Canada Slim and the Author’s Apartment 2: Suffering

Landschlacht, Switzerland, Sunday 17 November 2019

I have often believed that you can tell a lot about a person by the manner in which they live.

For example, if you, my gentle readers, wanted to comprehend the conundrum that is Canada Slim, yours truly, you would need to visit the apartment I share with the Mrs. here in the wee hamlet of Landschlacht.

 

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It is cluttered.

I like to physically surround myself with books in the dim hope that I will somehow absorb into my system the knowledge within these tomes.

 

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Two subjects dominate my library: travel and history.

Though there are certainly books connected with teaching and languages, more space is taken up with travel and history.

Half of the volumes of these dominant topics have a personal connection with me, for I have done some travel and the history of the places I have visited has always fascinated me.

For example, I spent a week in Serbia, primarily in Belgrade, and I possess an entire shelf of literature dedicated to that week.

 

Above: Belgrade by night

 

I long to understand what I have seen and love to share what I have understood.

 

Every person has their interests to which they gravitate towards when they travel.

I know those who belong on beaches and others who seek sanctuary in pubs and watering holes.

Some need to actively exert themselves in a sport or recreational activity, while others simply wish to sit or lie about.

 

My wife has a morbid fascination with all things funereal like cemeteries, ossuaries and hospitals, while I seek to educate myself on the culture and literature of the new found land I am visiting.

 

Above: Braque Triptych, Rogier van der Weyden

 

I must confess to being a bit of a barbarian vis à vis the world of art so I often may miss museums that others rave on and on about.

But tell me of a writer once living and/or dying in a place and I make my way to that site as quickly as I can.

And I linger therein until the constraints of a tourist’s schedule and the limits of a museum’s patience are tested.

 

Above: William Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon, England

 

As I have said, you can tell volumes about a person when you view how they live, for one’s lodgings show one’s life priorities, what he chooses to remember and what he prefers to forget.

 

Life is such that we must often be ashamed of the best things it holds, hiding them away from everyone, even from those closest to us.

(Ivo Andric, Signs by the Roadside)

 

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A while back I began to write about the Memorial Museum and the fascinating life of Ivo Andric.

 

Frontal view of a bespectacled man

Above: Ivo Andric, 1961

 

Ivo Andric (1892 – 1975) was a Yugoslav novelist, poet and short story writer who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1961.

In the years following Andrić’s death, the Belgrade apartment where he spent much of World War II and the rest of his life was converted into a museum and a nearby street corner was named in his honour.

A number of other cities in the former Yugoslavia also have streets bearing his name.

 

Flag of Yugoslavia (1946-1992).svg

Above: Flag of the Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia (1945 – 1992)

 

In 2012, filmmaker Emir Kusturica began construction of an ethno-town in eastern Bosnia that is named after Andrić.

 

Above: Andricgrad, Bosnia-Herzegovina

 

As Yugoslavia’s only Nobel Prize-winning writer, Andrić was well known and respected in his native country during his lifetime.

 

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, beginning in the 1950s and continuing past the breakup of Yugoslavia, his works have been disparaged by Bosniak literary critics for their supposed anti-Muslim bias.

 

Flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Above: Flag of Bosnia – Herzegovina

 

In Croatia, his works were long shunned for nationalist reasons, and even briefly blacklisted following Yugoslavia’s dissolution, but were rehabilitated by the literary community at the start of the 21st century.

 

Flag of Croatia

Above: Flag of Croatia

 

He is highly regarded in Serbia for his contributions to Serbian literature.

 

Flag of Serbia

Above: Flag of Serbia

 

I have written about Andric and continue to do so here and in two further posts to come, because I am fascinated by his life and how he lived that life.

I have written about how Andric was raised and educated in the Balkans and abroad.

 

The Balkan region according to Prof R. J. Crampton

 

Everytime I think of Andric I recall a conversation I had once with Nesha Obranovic, my Serbian host in Belgrade.

He spoke of his reluctance to wield weapons for the Serbian military, because for him the idea of Serbia being separate from a united Yugoslavia seemed somewhat strange.

Because we must remember that the nation of Serbia as we now know it is a recent invention that resulted after the break-up of Yugoslavia in 2000.

 

Yugoslavia during the Interwar period and the Cold War

Above: Map of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia (1918 – 1941) and map of the Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia (1945 – 1992)

 

Yugoslavia, for all its many faults and flaws under the iron rule of Josip Broz Tito (1892 – 1980), was a union of Slovenes, Croatians, Bosnians, Montenegrese, Macedonians and Serbians, with more in common with each other than different.

 

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Above: Josip Broz Tito (1892 – 1980)

 

And though the drive for self-destiny led to the inevitable break-up of Yugoslavia into the modern states of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia, it was nonetheless for many unnatural to wage war against those who had once upon a time been brother Yugoslavs.

 

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Certainly Andric was born a Bosnian and died a Serbian, but his writing is simultaneously both and neither Bosnian and Serbian but rather universal.

 

I believe that if people knew how agonizing living my life has been, they would be more willing to forgive my wrongdoings and all the good I have failed to do, and still have a shred of compassion left over for me.

(Ivo Andric, Signs by the Roadside)

 

Above: Ivo Andric, 1951

 

Nesha was born in Yugoslavia, but because of historical forces beyond his control he is Serbian.

Nesha does not feel the need to automatically hate Slovenes, Croats, Bosnians, Montenegrese or Macedonians, because, in their desire for independence, blood was shed copiously by Serbian and non-Serbian alike.

 

Under Slobodan Milosevic (1941 – 2006), much violence was committed in the name of Serbia against fellow Yugoslavs.

But not all Serbians were / are like Milosevic.

Nesha certainly is not.

 

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Above: Slobodan Milosevic, 1988

 

Nesha is one of the most honourable men it has been my privilege to know as a colleague and friend here in Switzerland.

He is Serbian, but he isn’t all Serbians.

He was born in Belgrade, but he is not the government.

Like many Americans who are proud of America but are ashamed of their political past, Nesha is proud of Serbia but not always enamored with all aspects of Serbia’s past.

Just as I try to judge others on a case by case basis, Nesha similarly does the same.

One of the reasons we get along so well.

 

Above: House of the National Assembly, Belgrade, Serbia

 

It is this universality of thought and behaviour that attracts me to the life and works of Ivo Andric.

To be able to write universally one must be at one with the world, and it was the experiences of Andric between the two World Wars that would lead him to write works that would be universally understood and loved.

 

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Come with me now, back into the Memorial Museum of Ivo Andric and let us look at what makes a man of letters….

 

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Belgrade, Serbia, 5 April 2018

I have already written of how Ivo Andric, the only Serb to ever win the Nobel Prize for Literature, was born into a family of a Catholic father and an Orthodox mother near Travnik in present day Bosnia.

I wrote of how he studied philosophy, Slavic history and literature, and how following his graduation he took to writing poetry regularly.

 

Above: Birthplace of Ivo Andric, Dolac, Bosnia

 

The year was 1914 and Europe was dominated by ambitious imperial states.

A series of wars in the 1860s and 1870s established Germany as Europe’s superior military power.

In the 1890s France and Russia formed an alliance to counter the might of Germany and its close ally, Austria – Hungary.

In the first decade of the 20th century, Britain, feeling threatened by the growth of the German navy, abandoned its traditonal isolationism and formed an entente – a loose unofficial alliance – with France and Russia.

Peace was maintained by a balance of power between the two hostile alliances.

The European states expanded their armed forces and equipped them with the latest technology.

They developed plans for the rapid mobilization of mass conscript armies that threatened to turn any confrontation into full scale war.

Every country felt that the side that struck first would hace a decisive advantage.

 

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The behaviour of Germany’s leader, Kaiser Wilhelm II, was aggressive and erratic, particularly during the Moroccan Crisis of 1911, but the spark that ignited war came in the Balkans, where states, such as Serbia, had become independent of Ottoman Turkish rule in the 19th century.

 

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Above: Kaiser Wilhelm II (1859 – 1941)

 

(The Agadir Crisis, Agadir Incident or Second Moroccan Crisis  – also known as the Panthersprung in German –  was a brief international crisis sparked by the deployment of a substantial force of French troops in the interior of Morocco in April 1911.

Germany did not object to France’s expansion, but wanted territorial compensation for itself.

Berlin threatened warfare, sent a gunboat and stirred up angry German nationalists.

Negotiations between Berlin and Paris resolved the crisis:

France took over Morocco as a protectorate in exchange for territorial concessions to Germany from the French Congo, while Spain was satisfied with a change in its boundary with Morocco.

The British cabinet, however, was alarmed at Germany’s aggressiveness toward France.

David Lloyd George made a dramatic “Mansion House” speech that denounced the German move as an intolerable humiliation.

There was talk of war, and Germany backed down.

Relations between Berlin and London remained sour.)

 

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Above: French troops on the move in Morocco

 

Russia had ambitions to spread its influence in the Balkans as the champion of the Slav peoples.

This led to hostile relations with Austria – Hungary, which was at odds with restless Slav minorities within its own borders.

 

Austria – Hungary’s ruler, Emperor Franz Joseph, has come to the throne in 1849.

His regime was splendid in its public ceremonies but shaky in its political foundations.

In 1908 Austria – Hungary annexed Bosnia – Herzegovina, a province with a mixed Serb, Croat and Bosnian Muslim population.

This annexation angered Serbia, which had its own ambitions to unite the region’s Slav population under its rule.

The Austro – Hungarian government felt the rising power of Serbia was a threat to its authority over its restless Slav subjects in the Balkans.

 

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Above: Franz Joseph I (1830 – 1916)

 

Franz Ferdinand was the nephew of the Emperor.

He became heir apparent to the Habsburg throne in 1889.

His relations with the Emperor were soured by his insistence on marrying an impoverished Czech aristocrat, Sophie Chotek, in 1900.

He was forced to agree to humiliating terms in order to marry her.

She was denied royal status and any offspring would be barred from inheriting the throne.

Franz Ferdinand’s political position varied over time, but he was viewed by the Austro – Hungarian establishment as dangerously liberal on the key issue of Slav nationalism.

 

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Above: Franz Ferdinand (1863 – 1914)

 

Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s 28 June 1914 visit to Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia – Herzegovina, was a blunt assertion of imperial authority in the recently annexed province.

Even his timing was provocative:

28 June was a day sacred to Serb nationalists as the anniversary of the 1389 Battle of Kosovo, in which a defeat by the Turks had cost Serbia its independence.

 

Above: Battle of Kosovo, Adam Stefanovic

 

Bosnian Serb separatists, who were armed, trained and organized by shadowy nationalist groups and military intelligence officers in Serbia, had been carrying out attacks against the Austro – Hungarian authorities in Bosnia – Herzegovina.

The Austrian government had received specific warning of a planned assassination attempt against the Archduke, but the visit went ahead regardless.

To cancel it or even mount a heavy-handed security operation would have been an admission that the Habsburgs did not fully control one of the provinces in their empire.

The Archduke’s planned route and schedule were publicized in advance of the visit.

 

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Above: Flag of the Habsburg Monarchy (1804 – 1918)

 

 

As the motorcade drove along the quay by the Miljacka River, one of the conspirators, Nedjelko Cabrinovic, threw a bomb that bounced off the back of the Archduke’s car and exploded.

This injured a number of bystanders, including a police officer.

 

Above: The 1911 Gräf & Stift 28/32 Double Phaeton in which Franz Ferdinand and Sophie were riding on 28 June 1914

 

Cabrinovic then swallowed a cyanide pill and jumped into the shallow river, where he was arrested, the cyanide proving non-lethal.

 

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Above: Nedeljko Cabrinovic (1896 – 1916)

 

Angered and shocked by the incident, Franz Ferdinand continued making his way to the town hall.

The conspirators dispersed into the crowds, their assassination bid having seemingly ended in failure.

 

Above: Franz Ferdinand and Sophie leaving Sarajevo Town Hall, 28 June 1914

 

Gavrilo Princip (19) went into a delicatessan to buy a sandwich.

Coming out of the shop, Princip found the Archduke’s car stopped directly in front of him.

Franz Ferdinand had decided to visit the injured police officer in hospital, but his driver had taken a wrong turn and was trying to reverse.

Seizing his opportunity, Princip pulled out his pistol and fired twice, hitting the Archduke in the neck and his wife in the abdomen.

 

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“Sophie, Sophie, don’t die!

Stay alive for our children!” were the last words the Archduke spoke.

The couple died within minutes while still in the car.

 

 

Princip tried to kill himself but was overpowered by onlookers and arrested.

 

Above: Gavrilo Princip (1894 – 1918)

 

The news of the couple’s death was a shock to the Habsburg court.

There was no state funeral.

Franz Ferdinand and Sophie were interred side by side in a private crypt at Artstetten Castle in the Danube valley.

 

Above: Arstetten Castle, Austria

 

Emperor Franz Joseph was privately relieved that he would never be succeeded by a nephew he neither liked nor trusted.

A higher power has restored that order which I could unfortunately not maintain.“, the Emperor said.

 

Above: Portrait of Franz Joseph, 1899, Philip de Laszlo

 

But the public affront to the Austro – Hungarian state was gross.

Although there was no clear evidence that the Serbian government had been directly involved, the operation had definitely been planned and organized in Serbia.

The planning of the operation was traced to the head of Serbian military intelligence, Colonel Dragutin Dimitrijevic.

This was enough.

 

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Above: Drazutin Dimitrijevic (1876 – 1917)

 

A band of assassins, with Serbian backing, had killed the heir to the throne.

Austro – Hungary’s honour, prestige and credibility required that Serbia be made to pay.

 

Above: Route of the assassins, Belgrade to Sarajevo, 1914

 

Austro – Hungarian ruling circles were split between warhawks and doves.

Chief of the General Staff Count Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf had long sought a war with Serbia.

He saw the assassinations as an ideal pretext for military action.

 

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Above: Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf (1852 – 1925)

 

Other important figures, including Count István Tisza, Prime Minister of Hungary, were more cautious, preferring a diplomatic solution.

 

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Above: István Tisza (1861 – 1918)

 

In the first week of July 1914, Austria – Hungary sought the opinion of its ally Germany.

Kaiser Wilhelm II had been outraged by the assassinations.

His advisers, including Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann – Hollweg, agreed that Austria – Hungary should be encouraged to take decisive, but unspecified, action against Serbia.

Whatever the Austro – Hungarian government chose to do, it could be assured of Germany’s support.

 

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Above: Theobald von Bethmann – Hollweg (1856 – 1921)

 

This loose guarantee of German backing – often referred to as “the blank cheque” – put the warhawks firmly in control of Vienna.

Austria – Hungary then drew up a series of demands deliberately designed to prove unacceptable.

Their rejection by Serbia would provide a pretext for an attack by the Austro – Hungarian army.

 

Flag of Austria–Hungary

Above: Flag of Austria – Hungary (1867 – 1918)

 

No one was planning for a full scale war.

The idea was for a swift punitive invasion followed by a harsh peace settlement to humiliate and permanently weaken Serbia.

However, nothing could happen quickly.

Much of the army was on leave, helping to bring in the harvest.

After some hesitation, the date for delivery of an ultimatum was set for 23 July.

 

Flag of Serbia

Above: Flag of the Kingdom of Serbia (1882 – 1918)

 

On 23 July 1914, at 6pm, the Austro – Hungarian ambassador delivered an ultimatum to the Serbian government, starting the world on the road to war.

The ultimatum demanded that the Serbs suppress anti-Austrian terrorist organizations, stop anti-Austrian propaganda, and allow Austro – Hungarian officials to take part in the investigation of those who were responsible for the Sarajevo assassinations.

The Serbians were given 48 hours to accept the demands of the ultimatum or face war.

Serbia accepted most of them but, assured of support from Russia, rejected outright the idea of Austrian officials operating on Serbian soil.

 

Above: Kingdom of Serbia, 1913

 

Kaiser Wilhelm, returning from his holiday cruise in the North Sea, enthused over the humiliation of Serbia and suggested that war was no longer necessary.

 

 

The dominant elements within the Austro – Hungarian military and political establishment did not want a diplomatic triumph.

They wanted a military victory to dismember Serbia and bolster Habsburg authority.

Thus on 28 July 1914 Austria-Hungary formally declared war on Serbia.

 

 

To stand by while Serbia was defeated by Austria-Hungary would have been a severe humiliation for Russia.

It would have signified the end of the long-nourished ambition to expand Russian influence in the Balkans and towards Istanbul.

So, that same day, Russia declared the mobilization of its armed forces in those regions facing Austria-Hungary.

 

Flag of Imperial Russia

Above: Flag of the Russian Empire (1721 – 1917)

 

Suddenly the great European powers faced the prospect of war spreading to engulf them all.

The insecurity and crises of the last decade had strengthened rival alliances and hardened mutual suspicions.

France and Russia felt that they must stand or fall together.

 

Flag of France

Above: Flag of France

 

On 31 July Kaiser Wilhelm asked his Chief of the General Staff Helmuth von Moltke:

Is the Fatherland in danger?

Moltke answered in the affirmative.

 

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Above: Helmuth von Moltke the Younger (1848 – 1916)

 

On 1 August, Germany declared war on Russia.

 

Flag of German Reich

Above: Flag of the German Empire (1871 – 1918)

 

Britain was a guarantor of Belgian neutrality under the Terms of the 1839 Treaty of London.

To attack Russia’s ally France, Germany’s plan required the army to cross Belgium.

On 2 August, Germany demanded right of passage through Belgium for its troops.

When German troops entered Belgium on 3 August, Britain responded with an ultimatum demanding their withdrawl.

 

Location of Belgium

 

A German declaration of war on France followed on 3 August.

A British declaration of war on Germany followed on 4 August.

The war had officially begun.

 

Political cartoon titled “Der Stänker” (“The Troublemaker“) that was published in the German satirical magazine Kladderadatsch on 9 August 1914, depicting the nations of Europe sitting at a table.
(1st panel) The Central Powers hold their noses in distaste as tiny Serbia joins the table, while Russia reacts with joy.
(2) Serbia stabs Austria-Hungary, to everyone’s apparent shock. Germany immediately offers support to Austria.
(3) Austria demands satisfaction from Serbia, while a relaxed Germany with hands in its pockets doesn’t notice Russia and France come to agreement in the background.
(4) Austria manhandles Serbia, while an alarmed Germany looks to an angry Russia and presumably makes an agreement with the Ottoman Empire, and France tries to talk to Britain.
(5) A general brawl erupts with Germany and France immediately confronting each other, as Britain looks on in dismay. To the right, another combatant threatens to join from the darkness.

 

Upon hearing the news of the assassinations, Andrić decided to leave Kraków (Poland) and return to Bosnia.

Leaving his few belongings with his landlady Andric went straight to the Station.

 

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Above: Kraków Station

 

He travelled by train to Zagreb, and in mid-July, departed for the coastal city of Split with his friend, the poet and fellow South Slav nationalist Vladimir Čerina.

Andrić and Čerina spent the rest of July at the latter’s summer home in Split.

As the month progressed, the two became increasingly uneasy about the escalating political crisis that followed the Archduke’s assassination and eventually led to the outbreak of World War I.

 

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Above: Vladimir Cerina (1891 – 1932)

 

As the years go by, even in the most turbulent of lives, certain phenomena become habitual, occurring in symmetrical and repetitive patterns so that even the most unwilling and barely conscious of souls cannot help but notice them.

And, thus, one can observe his own life in advance.

He knows what October will bring, assuming the same for March, and he can also foresee the summer months.

No spiritual hygiene nor prophylactic measures (which come with time) can be of assistance nor is there any escape or fading into obscurity.

Even the greatest efforts are in vain or of very little assistance.

Diametrically opposed spiritual states, such as fear or dangerous joy or fruitful peace, shift with a calendar-like continuity occurring ineviatably, in line with the changes on Earth.

(Ivo Andric, Signs by the Roadside)

 

Location of Croatia

 

(For a description of Kraków and Zagreb, please see Canada Slim and the Author’s Apartment 1 – Learning.)

 

Split is a city in Central Dalmatia, Croatia, and the seat of the Split-Dalmatia county.

It is one of the Adriatic’s most vibrant cities – an exubrant and hectic place full of shouting stall owners and travellers on the move.

 

Top: Nighttime view of Split from Mosor; 2nd row: Cathedral of Saint Domnius; City center of Split; 3rd row: View of the city from Marjan hill; Night in Poljička Street; Bottom: Riva waterfront

Above: Images of Split

 

At the heart of the city, hemmed in by sprawling estates and a modern harbour, lies the crumbling old town, which grew out of the former Palace of the Roman Emperor Diocletian (a palace/fort built for the retired Roman emperor Diocletian) where the locals sought refuge centuries ago.

The Palace remains the central ingredient in the city’s urban fabric – lived in continuously since Roman times, it has gradually been transformed into a warren of houses, tenements, churches and chapels by the various peoples who came to live here after Diocletian’s successors had departed.

Wandering the historic centre of Split you can still clearly see the Roman walls, squares, and temples.

 

Above: Diocletian’s Palace

 

Modern Split is a city of some 220,000 inhabitants, swolled by post-WWII economic migrants and post-1991 refugees – a chaotic sprawl of hastily planned Suburbs, where factories and highrise blocks jangle together out of an undergrowth of discarded building material.

As Croatia’s second city – (25% of Croatians live in the capital, Zagreb) – Split is a hotbed of regional pride and disparagement of Zagreb dwellers is a frequent component of local banter.

The city’s two big industries – shipbuilding and tourism – suffered immeasureably as a result of war and the economic slump which followed the collapse of communism.

As a result municipal belt-tightening has led to a decline in subsidies for the city’s traditionally rich cultural scene, but this is more than made up for by the vivacious outdoor life that takes over the streets in all but the coldest and wettest months.

 

 

As long as the sun is shining, the swish cafés of the waterfront Riva are never short of custom.

Because of its ideal climate, with 2,800 hours of sunlight each year, local people have a few nicknames for Split:

  • The most beautiful city in the world
  • Mediterranean flower

Winters in Split are generally mild, with temperatures above 0°C, but despite the popular saying that the city experiences snowfall once every 30 years, there is actually at least one snowy day nearly every winter, usually in January or early February.

If you find yourself in Split on a day with significant snowfall, expect serious traffic disruption.

 

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Many famous Croatian sports people were born in Split, so locals often nicknamed their city “The sportiest city in the world“.

The most popular sport institution is the football club Hajduk.

Large portions of the city are painted with the club’s colors and logo.

This is done by Torcida, the oldest supporters group in Europe, established in 1950.

 

HNK Hajduk Split.svg

  • Watch football / soccer at HNK Hajduk Split, Stadion Poljud, Osmih mediteranskih igara.
    • They play in Prva HNL, the top tier of football in Croatia:
      • Indeed they’ve never been out of it and have won it several times.
    • Their home ground of Poljud Stadium (capacity 34,000) is 1 km north of the main bus station, harbour and old city.
    • Don’t go for the cheapest seats as these are in the north stand, the Torcida bastion of home fanatics.

 

Besides the bell tower of St. Duje (Domnius), the symbols of city are the Dalmatian dog and a donkey.

 

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Above: Cathedral of St. Domnius

  • Katedrala sv. Duje (St. Duje’s Cathedral).
    • Built around 305 AD as a Mausoleum for Roman Emperor Diocletian it is the oldest cathedral building in the world.
    • The cathedral is a very beautiful mixture of Roman temple and Catholic church.
    • It also has a beautiful belltower which provides you a great panoramic view of Split, nearby islands and Marjan Hill.
  • St. Duje’s bell tower.
    • This beautiful bell tower also provides you a great panoramic view of Split, nearby islands and Marjan Hill.
  • Jupiter temple (Cathedral’s baptistry).
    • Ancient Roman temple which became St. John’s Church
  • Climb the campanile bell tower next to the palace mausoleum.
    • The stairs cling to the inside of the tower and in places the steps cross the large open window spaces.
    • The ascent is certainly not for those with vertigo, but the views from the top are marvelous.
    • It costs 10 kn to go up the bell tower.

 

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Locals have a high regard for the donkey because of its past indispensable place in field work and transport across the Dalmatian mountains.

 

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Nothing will ever damage the spirit of the indomitable Splicani themselves who remain famous for their self-depreciating humour, best exemplified by the writings of Miljenko Smoje (1923 – 1995), a native of the inner City district of Veli Varos.

Smoje’s books, written in Dalmatian dialect, document the lives of an imaginary group of local archetypes and brought the wit of the Splicani to a nationwide audience.

 

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Above: Miljenko Smoje

 

An adaptation of his works, Nase male misto (Our Little Town), was the most popular comedy programme in Croatian – and probably Yugoslav – television history.

 

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The city’s tradition of irreverence lived on in the weekly newspaper and national institution Feral Tribune, a mixture of investigative reporting and scathing political satire which was a thorn in the side of successive administrations.

 

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Above: 1995 copy of the Feral Tribune (1984 – 2008)

 

As I have said, the historic centre of Split is built around the remains of the Roman palace.

  • The historic core of Split with Diocletian palace is among the first urban complexes to enter the list of the UNESCO world heritage in year 1979.
    • This one of a kind Imperial Palace was built from 298-305 AD and is one of the most significant original structures of the period mostly because so much of it has been preserved.
    • Later this Palace contributed to the broadening of the town because as the city evolved beyond its walls.
    • The unique substructure halls were newly explored and each year more of them are opened to the public.
    • Fascinating artefacts on display.

You only need to wander around to experience it but you can also pay to visit the excavated remains of the basement of the palace.

The palace has well preserved main streets.

Roman palace is enriched with some gothic and reinassance buildings which makes a perfect match.

The palace has four monumental gates:

  • Porta Aurea (Golden Gate)
  • Porta Argenta (Silver Gate)
  • Porta Ferrea (Iron Gate)
  • Porta Aenea

 

Above: The Silver Gate

 

Diocletian’s palace is probably the best preserved Roman palace in the world.

  • Peristylium (Peristil square).
    • Main square of Diocletian’s palace with well preserved Roman architecture

 

Peristyle, Split 1.jpg

 

  • Two original Egyptian sphinxes
    • One is located on Peristil square and the other in front of Jupiter’s temple or St. John’s church.
    • They were brought from Egypt by Roman emperor Diocletian.

 

 

  • Basement halls of Diocletian’s Palace
    • Exceptionally well preserved substructure of Diocletian’s Palace now open as a museum.
    • One of the locations in Game of Thrones.

 

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Getski vrtal is the smallest park in Split, situated in the Diocletian’s palace at the Dominisova street.

During the summer the lanes and alleys here are full of clothes drying in the sunshine.

In every guidebook about Split are pictures from the Getski vrtal.

 

Riva is the main city promenade.

  • Since 2007, Riva has a new, modern appearance, which isn’t up to the taste of some who used to its authentic look.

 

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  • Marjan – a hill situated on the west of Split, it is an oasis for many people who look for a natural stress relief, a great place for long walks, jogging, and bike rides.
    • Marjan’s peak, Telegrin, is 174 m high and gives a wonderful panoramic view of Split.
    • The south cliffs are popular within alpine climbers.
    • St. Nicholas Church is situated on the east of Marjan.
    • On its south side are the beautiful St. Jeronimus church and the “Gospe od Betlema” Church (Madonna of Bethlehem).
    • House building is strictly forbidden in order to save Marjan – the lungs of Split.

 

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  • Veli Varoš – one of the oldest parts of town is the place where most of the city peasants and fishermen lived.
    • Charming streets and beautiful small houses.

 

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  • Galerija Meštrović.
    • The gallery contains works of Ivan Meštrović, a famous Croatian sculptor.

 

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Above: Ivan Meštrović (1883 – 1962)

 

  • Archaeological Museum.
    • The oldest museum in Croatia (1820), about 20 min walk north of the old town (entry 20 kn).
    • Many artifacts and monuments from Roman colonies Salona and Narona.

 

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  • Old graveyards
    • Sustipan Memorial Park

 

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    • The old Jewish Cemetery

 

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  • Split city beach
    • Continue south past the bus station, follow the road which goes by the tracks, and from the bridge over the tracks you can take a stairs down to the beach.
    • If you have a longer stop-over in Split, 5 mins south of the passenger terminal and the train and bus stations lies Split’s city beach where you can take a plunge in the Adriatic.
    • Sunbathe and swim on the beach at Bačvice.
      • To reach this beach walk south along the waterfront from the bus station and then follow the road that crosses the railway line.
      • There are many cafes and places to eat ice cream.
      • This is certainly not the best beach in Croatia (it is packed solid most of summer), but it will give you a feeling of ‘real‘ Croatia as the vast majority of people who go there are from Split.

 

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Above: Bacvice Beach

  • Picigin, Bačvice.
    • Traditional beach game with a small ball (Bačvice Beach).
    • In summer every year there is a world championship of picigin.

 

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  • Green Market (Pazar).
    • Split’s Pazar is the place to go for a variety of wares such as fruits and veggies, clothing and other odds and ends.
    • Lots of local colour and excitement

 

 

  • Grgur Ninski.
    • It is said that if you touch the big toe of the statue and make a wish your wish will come true.

 

Andric and Cerina then went to Rijeka, where Čerina left Andrić without explanation, only saying he urgently needed to go to Italy.

Several days later, Andrić learned that Čerina was being sought by the police who had come to the offices of the paper where he had worked in Zagreb.

 

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Above: Rijeka Harbour

 

Vladimir Cerina (1891 – 1932) had written for the Val and Vihor magazines, where he railed against Austria-Hungary and the Magyars.

He took part in organizing the assassination of Slavko Cuvaja.

At the end of WWI Cerina was disappointed with the accomplishment of Yugoslavia.

Mentally disturbed Cerina was placed into a mental hospital in Sibenik where he died.

He belongs to the rebellious and talented young Croatian writers who have been critical of Croatia’s political and social circumstances since the beginning of the 20th century.

 

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Rijeka (“River“) is a city in Kvarner Bay, a northern inlet of the Adriatic Sea in Croatia.

It is the principal seaport of the country.

It had about 129,000 inhabitants in 2011, with the greater city area reaching up to 200,000, and is Croatia’s third largest city.

The city of Rijeka is a unique cosmopolitan city with a very turbulent history, especially during the 20th century.

For instance, Rijeka was ruled by eight different countries between 1918 and 1991, so theoretically, a citizen of Rijeka born in 1917 could have had eight different passports without ever leaving the city limits.

Such rapid changes of events led to a strong local identity for the city.

Rijeka is a major Croatian port, in the very heart of Kvarner Gulf.

Because of its location, Rijeka is a crossroads of land and sea routes, connected with the rest of the world by air, bus, train and ship lines.

Despite often being described as a predominantly industrial and port city, Rijeka is an interesting city with beautiful architecture of mostly secession style, a good choice of museums and quality night-life.

In the beginning of the 20th century, Rijeka was one of the main European ports and had weekly passenger service to and from New York.

 

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The famous ship Carpathia, which saved most of the survivors from the Titanic, was heading from New York to Rijeka, and most of the crew on the ship was Croatian.

 

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Above: The RMS Carpathia

 

Thanks to that, one of the lifeboats from the Titanic is preserved in the Rijeka Naval Museum.

 

Above: The RMS Titanic

"Untergang der Titanic", a painting showing a big ship sinking with survivors in the water and boats

Above: Untergang der Titanic, Willy Stöwer, 1912

 

Rijeka was also the first fascist state in the world before Mussolini’s Italy or Hitler’s German Reich.

A mixture of fascism, anarchism and elements of dadaism was the basis for the constitution of Reggenza Italiana del Carnaro (Italian Regency of Kvarner), a short-lived state created in 1919, after a coup d’etat of Italian war veterans led by Gabriele D’Annunzio, often called the pioneer of fascism.

 

Flag of Carnaro

Above: Flag of the Regency of Carnaro (1919 – 1920)

 

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Above: Gabriele D’Annunzio (1863 – 1938)

 

(For more about Gabriele D’Annuzio, please see Canada Slim and the Shrine of Italian Victories of this blog.)

 

To make it more awkward, this unusual state was the first international state that recognized Lenin’s USSR.

 

Flag of the Soviet Union

Above: Flag of the Soviet Union (USSR)(1922 – 1991)

 

(For more on Lenin and the Russian Revolution, please see Canada Slim and….

  • the Zimmerwald Movement
  • the Forces of Darkness
  • the Apostle of Violence
  • the Dawn of Revolution
  • the Bloodstained Ground
  • the Sealed Train

….of this blog.)

 

On the bright side, from 1920 to 1924, Rijeka was an independent neutral state, a status that provided Rijeka with independence and neutrality.

The official languages in the Free State of Fiume were Croatian, Italian and Hungarian, in order to provide maximum care for all minorities in the city.

 

Flag of Fiume

Above: Flag of the Free State of Fiume (1920 – 1924)

 

Woodrow Wilson, President of United States, recommended Rijeka in 1919 as a headquarters of the League of Nations.

 

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Above: Woodrow Wilson (1856 – 1924), 28th US President (1913 – 1921)

 

Flag of League of Nations

Above: Flag of the League of Nations (1920 – 1946)

 

After the Second World War, Rijeka was one of the candidates for hosting the headquarters of the United Nations.

The idea was to reintroduce the Independent State of Rijeka as a special United Nations neutral state.

 

Flag of the United Nations

Above: Flag of the United Nations

 

Rows of cumbrous cranes and rusty, sea-stained tankers front the soaring apartment blocks of this Croatia’s largest port.

Rijeka (pronounced ree-acre) is a down-to-earth industrial city, a major ferry terminal along the Adriatic coast and an unavoidable transit point if you are travelling through the region by bus.

Rijeka is far from beautiful, but it is the northern Adriatic’s only true metropolis with a reasonable number of attractions and an appealing urban buzz.

 

 

Modern Rijeka is actually made from two original cities that were separated by river Rječina.

On the west was Fiume or Rijeka and on the east Sušak, the rival counterpart of Rijeka mostly inhabited by Croatians and most of the 19th and early 20th century under Yugoslavian or Croatian administrative rule.

Those two cities were merged in 1945.

To symbolically connect the city, a wide pedestrian bridge was built in front of Hotel Kontinental which was turned into a square.

 

 

Most people are not aware that there is actually a river under this wide square.

It is a popular place for meeting and socializing, especially for the younger generations.

Coming to Rijeka, you are joining the list of people, together with Che Guevara, James Joyce, Franz Liszt, Dora Maar, Enrico Caruso, Benito Mussolini, Gabriele D’Annunzio, Josip Jelačić, Bobby Fischer, Saddam Husein, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Johnny Weissmueller, Pope John Paul II and many others, that have been in Rijeka before.

Rijeka will be a “European Capital of Culture” for 2020, an honour it shares with Galway.

 

 

The best way to see Rijeka’s cultural and historical monuments is to follow the tourist path that gathers all of the most important sights for this town and its history.

Most of them are accessible by foot, as they are mostly located in or near the city centre, but to see Trsat Castle you will need to take a short car/bus ride.

Other option, the more adventurous one, is to climb the 561 Trsat stairs that lead from city centre to Trsat.

Trsat Castle is worth the effort.

  • Trsat Castle represents a strategically embossed gazebo on a hill 138 meters above sea level that dominates Rijeka.
    • As a parochial centre it was mentioned for the first time in 1288.
    • Trsat Castle is one of the oldest fortifications on the Croatian Coast, where the characteristics of the early medieval town construction have been preserved.
    • Today Trsat Castle, beside the souvenir shop and the coffee shop, is enriched with new facilities – gallery space where art exhibitions are held as well as open-air summer concerts and theatre performances, fashion shows and literary evenings.

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  • City Tower (Gradski Toranj)
    • A symbol of Rijeka and a good example of a typical round tower Access point, which leads into the fortified town.
    • Today it dominates the central part of Korzo and is often used as a meeting place for local people.

 

  • Our Lady of Trsat’s Sanctuary
    • This is the largest centre of pilgrimage in western Croatia.
    • It is famous for its numerous concessions and for the pilgrimages by numerous believers throughout the year, and especially on the Assumption of Mary holiday.

  • Treasury and Gallery of Our Lady of Trsat’s Sanctuary
    • The monastery treasury holds works of extraordinary esthetic and material value, paintings, reliquaries, lamps, chalices, ecclesiastical robes, while the Chapel of Votive Gifts houses gifts since the 19th century.

  • Main city market – Placa
    • No supermarket can replace the charm of the personal contact with the vendor or the excitement of the unpredictable purchase at the main city market.
    • The harmonious compound of two pavilions and a fish market building where, in the morning hours, the real Rijeka can be experienced.

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  • Torpedo launching ramp
    • The launching ramp from 1930s is an item belonging to the closed torpedo production factory.
    • It is proof of the technical inventive of Rijeka during this period and at the same time is an important world landmark of industrial heritage.

 

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Rijeka is a city with an unusual, turbulent past.

The best places to discover the whole story on Rijeka are its museums, among its rich collections and exhibitions.

 

  • Maritime and Historical Museum of the Croatian Littoral
    • Located in the beautiful Governor’s Palace building, it preserves a large part of Rijeka’s history and maritime tradition.
    • Besides its continuous ethnographic exhibition, visit our collection of furniture and portraits of people from Rijeka’s public life.

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  • Natural History Museum
    • Besides the botanical garden, the museum is a multimedia centre with an aquarium containing species from the Adriatic Sea.
    • Besides fish, sharks and sea rays, the museum also conserves species of insects, reptiles, birds and amphibians.
    • Ideal entertainment for both children and adults.

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  • Rijeka City Museum
    • The museum includes eleven collections: fine arts, arts & crafts, numismatics, valuable objects, medals, arms from the Second World War and from the Croatian War of Independence, a collection of theatre and film material, philately, photography, press and technical collections.

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  • Modern and Contemporary Art Museum
    • The museum collects works of art by Rijeka artists from 19th century and Croatian and foreign artists from 20th and 21st centuries.

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  • Peek & Poke – Museum of old computers.
      • In this continuous exhibition over 1000 expositions are exhibited from around the world and from Croatian computer history.
      • Located in an area of 300 m², in the centre of Rijeka, it is the largest exhibition of its kind in this part of Europe.

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  • The St. Vitus Cathedral Sacral Collection
    • The collection is located in an attractive location, in a gallery above the internal part and above the church’s altar, whilst the thesaurus is located in the atrium of the cathedral’s locale.
    • The sacral “Jesuits’ heritage” collection includes some very rare exponents.

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  • Memorial Library and the Mažuranić-Brlić-Ružić Collection
    • The library and Mažuranić-Brlić-Ružić collection are at Pećine, in Rijeka, inside the villa of the famous Rijeka’s family, Ružić.

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  • Permanent Glagolitic Alphabet Exhibition
    • A permanent exhibition has been collocated in the Rijeka University Library known as “Glagoljica” in which the Glagolitic written and printed heritage has been presented, especially that of the north Adriatic area where the first Croatian (Glagolitic) books were printed.

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  • Petar Kružić staircase

The stairway starts from the archway on the eastern bank of the Rjecina River in Rijeka and leads up to Trsat settlement, on a plateau with an altitude of 138 meters from sea level.

The stairway consists 561 stone steps and was built for the pilgrims as the road to the Church of Our Lady of Trsat (Church of Our Lady of Trsat).

The construction of the votive stairway was begun in 1531. due to the Croatian warlord captain (Petar Kružić), who excelled in the battles with the Turks.

Petar Kružić built the lower part of the staircase way leading to the Basilica of Notre-Dame of Trsat, today is Church of Our Lady of Trsat dated 15th century.

It is why this staircase was named the Petar Kružić Stairway.

Later the stairway was extended up to 561 steps.

One of the votive chapels along this stairway was created in 15th century and another one in 18th century.

The porch at the foot of the stairway leading to Trsat has a statue of “Virgin with Child” dating from 1745.

There is a legend about the Trsat stairway.

It says that the Franciscans made a deal with the Devil:

If he makes a stairway, he will have a soul who climbs the stairway first.

After some deliberation, the Devil accepted.

Once he finished the work, the Devil waited for the victim.

However, the Franciscans let a goat climb the stairway.

The Devil was so enraged that he mixed the steps, so that nobody had been able to count them to this day.

The legend is based on the fact that the stairway was extended on several occasions.

When it was first built in 1531 by Petar Kružić, the captain of the Uskoks, there were about a hundred steps.

Today, their number exceeds 500.

The beginning of the steep ascent as votive repositories of dignitaries.

A unique experience is to climb the Trsat steps in the procession on the Feast of the Assumption.

Even today, some pilgrims practise the ancient votive tradition of climbing the steps on their knees.

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By the time war was declared, Andrić had returned to Split feeling exhausted and ill.

Given that most of his friends had already been arrested for nationalist activities, he was certain the same fate would befall him as the police took an obvious interest in his movements

Despite not being involved in the assassination plot, on 29 July 1914, Andrić was arrested for “anti-state activities” and imprisoned.

He was subsequently transferred to a prison in Šibenik and then, with some 350 others, to Rijeka.

Many of the others were taken on to Pest, while another group, including Andric, arrived on 19 August in Maribor (Marburg) Prison, in what is now Slovenia.

 

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Above: Sibenik Prison

Šibenik is a city (pop. 37,000) in Šibenik-Knin County, in northern Dalmatia, Croatia.

It is one of the few towns on the Adriatic not to have a Greco-Roman heritage.

It is not a resort and there is little point in stopping if you are looking for somewhere quiet with a beach, though the mazelike medieval centre is good for idle walking.

 

Pogled iz gradu 2.JPG

 

A trademark of the city is the traditional Šibenik hat, coloured orange and black, also the city’s colours.

 

Sixteenth century polymath and bishop Faust Vrančić (1515 – 1617), known as one of the inventors of the parachute and perhaps the first man who used it, was born here and lived here.

 

Faust Vrančić

Above: Portrait of Faust Vrancic

 

 

Šibenik was mentioned for the first time under its present name in 1066 in a charter of the Croatian King Petar Krešimir IV (reigned 1058 – 1075).

For a period of time, it was a seat of the Croatian King.

For that reason, Šibenik is also called “Krešimirov grad” (Krešimir’s city).

 

 

It is the oldest native Croatian town on the eastern shores of the Adriatic sea.

You can see the statue of King Petar Krešimir IV between the park and the beginning of the promenade along the sea.

 

 

Šibenik was for almost 300 years under Venetian rule and then Austro-Hungary, Yugoslavia and Croatia.

It was a very important town during the Venetian-Turkish wars and it was a frontier of Western civilization and Christianity.

Venetian rule left Šibenik with four beautiful fortresses: St. Michael, St. John, Šubićaevac and St. Nicholas.

The old part of the town is full of churches, old noblemen palaces and typical Dalmatian stone houses centuries old is very interesting.

The town walls are also well preserved.

One of the most interesting sights is the medieval monastery garden.

    • Katedrala sv. Jakova (Cathedral of St. James or Cathedral of St. Jacob)
      • This basilica is considered as one of the major attraction in the city.
      • It is on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
      • Construction started in 1431 and it was not finished until 1536 due to Turkish wars.
      • Several successive architects built it completely in stone in the 15th and 16th centuries, both in Gothic and in Renaissance style.
      • The interlocking stone slabs of the Cathedral’s roof were damaged when the city was shelled by Serbian forces in 1991.
      • The damage has since been repaired.
      • It has a beautiful baptistery worth seeing it, and the curiosity is it has been built with stone only, without any kind of binder.
      • Another one is 72 human heads carved in stone on the external part which belong to unknown individuals, passers-by, sailors, merchants and peasants who posed as the cathedral was being built.
      • Statues of Adam and Eve are also curious:
        • Adam is covering his chest, but Eve is not covering hers, but rather her stomach.

Cathedral of St. James, Sibenik1 (js).jpg

 

  • Gradska vijecnica (Old City Hall)

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  • Crkva sv. Barbare (Church of Saint Barbara).
    • A beautiful small church dating from the 15th century with an asymmetric facade with a clock.
    • Now it houses the Muzej crkvene umjetnosti (Museum of Church Art).

  • Biskupska palača (Bishops Palace) (1439-1441)

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  • Kneževa palača (Dukes Palace)

 

  • Četiri bunara (four draw-wells)
    • It is an underground complex of water reservoirs, built in the 15th century for city’s water supply.
    • Now it’s a multimedia exhibition center Bunari – Tajne Šibenika (“Bunari – Secrets of Sibenik“).
    • The reservoirs are now dry and decorated as a museum/gallery and a café.
    • It has seven sections: Šibenik’s treasure, food and drink, shipwrecks around Šibenik, persons from the past.
    • Concerts and stand-up comedy shows often take place at the café.

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  • Crkva i smostan sv. Frane
    • Church and monastery of St. Francis dating from the 16th century.

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  • Perivoj Roberta Visianija (Park of Roberto de Visiani).
    • A nicely decorated little park with fountains dedicated to Roberto de Visiani (1800 – 1878) – botanist, poet and philosopher who was born in Šibenik.

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Roberto de Visiani. Lithograph by A. Rochini. Wellcome V0006076.jpg

 

  • Srednjovjekovni vrt sv. Lovre (Medieval garden of the monastery St. Laurence)
    • Extremely rare medieval monastery garden, restored in 2007 by Dragutin Kiš, who won a Millenium Flora Award in Japan in 2000.
    • It contains various plants, especially those used in pharmacies and as spices.
    • It has a quiet café, where you can quietly enjoy the view to the Šibenik’s old part and the sea, the atmosphere and the aromas.

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  • Tvrđava sv. Mihovila (St. Michael’s Fortress)
    • Ruins of the 13th century now converted into a summer stage.
    • It’s an empty shell inside, but the views over the surrounding city and the bay are quite promising.

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In Maribor, the prisoners were 8 to 10 to a room.

Andric and his fellows quickly organized their time in reading, discussion and learning foreign languages.

We have founded a proper little university.“, Andric wrote to his friend Evgenija Gojmeric in Janaury 1915.

 

Nevertheless, despite the craftfully cheerful tones of his letters of this time, Andric’s health was rapidly deteriorating.

 

I am a bit weak, but I am protecting the little health I have and I hope that I shall be able to hold out insave my mother’s only child.

(January 1915)

 

Sometimes I become impatient, but I force myself to be calm and sit down, God knows how often, at the table: all neutral nouns, etc.

Believe me, grammars are the only books I can read calmly, for everything else reminds me of the past or the present, and I don’t want that.

(March 1915)

 

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Above: Maribor Prison

 

Maribor is the second most important centre and the second largest city of Slovenia.

It has about 114,000 inhabitants who live embraced in its wine growing hills and the Mariborsko Pohorje mountain.

Maribor is near the Slovenian border with Austria, beside the Drava River and at the centre of five natural geographic regions.

It is the capital of Štajerska, the Slovenian Styria.

 

Location of Slovenia

 

Maribor was first mentioned in the 12th century.

Though the city had been attacked by the Turks several times, it was constantly under the rule of the Austrian Habsburgs until the end of the World War I.

After the war was over the city was claimed by both the Austrians and by the new state of Yugoslavia.

Finally it fell to Yugoslavia.

It was occupied by the Germans during World War II, but became part of Yugoslavia again after the War was over.

In 1975 the University of Maribor was founded and this has helped the city to become more and more an attractive, vibrant student city.

After Slovenia declared independence, back in 1991, the city suffered from the economic consequences.

 

Above: Flag of Maribor

 

Today, Maribor is a transregional financial, educational, trade and cultural centre.

And since it is pleasantly small and lodged in the nature of Pohorje Mountain on the one side, the wine growing hills on the other, and with the river Drava wending its way through it, Maribor has grown into one of the country’s most important tourist destinations.

Its key features are:

  • the rich wine culture (the oldest vine in the world, numerous wine roads and wine cellars)
  • the old town’s cultural offerings (theatre, traditional events, galleries and museums)
  • recreational activities (hiking, cycling and skiing).

Maribor sits among the Pohorje Mountain, the Slovenske gorice Hills and the Kozjak Hills on the gravel terrace of the Drava Valley.

The river Drava divides the city on the so-called left (north) and the right (south) bank.

The city’s old town core is on the left bank of the river Drava.

 

Maribor's Centre with Old Bridge along the Drava River

 

On the north, Maribor is embraced with the town (wine-growing) hills, and on the southwestern part of the city, the foothills of the Pohorje Mountain start to rise.

 

A good first stop in the city is Infopeka, an information center which gives out free advice, free Internet usage and free rent-a-bicycle.

They can be found across the old bridge from the Glavni Trg, on the right side of the street.

Sights to see:

  • Old Vine (Stara trta).
    • Guinness Book-certified oldest vine in the world (about 450 years old) growing on the front of the Old Vine House in Lent, the oldest part of the town on the embankment of the Drava river.
    • Maribor’s Old Vine is given a lot of tourist promotional protocol events
      • the most famous and most popular is certainly the Vine’s Grape Harvest – the highlight of the traditional Old Vine Festival (Festival Stare trte) held annually at the end of September.
  • The Old Vine House (Hiša Stare trte).
    • A temple of wine tradition and culture, selling point of souvenirs from the Maribor-Pohorje destination and a tourist information centre, an exhibition room with guided tours, a place for wine tasting, an event room, and the honorary seat of Slovene and international associations, sworn to honouring wine and the wine culture.

  • Vinag Wine Cellar (Vinagova vinska klet)
    • In the centre of the city with 20,000 m² surface and 2 km length, it has 5.5 millions litres of excellent wine

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  • Slomškov Square (Slomškov trg)
    • One of the most charming squares in the city can be found in the western part of the old town core.

    • In the square stand the Cathedral (Stolnica) and a statue of Bishop Anton Martin Slomšek (1800 – 1862).

Anton Martin Slomšek-Dunaj 1862.jpg

Above: Bishop Anton Martin Slomsek

(Blessed Anton Martin Slomšek was a Slovene Roman Catholic prelate who served as the Bishop of Lavant from 1846 until his death.

He served also as an author and poet as well as a staunch advocate of the nation’s culture.

He served in various parishes as a simple priest prior to his becoming a bishop in which his patriotic activism increased to a higher degree since he advocated writing and the need for education.

He penned textbooks for schools including those that he himself opened and he was a vocal supporter of ecumenism and led efforts to achieve greater dialogue with other faiths with an emphasis on the Eastern Orthodox Church.

His beatification had its origins in the 1930s, when petitions were lodged for a formal cause to commence.

This all culminated on 19 September 1999, when Pope John Paul II presided over the late bishop’s beatification in Maribor.)

 

  • Main square (Glavni trg)
    • Includes:
      • the Town Hall (Mestna hiša Rotovž)

 

      • the Plague Column (Kužno znamenje)

 

      • the Aloysius church (Alojzijeva cerkev)

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    • The main square is the largest of Maribor’s squares and it is one of the most important one in the city centre with historical sights and the hustle and bustle of town life flow.
    • Here you can look at the important sights of the old town core.
    • Sip coffee and sit out in the sunshine.
    • Visit some of the small shops.
    • You can find it in the immediate vicinity of the Old Bridge and the street Koroška cesta.

  • Maribor Synagogue (Sinagoga Maribor).
    • Built in 14th century, it is the second oldest in Europe (at Židovska ulica 4).
    • Today, it serves as a centre for cultural activities and it offers visitors various events including exhibitions, concerts, literary evenings and round tables.
    • The Synagogue is in the Jewish square (Židovski trg) in the former Jewish quarter, which is situated near the Main square (Glavni trg).

Maribor Synagogue 02.JPG

  • Water tower (Vodni stolp).
    • One of defence towers built in the 16th century by inhabitants on account of the constant fear of Turkish raids.
    • This mighty Renaissance town fortification can be seen close by the river Drava at Lent.
    • The street Usnjarska ulica, one of the oldest streets in the town, will lead you past it.

Vodnistolp.jpg

  • Maribor castle (Mariborski grad).
    • Built by Emperor Frederick III in the 15th century to fortify the northwestern part of the town wall.
    • The castle is located right in the centre of Maribor, surrounded by the Castle square (Grajski trg) and the Trg svobode square (Trg svobode).
    • In the castle, you can visit the Maribor Regional Museum.

Maribor Grad 20070107.jpg

 

Plagued by tuberculosis, Andrić passed the time reading, talking to his cellmates and learning languages.

By the following year, the case against Andrić was dropped due to lack of evidence, and he was released from prison on 20 March 1915.

 

 

The authorities exiled him to the village of Ovčarevo, near Travnik, Bosnia, where he remained for two years until the Amnesty.

He arrived there on 22 March and was placed under the supervision of local Franciscan friars.

Andrić soon befriended the friar Alojzije Perčinlić and began researching the history of Bosnia’s Catholic and Orthodox Christian communities under Ottoman rule.

Andrić lived in the parish headquarters and the Franciscans gave him access to the Gura Gora Monastery chronicles.

In return, he assisted the parish priest and taught religious songs to pupils at the monastery school.

 

Above: Ovcarevo Monastery, Travnik

 

Andrić’s mother soon came to visit him and offered to serve as the parish priest’s housekeeper.

Mother is very happy.”, Andrić wrote.

It has been three whole years since she saw me.

And she can’t grasp all that has happened to me in that time nor the whole of my crazy, cursed existence.

She cries, kisses me and laughs in turn.

Like a mother.

 

It was a world rapidly disappearing, but one to which Andric was to return to often in his visits to Bosnia throughout his life.

 

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(For a description of the Travnik region, please see Canada Slim and the Author’s Apartment 1 – Learning of this blog.)

 

After the companionship of the prison in Maribor, Andric’s letters from Bosnia in this period express a deep sense of isolation and despondency.

His experience of exile in the wild mountains in the heart of Bosnia certainly coloured the atmosphere of the novel Bosnian Story, set in Travnik, describing the exile and isolation of the small diplomatic community there in the early 19th century.

 

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Andrić was later transferred to a prison in Zenica.

 

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Zenica prison (Kazneno-popravni zavod zatvorenog tipa Zenica, KPZ Zenica, K.P. DOM) is a closed-type prison located in Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

It was opened in 1886.

It was the largest prison in Yugoslavia during its existence and is currently the largest prison in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

As of 2016, the prison had a capacity of 813 inmates.

 

Zenica is an industrial city (the fourth largest, after Sarajevo, Banja Luka and Tuzla) in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the capital of the Zenica-Doboj Canton of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina entity.

It is located about 70 km north of Sarajevo and is situated on the Bosna river, surrounded by mountains and hills.

The modern city is dominated by the Zenica Steelworks and the air can be toxic, making it difficult to walk around.

 

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Above: Images of Zenica

 

The town’s Stara čaršija (old quarter) contains several attractions, including a synagogue, which used to be the City Museum and Art Gallery.

 

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Above: Zenica Synagogue

 

There is also a mosque (Čaršijska mosque), an Austrian fountain and an old Bey’s farmhouse (Hadžimazića House).

 

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Above: Zenica Mosque

 

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Above: Hadzimazica House

 

Fatih Sultan Mehmed Barracks of the Turkish Armed Forces was also based in Zenica within the peacekeeping activities of European forces in the country.

 

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Above: Fatih Sultan Mehmed Barracks of the Turkish Armed Forces, Zenica

 

There are many things to do in Zenica.

A lot of people just enjoy walking around the city and shopping.

But there are also places where you can hike and enjoy beautiful views.

 

Also, there are beautiful mountains around Zenica.

One of the most visited is Mount Smetovi.

It is very attractive in all seasons.

In summer there are beautiful meadows and forest and marked mountaineer trails through forests.

In winter it is attractive for skiing and snowboarding.

 

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Above: Mount Smetovi Monument

 

On 2 July 1917, Emperor Charles declared a general amnesty for all of Austria-Hungary’s political prisoners.

His freedom of movement restored, Andrić visited Višegrad and reunited with several of his school friends.

He remained in Višegrad until late July, when he was mobilized.

 

Višegrad

Above: Images of Visegrad

 

(For a description of Visegrad, please see Canada Slim and the Author’s Apartment 1 – Learning.)

 

Because of his poor health, Andrić was admitted to a Sarajevo hospital and thus avoided service.

 

Above: Panorama of Sarajevo

 

(For a description of Sarajevo, please see Canada Slim and the Author’s Apartment 1 – Learning.)

 

He was then transferred to the Reservospital in Zenica, where he received treatment for several months before continuing to Zagreb.

There, Andrić again fell seriously ill and sought treatment at the Sisters of Mercy hospital, which had become a gathering place for dissidents and former political prisoners.

 

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Above: Sisters of Mercy Hospital, Zagreb

 

(For a description of Zagreb, please see Canada Slim and the Author’s Apartment 1 – Learning.)

 

In the company of several like-minded young men and writers, including the renowned playwright Ivo Vojnovic (1857 – 1929) from Dubrovnik, Andric entered fully into the intellectual life of the time.

 

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Above: Ivo Vojnovic

 

In January 1918, Andrić joined several South Slav nationalists in editing a short-lived pan-Yugoslav periodical called Književni jug (Literary South), the first literary magazine of an expressively Yugoslav orientation.

 

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Here and in other periodicals, Andrić published book reviews, plays, verse, and translations of Walt Whitman (Leaves of Grass) and August Strindberg (The Red Room), and the first fragement of the story “Derzelez at the Inn“.

 

Walt Whitman, 1887

Above: Walt Whitman (1819 – 1892)

 

August Strindberg

Above: August Strindberg (1849 – 1912)

 

Over the course of several months in early 1918, Andrić’s health began to deteriorate.

Suffering from lingering pnuemonia, his friends believed Andric was nearing death.

He was described by several contemporaries as being exceptionally thin and pale, with all the signs of impending death.

Medical treatment alternated with intensive literary and editorial work.

He published literary critiques and reviews, essays, articles and translations.

 

Above: Zagreb

 

Looking at a human settlement on a damp and steep incline, surrounded by a rickety fence, I began to think about the purpose of this world.

Indeed, this planet could merely be a pigsty into which everything that ever lived and crawled in the universe was forced, with the sole purpose of dying here.

In large hospitals, there is a room where the patients who obviously have but a few hours to live are transferred.

In the universe, our Earth is this dying chamber.

And the fact that we reproduce is merely an illusion, for everything is happening with the confines of death, to which we are condemned and because of which we have been cast upon Earth.

The fact of the matter is, measured by a universal yardstick and expressed in our human language:

We came into the world yesterday and tomorrow we will be gone.

The grass might still grow and the minerals mature, but only for their own benefit, not ours.

(Ivo Andric, Signs by the Roadside)

 

"The Blue Marble" photograph of Earth, taken by the Apollo 17 mission. The Arabian peninsula, Africa and Madagascar lie in the upper half of the disc, whereas Antarctica is at the bottom.

 

Andric recovered and spent the spring of 1918 in Krapina writing Ex ponto.

It was his first book.

Towards the end of the summer it was published.

 

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Ex Ponto is a work of experiencing body and mind disempowerment, a dark image of human isolation and loneliness.

The entire book is based on melancholy, solitude and separation from others – the main feelings that permeate the whole work.

In Ex Ponto, Ivo Andrić paints his story with feelings of melancholy and loneliness, one of the dominant characteristics and characteristics of Andić’s works.

 

The title of the work Ex Ponto Ivo Andrić takes from the collection of poems “Epistulae ex Pontoof the Latin poet Ovid, who speaks about his suffering and exile on the Black Sea coast (where he was sent by Caesar Augustus).

Statue (1887) by Ettore Ferrari commemorating Ovid's exile in Tomis (present-day Constanța, Romania)

Above: Statue of Publius Ovidius Naso (43 BC – 18 AD), Constanta, Romania

 

This collection of lyric prose tells of the days of Andrić’s time spent in prison and in exile.

Fatigue, loneliness, separation from others are the main feelings that occur throughout the work.

 

Andrić did not want to give any description of his darkening and coming to such a place.

Confident in his power, the poet tries to rise above the evil that has befallen him.

He tries to deprive himself of the sense of need for happiness and to view it as a generality.

He speaks to all those who will live in abundance and joy until he is as silent as the foundation stone.

He dreams of one absolute kindness, without boundaries, and does not despair of hope.

 

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Ex Ponto is expressed in the form of addressing the reader with the impression that he wants to start a dialogue with him.

We try to understand and find the connection between his love and faith.

 

Ex Ponto is accompanied by motives of loneliness, anxiety, melancholy.

The captivity of his thoughts and the loneliness of solitude accompany him, both at the beginning and throughout the darkness, but also later in life.

The banished stay in a prison cell leaves one with an indelible feeling of restlessness and loneliness.

 

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He remembers his mother, her warm bread and her room.

He is deeply sorry that his mother is suffering.

He looks through the bars of the seasons and accordingly the emotions come.

Time is gloomy, gentle, optimistic.

 

He thinks of women as a luxury, a cause for dreams, singing, sighs, ecstasy and longing.

The female leitmotif is present in all his works.

 

 

Embarrassed by solitude, Andric understands the truths of life and the meaning of the fight that illuminates his dark days.

Ex Ponto abounds in the truths of life that Ivo Andrić came to us and which he communicates to us, from which we learn and live.

The very point of the piece is in the epilogue when a young man, disappointed with life, still chooses to live, because life is once and lasts a very short time.

As with many of his other works, Ivo Andrić Ex Ponto quotes have been used very often when attempting to explain the significance and inevitability of the losses a person faces during life, which must be reconciled because we cannot prevent them.

 

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Now I see.

Losing is terrible only until everything is lost, because losing a little brings sorrow and tears.

And as long as we can gauge the size of the loss on the rest, it is difficult for us.

But once we lose everything, then we feel an ease for which there is no name, because that is the ease of too much pain.

 

It’s weird how little we need to be happy and even more weird is how often we miss it so much.

 

The more you hear and feel about yourself, the shallower and crazier your neighbor’s conversation becomes.

 

And what I look at is all song and whatever I touch is all pain.

 

Live and fight as best you can, pray to God and love all nature, but leave the most love, attention, and compassion for the people, your poor brethren, whose life is a steady beam of light between the two infinities.

Love people, help them often and always want them, because we all need people.

 

Ex Ponto ends rather optimistically, explaining to us that to live means to live illusion to illusion, deception to deception.

Although life is hard, everyone is committed to living it.

 

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Krapina is a city in Central Croatia.

Krapina is a small town in northern Croatia and also an administrative and cultural centre of Krapinsko-Zagorska County, located approximately 55 km from Zagreb, Croatia’s capital.

Krapina is very tiny town so you can see all the sights on foot.

 

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Above: Krapina, Croatia

 

Krapina Neanderthal Museum (Muzej Krapinskih Neandertalaca)

This is where you enter a time machine and go far back into the past to Earth’s prehistory.

Here you can find out all about the anatomy, culture and the environment of the Neanderthal.

The museum is located on the prehistoric habitat.

The museum has all sorts of multimedia content so it is a great place to visit with your family.

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World War I (often abbreviated as WWI or WW1), also known as the First World War, the Great War, the Seminal Catastrophe, and initially in North America as the European War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918.

Contemporaneously described as “the war to end all wars“, it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history.

It was also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the resulting 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.

 

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Above: Images of World War One

 

The end of World War I saw the disintegration of Austria-Hungary, which was replaced by a newly established South Slav state, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (renamed Yugoslavia in 1929).

 

 

The first weeks after the end of the War were intoxicating for the peoples of the newly formed Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.

 

In the words of Ivo Vojnovic:

We look at one another and ask:

Is it true?

Is this really happening to us?

 

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Nevertheless, it did not take long for Andric and Vojnovic to realize that the organization of the new state had simply replaced the old one, more or less unchanged.

They were deeply disappointed, but resolved to carry out their duty to their fellow countrymen as conscientiously and seriously as they could.

 

Flag of Yugoslavia

Above: Flag of the Kingdom

 

In November 1918, Andric published an article in the Zagreb paper The News entitled “Let the intruders remain silent“:

The idea of national unity is the legacy of our finest generations and the first of heavy sacrifice.

This unity, the dream of our life and the meaning of our struggles and suffering, must not, now that it is largely realized, be allowed to fall into the hands of intruders, to be tainted by the marks of their unclean fingers and treated with their toothless sophisms.

And all of us who bore this idea of unity unsullied with fraternal battles and did not deny it before the slanderous Austrian judges, we shall be able to defend it also from unscrupulous journalists and sullen self-styled politicians.

 

In late 1918, Andrić re-enrolled at the University of Zagreb and resumed his studies.

In the immediate aftermath of the war, Andrić’s tendency to identify with Serbdom became increasingly apparent.

 

University of Zagreb logo.svg

Above: Logo of the University of Zagreb

 

In December 1918, Ivo Vojnovic wrote to his brother:

I am sending you Ex Porto which has created a great sensation.

The writer is a young Catholic, a perfect young man.

A Serb from Bosnia, where he contracted tuberculosis.

He is here now, running The Literary South, my constant companion, one of the best and most refined souls I have ever met.

This work of his will become “Das Gemeingut” (common heritage) of all peoples when it is translated.

C’est un grand poète et une âme exquise.

(He is a great poet and an exquisite soul.)

 

By January 1919, he fell ill again and was back in the hospital.

Fellow writer Ivo Vojnović became worried for his friend’s life and appealed to Andrić’s old schoolteacher Tugomir Alaupović (who had just been appointed the new Kingdom’s Minister of Religious Affairs) to use his connections and help Andrić pay for treatment abroad.

 

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Above: Tugomir Alaupović (1870 – 1958)

 

Eventually, Andrić chose to seek treatment in Split, where he stayed for the following six months on the nearby island of Brac.

 

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During his time on the Mediterranean coast, Andrić completed a second volume of prose poetry, titled Nemiri (Anxieties), which was published the following year.

 

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You have been silent for a long time and have been silent for a long time, my son, you are enveloped in dreams, weary of the ways of the spirit. 

Your face is bent and your face is pale, deep down with your eyelids and your voice like the squeak of a dungeon door.

Get out on a summer day, my son!

 

What did you see on a summer day, my son?

I saw that the earth is strong and the sky eternal, and man weak and short-lived.

 

What did you see, my son, on a summer day?

I saw that love is short and hunger is eternal.

 

What did you see, my son, on a summer day?

I have seen that this life is a painful thing, consisting of the wrong change of sin and unhappiness, that to live means to lie from one to another.

 

You want to sleep, my son?

No, father, I’m going to live.”

Oh God, why did you give me a heart that constantly pulls me to the distance and beauty of unseen places?
Why did you always make my fortune stay where I am gone?
“I often sit for hours and watch the cool autumn colors.
The peace of destiny that can no longer be changed fuses on my soul and face.
Everything in me is dead.
I’m so good.
No sound comes to me, my father’s vision died.
Everything was left behind the big gate that closed the hell behind me.
I have lost everything and am no more human than a restless angry thought that has sunk and lingered on the deep bottom, and over me, like opaque green masses, are water, peace, distance and oblivion.
“I, a man of a perpetual heart, who live without peace and joy, a bitter life about someone else’s bread, a troubled past, full of wanderings, disobedience and distress, a volatile, difficult present and a dark future, flushed with passions, shaken by events, and tormented by people, knocked down and crushed at the entrance to life, fueled by sin, and the fight against sin.
I crave my soul for peace, and tonight I ask for a life bright and quiet from God, so that I do not break within myself and break the world.
Still alive.
It still happens sometimes that pain overcomes me, so I bend like a worm on the earth and press my face into the rustling, cold grass and utter words in a black thirsty land that I have no one to say.
I complain to the invisible God, that I am struck with an unbearable curse, to pour out the best thoughts and the best feelings unseen and vain like pollen on stone, sparks into darkness, moans into the wind.

From fear, people are evil and cruel and mean, from fear they are generous, even good.

All the lower, the higher fear.

And the one who has no one to fear is that pre-fear of his sick imagination, because fear is like an infection that fills all brains.

If I could look inside this man destined to torment me, I think I would find a small, miserable soul, tormented by considerations and fear of failures and reprimands.

I’m sorry for him and that compassion hurts me.

All the glory that God has prescribed in the world has made my eyes blue.
They are bound by rugs of sun and shade.

My heart pounding.

For long life and great joy!

Travel and ship, do not remain eager for the stormy sea, neither the fields nor the dense forests!

It is good for God to see you where your life is song and dance!

For the living and for those who are young!

It is strange that all mistakes are equal, if we are repeating and continuing with new hopes.
All night long, we bite our mouths, snoop on the pillow of helpless anger, and firmly swear to remain lonely, and when we get dark, we lift our souls like a soft balloon from the blossoming dandelion of the oncoming winds of life, and blow you away.
But who saved only one little puff and brought it into the covenant saved his whole soul.
It is a bitter work, but one that does not make the souls of the soul tender to the winds of the trials, even to save it completely and to pass it on, it cannot sense if it has had any at all.
I’m completely torn.
I’m sinking into oblivion.
Sadness covers me.

I come to myself like a candle they forgot to put out, so it burns all night on the altar as an unprecedented sacrifice in the deaf age.

It’s hardest for a person to feel compassion for themselves.

Changing false courtesies and torturing shallowness.

Never warm or sincere conversations, that old words and dramatic thoughts play like the dust of the sun in the light of a smile, never to grow cordial, full of souls, with dear faces, looking forward to seeing you again, never to lie down, lips and be at peace.

This is how life receives the mask of stiff, voiceless tragedy and my born soul is a beautiful distant memory.

 

By the time Andrić left, he had almost fully recovered, and quipped that he was cured by the “air, sun and figs of Brac“.

Brač is an island in the Adriatic Sea within Croatia, with an area of 396 square kilometres (153 sq mi), making it the largest island in Dalmatia, and the third largest in the Adriatic.

It is separated from the mainland by the Brač Channel, which is 5 to 13 km (3 to 8 mi) wide.

The island’s tallest peak, Vidova gora, or Mount St. Vid, stands at 780 m, making it the highest island point of the Adriatic islands.

The island has a population of 13,956, living in numerous settlements, ranging from the main town Supetar, with more than 3,300 inhabitants, to Murvica, where less than two dozen people live.

 

Supetar harbor

Above: Supetar Harbour

 

Above: Murvica

 

  • Pustinja Blaca (Blaca hermitage)
    • A former monastery originating from 1551, now a museum run by two brothers.
    • In the 2007 the hermitage was included in the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List.

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  • Vidova gora.
    • It is the highest mountain of all Adriatic islands.
    • It has a great view to the Zlatni Rat (Golden Horn) beach, Place Bol and the islands of Hvar and Vis.

  • Dragon’s cave
    • near Murvica on the south side of the island.

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  • Dominican monastery
    • In Bol, the monastery has a great collection of prehistoric items, amphoras and numismatics.

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  • Museum of the island
    • in the village Škrip.

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Visit Brac’s many pebble beaches and private coves, with diving, kitesurfing and windsurfing in Bol.

Try Brač dishes of domestic lamb (vitalac) and famous Brač cheese.

Brač is famous for its wines, the most famous is Bolski Plavac: spirits made of grapes with herbs.

 

Troubled by news that his uncle was seriously ill, Andrić left Split in August and went to him in Višegrad.

He returned to Zagreb two weeks later.

 

With his two volumes of prose poems and the first part of the story The Journey of Alija Derzelez in print, Andric was launched on his literary career.

 

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This was Andrić’s first short story, published in 1920.

Its protagonist is the hero of a large number of Moslem heroic ballads.

Bearing in mind the special place accorded to “legend” and “fairy tale” in Andrić’s statements about art, we should consider exactly what form “the grain of truth contained in legend” takes in this tale.

The traditional ballads concerned with Alija deal exclusively with his prowess on the battlefield.

Andrić refers to his fame in just one sentence:

He was renowed for many battles and his fearful strength.” and immediately takes him off his horse, setting him down in a context where he appears awkward because he is not used to being on the ground, or to normal social interaction.

His stature is at once diminished:

“In a few days the magic circle around Đerzelez had quite disappeared.”

There is no clear reason why the label “hero“ should have attached itself to this particular person.

He is small, unprepossessing and ungainly as soon as he dismounts, awkward and uninteresting in conversation.

He is slow-witted and chronically lacking in imagination.

But he is also obsessive.

Once he sees a beautiful woman he can think of nothing else but possessing her.

Or he abandons himself wholeheartedly to the singing of a particularly fine traditional singer:

“Đerzelez felt that the singer tugging at his soul and that any moment now, he would expire, from excessive strength, or excessive weakness.”

Đerzelez can flourish only in circumstances where his simple-minded strength energy can be expressed in the immediate violent ways he understands.

He is quite baffled by more intricate social relationships and by the whole deeply disturbing question of women.

Andrić here exploits the comic possibilities exposing a renowned hero to the demands made on men by their ballads.

 

Andric est arrivée.“, wrote the Serbian writer Milos Cinjandir at the end of his review of Ex Ponto.

 

Andric was, however, dissatisfied with the circumstances of his life.

Activists had begun to leave Zagreb.

Andric wrote to Alaupovic in March 1919:

We have all dispersed and I feel lonelier than ever in my life.

On his return to Zagreb the town seemed even more deserted.

Vojnovic was his one real friend left and Andric was frequently ill.

 

By 1919, Andrić had acquired his undergraduate degree in South Slavic history and literature at the University of Zagreb.

He was perennially impoverished and earned a meagre sum through his writing and editorial work.

By mid-1919, he realized that he would be unable to financially support himself and his aging mother, aunt and uncle for much longer.

His appeals to Alaupović for help securing a government job became more frequent.

This is what will not permit me to go on living this impoverished, but free and fine style of life.

I have no one whom I could consult about this matter (except Vojnovic who has persuaded me to write) so I am asking you whether you could bear my situation to mind.

 

Something of a more general dissatisfaction with his surroundings can be seen in another letter to Alaupovic written in July:

I shall be glad to get to grips with some concrete work which has nothing to do with journalistic literary cliques.

 

In September 1919, Alaupović offered him a secretarial position at the Ministry of Religion, which Andrić accepted.

In late October, Andrić left for Belgrade.

 

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Above: Images of Belgrade

 

The first formative phase of Andric’s adult life was over, coloured by poverty, illness, imprisonment and exile against a background of international tension and war.

Andric set out, in better health, into a job about which he knew nothing but which offered a previously unknown stability.

He was setting out into a town he had never seen.

But he was going as an established writer, with his first book sold out after enthusiastic reviews.

 

He became involved in Belgrade’s literary circles, focused on the Moscow Café where he was warmly welcomed and accepted, and soon acquired the distinction of being one of the city’s most popular young writers.

 

Хотел Москва

Above: Hotel Moscow, Belgrade

 

Though the Belgrade press wrote positively of him, Andrić disliked being a public figure, and went into seclusion and distanced himself from his fellow writers.

At the same time, he grew dissatisfied with his government job and wrote to Alaupović asking for a transfer to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

 

On 20 February 1920, Andrić’s request was granted.

 

The Memorial Museum does not primarily focus on these years of Andric’s greatest suffering.

There are photographs of Andric in the Reservespital in Zenica alongside doctors and patients.

And there are photographs and handwritten notes of his life in Zagreb after the end of the Great War.

Between the ravages of illness and imprisonment Andric was fortunate to have survived, but it comes as no surprise to see so little documentary evidence of those years on exhibit in the Museum.

Perhaps he simply didn’t save much from those years as he did not wish to be reminded of the suffering he endured then.

 

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Andric’s career that followed as a diplomat would find him at the heart of European politics and would eventually lead him back to Belgrade and to the apartment that is now his Memorial Museum.

Those years (1920 – 1941) would see Andric abroad and away from his beloved Belgrade.

Living in Europe’s capital cities broadened his world views and offered him the opportunity to improve his language skills, to meet other men of letters and to have an immediate access to the literature of the countries in which he served as a diplomat, as well as to gather materials for his future novels and stories.

 

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To fully understand what it was like to live the life of Ivo Andric in the years of the Great War before he became a diplomat, one needs to imagine a life alternating between hospitals, hovels and prisons.

 

To see the remarkable strength of the Balkans and the resilence of those who live there I recommend retracing Andric’s life by visiting where he once was.

 

And then come back with me to Belgrade and Ivo Andric’s last residence.

The Memorial Museum exhibits and the story of Ivo Andric become more exciting….

(To be continued)

 

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Sources: Wikipedia / Wikivoyage / Google / Memorial Museum of Ivo Andric Guide, Belgrade City Museum / Tourist Guide Belgrade, Intersistem Kartographia / Serbia in Your Hands, Komshe Travel Guides / Laurence Mitchell, Bradt Serbia / Lonely Planet Central Europe on a Shoestring / Lonely Planet Eastern Europe / Lonely Planet Croatia / Rough Guide Croatia / Ivo Andric, Signs by the Roadside / Ivo Andric, Ex Ponto / Ivo Andric, Anxieties / Ivo Andric, The Journey of Alija Djerzelez / Dorling Kindersley, World War I: The Definitive Visual Guide from Sarajevo to Versailles

 

Above: Ivo Andric, 1922

 

That young man is the personification of general, eternal human destiny:

On one hand, there is a dangerous and uncertain road.

On the other, a great human need to not lose one’s way, to survive and leave behind a legacy.

(Ivo Andric, Signs by the Roadside)

 

 

 

Canada Slim and the Italian Twilight

Landschlacht, Switzerland, Tuesday 23 July 2019

There are advantages and disadvantages to everything.

 

In less than a fortnight I shall board a train to Romanshorn, followed by a ferry across the Lake of Constance (Bodensee) to Friedrichshafen then a train to Lindau, another to Kaufbeuren, another to Füssen and finally a bus to Schwangau to join my wife for a long weekend break.

 

Skyline of Schwangau

Above: Schwangau

 

This entails taking the second earliest departing train at 05:55 from our local station and a journey of five and a half hours to be reunited with the wife on holiday for her birthday at a spa resort in the Allgäu region of Bavaria.

I do not enjoy spas, wellness centres, health farms, but I do enjoy my wife’s companionship.

 

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The things we do for love.

 

It is this romantic compulsion, this sweet surrender of one’s will for the beautiful harmony found with another person that makes me recall some compromises I have made for my better half on some journeys we have made together.

Unlike my wife whose ambition is fixed once she has determined to do something, I rarely kick when her female perogative decides that what I planned will now not happen.

I have wanted to climb the Tour Eiffel in Paris, drive to Roscommon in Ireland, and stop more often en route from Freiburg im Breisgau to Bretagne, but her jaw was set, her foot was put down, her nerve defiant.

Ultimately life somehow went on without the tower ascent, the Irish detour or the frequent French stops, but my childish petulence of wishes denied is still remembered.

Such pettiness a husband can harbour!

 

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There was another such moment last year on our northern Italian vacation….

 

Highway 45 between Gardone Riviera and Limone sul Garda, 6 August 2018

Barely 3 km east of Gardone, the road passes through the twin comune of Toscolano-Maderno, which straddles the delta of the Toscolano River.

Toscolano is predominantly an industrial centre while Maderno is exclusively a tourist centre, stretching in a picturesque gulf with a wonderful promenade among villas and gardens and a decent beach.

 

Above: Toscolano – Maderno

 

According to a legend, the ancient, mysterious town of Benaco, sunk into Lake Garda owing to an earthquake in 243, was built near Toscolano.

A memorial tablet on the bell tower of Chiesa San Andrea (St. Andrew’s Church) in Maderno bears a dedication of the Benacensi to Marcus Aurelius.

 

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The Orto Botanico “G.E. Ghirardi” is a botanical garden operated by the University of Milan, and located on via Religione, Toscolano-Maderno.

The garden was established in 1964 as the Stazione Agricola Sperimentale Mimosa under the direction of Professor Giordano Emilio Ghirardi.

In 1991 it became part of the University of Milan, and today primarily cultivates plants of interest for medicine and pharmaceutics, but also supports research in transgenic plants, rice, etc.

Collections include Camptotheca acuminata, Eschscholzia, Nicotiana, Nigella, Scutellaria, and Solanaceae.

 

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A car ferry crosses from here to Torri del Benaco on the eastern shore of Lake Garda.

 

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The valley behind the comune has a tradition of paper-making dating from the 4th century.

Following the riverside road up into this beautiful, wooded valley brings the traveller past many disused paper mills to the Fondazione Valle delle Cartierie, with a well-presented museum offering an insight into the processes and importance of the industry.

 

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Toscolano-Maderno is a Shangri-la for shady walks or sumptious picnics, but this day we have no time for a stroll nor food in the car for a sit-down meal.

We are on the way to Riva del Garda, our next night’s stop, the weather is sweltering and all we dream about is the AC promised at the Hotel ahead.

We left this morning after two nights in Sirmione, spent much of the day exploring Gardone Riviera and still had some distance to travel.

I was complacent, quiet and uncomplaining.

 

 

We arrived at Gargnano, said to be the prettiest village on Lake Garda.

Traffic ran above and inland from the town, leaving old Gargnano mostly noise-free.

The narrow difficult road north of town means tour buses don’t bother trying to reach Gargnano.

It is more workman’s base than tourist resort.

 

Skyline of Gargnano

Above: Gargnano

 

Nonetheless Gargnano has a few claims to fame:

 

The naval operations on Lake Garda in 1866 during the Third Italian War of Independence (20 June – 12 August 1866) consisted of a series of clashes between flotillas of the Kingdom of Italy and the Austrian Empire between 25 June and 25 July that year, as they attempted to secure dominance of the lake.

The Austrian fleet, based on the eastern bank of the lake, was larger, more modern and better-armed than their Italian counterpart, and successfully maintained control of the waters, hindering the movement of Italian troops.

 

Above: The Austrian Steamer Hess

 

At the outset of the war, the border between Austria and Italy ran down the middle of the lake.

The Brescia region to the west lay within Italy while Verona and the lands east of the lake were Austrian.

 

 

Austria controlled Riva del Garda at the northern tip of the lake, as well as the important fortress of Peschiera del Garda on the west bank of the River Mincio at its southern end.

Peschiera was part of the so-called ‘Quadrilateral‘ of strong core Austrian defences, leaving the exposed eastern shore of Lake Garda an area of potential weakness, vulnerable to Italian infiltration.

This might have involved a strike from the north end of the Lake up the valley of the Chiese River to threaten Trento and cut off the supply lines of the Austrian forces in the Veneto.

It might also have involved a landing of forces behind Peschiera to threaten Verona.

 

Above: Peschiera

 

On the Italian side, the buildup of Austrian naval strength caused concerns about a possible Austrian attack across the lake towards Brescia.

At the start of hostilities of 25 June, the Austrians immediately sailed out to threaten Salò and prevent any movement of Italian troops.

On 30 June, the Austrian ships bombarded the railway station at Desenzano, a supply and communications point for the Italian Volunteer Corps of Giuseppe Garibaldi, but caused only minor damage.

 

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Above: Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807 – 1882)

 

More substantial action took place on 2 July, at 5 am, when four Austrian gunboats, including the Hess and Franz Joseph, bombarded the centre of Gargnano, where there was a strong concentration of Garibaldi’s forces.

The bombardment caused extensive damage to homes, one dead and eight wounded among the defending volunteers of the 2nd Regiment.

 

 

The Austrian flotilla was eventually compelled to withdraw under fire from an Italian battery commanded by Captain Achille Afan de Rivera.

 

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Above: Captain Rivera (1842 – 1904)

 

Other skirmishes took place on the lake every few days.

On 6 July, Italian volunteers forces, equipped with nine long-range guns borrowed from a coastal battery at Maderno, ambushed the Austrian gunboat Wildfang at Gargagno.

The gunboat was hit twice, for no losses for Garibaldi’s army.

 

At the same time, the Italian flotilla sailed out from Salo to chase the armoured gunboat Wespe, on patrol off Maderno.

The Austrian vessel managed to disangage after receiving support from Speiteufel and Scharfschütze.

Italian sources claim that the Wespe was forced to seek shelter at Malcesine.

 

Skyline of Malcesine

Above: Malcesine

 

The next significant combat occurred on 19 July when the Italian paddle steamer Benaco head out from Salo for Gargnano towing the sailboat Poeta, both ships carrying reinforcement troops and loaded with supplies for the volunteers in the mountains of Valvestino and Tremosine.

The Benaco was suddenly attacked by two Austrian gunboats, the Wildfang and Schwarzschűtze, which forced it in to shore near Gargnano, where most of the crew, troops and supplies were landed during the night.

 

The next morning Austrian whalerboats were able to capture the abandoned Benaco, still with a small gun and some rifle ammunition in her holds, and tow it away as a prize to Peschiera.

One of the whalerboats capsized under Italian fire, but was eventually recovered by the Austrian flotilla.

Three Austrian sailors were wounded, while heavy shelling on Gargnano killed two Italian volunteers.

The Poeta managed to sail away, only to sink shortly after off San Carlo.

 

A second convoy from Salo, consisting in another sailboat escorted by the Italian flotilla, was forced back two days later by the Austrian gunboats Speiteufel, Uskoke and Wespe.

The Benaco was handed back to the Italian government at the end of the hostilities.

 

Flag of Italy

Above: Flag of the Kingdom of Italy (1861 – 1946)

 

The final action of the war took place at the north end of the Lake.

After skirmishes on the Lake on 24 July, Manfroni learned that the Austrian army had abandoned Riva del Garda, which was one of his key supply points.

To prevent the town falling to Garibaldi, he steamed north and occupied the fortifications in the town with his marines, and on 25 July his forces were able to hold off Garibaldi’s volunteers until nightfall.

 

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Above: Moritz Manfroni von Montfort (1832 – 1889)

 

At 10 p.m. the Hess arrived with a telegram confirming that a ceasefire had been declared between Austria and Italy.

 

Flag of Austria

Above: Flag of the Austrian (Habsburg) Empire (1804 – 1867)

 

Giovanni Beatrice known as Zanzanù (1576 – 1617) was an Italian bandit of the Republic of Venice .

He was one of the most heinous bandits of the Serenissima responsible, with his band, between 1602 and 1617, of about 200 murders, according to the testimony of the bandit and assassin Alessandro Remer of Malcesine , who was hired in 1609 by a group of merchants from Desenzano del Garda to exterminate the Zannoni band.

From the 22 sentences of bans pronounced by the Venetian magistrates against Beatrice, from 1605 to 1616, the murders clearly attributed to him did not reach 10 and those that were committed in the years 1605 – 1609 were against those who had killed his father.

This is the image that emerges from the judicial sources that testify both the numerous sentences imposed against him, and the activity of the ruthless bounty hunters aiming to obtain prizes and benefits offered by the Republic of Venice in exchange for his killing.

 

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Above: Giovanni Beatrice (aka Zanzanù)

 

In fact, a more accurate examination of the same sources allows us to outline the figure of a man who became an outlaw to defend his honor and that of his family.

A bandit who soon became legendary for the abuses and injustices that were committed against him.

The vicissitudes of the life of this man and the extreme complexity of the social relations within which they took place are emblematic of the transformations that affected Europe, determining the figure of the traditional bandit and of the conflicting dynamics that animated it, in that the outlaw was considered a dangerous enemy of social tranquility.

 

Giovanni Beatrice (or Beatrici), nicknamed by the locals “Zanzanù” or “Zuan Zanone” (Giovanni Zanone), was born in Gargnano in 1576, to Giovanni Maria Beatrice of the “Zanon” family and his wife, Anastasia.

His wife Caterina had numerous children: Anastasia born in 1598, Margherita in 1599, Pietro Antonio in 1601, Anastasia in 1602, Elisabetta Antonia in 1604, Giovan Maria in 1608.

 

He acted with a band of accomplices, known as the “degli Zannoni“, and a dense network of connivances, even high positions, in the Riviera di Salò, territory of the Republic of Venice , and in the Upper Garda of the episcopal principality of Trento, killing, stealing and extorting anyone.

In a short time with his criminal enterprises Zanzanù became the terror of the population and the concern of the Veneto supervisors.

 

Repubblica di Venezia – Bandiera

Above: Flag of the Republic of Venice (697 – 1797)

 

The first news of Beatrice dates back to 24 March 1602, when in Bogliaco, during a military parade of the “cernide“, the Venetian popular militia, of which he was a part, wounded by stabbing – with the complicity of his uncle Giovanni Francesco Beatrice called “Lima” – Francesco Sette of Maderno, the son of Riccobono, a bitter rival of his family and killed a friend of the Seven who had intervened in defense.

The two fugitive assassins were subsequently banished from all the territories of the Serenissima, but despite this they enjoyed high protection as guests of Giovanni Gaudenzio Madruzzo, captain of the Rocca of Riva del Garda and related to the prince bishop of Trento, Carlo Gaudenzio Madruzzo.

 

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Above: Bogliaco

 

This first and convulsive period was marked by the killing of his father Giovan Maria, which took place in 1605 by some of his enemies.

A period that he would remember for the rest of his life:

The father of I, Giovanni Zannoni of the Riviera of Salò, the ordinary son of those who descend to the lake, and from whom he derived the food of all his poor family, while he lived quietly, founded a solemn peace with a signed oath, over the sacrament of the altar, was wickedly slain by someone of the Riviera.

For this so inhumane and barbarous act, being sure of the cruelty of men, induced by desperation, I resolved to avenge such a serious offense and to secure my own life, having taken the path of arms, I avenged with the deaths of the enemy the loss of the father and the privation of the way of supporting my family, for which operations I was banished and persecution continued, I  responded with new vendettas.

 

The whole affair, which had as its decisive and ruthless protagonist the young Zanzanù, is in fact understandable only in the light of a harsh conflict in the years 1602 – 1605 between the Beatrice di Gargnano and the Sette families of Monte Maderno.

A conflict that most likely originated from a rivalry, for reasons of honor, between the sons of Giovan Maria Beatrice and those of Riccobon Sette, a wealthy landowner of Vigole in Monte Maderno.

However the wounding of Francesco Sette by Giovanni Beatrice did not constitute itself as the triggering element of the struggle without quarter which in the following years would see the two families facing each other.

 

In 1603 both Riccobon and Francesco Sette suffered the repercussions carried out by the administrator of Salò and the Venetian magistrates against their respective son and brother Giacomo.

For the protection and aid granted to Giacomo, Riccobon Sette ended up in prison in Salò, while his brother Francesco was in turn forced to leave the State.

 

Above: Salò

 

The situation precipitated at the beginning of the spring of 1603, when Giacomo Sette was killed in Armo on 14 April by his accomplice, Eliseo Baruffaldo di Val Vestino, who took his head to Salò for the ritual recognition.

These were perhaps the events that led Riccobon Sette to restore peace with the Beatrice of Gargnano.

The peace act was stipulated in August 1603 in the monastery of San Francesco di Gargnano, by Fra Tiziano Degli Antoni, a common friend of both parties.

The Beatrice were represented by Giovan Maria himself, while the archpriest of Gargnano, Bernardino Bardelli, brother-in-law of Riccobon Sette, was engaged for the opposing faction.

Riccobon Sette, in fact, was still in prison, while his son Francesco was banished.

However, the killing of the latter by some bounty hunters precipitated the situation.

 

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Above: Monastery of San Francesco di Gargnano

 

On 16 June 1604 Riccobon Sette, still in prison in Salò , addressed the representatives of the Magnifica Patria, lamenting the loss of his two children and the difficult situation in which he found himself.

Upon leaving prison the opposition between the two families was rekindled.

The murder of Giovan Maria Beatrice by assassins sent by the archpriest of Gargnano pushed the conflict to extremes.

 

In the years 1605 – 1607 Beatrice in fact carried out several coups against his adversaries and enemies, always managing to escape the numerous ambushes by the bounty hunters on his trail.

It was not so for two of his companions, Eliseo Baruffaldo and Giovan Pietro Sette. known as Pellizzaro, who in November 1606 were killed by some bounty hunters and some enemies of the Beatrice whom the Provveditore General in the Mainland, in all secrecy, had sent on their trail.

The two were killed on 11 November 1606 in a night ambush stretched over the mountains of Gargnano, and their severed heads displayed in the square of Salò.

 

The spiral of violence that followed the feud between the two families helped to define the image of Zanzanù, especially starting from the years 1608 -09, when he was now unable to defend himself by resorting to the ordinary ways of justice.

He was thus credited with many crimes of which he was certainly not responsible (such as robberies and thefts).

 

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He remembered, in 1616 in a plea directed to the Council of Ten:

“I confess to being guilty of many notices, but all for private crimes and none for the slightest of public and state affairs, nor with conditions excluded from the present I am not even entitled to compensate anyone, but let me be quite right in saying that, since many excesses have been committed by others under my name, of those who are out of hope of being able to free me, I have never cared to get rid of them.”

 

On 13 February 1609 in Tremosine, Zanzanù attacked, robbed and injured the doctor Oliviero, killed Gabriele Leonesio and stole an arquebus in a house.

Escaping to Limone sul Garda, on the night of February 13, he fell in an ambush at the port of Riva del Garda, where the band led by his uncle Giovanni Francesco “Lima” was targeted by the bandit Alessandro Remer of Malcesine who intended to claim the bounty.

Giovanni Beatrice was saved by jumping into the lake and swimming, while his brother Michele Zanon, Bernardo and Giovanni Battista Pace, known as “Parolotto“, of Salò were killed.

Giovanni Francesco “Lima“, although wounded in the thigh, managed to take refuge in Limone sul Garda, where he was, the next day, shot and then barbarously beheaded.

 

Limone sul Garda

Above: Limone sul Garda

 

The most striking action of Giovanni Beatrice took place on 29 May 1610, when he was involved, according to the accusations of the Venetian magistracy, in the murder in the Cathedral of Salò of the Brescia magistrate Bernardino Ganassoni, podestà of the place, who was attending the solemn mass in honor of Saint Herculaneum.

The murder was carried out by Antonio Bonfadino who shot point-blank, and despite the presence of the escort soldiers he managed to escape.

 

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Above: Salò Cathedral

 

In the following days Beatrice tried to approach the Brescian representatives who came to Salò during the process.

To them the bandit reported that, in exchange for a pardon, he would reveal the main culprits of the killing of Ganassoni.

 

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Giovanni Beatrice’s involvement in the murder of the podestà Bernardino Ganassoni was in reality the work of the convergence of interests of administrator Giovan Battista Loredan, merchant Alberghino Alberghini and inquisitor Oltre Mincio Leonardo Mocenigo.

Loredan was worried that the motives that led to the murder of the podestà would emerge, so the involvement of the feared bandit would in fact make the procedural position of Martin Previdale and the other defendants definitively unrecoverable with him and with the same mayor.

The merchant Alberghino Alberghini, present in Salò in early June 1610 , together with the band of bounty hunters led by Alessandro Remer, pursued the same goal, aiming in turn to involve the two brothers Bonifacio and Ambrogio Ceruti.

 

Arriving on the Riviera in the first days of October 1610, Leonardo Mocenigo promptly endorsed the work of Loredan condemning to the scaffold one of the false witnesses involved in the trial.

 

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Among the mountain shelters, in the cave called “Cùel Zanzanù“, in the locality of Martelletto, near Droane, in Val Vestino, they killed and plundered, according to the report by administrator Lunardo Valier of 15 April 1606 and sent to the Senate of Venice, on 29 September 1611, the wealthy Stefano Protasio of Toscolano with ten accomplices.

 

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Despite the harsh repression carried out by Antonio Mocenigo, captain of Brescia, against banditry prevailing in the Riviera of Salò, through executions, the confiscation of property and banning from the Serenissima, Beatrice continued undaunted in his criminal exploits.

Between 1602 and 1609 the band “Zanoni” robbed the “cavallari” (travellers on the public road), assaulted boats on Lake Garda laden with goods, tyrannized the rural population, robbed the “mountains of mercy” of Manerba del Garda and Portese taking away 6,000 scudi and killed, according to estimates by bandit Alessandro Remer of Malcesine, about 200 people.

 

Above: Manerba del Garda

 

Hunted by the administrator Giovanni Barbaro, Zanzanù contacted the duchy of Parma, offering himself as a mercenary for Ranuccio I Farnese with the rank of lieutenant of infantry, then moved to the Cremonese until 1614 .

Returning to the Riviera in 1615, Zanzanù resumed his criminal activities.

 

Flag of Parma

Above: Duchy of Parma flag (1545 – 1731)

 

On 24 June 1615 the administrator and Captain of Salò, Marco Barbarigo, informed the Senate that Zanzanù was sheltered in Val Vestino, the jurisdiction of the lords of Lodrone, with two priests of that valley who he had made his prisoners.

 

On 27 June, in the municipality of Capovalle, the Beatrice gang clashed with a department of cappelletti.

After furious gunplay they wounded the governor’s lieutenant Vucocrutt.

 

Capovalle – Veduta

Above: Capovalle

 

The repressive activity carried out against Beatrice in this period is attested by the sentences pronounced by, the Provveditore and Capitano of the Riviera, Marco Barbarigo, in June and July 1615.

The administrator turned to the numerous supporters of the bandit, who did not disdain to help him and to host him, despite the severe penalties, threatening them on several occasions.

In particular, two women of Gargnano were condemned who, regardless of the grave consequences, were banished because, as the sentence said, they were “so bold and fearless as to leave their homes and rejoice with said Zanone, touching their hands and making them different welcome.”

 

The following year, Beatrice proposed the payment of a substantial sum of ducats to the municipalities of Tremosine and Maderno in exchange for his enlistment in the service of the Republic of Venice engaged in the Gradisca war against Austria.

The community of Gargnano, in June 1616, presented a petition from Beatrice to have it forwarded to the Heads of the Council of Ten.

In it the famous bandit, seizing the opportunity of the ongoing war with the Archdukes, offered himself, together with some of his companions, “to come and serve where your Serenity will appeal to me .

Even if the proposal was not accepted it however reveals the desire of the feared bandit to return to the places where he had lived serenely his youth.

 

Diachronic map of the Republic and the Venetian Empire.

Above: Greatest extent of the Venetian Empire

 

On 17 August 1617, following the attempted kidnapping of the wealthy Giovanni Cavalieri di Tignale, Zanzanù was chased by armed youths from the village to the Valle del Gianech, and after a furious gunfight that caused four deaths among the bandits and six among the Tignalese, Beatrice fell at last.

His body was taken to Salò on the 19th.

Hanging from the gallows his body was exposed to the public until consummation, while the head was delivered to the authorities in Brescia.

 

Above: Brescia Castle

 

A large part of the adult population of the six villages that made up the Tignale community took part in the battle.

Among the five who fell during the bloody battle there were also some of the older and wealthy men of the community, who were more motivated to settle accounts with the famous outlaw.

Zanzanù was almost certainly killed by Antonio Bertolaso ​​of Aer who, along with Maderno’s cousin Girolamo Gasperini and the group of soldiers who accompanied them, joined the bandits who were attempting their last escape.

Zanzanù and his two companions, survivors of the previous clashes, faced with the arrival of Gargnano’s men, had in fact been forced to retreat and find a last and improvised refuge in the valley of the Monible.

 

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In reality the provincial of Salò was not satisfied.

Suspicious of the number of deaths among the six villages that made up the Tignale community, he ordered an investigation to see if there had been any complicity or aid from some sectors of the local population towards the killed bandit.

Even if this suspicion was not ascertained, the investigation reveals the inherent mistrust of the authorities towards the obvious support and aid that a small part of the most humble people of the Riviera del Garda had for some time offered to Beatrice.

 

The controversial and legendary figure of Giovanni Beatrice is still remembered today by the people of the area of Alto Garda and Val Vestino.

Here, in fact, children born out of wedlock are still called fiöi del Zanzanù (sons of Zanzanù).

If some people have no hesitation in pointing it out the terrible bandit was the author of many murders and heinous actions, others believe that his figure enjoyed a certain sympathy and consensus among the people.

The latter believe that it was not the common people who hunted the brigand, but were instigated or hired by those lords (nobles, landowners, wealthy merchants) against whom Zanzanù was raging.

 

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Pietro Bellotti (1625–1700) was an Italian painter active in the Baroque period.

 

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Above: Self portrait of Pietro Bellotti

 

Born in Volciano di Salò in 1625, he gained fame as a painter of portraits and heads of characters.

He worked for Cardinal Mazzarino, Cardinal Ottoboni (the future Pope Alexander VIII), the Elector of Bavaria and others.

He was patronized by Pope Alexander VIII and by the Duke of Uceda.

In Mantova he was “superintendent of the city and villa galleries” for Gorizaga.

After wandering from court to court he returned to Lake Garda and died in poverty in Gargnano in 1700.

His principal works are:

  • La Parca Lachesi (1654) at the Museum of Stuttgart
  • The Parcae Lachesis, private collection, Brescia
  • Self-Portrait (1658) at the Uffizi Gallery, where he is depicted with a cup in his hand and a scroll with the inscription: “Hinc Hilaritas
  • Two Peasants’ Heads at the Pinacoteca di Bologna;
  • Philosopher in the Pinacoteca di Feltre;
  • Old Head at the Correr Museum;
  • Medea at the Accademia dei Concordi in Rovigo;
  • Maiden with a Turban in the Braunschweig Museum

 

Above: The Old Pilgrim, Pietro Bellotti

 

Enrica Bianchi Colombatto is an Italian actress, usually known by her stagename of Erika Blanc.

Her most notable role was as the first fictional character Emmanuelle in Io, Emmanuelle (A Man for Emmanuelle)(1969).

 

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Blanc starred in several cult European horror films, including:

  • The Third Eye (Il Terzo Occhio)(1966)
  • Kill, Baby, Kill (Operazione Paura)(1966)

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  • So Sweet… So Perverse (Cosi’ Dolce… Cosi’ Perversa)(1969)
  • The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave (La Notte Che Evelyn Usci’ Dalla Tomba)(1971)
  • The Devil’s Nightmare (La terrificante notte del demonico)(1971)

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  • The Red Headed Corpse (La rossa dalla pelle che scotta)(1972)

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  • Mark of the Devil, Part II (1973).

Her other film credits include roles in:

  • Django Shoots First (Django spara per primo)(1966)
  • Target Goldseven (Tecnica di una spia)(1966)
  • Blood at Sundown (La più grande capina del West)(1966)
  • Halleluja for Django (1967)
  • The Longest Hunt (Spara, Gringo, spara)(1968)
  • Seven Times Seven (7 volte 7)(1968)
  • Hell in Normandy (Brigada suicida)(1968)
  • Long Arm of the Godfather (La mano lunga del padrino)(1972)

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  • Tony Arzenta (1973)

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  • The Stranger and the Gunfighter (La dove non batte il sole)(1974)
  • Il domestico (The Domestic)(1974)
  • I figli di nessuno (Nobody’s Children)(1974)
  • Eye of the Cat (Attenti al buffone)(1976)
  • La portiera nuda (The Naked Doorwoman)(1976)
  • Dream of a Summer Night (Sogno di una notte d’estate)(1983)

Dream of a Summer Night poster.jpg

 

She recently returned to films with small but intense roles under the direction of Turkish-born director Ferzan Özpetek, acting as Antonia’s mother in Le fate ignoranti (The Ignorant Fairies)(2001) and as the sensitive, alcohol-addicted Maria Clara in Cuore Sacro (Sacred Heart)(2005).

In 2003 she starred as the grandmother in Adored (Poco più di un anno), directed by Marco Filiberti.

 

In 1943 Gargnano hosted Mussolini who arrived there on 10 October, where he occupied, in the San Giacomo area, Villa Feltrinelli (now a luxury hotel).

The Duce, who had recently established the Italian Social Republic, lived in the villa with his wife, Donna Rachele, and children Romano and Anna Maria.

 

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Above: Benito Mussolini (1883 – 1945)

 

Diodato “Uto” Ughi is an Italian violinist and conductor.

He is considered one of Italy’s greatest living violinists and is also active in the promotion of classical music in today’s culture.

When he was young he started to play the violin and he made his debut at 7 years old, at the Teatro Lirico di Milano.

At 12 years he was considered a mature artist.

Ughi involves himself in many activities to promote music culture.

He is the founder of several music festivals, namely “Omaggio a Venezia“, “Omaggio a Roma” and “Uto Ughi per Roma“.

In tandem with Bruno Tosi, Uto Ughi instituted the musical prize “Una vita per la Musica“. (“A life for music“)

On 4 September 1997, Ughi was commissioned Cavaliere della Gran Croce by the Italian President and in 2002 he received a degree honoris causa in Communication studies.

He has won various awards, the most prestigious “Una vita per la musica – Leonard Bernstein” (23/6/1997), “Galileo 2000” prize (5/7/2003) and the international prize “Ostia Mare” (8/8/2003).

 

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Above: Uto Ughi

 

Oscar Alberto Ghiglia (born 13 August 1938) is an Italian classical guitarist.

Born in Livorno to an artistic family – his father and grandfather were both famed painters, his mother an accomplished pianist – Oscar Ghiglia had to choose between a path strewn with brushes and colours and a world cut into harmony and melody.

Though his early choice produced a few hundred water colours and a number of oil paintings, he soon realized music was his way.

For this decision he thanks his father, who one day made him pose for a painting showing a guitarist.

For this he had to hold his father’s guitar, a companion to his artistic musings in front of his forming works.

This painting was the start to a lifetime of disciplined dedication to music.

Oscar Ghiglia graduated from the Santa Cecilia Conservatory in Rome and soon began study with Andrés Segovia, who was his major influence and inspiration during his formative years.

Later Oscar Ghiglia “inherited” Segovia’s class in Siena’s Accademia Chigiana and spread his own teaching around the five continents in a sister vocation to his concerts.

Oscar Ghiglia founded the Guitar Department at the Aspen Music Festival, as well as the Festival de Musique des Arcs and the “Incontri Chitarristici di Gargnano“, was artist in residence or visiting professor in such centres as the Cincinnati and San Francisco conservatories, the Juilliard School, the Hartt School and Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.

In all these centres and elsewhere Ghiglia has been nurturing talents and forming or perfecting young artists’ musical outlook and interpretation.

He has been teaching at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana since 1976.

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Besides touring as a solo performer, Oscar Ghiglia has played and recorded with such names as:

  • Victoria de Los Angeles
  • Jan de Gaetani
  • Gerald English
  • John McCollum
  • Jean-Pierre Rampal
  • Julius Baker
  • the Juilliard String Quartet
  • the Emerson String Quartet
  • the Cleveland String Quartet
  • the Quartetto d’archi di Venezia
  • the Tokyo String Quartet
  • Giuliano Carmignola
  • Franco Gulli
  • Salvatore Accardo
  • Régis Pasquier
  • Adam Krzeszowiec
  • Albert Roman
  • Laszlo Varga
  • Eliot Fisk
  • Shin-Ichi Fukuda
  • Letizia Guerra
  • Antigoni Goni
  • Elena Papandreou.

Oscar Ghiglia was a founding member of the International Classic Guitar Quartet.

After his CD Manuel Ponce Guitar music, a new set of recording projects was under way and his teaching continued, year long, in Basel, where he held the professorship in guitar at the Musik-Akademie der Stadt Basel from 1983 to 2004.

Founder of the International Guitar Competition of Gargnano, Ghiglia boasts a very high number of first prize winners among his students, in competitions around the world.

In 2006, after retiring from the Basel Musik-Akademie, he moved to Greece, following his marriage to colleague and former pupil Elena Papandreou, now guitar professor in the University of Makedonia in Thessaloniki.

 

Above: Basel Music Academy

 

Following his CD  J.S. Bach Lute Works, and a DVD of his favourite repertoire, he continued giving concerts across the oceans, has residencies at the universities of Cincinnati and Evanston, Illinois, and does as well summer teaching at the Accademia Chigiana of Siena and his “Incontri Chitarristici di Gargnano“.

 

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Certainly Gargnano as home to a bandit, a painter, an actress, a dictator and two world-class musicians is extremely interesting.

But it was the presence of a famous English writer in Gargnano that left me feeling frustrated at our failing to stop there in our haste to reach Riva del Garda before nightfall.

For there is much in his story that fascinates me, much that I can relate to.

 

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Above: Gargnano

 

When someone visits a place for a day and decides to stay for six months you know they must have discovered something quite special.

 

It was 1912 and David Herbert (D.H.) Lawrence (1885 – 1930) was having an affair with Frieda von Richthofen (1879 – 1956), the wife of his university professor.

 

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Above: D. H. Lawrence

 

Wanting to escape from both her husband and the turmoil of the Industrial Revolution in full swing in England, the pair decided to set off on their travels to discover new people, cultures and a more relaxing lifestyle.

Their first destination was Frieda’s homeland of Germany, but soon they wanted to travel further south, so, after a short stay in the Tyrol, they set off, with their knapsacks on their backs, on a long trek over the Dolomites, via Bolzano and Trento.

 

 

By September 1912 they reached the northern end of Lake Garda and the town of Riva del Garda.

Like so many authors, Lawrence fell in love with the Lake and the endless inspiration it could provide a creative mind, but Riva proved too expensive for them to set up a permanent residence.

 

Above: Riva del Garda

 

On Wednesday 18 September 1912, David and Frieda left Villa Leonardi di Riva del Garda and decided to go on a boat trip to the smaller town of Gargnano and heard by chance about a flat that was available to rent within their budget.

It became their home from 18 September 1912 until 30 March 1913.

 

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Above: David and Frieda

 

Even though a century has passed since Lawrence and Frieda arrived in Gargnano, little has changed in the town, apart from a few essential roads now winding their way through the centre and more houses popping up to extend the town’s boundaries.

Gargnano has essentially escaped the tourist trappings of many of the Lake’s most popular locations, and so it is still possible to walk around the area and follow Lawrence’s footsteps to recreate a few of his experiences.

Lawrence and Frieda’s Lake Garda flat was located on the second floor of a large yellow-painted building at via Colletta 44 called Villa Igea, which now wears a discreet white marble plaque revealing its most famous resident.

 

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Above: Villa Igea, Villa, Gargnano

 

VILLA IGEA

DIMORA DI D.H. LAWRENCE

DAL SETTEMBRE 1912 ALL’ APRILE 1913

 

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No explanation of Lawrence’s identity is given.

 

Situated in San Gaudenzio di Muslone (known today as simply Villa), a small village on the outskirts of Gargnano, the rent was cheap but the flat still benefited from stunning views of the Lake.

The house became, for the two lovers, a refuge from which to observe the daily life of the country, the changes of nature with the arrival of spring, the spectacular scenery and local traditions.

Lawrence transcribed all of his impressions of this long exploration in numerous letters sent to England to family, friends, fellow writers and editors.

Lawrence often commented on how he would lie in bed of a morning and watch the sun rise over the mountains, eventually filling the room with light.

To him, this was paradise.

 

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Gargnano was an escape from the culture of money and machinery that he so deeply detested, and the people of Gargnano the keepers of an ancient and impassive world that remains unruffled by and resistant to the upheaval of tumultuous modernity.

Lawrence used the most beautiful and fascinating words to capture daily moments and images of a landscape and nature that managed to soothe the pains of the young writer.

 

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Though not everything Lawrence wrote was so pleasant:

When at night the moon shines full on this pale facade, the theatre is far outdone in staginess.

Now everything is theatrical.

 

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Like living on a set where everything demanded literary criticism.

 

He wrote that the theatrical performances that he witnessed in Castellani Hall did not leave a very positive impression and he did not write an overly complimentary account of the teacher Feltrelline from whom they received lessons in French, German and Italian.

 

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The sunshine and climate were actually the main motivations for Lawrence and Frieda to stay on Lake Garda.

Lawrence was suffering from tuberculosis and the sun was thought to offer a vital source of energy to help battle the disease.

 

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But it provided him with inspiration too, and far from being a holiday or time for convalescence, Lawrence wrote many of his best works while staying in Villa Igea.

He finished Sons and Lovers, started work on The Lost Girl which would later be called The Rainbow and The Sisters which became Women In Love, plus penned his first travel book Twilight In Italy.

 

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(Catherine Brown attended the 13th International D.H. Lawrence Conference held in Gargnano in 2014:

One evening we saw a performance, by local actors (plus John Worthen) of The Fight for Barbara.

Written by Lawrence during his stay in Gargnano, this play thought through the difficulties and possibilities (including disastrous ones) of his elopement with Frieda.

Yet the play is of questionable comprehensibility to Italians.

The husband threatens Barbara with his own suicide.

An Italian husband of Lawrence’s period would have killed her or her lover, or abducted her, or at least threatened some such thing.

Certainly not talked about suicide.

Barbara’s father reminds the lover that married women are out of bounds.

An Italian man of Lawrence’s period would have seen a married woman as a particular prize, and certainly not have lectured another man to the contrary.”)

 

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It was not an easy time for the two young lovers.

They lived in a precarious position, with Lawrence trying to support them both with his writing, hoping not to be forced to look for a job as a teacher, a profession he hated.

Frieda lived with the hope of seeing her children as soon as possible, having left them to escape with Lawrence, pending the conclusion of her divorce from her husband Ernest Weekley.

 

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Above: Frieda and D.H.

 

It is in Twilight In Italy that we discover most about Lawrence’s time on Lake Garda, as he takes us with him on his day-to-day encounters with the locals and explores his surroundings.

One such encounter involved visiting his landlord, who he refers to as the padrone.

The padrone lived in a grand house called Villa De Paoli set just behind Lawrence’s flat.

It has now been transformed into offices and a car park, but next to the building you will find a garden shaded by beautiful olive trees and featuring a pergola under which Lawrence liked to sit and watch the daily comings and goings of the boats on the Lake.

 

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It was in the grounds of Villa De Paoli that Lawrence had his first experience of Lake Garda’s iconic lemon houses.

Unlike anything he had ever seen before, in Twilight in Italy he described them as looking like naked pillars, rising out of the green foliage like ruins of temples.

While the fruit was growing and the sun shining on the leaves Lawrence thought the houses were beautiful, but as soon as winter arrived he regarded them as sordid and ugly because of the big wooden shutters that were put up to protect the trees from the inclement weather.

Before he knew the purpose of the wooden greenhouses he was confused by the sight of men climbing up ladders and leaping from one small ledge to the next, in order to lay the large wooden panels across the pillars and hammering loudly as they did so.

Having just left behind an industrial England, it was also odd for him to see everything being done by hand.

Despite hating the machines, Lawrence saw the Italian way of doing things as backwards, as if they were living in the past.

 

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Today the only sign of Villa De Paoli’s lemon house is the presence of a few pillars hidden behind the car park.

A sad reminder of a once majestic past.

As you walk along the main road from Villa to Gargnano you will however come across La Molora, a private lemon house that the owner is working hard to restore to its prime.

Here you can see for yourself the imposing pillars and lemon trees working their way up the hill, in the way that Lawrence was so intrigued and perplexed.

 

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From his flat, Lawrence could see a church set on a slight hill overlooking the village, that he often glanced at but never thought to visit.

One day when he heard the gentle ringing of the church bells he decided to try and find out more about it.

There was no obvious path to the church, so Lawrence went out the back door of his house and made his way through the narrow side streets,  unsure of quite where he was going.

It was while walking these side streets of Villa that Lawrence felt the most alien and alone during his time on Lake Garda.

 

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Above: San Tommaso, Villa, Gargnano

 

In Twilight in Italy he describes how odd it was walking through the narrow passageways, which were dark and shady compared to the brightly-lit paths by the lakeside.

He could see the town’s inhabitants staring at him suspiciously through their windows, wondering who this stranger was.

Gargnano wasn’t often visited by tourists and so Lawrence felt that his pale skin shone out even more here, and feared that it turned him into something of a spectacle.

 

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Lawrence writes about the church and cloister of San Francesco on via Roma in Gargnano.

He put the simple Romanesque church of San Francesco (built in 1289) in the category of churches of the dove, which he defined as “shy and hidden“.

They nestle among trees or they are gathered into silence of their own, in the very midst of the town so that one passes them by without observing them.”

He says of San Francisco:

I passed it several times in the dark, silent little square, without knowing it was a church.

(The road has since been widened so the square is no longer discernible.)

 

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Lawrence was captivated by the cloister, which became a citrus fruit warehouse at the end of the 19th century, with “its beautiful and original carvings of leaves and fruits upon the pillars“.

 

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After several unsuccessful attempts to reach the San Tomasso church, Lawrence eventually discovered a long broken stairway that led him to the courtyard of San Tommaso, or one of the churches of the eagles – which “stand high, with their heads to the skies, as if they challenged the world below” –  which still provides access to the building today.

 

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He “came out suddenly, as by a miracle, clean on the platform of my San Tommaso, in the tremendous sunshine.

It was another world, a world of fierce abstraction.

The thin old church standing above the light, as if perched on the house roofs.

Its thin grey neck was held up stiffly.

Beyond was a vision of dark foliage and high hillside.

 

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When you reach the summit you will be greeted by a similar sight as Lawrence’s.

Countless red-slated roofs spread out beneath you, giving way to the seemingly never-ending water of the lake.

It’s hardly surprising that Lawrence described this platform as suspended above the village like the lowest step of heaven or Jacob’s ladder.

The terrace of San Tommaso is let down from heaven and does not touch the Earth.

 

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Everywhere Lawrence went in Villa and Gargnano seemed to provide him with the new experiences and inspiration he had been searching for when he first embarked on his travels.

San Tommaso certainly found a special place in his heart.

 

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As you wander the streets of Villa and Gargnano,  stopping briefly at the pretty little harbour where Lawrence first arrived in the town and passing by the theatre which remains as it would have looked to Lawrence on the outside, you can see why he chose to stay here so long.

Italy and Lake Garda are familiar destinations for us today, but for Lawrence there was still so much to explore and understand, so much that was alien and intimidating and yet at the same time captivating and exciting.

He couldn’t help but be drawn to the unique character of the town, the intriguing local people and the beauty of the lake itself.

 

 

The Hotel Gardenia al Lago is a hotel in Villa, a romantic little village administered by Gargnano, the largest and most distinctive municipality on the “lemon Riviera”.

It stands, proud and elegant, with its Mitteleuropean architecture, right on the shores of Lake Garda, with the mountain peaks of the Parco Alto Garda Bresciano nature reserve as its backdrop.

The waters of the Lake lap the edges of the magnificent garden and surround the panoramic lookout point in the dining room, and on the opposite shore stands the majestic Monte Baldo mountain range, which generously lays on the most unforgettable displays of light and colour at both sunrise and sunset.

Hotel Gardenia al Lago has a particular charm and aura, not due to the opulence and richness of its décor, but to its harmonious setting, the elegance of its rooms, furnished with pieces from the old house dating back to 1925, and to the warm welcome given by the Arosio family, who have owned and run the hotel personally for three generations.

 

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Inside the Hotel, on the 4th floor, guests will find an exhibition dedicated to Lawrence, organized in 2012 by the Historic Gargnano Committee, on the centennial of the writer’s residence.

Through the descriptive panels and photographs, you can trace the life of the writer, famous for having written Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Sons and Lovers.

 

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I longed to visit Villa.

I longed to relax in a waterfront café by the port of Gargnano.

 

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I wished to wander around the abandoned olive factory, the lakefront villas with their boathouses, the Palazzo Comunale with the two cannonballs wedged in the walls from the aforementioned naval bombings.

 

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I longed to stroll along the road which leads out of Gargnano from the harbour for 3 km past the beach and through olive and lemon groves, past the Villa Feltrinelli – the grand lakeside house / world-class hotel with tastefully furnished rooms (€1,380 per night) where Mussolini once ruled….

 

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To the tiny 11th century Chapel of San Giacomo di Calino.

I wanted to look, on the side facing the lake, under the portico where fishermen keep their equipment, at the 13th century fresco of St. Christopher, the patron saint of travellers.

 

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But we were not travellers.

 

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We were tourists, and tourists by their very nature value the destination far more than the journey.

We do not linger in Toscolano-Maderno.

We do not stroll through Gargnano.

We do not detour down the road to Lake Idro through the hills of Valvestino.

 

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We are on a mission.

We will not procrastinate.

We do not see the green of olive trees or the blue of the sky and the Lake.

 

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I love my wife, so practical and pragmatic.

A better wife than I will ever deserve.

 

 

But a quiet voice within me weeps.

It longs to one day find a place and on that day spontaneously decide to linger there for six months or for a lifetime.

 

I say nothing as we zoom past Toscolano-Maderno.

I am silent as we speed past Gargnano.

 

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My mind’s eye sees sailboats afloat on turquoise waters, orchards of olives and groves of lemons, huge stone walls and tall pillars, testaments of memory.

 

 

The Buddha is rumoured to have said that the greatest folly of men is that we believe that we have more time to live than we are actually granted.

 

 

Nonetheless I find myself thinking about retracing the routes followed and described in Lawrence’s Twilight in Italy.

To walk from Innsbruck to Riva del Garda or from Schaffhausen to Milan, time and money be damned….

That would be amazing.

 

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But as the years zoom by at breathtaking speed I find myself entering a state of obscurity, of ambiguity, a general decline.

 

It is twilight when we reach Riva.

 

The soft gleaming glow of the sky is light clinging to a descending sun disappearing below the horizon, a semi-darkness, the gloom of a dying day.

So much to see, so much to do, so little time before night falls.

 

Such is twilight in Italy.

And everywhere else.

 

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Sources: Wikipedia / Google / Sally Fitzgerald, “D.H. Lawrence’s Lake Garda”, http://www.travelandlife.com / http://www.lakefrontboutiquehotels.com / http://www.gargnanosulgarda.com  / Gaby Logan, “Gargnano Celebrates D.H. Lawrence Centennial“, http://www.italymagazine.com / D.H. Lawrence, Twilight in Italy

 

Canada Slim and the Chocolate Factory of Unhappiness

Landschlacht, Switzerland, 30 January 2019

This is not India, but nonetheless there are a few sacred cows in Switzerland one would be wise to not offend.

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First, one should never question Switzerland’s superiority….

In anything.

Just as the laws of physics decree that the bumblebee cannot possibly fly, so the laws of economics similarly decree that Switzerland should not be doing so sickeningly well.

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It is land-locked, has a home market smaller than London, speaks four languages, has no natural resources other than hydroelectric power, a little salt and few fish, no colonies nor membership in any major trading block, Switzerland should have faded from existence centuries ago.

Instead the Swiss are the only nation to make the Germans appear inefficient, the French undiplomatic and Texans poor.

Thus their mountains are higher, their tunnels longer, their watches superior, their cheese holey, their chocolate legendary and their gold real.

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Second, appearances are deceiving.

Switzerland is not really a nation but rather a collection of 26 nations (or cantons) which finance themselves, raise their own taxes and spend them as they want.

Or one could also easily argue that it is not a collection of 26 cantons but rather an assemblage of 3,000 totally independent communities each making their own decisions about welfare, gas, electricity, water, roads and public holidays.

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They are successful and proud of what they have accomplished yet simultaneously refuse to believe they are doing well and are convinced that tomorrow they will lose everything they have worked for.

They are officially quadlingual polyglots.

Yet not only have I never heard of anyone who can speak all four (French, German, Italian and Rumanisch) languages, I have rarely encountered outside of Freiburg/Freibourg and Biel/Bienne anyone who is bilingual in even two of the four.

In the Bundeshaus in Bern (the national/federal parliament in the capital) one sees a minor miracle of one member speaking in one language while the other member responds in a different one with no loss of comprehension or pause in conversation.

But beyond Bern, when the Swiss have to communicate in an official language not their own, then in all likelihood the French speaker will address his German counterpart in English and vice versa.

 

The Swiss Army doesn’t actually use the Swiss Army knives the tourists buy.

Swiss cheese is not called Swiss but Emmentaler.

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Swiss fondue is simply (cheese) fondue while a meat fondue is inexplicably called a Chinese fondue.

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Two Swiss national heroes are also problematic puzzlers.

 

Heidi, everyone’s favourite Swiss Miss, though created by a Swiss writer, was actually a German girl who moved to Switzerland to live with her Swiss grandfather in Frau Johanna Spyri’s books.

William Tell (or Wilhelm) is a proud Swiss symbol of independence but whether he actually existed or whether he was invented by those who were not Swiss (Germans Goethe and Friedrich Schiller / Italy’s Rossini) is debatable.

The cuckoo clock is not Swiss.

It is German from the Black Forest, despite what Orson Wells would have us believe.

 

Trains are not as punctual as the legend suggests that folks could use their stopwatches to predict a train’s exact arrival.

The S8 connecting Schaffhausen with St. Gallen is, in my personal experience of using it on an almost daily basis, more often tardy rather than timely.

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The Swiss are world class diploments who make the world believe that they want the world to love them, but they have a problem with not loving the world in return but not liking other Swiss as well.

 

They are famous for their neutrality yet armed to the teeth.

 

And much like my fellow Canadians, they are proud of their homeland yet would be hard-pressed to say what exactly that identity is of which they are proud.

 

They are conservative to the extreme, yet Switzerland has harboured radicals of every political ideology imaginable (including Mussolini and Lenin), has surprised with artistic movements (like Dadaism and Bauhaus) and has sheltered movie and music legends who revolutionized the world with their creativity and talent (like Freddy Mercury, Charlie Chaplin and Tina Turner).

Switzerland is dull and uninspiring.

Even though Mary Shelley was English her Frankenstein‘s Monster was as Swiss as the Matterhorn.

 

James Bond is the product of a Swiss mother and a Scottish father and much of Bond lore (movies and literature) has taken place within Switzerland.

 

A land of contradictions with an identity as firmly guarded as a bank vault.

 

Let us consider Swiss chocolate.

The world over, chocolate is the foodstuff most readily identifiable with Switzerland.

Chocolate is everywhere.

It is the afternoon pick-me-up, the sensual indulgence, the accoutrement to seduction.

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The ancient Aztecs believed that chocolate was an aphrodisiac and Emperor Montezuma would gorge himself on chocolate in advance of his trysts as a type of non-prescription Viagra.

 

The solid, moldable chocolate “bar” was developed by the Bristol confectioner Joseph Fry in 1847.

But many early pioneers of chocolate-making were Swis:

  • Francois-Louis Cailler, who started production of what was then largely sold as a restorative tonic at Vevey in 1819.

  • He was soon followed by Philippe Suchard in Neuchâtel.

  • Until 1875, all chocolate was dark and bitter, but in that year Vevey-based Daniel Peter, a candlemaker who married Cailler’s daughter, became involved in chocolate-making, invented milk chocolate, aided by his neighbour Henri Nestlé.

  • Nestlé started his firm (now one of the world’s largest food multinationals) by manufacturing condensed milk, which Peter used in chocolate manufacture in preference to the too-watery ordinary milk, creating a concoction that was not only more palatable than previously available but less expensive as well.

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  • In 1879 Rodolphe Lindt of Bern invented “conching“, a process which creates the smooth melting chocolate familiar today.

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  • Jean Tobler, also of Bern, was another pioneer and today every one of the seven billion triangles of Toblerone eaten annually are still produced in that city.

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Today, more chocolate is sold in Switzerland per head of population than any other country.

 

The seeds of the cacao tree have an intense bitter taste and must be fermented to develop the flavor.

After fermentation, the beans are dried, cleaned, and roasted.

The shell is removed to produce cacao nibs, which are then ground to cocoa mass, unadulterated chocolate in rough form.

Once the cocoa mass is liquefied by heating, it is called chocolate liquor.

The liquor also may be cooled and processed into its two components: cocoa solids and cocoa butter.

Baking chocolate, also called bitter chocolate, contains cocoa solids and cocoa butter in varying proportions, without any added sugar.

Powdered baking cocoa, which contains more fiber than it contains cocoa butter, can be processed with alkali to produce Dutch cocoa.

Much of the chocolate consumed today is in the form of sweet chocolate, a combination of cocoa solids, cocoa butter or added vegetable oils, and sugar.

Milk chocolate is sweet chocolate that additionally contains milk powder or condensed milk.

White chocolate contains cocoa butter, sugar, and milk, but no cocoa solids.

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Chocolate is one of the most popular food types and flavors in the world, and many foodstuffs involving chocolate exist, particularly desserts, including cakes, pudding, mousse, chocolate brownies, and chocolate chip cookies.

Many candies are filled with or coated with sweetened chocolate, and bars of solid chocolate and candy bars coated in chocolate are eaten as snacks.

Gifts of chocolate molded into different shapes (such as eggs, hearts, coins) are traditional on certain Western holidays, including Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day and Hanukkah.

Chocolate is also used in cold and hot beverages, such as chocolate milk and hot chocolate, and in some alcoholic drinks, such as creme de cacao.

 

Chocolate is big business.

In 2005 the global market was approximately $100 billion.

Each year, the world consumes close to three million tons of chocolate and other cocoa products.

One Swiss firm alone, Lindt & Sprüngli had a revenue of CHF 4.088 billion in 2017.

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It was my discovery that Lindt has their headquarters and outlet shop in Kilchberg (near Zürich) and a separate visit to Maestrani’s Chocolarium outside the town of Flawil (near St. Gallen) that made me curious about the actual production of chocolate….

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Bern, Switzerland, 12 March 2013:

Lindt produces the Gold Bunny, a hollow milk chocolate rabbit in a variety of sizes available every Easter since 1952.

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Each bunny wears a small coloured ribbon bow around its neck identifying the type of chocolate contained within.

The milk chocolate bunny wears a red ribbon, the dark chocolate bunny wears a dark brown ribbon, the hazelnut bunny wears a green ribbon, and the white chocolate bunny wears a white ribbon.

Other chocolates are wrapped to look like carrots, chicks, or lambs.

The lambs are packaged with four white lambs and one black lamb.

During the Christmas season, Lindt produces a variety of items, including chocolate reindeer (which somewhat resemble the classic bunny), Santa, snowmen figures of various sizes, bears, bells, advent calendars and chocolate ornaments.

Various tins and boxes are available in the Lindt stores, the most popular colour schemes being the red and blue.

Other seasonal items include Lindt chocolate novelty golf balls.

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For Valentine’s Day, Lindt sells a boxed version of the Gold Bunny, which comes as a set of two kissing bunnies.

Other Valentine’s Day seasonal items include a selection of heart-shaped boxes of Lindor chocolate truffles.

 

They are the symbol of Easter in Switzerland, but the golden Lindt bunnies aren’t Swiss.

As revelations go, this one is up there with Heidi was German and Switzerland isn’t neutral in terms of shock value.

How can those cute little gold-wrapped bunnies not be Swiss?

They are made by Lindt & Sprüngli, one of the oldest and most famous chocolate makers in Switzerland.

Except they are made by Lindt & Sprüngli in Germany.

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Diccon Bewes discovered this thanks to a friend from Helvetica LA who bought a Lindt bunny in Los Angeles only to find it was made in Germany.

Fair enough, Bewes thought, as America is an export market.

But surely the ones in Switzerland would be made here?

Wrong.

All the ones in the supermarkets in Bern are made in Germany, although you have to have good eyesight to discover that.

On the back of the bunny the ingredients are listed in German, French and Dutch but down at the bottom are the words:

Fabriqué par / Geproduceerd door: Lindt & Sprüngli GmbH (Allemagne/Deutschland) D-52072 Aachen.

Oddly this isn’t written in German given that they are sold in Germany.

Obviously they don’t want to have that anywhere for fear of scaring away canny Swiss consumers – even though most of them can understand the French anyway!

To reassure anyone who does cotton on to the fact that the bunny isn’t Swiss, there are the words:

Garantie de Qualité Chocoladefabriken Lindt & Sprüngli Kilchberg/Suisse.

In other words, Lindt in Switzerland is the distributor for the German Lindt products.

At a time when “Swissness” is being debated in the Federal Parliament, it is interesting to see that this Swiss icon is not Swiss at all.

Bewes checked the shelves and Lindt very carefully marks their chocolate bars with SWISS MADE where it applies (so the bunny does not get that stamp of approval).

There was a proposal that foodstuffs get the SWISS MADE stamp only if 80% of their ingredients are Swiss, unless they include things that cannot possibly be Swiss because they are not grown here….

Diccon Bewes Logo

 

Landschlacht, Switzerland, 29 January 2019

But here’s the thing.

Not only is much of Swiss chocolate production reliant on imported sugar, but cocoa, the raw material of chocolate, itself isn’t grown in Switzerland.

Although cocoa originated in the Americas, West African countries, particularly Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, are the leading producers of cocoa in the 21st century, accounting for some 60% of the world cocoa supply.

Thousands of miles away from the American and European homes, where the majority of the world’s chocolate is devoured – Europe accounts for 45% of the world’s chocolate revenue – lies the denuded landscape of West Africa’s Côte d’Ivoire, the world’s largest producer of cocoa.

As the nation’s name suggests, elephants once abundantly roamed the rain forests of the Côte d’Ivoire.

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Today’s reality is much different.

Only 200 – 400 elephants remain from an original population of hundreds of thousands.

Much of the country’s national parks and conservation lands have been cleared of their forests to make way for cocoa operators to feed demand from large chocolate companies like Nestlé, Cadbury and Mars.

 

Washington DC, 15 September 2017

NGO Mighty Earth released the results of an in-depth global investigation into the cocoa cartel that produces the raw material for chocolate.

The chocolate companies purchase the cocoa for their chocolate production from large agribusiness companies like Olam, Cargill and Barry Callebaut, who together control half the monopoly of global cocoa trade.

Most strikingly, the investigation found that for years the world’s major chocolate companies have been buying cocoa grown through the illegal deforestation of national parks and other protected forests, in addition to driving extensive deforestation outside of protected areas.

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In the world’s two largest cocoa producing countries, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, the market created by the chocolate industry has been the primary driver behind the destruction of forests.

Much of Côte d’Ivoire’s national parks and protected areas have been entirely or almost entirely cleared of forest and replaced with cocoa growing operations.

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In the developed world, chocolate is seen as an affordable luxury that gives ordinary people a taste of sensuous delight at a modest cost.

But in West Africa, chocolate is rare and unaffordable to the majority of the population.

Most Ivorian cocoa farmers have never even tried chocolate.

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Much of Côte d’Ivoire was densely covered by forests when it achieved independence in 1960, making it prime habitat for forest elephants and chimpanzees.

Elephants are on the verge of total disappearance.

A female African bush elephant in Mikumi National Park, Tanzania

13 of 23 Ivorian protected areas have lost their entire primate populations.

Chimpanzees are now considered an endangered species.

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Côte d’Ivoire once boasted one of the highest rates of biodiversity in Africa, with thousands of endemic species.

Pygmy hippos, flying squirrels, pangolins, leopards and crocodiles are rapidly losing their last habitats.

Today less than 12% of the country remains forested and less than 4% remains densely forested.

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The cocoa industry in Côte d’Ivoire has not been content with landscapes it was able to clear legally.

In recent years, it has pushed large-scale growing operations into the country’s national parks and other protected areas.

Needless to say, clearing forest to produce cocoa within protected areas violates Ivorian law.

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Above: Flag of Côte d’Ivoire

 

A study conducted by Ohio State University and several Ivorian academic institutions examined 23 protected areas in Côte d’Ivoire and found that seven of them had been entirely converted to cocoa.

More than 90% of the land mass of these protected areas was estimated to be covered by cocoa.

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Mighty Earth investigated Goin Débé Forest, Scio Forest, Mt. Péko National Park, Mt. Sassandra Forest, Tia Forest and Marahoué National Park.

Three of the world’s largest cocoa traders – Olam, Cargill and Barry Callebaut – buy cocoa grown illegally in protected areas.

They sell this cocoa to the world’s largest chocolate companies like Mars, Hershey, Mondelez, Ferrero, Lindt and others.

Other traders engage in similar practices.

Illegal deforestation for cocoa is an open secret throughout the entire chocolate supply chain.

 

Between five and six million people, largely small landholders, grow cocoa around the world.

In Côte d’Ivoire, cocoa farmers, who produce 43% of the world’s cocoa, earn around US 50 cents per day, 6.6% of the value of a chocolate bar.

By comparison, 35% goes to chocolate companies and 44% goes to retailers.

 

Additionally, the chocolate industry is notorious for labour rights abuses including slave labour and child labour.

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According to the US Department of Labor:

21% more children are illegally laboring on cocoa farms in Ghana and the Ivory Coast than five years ago.

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An estimated 2.1 million West African children are still engaged in dangerous, physically taxing cocoa harvesting.

Rather than eliminate the problem, the industry has merely pledged to reduce child labour in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana by 70% by 2020.

 

The investigation implicates almost every major chocolate brand and retailer, including Lindt & Sprüngli and my employer Starbucks.

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Mighty Earth shared the findings with 70 chocolate companies.

 

None denied sourcing cocoa from protected areas.

None disputed any of the facts presented.

 

Kilchberg, Switzerland, 12 August 2018

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This bedroom community of Zürich has only 8,470 people, but it is a significant place for three reasons:

  • It was the final home and resting place for Nobel Prize German author Thomas Mann as well as his wife and most of his children.

Mann in 1929

Above: Thomas Mann (1875 – 1955)

(See Canada Slim and the Family of Mann of this blog.)

  • It was also the final home and resting place of Swiss author Conrad Ferdinand Meyer, in whose honour Kilchberg has a Museum.

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Above: Conrad Meyer (1825 – 1898)

(See Canada Slim and the Anachronistic Man of this blog.)

  • It was the final home and resting place of Swiss chocolatier David Sprüngli-Schwartz and his son Rudolf Sprüngli-Ammann, and it remains the headquarters location of the company they founded, today’s Lindt & Sprüngli.

In 1836 David and Rudolf bought a small confectionery in the old town of Zürich, producing chocolates under the name David Sprüngli & Son.

Two years later, a small factory was added that produced chocolate in solid form.

With the retirement of Rudolf in 1892, the business was divided between his two sons.

The younger brother David received two confectionery stores that became known under the name Confiserie Sprüngli.

The elder brother Johann received the chocolate factory.

To raise the necessary finances for his expansion plans, Johann converted his private company into publicly traded Chocolat Sprüngli AG in 1899.

That same year, Johann acquired the chocolate factory of Rodolphe Lindt in Bern and the company changed its name to Aktiengesellschaft (AG) Vereingte Berner und Züricher Chocoladefabriken Lindt & Sprüngli (the United Bern and Zürich Lindt and Sprüngli Chocolate Factories Ltd.).

In 1994, Lindt & Sprüngli acquired the Austrian chocolatier Hofbauer Österreich and integrated it, along with its Küfferle brand, into the company.

In 1997 and 1998, respectively, the company acquired the Italian chocolatier Caffarel and the American chocolatier Ghirardelli, and integrated both of them into the company as wholly owned subsidiaries.

Since then, Lindt & Sprüngli has expanded the once-regional Ghirardelli to the international market.

On 17 March 2009, Lindt announced the closure of 50 of its 80 retail boutiques in the United States because of weaker demand in the wake of the late-2000s recession.

On 14 July 2014, Lindt bought Russell Stover Candies, maker of Whitman’s Chocolate, for about $1 billion, the company’s largest acquisition to date.

In November 2018, Lindt opened its first American travel retail store in JFK Airport’s Terminal 1 and its flagship Canadian shop in Yorkdale Shopping Centre, Toronto.

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Above: Lindt Yorkdale

 

Lindt & Sprüngli has twelve factories: Kilchberg, Switzerland; Aachen, Germany; Oloron-Sainte-Marie, France; Induno Olona, Italy; Gloggnitz, Austria; and Stratham, New Hampshire, in the United States.

The factory in Gloggnitz, Austria, manufactures products under the Hofbauer & Küfferle brand in addition to the Lindt brand.

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Caffarel’s factory is located in Luserna San Giovanni, Italy, and Ghirardelli’s factory is located in San Leandro, California, in the United States.

Furthermore, there are four more factories of Russell Stover in the United States.

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Lindt has opened over 410 chocolate cafés and shops all over the world.

The cafés’ menu offers mostly focuses on chocolate and desserts.

They also sell handmade chocolates, macaroons, cakes, and ice cream.

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Above: “The Little Wash House“, Lindt Café, Zürich

 

Originally, Lindor was introduced as a bar in 1949 and later in 1967 in form of a ball.

Lindor is a type of chocolate produced by Lindt, which is now characterized by a hard chocolate shell and a smooth chocolate filling.

It comes in both a ball and a bar variety, as well as in a variety of flavours.

Each flavour has its own wrapper colour.

Most of the US Lindor truffles are manufactured in Stratham, New Hampshire.

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Lindt sells at least 29 varieties of chocolate bars.

 

Lindt’s “Petits Desserts” range embodies famous European desserts in a small cube of chocolate.

Flavours include: Tarte au Chocolat, Crème Brulée, Tiramisu, Creme Caramel, Tarte Citron, Meringue, and Noir Orange.

 

Lindt makes a “Creation” range of chocolate-filled cubes: Milk Mousse, Dark Milk Mousse, White Milk Mousse, Chocolate Mousse, Orange Mousse, Pistachio and Cherry/Chili.

 

Bâtons Kirsch are Lindt Kirsch liqueur-filled, chocolate-enclosed tubes dusted in cocoa powder.

 

In Australia, Lindt manufactures ice cream in various flavours:

  • 70% Dark Chocolate
  • White Chocolate Framboise
  • Sable Cookies and Cream
  • Chocolate Chip Hazelnut
  • White Chocolate and Vanilla Bean

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The curious visitor and chocolate lover can have a guided tour of the Lindt production facilities by contacting Zürich Tourism in the Zürich Main Station.

Tours take place from May to September, Monday to Saturday and last 40 minutes for individuals or groups up to 16 people.

(http://www.lindt-experience.ch)

The factory outlet shop outside the factory is open from Monday to Friday 1000 – 1900, and Saturday 1000 – 1700.

The shop is seductive, the chocolate sinful.

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In 2009, Swiss tennis star Roger Federer was named as Lindt’s “global brand ambassador” and began appearing in a series of commercials endorsing Lindor.

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Roger Federer has huge popularity in the world of sport, to the point that he has been called a living legend in his own time.

Given his achievements, many players and analysts have considered Federer to be the greatest tennis player of all time.

No other male tennis player has won 20 major singles titles in the Open Era and he has been in 30 major finals, including 10 in a row.

He has held the world No. 1 spot in the ATP rankings for longer than any other male player.

He was also ranked No. 1 at the age of 36.

Federer has won a record eight Wimbledon titles and a joint-record six Australian Open titles.

He also won five consecutive US Open titles, which is the best in the Open Era.

He has been voted by his peers to receive the tour Sportsmanship Award a record thirteen times and voted by tennis fans to receive the ATP Fans’ Favorite award for fifteen consecutive years.

Federer has been named the Swiss Sports Personality of the Year a record seven times.

He has been named the ATP Player of the Year and ITF World Champion five times and he has won the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year award a record five times, including four consecutive awards from 2005 to 2008.

He is also the only individual to have won the BBC Overseas Sports Personality of the Year award four times.

Federer helped to lead a revival in tennis known by many as the Golden Age.

This led to increased interest in the sport, which in turn led to higher revenues for many venues across tennis.

During this period rising revenues led to exploding prize money.

When Federer first won the Australian Open in 2004 he earned $985,000, compared to when he won in 2018 and the prize had increased to AUD 4 million.

Upon winning the 2009 French Open and completing the career Grand Slam, Federer became the first individual male tennis player to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated since Andre Agassi in 1999.

He was also the first non-American player to appear on the cover of the magazine since Stefan Edberg in 1992.

Federer again made the cover of Sports Illustrated following his record breaking 8th Wimbledon title and second Grand Slam of 2017, becoming the first male tennis player to be featured on the cover since himself in 2009.

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Federer is one of the highest-earning athletes in the world.

He is listed at No. 1 on the ForbesWorld’s Highest Paid Athletes” list.

He is endorsed by Japanese clothing company Uniqlo and Swiss companies Nationale Suisse, Credit Suisse, Rolex, Lindt, Sunrise, and Jura Elektroapparate.

In 2010, his endorsement by Mercedes-Benz China was extended into a global partnership deal.

His other sponsors include Gillette, Wilson, Barilla, and Moët & Chandon.

Previously, he was an ambassador for Nike, NetJets, Emmi AG and Maurice Lacroix.

In 2003, he established the Roger Federer Foundation to help disadvantaged children and to promote their access to education and sports.

Since May 2004, citing his close ties with South Africa, including that this was where his mother had been raised, he began supporting the South Africa-Swiss charity IMBEWU, which helps children better connect to sports as well as social and health awareness.

Later, in 2005, Federer visited South Africa to meet the children that had benefited from his support.

Also in 2005, he auctioned his racquet from his US Open championship to aid victims of Hurricane Katrina.

At the 2005 Pacific Life Open in Indian Wells, Federer arranged an exhibition involving several top players from the ATP and WTA tour called Rally for Relief.

The proceeds went to the victims of the tsunami caused by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake.

In December 2006, he visited Tamil Nadu, one of the areas in India most affected by the tsunami.

 

He was appointed a Goodwill Ambassador by UNICEF in April 2006 and has appeared in UNICEF public messages to raise public awareness of AIDS.

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In response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake, Federer arranged a collaboration with fellow top tennis players for a special charity event during the 2010 Australian Open called ‘Hit for Haiti‘, in which proceeds went to Haiti earthquake victims.

He participated in a follow-up charity exhibition during the 2010 Indian Wells Masters, which raised $1 million.

The Nadal vs. Federer “Match for Africa” in 2010 in Zürich and Madrid raised more than $4 million for the Roger Federer Foundation and Fundación Rafa Nadal.

In January 2011, Federer took part in an exhibition, Rally for Relief, to raise money for the victims of the Queensland floods.

In 2014, the “Match for Africa 2” between Federer and Stan Wawrinka, again in Zurich, raised £850,000 for education projects in Southern Africa.

 

On 24 November 2017, Federer received an honorary doctorate awarded to him by his home university, the University of Basel.

He received the title in recognition for his role in increasing the international reputation of Basel and Switzerland and also his engagement for children in Africa through his charitable foundation.

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But is he aware of the damage that Lindt’s demand for cocoa is doing to West Africa in regards to the destruction of both human lives and the environment?

Or, if he is aware, is he like many things Swiss – deceptive in appearance?

 

Flawil, Switzerland, 16 January 2018

As you pull into St. Gallen train station, you can’t miss the huge Chocolat Maestrani sign suspended above the tracks.

The local firm in nearby Flawil and the chocolate factory is within easy reach west of St. Gallen.

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The name Maestrani has stood for exquisite chocolate creations since 1852.

At Maestrani’s Chocolarium – the Chocolate Factory of Happiness – the history of chocolate is brought alive in a fascinating Experience World for young and old alike.

Whether independently or on a guided tour, guests can explore the interactive zone and discover where chocolate comes from and how it is produced.

They also have the chance to view chocolate being produced live.

What’s more, sampling is actively encouraged!

At the end of the tour, for a small surcharge, a show confiseur will mold a fresh bar of chocolate, which guests can decorate as they wish.

Besides a movie theater, a cafe and chocolate molding courses, during which guests can make their own chocolate creations, sweet-toothed visitors can purchase their favorite chocolate products from the factory shop.

He who sees the world through the eyes of a chocolate lover will find true beauty and happiness.” Aquilino Maestrani, founder and chocolate pioneer, (1814-1880)

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The Chocolarium at Toggenburgerstrasse 41, Flawil, is open Monday to Friday 0900 – 1800, Saturday 0900 – 1700, Sunday 1000 – 1700, the last tour is one hour before closing.

The tour includes a gallery above the factory floor to watch the production lines.

To get there, take a train to Flawil from St. Gallen (12 minutes) then switch to a bus for the five-minute ride to “Flawil Maestrani” bus stop.

(http://www.maestrani.ch)

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Côte d’Ivoire, West Africa, 30 January 2019

It is a stunner, shingled with starfish-studded sands, palm tree forests and roads so orange they resemble strips of bronzing powder.

This is a true tropical paradise.

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Above: Azuretti Beach, Grand Bassam, Côte d’Ivoire

 

In the south, the Parc National de Tai hides secrets, species and nut-cracking chimps under the tree boughs.

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Above: Parc National de Tai, Côte d’Ivoire

 

The peaks and valleys of Man offer a highland climate, fresh air and fantastic hiking opportunities through tropical forests.

Above: Dent de Man, Côte d’Ivoire

 

The beach resorts of Assinie and Grand Bassam are made for weekend retreats from Abidjan, capital in all but name, where lagoons wind their way between skyscrapers and cathedral spires pierce the heavens.

Collection of views of Abidjan, featuring St. Paul's Cathedral, the Félix Houphouët-Boigny Stadium, the Republic square, the beach of Vridi and the CBD named Le Plateau.

Above: Images of Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire

 

Assinie and Dagbego have surf beaches.

In Yamoussoukro, the capital’s basilica floats on the landscape like a mirage.

Above: Basilica of Our Lady of Peace, Yamoussoukro, Côte d’Ivoire

 

Sacred crocodiles guard the Presidential Palace.

Tourists gather as they are fed in the afternoon.

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Above: Lac aux Crocodiles, Presidential Palace, Yamoussoukro

 

This is a culture rich with festivals and some of the most stunning artwork in Africa.

This is what the tourist sees.

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The process of deforestation starts with settlers who invade parks and other forested areas.

They progressively cut down or burn existing trees.

Trunks are denuded of their crowns and are left as ghostly reminders of the great forests that once reigned.

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With the forests gone, the settlers plant cocoa trees, which take years before they are ready to harvest.

Each cocoa tree bears two harvests of cocoa pods per year.

Farmers hack off the ripe cocoa pods from the trees with machetes.

They split open the pods to remove the cocoa beans, which are sorted and placed into piles.

The beans are left in the sun to ferment and dry and turn brown.

 

It is at this point that a first level of middlemen called “pisteurs” buy the cocoa beans from the settlers, transport it to villages and towns across the cocoa-growing region and sell them onto another set of middlemen, known as cooperatives.

The cooperatives then either directly or through a third set of middlemen bring the cocoa to the coastal ports of San Pedro and Abidjan, where it is sold to cocoa traders Olam, Cargill and Barry Callebaut, who ship the cocoa companies in Europe and North America.

Illegal towns and villages called “campements” have sprung up inside Côte d’Ivoire’s national parks and protected forests.

Some campements boast tens of thousands of residents, along with public schools, official health centres, mosques, churches, stores and cell phone towers in plain sight of government authorities.

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There is an excessive use of fertilizers and pesticides that is killing the country’s biodiversity.

Deforestation and exposure to the fullness of the sun makes the environment suspectible to disease.

Over two million children are victims of the worst forms of child labour.

This is a land of child workers, slaves and low wages.

Low pay foments food insecurity and low school enrollment and attendance rates.

Inadequate prices paid for the coffee means farmers live under the poverty line.

Chemicals pollute the waterways, killing wildlife and harming communities.

This is a true tropical hell.

 

And what of the future?

 

Demand for chocolate continues to rise by 5% every year.

The chocolate industry has aggressively expanded to other rainforest nations around the world – Indonesia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Peru – exporting the same bad practices that are contributing to the destruction of West Africa’s forests and the creation of a living hell for its people.

Deforestation for cocoa has a significant impact on climate.

Tropical rainforests have among the highest carbon storage of any ecosystem on the planet.

When they are cleared, they release enormous amounts of carbon into the atmosphere.

A single dark chocolate bar made with cocoa from deforestation produces the same amount of carbon pollution as driving 4.9 miles in a car.

 

In Switzerland, life is rich and sweet.

In Côte d’Ivoire, life is poor and sour.

 

In Canada, a remembered jingle asks:

When you eat your Smarties, do you eat the red ones last?

Do you suck them very slowly or crunch them very fast?

It’s candy and milk chocolate, so tell me when I ask:

When you eat your Smarties, do you eat the red ones last?

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An important question for these dark and bitter times, eh?

Sources: Wikipedia / Google / Facebook / The Rough Guide to Switzerland / Lonely Planet The World / Lonely Planet Africa on a Shoestring / Etelie Higonnet, Marisa Bellantonio and Glenn Hurowitz, Mighty Earth, Chocolate’s Dark Secret: How the Cocoa Industry Destroys National Parks / http://www.dicconbewes.ch / http://www.lindt-experience.ch / http://www.maestrani.ch

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canada Slim and the Magnificent Homeland

Landschlacht, Switzerland, 26 August 2018

There is something about the politics of a number of nations today (the United States, North Korea, the Philippines, Venezuela) that reminds me again and again of the late Italian Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.

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Above: Il Duce Benito Mussolini (1883 – 1945)

I have written about Mussolini before – his birth and his youth, his exile in Switzerland, his rise to power, his reign as Il Duce, his fall from power, his temporary reprieve through German assistance, his capture and his death – (See Canada Slim and the Apostle of Violence) – when speaking of the Lake Como town of Dongo and the village of Giulino de Mezzegra.

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Above: Dongo, where Mussolini was captured while fleeing to Switzerland

But I feel the need to speak of him again for we (the wife and I) visited the Lake Garda town of Salò which served as Mussolini’s de facto capital of the Italian Social Republic (23 September 1943 – 25 April 1945), a German puppet state of the Third Reich.

How did a man who once possessed absolute power over the whole of Italy (28 October 1922 – 25 July 1943) find himself reduced to being a mere figurehead for Nazi Germany?

And could one get a sense of that by visiting Salò over half a century later?

 

Salò, Lake Garda, Italy, Sunday 6 August 2017

Salò is one of the most important commercial and tourist centres of Lago Garda.

It lies in a spacious, seductive gulf on the slopes of Monte San Bartolomeo.

From the hills, resplendent in villas and olive yards, the viewer is rewarded by the grand immensity and glory of the Lake.

View of Salò and its bay

Above: Aerial view of Salò

According to a legend, Salò was founded by the Etruscan Queen Salonica.

There are some traces of the Roman colony Pagus Salodium: in the Lugone necropolis at via Sant’ Jago and findings of vase flasks and funeral steles in the Civic Archaeological Museum within the Communal Palace.

In 1377 Beatrice della Scala, Bernabó Visconti’s wife, chose Salò as the capital of Magnifica Patria (“the Magnificent Homeland“).

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Above: Bernabo Visconti (1323 – 85) and Beatrice della Scala (1331 – 84)

Beatrice had walls propped up and a new castle built, of which sadly nothing remains.

On 13 May 1426, after a long period of war, the towns of the western bank  of Lake Garda spontaneously joined the Republic of Venice wherein they would remain for the following three centuries.

Above: Winged lion column of St. Mark (symbol of Venice)

Sansovino built the Palace of the Captain Rector (now the town hall) and during the 15th and 16th centuries the Duomo (Cathedral) took form.

Among the famous men who were native to Salò we must remember:

  • Gaspare Bertolotti (1540 – 1609) aka Gasparo da Salò, a famous maker of stringed instruments and inventor of the violin, whose bust is kept in the town hall.
  • Above: The bust of Gasparo da Salò
  • Pietro Bellotto (1625 – 1700), a painter who painted portraits for cardinals, popes and dukes and who after wandering from court to court he returned to Lake Garda to die
  • Above: The Old Pilgrim, by Pietro Belloto
  • Ferdinando Bertoni (1725 – 1813), composer, organist and prolific writer of church music and 70 operas
  • Ferdinando Bertoni.jpg
  • Above: Fernando Bertoni
  • Marco Enrico Bossi (1861 – 1925), composer, organist and music teacher, who established the standards of organ studies still used in Italy today and made numerous international organ recital tours
  • Above: Marco Enrico Bossi
  • Sante Cattaneo (1739 – 1819), painter known for his religious painting
  • Angelo Zanelli (1879 – 1942), sculptor who created the large Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the statue of Goddess Rome
  • Luigi Comencini (1916 – 2007), film director known for his Commedia all’italiana (Italian-style comedy) movies:
    • La bella di Roma (The Belle of Rome)
    • Tutti a casa (Everybody Go Home)
    • La ragazza di Bube (Bebo’s Girl)
    • Incompreso (Misunderstood)
    • Le avventure di Pinocchio (The Adventures of Pinocchio)
    • Lo scopone scientifico (The Scientific Cardplayer)
    • La donna della domenica (The Sunday Woman)
    • Buon Natale…buon anno (Merry Christmas…Happy New Year)
    • Un ragazzo di Calabria (A Boy from Calabria)
    • La storia (History)
    • Voltati Eugenio (Turn Around Eugenio)
    • L’ingorgo (Traffic Jam)
    • Signore e signori, buonanotte (Good Night, Ladies and Gentlemen)
    • Quelle strane occasioni (Strange Occasion)
    • Delitto d’amore (Somewhere Beyond Love)
    • Senza Sapere niente di lei (The Unknown Woman)
    • Infanzia, vocazione e prime esperienze di Giacomo Casanova, veneziano (Giacomo Casanova: Childhood and Adolescence)
    • Il nostro agente Natlino Tartufato (Italian Secret Service)
    • Le bambole (The Dolls)
    • Il commissario (The Police Commissioner)
    • A Cavallo della tigre (On the Tiger’s Back (US) / Jailbreak (GB))
    • Und das am Montagmorgen (And That on Monday Morning)
    • Le sorprese dell’amore (Surprise of Love)
    • Mogli pericolose (Dangerous Wives)
    • Mariti in città (Husbands in the City)
    • La finestra sul Luna Park (The Window to Luna Park)
    • Pane, amore e gelosia (Bread, Love and Jealousy)
    • Pane, amore e Fantasia (Bread, Love and Dreams (GB)/ Frisky (US))
    • La valigia dei sogni (Suitcase of Dreams)
    • La Tratta delle bianche (Girls Marked Danger)
    • Heidi
    • Persiane chiuse (Behind Closed Shutters)
    • L’imperatore di Capri (The Emperor of Capri)
    • Proibito rubare (Hey Boy)
    • Tre notti d’amore (Three Nights of Love)
    • La mia Signora (My Wife)
    • Il compagno Don Camillo (Don Camillo in Moscow)
    • La bugiarda  (Six Days a Week)
    • Mio Dio come sono caduta in basso! (Till Marriage Do Us Part)
    • Il gatto (The Cat)
    • Luigi Comencini 1971.jpg
    • Above: Luigi Comencini

Comencini’s films tell wonderful stories:

  • A missionary on his way to Africa has his suitcase stolen in Naples and, while trying to locate it, he comes to realize the suffering and poverty in the city needs his attention more.
  • A beautiful gold digger, mistakes a waiter in a Neapolitan hotel, for an Arab prince.
  • A woman searches for her missing sister in the morally degraded seaside of Genoa.
  • A police chief wants to marry and selects a woman as his bride but she is already in love with his shy constable.  Rejected, the chief turns his attention to the town midwife who returns his love but is hiding a secret….
  • A junior officer is shocked when Germans storm the base where he is stationed and his fellow Italian officers simply want to go home.
  • After receiving a tractor as a gift from a Soviet village, the mayor plans to twin the village with theirs. The priest tricks the Mayor into including him on the trip to Russia.
  • An aging American millionairess journeys to Rome each year with her chauffeur to play cards with a destitute man and his wife.  The annual scenario never changes: she donates the money so the Romans can play, then she wins the game shattering their dreams of escaping their poverty.  But now the Roman couple’s daughter wants revenge….
  • A girl raised by nuns marries a man only to discover on her wedding night that she married her brother….
  • Thousands of motorists are stuck in a terrible traffic jam for 24 hours.

But as films go the Italian horror art film Salò: The 120 Days of Sodom, directed by Paolo Pasolini, is shockingly more frightening than the Italian Social Republic ever was.

Salò focuses on four wealthy, corrupt Italian libertines, during the time of the Social Republic, who kidnap 18 teenagers and subject them to four months of extreme violence, sadism, perversion, sex and fascism.

Salò has been banned in several countries because of all the graphic sex and violence and portrayals of rape, torture and murder.

Pasolini’s intentions were to use sex as a metaphor for the relationship between power and its subjects.

Saloposter.jpg

In Salò, the historically-informed mind is filled with confusion about a place so filled with contradictions:

Musicians and painters and movies that bring to brightest light the glorious potential that is man’s creative genius contrasted with a Führer’s puppet fascist frontier and a pornographic snuff film intended to somehow make a political statement revealing the darkest depths man can sink to.

 

But what can the visitor see today?

The Duomo di Santa Maria Annunziata has a memorable Renaissance portal by Gasparo Cairano and Antonio Mangiacavalli, 16th century paintings by Zenone Veronese, a polyptych of Paolo Veneziano and a Madonna and Saints by Romanino.

The Palazzo della Magnifica Patria is home to the Historical Museum of the Azure Ribbon, an exhibition of documents on Renaissance history, on Italy’s colonial wars, the Spanish Civil War and the resistance against fascism.

This latter part of the museum may feel ironic at first glance as Salò was the seat of government of Mussolini’s Nazi-backed puppet state, the Italian Social Republic.

Villa Castagna was the seat of the police headquarters, Villa Amedei was the head office of the Ministry of Popular Culture, Villa Simonin (today’s Hotel Laurin) was the seat of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and on via Brunati was located the Stefani Agency, Italy’s leading press agency during World War II.

Salò is a seismicity.

As the area around the lake is a seismic zone (a good place to measure earthquakes), in 1877 a meterological observatory and in 1889 a geophysical observatory (seismic station) were built, which became an important scientific research centre after the 1901 and 2004 earthquakes.

Biblical Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by fire and brimstone.

Salò and Mussolini?

The former by earthquake one day?

The latter by gunfire.

 

Salò, despite its beauty, despite its importance, despite its hard work and industry, is a town branded by history, a place forever associated with a dying republic and a failed leader.

So as the mind meanders through the streets of Salò, let’s consider the man Mussolini and wonder how his personality compares with politicians of today.

 

What follows is a description of Il Duce as remembered by one of his contemporaries Luigi Barzini:

Luigi Barzini Jr.jpg

Above: Luigi Barzini, Jr. (1908 – 1984)

 

Mussolini grew up hating:

The Church, the army, the king, the police, the law, the rich, the well-educated, the well-washed, the successful, any kind of authority….

All the things he was later to defend.

 

He was a turbulent boy, determined to be first at everything, proud, quarrelsome, boastful, superstitious and not always very brave.

He picked quarrels for the sake of the fight.

When he won at games he wanted more than the stake.

When he lost he refused to pay.

He was expelled from two schools for having knifed two schoolmates.

Many of his companions hated him.

A few loved him dearly, fanatically, and followed him as their leader.

He is remembered for his harsh charm, his winning smile and his fierce loyalty to his friends and followers.

 

He was always persuaded that a great destiny was reserved for him.

Benito said to his mother when he was still a boy:

One day I will make the earth tremble.

He did.

 

Mussolini became a school teacher in 1901.

The following year he fled to Switzerland to avoid conscription.

At that time, the duty of a serious revolutionary.

Above: Police record of Benito Mussolini following arrest (19 June 1903)

He returned to Italy in 1904, as an heir had been born to the king and a general amnesty had been granted.

He became a village school teacher, served in the army (He turned out to be a good soldier, after all.), earned a new diploma as teacher of French in high schools, and did odd jobs as a journalist, socialist agitator and organizer.

Above: Young Benito Mussolini

He began to improve his oratory, slowly developing a technique which was to make him one of the best and most moving speakers in Italy.

He paid little attention to the logic and truth of what he said as long as it was energetic and stirring.

His gestures had rhythm and vigour.

He used short, staccato sentences, with no clear connexion between them, often with long and dramatic pauses, sometimes changing voice and expression in a crescendo of violence and ending in a tornado of abuse.

When the audience was carried away by his oratory he would sometimes stop and put to them a rheotrical question.

They roared their answer.

This established a sort of heated dialogue, through which the spectators became involved in decisions they had no time to meditate on.

 

By means of violent writing and incendiary eloquence, Mussolini rose in the socialist organization until, by 1912, he was made editor of the party newspaper, Avanti!.

Above: Benito Mussolini as editor of Avanti!

He was a very successful editor.

The paper’s circulation rose from 50,000 copies to 200,000 under his leadership.

The role of journalist was one of the few in his life he did not have to act.

He really was one, perhaps the best popular journalist of his day in Italy, addressing himself not to the sober cultured minority, but to the practically illiterate masses, easily swept by primitive emotions.

Those very qualities which made him an excellent rabble-rousing editor made him a disastrous statesman:

  • His intuitive and superficial intelligence
  • His capacity to oversimplify and dramatize
  • A day-by-day interest only in the most striking events
  • A strictly partisan point of view
  • The disregard for truth, accuracy, objectivity and consistency when they interfered with his aims
  • The talent for doing his job undisturbed by scruples, doubts or criticisms
  • Above all, an instinctive ability to ride the emotional wave of the day, whatever it was, to know what people wanted to be told and by what low collective passions they would more easily be swept away.

He made strange grimaces when he talked, used violent and unprintable words, had an impatient temper….

 

Yet Mussolini managed to attract faithful friends and fanatical followers.

Some of whom clung to him until the end.

 

There was something about him that startled and fascinated almost everybody, including some of his enemies.

Most people who knew him well, who spoke frequently with him, who worked for him, were the victims of his inexplicable charm.

They fell in love with him, unreasoningly and blindly, ready to forgive him everything: his rudeness, his errors, his lies, his pretentiousness, his obstinacy and his ignorance.

 

One of the men who had worked for him since 1914, Manlio Morgagni, committed suicide in July 1943, after writing these words on a piece of paper:

Il Duce has resigned.

My life is finished.

Viva Mussolini!

 

Mussolini attracted many women.

He treated them roughly, as he had the peasant girls of Forli (where he grew up), taking them without preliminary explanation on the hard floor of his study or standing them against a wall.

 

Few sensed his timidity, his insecurity, his desire for admiration and affection.

Mussolini was obstinate, deaf to criticism, self-willed and suspicious, as well as erratic and indecisive most of the time, prone to adopt the most recent opinion he heard.

He was irresolute and afraid.

 

In the summer of 1914, Mussolini denounced warmongers.

He headed one of his violent articles:

Who drives us to war betrays us“.

 

But then the journalist in him wavered when he felt he would lose followers by supporting the cautious government policy.

On 18 October 1914, without taking orders from or consulting the party leaders, Mussolini published an editorial urging war.

He was immediately dismissed from his job and expelled from the party in a stormy session.

He walked out crying dramatically:

You hate me because you cannot help loving me!”

 

With foreign and Italian money, Mussolini started his own newspaper, Popolo d’Italia (People of Italy), which came out on 14 November 1914.

He immediately managed to gather more followers than he had had when editing Avanti! and more readers.

 

Italy entered World War I on 24 May 1915.

Mussolini went to war when he was called and served well as a corporal until he was wounded.

standing photo of Mussolini in 1917 as an Italian soldier

Above: Soldier Mussolini, 1917

After the war, when the frail structure of Italian political unity was endangered by civil strife, economic difficulties and the collapse of government, Mussolini used his paper to give vent to all his passions, to rally all the hot-headed veterans who found it difficult to return to dull civilian life, the very young men who felt that they had been cheated by not having been in the war, and all those who wanted a revolution, any kind of revolution.

 

On 23 March 1919, in Milan, he founded I Fasc (the League), a vague but determined organization which adopted a fiery and contradictory programme, so contradictory that it attracted dissatisfied and restless men from the right and left, anarchists and conservatives, businessmen and artists.

the Fasci italiani di combattimento manifesto as published in Il Popolo d'Italia on 6 June 1919

The confusion of the Fasci di combattimento (ex-servicemen league) reflected the disorderly but brilliant mind of Mussolini, his lack of principles and his constant inconsistency.

 

What Mussolini’s rheotric created, other men developed and their successes he would claim as his personal own.

Disgruntled anarchists across Italy violently seized regions and called them Fascist.

The March on Rome that would convince the King to make Mussolini Prime Minister wasn’t joined by the Fascist leader.

Mussolini and the Quadrumviri during the March on Rome in 1922

He arrived by train in Rome, borrowed a black shirt from one of the marchers and presented himself to the King as leader of the defiant assembly.

Even the black shirts themselves had been inspired by another man, Gabriele d’Annunzio, poet and self-proclaimed world’s greatest lover, who on 12 September 1919 led a band of 1,000 men to Fiume and conquered it for an Italy that had felt, despite being on the winning Allied side, that it had been cheated of territory and martial glory.

Gabriele D'Anunnzio.png

Above: Gabriele D’Annunzio (1863 – 1938)

 

And in one of history’s ironies, Hitler would borrow from Mussolini’s ideology his own brand of fascism and soon the student would far surpass and finally control the teacher.

 

Mussolini was dictator of Italy for two decades (1922 – 1943).

He was 39 when he seized power and 60 when he was forced to relinquish it.

Benito Mussolini seated portrait in suit and tie facing left

Above: Mussolini, at start of his dictatorship

He had shaped Italy according to his wishes, organized according to his theories, staffed by men educated and selected by him.

His powers were limitless.

Where his legal prerogatives ended, his undisputed authority and immense personal prestige began.

He ran the only official political party, so invasive and widespread that it interfered with the daily habits of millions of people 24/7 from the cradle to the tomb.

He decided the contents of all written material.

He had no opposition.

Mussolini was sole legislator, judge, censor, policeman, ambassador, general, the head of government, president of the Grand Council, President of the Council of Ministers, Minister of the Interior, of Foreign Affairs, of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force, of Corporations.

What he didn’t run he controlled indirectly.

 

He was defeated by one man alone.

Himself.

 

He would become impotent in front of his enemies and of the arrogant ally he had encouraged and cultivated.

His grasp of world politics was over-rated.

He chose the wrong commanders, wrong strategies and wrong weapons.

He underestimated the will of the Italian people to suffer and die for a war they did not understand.

He believed his own propaganda.

He thought he had all the answers to all the riddles of the modern world.

 

He lacked raw materials, fuel and food to wage a long world war.

 

He lacked merchant ships to supply the far-flung theatres of war he had chosen to fight in.

 

His tanks were small, weak, slow, tin affairs, easily pierced by machine gun fire.

He had chosen them because they were cheaper and could buy them in bulk.

He said they were faster than the heavier models and more “attuned to the quick reflexes of the Italian soldier“.

 

He had no aircraft carriers.

His planes were good but too few to count and were not replaced fast enough.

 

His navy was efficient but not big or advanced enough to challenge the combined fleets he attacked.

They lacked radar which they never suspected existed.

What was missing in Italy wasn’t the courage or the will to fight but rather any kind of serious planning and organization behind the fighting men.

 

What had Mussolini really done with his time as dictator?

He promoted public works, built harbours, railways, roads, schools, autostrade, monuments, aqueducts, hospitals, irrigation and drainage networks, public buildings, bridges, etc.

But to get the exact measure of his achievements one must, first of all, subtract from the total all that would have been accomplished by any government in his place.

Subtract again how many projects that were just plain mistakes, decided for political and spectacular reasons rather than the hope of practical results.

Calculate how much money disappeared into the hands of dishonest contractors.

As a result, the sum total of Mussolini’s achievements is far out of proportion to the noise surrounding them, their fame and their moral cost.

 

What is the explanation for the inaction and ineffectiveness of Mussolini and why did he fail?

Mussolini was not stupid.

He was shrewd, quick to learn, wary, astute.

He could grasp a complex circumstance in a few minutes, face resolute opponents with success and usually take what intuitive decision any situation required.

The explanation of his failure is that he was not a failure.

He lost the war, his country, his mistress, his place in history and his life, but he succeeded in what he had always wanted to do.

It was not to make Italy safe and prsoperous.

It was not to organize Italy for a modern war and victory.

Mussolini had dedicated his life just to putting up a good show, a stirring show.

He played versatile and multi-faceted roles: the heroic soldier, the cold Machiavellian thinker, the Lenin-like leader of a revolutionary minority, the steely-minded dictator, the humanitarian despot, the Casanova lover,  the Nietzschean superman, the Napoleonic genius and the socialist renovator of society.

He was none of these things.

In the end, like an old actor, he no longer remembered what he really was, felt, believed or wanted.

As a showman his success was incredible.

Mussolini was more popular in Italy than anybody had ever been and possibly ever will be.

His pictures were cut out of newspapers and magazines and pasted on the walls of poor peasant cottages.

Schoolgirls fell in love with him as with a film star.

His most memorable words were written large on village houses for all to read.

One of his followers exclaimed, after listening to Mussolini announce in May 1936 that Ethiopia had been conquered and that Rome had again become the capital of an empire:

He is like a god.

Another responded:

Like a god?

No, no, he is a god.

Benito Mussolini saluting crowd

We laugh now when we see him in old newsreels.

His showmanship is like some wines which do not last or travel well, but which are excellent when consumed the year they are made in their native surroundings.

His technique was flamboyant, juvenile, ridiculous and highly effective.

Mussolini deceived the people.

He enjoyed a monopoly and was able to multiply his deceit by making good use of the newest communication techniques.

His slanted views and fabrications filled newspapers, posters, the radio, film screens, books, magazines and public discourse.

The majority of his captive audience believed most of what he wanted them to believe.

He loved a good show, enjoyed a good military parade, was comforted by a naval review and strengthened by a vast ocean of supporters in a city square.

He believed his own slogans.

He was amazed by the statistics he invented, thrilled by the boasts he made, stirred to tears by his own oratory.

He confused appearances for reality.

Truth was what it looked like and what most people liked to believe.

His show was always new and startling.

Only by keeping his public interested, thrilled, puzzled, frightened and entertained, could he make them forget the sacrifice of their liberty and their miserable poverty, unite them behind him, dishearten and divide his opposition, assure internal order and international prestige.

Mussolini was corrupted by his own spectacle and the people who surrounded him.

 

Great leaders, drunk with their own great importance and vast intelligence, think themselves infallible, surrounded by sychophants, all stumble and commit fatal mistakes.

Mussolini thought World War II was almost over when he entered Italy into it in June 1940.

He counted on the aid of Hitler in an emergency.

He trusted his own intuition and his luck.

But any reasonably prudent dictator should also have been prepared for unforeseen circumstances.

Mussolini was not.

He never knew what every military attaché in every foreign embassy in Rome knew.

Italy was ridiculously and tragically unprepared.

What blinded him?

He never even suspected that practically nothing was behind his show.

He never knew how really weak, disarmed and demoralized his country was.

He was badly informed, but he wanted to be badly informed.

The master of make-believe could not detect make-believe when practised by others on him.

His resistance to deception, which was never very strong, gradually dwindled and eventually disappeared altogether.

He needed bigger and bigger doses of flattery and deception each year.

In the end, the most sickening and improbable lies, as long as they adulated his idea of himself and confirmed his prejudices, seemed to him the plain and unadorned expression of objective truth.

In the end, Mussolini lived within his own private imaginary world of his own making.

He was shown only the things and the people that would please and comfort him.

Everything else was efficiently hidden.

 

The technique was so smooth that it even deceived Hitler.

Mussolini and Hitler saluting troops

Hitler’s favourable opinion of Mussolini, of Italian military preparations and the people’s devotion to the régime and to the Axis, made him commit several miscalculations which cost Germany the war.

Hitler had taken a big risk when he attacked Russia and tried to fight the war on two fronts, but he had a reasonable chance of winning despite heavy odds.

Hitler believed that he lost the Russian campaign because he had started four weeks too late.

He was four weeks too late because he wasted time to rescue the Italians bogged down in Albania in Mussolini’s ill-prepared attack on Greece.

 

Mussolini fell from power on 25 July 1943.

The allied armies had invaded Sicily only a few days before, all overseas possessions were lost, the Italian army had been destroyed in Russia, in the Balkans and in Africa, Italy was battered and paralysed by massive air bombardments, Germans were retreating.

All the big Fascist chiefs took part in a fateful meeting of the Grand Council and demanded that the command of all armed forces be turned over to the King.

Mussolini pleaded with them, cajoled them, threatened them and finally accepted his demotion.

 

The following day King Victor Emmanuel received Mussolini in his private villa and ordered his arrest.

 

There was no Fascist revolt when the news spread.

No faithful followers rose in arms.

Nobody kept the Fascist oath:

I swear to defend the revolution with my blood.

Nothing happened.

The show was over.

That’s all.

The people rejoiced simultaneously, for Mussolini had cost them much.

 

Mussolini was transported here and there in search of a place the Germans could not reach, to some islands at first, then to a ski resort hotel in the mountains of Abruzzi.

The Germans found him anyway, in spite of the fact that there was no road to the hotel and only a cable railway connected it with the lowlands.

They used gliders.

 

Mussolini arrived at Hitler’s headquarters, thanked his liberator, donned his old uniform and was named president of the puppet régime, the Italian Social Republic.

four color map of northern Italy with Italian Socialist Republic in tan, 1943

Mussolini’s capital was in Salò, comfortably on the direct road to the Brenner Pass, in case of sudden retreat to Switzerland.

As puppet president, Mussolini’s life was dismal.

He knew everything was lost.

He was a failure.

He had plunged Italy into the wrong war, at the wrong time, with practically no weapons.

The few moral and materialistic resources which existed, including the heroic courage of thousands of soldiers, were squandered by an amateur strategist who wanted to show his ally that he too was a mastermind.

Mussolini paid no attention to current affairs, read many books, wrote an enormous quantity of insignificance.

He was interested in only one thing:

How history would see him.

 

He knew the end had come.

 

Mussolini decided to trust his art as an actor: to disguise himself and flee.

He made up his mind to go directly to Switzerland, without wasting time in futile and bloody heroics, carrying all his money and documents to defend himself if he were tried as a war criminal.

On the road to Switzerland, he was found and arrested.

On 25 April 1945, Mussolini was executed and his body hung on display above a Milan petrol station.

Above: Mussolini (second from left)

Even in disgrace and death Mussolini had put on a public show.

 

In our journeys through Lombardy and around and amongst the northern Italian lakes, we neither sought out nor were overly interested in the life of this man over half a century deceased, but somehow Mussolini’s legacy quietly lingers here.

We would drive through Brenner Pass and later find ourselves spontaneously detour our Lake Como travels to the ornate gate of the pompous villa in the tiny village where he was executed, fascinated by the morbidity of everything.

Now on our homeward journey along the shores of Lake Garda we once again encounter the dark spectre of the man-monster that was Mussolini.

Salò once the home of musical genius and artistic endeavour seems now reduced to the embarrassing legacy of failed Fascist capital and unsavoury snuff film locale.

The August sun and horrid humid air seems somewhat chilled by the ghosts of the past.

Only the ignorant feel bliss here.

 

I wonder where and when the next dark Salò will be:

Somewhere in America?

Deep within North Korea?

On an island of the Philippines?

A village in Venezuela?

And as the world burns someone plays the violin….

{{{coat_alt}}}

Above: Coat of arms of the Italian Social Republic (or the Republic of Salò)

Sources: Wikipedia / Google / The Rough Guide to Italy / Lonely Planet Italy / Luigi Barzini, The Italians / R.J.B. Bosworth, Mussolini

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.

Thomas and Katia Mann.jpg

Above: Thomas Mann and Katia Pringsheim-Mann

 

Erika was born that same year.

Erika Mann NYWTS.jpg

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.

1913 Der Tod in Venedig Broschur.jpg

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

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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.

The Magic Mountain (novel) coverart.jpg

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.

Bundesarchiv Bild 183-S01144, Berlin, Gustav Gründgens als 'Hamlet'.jpg

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.

Mädchen in Uniform (video cover - 1931 original).jpg

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.

Therese Giehse.jpg

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).

ThomasMann TheBelovedReturns.jpg

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.

Stars and Stripes (newspaper) logo.gif

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 Vienna Waltz

Landschlacht, Switzerland, 9 December 2017

There are moments when one has to accept one´s limitations.

For example, the wife and I were asked to attend her employer´s Christmas Party yesterday evening, but neither one of us was healthy (or motivated) enough to attend.

I have been home all week when I would have rather been working, but it is hard to be a barista or teacher when one has lost his voice.

The demands of work and other personal responsibilities limit my ability to travel very far at present, so some of the places where I would like to visit I cannot visit due to both the constraints of limited time and money to do so.

As regular readers (both of them!) of my blog know I have been retracing the life and “footsteps” of Swiss reformer Huldrych Zwingli (1484 – 1531).

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Above: Huldrych Zwingli

(See Canada Slim and the Road to Reformation of this blog.)

I wrote about walking from Wildhaus to Strichboden to Arvenbuel to Weesen.

(See Canada Slim and the Wild Child of Toggenburg and Canada Slim and the Thundering Hollows of this blog.)

I wrote that Zwingli was born in Wildhaus and was first educated in Weesen (1489 – 1494)

Zwingli then completed his secondary education in Basel (1494 – 1496), then five years later returned to Basel to complete his Master´s Degree at the University of Basel (1502 – 1506).

I did not walk to Basel, but having frequently visited and worked in the city I felt that my readers would still like a glimpse of the place.

(See Canada Slim and the Basel Butterfly Effect of this blog.)

But what of the years (1496 – 1502) between Zwingli´s Basel educational periods?

Well, Zwingli was sent to Bern, the Swiss capital, and stayed with the humanist Henry Wölfflin.

The Dominicans in Bern tried to persuade Zwingli to join their order and it is possible that he was received as a novice, but as both his father and uncle disapproved of such a course of action, he left Bern without completing his Latin studies.

Zwingli then enrolled in the University of Vienna in the winter semester of 1498 but was expelled, according to the University´s records.

Zwingli´s activities in 1499 are unknown, but history records that he re-enrolled in the summer of 1500 and continued his studies until 1502, after which he transferred to the University of Basel.

After Basel, Zwingli would be ordained in Konstanz, celebrate his first mass in Wildhaus, and then take up his first ecclesiastical post in Glarus.

The walking tourbook Zwingli- Wege mentions Bern, Vienna and Konstanz, but the authors do not extend their book´s walks to these three cities.

As far as I can tell there is little celebration of Zwingli´s life in Bern, Vienna and Konstanz.

And even though Zwingli´s time in Glarus is definitely noteworthy, it isn´t until he began his reformatory crusade for change in the Church in Zürich do the Swiss take much notice of the man.

As I have written of both Bern and Konstanz in the past within this blog, I want to speak of Vienna, not so much in regard to Zwingli but in regards to the wisdom of spending time in this place.

(For stories about Bern, see Capital Be and Canada Slim in the Capital of this blog.)

(For stories about Konstanz, see Konstanz: City of Shattered Dreams?, Flames and Broken Promises, and Canada Slim and the City of the Thousand of this blog.)

Above: View of Vienna (Wien) from the Stephansdom (St. Stephen´s Cathedral)

Vienna, Austria, 2 October 1998

It was my second adventure travelling about Europe, and, as a result of my first adventure, this time I was not alone.

Accompanied by the woman who would one day become my wife, Ute and I travelled by train and bus from Freiburg im Breisgau in southwestern Germany´s Black Forest, north to Strasbourg, Heidelberg, Trier and Köln (Cologne), east to Nuremburg, Praha (Prague) and Kutná Hora, south to Ceske Budojovice and Cesky Krumlov, and finally southeast to Wien (Vienna) arriving by overnight train.

The journey to Vienna had been, for the most part, pleasant, filled with discoveries and missteps as are common to any long adventure spent together.

The arrival to this imperial city started poorly.

I had gotten into my head that Vienna was a place where I was expected to wear a suit.

Somehow I convinced myself that Vienna was an élite environment that would not accept me unless I was wearing a suit.

Said suit had lain balled up at the bottom of my backpack, but at the crack of dawn I rolled it out, put it on and waited for us to arrive.

A sudden braking of the train caused me to split wide open the crotch of my suit trousers, putting me in a frightfully ugly and grumpy mood.

My Ute is never one to let an ugly mood go to waste and she responded in kind, so perhaps it was a mixed blessing that we spent our nights in Vienna in separately segregated youth hostel beds.

And though we would later argue yet one more time during our sojourn there, we were generally happy together in this romantic city of hidden courtyards, mysterious cellars and forgotten cemeteries, of Harry Lime (The Third Man) and Mozart (Rock me, Amadeus!), of Schubert, Strauss and Freud, of Marilyn Monroe and Karl Marx, of Vivaldi and 007, the blue Danube and the kaleidoscope of colour that is the Hundertwasserhaus.

Above: Hundertwasser, Vienna

Vienna conjures up a myriad of memories: impressive imperial palaces and dictatorial failed artists, coffeehouses crammed with cakes and customers, baroque mirrors and angelic choirboys, Art Nouveau architecture and Klimt canvasses, horsedrawn fiacre carriages and lovely leaping Lippanzer stallions.

This is also a city of music: a Strauss waltz, a cathedral choir, an organ recital, an opera performance, a celebration of the talents of Beethoven, Brahms, Haydn, Liszt and Mahler, a litany of life, melodies of magic.

Above: Johann Strauss II Monument, Stadtpark, Vienna

As is normal in any relationship of two or more travelling companions, there must be a certain amount of give-and-take for harmony to happen.

And I must confess I was searching for the poetry of Canadian balladeer Leonard Cohen to be reflected on the streets of Vienna.

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Above: Leonard Cohen (1934 – 2016)

“Now in Vienna there are ten pretty women.”

Ah, the things men do to woo women….

The Neidhart Frescoes show a thief groping beneath a woman´s skirt, while another uses snowballs to win the favours of a peasant girl.

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Ah, the things men do to escape women….

The Kornhäusel Tower was designed by architect Josef Georg Kornhäusel (1782 – 1860) as a refuge from his nagging wife, having a retractable iron staircase from the first floor rather than a conventional doorway at street level.

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Above: Kornhäuselturm, Vienna

“There´s a shoulder where Death comes to cry.”

On 15 March 1938 German Chancellor Adolf Hitler came to Vienna to proclaim the annexation (Anschluss) of Austria.

Above: Adolf Hitler, Heldenplatz, Vienna, 15 March 1938

Within days Vienna´s elegant Hotel Metropole at Morzinplatz was commandeered as the regional headquarters of the Nazi secret police and Heinrich Hemmler´s henchmen began rounding up opponents of National Socialism: Fascists, Communists, Jews, men, women and children for interrogation, torture and dispatch to concentration camps.

Above: The former Hotel Metropole, Vienna

Above: Monument to the Memory of the Victims of the Gestapo, Morzinplatz, Vienna

“There´s a lobby with nine hundred windows.”

A lobby is a place where people wait.

Kaballah (Jewish mysticism) teaches that this earthly existence is a lobby where we wait for the “world to come”.

10 Sephirot

Kaballah also teaches that there are 900 – yes, exactly 900 – potential types of death for a human being.

This refers not to the manner or cause of death, but to the inner experience of the person who is dying and the different experiences of death vary in degree of gentleness or painfulness.

The most gentle & peaceful death is referred to as “the kiss”, or “the kiss of Shekinah” and is described as feeling like a hair being pulled from a cup of milk.

The most painful death is described as feeling like a spiked ball at the end of a hairy rope being pulled out of the person’s throat.

Vienna is a city where some people still keep a separate savings account in order to ensure an appropriately lavish funeral.

Above: Grave of Ludwig von Beethoven (1770 – 1827), Zentralfriedhof, Vienna

Vienna´s chief cemetery, the Zentralfriedhof is one of the biggest in Europe, larger than the entire Innere Stadt, and with a much bigger population – 2.5 million – than the whole of the city (1.8 million).

Above: Grave of Johannes Brahms (1833 – 1897), Zentralfriedhof, Vienna

It even has its own bus service to help mourners get around the cemetery.

Above: Grave of Franz Schubert (1797 – 1828)

Opened in 1874, at the height of Viennese funereal fetishism – when having eine schöne Leich (a beautiful corpse) was something to aspire to, the Zentralfriedhof is still very much a working graveyard.

1 November / All Saints´ Day sees up to a million Viennese make the trip out here and leave candles burning in remembrance on virtually every grave.

And here the music is buried along with its decomposing composers: Beethoven, Schubert, Gluck, Brahms, Wolf and the entire Strauss clan.

Or could the 900 windows be more pedantic and simply be Vienna´s first skyscraper, the 16-storey, 50-metre high Hochhaus, built in 1932?

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Above: Hochhaus, Herrengasse, Vienna

“There´s a tree where the doves go to die.”

A cross where the King of Peace was crucified?

Stephansdom, a cathedral that has dominated the Viennese skyline for centuries and an obvious military target that has endured two Turkish sieges, Napoleonic bombardment, American bombers and Russian artillery.

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Above: St. Stephan´s Cathedral, Vienna

Despite the tourists, it is still very much a place of worship.

The Pötscher Madonna, an object of great veneration even today, wept tears from her unusual large eyes during the Battle of Zenta against the Turks in 1697 and in so doing miraculously secured victory against the invading infidels.

Above: The Pötscher Madonna, Stephansdom, Vienna

In the Apostles´ Choir is the glorious red marble tomb of Emperor Friedrich III (1415 – 1493) with the Emperor´s mysterious acronym AEIOU (Alles Erdreich ist Österreich Untertan / The whole world is subject to Austria.)

Down in the catacombs, around 16,000 locals are buried here, their bones piled high in more than thirty rooms.

“There´s a piece that was torn from the morning and it hangs in the Gallery of Frost.”

A reference to Sisi (1837 – 1898), a young girl torn away so soon in the morning of her life to become Empress Elisabeth to the Hapsburg Emperor Franz Joseph I and whose life and love were lynched to death by her loveless husband and his control freak mother?

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Above: Empress Elisabeth of Austria

Married at 16, her mother-in-law Sophie denied Sisi any privacy by choosing her ladies in waiting for her, denied Sisi any love by having her children removed from her care as soon as they were born.

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Above: Archduchess Sophie of Austria (1805 – 1872)

Later, Elisabeth would tell her daughter:

“Marriage is an absurd institution.

 

Above: Sisi´s husband, Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria (1830 – 1916)

At the age of fifteen you are sold, you make a vow you do not understand, and you regret for thirty years or more that you cannot break it.”

By 1860, Sisi had suffered enough.

She abandoned her children and husband and fled to Madeira for six months.

She then spent the rest of her lonely life travelling around Europe, crisscrossing the Continent, never staying in one place too long and went on endless cruises.

Sisi sought solace in fencing, hiking and horseback riding and in the preservation of her beauty.

When her cousin, King Ludwig, and then her only son Rudolf, committed suicide within a few years of each other, she became convinced that she was mentally unstable.

Above: Photos of Prince Rudolf (1858 – 1889) and his mistress Baroness Mary Vetsera who died together in a suicide pact in the Meyerling Hunting Lodge in the Vienna Woods

From then on, she dressed only in black and carried a black fan to hide her wrinkles.

“When we cannot be happy in the way that we desire there is nothing for it but to fall in love with our sorrows.”

By 1897, Elisabeth´s health began to deteriorate rapidly – a condition partly brought on by anorexia – to the extent that she could barely walk.

Despite her poor health and her obsession with madness and death, few would have predicted her final demise.

On 10 September 1898, the Empress was assassinated by an Italian anarchist Luigi Lucheni, on Lake Geneva.

Thousands turned out for Sisi´s funeral in Vienna.

Above: Sisi´s funeral procession, Vienna, 17 September 1898

She is buried in the basement vault of the Capuchin Church beside her estranged husband and her suicidal son, amongst other royal remains – some with death´s heads emblazoned on their coffins.

Above: Tombs of Sisi (left), Franz Joseph (centre), Rudolf (right), Kaisergruft (Imperial Crypt), Capuchin Church, Vienna

It is a gallery of glorified ghosts, a chamber of frost, a cold place indeed.

“There´s a concert hall in Vienna where your mouth had a thousand reviews.”

Could Leonard have meant the Staatsoper (Vienna State Opera), which opened in May 1869 with a performance of Mozart´s Don Giovanni?

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Above: The Staatsoper, Vienna

“There´s a bar where the boys have stopped talking.

They´ve been sentenced to death by the blues.”

Surveys have shown that the vast majority of Viennese are safely tucked up in bed by as early as 10 pm.

Nonetheless it is still quite possible to keep partying around the clock in Vienna.

Vienna´s late night bars are concentrated in three main areas, the most famous being the Bermuda Triangle, which focuses on Rabensteig, Seitenstettengasse, Ruprechtsplatz and the streets around.

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If I was searching for a blues bar, the Bermuda Triangle is where I would look.

“There´s an attic where children are playing, where I´ve got to lie down with you soon, in a dream of Hungarian lanterns, in the mist of some sweet afternoon.”

The attic of the body is the mind and who we are psychologically is often formed by the events of our childhood.

Few people are as intimately associated with Vienna as Sigmund Freud (1856 – 1939), for though he was born in Freiburg in Moravia and died in exile in London, in the intevening 83 years he spent most of his life here.

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Above: Sigmund Freud

The father of psychoanalysis was the first to come up with having patients discuss their problems while lying down on a couch.

Freud´s The Interpretation of Dreams contains two revolutionary ideas:

  1. All dreams represent the fulfillment of wishes.
  2. The functioning of dreams provides systematic evidence of the unconscious.

Sigmund Freud moved to the second floor of Berggasse 19 in 1891 and remained there until 4 June 1938 when he and his family fled to London.

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His apartment is now a place of pilgrimage, even though Freud took most of his possessions with him into exile.

His hat, coat and walking stick are still here.

There is movie footage from the 1930s, but the only room with any original decor, any ancient atmosphere, is the waiting room with odd oriental rugs, a cabinet of antiquities and some burgundy furniture sent back from London by his daughter Anna after the War.

Rooms of photographs and Freud-inspired art and a library are all that remain of eight decades of living in Vienna.

“And I´ll dance with you in Vienna….

….Take this waltz. 

Take this waltz. 

It´s yours now.

It´s all that there is.”

We would visit the bookshop Shakespeare & Company, have lunch at the University Mensa (cafeteria) and supper at the Restaurant Marché Mövenpick and coffee at Café Bräunerhof with Parisian style snooty waiters in penguin tuxedos.

Parliament Building, Vienna

Above: Austrian Parliament, Vienna

We would tour Parliament and watch horses perform ballet at the Spanische Reitschule (Spanish Riding School).

Above: The Spanische Reitschule, Vienna

The King of the Waltz, composer Johann Strauss the Younger (1825 – 1899) lived on the first floor of Praterstrasse 34 from 1863 until the death of his first wife, the singer Jetty Treffz, in 1878.

Today´s Strauss Museum contains a room with ceiling cherubs, a grand piano, an organ and a standing desk.

There are dance cards and ball pendants which were kept as mementoes of the evenings tripping the light fantastic.

Strauss is, of course, best known for having written Vienna´s signature tune, An der schönen blauen Donau (The Blue Danube), but he also composed stirring tunes such as the Revolution March and the Song of the Barricades.

His operatta, Die Fledermaus (The Bat), written to take Viennese minds off the economic crash of 1873, was another huge success.

Freud would have had a field day had he taken Johann Junior on as a patient.

Johann Strauss the Elder (1804 – 1849) began his career serenading diners in Viennese restaurants, however it was in the dance hall of Zum Sperl that Johann Senior made his mark as a band leader, conducting a frentic mixture of dances, orchestral fantasies and somber melodies.

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Above: Johann Strauss the Elder

Papa Strauss´ gypsy-like features and wild, vigorous conducting style became very popular in Vienna and he and his orchestra would gain fame touring Europe.

However Strauss Senior´s touring took a toil on domestic life and he created a public scandal in 1842 when he left the Family home and moved in with a young seamstress, who bore him several illegitimate children.

Strauss Junior, the eldest son, followed in his father´s footsteps, writing his first waltz at the age of six, though his father wished for him to become a banker.

Above: Johann Strauss the Younger (1825 – 1899), photo taken by Fritz Luckhardt

Father and son soon became rivals, both musically and politically, with son surpassing father in fame.

Despite their rivalry, father and son were quite alike, for Johann Junior was a difficult character like his father and something of an outsider.

And like his father, Johann Junior caused a scandal, divorcing his second wife Lili in order to marry his mistress.

What would Freud have thought?

 

Landschlacht, Switzerland, 9 December 2017

Cohen sings when I remember Vienna and think of my emotions towards my wife then and often now:

Take this waltz.

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Take this waltz with its “I´ll never forget you, you know!”

….And I´ll bury my soul in a scrapbook, with the photographs there and the moss.

And I´ll yield to the flood of your beauty my cheap violin and my cross.”

I no longer wanted “some hallway where love´s never been”, or to simply be “on a bed where the moon has been sweating”.

O, my love.

O, my love.

Take this waltz. 

Take this waltz. 

It´s yours now.

It´s all that there is.”

I would like to return to Vienna, not to visit the non-descript Zwinglikirche, but to walk on fog-filled streets to pay my last farewell to the impatient young man I was, his coffin lowered into the frozen ground of his impatience.

To perhaps pass him by with incredulity or perhaps no recognition of my present self in his past features, just other stranger on the Strand.

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But for now we walk in the cold Swiss air, our freezing breath on the window pane.

Lying, waiting.

I am a man in the dark in a picture frame, so mystic and soulful.

Memory stays with me until the feeling is gone.

The waltz is weaving.

The rhythm is willing.

Cold, empty silence?

Cold grey sky?

These mean nothing to me.

Oh, Vienna.

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“Slow down, you crazy child.

You´re so ambitious for a juvenile.

But then if you´re so smart,

Tell me why you are still so afraid.

Where´s the fire?

What´s the hurry about?

You better cool it off before you burn it out.

You got so much to do and only so many hours in a day.

But you know that when the truth is told

That you can get what you want

Or you can just get old.

You´re gonna kick off before you even get halfway through.

When will you realize….

Vienna waits for you?

….Slow down, you crazy child.

Take the phone off the hook and disappear for awhile.

It´s alright you can afford to lose a day or two.

When will you realize….

Vienna waits for you.”

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Sources: Wikipedia / Lonely Planet Austria / Lonely Planet Central Europe on a Shoestring / The Rough Guide to Austria / Richard Appignanesi and Oscar Zarate, Introducing Freud: A Graphic Guide to the Father of Psychoanalysis / Graham Greene, The Third Man / Duncan J. D. Smith, Only in Vienna: A Guide to Unique Locations, Hidden Corners and Unusual Objects / Leonard Cohen, “Take this Waltz”, I´m Your Man / Billy Joel, “Vienna”, The Stranger / Ultravox, “Vienna”, Vienna

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