilchberg

Canada Slim and the War of the Oranges

Landschlacht, Switzerland, 6 August 2018

Back a few days ago from my third trip to Portugal, my first to Porto and the north of the country.

The most western nation of continental Europe, Portugal shares the Iberian Peninsula with Spain, but this land of foggy fishing villages and tiny hamlets set deep in cork forests has a quarter of Spain’s population, is less than a fifth of Spain’s geographical size and in Portugal they don’t speak Spanish, they speak Portuguese.

Flag of Portugal

Above: Flag of Portugal

 

Loud, exuberent Spain is paella and bullfights.

Reserved Portugal is the mournful wailing of fado and legendary sightings of the Virgin Mary.

The Spanish are fiercely proud of their past accomplishments.

The Portuguese are quietly proud of their future potential.

Disregard the critics who will gleefully tell you that Portugal is the graveyard of ambition, a kingdom of mediocrity where the national hobby is complaining and the ambitious leave.

Instead….

Picture Portugal as a land of resilience.

An earthquake may have cost them an empire, but Portugal still stands.

Dictators may have halted their progress for decades, but Portugal still stands.

Imagine a land that was economically isolated and politically smothered now striving to overcome an international reputation that suggests that the Portuguese are unproductive, unfit, unhealthy and unattractive.

Spend time with them and realize that though there are some that fit these negative descriptions, the vast majority of the people are simply and quietly going about their business.

They don’t lack self-esteem.

They simply haven’t practiced self-marketing as successfully as their European counterparts, for why tout your superiority when you know who you are and what you can do?

 

To be fair, judging Portugal by one’s impressions of Porto is a lot like judging America from only a visit to Chicago or England from time spent exclusively in Birmingham.

Just as New York and London overshadow hard-working Chicago and Birmingham so does Lisboa (Lisbon) dominate people’s minds over Porto.

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Above: Images of Porto

 

Traditionally Portugal’s wine distribution centre, the scenic city of Porto – Portugal’s second biggest city – straddles the Douro River and is a lively transport hub, in part due to its famous export, port.

If the adage “Lisbon plays, Porto pays, Coimbra prays” can be believed, then Porto is the hardest working place in Portugal.

Historically (and practically) Porto puts the Portu in Portugal as the name dates from Roman times, when Lusitanian settlements straddled both sides of the Rio Douro.

The area was briefly in the hands of Moors but was reconquered by the year 1000 and reorganized as the County of Portucale with Porto as its capital.

Henri of Burgundy was granted the land in 1095 and it was from here that Henri’s son and Portuguese hero Afonso Henriques launched the Reconquista (Christian reconquest), ultimately winning Portugal the status of an independent kingdom….part of the Iberian Peninsula, but not part of Spain.

Above: King Afonso I Henriques of Portugal (1106 – 1185)

 

The Portuguese are akin to Canadians, Swiss and New Zealanders in that they do not care to be mistaken for being a countryman of their more powerful and prominent neighbour.

When addressed in Spanish by a foreigner, a Portuguese would rather answer in English or French.

Spain is the loud neighbour with the big house and the trees that block out the light.

To get to Portugal the rest of Europe passes through Spain, leaving tourist revenues and business investment on Spanish shores.

The Spanish are not the neighbours from Hell, but they are neighbours the Portuguese resent.

Neither good winds nor good marriages come from Spain.” goes the well-known Portuguese saying.

Over 400 years ago Spain relinquished occupation of Portugal, but distrust runs deep after a bloody history of wars and border skirmishes.

Even now, many Portuguese claim the town of Olivenca in Spanish Extremadura as their own invoking a treaty of 1815 which Spain continues to conveniently forget.

LocalDistritoEvoraComOlivença.svg

Portugal’s economy hangs on the coat tails of Spain much as Canada’s economy is dependent on American trade and Switzerland’s upon trade with Germany.

We all look with alarm when German companies take over slices of Switzerland’s economy or Americans financially invade Canada or the Spanish seize Portuguese banks or real estate.

Yet for the Swiss to go to Germany or Canadians to go to America or  Portuguese to go to Spain is a certain sign that you’ve entered the Big Time.

Big time.  I’m on my way. I’m making it….big time.” (Peter Gabriel)

Many of Portugal’s top footballers leap at the chance to play for Real Madrid, much like Canadian hockey players jump for joy when recruited by American teams.

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Above: Real Madrid Football Club logo

 

(The world is strange.

How are hockey teams in two nations considered part of one National Hockey League?

Why is the finale in North American baseball called the World Series when only (with rare exception, Canada’s Toronto Blue Jays) American teams compete?

I am so confused.)

 

Nobel Prize winning author José Saramago (The History of the Siege of Lisbon / Blindness) left Portugal to live in Spanish Tenerife, much like Wayne Gretzky and Jim Carrey left Canada to live in LA.

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Above: José Saramago (1922 – 2010)

 

Like the British and Canadians are cynical about Americans, like Austrians and Swiss are cynical about Germans, the Portuguese too are cynical about the Spanish.

And like Anglos with America and Swiss with Germany, the Portuguese secretly hanker to be like the Spanish.

The first day of my third Portuguese adventure was a reminder of this problematic relationship with Spain.

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Above: The Iberian Peninsula

 

Porto, Portugal, 24 July 2018

I have nothing against the Spanish.

Flag of Spain

Above: Flag of Spain

I enjoyed my two previous visits to Spain’s San Sebastian (let’s leave questions of Basque independence aside at this time) and Barcelona (ditto for Catalona).

I am emotionally unaffected by the planning that resulted in flying two Spanish airlines (Iberia and Vueling) from Zürich to Porto and return.

The flights booked through the Internet, which might not have been the least expensive method, was at least the most efficient way to go.

 

(Most Internet travel agencies work by connecting a website to a computerized reservation service (CRS) that in turn is linked to the airlines.

Because the airlines and the CRSs only list official, published fares in their databases, most Internet travel agencies only sell tickets at published fares and have no discounts.

Most international air ticket prices are not shown in any CRS, are not available directly from the airline, and are not available from any Internet site that depends on airlines and/or CRSs as a source of fares.)

 

Still I may not have had a choice as TAP, Portugal’s national airline, flies only to the western Swiss city of Genève rather than that most convenient airport of Zürich in eastern Switzerland.

Logo tap air portugal preto.png

So, can Spanish airlines be blamed too harshly for taking up the Portuguese slack?

Iberia flight 1077, Zürich (ZUR) to Porto (POR) with a stopover in Madrid (MAD), is aboard an Airbus A319 plane named the Ciudad de Baiez.

Logotipo de Iberia.svg

Intercom announcements and seat pocket literature are in English and Spanish.

Unlike Swiss teacher Raimund Gregorius of Pascal Mercier’s Night Train to Lisbon, (begun to be read during this flight) there were no chance encounters with mysterious suicidal Portuguese bridge jumpers or tomes of philosophical enigmatic aristocrats found in dusty corners of antiquarian bookshops to inspire this trip to Portugal.

Night Train to Lisbon.jpg

A vacation was needed and Porto had not yet been explored.

I did not impulsively leave Switzerland as Gregorius left his job.

Flag of Switzerland

There was a plan, organization, flight and hotel reservations.

Like Gregorius, I would have preferred to travel to Portugal slower than flying, but like most tourists I am limited by constraints of time, money and responsibility.

The Ronda, Iberia’s seat pocket magazine, distracts me from the haunted journey of Gregorius.

I read about the Bloop Festival of Ibiza, Brunch in the Park in Barcelona, and recommended explorations of Japan with their 40 sumo wrestling training gyms, 3,000 public thermal baths and 21 UNESCO World Heritage sites.

I read of Barcelona and the Lavender Road of Provence, of the paradise that is Patagonia and the temptations of Tenerife, of summer flights to Croatia and of “somewhere in La Mancha, in a place whose name I do not care to remember“.

I am flying to Portugal, but there is no whisper about the place aboard the flight.

The gluten-free muffins, the Linda limonada, the MIOS patatas are all Spanish.

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Above: Aeroporto Porto

After touchdown at Porto Airport, taxi into town and check-in at the Casa de Cativo in the Batalha district of central Porto, we find ourselves drawn to explore.

My eyes are immediately drawn to the Sé – Porto’s Cathedral.

Porto July 2014-32a.jpg

This Roman Catholic Cathedral is one of the most relevant and oldest monuments of the city.

Located in the heart of the historical centre the Sé rises from the landscape as an eye-catching icon atop a rocky outcrop a couple of hundred metres from Sao Bento Station and commands a fine view over the rooftops of Porto.

In front of the Cathedral, a lone sentinel on horseback, Vimara Peres (d. 873), the first King of the County of Portugal, stands watch over the city in stone silence.

The Sé is flanked by two square towers that stretch like arms reaching for Heaven.

Each tower is supported by two buttresses and crowned with a cupola.

On the North Tower (the one with the bell) look for the worn bas-relief depicting a 14th century ship – a coca – a reminder of the earliest days of Portugal’s maritime epic when sailors inched tentatively down the west Saharan coastline in fear of monsters.

Image result for porto cathedral north tower pictures

The facade lacks decoration and yet is not lacking in beauty.

The Baroque porch and the delicate Romanesque rose window under the crenellated arch lend the Sé the impression of a fort, a sort of setting suited for the commencement of some holy quest or mighty crusade.

Inside, the blend of Baroque, original Romanesque and Gothic architecture – a kind of structural bouillabaisse – is a strange marriage of prevading gloom.

But maybe gloom – an uneasy spectre of death – was what was sought after when the Sé was being designed.

Around 1333 the Gothic funerary chapel of Joao Gordo was added – his tomb decorated with his recumbent figure and reliefs of the Apostles – the Beatles of the New Testament in regards to their creativity.

Image result for porto cathedral joao gordo chapel

Gordo was a Knight Hospitalier who worked for King Dinis I (1261 – 1325).

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Above: Flag of the Knights Hospitaller

(The Order of Knights of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem, also known as the Order of Saint John, Order of Hospitallers, Knights Hospitaller, Knights Hospitalier or Hospitallers, was a medieval Catholic military order, headquartered in the Kingdom of Jerusalem, on the island of Rhodes, in Malta and St Petersburg.)

(King Dinis I, also called the Farmer King and the Poet King, was King of Portugal (1279 – 1325) for over 46 years and is remembered by the Portuguese as a major contributor to the formation of a sense of national identity and an awareness of Portugal as a nation-state.

He worked to organize his country’s economy and gave an impetus to Portuguese agriculture.

He ordered the planting of a large pine forest (that still exists today) near Leiria to prevent soil degradation that threatened the region and as a source of raw materials for the construction of the royal ships.

Above: Leiria Castle

Dinis was known for his poetry, which constitutes a major contribution to the development of Portuguese as a literary language.)

(More on Dinis in a future post….)

 

In 1387, the Cathedral was embellished to celebrate the wedding of Portuguese King Jaoa I with the English Princess Philippa of Lancaster (reinforcing the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance).

Above: Wedding of Portuguese King Joao I and English Princess Philippa of Lancaster, Porto Cathedral, 11 February 1387

It was this matrimonial bond of man and wife, this Alliance of Portugal and England within this Sé that would witness within those same walls that which was a celebration of the newly-wed would become a commiseration of the bloody dead.

 

On 29 January 1801, an ultimatum from Spain and France forces Portugal to decide between France and Britain, even as its government has tried to negotiate favorable relations with the two powers rather than abrogate the Treaty of Windsor (1386).

The French sent a five-point statement to Lisbon demanding that Portugal:

  • Abandon its traditional alliance with Great Britain and close its ports to British shipping;
  • Open its ports to French and Spanish shipping;
  • Surrender one or more of its provinces, equal to one fourth part of her total area, as a guarantee for the recovery of Trinidad, Port Mahon (Menorca) and Malta;
  • Pay a war indemnity to France and Spain;
  • Review border limits with Spain.

If Portugal failed to accomplish the five conditions of this ultimatum, it would be invaded by Spain, supported by 15,000 French soldiers.

The British could not promise any effective relief, even as Prince Joao VI appealed to Hookham Frere, who arrived in November 1800.

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Above: Joao VI “the Clement” (1767 – 1826)

In February, the terms were delivered to the Prince-Regent.

Although he sent a negotiator to Madrid, war was declared.

At the time, Portugal had a poorly trained army, with less than 8,000 cavalry and 46,000 infantry troops.

Its military commander, João Carlos de Bragança e Ligne (2nd Duke of Lafões), had barely raised 2,000 horse and 16,000 troops and was compelled to contract the services of a Prussian colonel, Count Karl Alexander von der Goltz, to assume command as field marshal.

The Spanish Prime Minister and Commander-in-Chief, Manuel de Godoy, had some 30,000 troops at his disposal, while the French troops under General Charles Leclerc (Napoleon’s brother-in-law) arrived in Spain too late to assist Godoy, as it was a short military campaign.

On May 20, Godoy finally entered Portugal.

This incursion was a precursor of the Peninsular War that would engulf the Iberian Peninsula.

The Spanish army quickly penetrated the Alentejo region in southern Portugal and occupied Olivença, Juromenha, Arronches, Portalegre, Castelo de Vide, Barbacena and Ouguela without resistance.

Campo Maior resisted for 18 days before falling to the Spanish army, but Elvas successfully resisted a siege by the invaders.

An episode which occurred during the siege of Elvas accounts for the name, “War of the Oranges“:

Godoy, celebrating his first experience of generalship, plucked two oranges from a tree and immediately sent them to Queen Maria Luisa of Spain, mother of Carlota Joaquina and supposedly his lover, with the message:

I lack everything, but with nothing I will go to Lisbon.

Manuel de Godoy

The conflict ended quickly when the defeated and demoralized Portuguese were forced to negotiate and accept the stipulations of the Treaty of Badajoz, signed on 6 June 1801.

As part of the peace settlement, Portugal recovered all of the strongholds previously conquered by the Spanish, with the exception of Olivença and other territories on the eastern margin of the Guadiana and a prohibition of contraband was enforced near the border between the two countries.

The treaty was ratified by the Prince-Regent on 14 June, while the King of Spain promulgated the treaty on 21 June.

A special convention (the Treaty of Madrid) on 29 September 1801 made additions to that of Badajoz whereby Portugal was forced to pay France an indemnity of 20 million francs.

This treaty was initially rejected by Napoleon, who wanted the partition of Portugal, but he accepted once he concluded a peace with Great Britain at Amiens.

Portrait of Napoleon in his forties, in high-ranking white and dark blue military dress uniform. In the original image He stands amid rich 18th-century furniture laden with papers, and gazes at the viewer. His hair is Brutus style, cropped close but with a short fringe in front, and his right hand is tucked in his waistcoat.

Above: Napoléon (1769 – 1821)

 

Portugal divides itself into 18 districts.

Porto is the capital city of the Porto District, which is itself divided into 18 municipalities.

Of these municipalities the close-by city of Amarante lies to the northeast of Porto.

 

During this War of the Oranges (20 May – 9 June 1801) while a battle raged in Amarante, a group of Spanish soldiers briefly took control of the Porto Cathedral before being overcome by the locals of the town.

A marble plaque hangs behind the altar in memory of those who lost their lives regaining control of the chapel.

The plaque has a magnetic backing that was chosen to order to remind those travelling near the Cathedral to orient themselves in the direction their compasses have been altered towards.

Image result for porto cathedral interior

I can´t help but wonder what Hollywood would have done with a story like this:

Soldiers seize a church.

Locals battle to regain it.

But details are hard to come by here in distant Landschlacht and there is a tragic lack of ability in my reading Portuguese.

But I can imagine it.

 

Sunday 31 May 1801, Porto, Portugal

It was the perfect opportunity.

A full moon week meant the soldiers could ride in the Saturday night moonlight and lie in wait inside the Cathedral until the faithful showed up the following morning.

The Cathedral would have gold and the parishioners – faithful tithe-givers to the last – would have money.

The soldiers simply sought profits but they would be ignored if the parishioners didn’t believe that the soldiers would slay them if they did not obey.

The locals outside the church would be half-mad with grief and worry and would do anything to ensure the safety of their loved ones within.

The Bishop would be outraged at the sacreligious nature and audacity of the soldiers’ act.

 

Landschlacht, Switzerland, 6 August 2018

At this point of planning the plot of this historical drama I would require the aforementioned details that language and long distance deny me.

Was blood shed?

By whom upon whom?

History records the soldiers were unsuccessful, but what was their fate?

Who were these people: the Bishop, the faithful, the townsfolk, the soldiers?

Do I actually need historical facts and actual accuracy to tell their story?

Take the movie Braveheart about the Scottish hero William Wallace.

Braveheart imp.jpg

Many liberties were taken and the plot is filled with historical inaccuracies but is it a damn good movie?

Absolutely.

 

I am reminded again of Portuguese author José Saramago – a writer damnably difficult to read for his deliberate determination not to use punctuation or paragraphs but a fine storyteller nonetheless.

In his The History of the Siege of Lisbon, Saramago asks:

What happens when the facts of history are replaced by the mysteries of love?

“When Raimundo Silva, a lowly proofreader for a Lisbon publishing house, inserts a negative into a sentence of a historical text, he alters the whole course of the 1147 Siege of Lisbon.

Fearing censure he is met instead with admiration:  Dr. Maria Sara, his voluptuous new editor, encourages him to pen his own alternative history.

As his retelling draws on all his imaginative powers, Silva finds – to his nervous delight – that if the facts of the past can be rewritten as a romance then so can the details of his own dusty bachelor present.”

Saramago suggests so many scenarios one could use and have been used by other authors in the past:

What if you had the power to change the past? (time travel)(Time Cop)

What if you had the power to enter the world of literature? (fantasy)(Inkheart)

What if you deliberately altered the record of the past to better reflect and justify the present? (George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four)

 

Telling the tale of the taking of Porto Cathedral also carries with it some responsibility.

I don’t wish to glorify the Portuguese, for their history is not a bloodless nor innocent one in regards to their colonialism or dark dictatorship days.

I don’t wish to increase the innate antagonism between the Portuguese and the Spanish, for, in my humble opinion, writing should seek to unite humanity rather than divide it, even if history is truly horrific.

 

Still I smell a story just begging to be written, replete with drama and suspense – a kind of Die Hard meets Braveheart scenario, maybe mixed with a dash of Timeline and Timecop.

 

Maybe this is all just idle musings, for my mind is much like the late comedian Robin Williams’ observations of former US President George W. Bush’s span of attention:

“My fellow Americans….

Oh! Look at the baby!

Squirrel!”

Above: Robin Williams (1951 – 2014)

 

What I am left with when I consider the taking of Porto Cathedral is not so much that an extraordinarily beautiful house of worship was seized or a symbol of a religious affliation defiled.

Rather I find it interesting that the very church where the English-Portuguese Alliance came into being would become a battlefield in maintaining that alliance.

The whole story has the feel of witnessing a bully at a wedding seize one of the guests and threaten to kill him if the couple continues on with the nuptial ceremony.

Couples may not always co-exist harmoniously but nothing unites a couple more than someone else trying to separate them.

Though Portugal may have lost the War of the Oranges, Portugal’s defiance of bullying Spain ensured Britain’s assistance a few years later and strengthened Portuguese resolve to maintain their own alliances on their own terms.

I don’t see prevailing gloom within the Sé of Porto but rather my mind escapes up from the shadows and into the cloisters of magnificent azulejos and ascends the grand staircase to the dazzling chapterhouse with its sweeping views from the windows.

It is all a matter of perspective.

The Spanish seized a Cathedral and lost it.

The French and the Spanish defeated Portugal and later were defeated by the very alliance they tried to destroy.

Red may have spilled from soldier wounds and the faithful injured, but red is also half the colour of the Portuguese flag: combative, hot, virile.

A singing, ardent, joyful colour ever reminding of victory despite the high cost.

I don’t hear the lamentations of the frightened nor the murmuring of prayers and exhortations to God, but rather the fever and fervour of the resilient and determined.

As the words ring out strong and clear the Portuguese national anthem proudly proclaims:

“Unfurl the unconquerable flag in the bright light of your sky!

Cry out all Europe and the whole world that Portugal has not perished.

Your happy land is kissed by the ocean that murmurs with love.

And your conquering arm has given new worlds to the world!”

Two centuries, four months and a matter of weeks later, America would on 11 September 2001, suffer an attack far more devastating and tragic than the now-and-long forgotten taking of Porto Cathedral, but nothing strengthens a nation more than adversity or unites it into determined defiance against those who would seek to diminish it.

Like the United States, no one bothers or bullies Portugal any more.

Of the trials and tribulations Portugal, like the United States, has endured, much has been created by itself and resolved by itself.

To be blunt, the Sé, this Cathedral of Porto, to this world weary traveller is quite forgettable.

What Porto Cathedral represents, isn’t.

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Sources: Wikipedia / Google / The Rough Guide to Portugal / Porto and Northern Portugal: Journeys and Stories

Canada Slim and the Right Man

Landschlacht, Switzerland, 6 December 2017

Is there such a thing as an indispensable man?

This is a question I have often asked myself when considering both my life and the lives of the famous.

I ask myself this question recently as I am, once again, forced to remain at home in bed with, yet another cold that has made both barista work and teaching impractical as I have been reduced to a coughing, sneezing, aching, quivering jellyfish of a man unfit and undesirable for public encounters.

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My voice sounds tortured and hoarse as if it is painfully emerging from a long tunnel.

My appearance is akin to a homeless street person and our apartment reflects this.

The wife mocks the man cold, but hers is a gender that endures menstruation on a monthly basis and usually survives the incredible ordeal of child birth with little hesitation to repeat or memory of the event.

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Hers is a mind of multiplicity handling every moment and memory simultaneously, while my mind is a series of boxes which are opened only one at a time, so when illness strikes all my focus is upon how truly horrid I feel.

A woman with a cold is simply a woman with yet another complication in her life, for she will incorporate the cold as part of life´s burdens she must bear and will further complicate her life with tortured emotions about the selfishness of her having a cold keeping her from doing her other duties.

A man, though he is aware of the selfishness of having others assume his duties, will moan and groan impatiently focused on his recovery, even so his conscience is little disturbed about staying at home until he deems himself fit to tackle the world again.

I think about work, of course, and consider what my absence will mean to my students and colleagues.

I know that there are other teachers who could teach in my place and that a barista can be replaced.

But does that mean my presence then is insignificant?

I don´t believe so.

For though I am far from being the most competent or qualified barista or teacher, I possess an entertaining and compassionate personality that I believe my students and colleagues value.

But short of historical accident thrusting me into greatness, I am self aware enough to realise that my eventual absence from existence will not impact history or much of humanity that significantly.

Though the life of my wife might have been greatly different without me in it, would she have been happier or sadder had we never met?

If I had not survived an accident with an axe during my teenage years, or if I had perished on the side of the mountain when I was stranded overnight three years ago, would the world have noticed my absence?

My social circle was and remains small.

I would have been missed by a few people, but I believe they would have found the strength to carry on without me.

I don´t believe I need an angel Clarence to show this George Bailey how It´s a Wonderful Life and how vastly different reality would be had I never existed.

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Above: Henry Travis as angel Clarence Oddbody (left) and James Stewart as George Bailey (right), from It´s A Wonderful Life (1946)

Certainly each man leaves his mark on the world by how his actions have affected others.

A man´s greatness could even be said to be measured by how many others his actions affected.

My mind often wonders how reality might be had certain great men never existed or didn´t exist at the time when they were most influential.

The recent resurgence of interest in Winston Churchill (1874 – 1965) – with this year´s movies Darkest Hour (starring Gary Oldman) and Churchill (starring Brian Cox) and last year´s Churchill´s Secret (starring Michael Gambon) – have led me to wonder would the world of today be different had Churchill not been present at those moments of yesterday when he made the most impact?

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This hypothetical “What If?” exercise is not so far fetched….

On a holiday in Bournemouth in January 1893, Churchill fell and was knocked unconscious for three days.

Churchill saw action as a soldier and war correspondent and risked his life in India, the Sudan and South Africa.

Above: Battle of Omdurman, Sudan (2 September 1898), where Churchill took part in a cavalry charge

It remains uncertain whether Churchill´s life was in any danger when he was present at the January 1911 Siege of Sidney Street when Latvian anarchists wanted for murder holed up in a house and resisted arrest.

Above: Winston Churchill (highlighted) at Sidney Street, 3 January 1911

And it is also unclear whether Home Secretary Churchill gave the police any operational orders during the Siege, though it has been suggested that when the house caught fire Churchill prevented the fire brigade from dousing the flames so that the anarchists burnt to death.

“I thought it better to let the house burn down rather than spend good British lives in rescuing those ferocious rascals.”

On 12 December 1931, during a lecture tour for his writing, Churchill, while crossing New York City´s Fifth Avenue, was knocked down by a car.

Above: The Empire State Building, completed 1931

Had Churchill not survived these events to become Prime Minister (1940 – 1945 / 1951 – 1955), would Britain have remained resolute against Germany during the Second World War?

How indispensable was Churchill to the world?

This question was certainly paramount in my mind when my wife and I visited the Churchill War Rooms six weeks ago….

Above: An external view of the New Public Offices building, the basements of which were chosen to house the Cabinet War Rooms

London, England, 24 October 2017

In 1938, in anticipation of Nazi air raids, the basement of the Treasury building on London´s King Charles Street was converted into “war rooms”, protected by a three-foot-thick concrete slab, reinforced with steel rails and tramlines.

It was here that Prime Minister Winston Churchill directed operations and held cabinet meetings for the duration of World War II.

By the end of the War, the six-acre site included a hospital, canteen and shooting range, as well as sleeping quarters.

Tunnels fan out from the complex to outlying government ministeries.

It is rumoured there are also tunnels to Buckingham Palace itself, allowing the Royal Family a quick getaway to exile in Canada (via Charing Cross Station) in the event of a Nazi invasion.

Above: Buckingham Palace

Walking the corridors of the Churchill War Rooms and exploring its adjacent Churchill Museum are experiences that live long in the memory.

Every corner tells a story.

Today we take for granted the idea of an underground command centre.

How else can political and military leaders run a country and control armed forces, safe from enemy bombardment?

But the Second World War was the first time that Britain faced such a concentrated aerial threat.

Should there be some sort of central war room?

Where should it be?

How should it be protected?

Who should work there?

What space and equipment would they need?

What exactly would they be doing?

Most of these questions began to be answered only in the final fraught months before Britain went to war.

A flag featuring both cross and saltire in red, white and blue

Many of them were still being answered during the War itself, even as bombs rained down over London and the threat of invasion loomed.

The story of the Churchill War Rooms is therefore one of improvisation in the face of deadly necessity.

After the First World War (1914 – 1918), the British government adopted a “ten-year rule”.

Until instructed otherwise, all departments should assume that the country would not go to war again for at least a decade.

Even so, some thought was given to how a future war might be fought.

In 1924, government experts predicted that London would be bombarded by up to 200 tons of bombs in the first 24 hours of a world conflict.

Casualities would be high and the country´s political and military command structure could be severely disabled.

Partly due to the ten-year rule, little was done to heed this warning until 1933 when a belligerent Adolf Hitler rose to power in Germany.

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Above: Adolf Hitler (1889 – 1945)

It came as a complete shock when Hitler declared his intention to have Germany leave the League of Nations, the forerunner of today´s United Nations.

War within the next decade suddenly seemed much more possible and the question of national defence became a priority.

In March 1938, Germany annexed Austria, adding to international tension.

General Hastings Ismay, Deputy Secretary of Britain´s Committee of Imperial Defence, immediately organised a search for an emergency working refuge to house the Cabinet and the Chiefs of Staff in case of a sudden attack.

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Above: Hastings Ismay (1887 – 1965)

Plans were still in a confused state in late May 1938, when the alarming news was received that German troops were massing on the Czechoslovakian border.

There might be war any day, but still no war room.

On 31 May 1938, the site was confirmed, a site conveniently close to both Downing Street (the Prime Minister´s residence) and Parliament.

It was thought that the steel structure of the Treasury building above the War Rooms would provide extra protection against bombs, but a direct hit on the site would have been catastrophic.

From June to August 1938, work on the War Rooms involved clearing rooms, sandbagging alcoves, replacing glass doors with teak, building brick partitions, installing telephone lines and estabishing a connection with the BBC.

As the site was situated below the level of the Thames River, flood doors had to be fitted and pumps installed.

By the end of August, the Map Room was manned and tested and plans were underway for airlocks and steel doors to defend against gas attack.

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Above: The Map Room, Cabinet War Rooms

There could be no hesitation or pause in these preparations.

Hitler had sparked a new crisis on the Continent by threatening to annex part of Czechoslovakia.

Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain attempted to defuse the situation by diplomatic means.

British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain

Above: Neville Chamberlain (1869 – 1940), British PM (1937 – 1940)

On 30 September, Hitler signed the Munich Agreement – heralded by Chamberlain as a guarantee of “peace for our time”, but the Central War Room was theoretically ready for use.

Above: Neville Chamberlain showing the Anglo-German Declaration, aka The Munich Agreement. guaranteeing “peace for our time”, Heston Air Force Base, England, 30 September 1938

It would have been desperately uncomfortable for anyone working there, as the ventilation system was poor, there were no overnight accommodations, no bedding, no kitchen, no food, no toilets or washing facilities.

Work continued on the War Rooms.

On 23 August, Hitler signed a non-aggression pact with Russia, leaving the way free for him to attack Poland.

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Above: Soviet Premier Stalin and German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, after the signature of the (Vyacheslav) Molotov – Ribbentrop German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact, 23 August 1939

On 27 August the Central War Room was officially opened.

On 1 September, Hitler attacked Poland.

Above: Adolf Hitler reviewing the troops on the march during the Polish campaign, September 1939

Two days later, Britain was at war.

The immediate bombardment of London that had been expected for so long failed to materialise in the first nine months of the War, though the War Rooms were operational.

A botched land campaign in Norway in April 1940 and Germany´s sudden attack on the Netherlands on 10 May caused Chamberlain to resign and Churchill to take his place.

A few days later, as British Forces were driven back towards the French coast, the new Prime Minister visited the Cabinet War Room and declared:

“This is the room from which I will direct the war.”

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Above: Cabinet War Room

In the summer of 1940, as the fall of France was followed by the Battle of Britain for aerial supremacy over southern England, Britain stood at risk of imminent invasion.

Above: German Heinkel HE 111 bombers over the English Channel, 1940

On 7 September 1940, Germany launched the Blitz – a sustained bombing campaign against British towns and cities, with London the chief target.

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Britain weathered the Blitz for nine long months.

When the Blitz failed to secure victory over Britain, Hitler turned his attention to the east, launching an invasion of the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941.

Britain was no longer fighting the Nazis alone.

When, on 7 December 1941, Japan attacked the American fleet at Pearl Harbour, the United States entered the War, changing the fortunes of Britain.

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Above: The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, Hawaii, USA

The War Rooms began deception plans intended to divert enemy resources away from genuine Allied operations.

This would play a crucial role in the success of Operation Overlord – the Allied invasion of Normandy on 6 June 1944.

The success of the D-Day landings helped to turn the tide of war against the Nazis, but they were not finished in attacking Britain.

On 13 June 1944, the first V1 flying bomb hit London, bringing a new threat to the capital.

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Above: A V1 guided missile

Over the winter of 1944 – 1945, the V1 flying bomb attacks were gradually superseded by the more destructive V2 flying bombs.

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Above: A V2 rocket

By the end of March 1945, most of the V2 production factories had been overrun by the unstoppable Allied advance towards Berlin.

Adolf Hitler spent the final weeks of the War sheltering in his bunker as  Berlin came under attack from Stalin´s armies.

After the fall of Berlin, the Allies declared victory in Europe on 8 May 1945.

By the time Japan surrendered on 15 August, Churchill was no longer Prime Minister having lost the General Election on 26 July.

On 16 August, after six years of continuous use, the War Rooms were simply and suddenly abandoned.

Their historic value was recognised and were mostly left undisturbed.

The preserved rooms were declared a national monument in 1948, with free guided tours given to people who had written to the Cabinet Office.

This practice continued until 1984 when the Imperial War Museum was asked to turn the site into a formal Museum.

Millions of visitors have since walked its corridors, tracing the steps of Churchill and the many men and women – both military and civilian – who helped run this underground complex.

The Churchill Museum was added to the Cabinet War Rooms in 2005 and this expanded Museum was later renamed the Churchill War Rooms.

It has to be said that the Churchill War Rooms is a fascinating place for it is filled with intimate details that bring home the immediacy of those times…

  • The sugar cubes hoarded by a Map Room officer
  • The noiseless typewriters that Churchill insisted be used by his staff
  • Accounts of what it was really like to eat, sleep and work below the streets of London as German bombs fell all around.
  • The coloured lights in the Cabinet War Room that signalled an air raid and the ashtrays positioned within easy reach around the table and the scratch marks on the arms of Churchill´s chair that show how strained the Cabinet Room could become
  • The multi-coloured phones where the men of the Map Room could follow every thrust and counterthrust of the War
  • The actual door that Churchill walked through at 10 Downing Street
  • The tiny Transatlantic Telephone Room where Churchill used to speak in secret to the US President
  • Churchill´s famous “siren suit”, a zip-up coverall that Churchill began wearing for comfort from the 1930s onwards
  • The Union Flag which was draped over Churchill´s coffin during his State Funeral which was broadcast around the world

Above: Grave of Winston Churchill, St. Martin´s Church, Bladon, England

(“I am ready to meet my Maker – but whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter.”)

  • The weather indicator in the main corridor that would read “Windy” when a heavy bombing raid was in progress
  • The story of how one of the women who worked at the War Rooms had a short relationship with James Bond author Ian Fleming and would be the inspiration for the character Miss Moneypenny
  • One of the Royal Marines guarding the entrance to the Cabinet War Rooms took up embroidery to pass the time.
  • To alleviate the health problems of working underground, staff were made to strip to their underwear and stand in front of portable sun lamps
  • Wartime graffiti on a map in the Cabinet Room showing Hitler fallen on his ass
  • A cat named Smoky that used to curl up on Churchill´s bed
  • A typist who learned that the ship carrying her boyfriend had perished with all lives lost

So, so much to see and learn and discover….

But what of the Great Man himself?

This man of contradictions, this man who took over as Prime Minister when Britain stood alone against the Axis powers, who is remembered for his trademark bowler hat and half-chewed Havana cigars, who is famous for his morale-inspiring speeches and clever wit….

“It is better to be making the news than taking it, to be an actor rather than an critic.”

“I have nothing to offer but blood, tears, toil and sweat.”

“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

“….We shall fight in France.  We shall fight on the seas and oceans.  We shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air.  We shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be.  We shall fight on the beaches. We shall fight on the landing grounds.  We shall fight in the fields and in the streets.  We shall fight in the hills.  We shall never surrender.”

“This is not the end.  It is not even the beginning of the end.  But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

An American visitor reported in late 1940 that:

“Everywhere I went in London, people admired Churchill´s energy, his courage, his singleness of purpose.  People said they didn´t know what Britain would do without him.  He was obviously respected, but no one felt he would be Prime Minister after the War.  He was simply the right man in the right job at the right time, the time being a desperate war with Britain´s enemies.”

Without this man´s uplifting spirit, would Britain have surrendered against the overwhelming odds of Hitler´s mighty war machine?

I am convinced that Churchill´s uniqueness of character means that its absence would have lead to Britain´s surrender.

Whether Britain´s surrender would mean Hitler wouldn´t ultimately still turn against Russia, or whether America wouldn´t come to Britain´s aid with or without the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour remains a point of conjecture and the province of alternate history / science fiction writers.

But I think a visit to the Churchill War Rooms is well worth the while, because there are several lessons to be learned here under the streets of London.

We are where and who we are because of what came before.

We need to recall the wars that lead us to where we are today, not to glorify in our victories but rather to somberly recall our losses and learn from them so to avoid future war or at least prepare ourselves for another dark future of bloodshed and destruction.

We are a product of our time and place.

It is doubtful whether Churchill could have accomplished what he did had time and circumstances been different.

In examining Churchill´s past carefully, one can see that he was quite an imperfect man, at times rash, impulsive, egocentric and foolish, sometimes to the cost and risk of others.

Nancy Astor: If I were your wife I would put poison in your coffee.

Winston Churchill: Nancy, if I were your husband, I would drink it.

But at a moment when Britain needed a man of courage and conviction, Churchill was indeed in the right place at the right time.

Let us not worship this man, but do offer him our thanks and respect.

Above: Statue of Churchill, Parliament Square, London

As legacies go, this museum and how he is remembered by so many even after so long a time has passed and so many have sacrificed so much blood, tears, toil and sweat then and now, this monument to the dark days of a vicious conflict and a man who steered a nation through them is truly fitting.

This is a living museum, commemorating the lives of those who make our lives possible.

Come to the Churchill War Rooms.

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Live the experience.

Sources: Wikipedia / Google / The Rough Guide to London / Alan Axelrod, Winston Churchill, CEO / Dominique Enright, editor, The Wicked Wit of Winston Churchill / Martin Gilbert, editor, Churchill: The Power of Words / Roy Jenkins, Churchill / Imperial War Museums, Churchill War Museum Guidebook

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Above: The Roaring Lion, Yousuf Karsh photo of Winston Churchill, Canadian Parliament, Ottawa, Canada, 30 December 1941

 

 

The Underestimated: The Bold and the Reckless

Landschlacht, Switzerland, 7 January 2017

It is normal to underestimate the Swiss.

Coat of arms of Switzerland

In fact other nations generally don´t see and rarely think about the Swiss.

And the Swiss themselves don´t help themselves in this regard.

To the outside world, the French-speaking Swiss to the west of the country seem little different from the French of France.

The Italian-speaking Swiss to the south of the country are easily mistaken for slightly stiff-necked Italians.

The German-speaking Swiss who dominate the country are overlooked as Germans under severe sedation.

Much to the delight and disgust of the Romansh, mostly resident in Canton Graubünden and less than 1% of the Swiss population, the folks of Switzerland´s fourth official language are mostly ignored.

But underestimating the Swiss and seeing them only through clichés tends to be a mistake.

Consider the Swiss military.

And think about these questions…

How does a country located smack dab in the centre of Europe manage to maintain over 500 years of neutrality?

Location of Switzerland (green)in Europe (green & dark grey)

How can a country that is known for being a champion of peace and humanitarianism be also simultaneously armed to the teeth?

Of all the militaries in the world, why are the Swiss called upon to defend the life of the Pope?

To begin a journey into the mindset of the Swiss, first let´s travel back in time and wander northwest of Switzerland…

Nancy, France, 7 January 1477

The Battle of Nancy has been over for two days.

An Italian page has found the body of Charles the Bold (Charles le Téméraire – Charles the Reckless)(Charles Martin, Duke of Burgundy, Count of Charolais, Grand Duke of the West, Knight of the Golden Fleece, Count of Nevers, Seigneur de Croy), naked on a frozen pond, half eaten by wolves, his skull cloven by a Swiss battleaxe.

Only the scars on his body make Charles´ body recognisable.

(Digression Alert: It is this difficulty to identify the body that suggested the fictional hypothesis that Charles survived the battle and was granted asylum in Pimlico, in the heart of London, that was the basis of the plot of the 1949 film Passport to Pimlico.)

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(In post-WWII London, an unexploded bomb detonates in Miramont Gardens, Pimlico.

The explosion reveals a buried cellar containing artwork, coins, jewellery and an ancient manuscript.

The document is authenticated by the historian Professor Hatton-Jones as a royal charter of Edward IV that ceded the house and its estates to Charles VII, the last Duke of Burgundy, when he had sought refuge in England after being presumed dead at the 1477 Battle of Nancy.

As the charter had never been revoked, an area of Pimlico is declared to be a legal part of Burgundy.)

(Screenwriter T.E.B. Clarke was also inspired by an incident during the Second World War when the maternity ward of the Ottawa Civic Hospital was temporarily declared international territory by the Canadian government so when Princess Juliana of the Netherlands gave birth, baby Margriet was born on “Dutch” territory (born 19 January 1943) and would not lose her right to the Dutch throne.)

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Above: Princess Margriet of the Netherlands

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Above: The former Ottawa Civic Hospital, now called the Ottawa General Hospital, a former employer of mine had me work there as a security guard, 1993-1994

(Canadian actor Dan Aykroyd (born 1 July 1952) and current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (born 25 December 1971) were also born at this hospital.)

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Above: Dan Aykroyd

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Above: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Thus endeth the digression.

 

Back to Charles the Bold and the Swiss.

In 1469 Duke Sigismund of Hapsburg of Austria assigned his possessions in the Alsace as a fiefdom to the Duke of Burgundy, Charles the Bold, so as to have these Alsatian territories better protected against the expansion of the Eidgenossen (Old Swiss Confederacy).

For the Swiss were proving to be troublesome…

Until about 1220 no one took much notice of the remote valleys and villages in what is now Switzerland.

Then the route over the St. Gotthard Pass opened.

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And everyone wanted to muscle in on the lucrative trade with the Mediterranean.

To do that meant controlling the farmers, whose valleys had sole access to the northern approach to the Pass.

The farmers sought protection from the Holy Roman Emperor himself.

The communities of Uri and Schwyz were granted imperial freedom, meaning that the Emperor was their only boss.

But this semi-autonomy wasn´t enough of a guarantee.

Enter the Austrians of the Hapsburg monarchy.

They sent in bailiffs who threw their weight around to get what they wanted.

All that did was push the Swiss closer together.

Rütli Meadow, Canton Uri, Switzerland, 1 August 1291

Walter Fürst of Canton Uri, Werner Stauffacher of Canton Schwyz and Arnold von Melchtal of Canton Unterwalden met – on a sloping, lumpy meadow with grazing cows and protruding rocks with a splendid lake and mountain view – and swore an oath of mutual support against the Austrians.

They stood in the August sunshine, placed their left hands together, one on top of the other, raised their right hands above their heads in a honour salute and swore to help one another through thick and thin, in peace and war, forever.

Lake Ägeri, Switzerland, 15 November 1315

In 1314 tensions between the Habsburgs and the Swiss heightened when Duke Louis IV of Bavaria and Frederick the Handsome of the Habsburgs each claimed the crown of the Holy Roman Emperor.

The Swiss supported Louis IV because they feared the Hapsburgs would annex their lands, which they had already tried to do in the late 1200s.

War eventually broke out after the Swiss of Schwyz raided the Habsburg-protected Einsiedeln Abbey over access to pasture lands.

Frederick´s brother, Leopold of Austria, led a large army to crush the rebellious Swiss.

Leopold planned a surprise attack from the south via Lake Aegeri (Ägerisee) and the Morgarten Pass, counting on complete victory, for the Swiss lacked both the training as well as the equipment of the Habsburg knights.

The Swiss Confederates of Schwyz were supported by the Confederates of Uri, while the Confederates of Unterwalden erected fortifications west of the village of Arth in anticipation of a Habsburg approach from that direction.

The Confederates of Schwyz and Uri prepared a road block and an ambush point between Ägerisee and Morgarten Pass, where a small path led between a steep slope and a swamp.

The Swiss led by Werner Stauffacher of Schwyz had 1,500 infantry and archers.

The Austrians led by Leopold I had 5,500 infantry and 2,500 heavy cavalry.

When the Swiss ambushed the Austrians from above with rocks, logs and battleaxes, the Austrians had no room to defend themselves and suffered a crushing defeat.

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The Swiss, unfamiliar with the custom of battles between knights, brutally butchered retreating troops and anyone unable to flee.

And the Swiss made an important and enduring discovery at this battle.

They learned that displaying greater cohesion than any equal force set against them, the Swiss could defeat anyone.

In March 1316, Holy Roman Emperor Louis IV confirmed the rights and privileges of the Forest Cantons.

However, Leopold proposed another attack against the Swiss Confederacy.

Neither Swiss nor Habsburg prevailed, so in 1318 they negotiated a truce.

By 1323, the Forest Cantons had made alliances with Cantons Bern and Glarus.

Within 40 years, the Cantons of Lucerne, Zug and Zürich had also joined the Confederacy.

By 1384, the expansion of the Swiss Confederacy was colliding with Austrian interests.

The interests of Austria were further undermined in the Pact of Konstanz – a union of Zürich, Zug, Solothurn and 51 cities of German Swabia.

Without formal declaration of war or any form of central organisation, the Swiss attacked the Austrian strongholds of Rapperswil, Rothenburg, Cham, Wolhusen, Entlebuch, Sempach, Meienberg, Reichensee and Willisau.

The Austrians had had enough.

Duke Leopold assembled his troops and declared war on the Swiss.

The Austrians gathered together at Brugg, marched south to Zofingen and Willisau, intending to ravage the Lucerne coutryside, cutting down corn and destroying the harvests along their route.

The town of Willisau was plundered and razed and the Austrian army moved on to Sursee on Lake Sempach, heading towards the town of Sempach.

Leopold´s men taunted those behind Sempach´s walls and an Austrian knight waved a noose at them and promised he would use it on their leaders.

The Swiss Confederation army, assembled at the bridge over the Reuss River at Gisikon, marched towards Sempach, hoping to catch the Austrians still there and press them against the Lake.

Sempach, Switzerland, 9 July 1386

12:00 – The two armies make contact 2 km outside of Sempach, to their mutual surprise for both were on the move and not in battle formation, but both sides quickly form ranks.

The Swiss held the wooded high ground close to the village of Hildisrieden.

Since the terrain was not deemed suitable for a cavalry attack, Leopold´s knights dismounted.

How and at what point the battle turned in favour of the outnumbered Swiss is a matter of debate.

Perhaps it was the midday heat, which wore out the Austrian knights wearing heavy armour much more than the lightly armed Swiss (some of whom had no other armour than a wooden plank tied to their left arms as shields).

Perhaps the Austrians fatally underestimated the Swiss.

The Swiss broke through the Austrian ranks and routed the enemy army completely.

Many Austrian nobles and knights were slain, including Duke Leopold.

The Battle of Sempach came to be seen as the decisive turning point between the foundation of the Confederacy as a loose pact in the 14th century and its growth into a significant and military power during the 15th century.

Sempach Schlachtfresko.jpg

The Austrians soon signed an armistice and peace treaty.

Sempach had been a severe blow to Austrian interests and the Swiss Confederacy could now expand unchecked.

No Swiss history book is complete without mentioning Sempach, a battle that means nothing to most Europeans, but still commemorated every year by the Swiss.

Sempach secured Swiss independence and their reputation as soldiers to be reckoned with.

Fast forward to 1476.

Burgundy is one of the richest and biggest powers in Europe under its Duke, Charles the Bold.

Charles the Bold 1460.jpg

Above: Charles Martin the Bold, last Duke of Burgundy (1433 – 1477)

Charles rules over a large part of western Europe, from the Netherlands and Belgium through northern France and Alsace down towards Geneva.

With France and England having spent the previous century fighting each other to a standstill, while Germany and Italy remain divided into piecemeal states, the way is clear for Burgundy to rule the Continental roost.

As previously mentioned, in 1469 Duke Sigismund of Hapsburg of Austria had assigned his possessions in the Alsace as a fiefdom to the Duke of Burgundy, Charles the Bold, so as to have these Alsatian territories better protected against the expansion of the Eidgenossen (Old Swiss Confederacy).

Charles the Bold´s embargo politics against the cities of Basel, Strasbourg and Mulhouse, directed by his reeve Peter von Hagenbach, prompted these cities to appeal to the Swiss Confederacy for help.

On 30 November 1475, Charles seized Nancy in Lorraine, then marched against the Swiss.

Charles marched to Grandson, recently captured by the Swiss, where he had all 412 men of the Swiss garrison hanged or drowned in Lake Neuchatel despite their capitulation on 28 February 1476.

The shocking and horrible execution lasted four hours.

Charles hoped to fill the Swiss with dread, to break the will of the Swiss by killing any of their countrymen he could apprehend.

Instead he united the Swiss as never before.

The Swiss confederate forces had no news of the fate of the Grandson garrison and assembled their forces in the hope of lifting the siege.

On 2 March 1476, Charles was attacked by the Swiss confederate forces and suffered a shameful defeat.

Luzerner Schilling Battle of Grandson.jpg

Charles was compelled to flee, abandoning his artillery along with many provisions and valuables.

At insignificant cost to themselves, the Swiss had humiliated the greatest duke in Europe, defeating one of the most feared armies and taken a most impressive amount of treasure.

Charles succeeded in raising a fresh army of 30,000 men.

Stung by his defeat at Grandson, Charles was determined to recover his territories and fortifications in the Pays de Vaud (in the present day French-speaking parts of Switzerland), then march on and attack the city of Berne, his greatest enemy among the Swiss cantons.

Charles´ first objective was the strategic lakeside town of Morat, on the eastern shore of Lac Morat.

On 22 June 1476, the Burgundians were resoundingly defeated and never truly recovered.

For some three miles along the lakeside many Burgundians died that day.

Charles´ dream of revenge against the Swiss should have ended that day, for his defeat at Morat spelled the beginning of the end for the Duchy of Burgundy, but he would doggedly struggle on against his foes.

Charles escaped to Morges and then to Pontarlier, where he stayed for months, in a deep depression.

On 6 October 1476, Charles lost Nancy to the Swiss who returned it to the Duke of Lorraine.

Making a last effort, Charles formed a new army and arrived in the dead of winter before the walls of Nancy.

Having lost many of his troops through the severe cold, it was only with a few thousand men that Charles met the joint forces of the Lorrainers and the Swiss at the Battle of Nancy on 5 January 1477.

Charles´ body, as abovementioned, was found two days later.

With the death of Charles the Bold, the dynasty of the Dukes of Burgundy died out.

The Flemish territories of Burgundy became a possession of the Austrian Habsburgs.

The French territories of Burgundy reverted to the crown of France.

The victories of the Swiss Confederation over one of the most powerful military forces in Europe at the time gained the Swiss a reputation of near invincibility.

The wars with Burgundy marked the beginning of the rise of Swiss mercenaries on the battlefields of Europe.

One man´s recklessness and his underestimation of the Swiss led to an inglorious and undignified death and ended both a dynasty and an empire.

(To be continued…)

Flag of Switzerland

Sources: Wikipedia / Diccon Bewes, Swiss Watching / Xenophobe´s Guide to the Swiss / The Rough Guide to France

 

 

Burkinis on the beach

Landschlacht, Switzerland, 25 August 2016

As I read the headlines of recent newspapers I can´t help but feel a sense of sadness about how much discussion can be generated over themes of relative unimportance while other themes that should be talked about are often marginalized and ignored.

More headlines are devoted to athletes and Hollywood stars then are devoted to destruction and disease.

Most of us are more aware of Kim Kardashian´s measurements than we are of how serious a problem global warming is, more concerned about fashion than famine, more afraid of phantom menaces than actual threats.

As my wife is quick to remind me, your humble blogger is quite possibly the most unfashionable person she knows, but I know if I wait long enough fashion will catch up to me!

I think I am a typically, old-fashioned kind of a man when I say I can´t understand the fuss and hullabaloo that is made over fashion.

If my clothes match the weather, fit the function I need them to do, are somewhat clean and are not offensive to the eye of the beholder, then I am satisfied.

My wife is right when she suggests I may have too many books that threaten to eat up what little space our apartment possesses, but I can counter her arguments by taking a quick stroll to her side of the bathroom or taking a quick peek inside her wardrobe.

How many bottles and tubes of toiletries and make-up does a woman actually need?

How many shoes are “enough”?

Has she even worn all the clothes she owns?

In fairness, we strange humans judge one another, especially the female of the species, by appearance, even going so far as to falsely believe that appearance is an accurate gauge of character, that a beauty can never be a beast.

We pin our perceptions of self based upon how others judge our appearance and feel flattered and complimented when someone approves of our looks.

We spend fortunes on pharmaceuticals and some even go so far as to have surgery to maintain an image of unreal perfection and ageless youth.

We foolishly separate the ideas of intelligence from beauty, stupidly thinking that beauty and intelligence cannot co-exist within the same bodily frame and many of us believe that being beautiful is superior to being intelligent.

Why do we give so much respect and attention to fashion models and ignore the truly intellectual individuals among us?

We believe that age is incompatible with beauty, so many a woman tilts against the windmills of immovable inevitability by buying into the notion that science in a bottle can stave off the signs of aging.

Many believe that the body itself is insufficient and incomplete, so folks add cosmetics, jewellery of one form or another, and even body art.

So much time, so much energy, so much interest, so much money revolves around fashion and appearance.

The world might end tomorrow, but, damn it, we will look good when the final chimes strike.

Take the case of Bethany Mota.

Bethany Mota by Gage Skidmore.jpg

“Since launching her YouTube channel from the humble clutter of her north California bedroom, Mota has gone on to amass a following of nearly 10 million viewers and earns an estimated $40,000 a month for her videos.

Only 20 years old, Mota has won awards for her tips on recipes for packed lunches, back to school and morning routine tips, make-up and fashion tutorials.

This internet personality has through her videos built up her own media and fashion empire with her own clothing line with Aéroporta, JCPenney and Forever 21.

Testimony to the ever-rising reach of social media influencers, Mota was deemed so influential that she was selected to interview President Barack Obama as part of an initiative to branch out to a wider audience.

Mona’s YouTube channel reaches automatically larger audiences than most politicians’ social media accounts.” (Independent, 7 April 2016)

Think about this for a moment…

A 20-year-old whose “expertise” lies in what lip shade goes with what dress is more influential than a politician whose decisions have impact on a country’s economy and ultimately its future.

A 20-year-old makes more money per month than the President of the United States makes per year.

It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad, mad world.

No matter how one might belittle the world of fashion, there is no denying its impact and influence upon so many of us.

Fashion makes a statement.

With half the population on the planet obsessed with appearance, there is great potential for profit to be made from this obsession.

“Global brands are waking up to the massive opportunities of the worldwide Muslim market – a burgeoning sector that is young, highly educated and collectively has enormous spending power.

"Allah" in Arabic calligraphy

The world´s 1.6 billion Muslims constitute a laregly untapped commercial market, worth $2.1 trillion annually worldwide and increasing by $500 billion every year.

“A huge opportunity is being missed by corporate brands, but the market is being taken by storm by young Muslim start-ups,” said Shelina Janmohamed, vice president of Ogilvy Noor, an Islamic branding agency.

Ogilvy Noor | A full-service Islamic Branding consultancy | A full-service Islamic Branding consultancy

There are recent indications that global brands are beginning to target Muslims.

A decision by Marks & Spencer to sell a range of “burkinis” (full cover swimsuits) in the UK last month prompted heated debate.

MarksAndSpencer1884 logo.svg

H & M, one of the world´s biggest fashion chains, attracted attention with an ad featuring a model in a hijab last year.

H&M-Logo.svg

But there is still a long way to go.

“One of the complaints we hear is that Muslim consumers feel they are not engaged with, as businesses do not reach out to them.” (Shelina Janmohamed)

Janmohamed´s company´s research has found that more than 90% of Muslim consumers said their faith had some influence on their purchases.

Muslims want food, beverages and personal products to be sharia-compliant, but show more flexibility in products and services, such as finance, insurance and travel.

Although most Muslim consumers want acknowledgement and engagement from global businesses, some worry that corporations are motivated more by the chance to profit from the Muslim market.

According to Janmohamed, Muslim consumers fall broadly into two groups: futurists and traditionalists.

Futurists combine faith and modernity.

“They are proud to express their Muslim identity, but are also brand-conscious and brand-loyal.

They are open to the world, very tech-savvy, and very engaged in social media.”(Shelina Janmohamed)

Futurists, or Generation M, are younger and have influence disproportionate to their numbers.

Navid Akhtar, CEO of the Islamic TV production company Alchemiya calls Janmohamed´s futurists “gummies”(global urban Muslims).

Gummies are hyperdiverse, spiritual rather than Religious with a capital R, educated, transnational, with high disposable incomes and the vast majority are English speakers.

A key subset of gummies are “mipsters” (Muslim hipsters), aged between 16 and 24, obsessed with identity, image, fashion, friendship and education.

Tabish Hasan, CEO of the US-based Muslim Aid Network, compares the failure of major brands to tap into the Muslim market now to a similar disregard of the potential of the Hispanic market in the 1980s.

Muslim Aid Serving Humanity

“Brands can´t afford not to engage with the Muslim market.

The Muslim lifestyle market is moving in the same direction – it´s so big, it has so much spending power.

It´s just a matter of time.”(Tabish Hasan)(Guardian, 8 April 2016)

“France has begun arresting Muslim women for wearing full body swimwear.

What started as a temporary rule brought in by a single resort in France has spread along the French Riviera and beyond and has become a lightning rod for a multitude of divisive issues.

The first city to announce the prohibition was Cannes, where mayor David Lisnard said he wanted to prohibit “beachwear ostentatiously showing a religious affiliation while France and places of religious significance are the target of terror attacks” to avoid “trouble to public order”.

A Cannes bylaw says anyone wearing swimwear deemed not to “respect good customs and secularism” would be barred from visiting the resort´s beaches or swimming.

The second community to announce a burkini ban, Villeneuve-Loubet, was not so direct linking burkinis to terrorism.

V-L´s rule stipulates that only clothing that “is respectful to morality and secular principles, and in compliance with hygiene and safety rules” is allowed.

V-L mayor Lionnel Luca could not give what specific hygiene reasons there were for banning full body swimwear.

A tribunal in Nice ruled that a burkini ban is “necessary, appropriate and proportionate” to prevent public disorder.

Armed police forced a Muslim woman to remove her clothing on the city´s Promenade des Anglais, the location of the lorry attack on 14 July 2016 (Bastille Day) in which 84 people were killed.

Four police officers armed with handguns, batons and pepper spray stood around the woman who was lying on the beach wearing a blue headscarf and matching top and forced her to remove them despite her and her daughter´s crying.

(Think about this for a moment…

Men with guns forcing a woman to undress, with the weight of the law behind them.)

None of the French Riviera orders have directly mentioned burkinis and some people have questioned whether police would enforce the ban for wetsuits, nuns´ habits and other garments.

Dozens of Muslim women have been fined, given warnings, or arrested  for wearing clothing deemed to violate these bans.

Authorities in at least 15 towns and cities have brought in bans, with the most recent being Cagnes sur Mer in Provence.

News of burkini bans has spread around the world, gaining support from right wing politicians.

Marine Le Pen, leader of the far right Front National, claimed the “soul of France is in question”.

Le Pen, Marine-9586.jpg

“France does not lock away a woman´s body.

France does not hide half its population under the fallacious and hateful pretext that the other half fears it will be tempted.”(Marine Le Pen)

Critics have compared the enforcement of the ban to repression in Saudi Arabia and Iran, arguing that ordering women what to wear (or not to wear) is a violation of human rights in any context.

The bans are widely perceived to be a response to increased tensions and public fears following the Nice attack and the murder of a Catholic priest by ISIS supporters.

Some rights groups have said the new laws amount to the “collective punishment” of Muslims following the terror attacks and amid friction over immigration and the refugee crisis.

And other incidents continue…

Women are being ordered out of the sea, with onlookers shouting racist abuse.

Don´t misunderstand me…

I am very sympathetic to the victims of terrorism and I understand how sad and angry and afraid events of this type make people feel.

But we must not give in to these emotions nor let these emotions be a justification for acting as injustly as those we condemn.

We must not judge entire groups by the actions of a few.

We cannot prevent expression of religion and claim that this prevention is a secular act.

We cannot use the law against someone´s religious beliefs and then claim that we are ensuring that the law is separate from faith.

Nor need we fear that our beliefs are being supplanted by those who have chosen to bring their beliefs among us.

For if our beliefs are strong then they cannot be threatened by change.

And if our beliefs aren´t strong, then maybe change is necessary.

Terror analysts have warned that the dispute will fuel jihadist propaganda as groups like ISIS attempt to portray France and other Western countries as at war with Islam.

If the aim of the terrorists who took so many innocent lives in Paris, Nice and elsewhere was to foment hatred and conflict and to provoke the French state into an overreaction, then the French authorities have more than fulfilled their unsavoury ambitions.

Victimising and bullying Muslim women on holiday is not only bad PR, it is wrong in principle and entirely counterproductive.”(Independent editorial)

Germany is separately considering a nationwide ban on full face veils, which is already enforced in Belgium. (Independent, 25 August 2016)

In regards to face covering, I only consider it necessary when there are security issues where a person would be required to remove a motorcycle helmet, such as places like banks or border crossings.

As for swimwear I lean towards a “live and let live” philosophy.

If a woman is comfortable with being fully covered or uncovered then personal liberty and dignity should be paramount over whether I like seeing that woman in a burkini or a bikini.

And if I am uncomfortable with my environment then I have the choice of leaving it.

Fashion is a statement.

How we choose to respond to it is a question of not only the wearer´s character, but as well our own.

Red Stripe Swimsuit