Canada Slim and the Mandir of Nose Hill

Landschlacht, Switzerland, Tuesday 21 May 2019

This Sunday in Switzerland some folks will attend services in either a Reformed Church or a Roman Catholic Church and both groups will call themselves Christian.

 

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And as the Earth spins around the Sun, from the Dark Continent of Africa to the Canadian tundra, Christians will kneel on this day to receive the elements of their own version of the eternal Eucharist as written in the Bible that speaks of how God sent His Son whose sacrifice somehow saved our wretched souls and whose resurrection conquered death for all of us, despite death being our destiny.

 

 

In Jerusalem and parts of the planet where the Great Diaspora has led them over centuries, others, wrapped in the prayer shawls that their ancestors wore in the desert, recite the Torah, as their Rabbi lovingly guides a wand across sacred text that Yahweh spoke to His Chosen People.

 

 

And within the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, and anywhere where the Qu’ran reigns the mind, five times a day, the faithful prostrate themselves towards Mecca, towards Mohammed’s holy city, and show their devotion to Allah, who also remains God the Father of Christianity and Yahweh of the Jews and yet is unrecognizable as the same God of Abraham said to be the originator of all three great religions.

 

 

Same deity, different names, different practices, same intolerance too often seen by those who claim this deity as their own.

 

 

In a tiny house by the Ganges River at the foot of the Himalayas, a Hindu Swami will not speak today, but will continue his devotional silence that, with the exception of three days each year, he has kept for years.

 

 

In Yangon, the monks of Shwedagon sit alone and together with the eternal in the tranquil silence and privacy of their Buddhist shrine, as do the Zen monks in Kyoto, spending most of the day sitting immovable in the lotus position, as they seek to plumb with absolute absorption the Buddha-nature that lies at the centre of their being.

 

 

What a freaky fellowship, an odd misplaced madness, this is, this seeking of something divine that defies description or definition, voices raised in desperate disparate ways, sacrificing precious life to a God of life that cannot be proven not to exist.

Such strange ethereal harmony, each faith claiming superiority over every other belief, no individual religion understanding the others, and yet united in lifting their voices to the heavens in the hopes that what binds the universe will spare a moment for those who are naught more than carbonated stardust.

 

Are the faithful foolish or the unbelieving unredeemable?

 

We cannot know.

 

All we can do is try and listen carefully, with full attention to each voice as it in its turn addresses the divine that lies within and without us.

 

Religions wrap the globe in their comfort, with histories stretching back into the forgotten mists of time, that still motivates more people today than ever before.

Nothing unites us more nor divides us more than religion does.

 

 

Who should we follow?

What should we believe?

 

Should Christians worship in ornate cathedrals bedecked with icons or consider even steeples divine desecrations?

How should Muslims decide between Sunni and Shi’ite or feel about Sufism?

Must a Jew be orthodox to call himself a true Jew?

And let us wonder as Buddhists ponder different traditions of Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana philosophies.

 

Millions live by a faith.

More than three quarters of the world’s population consider that they belong to a religion, however little or much they do about it.

Communities of people who share practices and beliefs gather in special buildings for worship or meditation and seek to live lives in special ways in the world.

Whether we care to acknowledge it or not, religion has been the resource and inspiration for virtually all the most enduring art, architecture, music, drama, dance and poetry that the world has known, in search and expression of that which endures when all else passes away.

 

 

We must decide if faith has relevance in these digital days, our modern minds, our computerized lives.

 

As every religion mixes universal truths with local peculiarities we must lift out the former from the latter and embrace that which speaks to what  is generically human in us all.

 

This is not easy for the irreverent, for religion is rich in rites and laden in legends.

This is not simple for those whose lives are reigned by rationalism, for the claim that the universal principles of faith are more important than rites and rituals is like contending that the trunk of a tree is more important than the branches, leaves or roots of that tree.

I know that when I seek to understand the religious impulse, that I myself lack, this is akin to trying to comprehend the incomprehensible.

 

The mind that is mine struggles to grasp how Hindu’s holy Kali Temple in Calcutta revers two million cows to the point of nuisance while fakirs offer their bodies to bedbugs as sacrifice.

 

 

I find myself conflicted between the stillness of Bethlehem and department stores blaring “Silent Night” from stereos above plastic reindeer and overweight Santas.

 

 

I seek to define the divine amidst images of crucified Christs and chocolate bunnies and Easter eggs.

 

 

I wallow in a mire of confusion as to how Crusades can be Christian or Jihads holy, or how a God of love co-exists with witch slaughter in Salem, monkey trials in Tennessee and Grand Inquisitions in Spain.

 

 

I, like billions before me and aeons after me, seek the meaning to my existence in the hope that my short span of life has worth.

 

I am reminded of a Faustian fable of a man who climbed to the top of a mountain and seized hold of the Truth.

Satan, suspecting sedition from this mortal upstart, directed a demon to tail the determined seeker.

When the demon reported with alarm the man’s success, Satan was not in the least bothered by the bulletin.

Don’t worry.“, Satan yawned.

I will tempt him to institutionalize the Truth.

 

 

The empowering theological and metaphysical truth of faith is inspirational, but the religious institutions built around this truth are often not.

Religion is constituted of people with their inbuilt frailities, vices and virtues.

When the vices get compounded by masses, the results are horrifying to the point where one might suggest that faith should be left outside the hands of humanity.

But faith without the faithful would have left no mark upon humanity’s history, for better or for worse.

Had faith remained as only aloof disembodied insight and had not embraced institutions and rituals, then faith could not have established traction on history or upon men’s souls.

What is important is to not get lost in the smoke and ceremony of rite and ritual, but instead we need to sift religion for the truths they try to preserve, the wisdom that maintains our world.

 

 

As T.S. Eliot so wisely phrased it:

Where is the knowledge that is lost in information?

Where is the wisdom that is lost in knowledge?

 

Eliot in 1934 by Lady Ottoline Morrell

Above: Thomas Stearns Eliot (1888 – 1965)

 

I categorically reject the premise that one religion is superior to another, for it is this comparison that is the most odious aspect of all institutions, for, as Arnold Toynbee observed:

There is no one alive today who knows enough to say with confidence whether one religion has been greater than all others.

 

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Above: Arnold Toynbee (1852 – 1883)

 

It must be admitted that though I seek to embrace the world, I am incorrigibly myself and I know that the tale I am about to tell might be quite differently written had I been a Burmese Buddhist, a Turkish Muslim, a Nepalese Hindu, a Serbian Orthodox, a Swiss Catholic or a Polish Jew instead of a Canadian humanist with delusions of fluency.

 

Vertical triband (red, white, red) with a red maple leaf in the centre

 

We live in a world of wonders.

Lands across the planet are our neighbours, China is around the corner, the Middle East is our backyard, my younger colleagues and close companions with backpacks go everywhere, while I – who often remain at home in this wee hamlet of Landschlacht – have access to an endless parade of books and videos and visitors from abroad.

It isn’t so much that East meets West as it is humanity is being flung at one another, hurled across distances at jet speed, information invading our impatient intelligence within the breath between atoms.

 

"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.

 

Diogenes, twenty-five hundred years ago, exclaimed:

I am not an Athenian or a Greek but a citizen of the world.

 

Above: Diogenes (412 – 323 BC)

 

Today we have the possibility to not only think of ourselves by the nations we found ourselves born in, but rather we have the opportunity to judge our heartbeat by the pulse of the planet.

We need to understand the faiths of others if we are to meet them as allies or antagonists, so that we can avoid military engagement through diplomacy.

We need to understand one another through our faiths so we can enjoy the world vision it offers us.

 

 

Or put another way….

What do they know of England, who only England know?

 

Location of England (dark green) – in Europe (green & dark grey) – in the United Kingdom (green)

 

How can we truly understand our beliefs if we never question them by comparison with others?

How truly enriching our lives become when we truly understand what belonging means to the Japanese, to sense with a Burmese grandmother what passes in life and what endures, to comprehend with the Hindu that our personalities mask the Infinite within, to follow the paradox of a Zen monk who assures you that everything is sacred but refrains from acts that are unholy, to feel the comfort that confession offers the devout Catholic….

For as language opens the mind to understanding other people, faith enlarges the heart to compassion and love for humanity.

 

True faith, not a dull habit but a living passion, confronts the individual with the momentous wisdom that life can offer.

Faith calls a soul to the highest adventure, a journey across the landscape of the human spirit.

It is the siren call to confront reality as it is, to master the self.

It is a lonely journey, a personal quest….

 

A sharpened edge of a razor, hard to traverse,

A difficult path is this – the poets declare!

(Alfred Toynbee, Civilization on Trial)

 

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Los Alamos, New Mexico, 16 July 1945

Today is the day that the chain reaction of scientific discoveries that began at the University of Chicago and focused here at Site Y has reached the final culmination.

 

 

No one has been more instrumental in this project’s achievement than the director of the Los Alamos Project, Robert Oppenheimer.

All eyes are upon him closely this morning.

 

Head and shoulders portrait

Above: Robert Oppenheimer (1904 – 1967)

 

He grew tenser as the last seconds ticked off.

He scarcely breathed.

He held on to a post to steady himself.

When the announcer shouted “Now!”, there came this tremendous burst of light, followed by the deep-growling roar of the explosion, his face relaxed in an expression of tremendous relief.”

The first atomic bomb is a success.

 

 

What flashed through Oppenheimer’s mind during those moments were two lines from the Bhagavad-Gita in which the speaker is God:

I am become Death, the shatterer of worlds;

Waiting that hour that ripens to their doom.

 

Photograph of a bronze chariot. The discourse of Krishna and Arjuna in Kurukshetra is the Bhagavad Gita.

(The Bhagavad Gita is a discourse between Krishna and Arjuna set in a chariot at the start of the Mahabharata War.)

 

Thus began an age in which violence and peace continue to confront each other more fatefully than ever before.

 

In India, Gandhi’s name became, in the middle of the 20th century, the counterpoint to those of Stalin and Hitler, but not just for the British withdrawl from the Subcontinent in peace, but, more importantly, for his lowering a barrier even more formidable than that of race in America.

Gandhi renamed India’s untouchables harijan – God’s people – and raised them to human stature.

In doing so, Gandhi provided the non-violent strategy and the inspiration for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s civil rights movement in the United States.

Gandhi’s inspiration was revealed in his autobiography:

Such power as I possess for working in the political field has derived from my experiments in the spiritual field.

Truth is the sovereign principle and the Bhagavad-Gita is the book par excellence for the knowledge of truth.

 

Studio photograph of Mohandas K. Gandhi, London, 1931.

Above: “Mahatma“(“the Venerable“) Mohandas Gandhi (1869 – 1948)

 

On a grey day in October 2017, a stone’s throw from the grim North Circular, that drab ring road that encircles London’s northern suburbs of Neasden, I would follow my curiosity and thirst for truth eternal to a Hindu temple.

A temple both alien and appropriate in the homeland of English, in the heart of an empire that once dominated my own birth country of Canada and whose sovereign remains our head of state, from a religion with roots in the land of India – that living coalition of religions and languages where one billion congregate and of which 80% call themselves Hindu – with 30 million adherants dispersed throughout the world.

On that day I would visit the largest traditional Hindu temple outside India (as recognized by Guinness World Records), Neasden’s 8th Wonder of the World, the Crown Jewel of Hinduism, one of Reader’s Digest‘s 70 Wonders of the Modern World, Time Out London‘s Seven Wonders….

The BAPS Shri Swamirayan Mandir Hindu temple.

It would not make me a Hindu nor make me feel any more knowledgeable about Hinduism than I felt before, but, nevertheless, my morning visit left impressions with me that still remain….

 

London Temple.jpg

 

London, England, 26 October 2017

Shri Swaminarayan was not my first visit to a Hindu temple (and I have a feeling that it won’t be my last), for on a visit to Singapore in the spring of 2014, en route to the Perth wedding of friends in Western Australia, I visited Sri Mariamman Temple, paradoxically located in the Lion City’s Chinatown district.

Sri Mariamman is the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore and I still remember the temple’s incredible, brightly coloured gopuram (tower) above the entrance, covered in kitsch plaster images of Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver and (Oppenheimer’s) Shiva the Destroyer, as sacred cow sculptures graze the boundary walls.

 

 

I had a three-day stopover in Singapore and in the process of trying to cram so much into my consciousness in a very short time Sri Mariammen is a blurred memory amongst many that I saw during my short sojourn in the city-state.

I recall also seeing the Peranakan Museum, the Raffles Hotel, the Chinatown Heritage Centre, the Buddha Tooth Relic Museum, the Taoist Temple of Heavenly Happiness (Thian Hock Temp), Little India, Changi Prison, the Night Safari, Sentosa Island and Pulau Ubin.

I remember Little India, not for the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple with images of Kali, wearing a garland of skulls and ripping out the insides of her victims, but rather for the Bismallah Biryani Restaurant’s mutton kebab.

Hindu temples in Singapore were, for me at the time of my visit, only part of a tightly squeezed adventure and a list of must-sees rather than research for right or righteous religion.

 

 

(Thinking of Singapore and Perth I see future posts about them….)

 

I might not have bothered with London’s BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Manhir at all had not my wife purchased for us two London Passes, offering free entry to over 60 attractions, as well as free public transport on buses, tubes and trains, and strongly suggested I use mine as much as possible during the days of the medical conference she would attend that week.

Today would be the first day that I would view London unaccompanied by my spouse during the week.

 

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It was not my first visit to London….

 

 

(I had spent a couple of days on my own in 1995, mostly walking along the Thames rather than doing much exploring as a lack of money dogged my days then.

I spent a day and an evening in 2010 with my good friend Iain and his beautiful companion – now his spouse since the aforementioned Perth wedding – Samantha, visiting Greenwich Observatory and seeing the show Avenue Q in the Theatre District, with time to enjoy life walking well and dining fine.)

 

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But this was the first time I would attempt to deliberately explore London on my own without having to worry excessively about money.

I approached the Project alphabetically from the pages of the London Pass Guide.

As the ArcelorMittal Orbit (London’s tallest sculpture), the All Hallows by the Tower Church (where William Penn was baptized, John Quincy Adams was married and Archbishop William Laud was buried), Apsley House (with the oldest surviving grand piano in the UK) and the Arsenal Stadium Tour & Museum – (Football was never so crucial a sport to me as Canadian ice hockey or American baseball.)(Iain, an Everton fan, would never have forgiven me such a sacrilege.) – didn’t strike me as “must-see-before-I-die” / bucket list attractions, BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Manhir seemed the place to start.

 

 

And I must admit the attraction was attractively described:

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir is a masterpiece of traditional Hindu design and exquisite Indian workmanship in the heart of London. 

Using 5,000 tonnes of Italian and Indian marble and the finest Bulgarian limestone, it was hand-carved in India before being assembled in London in just 2.5 years. 

Since it opened in 1995, this renowned place of worship has attracted over 400,000 visitors every year. 

Come and marvel at the intricate carvings, experience a traditional Hindu prayer ceremony, or learn about the world’s oldest living faith.

 

 

I took the Tube from our hotel’s neighbourhood way out to Stonebridge Park Station and wandered lost for an hour until I reached Neasden in the London Borough of Brent.

 

Stonebridge Park station, London Transport - geograph.org.uk - 879904.jpg

 

It may seem at first thought that Neasden is an unusual spot for a Hindu temple, but then Neasden has always been an unusual spot in its own right.

Neasden’s name meant “nose hill” and referred to the small promontory at the western end of the Dollis Hill Ridge upon which the hamlet sat.

The countryside hamlet land was once owned by St. Paul’s Cathedral and consisted of only several small buildings around a green near the site of the present Neasden roundabout until the mid-19th century.

In 1823 Neasden was no more than a “retired hamlet” with six cottages, four large farms, a pub and a smithy gathered around the green.

 

The Brent Reservoir (aka the Welsh Harp Reservoir from the name of the aforementioned pub) between Henden and Wembley Park, that straddles the boundary between the Boroughs of Brent and Barnet, was completed in 1835 and was breached in 1841.

The breaking of the dam on the River Brent resulted in folks dying and many fields and meadows under water.

Today the Brent Reservoir is a biological Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and home to the great crested grebe, the gadwall, the shoveler, the common pochard, the tufted duck and the common tern, as well as eight species of warbler – a total of 253 species of bird life.

As well the Reservoir possesses 31 species of butterfly, 15 species of dragonflies and is also the residence of grey squirrels, red foxes and bats.

In 1960 the Reservoir hosted the Women’s European Rowing Championships.

Today the Welsh Harp Open Space surely sees not only rowboats and sailboats but those of the Hindu faith enjoying the magic of this unglamourous corner of suburban tranquillity.

 

 

(Not fishermen though, as fishing is strictly forbidden.)

 

In 1873 Neasden had a populace of 110 and the horse was the main form of transport.

As London grew, the demand for horses in the capital soared, so in the second half of the 19th century Neasden farms focused on rearing and providing horses for the City.

Town work was exhausting and unhealthy for the horses….

 

Two Nokota horses standing in open grassland with rolling hills and trees visible in the background.

 

(It ain’t so wonderful for humans either.)

 

In 1886 the RSPCA formed a committee to set up the Home of Rest for Horses with grounds in Neasden, where, for a small fee, town horses were allowed to graze in the open for a few weeks.

 

The urbanization of Neasden began with the arrival of the railway.

The first railway running through Neasden was opened for goods traffic in 1868 with passenger services following soon after.

 

Neasden station building 2012.JPG

 

In the 1890s change led to a conscious effort to create a village atmosphere.

At this time, the Spotted Dog became a social centre for local people.

By 1891 Neasden had a population of 930, half of whom lived in the village.

Despite the presence of the village in the west, it was the London end that grew fastest.

 

In 1893 the Great Central Railway got permission to join up its main line from Nottingham with the Metropolitan.

The Great Central set up a depot south of the line at Neasden and built houses for its workers.

 

 

The Great Central village was a “singularly isolated and self-contained community” with its own school and single shop, Branch No. 1 of the North West London Co-operative Society.

It is now part of a conservation area.

There was considerable sporting rivalry between the two railway estates and a football match was played every Good Friday.

By the 1930s the two railways employed over 1,000 men.

 

 

Neasden Hospital was built in 1894 and closed in 1986.

 

Apart from the railways, Neasden was dominated by agriculture until just before the First World War.

In 1911, Neasden’s population had swelled to 2,074.

By 1913, light industry at Church End had spread up Neasden Lane as far as the station.

 

In the 1920s, the building of the North Circular Road, a main arterial route round London, brought another wave of development.

It opened in 1923.

 

 

The 1924 British Empire Exhibition led to road improvements and the introduction of new bus services.

Together with the North Circular Road, it paved the way for a new residential suburb at Neasden.

The last farm in Neasden was built over in 1935.

The Ritz Cinema opened in 1935, and Neasden Shopping Parade was opened in 1936, considered then to be the most up-to-date in the area.

All of Neasden’s older houses were demolished during this period, except for The Grange.

The Spotted Dog was rebuilt in mock-Tudor style.

Industries sprung up in the south of the area, and by 1949, Neasden’s population was over 13,000.

 

The Post Office Research Station was located nearby in Dollis Hill.

 

 

There the Colossus computers, among the world’s first, were built in 1943-1944, and underneath them the Paddock Wartime Cabinet Rooms had been constructed in 1939.

 

Colossus.jpg

 

Neasden Power Station, which was built to provide power for the Metropolitan Railway, was closed and demolished in 1968.

 

The post-war history of Neasden is one of steady decline.

Local traffic congestion problems necessitated the building of an underpass on the North Circular Road that effectively cut Neasden in half and had a disastrous effect on the shopping centre by making pedestrian access to it difficult.

The decline in industry through the 1970s also contributed to the area’s decline.

 

But nonetheless Neasden has somehow survived, largely due to a succession of vibrant immigrant communities keeping the local economy afloat.

 

Neasden Depot continues to be the main storage and maintenance depot for the London Underground’s Metropolitan line (and is also used by trains of the Jubilee line).

It is London Underground’s largest depot and as such it is a major local employer.

The Grange Tavern (previously called The Old Spotted Dog) on Neasden Lane was closed in the 1990s and demolished to make way for a block of flats, bringing to an end the inn that had stood there for around two centuries.

Another old pub, The Pantiles, which stood on the North Circular Road was converted into a McDonald’s restaurant.

 

The Swedish furniture retailer, IKEA opened its second UK outlet in Neasden in 1988.

 

Ikea logo.svg

On 14 July 1993, in an MI5 anti-terrorist operation, a Provisional IRA man was arrested in his car on Crest Road carrying a 20 lb bomb.

It came just over a year after the Staples Corner bombing just over 500 yards away, which devastated the junction.

 

 

In 1995, Neasden became the unlikely home of the biggest Hindu temple outside India: the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, known locally as the Neasden Temple.

 

In 2004, the shopping centre area was partially redeveloped by the Council in an effort to reverse its fortunes.

The Grange, which had housed a museum about the people of Brent, was closed by the Council in 2005.

The 2004 redevelopment proved to be unpopular with local businesses, as it changed the layouts of parking, thus forcing customers and local trade to pass by due to the parking restrictions of the redevelopment.

Neasden was once nicknamed “the loneliest village in London” and “God’s own borough“.

Neasden has achieved considerable notoriety thanks to the British satirical magazine, Private Eye.

Since early in its history (when the magazine was actually printed in Neasden) the magazine has used Neasden as an exemplar of the suburban environment in pieces parodying current events, personalities, and social mores (for example, the University of Neasden).

Spoof sports reports in the magazine usually feature the perennially unsuccessful football team, Neasden F.C. with their manager, “ashen-faced” Ron Knee and their only two supporters, Sid and Doris Bonkers.

 

Image result for private eye magazine images

 

Neasden was one of the locations in the TV documentary Metro-land.

In it, Sir John Betjeman described Neasden as “home of the gnome and the average citizen” (the former a reference to the preponderance of gnome statuettes in suburban front gardens, but possibly also a nod in the direction of the Eye’s fictional proprietor, Lord Gnome).

Background music was provided by William Rushton’s recording of Neasden (1972):

(“Neasden

You won’t be sorry that you breezed in.“)

 

Title card with the title "Metro-land with John Betjeman" in mock Edwardian script - yellow on a deep red background.

 

In a celebrated spoof of the Early Music phenomenon which grew enormously in the late 1960s, Neasden was selected by BBC Radiophonic Workshop composer David Cain as the home of a fictional ensemble dedicated to historically-informed performances on authentic musical instruments from an indeterminate number of centuries ago.

It was thus that in 1968, listeners to BBC Radio 3 were given a recital by the Schola Polyphonica Neasdeniensis whose members performed on the equally fictional Shagbut, Minikin and Flemish Clackett.

 

BBC.svg

 

Athletico Neasden was an amateur football team of mostly Jewish players, which played in the Maccabi (Southern) Football League in the 1970s and 1980s and were named after the place, though they didn’t actually play in the area.

The team eventually merged with North West Warriors to form North West Neasden.

 

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David Sutherland’s children’s novel A Black Hole in Neasden reveals a gateway to another planet in a Neasden back garden.

 

Diana Evans’s 2006 novel 26a details the experiences of twin girls of Nigerian and British descent growing up in Neasden.

Willie Hamilton reported in ‘My Queen and I‘ that the Victorian Order medals were made on a production line in Neasden from used railway lines.

 

A bronze cross pattée bearing the crown of Saint Edward surmounted by a lion with the inscription FOR VALOUR. A crimson ribbon is attached

 

A pirate radio station, Dread Broadcasting Corporation, credited as Britain’s first black music radio station, was broadcast from a Neasden garden between 1981 – 1984.

 

In the Dangermouse episode “Planet of the Machines“, Dangermouse and Penfold arrive back in Neasden from the planet in the Baron’s space time machine.

 

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Konnie Huq and Matt Cooke from BBC TV present the Your News programme from Neasden.

 

So all of this begs the question:

 

What in the name of Krishna is a Hindu temple doing here?

 

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Perhaps there is wisdom to be found in the old Hindu proverb:

The lotus blooms in splendour, but its roots lie in the dirt.

 

Sacred lotus Nelumbo nucifera.jpg

 

Let me be frank.

Neasden is a glum place, especially after the glamour of the City has been seen, thus the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir seems to rise majestically above the dismal, between-the-world-wars housing like a welcome oasis of sight.

So sudden and grandiose does the Mandir appear that the viewer wonders whether it is a mirage, a shimmering dream, conjured up by one’s overactive imagination.

Here in London’s loneliest village is an experience of India’s glorious tradition and faith, a legacy that seems to have evolved over millennia rather than appearing miraculously on the landscape in a mere 30 months.

 

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Since the Mandir opened in 1995, this renowned place of worship has attracted over half a million visitors a year.

The inventory of visitors, including your humble blogger, has incorporated prime ministers and presidents, royalty and religious leaders, artists and industrialists, school children and journalists, the devout and the merely curious.

 

It is impossible to catalogue all the appelations, emotions, inspirations and experiences that this Mandir has evoked.

On a personal profound level, the Mandir is a pavilion of peace and promise, a dissolver of disquiet, a messenger dispelling misunderstanding, a statement of hope and faith for the future.

 

Image result for baps shri swaminarayan mandir london photos

 

I am fascinated by the power of belief and teamwork and the spirit of volunteerism that made the Mandir possible.

In June 1970, the first BAPS Mandir in Britain opened in a converted disused church in Islington, North London, by Yogji Maharaj.

In 1982, having outgrown the Islington temple, the congregation moved to a small former warehouse in Neasden.

The present Mandir was designed by Pramukh Swami, a 92-year-old Indian sadhu (holy man) and is made of 2,828 tonnes of Bulgarian limestone and 2,000 tonnes of Italian marble, which was first shipped to India to be carved by a team of 1,526 sculptors.

 

Pramukh Swami Maharaj, 2010

Above: Pramukh Swami (1921 – 2016)

 

It was built and funded entirely by the Hindu community.

The entire project took five years, although the Neasden construction itself was completed in a mere 30 months.

 

In November 1992, the temple recorded the largest concrete pour in the United Kingdom, when 4,500 tons were put down in 24 hours to create a foundation mat 1.8 metres / 6 feet thick.

The first stone was laid in June 1993.

Two years later, the Mandir was complete.

 

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Designed according to the Shilpa-Shastras, a Vedic text that develops Hindu architecture to metaphorically represent the different attributes of God, it was constructed almost entirely from Indian marble, Italian marble, Sardinian granite and Bulgarian limestone.

No iron or steel was used in the construction, a unique feature for a modern building in the UK.

From the conceptual design and vision of Pramukh Swami, the architect C. B. Sompura and his team created the Mandir entirely from stone.

 

It is a shikharbaddha (or pinnacled) mandir:

Seven-tiered pinnacles topped by golden spires crowd the roofline, complemented by five ribbed domes.

The temple is noted for its profusely carved cantilevered central dome.

Inside, serpentine ribbons of stone link the columns into arches, creating a sense of levitation.

Light cream Vartza limestone from Bulgaria was chosen for the exterior, and for the interior, Italian Carrara marble supplemented by Indian Ambaji marble.

The Bulgarian and Italian stone were shipped to the port of Kandla in Gujarat, where most of the carving was eventually completed, by over 1,500 craftsmen in a workshop specially set up for the project.

More than 26,300 individually numbered stones pieces were shipped back to London and the building was assembled like a giant three-dimensional jigsaw.

 

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The Mandir was inaugurated on 20 August 1995 by Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the spiritual leader of BAPS – the organisation behind the temple.

The entire Mandir complex represents an act of faith and collective effort.

Inspired by Pramukh Swami Maharaj, more than 1,000 volunteers worked on the building, and many more contributed and solicited donations, or organised sponsored walks and other activities.

Children raised money by collecting aluminium cans and foil for recycling – the biggest can collection in English history – 7 million cans collected by 1,500 children.

 

The Mandir serves as the centre of worship.

Directly beneath each of the seven pinnacles seen from the outside is a shrine.

Each of these seven shrines houses murtis (sacred images) within altars.

Each murti is revered like God in person and devoutly attended to each day by the sadhus (monks) who live in the temple ashram.

 

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Beneath the Mandir is the permanent exhibition ‘Understanding Hinduism‘.

Through 3-D dioramas, paintings, tableaux and traditional craftwork, it provides an insight into the wisdom and values of Hinduism.

Visitors can learn about the origin, beliefs and contribution of Hindu seers, and how this ancient religion is being practised today through traditions, such as the BAPS Swaminarayan Sampraday.

 

The Mandir is open to people of all faiths and none.

Entrance is free, except to the ‘Understanding Hinduism‘ exhibition where there is a £2 fee, which was covered by the London Pass.

 

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(A note about BAPS….

Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Sanstha (BAPS) (Bocāsanvāsī Akshar Purushottam Sansthā) is a Hindu religious and social organization within the Swaminarayan branch of Hinduism.

BAPS was established on 5 June 1907 by Shastriji Maharaj after leaving the Vadtal Gadi of the Swaminarayan Sampraday.

It was formed on the founder’s interpretation that Swaminarayan was to remain present on Earth through a lineage of Gunatit Gurus (or Akshar) dating all the way back to Gunatitanand Swami – one of Swaminarayan’s prominent devotees.

Gunatitanand Swami was succeeded by Bhagatji Maharaj, Shastriji Maharaj, Yogiji Maharaj, Pramukh Swami Maharaj and Mahant Swami Maharaj.

Due to the organizational emphasis on the Akshar Purushottam doctrine, it essentially forms the organization’s middle name.

The fundamental beliefs of BAPS include the spiritual guidance through the living Akshar (or Guru) who is believed to have attained oneness with Swaminarayan.

Mahant Swami Maharaj is the current Guru and the president of the organization.

As a global, well-established Hindu organization, BAPS actively engages in a range of endeavors aimed at spirituality, character-building, and human welfare.

The activities span religious, cultural, social, and humanitarian domains.

Through these activities, it aims to preserve Indian culture, ideals of Hindu faith, family unity, selfless service, interfaith harmony and peaceful coexistence.

55,000 volunteers and 3,300 temples serve 3,300 communities around the world.

As of August 2018, BAPS has approximately 1,560 saints (or sadhus), among the most saints in one sanstha in Hinduism.

As part of its efforts towards community outreach, BAPS also engages in a host of humanitarian and charitable endeavors, by which its volunteers serve neighbors and communities.

With total assets of 17.5 billion USD, BAPS is able to contribute to a lot of welfare and public service works.

Through BAPS Charities, a non-profit aid organization, BAPS has spearheaded a number of projects around the world in the arenas of healthcare, education, environmental causes and community-building campaigns.)

 

BAPS Logo with the symbol of Akshar Deri

 

For the Hindu community, the Mandir is a unifying force that installs pride and dignity with a zeal to serve society.

Every week, hundreds of faithful devotees, young and old alike, gather for prayers and services.

The annual Diwali and New Year’s festivals are witnessed by thousands of devotees and well-wishers.

Diwali is a spectacular celebration that falls in the month of November, a festival of lights and fireworks that celebrates the triumph of good over evil.

Every year 35,000 children visit the Mandir.

 

 

What exactly is a Mandir, you ask?

A Mandir is a Hindu place of worship, literally a place where the mind becomes still and the soul floats freely to seek the source of life, bliss and meaning, a place to pause for a moment to pray, reflect and absorb the peaceful ambiance.

 

 

The problem is that the Mandir is a place that takes religion seriously, and though it is listed as a tourist attraction, the Mandir is anything but one.

Here, there is no pandering to curiosity seekers.

It is not a place to go rifling through the Hindu faith to light on what has shock value, for the focus on what is bizarre and outside one’s experience is the crudest kind of vulgarization of faith.

Behind the ceremony and ritual, we seek what is of deepest concern to ourselves, that search for the essential similarity in human nature.

Hinduism is, like true faith, like other religions, not a dull habit but a raging fever, a pounding pulse that gives its adherants all that is startling about life itself.

 

The Mandir in the suburbs of Neasden is as unbelievable to the eyes as a garden in the Sahara.

This spectacular edifice, this the largest Hindu temple outside India, includes seven spires (shikhars), six domes, 193 pillars and 55 different ceiling designs.

The Mandir‘s visual splendour and tranquil atmosphere have spontaneously generated poetic expressions and sentiments.

The media have dubbed the Mandir as “hallucinogenic” and described the profuse carvings as “frothy milk on a cappuccino“.

Deities and motifs representing the Hindu faith spring from the ceilings, walls and windows.

The impressive monument is supported by a 1,070-foot long pageant of extraordinary stone elephants and a 610-foot long ornately carved outer wall.

The Narayan Sarovar, a water body that embraces the monument on three sides, gives the Mandir an aura of a traditional place of pilgrimage.

The Mandir is entered through the richly carved portico of the Grand Haveli (cultural complex), welcoming you into a majestic wooden courtyard with soaring teak columns and oak panels.

Elegant peacocks, delicate lotus flowers and royal elephants beckon in greeting, with the carpet designed to compliment the motifs.

 

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Wood for the Haveli was sourced from sustainable forests, and for each tree felled, ten saplings were planted.

The Haveli Prayer Hall is a pillar-less assembly area that measures 2,750 square metres and seats over 2,500 worshippers.

The Hall incorporates environment-friendly features such as light wells, energy-saving lighting and a heat exchanger which uses thermal energy dissipated by the congregation to heat other parts of the complex.

Here is the venue for weekly assemblies and regular festivals.

 

 

The heart of the Mandir is its murtis (the sacred images of the deities who are revered as living gods), ritually infused with the presence of the divine.

Hindus worship murtis to express and enhance their loving relationship with that which is holy.

Murtis are the soul of the Mandir, making it a sacred place of worhsip wherein God resides – the home of God.

 

 

The shrine’s foundations are His feet, the pillars His knees, the inner sanctum His stomach, the throne His heart, the murti His soul, the shikhars His shoulders, the bell His tongue, the lamp His breath, the lion His nose, the windows His ears, the ringed stone on the shikhar His neck, the golden pot His head and the flags His hair.

The entire Mandir is revered as a divine manifestation.

In total, there are 11 shrines with 17 murtis, including Ganesh, Hanuman and Swaminarayan – this last to whom the Mandir is dedicated.

 

The murtis are ritually served by dedicated sadhus (monks) who live in the Mandir.

Before sunrise, the murtis are awakened by the sadhus and the shrine doors opened for the first of five daily artis (prayers), the Mangala Arti.

 

 

An arti is a ritual wherein a specific prayer is recited to a poetic format with music while the sadhus wave a lighted lamp in front of the murtis.

The sadhus recite some shlokas (prayers), serve the murtis, offer them food and bathe them and close the shrine doors.

Feeding and bathing of the murtis continues throughout the day.

 

The shrines are opened again for the second aarti, the Shangar Arti, and remain open from 0900 to approximately 1100, when the shrines are closed and offered thal (hymns).

At 1145, the shrines are opened for the midday arti, the Rajbhog Arti, and the thal is recited before the murtis.

The shrines are closed after this to allow the murtis to rest during the afternoon.

The shrines reopen at 1600 until 1830 for darshan.

 

 

The Sandhya Arti (sunset arti) follows at 1900.

Thereafter, a selection of prayers are recited by the devotees including dhun (where the names of God are chanted and verses of praise are sung).

The shrines are closed again for approximately one hour so they can be offered their final meal by the sadhus.

The murtis are then prepared for the night and adorned in their evening attire by the sadhus.

The shrines are opened a final time for the Shayan Arti (night-time arti) with the lights dimmed and music lowered.

The devotees recite a few hymns, gently sending the murtis to sleep, before the shrines are finally closed for the night.

 

The elaborately carved pillars, friezes, ornate ceilings and the magnificent dome provide an aesthetic and elevating atmosphere to the sanctum sanctorum of the Mandir.

 

 

The murtis of the Mandir – Bhagwan Swaminarayan, Guru Parampara, the avatars of Sanatan Dharma, Shri Akshar-Purushottam Maharaj, Shri Radha-Krishna, Shri Sita-Ram, Shri Shiv-Parvati, Shri Ganeshji and Shri Hanumanji – exude a heavenly calm and beauty.

 

Don’t despair if you can’t decipher who is who and what is what, for, to understand all of this, one needs to be steeped in Hindu history and Indian heritage.

 

 

Here prayers are whispered, songs of praise are heightened and the soul rejoices beyond the frontiers of mundane existence to experience the divine peace of God.

It is a nucleus of socio-spiritual activities for the benefit and elevation of individuals, families and society.

It inspires a society free from violence, crime and addiction.

It infuses people with a spirit of selfless service, to live in tune with God and in harmony with humanity.

 

Or at least these are the Mandir’s intentions.

 

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An hour of lost and bewildered walking finally led me to a procession of French teenagers who were scrutinized carefully by the burly security that met us.

 

Here at 105 Brentfield Road, as in most places that devote time and attention to unearthly divinity, apparently God has a strict dress code that must be adhered to before you will be allowed to worship Him.

Clothing must be respectable, respectful.

Shorts and skirts must be below knee-length and footwear removed upon entering the Mandir complex.

No one smokes on the premises.

Video and photography are forbidden upon entry.

Mobile phones must be turned off and no food or beverages are allowed on the premises.

 

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By the time I reach the security shed where backpacks are stored upon long shelves and make my way into the Mandir I am immediately summoned by personnel into the Prayer Hall where row upon row of folding chairs support a large collection of English senior citizens let loose here on this most unusual excursion.

The film is agonizingly long and as I am not officially a part of this senior set, despite the balding pate and silver mane that is mine, I extrude myself as quietly as I can and find myself lining up to enter the Inner Sanctum with the aforementioned French and some Indian devotees.

 

Hindu worship (puja) involves images (murtis), prayers (mantras) and diagrams of the universe (yantras).

The simplest yantra is a circle within a square within a rectangle, with four gates to represent the four directions of the universe.

Hindu temples are based on this design, although still open to endless additions and variations in decoration.

Central to worship is the icon, or sacred image, which together with the temple, is believed to both house and represent a manifestation of God.

An icon can be worshipped at home or in a temple.

Most Hindu worship at home more often and the majority of Hindu homes have a shrine, where at certain times different members of the family make offerings and say prayers.

Most Hindus worship individually, not in a communal service.

Worship involves mantras (vibrating sounds that summon the murti) and prasad (the offering of gifts).

While many prayers and offerings are made for the fulfillment of wishes, the ultimate objective is the offering of the self to become one with God.

Central to this worship is darshan (seeing and being in the presence of the central murti).

 

 

The best time to visit the Mandir is just before 1145, when the rajbhog arti ceremony is performed.

Lit candles are waved in front of the embodiments of the murtis, accompanied by a musical prayer performed by drums, bells, gongs and a conch shell.

 

It is truly a haunting and uplifting experience.

 

Abhishek is the ancient Hindu practice of pouring water over the sacred image of God to honour Him and to attain His blessings.

In this Mandir, abhishek of the sacred image of Nilkanth Varni (or Bhagwan Swaminarayan) is performed daily to the chanting of Vedic verses, including the ancient prayer of peace (the Shanti Paath) and the recital of the 108 auspicious and liberating names of Varni (the Janmangal Namavali), in a ceremony that lasts 15 minutes.

The abhishek is done by devotees on days of special significance to them or to seek blessings for personal reasons.

 

 

The Abhishek Mandap is a marble chamber on the lower floor of the Mandir, housing the sacred image of Shri Nilkanth Varni, the teenage form of Bhagwan Swaminarayan to whom the Mandir is dedicated.

The chamber is clad in Brazilian and Italian marble and embellished with intricate traditional designs.

At the chamber’s heart lies the murti of Varni in gilded brass.

He is depicted in mid-step, emaciated, yet looking calm and resolute.

With matted hair and a small gutko (handwritten manuscript of excerpts from sacred texts) wrapped in a kerchief around his neck, Varni is wearing nothing but his loincloth tied at the waist by a jute cord.

In his left hand, Varni carries a dand (a wooden staff) and a kamandalu (a drinking pot made from dry gourd), both common marks of Hindu ascetism.

 

 

Who was Varni?

After renouncing his home at the tender age of 11, Bhagwan Swaminarayan embarked upon an epic journey of spiritual awakening that took him around India, into Nepal and Tibet, and through Myanmar and Bangladesh.

During this time, he became to be known as Nilkanth Varni.

Barefoot and alone, Nilkanth walked almost 8,000 miles over seven years, blessing the land and liberating numerous spiritual aspirants along the way.

Carrying no maps, no food and no money, Varni crossed raging rivers, faced ferocious animals and survived the freezing heights of the Himalayas.

His solitary journey is a story of courage, kindness and enlightenment, and the inspiration for the naming of the Mandir.

 

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But can the non-believer understand Hinduism?

I have tried and what I have concluded is the following….

 

Hinduism is the world’s oldest ongoing living religion, practised as early as 6500 BC.

It has, unlike Christianity or Islam, no one single founder, but is rather a collective of experiences of ancient seers over the centuries.

According to Hinduism’s adherents, Hinduism teaches one to see the presence of God in everything and thus honour the whole of creation.

You can find God in the world of everyday affairs as readily as anywhere else.

 

Shiva

 

With this perspective, there are no heathens nor enemies.

Many Hindus acknowledge Christ as a divine man, while believing that there have been many as such, including Rama, Krishna and the Buddha.

 

Everyone, even Canada Slim your humble blogger, has the right to evolve spiritually and will, at some time, realise the truth.

 

Hindus believe that souls are not limited to one life – many lives offer many chances for spiritual elevation.

 

 

Like many religions, this faith has rigorous rules.

People are responsible for every action they perform, through the Law of Karma.

 

Hindus believe in one supreme, all-powerful God, the Creator, who has a divine form, is immanent (eternal), transcedent and the grantor of spiritual liberation (moksha).

Jews, Christians and Muslims view the worship of God in the form of one chosen ideal.

Hindus view and represent God in innumerable forms.

 

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Each form (avatar) is but a symbol that points to something beyond.

No one form can truly encapsulate God’s actual nature, so an entire array is needed to complete the picture of God’s aspects and manifestations.

Each representation’s vocation is to introduce the human heart to what it represents but what it itself is not.

Though each representation points equally to God, the Hindu devotee tends to form a lifetime attachment to one, the ishta, the form of the divine the devotee wishes to adopt.

This worship of sacred images of God is called murti puja.

After all, love assumes different nuances according to the relationship involved.

 

Hindus believe in Karma that the soul reaps fruit – good or bad – which is experienced either in this life or in future lives.

They believe in reincarnation (punar-janma), that the soul is immortal, repeatedly born and reborn in one of millions of lifeforms until it attains spiritual liberation (moksha).

Moksha is the release of the soul from this perpetual cycle of births and deaths, remaining eternally in the blissful presence of God.

 

 

Dharma is how we choose to live our lives according to divine law, which values service, sacrifice, humility, duty, devotion, purpose, fidelity, respect and integrity among other positive practices and virtues.

This divine law is believed to be revealed by the authority of the Vedic scriptures, the four Vedas – the Samhita, the Brahmana, the Aranyaka and the Upanishad.

And in a model of efficiency these are encapsulated in the Shikshapatri, a book of moral conduct in 212 succinct Sanskrit verses.

 

 

In a nutshell of simplicity:

  • Do not steal.
  • Do not eat meat.
  • Do not consume alcohol or other intoxicants.
  • Do not commit adultery.
  • Maintain purity of conduct.

 

Hindus claim a proud heritage:

  • the world’s first university (700 BC), Takshashila, India
  • the invention of the Zero, which makes the binary system and computers possible
  • the invention of the decimal system
  • the invention of geometry and trigonometry
  • the value of pi – the ratio of the circumference and diameter of a circle
  • the prior formulation of the Pythagorean Theorem (which says that the square of the hypotenuse of a right-angled triangle equals the sum of the square of the two sides)  (For me, mathematics is as arcane and mysterious as faith.)
  • a theory of the revolution of the Earth 1,000 years before Copernicus
  • a formulation of the law of gravity 1,200 years before Newton
  • an idea of the smallest and largest measures of time from a kratl (34,000th of a second) to a kalpa (4.32 billion years)
  • the practice of surgery 2,600 years ago with 125 types of surgical instruments for 300 different operations

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I did not leave the Mandir of London as a convert to Hinduism, but what my visit showed me was worth the effort.

 

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Life holds more than what one is experiencing now.

People need to live for something which makes life worthwhile, a quest for meaning and value beyond oneself.

Life holds other possibilities beyond our own experience.

 

Hinduism holds that underlying the human self and animating it is a reservoir of being that never dies, is never exhausted and is unrestricted in consciousness and bliss.

Hinduism sees the mind’s hidden continents as stretching to infinity, infinite in being, infinite in awareness, infinite in joy.

Hindus believe that there are multiple paths to God, each calling for a distinctive mode of travel, each starting from the kind of person one is.

 

Lakshmi

 

We all play the roles our personalities dictate, cast in this moment in the greatest of all tragi-comedies, the drama of life itself in which we are all simultaneously co-authors and actors, powered less by reason than by emotion.

To find meaning in this drama, in the mystery of existence, is life’s final and fascinating challenge.

Life is a training ground for the human spirit.

The world is the soul’s gymnasium, both a school and a training field.

 

Hindus believe that the world is lila, God’s plan, that the goal of life is life itself.

 

The various major religions are alternate paths to the same goal to find meaning to our lives beyond ourselves.

The various religions are but different languages through which God, should God exist, speaks to the human heart.

 

Truth is one.

Sages call truth by different names.

 

Differences in culture, history, geography and temperament all make for diverse starting points.

Is life not more interesting as a result of its infinite variety in endless combinations?

 

I may not always understand that which is out of my experience, but the benefits of trying to go beyond my experience are boundless.

 

 

Sources: Wikipedia / Google / Understanding Hinduism Exhibition Guidebook, BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir / John Bowker, World Religions: The Great Faiths Explored and Explained / Rachel Howard and Bill Nash, Secret London: An Unusual Guide / Huston Smith, The World’s Religions / The Bhagavad-Gita

 

 

 

 

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Canada Slim and the Pirates of Teguise

Landschlacht, Switzerland, Sunday 5 May 2019

Imagine the perfect holiday.

Perhaps it is an active one spent hiking and windsurfing.

Perhaps you are a culture vulture mesmerized by museums and attracted to artefacts of days gone by.

Or perhaps you long for a lengthy siesta where your hardest decision is how much sunscreen to wear today.

 

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The Canary Islands have what you want, however you want it, but being all things to all people means this is a place of contradictions.

 

The Islands lie off the coast of Africa yet they are European.

 

The Canary Islands form a Spanish archipelago and the southernmost autonomous community of Spain located in the Atlantic Ocean, 100 kilometres (62 miles) west of Morocco at the closest point.

The Canary Islands, which are also known informally as the Canaries, are among the outermost regions (OMR) of the European Union proper.

It is also one of the eight regions with special consideration of historical nationality recognized as such by the Spanish Government.

The Canary Islands belong to the African Plate, like the Spanish cities of Ceuta and Melilla on the African mainland.

 

Location of the Canary Islands within Spain

 

The seven main islands are (from largest to smallest in area) Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro.

The archipelago includes much smaller islands and islets: La Graciosa, Alegranza, Isla de Lobos, Montaña Clara, Roque del Oeste and Roque del Este.

It also includes a series of adjacent roques (those of Salmor, Fasnia, Bonanza, Garachico and Anaga).

 

In ancient times, the island chain was often referred to as “the Fortunate Isles“.

But delving into Canarian history the casual observer has to ponder the question:

Fortunate for whom?

 

Historically, the Canary Islands have been considered a bridge between four continents: Africa, North America, South America and Europe.

And it has been their strategic location that has been both a blessing and a curse to those who have chosen to make the Islands their home.

 

Flag of Canary Islands

Above: Flag of the Canary Islands

 

The archipelago’s beaches, climate and important natural attractions, especially Maspalomas in Gran Canaria and Teide National Park and Mount Teide (a World Heritage Site) in Tenerife (the third tallest volcano in the world measured from its base on the ocean floor), make it a major tourist destination with over 12 million visitors per year, especially Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote.

 

 

Imagine living on an island where more people around you are tourists than residents.

 

Tourists are, by their very nature, selfish in that the pleasure principle dominates their every thought.

Most care nothing about those who reside there except in how the locals cater to their needs.

 

There is nothing new under the sun.

 

 

The islands have a subtropical climate, with long hot summers and moderately warm winters.

The precipitation levels and the level of maritime moderation vary depending on location and elevation.

Green areas as well as desert exist on the archipelago.

Rain seems rare and snow something never seen.

 

Due to their location above the temperature inversion layer, the high mountains of these islands are ideal for astronomical observation.

For this reason, two professional observatories, Teide Observatory on the island of Tenerife and Roque de los Muchachos Observatory on the island of La Palma, have been built on the islands.

 

The day sky is cloudless.

The night sky stretches to infinity and beyond.

The horizon beckons with promise.

 

 

So it may be reasonable to assume that piracy has existed for as long as the oceans were plied for commerce.

 

Piracy is an act of robbery or criminal violence by ship or boat-borne attackers upon another ship or a coastal area, typically with the goal of stealing cargo and other valuable items or properties.

Those who engage in acts of piracy are called pirates.

Privateering uses similar methods to piracy, but the captain acts under orders of the state authorizing the capture of merchant ships belonging to an enemy nation, making it a legitimate form of war-like activity by non-state actors.

 

 

Due to the strategic situation of this Spanish archipelago as a crossroads of maritime routes and commercial bridge between Europe, Africa and America, this was one of the places on the planet with the greatest pirate presence.

In the Canary Islands, the following stand out:

  • The attacks and continuous looting of Berber, English, French and Dutch corsairs
  • The presence of pirates from this archipelago who made their incursions into the Caribbean.
  • Pirates and corsairs, such as François Le Clerc, Jacques de Sores, Francis Drake, Pieter van der Does, Murat Reis and Horacio Nelson, attacked the islands.
  • Among those born in the archipelago who stands out above all is Amaro Pargo, whom the monarch Felipe V of Spain frequently benefited from his commercial incursions.

 

During the time of the Spanish Empire, the Canaries were the main stopover for Spanish galleons – galleons seeking to be laiden with treasure – on their way to the Americas, which came south to catch the prevailing northeasterly trade winds.

 

 

Sailing off the coast of Africa the closest of the Canaries to be reached is the Island of Lanzerote and thus it became the first Canary Island to be settled.

 

Lanzerote is the northernmost and easternmost of the autonomous Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean.

It is located approximately only 125 kilometres (78 miles) off the north coast of Africa and 1,000 kilometres (621 miles) from the Iberian Peninsula.

Covering 845.94 square kilometres (326.62 square miles), Lanzarote is the fourth largest of the islands in the archipelago.

With 149,183 inhabitants, it is the third most populous Canary Island, after Tenerife and Gran Canaria.

Located in the centre-west of the island is Timanfaya National Park, one of its main attractions.

The island was declared a biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 1993.

The island’s capital is Arrecife.

 

Spain Canary Islands location map Lanzarote.svg

 

The Phoenicians may have visited or settled there, though no material evidence survives.

The first known record came from Roman author Pliny the Elder in the encyclopaedia Naturalis Historia on an expedition to the Canary Islands.

The names of the islands (then called Insulae Fortunatae or the “Fortunate Isles“) were recorded as Junonia (Fuerteventura), Canaria (Gran Canaria), Ninguaria (Tenerife), Junonia Major (La Palma), Pluvialia (El Hierro), and Capraria (La Gomera).

Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, the two easternmost Canary Islands, were only mentioned as the archipelago of the “purple islands“.

The Roman poet Lucan and the Greek astronomer and geographer Ptolemy gave their precise locations.

 

 

Several archaeological expeditions have uncovered the prehistoric settlement at the archaeologic site of El Bebedero in the village of Teguise.

In one of those expeditions, by a team from the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and a team from the University of Zaragoza, yielded about 100 Roman potsherds, nine pieces of metal, and one piece of glass.

The artefacts were found in strata dated between the 1st and 4th centuries.

They show that Romans did trade with the Canarians, though there is no evidence of settlements.

Lanzarote was previously settled by the Majos tribe of the Guanches, though the Romans did not mention them.

 

 

Guanches were the aboriginal inhabitants of the Canary Islands.

In 2017, the first genome-wide data from the Guanches confirmed a North African origin and that they were genetically most similar to modern North African Berber peoples of the nearby North African mainland.

It is believed that they migrated to the archipelago around 1000 BC or perhaps earlier.

The Guanches were the only native people known to have lived in the  region before the arrival of Europeans, as there is no evidence that the other archipelagos (Azores, Cape Verde, Madeira) were inhabited before Europeans arrived.

After the Spanish conquest of the Canaries they were ethnically and culturally absorbed by Spanish settlers, although elements of their culture survive to this day, intermixed within Canarian customs and traditions such as Silbo (the whistled language of La Gomera Island).

 

 

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the Canary Islands were ignored until 999, when the Arabs arrived at the island which they dubbed al-Djezir al-Khalida (among other names).

An account of the Guanche population may have been made around AD 1150 by the Arab geographer Muhammad al-Idrisi in the Nuzhatul Mushtaq, a book he wrote for King Roger II of Sicily, in which al-Idrisi reports a journey in the Atlantic Ocean made by the Mugharrarin (“the adventurers“), a family of Andalusian seafarers from Lisbon.

The only surviving version of this book, kept at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, and first translated by Pierre Amédée Jaubert, reports that, after having reached an area of “sticky and stinking waters“, the Mugharrarin moved back and first reached an uninhabited island (Madeira or Hierro), where they found “a huge quantity of sheep, which its meat was bitter and inedible” and, then, “continued southward” and reached another island where they were soon surrounded by barks and brought to “a village whose inhabitants were often fair haired with long and flaxen hair and the women of a rare beauty“.

Among the villagers, one did speak Arabic and asked them where they came from.

Then the king of the village ordered them to bring them back to the continent where they were surprised to be welcomed by Berbers.

Apart from the marvelous and fanciful content of this history, this account would suggest that Guanches had sporadic contacts with populations from the mainland.

Al-Idrisi also described the Guanche men as tall and of a reddish-brown complexion.

During the 14th century, the Guanches are presumed to have had other contacts with Balearic seafarers from Spain, suggested by the presence of Balearic artifacts found on several of the Canary Islands.

 

Map of the Balearic Islands

Above: (in red) The Balearic Islands

 

In 1336, a ship arrived from Lisbon under the guidance of Genoese navigator Lancelotto Malocello, who used the alias “Lanzarote da Framqua“.

A fort was later built in the area of Montaña de Guanapay near today’s Teguise.

 

 

Castilian slaving expeditions in 1385 and 1393 seized hundreds of Guanches and sold them in Spain, initiating the slave trade in the islands.

 

Where there is profit to be found on the open seas there will be those who will seek to claim it.

Slavery and piracy differ only in that the plunder of the former is the lives of human beings.

The violence used by both is indistinguishable from the other.

 

French explorer Jean de Béthencourt arrived in 1402, heading a private expedition under Castilian auspices.

Bethencourt first visited the south of Lanzarote at Playa de Papagayo, and the French overran the island within a matter of months.

 

Above: Jean de Béthencourt (1362 – 1425)

 

The island lacked mountains and gorges to serve as hideouts for the remaining Guanche population and so many Guanches were taken away as slaves.

Only 300 Guanche men were said to have remained.

 

The Castilian conquest of the Canary Islands began in 1402, with the expedition of Jean de Béthencourt and Gadifer de la Salle (1340 – 1415) to the island of Lanzarote.

Gadifer would invade Lanzarote and Fuerteventura with ease since many of the aboriginals, faced with issues of starvation and poor agriculture, would surrender to Spanish rule.

 

 

At the southern end of the Yaiza municipality, the first European settlement in the Canary Islands appeared in 1402 in the area known as El Rubicón, where the conquest of the Archipelago began.

In this place, the Cathedral of Saint Martial of Limoges was built.

The cathedral was destroyed by English pirates in the 16th century.

The diocese was moved in 1483 to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (Roman Catholic Diocese of Canarias).

 

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In 1404, the Castilians (with the support of the King of Castile) came and fought the local Guanches who were further decimated.

The islands of Fuerteventura and El Hierro were later similarly conquered.

 

In 1477, a decision by the royal council of Castile confirmed a grant of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, with the smaller islands of Ferro and Gomera to the Castilian nobles Herrera, who held their fief until the end of the 18th century.

In 1585, the Ottoman admiral Murat Reis temporarily seized Lanzarote.

In the 17th century, pirates raided the island and took 1,000 inhabitants into slavery in Cueva de los Verdes.

 

From 1730 to 1736, the island was hit by a series of volcanic eruptions, producing 32 new volcanoes in a stretch of 18 kilometres (11 miles).

The priest of Yaiza, Don Andrés Lorenzo Curbelo, documented the eruption in detail until 1731.

Lava covered a quarter of the island’s surface, including the most fertile soil and 11 villages.

100 smaller volcanoes were located in the area called Montañas del Fuego, the “Mountains of Fire“.

 

 

In 1768, drought affected the deforested island and winter rains did not fall.

Much of the population was forced to emigrate to Cuba and the Americas, including a group which formed a significant addition to the Spanish settlers in Texas at San Antonio de Bexar in 1731.

 

 

Another volcanic eruption occurred within the range of Tiagua in 1824, which was less violent than the major eruption between 1730 and 1736.

Thus the island has become a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve protected site.

 

According to a report in the Financial Times, this status was endangered by a local corruption scandal.

Since May 2009, police have arrested the former president of Lanzarote, the former mayor of Arrecife and more than 20 politicians and businessmen in connection with illegal building permits along Lanzarote’s coastline.

UNESCO has threatened to revoke Lanzarote’s Biosphere Reserve status, “if the developments are not respecting local needs and are impacting on the environment“.

The President of the Cabildo of Lanzarote denied “any threat to Lanzarote’s UNESCO status“.

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Piracy upon the open sea beside the shores of Lanzarote may be a thing of the past but greed remains eternal.

 

 

Teguise, Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Sunday 1 December 2018

As described in a previous post of this blog, my wife and I arrived on the island and drove from the airport near the island capital of Arrecife to the resort town of Costa Teguise where we overnighted for the entirety of our stay on Lanzarote.

(Please see Canada Slim and the Royal Retreat of this blog.)

 

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Above: Lanzarote Airport

 

Our previous research gleaned that Sunday was market day in Teguise so soon after we checked into our hotel we quickly headed here.

 

Teguise, also known as La Villa de Teguise, is a village in the Municipality of Teguise in the north central part of the Island, 12 km north of Arrecife.

Here North Africa meets Spanish pueblo.

Like no other place on Lanzarote, it has preserved its historic appearance to this day.

It is an intriguing mini-oasis of low buildings set around a central plaza and surrounded by the bare plains of central Lanzarote.

The small old town forms a compact whole that impresses in its uniformity.

The Andalusian style of southern Spain sets the tone.

 

Plaza Mayor

 

The outwardly simple, white houses have high, carved wooden portals and large shutters in front of the windows.

The former capital was built in the 15th century for fear of pirate raids in the middle of the island, right at the foot of the striking Montana de Guanapay.

Built in the Spanish colonial style, it presents a magnificent ensemble of stylish churches and monasteries, harmonious squares, magnificent old houses and quiet streets.

Old town Teguise has been a listed heritage site for over twenty years and is the jewel of Lanzarote.

It is considered one of the best preserved settlement centers of the Canaries.

As of 1 January 2018 the village’s population was 1,776.

 

The town was founded in 1418 and served as the capital of the Kingdom of the Canary Islands from 1425 to 1448 and as capital of Lanzarote until the capital was moved to Arrecife in 1852.

Teguise is said to have been founded by Maciot – the successor of the aforementioned Jean de Béthencourt – who is rumoured to have lived here with Princess Teguise, the daughter of the Guanche King Guadarfia.

 

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Various convents were founded and the town prospered.

But with prosperity came other problems, including pirates who plundered the town several times.

 

Although the strategic location of the city was favorable – protected to the north by the Famara reef, in addition to the Castillo de Santa Bárbara enthroned above the city, a broad overview in all directions, the following centuries were marked by numerous bloody pirate attacks, undoubtedly reactions to the brutal raids of Teguise’s feudal lords, who had previously deported thousands of Berbers to slavery on the African coasts.

Teguise went through hard times and was said to be no more than a miserable village with thatched huts.

 

In 1586, Algerian pirates stormed the city under their infamous leader Morato Arráez and put down everything that stood in their way.

The Callejon de Sangre (Blood Alley) behind the parish church recalls this terrible tragedy.

 

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In 1618, plundering Berber hordes burnt down the city completely, enslaving much of the island’s population.

As a result, Teguise’s historic buildings were increasingly economically unattractive for most of the late 17th and 18th centuries.

 

And this is why, in 1852, the up-and-coming port city of Arrecife was named the new capital of the island, while Teguise evolved into the open-air museum that it still represents today.

 

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Firmly on the tourist trail, there are several shops here selling flowing garments and handmade jewellery, plus restaurants, bars and a handful of monuments testifying to the fact that the town once was the capital.

This is a town of spacious squares and well-kept cobblestone streets lined with beautifully restored houses that testify to Teguise’s former glory.

For a stroll, however, you should choose a really sunny day, because Teguise is located in a relatively uncomfortable island corner, namely on a cold and draughty plateau.

During the week, Teguise is a quiet place, ideal for a leisurely stroll through the streets.

 

Sunday is all about the huge folksy market that takes place here every week.

It is a day of flourishing handicrafts in the market with throngs of tourists shopping and gorging themselves into a satiated stupor and locals lounging beneath a gentle breeze and a warm sun.

Throughout the entire old town, stands are close to one other, in between streams of visitors from the whole island crowded here for this one moment in time, the bars and restaurants bursting in an exuberant mood.

A day for dancing, if being leisurely was not so tempting.

 

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What strikes the visitor to Teguise Market the most is the foreign feel of the artists, the arts and crafts, the ecological and esoteric scene.

Various shops around the two central squares offer natural products, jewelery, antiques and so on – certainly not only because Teguise is so “beautiful“, but above all for tangible commercial reasons, because during the big Sunday market, the city is always very well attended.

 

But as well Canarian culture has a focus in Teguise.

Thus, the former capital of the island is considered the place of origin of the timples, the traditional guitar-like string instruments of Canarios, of which an exhibition in the Palacio Spinola proudly praises in the central square of Teguise.

 

 

The timple is a traditional 5-string plucked string instrument of the Canary Islands.

On La Palma Island and in the north of the island of Tenerife, many timple players omit the fifth (D) string, in order to play the timple as a four-string ukulele, though this is considered less traditional by players and advocates of the five-string version.

The players of the four-string style, in return, say that they are simply playing the timple in the old-fashioned way from before the time when a fifth string was introduced in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century.

Timple players (timplistas) of note are Benito Cabrera from Lanzarote, José Antonio Ramos, Totoyo Millares, and Germán López from Gran Canaria, and Pedro Izquierdo from Tenerife.

 

Antonio Lemes Hernández, at Calle Flores 8, is one of the last to build the famous Canarian guitars.

He also supplies many music groups in other Canary Islands.

Various sizes are produced, from the mini-model to the contratimple.

The Cabildo de Lanzarote, through its Departments of Culture and Industry, has recognized Antonio Lemes Hernández for his involvement of more than half a century in the production of timples.

Lemes, a craftsman from Teguise, has been building timples since he was very small.

He himself recognizes that:

“I have not done anything else, all my life making timples.
I made them out of cardboard as a child.

We brushed them and made them from that material, but of course, I made them and broke them, I did not have a teacher.” 

So he perfected his technique.

And to transform the wood….
I used to make them from polisandro, moral, mahogany, and the lid, which is always made of pine.

The important thing is that it is good wood so that they can tune well.

 

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Sixty years after his first contact with the timple, Antonio’s hands continue to mold, giving life to the sound camel .

To play what is the treasure of Lanzerote music.

 

Antonio Lemes Hernández, popularly known as Lolo, was born in the stately Villa de Teguise.

As a child he learned the technique of woodworking in the School of Crafts of Teguise, although it was his carpenter companion, Antonio de León Bonilla, who had some knowledge of the timple, who taught him to shape the sound camel.

Little by little, Antonio became fond of this instrument, so today his works are highly valued and requested, some to make sound alone or at parties and others are conservative and wish to possess a timble like a real jewel in private storage.

 

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Antonio Lemes has always been linked to the world of music.

In his youth he was part of the famous orchestra of Teguise known as Lira and Lido and he was also a part of cultural institutions such as Rancho de Pascuas de Teguise.

 

At present, Antonio Lemes enjoys his retirement, although as he can not stand idly by, so every day he goes to his workshop located on Flores Street, where he continues to practice the work that made him fall in love as a child, the construction of the timple.

 

In 2016, the Guagime Folkloric Association of Tahíche showed him public recognition by giving him their highest award, the ‘Silver Insignia‘, for his dedication to the development of the timple.

 

 

The eclectic church, the Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe skulks in the town square.

Constructed in the mid-15th century, it has been rebuilt many times that it feels like the divine is in a perpetual state of confusion

Inside neo-Gothic furnishings surround a statue of the Virgin Mary of Guadalupe, but it was afternoon when we arrived in Teguise, so we were forced to imagine the scene rather than witness it for ourselves.

 

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On the opposite side of the square stands the Palacio Spinola.

The light of God facing the darkness of man.

 

The Palacio, completed after half a century in 1780, is beautiful with a small patio and a well.

It now doubles as both a museum and the official residence of the Canary Islands government.

It too was closed by the time we decided we wanted to visit it.

 

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This impressive edifice is host to the Casa del Timple – a museum dedicated to the small guitar like instrument which plays a big role in local folklore and tradtional music.

 

The building was renovated during the 1970´s by the ubiquitous César Manrique- and provides the perfect opportunity to step back in time and sample the lifestyle of an affluent nobleman in 18th century Lanzarote, whilst also learning more about the role of the timple in island life.

 

César Manrique

Above: César Manrique (1919 – 1992)

(“For me, Lanzarote was the most beautiful place on Earth, so I made it a point to show Lanzarote to the world.“)

(More on this amazing man in a future post….)

 

Today, echoes of the glorious past still resonate through Teguise´s cobbled streets – which are home to some fantastic old buildings and a wealth of colonial architecture that cannot be found anywhere else on Lanzarote.

Making La Villa, as it is known locally, one of the best-preserved historic centers in the whole of the Canary Islands.

Many of these buildings are now private residences and are therefore hidden away from public gaze behind green wooden shutters.

But the house-museum at the Palacio Spinola is open to the public.

 

The Palacio Spinola is located in the heart of Teguise in the Plaza de San Miguel – also known locally as the Plaza de Leones because of the two statues of lions that stand guard opposite the entrance to the Palace.

Construction on the building started in 1730 – the same year that the south of the island was subjected to a six-year volcanic eruption that forged the national park at Timanfaya.

These eruptions obviously disrupted life on Lanzarote and the building of the Palacio took another fifty years to complete.

The Palacio was originally known as the Inquisitors House – as it was once the HQ of the Holy Inquisition.

From the middle of the 18th Century it became home to the Feo Peraza family, the best known of whom was the policitican Jose Feo Armas.

But by 1895 the Palacio had passed into the hands of the wealthy Spinola family.

The impressive frontage of the building with its six huge windows enclosed by intricately carved wooden shutters is a clear indication of the prosperity of the original owners.

 

Image result for palacio spinola teguise

 

You needed serious money to afford this sort of opulence in the early 18th century.

 

Visitors walk through a formal entrance way, tiled with volcanic stone – where a small admission charge of €3 is made (free for children under 12 years) – and they are then free to explore the passageways and patios of the Palacio with the help of a basic printed guide which outlines the function of each room.

Amongst the most fascinating of these are the kitchens, with a chimney arrangement that is open to the elements in order to carry away cooking smoke, a latticed viewing gallery that overlooks the two main salons, or living rooms, a massive dining room with seating for thirty two guests and a small private family chapel, featuring an intricately carved wooden altar.

Throughout the Palacio, modern paintings by local artists, such as Aguilar, are juxtaposed with antique and reproduction furniture.

The exterior of the building is equally impressive, as long passageways lead visitors out into a delightful courtyard area that houses two stately old Canarian palm trees as well as a variety of flowering plants such as hibiscus and strelitza as well as an array of colourful succulents.

Here, visitors can observe the giant wooden door guarding the entranceway – built to a height that would allow both a horse and rider to enter unhindered.

 

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The Palacio Spinola isn’t huge – comprising eleven rooms in total, so it will probably only occupy an hour or so of your time at best, but it is an extremely well preserved example of 18th century architecture.

And who knows – you might even bump into a modern day grandee.

As the Palacio Spinola is also now the official residence of the President of the Canary Islands when he is visiting Lanzarote.

 

Fernando Clavijo 2015 (cropped).jpg

Above: Fernando Clavijo Batlle, current President of the Canary Islands

 

 

Towering over the town is the Castillo de Santa Bárbara, built in the early 16th century on top of the 452-metre (1,480 foot) high Guanapay Peak and provides a view almost over the entire island.

Visible from afar, the fortress Santa Bárbara perches on a bare crater ridge above Teguise.

A real mini “knight’s castle” with massive masonry, drawbridge and small round towers awaits the visitor.

Inside, a pirate museum has been housed here for several years.

 

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The Museo de la Pirateria (Pirate Museum) has an exhibition that deals with an almost existential theme for Teguise and is also good for children.

With cartoon figures, picture stories, dioramas, historical signs and museum relics, the city’s hard times come to life again.

Excerpts from pirate films with six galleys from 1586 under Morato Arráez who conquers the castle and leaves Teguise with 200 prisoners, including the wife and daughter of the city commander Marquis Agustin Herrera y Rojas, for which Arráez finally receives 20,000 ducats for their ransom.

 

For me, Teguise, and most especially the Pirate Museum of Castle Bárbara, struck me as incongruous and felt somehow wrong.

 

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Teguise had made a fortune from the slave trade until it was punished by Africans from whose populations these slaves had come.

The mercantile nature of the town, exhibited on a Christian day that is supposed to be free of commerce and labour, though less barbaric than former times, still resonates in the overpriced restaurants with substandard food and at the overvalued merchandise stalls where the buyer need be aware of deals done deceptively.

 

The Pirate Museum bothers me intensely, for it seems inherently callous to make profit from all the pain and violence committed by these bandits of the sea, celebrated and packaged glamourously for children’s consumption.

Pirates have always been and shall always be bloodthirsty bastards unable and unwilling to earn a honest day’s labour for the bread on the table.

How many hardworking families lost all that they had, including their lives, at the gory bloody hands of murderous, torturing and raping pirates?

And yet we have given pirates a mythical mystique of free men thirsting for liberty outside the confines of society.

We have made legends out of murderers, rapists and thievies and have given them colourful sobriquets like Blackbeard and Calico Jack.

 

Above: Pirate Cemetery, Île Sainte Marie, Madagascar

 

Beginning with Captain Charles Johnson’s A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates, piracy has become a celebrated cause since 1724.

 

Cover page of "A General History of the Pyrates" (1724) by Captain Charles Johnson.jpg

 

Since then we have had Long John Silver of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, Captain Hook as Peter Pan‘s aristocratic villain of J.M. Barrie’s play, and the sea stories of Rafael Sabatini.

These have led to films like Captain Blood, The Black Swan, and, of course, the immensely popular Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.

 

Captain Blood.jpeg

 

Somehow we have brainwashed ourselves with glamourous images of men walking the plank, being marooned, buried treasure, wooden legs and black eye patches, Jolly Roger flags and parrots squawking “pieces of eight, pieces of eight“.

Somehow we have come to warmly embrace and bring to life a seagoing world, befuddled twixt fact and fantasy, favouring felons of murderous, greedy, untrustworthy character, addicted to violence, crime committed casually, consciousness lacking conscience.

Somehow we don’t see unarmed fathers and sons viciously attacked, but instead we see elegant choreographed duels and sword fights, and not the bloody encounters where merciless men hack innocents down with axe and cutlass.

Real pirates bore little resemblance to Errol Flynn or Johnny Depp.

 

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Above: Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, Pirates of the Caribbean

 

And women aboard ship were rarer than chocolate truffles at a homeless shelter despite what Hollywood would have you believe with their lovely heroines playing a key role in the outcomes of their films.

 

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Pirates are a frequent topic in fiction and, in their Caribbean incarnation, are associated with certain stereotypical manners of speaking and dress, most of them wholly fictional:

Nearly all our notions of their behavior come from the golden age of fictional piracy, which reached its zenith in 1881 with the appearance of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.

 

 

Hugely influential in shaping the popular conception of pirates, Captain Charles Johnson’s A General History of the Pirates, published in London in 1724, is the prime source for the biographies of many well known pirates of the Golden Age.

The book gives a mythical status to pirates, with naval historian David Cordingly writing:

It has been said, and there seems no reason to question this, that Captain Johnson created the modern conception of pirates.

Such as a person costumed like the character of Captain Jack Sparrow, Johnny Depp’s lead role in the Pirates of the Caribbean film series.

 

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Some inventions of pirate culture such as “walking the plank“–in which a bound captive is forced to walk off a board extending over the sea–were popularized by J. M. Barrie’s novel, Peter Pan, where the fictional pirate Captain Hook and his crew helped define the fictional pirate archetype.

 

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English actor Robert Newton’s portrayal of Long John Silver in Disney’s 1950 film adaptation of Treasure Island also helped define the modern rendition of a pirate, including the stereotypical West Country “pirate accent“.

 

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Other influences include Sinbad the Sailor and the recent Pirates of the Caribbean films have helped rekindle modern interest in piracy and have performed well at the box office.

 

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The video game Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag also revolves around pirates during the Golden Age of Piracy.

 

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The classic Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera The Pirates of Penzance focuses on The Pirate King and his hapless band of pirates.

 

 

Many sports teams use “pirate” or a related term such as “raider” or “buccaneer” as their nickname, based on these popular stereotypes of pirates.

 

Such teams include the Pittsburgh Pirates, who acquired their nickname in 1891 after “pirating” a player from another team.

 

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The Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, both in the National Football League, also use pirate-related nicknames.

 

Oakland Raiders logo

Tampa Bay Buccaneers logo

 

In the early 21st century, seaborne piracy against transport vessels remains a significant issue (with estimated worldwide losses of US$16 billion per year in 2004), particularly in the waters between the Red Sea and Indian Ocean, off the Somali coast, and also in the Strait of Malacca and Singapore.

 

Today, pirates armed with automatic weapons, such as assault rifles, and machine guns, grenades and rocket propelled grenades use small motorboats to attack and board ships, a tactic that takes advantage of the small number of crew members on modern cargo vessels and transport ships.

They also use larger vessels, known as “mother ships“, to supply the smaller motorboats.

 

Above: Somalian pirates

 

The international community is facing many challenges in bringing modern pirates to justice, as these attacks often occur in international waters.

Some nations have used their naval forces to protect private ships from pirate attacks and to pursue pirates, and some private vessels use armed security guards, high-pressure water cannons, or sound cannons to repel boarders, and use radar to avoid potential threats.

 

Piracy in the 21st century has taken place in a number of waters around the world, including the Gulf of Guinea, Strait of Malacca, Indian Ocean, and Falcon Lake.

 

Due to the crisis in Venezuela, issues of piracy returned to the Caribbean in the 2010s, with the increase of pirates being compared to piracy off the coast of Somalia due to the similar socioeconomic origins.

In 2016, former fishermen became pirates, appearing in the state of Sucre, with attacks happening almost daily and multiple killings occurring.

By 2018 as Venezuelans became more desperate, fears arose that Venezuelan pirates would spread throughout Caribbean waters.

 

Above: Gasoline smugglers, Limon River, Zulia State, Venezuela

 

Piracy on Falcon Lake involves crime at the border between the United States and Mexico on Falcon Lake.

The lake is a 100-kilometre-long (60 mi) reservoir constructed in 1954 and is a known drug smuggling route.

A turf war between rival drug cartels for control of the lake began in March 2010 and has led to a series of armed robberies and shooting incidents.

All of the attacks were credited to the Los Zetas cartel and occurred primarily on the Mexican side of the reservoir but within sight of the Texas coast.

The so-called pirates operate “fleets” of small boats designed to seize fishermen and smuggle drugs.

While the events have been referred to colloquially as piracy, all the waters of Falcon Lake are considered either US or Mexican territorial waters and therefore are not technically piracy under Article 101 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

 

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Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea affects a number of countries in West Africa as well as the wider international community.

By 2011, it had become an issue of global concern.

Pirates in the Gulf of Guinea are often part of heavily armed criminal enterprises, who employ violent methods to steal oil cargo.

In 2012, the International Maritime Bureau, Oceans Beyond Piracy and the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Program reported that the number of vessels attacks by West African pirates had reached a world high, with 966 seafarers attacked during the year.

 

Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea has evolved over the first decade of the century.

For some time, smaller ships shuttling employees and materials belonging to the oil companies with any involvement in oil exploration had been at risk in Nigeria.

Over time, pirates became more aggressive and better armed.

 

Above: The Gulf of Guinea

 

As of 2014, pirate attacks in West Africa mainly occur in territorial waters, terminals and harbours rather than in the high seas.

This incident pattern has hindered intervention by international naval forces.

 

Pirates in the region operate a well-funded criminal industry, which includes established supply networks.

They are often part of heavily armed and sophisticated criminal enterprises, who increasingly use motherships to launch their attacks.

The local pirates’ overall aim is to steal oil cargo.

As such, they do not attach much importance to holding crew members and non-oil cargo and vessels for ransom.

 

Additionally, pirates in the Gulf of Guinea are especially noted for their violent modus operandi, which frequently involves the kidnapping, torture and shooting of crewmen.

The increasingly violent methods used by these groups is believed to be part of a conscious “business model” adopted by them, in which violence and intimidation plays a major role.

 

By 2010, 45, and, by 2011, 64 incidents were reported to the United Nations’ International Maritime Organization (UN – IMO).

 

However, many events go unreported.

 

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Piracy acts interfere with the legitimate trading interests of the affected countries that include Benin, Togo, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

As an example, trade of Benin’s major port, the Port of Cotonou, was reported in 2012 to have dropped by 70%.

The cost of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea due to stolen goods, security, and insurance has been estimated to be about $2 billion.

According to the Control Risks Group, pirate attacks in the Gulf of Guinea had by mid-November 2013 maintained a steady level of around 100 attempted hijackings in the year, a close second behind Southeast Asia.

 

Piracy in the Indian Ocean has been a threat to international shipping since the second phase of the civil war in Somalia in the early 21st century.

Since 2005, many international organizations have expressed concern over the rise in acts of piracy.

Piracy impeded the delivery of shipments and increased shipping expenses, costing an estimated $6.6 to $6.9 billion a year in global trade according to Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP).

 

 

According to the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), a veritable industry of profiteers also arose around the piracy.

Insurance companies significantly increased their profits from the pirate attacks as insurance companies hiked rate premiums in response.

 

Combined Task Force 150, a multinational coalition task force, took on the role of fighting the piracy by establishing a Maritime Security Patrol Area (MSPA) within the Gulf of Aden and Guardafui Channel.

By September 2012, the heyday of piracy in the Indian Ocean was reportedly over.

 

 

According to the International Maritime Bureau, pirate attacks had by October 2012 dropped to a six-year low, with only one ship attacked in the third quarter compared to thirty-six during the same period in 2011

 

By December 2013, the US Office of Naval Intelligence reported that only 9 vessels had been attacked during the year by the pirates, with zero successful hijackings.

 

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Control Risks attributed this 90% decline in pirate activity from the corresponding period in 2012 to the adoption of best management practices by vessel owners and crews, armed private security onboard ships, a significant naval presence and the development of onshore security forces.

 

Pirates in the Strait of Malacca near Indonesia are normally armed with guns, knives, or machetes.

Many reports on attacks could have gone unreported because the companies are scared of the pirates attacking them more often because the company told the authorities.

The pirates in this area also attack ships during the night.

If vessels sound an alarm, the pirates usually leave without confronting the crew.

Pirates in the Singapore Straits attack at night, while ships are underway or anchored.

 

 

According to the Control Risks Group, pirate attacks in the Strait of Malacca had by mid-November 2013 reached a world high, surpassing those in the Gulf of Guinea.

 

 

I am all for generating income to feed a family and I realize that Teguise is highly dependent on tourism to feed theirs.

But a community that claims to be Christian should not be making a market day out of a day of rest and religious reflection.

 

I am all for having a museum that portrays reality historically accurate, but I find it objectionable to package criminal barbarity as a fun day out with the kids.

Piracy in all of its horror is not something that should be forgotten, but neither should it be glamorized nor sanitizied as entertainment for children.

 

Perhaps being a tourist is all about ignoring the realities of life, escaping from life.

But nothing is learned from life or travel if all we choose to see is only pleasureable.

 

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Teguise is a beautiful town worth visiting but it has forgotten what value truly is.

Heritage is not a commodity to be sold at the expense of faith.

Heritage is not a commodity to be sold at the expense of truth.

 

When houses of worship are ignored on a day of faith to increase a merchant’s profits….

When violent crime is packaged to sell tickets to children….

Then a community has sold its soul for filthy lucre.

 

I liked the streets of the town and the warm sunshine after the cold and damp of Switzerland, but I longed for real people uninterested in garnering money or attention from visitors.

Real folks content with living life on their own terms rather than that dictated by others.

 

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The aforementioned timple maker Antonio Lemes Hernandez is one.

Don Pillimpo is another.

 

On the access road from Mozaga, diagonally across from the petrol station, there is a house with a garden full of original sculptures, everyday and art objects, children’s toys, teddy bears and dolls.

 

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Pillimpo, who is actually known as José Garcia Martin, is constantly expanding and changing his unusual collection, the children of Teguise bring him their discarded toys, new color paintings enliven the large sculptures, unusual compositions call out for the viewer to notice.

 

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This strange collection of statues frequently stops passers by in their tracks.

Cars pause in the road whilst their passengers stare.

Pedestrians stop to browse the chaotic display of figurines.

The colour of the statues change frequently, shades of grey, green and pale pink.

 

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The house is referred to as the Casa Museo Mara Mao after the statue holding this name up.

The front door is generally open, although it is said the artist is shy about being photographed and doesn’t like people entering his garden.

Rogue dolls’ heads daubed with paint and teddy bears chained to the tree  have been embraced into this artist’s eclectic display.

In his 60’s Don Pillimpo is free to use his quirky imagination for everyone to wonder at.

Thousands, probably hundreds of thousands, pass the Pillimpo figurine park every year, but few people know the name of this artist.

 

Speechlessness, astonishment, amusement and helplessness is felt by those who pass by Pillimpos’s garden, as well as rejection, a sad shaking of the head, indifference, even fear.

But if you ask someone about these characters, who makes them, if they have any meaning, why Pillimpo dresses them in new colors over and over again, you only hear shrugs.

Maybe because it is not easy to approach the creator of this chaotic world?

 

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Because the God of this Garden, of these saint sculptures, dolls, teddy bears, plush moose, Santa Clauses and action toy monsters with names like “Cloverfield” or “Zombie Spawn” does not show his world to the audience?

Pillimpo does not want to explain his world.

This world is dominated by larger than life figures of sand and cement, and the iconography reminds all those who grew up in the Christian context of saints that in the midst of society children have become disposable victims.

 

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I never saw a greater balance between order and chaos, kitsch and authenticity.“, wrote a Spanish admirer of Pillimpos art on his blog.

Horrible.  I do not like it.  It’s just too heavy for me.“, an island-renowned German artist described his feelings about Pillimpo’s work.

Another artist looks at Pillimpos’s work from his own perspective of usual order and harmony:

So if my garden should look like this then you can instruct me!

 

So, is this art?

 

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Art is a human cultural product, the result of a creative process.

The artwork is usually at the end of this process, but can also be the process itself.

Admiration, as such, is essential to art, but this does not have to be immediate in time and can only be the result of gaining knowledge.” is one definition of art according to Wikipedia.

 

Perception, imagination and intuition are some of the requirements for the artistic process.

Pillimpo’s creativity and imagination are innate to him, he says.

A gift from God that he believes in, for which he is grateful.

He emphasizes this again and again.

He knows his art is not universally loved.

In their opinion, I disturb the cityscape.“, says Pillimpo.

 

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But they can not easily get rid of the man.

Thank God.

 

The land is his property.

The house in which he lives, and which is also inhabited by his creatures inside him, belongs to him.

He built it with his own hands.

No problem for the skilled bricklayer, who was born over half a century ago in his grandfather’s house near Teguise.

 

A hard time was the time of his youth, he recalls, and speaks of his mother, who gave birth to five more children, three girls and two boys.

Even as a young boy, Pillimpo had a thriving imagination.

Every morning, as he gazed at the sunbeams that filtered through the holes and cracks in the meagerly plastered walls, he was fascinated by the play of light and shadow and the forms his imagination accepted.

Too high reaching dreams for a boy from poverty, on Lanzarote, where at times, water was valuable, food scarce and schooling almost impossible.

Although little José could go to school, it was not fun for him.

When you come into the world, God has already given you all the skills you should have.

He gave me imagination.

 

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Pillimpo leaves the subject quickly behind, almost as fast as the questions – about the meaning of his characters, whether he gives them names, why he always wraps them in new colors and how often he does that, where do the toys come from and why does his art matter – come flying at him.

It’s as if he does not hear these questions right.

He mentions that he gets the toys from local children.

He is happy when they look into his garden as they hold their parents’ hands and proudly point to their old teddy bear.

A special meaning?

Do his characters have names?

Names?  What names ?  No, they have no names.

As for the colours, I change, because I just enjoy it.

I love colors and I love all these things.“, says Pillimpo.

 

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And, with that, the explanation is done for him.

Pillimpo goes into the house.

When he comes back, he has a magazine in his hand.

He leafs a bit until he finds what he’s looking for and then proudly shows an article about himself with many photos of his sculpture park and a poem.

He reads it aloud.

The interviewers are silent.

They go home but their thoughts remain in this other world for a long time.

In Pillimpos’s world.

 

In Pillimpos’s world, toys cast out of children’s rooms find a new home, new appreciation and attention.

A new place where they are admired or pitied.

Here, childlike feelings return to the adult.

No viewer can escape the power of this mixture of chaos and order, kitsch and originality.

 

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Who is this man and why does he do what he does?

It is futile to ask others.

Nobody really knows anything about him.

There are only stories, rumours, now and then a grin.

 

Pillimpo began to scrape drawings in the sand with a stick and form figures out of loam, sand and water.

He often sits for hours, giving free rein to his imagination.

 

Not everyone likes that, but his mother had understood.

She had protected him, even defended his “quirks” from others, and did not laugh when he started to make music and dreamed of becoming an actor.

 

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Pillimpo speaks of his dreams only to those able to exchange views with a true philosopher.

I would like to speak with a great thinker, so maybe I can know if I’m right in my views or if I’m a bit of a fool.“, he says seriously.

 

I cannot help but compare and contrast the Pirate Museum with the garden of Don Pillimpo.

 

The former forms the fantastic from facts best forgotten in the frentic thirst for profits.

The latter at no cost leaves a legacy of nostalgia for the children we once were.

 

The Museum claims to be history but it is not.

The garden makes no claims about being art but it is.

 

Teguise, for me, will never be about El Mercadillo (the name of this Sunday market) or the Castillo Santa Bárbara, despite how both dominate the attention.

Teguise is instead quiet humble pride whispered from a timple workshop and an eclectic sculpture garden.

 

And this is something no pirate could ever take from me.

 

 

Sources: Wikipedia / Google / Lonely Planet Canary Islands / DK Eyewitness Canary Islands / Eberhard Fohrer, Lanzarote / http://www.lanzarote37.net / https://lanzaroteinfomration.co.uk

Canada Slim and the Swedish Pinot

Landschlacht, Switzerland, 20 April 2019

The Norwegians find them insufferably puffed up.

The Danes consider them to be party poopers.

The Brits see them as sexy but cold.

The Americans think they are Swiss!

 

Flag of Sweden

Above: Flag of Sweden

 

Author Sven Linquist summed it up thus:

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

Luther contributed the Swedish taste for simplicity.

Vasa gave the Swedes a national identity.

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

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

 

EU-Sweden (orthographic projection).svg

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

Swedish love story poster.jpg

 

Simple?

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

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Patriotic?

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

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

 

The Swedes don’t need to boast.

They simply and quietly know their own value.

 

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Above: The coat of arms of Sweden

 

Sanctimonious?

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

I was wrong.

 

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Alsace, France, 2 January 2019

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

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

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

 

Location of Alsace

 

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

The northern section begins in the town of Wissembourg.

 

Wissembourg 3.JPG

 

I have written about Wissembourg before.

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

Carte topographique des Vosges.svg

 

Viticulture here has a long tradition.

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

If you drink, you die.

If you don’t drink you die, so….

 

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Above: Rott, Alsace, France

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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Orchards and vineyards surround the village.

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

His successor Wirich II built Castle Cleebourg in 1412.

 

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

Victorious, the latter annexed the village of Steinseltz.

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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And Steinseltz produced Marie….

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Marie’s mother served as her advocate and manager.

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

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

 

 

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

Her performances were recognized by the public and local newspapers.

 

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

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

 

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

 

Above: Alfred Jaell (1832 – 1882)

 

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

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

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

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

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

The score was successfully published in 1872.

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

After struggling with tendonitis, Jaëll began to study neuroscience.

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

In fact, her method is still in use today.

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

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

She died in Paris.

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

Five of his children with Catherine survived infancy:

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

Catherine married late for a Princess of her period.

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

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

 

Coat of arms of Sweden.svg

 

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

Henry married Marguerite de Béthune in 1603.

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

 

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

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

The marriage took place on 11 June 1615 in Stockholm.

 

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Above: Stockholm Royal Palace

 

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

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

 

In January 1618, she left for Alsace.

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

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

 


 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Catherine was styled Countess of Stegeborg.

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

This appointment destroyed her relationship with Maria Eleonora.

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

The Katarina kyrka in Stockholm is named after her.

 

Katarina kyrka January 2013 02.jpg

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

It was capable of housing 1,200 men.

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

 

Maginot Line 1944.jpg

 

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

The Museum was set up in the old M1 magazine.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

Alsace is wine-growing country.

 

Image result for alsace wine route images

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Later expansions have mostly taken place in Scania, though.

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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Is life in this tiny corner of France simple?

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

 

Flag of France

 

Are Alsatians proud French patriots?

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

 

Flag of Alsace

 

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

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

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

 

 

Could one suggest that Alsatians are sanctimonious?

Perhaps.

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

Canada Slim and the 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.

Bumblebee October 2007-3a.jpg

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.

Flag of Switzerland

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.

Image result for cantonal map of switzerland images

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….

Image result for lindt chocolate factory kilchberg images

 

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.

Image result for lindt golf balls

 

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.

Flag of Germany

 

 

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.

Côte d'Ivoire (orthographic projection).svg

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.

Image result for cocoa farming in cote d'ivoire images

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.

Image result for deforestation in côte d'ivoire images

 

 

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.

Flag of Ivory Coast

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.

Image result for child labour côte d'ivoire images

 

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.

Seal of the United States Department of Labor.svg

 

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

Kilchberg - Albis-Uetliberg - ZSG Pfannenstiel 2013-09-09 14-34-19.JPG

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.

Conrad Ferdinand Meyer.gif

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.

Image result for Hofbauer & Küfferle

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 Station Sanctuary

Landschlacht, Switzerland, 19 January 2018

Romance!“, the season tickets mourn,

He never ran to catch his train,

But passed with coach and guard and horn –

And left the local – late again!

Confound romance and all unseen

Romance brought up the nine-fifteen.

Rudyard Kipling, “The King

Kipling in 1895

Above: Rudyard Kipling (1865 – 1936)

 

Paul Theroux, in the first book of his I ever read, The Old Patagonian Express, once wrote that “travel is a vanishing act, a solitary trip down a pinched line of geography, the simplest sort of narrative, an explanation which is its own excuse for the gathering up and the going“.

That Theroux would say these things does not surprise me as it seems from a reading of his works (many of which I have tried to collect) that many, if not all, of his journeys were done alone on his own, without spouse or offspring to distract him from his observations of fellow travellers and the landscape around him.

 

Travelling with your spouse is not the same as travelling by your lonesome, for the necessity to communicate significantly with strangers is drastically diminished as your beloved is beside you.

She won’t casually allow me to vanish into the surroundings nor blend into a crowd anonymously, and simplicity in our narrative is rarely achieved, as marriages, blissful as they might be, are always accompanied with their own complexities of opinions and tangled desires.

To travel with another human being one must learn to negotiate and compromise in your travel decisions.

To suggest a destination one must be prepared to defend that choice of destination.

For example, in Porto during our last summer’s vacation, it was not sufficient to simply suggest walking the Ponte de Dom Luis I without waxing eloquently about the fantastic views yet to be seen over the Rio Douro.

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Speak not of the Porto stock exchange unless you mention the wonderfully ornate palace it once was.

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Don’t suggest the Livraria Lello without mentioning J.K. Rowling’s frequency within it.

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Much like the advice I have given my Cambridge Certificate test-takers in regards to the oral (speaking) component of the examinations….

It is not enough to voice an opinion.

You must give a reason for that opinion.

 

We found ourselves in another far-from-home point on the map, as couples often do, based on the opinions of her friends.

And, as all husbands learn through trial and error, time and experience, if the ideas of your wife are always right then the brainstorm of possibilities suggested by her gaggle of girlfriends that gather around her must certainly be right by sheer weight of numbers.

In this blog I wrote of flying to and arriving in Porto and of our visit to the Sé, the city’s largest cathedral.

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(Please see Canada Slim and the War of the Oranges.)

 

What is important for you to know before you read further is that we arrived at our B & B by taking a taxi from the Airport.

Though this little detail may seem innocuous and innocent at first glance it is vitally important to the tale that follows….

 

Porto, Portugal, 24 July 2018

The signs on the Avenida Dom Afonso Henriques did not speak to me.

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They were of local matters and were written in Portuguese so despite the size of the massive billboards that hugged the incline leading to Sao Bento I found myself inclined to ignore them.

Did I imagine our attending a concert here in two months’ time?

We had a week to spend in Porto and the region so there was no profit in pausing our progress in trying to decipher their messages.

As usual, in my rucksack I lugged a library with me: the Pocket Rough Guide to Porto, The Rough Guide to Portugal, Lonely Planet Portugal, A.H. de Oliveira Marques’ A Very Short History of Portugal, Matthew Hancock’s Xenophobe’s Guide to the Portuguese and Pascal Mercier’s Night Train to Lisbon.

I would later purchase and add to my burden Fernando Pessoa’s Mensagem (Message) and Livro do desassossego por Bernardo Soares (The Book of Disquiet) and Luís de Camoes’ Sonetos Amorosos (Love Sonnets).

 

It is a rare moment that a train station concourse is a tourist attraction in its own right, but the one at Sao Bento is one of the most beautiful in the world.

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But this was not always so.

 

Until the late 19th century there was the convent of the Benedictine nuns of Sao Bento de Ave Maria, built at the beginning of the 16th century, heavily destroyed in a fire in 1783 but fully restored by 1821.

In 1821 this convent was inhabited by 55 nuns, as well as by 105 members of staff (mostly personal maids).

The Catholic Church has long been the world’s largest Christian organization and has been Portugal’s largest religion since the Iberian Peninsula was ruled by the Roman Empire.

In 1834, Joaquim António de Aguiar (1792 – 1884) terminated the state sanction of religious orders and nationalized their lands and possessions.

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Later referred to as Mata-Frades (Killer of Brothers), Aguiar’s government took control of the convents, churches, manor homes and holdings of various institutes that had been sustained by donations of the religious faithful and placed them for sale.

Although they hoped to place land and goods in the hands of the more disadvantaged, most of the poor did not have the capital to purchase them.

In fact, total sales were ten times less than expected and most holdings were purchased by speculators or existing landowners.

Aguiar’s famous decree of 30 May 1834 ordered the immediate extinction of all male religious orders (and the confiscation of their property), the prohibition of new nuns to profess their vows and the extinction of the convents after the death of the last nun who lived there.

 

Female religious orders struggled a lot during those days, encapsulated in a time that no longer had space for them.

The convent of the Benedictine nuns of Sao Bento de Ave Maria was no exception.

It had to sell most of their precious silver service in the public square to face financial struggles.

The convent slowly fell apart.

The nuns were dying, one by one.

The last nun died in May 1892, more than 58 years after the dissolution decree.

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When the first steam locomotive reached Porto on 7 November 1896, goods still had to be transported by oxcart from the Campanha train station, 4 km away, over the hills to the city centre.

After 15 years of construction, by way of the demolition of the railway tunnel through the eastern hills and an elaborate interior design with 20,000 tiles, the station was finally inaugerated in 1916.

 

Today Sao Bento is the main terminus of Porto’s suburban railway lines and the western terminus for the scenic Douro line between Porto and Pocinho.

The Station also serves the Minho, Braga, Guimaraes, Caíde / Marco de Canaveses and Aveiro lines.

All trains leaving Sao Bento call at Campanha as their next station.

The Station is near the vintage tramline 22 and is connected to Sao Bento Metro Station on Metro line D.

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Porto has some of Portugal’s best azulejos – decorative ceramic tiles – and you can see a variety of styles decorating houses, shops, monuments and churches all over the city.

The craft was brought over by the Moors in the 8th century.

Portuguese azulejos developed their own style around the mid-16th century when a new Italian technique enable images to be painted directly onto the clay, thanks to a tin oxide coating which prevented runnage.

Above: Adoration of the Magi, Museum of Azulejos, Lisbon

 

Wealthy Portuguese began to commission large azulejo panels displaying Vasco da Gama’s voyages to the East.

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Above: Vasco da Gama (1460 – 1524)

 

The early 18th century saw highly trained artists producing elaborate multicoloured ceramic mosaics, often with Rococo or Baroque themes as in the interior of the Sé.

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Above: Sé, Porto

 

After the Great Earthquake of 1 November 1755, more prosaic tiled facades, often with neoclassical designs, were considered good insulation devices, as well as protecting buildings from fire and rain.

After the mid-19th century, azulejos were being mass-produced to decorate shops and religious buildings, such as the fantastic interior of the Igreja de Carmo.

Above: Igreja de Carmo, Luanda, Angola

 

By the 1900s Portugal had become the world’s leading producer of azulejos, with Art Deco designs taking hold in the 1920s.

Witness the facade of the Pérola do Bolhao shop.

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Sao Bento station’s entrance hall represents a coming together of all the best the azulejos have to offer.

The Station was decorated by painter Jorge Colaco.

The first tiles were placed on 13 August 1905.

His tiles show various scenes from Portuguese history.

The towering, ornate ceilings, arched windows and impressive clock all give the appearance of a palace ballroom rather than a ticket hall.

The upper parts of the frieze are decorated with polychromatic azulejos depicting a chronology of the forms of transport used by man in Portugal.

The lower and upper frame of the frieze consists of a line of tile in blue, brown and yellow in a stylized geometric pattern.

Under this, on the top of the north wall, is a large composition that covers the entire wall, depicting the Battle of Valdevez (1140), with two groups of antagonists and other knights in the background.

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This monochromatic composition is executed in blue on white tiles, similar to all the other main azulejopaintings“.

Below the battle is another composition that represents the meeting between the Knight Egas Moniz and Alfonso VII of León in Toledo (12th century), offering his life, his wife and his sons during the siege of Guimaraes.

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In the south is a painting of the entrance to Porto of King John I and Philippa of Lancaster, on horseback, to celebrate their wedding (1387).

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Below that is the Conquest of Ceuta (1415) with the principal figure of Infante Dom Henrique who subjugated the Moors.

The wall into the Station is divided into multiple compositions.

To the left, a vision of the procession of Nossa Senhora dos Remédios in Lamego, an exhaustive description and detail showing the multitudes within an urban setting.

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Under this composition are two panels that represent her “promise” on her knees and, the other, her actions at the “miraculous” fountain.

In the same detail is the pilgrimage of Sao Trocato to Guimaraes.

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The lower panels show a picture of a cattle fair and pilgrim camp.

The central panels of the wall represent four work scenes: the vineyards, the harvest, the wine shipment down the Rio Douro and work in the watermill.

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On the pilasters separating the vains with access to the street, below the polychromatic frieze, is a series of smaller compositions.

Above these are medallions depicting romantic scenes and, below, allegories associated with the railway referencing time and signalling, in an expression of Art Deco.

No photo description available.

 

As the wife and I take photograph after photograph after photograph of the Station, I find myself thinking many things.

 

Legend says that, in a stubborn but serene way, the ghost of the last nun of the former convent still walks the corridors of Sao Bento, and in the silence in the time between midnight and daybreak, one can hear her prayers.

But only the attuned and the attentive can hear the nun, just as only in the space between spaces, the silence between breaths, the magic of moments does Porto reveal herself to those who truly seek her.

 

I find myself feeling contradictory.

I do not believe in ghosts yet I believe in the spirit of a place.

I may not believe in God and yet I can sense when a place is sacred.

The Station is no longer a consecrated convent and yet it has never lost its divine power to move strangers within these walls.

 

I recall reading what Paul Theroux once said about a nation’s railways.

Years before, I had noticed how trains accurately represented the culture of a country:

The seedy distressed country has seedy distressed railway trains.

The proud efficient nation is similarly reflected in its rolling stock, as Japan is.

There is hope in India because the trains are considered vastly more important then the wagons some Indians drive.

Dining cars, I found, told the whole story (and if there were no dining cars the country was beneath consideration).

The noodle stall in the Malaysian Train, the borscht and bad manners in the Trans-Siberian, the kippers and fried bread on the Flying Scotsman.”

 

The Comboios de Portugal (CP)(Portuguese National Railways) operates all Portuguese trains, yet despite this journey being our third time in this country, I have no memory of taking a train when we visited the Algarve on our first adventure or when we remained in Lisbon on our second.

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For the most part the CP is an efficient network with modern rolling stock, but, as is often the case in Europe, rural train stations can sometimes be a long way away from the town or village they serve.

 

A casual Google search suggests that the Bard of Train Travel, Paul Theroux once stood in Sao Bento Station as we did.

But whether he took the famous Linha do Douro I do not know, but if his travel accounts are anything to go by Theroux would have been more interested in taking train journeys that crossed national borders and spanned continents rather than taking a Portuguese train of which most are designated Regionals (R) or Interregionals (I).

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In its heyday the Linha crossed the border to Spain bound for Salamanca and Madrid and sprouted some stunning valley branch lines but this is no longer so.

 

(The determined train traveller can cross into Spain via Valenca do Minho to the north, Vilar Formoso, Marvao-Beira or Caia to the east, or Vila Real de Santo António to the south.

Theroux’s travelogue The Pillars of Hercules, which is an account of his travels around the Mediterranean from Gibraltar to Morocco travelling clockwise along the coasts, may have been prefaced by his travelling by train along the Portuguese coast through Porto and Lisbon, Tunes and Vila Real de Santo António to Seville then Ronda and Algeciras, then by bus to La Línea de la Concepción followed by a five-minute walk to the border of the British colony.

But this is simply conjecture on my part.)

 

Trains depart daily from Sao Bento along the Linha do Douro, reputed to be one of the most beautiful rail routes in Europe as it follows the course of the Rio Douro into the heart of the port wine-growing estates.

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(We would that week take the train and ride the rails of the Linha do Douro to Pocinho and return by boat back to Porto, but that is a tale best told at another time.)

 

But what Sao Bento represents is what impressed me most.

A centuries-old convent transformed into an azulejo-covered train station.

The mystery of faith transformed into the mystique of travel.

 

sao bento train station porto

Locals were astonishingly easy to distinguish from tourists, for the local does not look at the azulejos with any admiration for they are as much a part of Porto as a red fire hydrant is a normal fixture of a Manhattan street.

Almost invisible, inconsequential, something to be walked past as one shakes one’s head at the weird ones so fascinated by the mere commonplace.

For them Sao Bento is simply a station, a pit stop, a necessary go-through or starting point.

 

But to me, surrounded by tiled masterpieces of living history, Sao Bento is forbidden seduction.

You desire her but she is untouchable.

You want to linger but you know you cannot.

 

Beyond the doors the traffic never-ceasing reminds you of life beyond these walls.

From these platforms an escape from one’s cloistered existence beckons.

 

Photographs never capture the essence of a place just as words never fully describe the magic of women.

 

We cannot stay, for there is much yet to be seen, much life left to be lived.

A last lingering look in the dim hope of branding these images into one’s memory.

We know that we ourselves will leave no trace that we were here, for we are mere members of a multitude passing through.

For some reason Leonard Cohen croons his “Sisters of Mercy” song from the jukebox of my mind.

SongsOfLeonardCohen.jpeg

Somehow this feels appropriate.

Oh, the sisters of mercy, they are not departed or gone.
They were waiting for me when I thought that I just can’t go on.
And they brought me their comfort and later they brought me this song.
Oh, I hope you run into them, you who’ve been travelling so long.

Yes, you who must leave everything that you cannot control.
It begins with your family, but soon it comes around to your soul.
Well, I’ve been where you’re hanging. I think I can see how you’re pinned.
When you’re not feeling holy, your loneliness says that you’ve sinned.

Well, they lay down beside me, I made my confession to them
They touched both my eyes and I touched the dew on their hem.
If your life is a leaf that the seasons tear off and condemn,
They will bind you with love that is graceful and green as a stem.

When I left they were sleeping, I hope you run into them soon.
Don’t turn on the lights. You can read their address by the moon.
And you won’t make me jealous if I hear that they sweetened your night.
We weren’t lovers like that and besides, it would still be all right.
We weren’t lovers like that and besides, it would still be all right.”

Sources: Wikipedia / Google / Facebook / Pocket Rough Guide to Porto / Rough Guide Portugal / Lonely Planet Portugal / Paul Theroux, The Old Patagonian Express / http://portoalities.com / http://www.visitportoandnorth.travel.com

 

 

Canada Slim and the Freudian Slippers

Landschlacht, Switzerland, 15 January 2018

I have spoken of Sigmund Freud before.

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Above: Sigmund Freud (1856 – 1939)

 

And I must confess to a reluctance to like the man and his theories, for the same reason I am reluctant to embrace Charles Darwin and his theories:

Three quarter length studio photo showing Darwin's characteristic large forehead and bushy eyebrows with deep set eyes, pug nose and mouth set in a determined look. He is bald on top, with dark hair and long side whiskers but no beard or moustache. His jacket is dark, with very wide lapels, and his trousers are a light check pattern. His shirt has an upright wing collar, and his cravat is tucked into his waistcoat which is a light fine checked pattern.

Above: Charles Darwin (1809 – 1882)

 

Admitting there may be some validity to their theories is to admit to embarrassing revelations about myself.

 

Maybe we did evolve from single cell organisms and apes through a process of millions of millennia, so perhaps a belief in an invisible God that created the world in seven calendar days and could bring me eternal life after death is less plausible than the acceptance that I am just the tiniest particle in the vast expanse of time, space and reality.

 

And maybe, just maybe, there might be more to Freud and his theories than just the scandalous unproven idea that he liked to watch his mother pee, and that some of the ways we think about ourselves and how our unconscious, dreams and sexuality as suggested by Freud’s theories might be somewhat uncomfortably plausible.

 

My wife, the medical doctor in the house, has, of course, had exposure during her studies to the work and thought of Freud in regards to child development.

During her internship in a Vienna practice she visited the Sigmund Freud Museum in Vienna – there are three Freud Museums, the other two are in Pribor, Czech Republic, and in London – which she immensely enjoyed.

Above: Sigmund Freud Museum, Bergstrasse 19, Vienna

 

Knowing that she had some free time before her medical conference in London in October 2017, Ute was determined that she would visit the Freud Museum here as well.

The Freud Museum (20 Maresfield Gardens, London NW3, England), as seen from the garden.

Above: Freud Museum, London

 

I have already written extensively of some of the many sites we saw in London during our week there together and suffice to say that what I have said is a mere drop in the bucket of all that has been said or could be said by others.

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(For more on London, please see:

  • Canada Slim and the Body Snatchers /….and the Danger Zone / ….and the Paddington Arrival / ….and the Street Walked Too Often /….Underground / …. and the Outcast /…. and the Wonders on the Wall / …. and the Calculated Cathedral / …. and the Right Man / …. and the Queen’s Horsemen / …. and the Royal Peculiar / …. and the Uncertainty Principle / …. and the Museum of Many / …. and the Lamp Ladies / …. and the Breviary of Bartholomew of this blog. )

 

London, England, 25 October 2017

In North London, perched on a hill to the west of Hampstead Heath, Hampstead Village developed into a fashionable spa in the 18th century and was not much altered thereafter.

Being a sloping site deterred Victorian property speculators and put off the railway companies from destroying much of Hampstead.

Later it became one of the city’s most celebrated literary quartiers and even now retains a reputation as a bolt hole for high-profile intelligentsia and discerning pop stars.

The steeply inclined High Street, lined with posh shops and arty cafés, flaunts the area’s ever-increasing wealth, but far more appealing are the extensive, picturesque and precipitious maze of alleyways and steps radiating both east and west of Heath Street.

Proximity to Hampstead Heath is the true joy of the territory, for this mixture of woodland, smooth pasture and landscaped garden is simply the most exhilirating patch of greenery in London.

Over the years, countless writers, artists and politicos have been drawn to Hampstead, which has more blue plaques commemorating its residents than any London borough.

John Constable lived here in the 1820s, trying to make ends meet for his wife and seven children, painting cloud formations on the Heath.

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Above: John Constable (1776 – 1837)

 

John Keats (1795 – 1821) moved into Well Walk in 1817 to nurse his dying brother then moved to a semi-detached villa, fell in love with the girl next door, bumped into Coleridge on the Heath and in 1821 went to Rome to die.

Above: Keats House, Spanish Steps, Rome

(I have visited Keats House in Rome and in London.)

Above: Keats House, Hampstead, North London

 

In 1856, Karl Marx finally achieved respectability when he moved into Grafton Terrace.

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Above: Karl Marx (1818 – 1883)

 

Robert Louis Stevenson stayed here when he was 23 suffering from tuberculosis and thought Hampstead was “the most delightful place for air and scenery“.

Robert Louis Stevenson in 1893 by Henry Walter Barnett

Above: Robert Louis Stevenson (1850 – 1894)

 

Author H.G. Wells (1866 – 1946) lived on Church Row for three years just before World War One, while photographer Cecil Beaton (1904 – 1980) attended primary school and was bullied by author Evelyn Waugh (1903 – 1966) – the start of a lifelong feud.

 

The composer Edward Elgar became a special constable during the war, joining the Hampstead Volunteer Reserve.

image of a middle aged man in late Victorian clothes, viewed in right semi-profile. He has a prominent Roman nose and large moustache

Above: Edward Elgar (1857 – 1934)

 

Writer D.H. Lawrence (1885 – 1930) and his German wife Frieda (1879 – 1956) watched the first Zeppelin raid on London from the Heath in 1915 and decided to leave.

Above: Memorial, Camberwell Old Cemetery, London, to 21 civilians killed by Zeppelin bombings in 1917

 

Following the war, Lawrence’s friend and fellow writer Katherine Mansfield, lived for a couple of years in a big grey house overlooking the Heath, which she nicknamed “the Elephant“.

Katherine Mansfield

Above: Katherine Mansfield (1888 – 1923)

 

Actor Dirk Bogarde was born in a taxi in Hampstead in 1921.

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Above: Dirk Bogarde (1921 – 1999)

 

Poet Stephen Spender spent his childhood in “an ugly house” on Frognal and went to school locally.

Spender in 1933

Above: Stephen Spender (1909 – 1995)

 

Elizabeth Taylor was born in Hampstead in 1932 and came back to live here in the 1950s during her first marriage to Richard Burton.

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Above: Elizabeth Taylor (1932- 2011)

 

In the 1930s, Hampstead’s modernist Isokon Building, a block of flats on Lawn Road, became something of an artistic hangout, particularly the drinking den, the Isobar.

Above: Isokon Flats, Hampstead, North London

 

Architect Walter Gropius (1883 – 1969) and artists Henry Moore (1898 – 1986), Barbara Hepworth (1903 – 1975) and her husband Ben Nicholson (1894 – 1982) all lived here.

Another tenant, Agatha Christie (1890 – 1976), compared the exterior of Isokon to a giant ocean liner.

 

Architect Ernö Goldfinger (1902 – 1987) built his modernist family home at 2 Willow Road and local resident Ian Fleming named James Bond’s adversary after him.

Above: 2 Willow Road, Hampstead, North London

 

Mohammed Ali Jinnah abandoned India for Hampstead in 1932, living a quiet life with his daughter and his sister and working as a lawyer.

A view of Jinnah's face late in life

Above: Mohammed Ali Jinnah (1876 – 1948)

 

George Orwell lived rent-free above Booklovers’ Corner, a bookshop on South End Road, in 1934, in return for services in the shop in the afternoon.

Keep the Aspidistra Flying has many echoes of Hampstead and its characters.

 

Artist Piet Mondrian escaped to Hampstead from Nazi-occupied Paris, only to be bombed out a year later, after which he fled to New York.

Piet Mondriaan.jpg

Above: Piet Mondrian (1872 – 1944)

 

Nobel Prize-winning writer Elias Canetti (1905 – 1994) was another refugee from Nazi-occupied Europe as was painter/poet Oskar Kokoschka (1886 – 1980).

 

General Charles de Gaulle (1890 – 1970) got first-hand experience of Nazi air raids when he lived on Frognal with his wife and two daughters.

Heinkel over Wapping.jpg

 

Ruth Ellis (1926 – 1955), the last woman to be hanged in Britain in 1955, shot her lover outside Magdala Tavern by Hampstead Heath Train Station.

 

Sid Vicious (1957 – 1979) and Johnny Rotten lived in a squat on Hampstead High Street in 1976.

 

John le Carré lived here in the 1970s and 1980s and set a murder in Smiley’s People on Hampstead Heath.

John le Carré in Hamburg (10 November 2008)

Above: John le Carré

 

Former Labour leader Michael Foot lived in a house he bought in 1945 with his redundancy cheque from The Evening Standard until the age of 96.

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Above: Michael Foot (1913 – 2010)

 

Today comedian Ricky Gervais, director Ridley Scott, footballer Thierry Henry and pop stars Boy George and Harry Styles have homes here.

 

And it was here in Hampstead where the Austrian neurologist and the father of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud spent the last year of his life, having reluctantly left Vienna following the Nazi Anschluss (annexation).

In January 1933, the Nazi Party took control of Germany and Freud’s books were prominent among those they burned and destroyed.

Freud remarked to Ernest Jones:

What progress we are making!

In the Middle Ages they would have burned me.

Now, they are content with burning my books.

Freud was wrong.

The Nazis would have gassed and incinerated him too in one of their death camps – as happened to millions of other Jews.

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Freud continued to underestimate the growing Nazi threat and remained determined to stay in Vienna, even following the Anschluss of 13 March 1938, in which Nazi Germany annexed Austria, and the outbreaks of violent anti-Semitism that ensued.

 

Ernest Jones, the president of the International Psychoanalytical Association (IPA), flew into Vienna from London via Prague on 15 March determined to get Freud to change his mind and seek exile in Britain.

Ernest Jones.jpg

Above: Ernest Jones (1879 – 1958)

 

That same month Nazi S.A. men invaded Freud’s home searching for valuables.

Freud’s “Old Testament” frown frightened them away, though daughter Anna was detained by the Gestapo a whole day.

This prospect and the shock of the arrest and interrogation of Anna Freud by the Gestapo finally convinced Freud it was time to leave Austria.

Flag of Germany

 

Jones left for London the following week with a list provided by Freud of the party of émigrés for whom immigration permits would be required.

Back in London, Jones used his personal acquaintance with the Home Secretary, Sir Samuel Hoare, to expedite the granting of permits.

There were seventeen in all and work permits were provided where relevant.

Jones also used his influence in scientific circles, persuading the president of the Royal Society, Sir William Bragg, to write to the Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax, requesting to good effect that diplomatic pressure be applied in Berlin and Vienna on Freud’s behalf.

A flag featuring both cross and saltire in red, white and blue

 

Freud also had support from American diplomats, notably his ex-patient and American ambassador to France, William Bullitt.

Bullitt alerted US President Roosevelt to the increased dangers facing the Freuds, resulting in the American consul-general in Vienna, John Cooper Wiley, arranging regular monitoring of Berggasse 19.

He also intervened by phone call during the Gestapo interrogation of Anna Freud.

Flag of the United States

 

The departure from Vienna began in stages throughout April and May 1938.

Freud’s grandson Ernst Halberstadt and Freud’s son Martin’s wife and children left for Paris in April.

Freud’s sister-in-law, Minna Bernays, left for London on 5 May, Martin Freud the following week and Freud’s daughter Mathilde and her husband, Robert Hollitscher, on 24 May.

By the end of the month, arrangements for Freud’s own departure for London had become stalled, mired in a legally tortuous and financially extortionate process of negotiation with the Nazi authorities.

Under regulations imposed on its Jewish population by the new Nazi regime, a Kommissar was appointed to manage Freud’s assets and those of the IPA whose headquarters were nearby Freud’s home.

 

Freud was allocated to Dr. Anton Sauerwald, who had studied chemistry at Vienna University under Professor Josef Herzig, an old friend of Freud’s.

Sauerwald read Freud’s books to further learn about him and became sympathetic towards his situation.

Though required to disclose details of all Freud’s bank accounts to his superiors and to arrange the destruction of the historic library of books housed in the offices of the IPA, Sauerwald did neither.

Instead he removed evidence of Freud’s foreign bank accounts to his own safe-keeping and arranged the storage of the IPA library in the Austrian National Library where it remained until the end of the war.

Though Sauerwald’s intervention lessened the financial burden of the “flight” tax on Freud’s declared assets, other substantial charges were levied in relation to the debts of the IPA and the valuable collection of antiquities Freud possessed.

Unable to access his own accounts, Freud turned to Princess Marie Bonaparte, the most eminent and wealthy of his French followers, who had travelled to Vienna to offer her support and it was she who made the necessary funds available.

This allowed Sauerwald to sign the necessary exit visas for Freud, his wife Martha and daughter Anna.

Image result for anton sauerwald

Above: Anton Sauerwald

 

They left Vienna on the Orient Express on 4 June, accompanied by their housekeeper and a doctor, arriving in Paris the following day where they stayed as guests of Princess Bonaparte before travelling overnight to London arriving at Victoria Station on 6 June.

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Freud was immediately Britain’s most famous Nazi exile.

Among those soon to call on Freud to pay their respects were Salvador Dalí, Stefan Zweig, Leonard Woolf, Virginia Woolf and H. G. Wells.

 

 

Representatives of the Royal Society called with the Society’s Charter for Freud, who had been elected a Foreign Member in 1936, to sign himself into membership.

 

Princess Bonaparte arrived towards the end of June to discuss the fate of Freud’s four elderly sisters left behind in Vienna.

 

MARIE BONAPARTE PRINCESS GIORGIOS OF GREECE (14901259040).jpg

Above: Princess Marie Bonaparte (1882 – 1962)

 

Her subsequent attempts to get them exit visas failed and they would all die in Nazi concentration camps.

 

In early 1939 Sauerwald arrived in London in mysterious circumstances where he met Freud’s brother Alexander.

He was tried and imprisoned in 1945 by an Austrian court for his activities as a Nazi Party official.

Responding to a plea from his wife, Anna Freud wrote to confirm that Sauerwald “used his office as our appointed commissar in such a manner as to protect my father“.

Her intervention helped secure his release from jail in 1947.

 

In the Freuds’ new home, 20 Maresfield Gardens, Hampstead, North London, Freud’s Vienna consulting room was recreated in faithful detail.

He continued to see patients there until the terminal stages of his illness.

He also worked on his last books, Moses and Monotheism, published in German in 1938 and in English the following year and the uncompleted An Outline of Psychoanalysis which was published posthumously.

Der Mann Moses 1939.jpg

 

The ground floor of the museum houses Freud’s study, library, hall and the dining room.

Freud’s study and library look exactly as they did when Freud lived here – they were modelled on his Berggasse 19 flat in Vienna:

The large collection of antiquities and the psychiatrist’s couch, sumptiously draped in an opulent Iranian rug, were all brought here from Vienna.

Image result for freud museum london images

 

Upstairs on the first floor in the video room there is some old footage of the Freud family.

While another room is dedicated to Sigmund’s favourite daughter, Anna Freud, herself an influential child analyst.

 

There is a temporary exhibitions room which hosts alternate contemporary art and Freud-themed exhibitions.

Art installations often use several rooms within the museum, such as the 2001/02 exhibition “A Visit to Freud’s” by an Austrian female photographer Uli Aigner.

 

Many areas such as the kitchen and Anna Freud’s consulting room are out of public view and have been converted into offices.

 

The house had only finished being built in 1920 in the Queen Anne Style.

 

A small sun room (loggia) in a modern style was added at the rear by his architect son Ernst Ludwig Freud that same year so Sigmund could sit out and enjoy the garden.

It has since been enclosed and now serves as the museum shop, which flogs merchandise from silk scarves inspired by his patients’ artwork to novelty Freudian slippers, plus a good selection of books, including those used to research this post.

Image result for freudian slippers

 

In February 1923, Freud detected a leukoplakia, a benign growth associated with heavy smoking, on his mouth.

Freud initially kept this secret, but in April 1923 he informed Ernest Jones, telling him that the growth had been removed.

Freud consulted the dermatologist Maximilian Steiner, who advised him to quit smoking but lied about the growth’s seriousness, minimizing its importance.

Freud later saw Felix Deutsch who saw that the growth was cancerous.

He identified it to Freud using the euphemism “a bad leukoplakia” instead of the technical diagnosis epithelioma.

Deutsch advised Freud to stop smoking and have the growth excised.

Freud was treated by Marcus Hajek, a rhinologist (nose surgeon) whose competence he had previously questioned.

Hajek performed an unnecessary cosmetic surgery in his clinic’s outpatient department.

Freud bled during and after the operation and may narrowly have escaped death.

Freud subsequently saw Deutsch again.

Deutsch saw that further surgery would be required, but did not tell Freud that he had cancer because he was worried that Freud might wish to commit suicide.

 

Freud had been given just five years to live.

He lasted sixteen, but he was a semi-invalid when he arrived in London and rarely left the house except to visit his pet dog Chun who was held in quarantine for nearly a year.

Image result for freud dog chun images

 

Freud was over eighty at this time.

 

By mid-September 1939, Freud’s cancer of the jaw was causing him increasingly severe pain and had been declared to be inoperable.

 

The last book he read, Balzac’s La Peau de Chagrin, prompted reflections on his own increasing frailty.

BalzacMagicSkin01.jpg

Above: Title page of Honoré Balzac’s La Peau de Chagrin (Skin of Sorrow)

 

A few days later he turned to his doctor, friend and fellow refugee, Max Schur, reminding him that they had previously discussed the terminal stages of his illness:

Schur, you remember our ‘contract’ not to leave me in the lurch when the time had come. Now it is nothing but torture and makes no sense.

When Schur replied that he had not forgotten, Freud said, “I thank you.” and then “Talk it over with Anna, and if she thinks it’s right, then make an end of it.

Anna Freud wanted to postpone her father’s death, but Schur convinced her it was pointless to keep him alive and on 21 and 22 September administered doses of morphine that resulted in Freud’s death around 3 am on 23 September 1939, age 83.

However, discrepancies in the various accounts Schur gave of his role in Freud’s final hours, which have in turn led to inconsistencies between Freud’s main biographers, has led to further research and a revised account.

This proposes that Schur was absent from Freud’s deathbed when a third and final dose of morphine was administered by Dr Josephine Stross, a colleague of Anna Freud’s, leading to Freud’s death around midnight on 23 September 1939.

 

Above: Freud’s ashes, Golders Green Crematorium

 

The house remained in his family until his youngest daughter Anna Freud, who was a pioneer of child therapy, died in 1982.

 

The house has a well maintained garden which is still much as Freud would have known it.

 

The Freuds moved all their furniture and household effects to London.

There are Biedermeier chests, tables and cupboards and a collection of 18th century and 19th century Austrian painted country furniture.

Image result for freud museum london images

The museum owns Freud’s collection of Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Oriental antiquities, and his personal library.

Although Freud was not a practising Jew, he was very conscious of his Jewishness, which is reflected in the artifacts he collected, including an etching hanging in his study by Rembrandt van Rijn (1606 – 1669) of Menasseh ben Israel (1604 – 1657), who persuaded Oliver Cromwell to allow Jews back into England in 1656.

Above: Rembrandt’s Portrait of Menasseh ben Israel

 

Freud’s “old and grubby gods” as he described his collection in a letter to his friend Wilhelm Fliess in 1899 are still on view to visitors, just as he left them.

Freud was an avid and knowledgable collector and often sought expert advice before purchasing.

As his collection grew, his study became a treasure trove of thousands of antiquities from all over the world, ranging from Roman glass objects to wooden Buddha statuettes, terracotta representations of the Greek god Eros, Egyptian gods cast in bronze, Chinese works in jade and a 20th century metal porcupine given to him during a visit to the United States in 1909.


Freud confessed that his passion for collecting was second only to his addiction to cigars.

 

Image result for freud smoking cigar images

 

The star exhibit in the museum is Freud’s psychoanalytic couch, which had been given to him by one of his patients, Madame Benvenisti, in 1890.

This was restored at a cost of £5000 in 2013.

This couch was where patients revealed their wildest dreams, forgotten trauma and hidden phobias or free associated whatever sprung into their minds before Freud would interpret their unconscious meanings.

In 2013, the Freud Museum’s curators worried about the deteriorating condition of the 125-year-old couch, which had begun to sag badly in the middle and was splitting along its seams.

Thanks to generous private donations and painstaking work by specialists, the couch was restored to its original splendour.

Covered with Oriental rugs and cushions it looks remarkably comfortable to recline upon and recall deep-seated memories.

The couch has seen a lot of Freud’s patients both in Vienna and London.

Freud used pseudonyms in his case histories.

Some patients known by pseudonyms were:

  • Cäcilie M. (Anna von Lieben)
  • Dora (Ida Bauer, 1882–1945)
  • Frau Emmy von N. (Fanny Moser)
  • Fräulein Elisabeth von R. (Ilona Weiss)
  • Fräulein Katharina (Aurelia Kronich)
  • Fräulein Lucy R.
  • Little Hans (Herbert Graf, 1903–1973)
  • Rat Man (Ernst Lanzer, 1878–1914)
  • Enos Fingy (Joshua Wild, 1878–1920)
  • Wolf Man (Sergei Pankejeff, 1887–1979).

Other famous patients included:

  • Prince Pedro Augusto of Brazil (1866–1934)
  • H.D. (1886–1961)
  • Emma Eckstein (1865–1924)
  • Gustav Mahler (1860–1911), with whom Freud had only a single, extended consultation
  • Princess Marie Bonaparte
  • Edith Banfield Jackson (1895–1977)
  • Albert Hirst (1887–1974).

The Wolf Man wrote of Freud’s home that….

There was always a feeling of sacred peace and quiet here. 

The rooms themselves must have been a surprise to any patient, for they in no way reminded one of a doctor’s office but rather of an archaeologist’s study.

 

Sergey Pankejeff.JPG

Above: The Wolf Man

 

To the Wolf Man Freud said:

The psychoanalyst, like the archaeologist in his excavations, must uncover layer after layer of the patients’ psyche.

 

In 2015 (the 50th anniversary of the Museum), the Museum, along with the artists Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, hired a police forensic team to scrutinize traces of DNA left on the couch.

The team found many examples, including strands of hair and a multitude of a multitude of dust particles, from Sigmund Freud, his patients and his family.

Freud did not sit on the couch himself when analyzing his patients, but sat out of sight next to it.

He once famously remarked to his friend, the psychoanalyist Hanns Sachs:

I can’t let myself be stared at for eight hours daily.”

 

The study and library were preserved by Anna Freud after her father’s death.

The bookshelf behind Freud’s desk contains some of his favourite authors: not only Goethe and Shakespeare but also Heine, Multatuli and Anatole France.

Freud acknowledged that poets and philosophers had gained insights into the unconscious which psychoanalysis sought to explain systematically.

Image result for freud museum london images

In addition to the books, the library contains various pictures hung as Freud arranged them; these include ‘Oedipus and the Riddle of the Sphinx‘ and ‘The Lesson of Dr Charcot‘ plus photographs of Martha Freud, Lou Andreas-Salomé, Yvette Guilbert, Marie Bonaparte and Ernst von Fleischl.

The collection includes a portrait of Freud by Salvador Dalí.

Image result for salvador dali freud portrait

 

The museum organizes research and publication programmes and it has an education service which organises seminars, conferences and educational visits to the museum.

The museum is a member of the London Museums of Health & Medicine.

 

I quickly wandered through the Museum, upstairs and down, while Ute took the audio-guided tour.

I confess that I did not fully comprehend the importance of Sigmund Freud to the same extent as she did, for in our partnership she is both the brains and the beauty while I am simply loud and can lift heavy objects.

I still couldn’t explain the therapeutic techniques of free association and transference if my very life depended upon it.

And in this overly politically correct climate we now find ourselves living in these days I find myself quite discomfited by the notions of sexuality in infantile forms.

I have yet to be convinced of the soundness of his Oedipus complex theory that suggests that the ancient Greek legend of a king who kills his father and marries his mother is reflective of a child’s incest fantasy of falling in love with Mother and being jealous of Father.

Nor am I decided whether Freud’s idea that dreams are unconscious wish fulfillments as he suggests.

And I claim almost embarrassingly little understanding of that what he called the id, ego and superego, and very scant notions of what he terms the libido and the death drive.

But I will say that the Museum succeeded in capturing my curiosity about this man whose name, though a household one, remains almost as misunderstood as the unconscious mind.

 

Freud was born in Freiburg, Moravia (today’s Pribor, Czech Republic), the first of his mother’s eight children.

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Above: Freud’s birthplace, Pribor, Czech Republic

 

His father, Jakob Freud (1815 – 1896) was a fairly successful wool merchant, who, at age 40, with two grown sons, Emanuel (1833 – 1914) and Philipp (1836 – 1911) and already a grandfather, married, for his second time, Sigmund’s mother Amalie Nathanson (1835 – 1930).

Sigi” was the first – and favourite – of Amalie’s offspring, and Sigi knew it.

A man who has been the indisputable favourite of his mother keeps for life the feeling of a conqueror, that confidence of success, that often induces real success.

photograph

Above: Sigi (age 16) and his mother Amalia, 1872

 

In 1859, the Freud family left Freiburg.

Freud’s half brothers emigrated to Manchester, England, parting him from the “inseparable” playmate of his early childhood, Emanuel’s son, John.

Jakob Freud took his wife and two children (Freud’s sister, Anna, was born in 1858; a brother, Julius born in 1857, had died in infancy) firstly to Leipzig and then in 1860 to Vienna where four sisters and a brother were born: Rosa (b. 1860), Marie (b. 1861), Adolfine (b. 1862), Paula (b. 1864), Alexander (b. 1866).

Freud’s choice of boyhood heroes revealed a deep dislike of Imperial Austria: the anti-monarchist Oliver Cromwell and the Carthaginian general Hannibal.

Austria was Roman Catholic and anti-Semetic.

 

In 1865, the nine-year-old Freud entered the Leopoldstädter Kommunal-Realgymnasium, a prominent high school.

He proved to be an outstanding pupil and graduated in 1873 with honors.

He loved literature and was proficient in German, French, Italian, Spanish, English, Hebrew, Latin and Greek.

 

Freud entered the University of Vienna at age 17 in 1873.

He had planned to study law, but joined the medical faculty at the university, where his studies included philosophy, physiology and zoology.

Freud’s special interests were histology (the scientific study of organic tissues) and neurophysiology (the scientific study of the nervous system).

He wanted to be a scientist – not a medical practicioner.

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In 1876, Freud spent four weeks at a zoological research station in Trieste, dissecting hundreds of eels in an inconclusive search for their male reproductive organs.

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In 1877 Freud moved to Ernst Brücke’s physiology laboratory where he spent six years comparing the brains of humans and other vertebrates with those of invertebrates such as frogs, crayfish and lampreys.

His research work on the biology of nervous tissue proved seminal for the subsequent discovery of the neuron in the 1890s.

Freud’s research work was interrupted in 1879 by the obligation to undertake a year’s compulsory military service.

The lengthy downtimes enabled him to complete a commission to translate four essays from John Stuart Mill’s collected works.

He graduated with an MD in March 1881.

 

Freud was happy doing scientific work but Brücke gave him some fatherly advice.

Academic posts were few and badly paid and Freud’s chances of advancement as a Jew were bad, so with Freud’s father unable to support him – what with the Crash of 1873 ruining him and with six other children to support – and marriage plans with Martha Bernays (1861 – 1951), Freud began his medical career at the Vienna General Hospital.

 

Freud had to face another long training period in clinical medicine before starting his own private practice.

First he served (1882 – 1885) as assistant to Hermann Nothnagel (1841 – 1905), Professor of Internal Medicine, and spent five months (1183) working in the Psychiatric Clinic under Theodor Meynart (1833 – 1892), the greatest brain anatomist and neuropathologist at that time.

Meynart influenced Freud to become a specialist in neuropathology (diseases of the nervous system).

 

Freud’s research work in cerebral anatomy led to his studying the effects of cocaine – starting on himself.

He even prescribed it to Martha!

He felt that cocaine was nothing more than an anti-depressant, a harmless anaesthetic.

Freud’s close friend, the gifted physiologist Ernst von Fleischl-Marxow (1846 – 1891), suffered from a painful tumour of the hand and thus became a morphine addict.

Freud suggested that Ernst switch to cocaine instead.

Freud’s colleague Carl Koller put in his claim as the discoverer of cocaine, nearly ruining his reputation, because by 1886 cases of cocaine addiction were reported everywhere and Ernst had become a despairing addict.

Freud’s research would lead to the publication of an influential paper on the pallative effects of cocaine in 1884, but Ernst’s addiction would always make Freud regret that he had failed to anticipate cocaine’s addictive effects.

Above: Ernst von Fleschl-Marxow

 

His work on aphasia (the inability to comprehend or formulate language because of damage to specific brain regions as a result of a stroke or a head trauma) would form the basis of his first book On the Aphasias: a Critical Study, published in 1891.

 

Over a three-year period, Freud worked in various departments of the hospital.

His time spent in Theodor Meynert’s psychiatric clinic and as a locum (temporary replacement physician) in a local asylum led to an increased interest in clinical work.

His substantial body of published research led to his appointment as a university lecturer in neuropathology in 1885, a non-salaried post but one which entitled him to give lectures at the University of Vienna.

In 1886, Freud resigned his hospital post and entered private practice specializing in “nervous disorders“.

 

The same year he married Martha Bernays, the granddaughter of Isaac Bernays, a chief rabbi in Hamburg.

They had six children: Mathilde (b. 1887), Jean-Martin (b. 1889), Oliver (b. 1891), Ernst (b. 1892), Sophie (b. 1893), and Anna (b. 1895).

From 1891 until they left Vienna in 1938, Freud and his family lived in an apartment at Berggasse 19, near Innere Stadt, a historical district of Vienna.

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In 1896, Minna Bernays, Martha Freud’s sister, became a permanent member of the Freud household after the death of her fiancé.

The close relationship she formed with Freud led to rumours, started by Carl Jung, of an affair.

The discovery of a Swiss hotel log of 13 August 1898, signed by Freud whilst travelling with his sister-in-law, has been presented as evidence of the affair.

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Freud began smoking tobacco at age 24.

Initially a cigarette smoker, he became a cigar smoker.

He believed that smoking enhanced his capacity to work and that he could exercise self-control in moderating it.

Despite health warnings from colleague Wilhelm Fliess, he remained a smoker, eventually suffering a buccal (of the mouth) cancer.

Freud suggested to Fliess in 1897 that addictions, including that to tobacco, were substitutes for masturbation, “the one great habit.”

 

Freud had greatly admired his philosophy tutor, Brentano, who was known for his theories of perception and introspection.

Brentano discussed the possible existence of the unconscious mind in his Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint (1874).

Although Brentano denied its existence, his discussion of the unconscious probably helped introduce Freud to the concept.

 

Freud owned and made use of Charles Darwin’s major evolutionary writings, and was also influenced by Eduard von Hartmann’s The Philosophy of the Unconscious (1869).

Other texts of importance to Freud were by Gustav Fechner and Johann Friedrich Herbart with the latter’s Psychology as Science arguably considered to be of underrated significance in this respect.

Freud also drew on the work of Theodor Lipps who was one of the main contemporary theorists of the concepts of the unconscious and empathy.

Though Freud was reluctant to associate his psychoanalytic insights with prior philosophical theories, attention has been drawn to analogies between his work and that of both Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, both of whom he claimed not to have read until late in life.

One historian concluded, based on Freud’s correspondence with his adolescent friend Eduard Silberstein, that Freud read Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy and the first two of the Untimely Meditations when he was seventeen.

In 1900, the year of Nietzsche’s death, Freud bought his collected works.

He told his friend, Fliess, that he hoped to find in Nietzsche’s works “the words for much that remains mute in me.”

Later, he said he had not yet opened them.

Freud came to treat Nietzsche’s writings “as texts to be resisted far more than to be studied.”

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Above: Friedrich Nietzsche (1844 – 1900)

 

His interest in philosophy declined after he had decided on a career in neurology.

Freud read William Shakespeare in English throughout his life and it has been suggested that his understanding of human psychology may have been partially derived from Shakespeare’s plays.

 

Freud’s Jewish origins and his allegiance to his secular Jewish identity were of significant influence in the formation of his intellectual and moral outlook, especially with respect to his intellectual non-conformism, as he was the first to point out in his Autobiographical Study.

They would also have a substantial effect on the content of psychoanalytic ideas, particularly in respect of their common concerns with depth interpretation and “the bounding of desire by law”.

 

In October 1885, Freud went to Paris on a fellowship to study with Jean-Martin Charcot, a renowned neurologist who was conducting scientific research into hypnosis.

He was later to recall the experience of this stay as catalytic in turning him toward the practice of medical psychopathology and away from a less financially promising career in neurology research.

Charcot specialized in the study of hysteria and susceptibility to hypnosis, which he frequently demonstrated with patients on stage in front of an audience.

 

Once he had set up in private practice in 1886, Freud began using hypnosis in his clinical work.

He adopted the approach of his friend and collaborator, Josef Breuer, in a use of hypnosis which was different from the French methods he had studied in that it did not use suggestion.

The treatment of one particular patient of Breuer’s proved to be transformative for Freud’s clinical practice.

 

Described as Anna O., she was invited to talk about her symptoms while under hypnosis (she would coin the phrase “talking cure” for her treatment).

In the course of talking in this way these symptoms became reduced in severity as she retrieved memories of traumatic incidents associated with their onset.

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Above: Bertha Pappenheim (aka Anna O.)(1859 – 1936)

 

The uneven results of Freud’s early clinical work eventually led him to abandon hypnosis, having reached the conclusion that more consistent and effective symptom relief could be achieved by encouraging patients to talk freely, without censorship or inhibition, about whatever ideas or memories occurred to them.

In conjunction with this procedure, which he called “free association“, Freud found that patients’ dreams could be fruitfully analyzed to reveal the complex structuring of unconscious material and to demonstrate the psychic action of repression which, he had concluded, underlay symptom formation.

 

By 1896 he was using the term “psychoanalysis” to refer to his new clinical method and the theories on which it was based.

 

Freud’s development of these new theories took place during a period in which he experienced heart irregularities, disturbing dreams and periods of depression, a “neurasthenia” which he linked to the death of his father in 1896 and which prompted a “self-analysis” of his own dreams and memories of childhood.

His explorations of his feelings of hostility to his father and rivalrous jealousy over his mother’s affections led him to fundamentally revise his theory of the origin of the neuroses.

On the basis of his early clinical work, Freud had postulated that unconscious memories of sexual molestation in early childhood were a necessary precondition for the psychoneuroses (hysteria and obsessional neurosis), a formulation now known as Freud’s seduction theory.

In the light of his self-analysis, Freud abandoned the theory that every neurosis can be traced back to the effects of infantile sexual abuse, now arguing that infantile sexual scenarios still had a causative function, but it did not matter whether they were real or imagined and that in either case they became pathogenic only when acting as repressed memories.

This transition from the theory of infantile sexual trauma as a general explanation of how all neuroses originate to one that presupposes an autonomous infantile sexuality provided the basis for Freud’s subsequent formulation of the theory of the Oedipus complex.

 

Freud described the evolution of his clinical method and set out his theory of the psychogenetic origins of hysteria, demonstrated in a number of case histories, in Studies on Hysteria published in 1895 (co-authored with Josef Breuer).

 

In 1899 he published The Interpretation of Dreams in which, following a critical review of existing theory, Freud gives detailed interpretations of his own and his patients’ dreams in terms of wish-fulfillments made subject to the repression and censorship of the “dream work“.

He then sets out the theoretical model of mental structure (the unconscious, pre-conscious and conscious) on which this account is based.

An abridged version, On Dreams, was published in 1901.

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In works which would win him a more general readership, Freud applied his theories outside the clinical setting in The Psychopathology of Everyday Life (1901) and Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious (1905).

 

In Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, published in 1905, Freud elaborates his theory of infantile sexuality, describing its “polymorphous perverse” forms and the functioning of the “drives“, to which it gives rise, in the formation of sexual identity.

The same year he published ‘Fragment of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria (Dora)‘ which became one of his more famous and controversial case studies.

 

During this formative period of his work, Freud valued and came to rely on the intellectual and emotional support of his friend Wilhelm Fliess, a Berlin based ear, nose and throat specialist whom he had first met 1887.

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Above: Freud (left) and Wilhelm Fliess (1858 – 1928)(right)

 

Both men saw themselves as isolated from the prevailing clinical and theoretical mainstream because of their ambitions to develop radical new theories of sexuality.

Fliess developed highly eccentric theories of human biorhythms and a nasogenital connection which are today considered pseudo-scientific.

He shared Freud’s views on the importance of certain aspects of sexuality — masturbation, coitus interruptus, and the use of condoms — in the etiology of what were then called the “actual neuroses“, primarily neurasthenia and certain physically manifested anxiety symptoms.

They maintained an extensive correspondence from which Freud drew on Fliess’s speculations on infantile sexuality and bisexuality to elaborate and revise his own ideas.

His first attempt at a systematic theory of the mind, his Project for a Scientific Psychology was developed as a metapsychology with Fliess as interlocutor.

However, Freud’s efforts to build a bridge between neurology and psychology were eventually abandoned after they had reached an impasse, as his letters to Fliess reveal, though the soundest ideas of the Project were to be taken up again in the concluding chapter of The Interpretation of Dreams.

 

Freud had Fliess repeatedly operate on his nose and sinuses to treat “nasal reflex neurosis” and subsequently referred his patient Emma Eckstein to him.

According to Freud her history of symptoms included severe leg pains with consequent restricted mobility, and stomach and menstrual pains.

These pains were, according to Fliess’s theories, caused by habitual masturbation which, as the tissue of the nose and genitalia were linked, was curable by removal of part of the middle turbinate.

Fliess’s surgery proved disastrous, resulting in profuse, recurrent nasal bleeding – he had left a half-metre of gauze in Eckstein’s nasal cavity the subsequent removal of which left her permanently disfigured.

At first, though aware of Fliess’s culpability – Freud fled from the remedial surgery in horror – he could only bring himself to delicately intimate in his correspondence to Fliess the nature of his disastrous role and in subsequent letters maintained a tactful silence on the matter or else returned to the face-saving topic of Eckstein’s hysteria.

Freud ultimately, in light of Eckstein’s history of adolescent self-cutting and irregular nasal and menstrual bleeding, concluded that Fliess was “completely without blame“, as Eckstein’s post-operative hemorrhages were hysterical “wish-bleedings” linked to “an old wish to be loved in her illness” and triggered as a means of “rearousing [Freud’s] affection“.

Eckstein nonetheless continued her analysis with Freud.

She was restored to full mobility and went on to practice psychoanalysis herself.

Above: Emma Eckstein (1865 – 1924)

 

Freud, who had called Fliess “the Kepler of biology“, later concluded that a combination of a homoerotic attachment and the residue of his “specifically Jewish mysticism” lay behind his loyalty to his Jewish friend and his consequent over-estimation of both his theoretical and clinical work.

 

Their friendship came to an acrimonious end with Fliess angry at Freud’s unwillingness to endorse his general theory of sexual periodicity and accusing him of collusion in the plagiarism of his work.

After Fliess failed to respond to Freud’s offer of collaboration over publication of his Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality in 1906, their relationship came to an end.

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In 1902, Freud at last realised his long-standing ambition to be made a university professor.

The title “professor extraordinariuswas important to Freud for the recognition and prestige it conferred, there being no salary or teaching duties attached to the post (he would be granted the enhanced status of “professor ordinarius” in 1920).

Despite support from the university, his appointment had been blocked in successive years by the political authorities and it was secured only with the intervention of one of his more influential ex-patients, a Baroness Marie Ferstel, who had to bribe the minister of education with a painting.

With his prestige thus enhanced, Freud continued with the regular series of lectures on his work which, since the mid-1880s as a lecturer of Vienna University, he had been delivering to small audiences every Saturday evening at the lecture hall of the university’s psychiatric clinic.

 

From the autumn of 1902, a number of Viennese physicians who had expressed interest in Freud’s work were invited to meet at his apartment every Wednesday afternoon to discuss issues relating to psychology and neuropathology.

This group was called the Wednesday Psychological Society (Psychologische Mittwochs-Gesellschaft) and it marked the beginnings of the worldwide psychoanalytic movement.

 

Freud founded this discussion group at the suggestion of the physician Wilhelm Stekel.

Stekel had studied medicine at the University of Vienna under Richard von Krafft-Ebing.

His conversion to psychoanalysis is variously attributed to his successful treatment by Freud for a sexual problem or as a result of his reading The Interpretation of Dreams, to which he subsequently gave a positive review in the Viennese daily newspaper Neues Wiener Tagblatt.

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Above: Wilhelm Steckel (1868 – 1940)

 

The other three original members whom Freud invited to attend, Alfred Adler, Max Kahane and Rudolf Reitler, were also physicians and all five were Jewish by birth.

Both Kahane and Reitler were childhood friends of Freud.

 

Kahane (1866 – 1923) had attended the same secondary school and both he and Reitler went to university with Freud.

They had kept abreast of Freud’s developing ideas through their attendance at his Saturday evening lectures.

In 1901, Kahane, who first introduced Stekel to Freud’s work, had opened an out-patient psychotherapy institute of which he was the director in Bauernmarkt, in Vienna.

In the same year, his medical textbook, Outline of Internal Medicine for Students and Practicing Physicians, was published.

In it, he provided an outline of Freud’s psychoanalytic method.

Kahane broke with Freud and left the Wednesday Psychological Society in 1907 for unknown reasons and in 1923 committed suicide.

 

Reitler (1865 – 1917) was the director of an establishment providing thermal cures in Dorotheergasse which had been founded in 1901.

He died prematurely in 1917.

 

Adler, regarded as the most formidable intellect among the early Freud circle, was a socialist who in 1898 had written a health manual for the tailoring trade.

He was particularly interested in the potential social impact of psychiatry.

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Above: Alfred Adler (1870 – 1937)

 

Max Graf, a Viennese musicologist and father of “Little Hans” (Herbert Graf, 1903 – 1973), who had first encountered Freud in 1900 and joined the Wednesday group soon after its initial inception, described the ritual and atmosphere of the early meetings of the society:

The gatherings followed a definite ritual.

First one of the members would present a paper.

Then, black coffee and cakes were served; cigar and cigarettes were on the table and were consumed in great quantities.

After a social quarter of an hour, the discussion would begin.

The last and decisive word was always spoken by Freud himself.

There was the atmosphere of the foundation of a religion in that room.

Freud himself was its new prophet who made the heretofore prevailing methods of psychological investigation appear superficial.

 

Above: Max Graf (1873 – 1958)

 

By 1906, the group had grown to sixteen members, including Otto Rank, who was employed as the group’s paid secretary.

 

In the same year, Freud began a correspondence with Carl Gustav Jung who was by then already an academically acclaimed researcher into word-association and the Galvanic Skin Response, and a lecturer at Zurich University, although still only an assistant to Eugen Bleuler at the Burghölzli Mental Hospital in Zürich.

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Above: Carl Gustav Jung (1875 – 1961)

 

In March 1907, Jung and Ludwig Binswanger, also a Swiss psychiatrist, travelled to Vienna to visit Freud and attend the discussion group.

Thereafter, they established a small psychoanalytic group in Zürich.

 

In 1908, reflecting its growing institutional status, the Wednesday group was renamed the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society.

 

After the founding of the IPA in 1910, an international network of psychoanalytical societies, training institutes and clinics became well established and a regular schedule of biannual Congresses commenced after the end of World War I to coordinate their activities.

 

In 1911, the first women members were admitted to the Society.

Tatiana Rosenthal (1885 – 1921) and Sabina Spielrein were both Russian psychiatrists and graduates of the Zürich University medical school.

Prior to the completion of her studies, Spielrein had been a patient of Jung at the Burghölzli and the clinical and personal details of their relationship became the subject of an extensive correspondence between Freud and Jung.

Both women would go on to make important contributions to the work of the Russian Psychoanalytic Society founded in 1910.

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Above: Sabina Spielrain (1885- 1942)

 

Freud’s early followers met together formally for the first time at the Hotel Bristol, Salzburg on 27 April 1908.

This meeting, which was retrospectively deemed to be the first International Psychoanalytic Congress, was convened at the suggestion of Ernest Jones, then a London-based neurologist who had discovered Freud’s writings and begun applying psychoanalytic methods in his clinical work.

Jones had met Jung at a conference the previous year and they met up again in Zürich to organize the Congress.

There were, as Jones records, “forty-two present, half of whom were or became practicing analysts.”

In addition to Jones and the Viennese and Zürich contingents accompanying Freud and Jung, also present and notable for their subsequent importance in the psychoanalytic movement were Karl Abraham and Max Eitingon from Berlin, Sándor Ferenczi from Budapest and the New York-based Abraham Brill.

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Important decisions were taken at the Congress with a view to advancing the impact of Freud’s work.

A journal, the Jahrbuch für psychoanalytische und psychopathologishe Forschungen, was launched in 1909 under the editorship of Jung.

This was followed in 1910 by the Monthly Zentralblatt für Psychoanalyse edited by Adler and Stekel, in 1911 by Imago, a journal devoted to the application of psychoanalysis to the field of cultural and literary studies edited by Rank and in 1913 by the Internationale Zeitschrift für Psychoanalyse, also edited by Rank.

 

Plans for an international association of psychoanalysts were put in place and these were implemented at the Nuremberg Congress of 1910 where Jung was elected, with Freud’s support, as its first president.

 

Freud turned to Brill and Jones to further his ambition to spread the psychoanalytic cause in the English-speaking world.

Both were invited to Vienna following the Salzburg Congress and a division of labour was agreed with Brill given the translation rights for Freud’s works, and Jones, who was to take up a post at the University of Toronto later in the year, tasked with establishing a platform for Freudian ideas in North American academic and medical life.

Jones’s advocacy prepared the way for Freud’s visit to the United States, accompanied by Jung and Ferenczi, in September 1909 at the invitation of Stanley Hall, president of Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts, where he gave five lectures on psychoanalysis.

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The event, at which Freud was awarded an Honorary Doctorate, marked the first public recognition of Freud’s work and attracted widespread media interest.

 

Freud’s audience included the distinguished neurologist and psychiatrist James Jackson Putnam, Professor of Diseases of the Nervous System at Harvard, who invited Freud to his country retreat where they held extensive discussions over a period of four days.

Putnam’s subsequent public endorsement of Freud’s work represented a significant breakthrough for the psychoanalytic cause in the United States.

When Putnam and Jones organised the founding of the American Psychoanalytic Association in May 1911 they were elected president and secretary respectively.

Brill founded the New York Psychoanalytic Society the same year.

His English translations of Freud’s work began to appear from 1909.

 

Some of Freud’s followers subsequently withdrew from the International Psychoanalytical Association (IPA) and founded their own schools.

From 1909, Adler’s views on topics such as neurosis began to differ markedly from those held by Freud.

As Adler’s position appeared increasingly incompatible with Freudianism, a series of confrontations between their respective viewpoints took place at the meetings of the Viennese Psychoanalytic Society in January and February 1911.

In February 1911, Adler, then the president of the society, resigned his position.

At this time, Stekel also resigned his position as vice president of the society.

Adler finally left the Freudian group altogether in June 1911 to found his own organization with nine other members who had also resigned from the group.

This new formation was initially called the Society for Free Psychoanalysis but it was soon renamed the Society for Individual Psychology.

In the period after World War I, Adler became increasingly associated with a psychological position he devised called individual psychology.

 

In 1912, Jung published Wandlungen und Symbole der Libido (published in English in 1916 as Psychology of the Unconscious) making it clear that his views were taking a direction quite different from those of Freud.

To distinguish his system from psychoanalysis, Jung called it analytical psychology.

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Anticipating the final breakdown of the relationship between Freud and Jung, Ernest Jones initiated the formation of a secret committee of loyalists charged with safeguarding the theoretical coherence and institutional legacy of the psychoanalytic movement.

Formed in the autumn of 1912, the Committee comprised Freud, Jones, Abraham, Ferenczi, Rank, and Hanns Sachs.

Max Eitingon joined the Committee in 1919.

Each member pledged himself not to make any public departure from the fundamental tenets of psychoanalytic theory before he had discussed his views with the others.

Above: The Committee (from left to right): Otto Rank, Sigmund Freud, Karl Abraham, Max Eitingon, Sandor Ferenczi, Ernest Jones and Hanns Sachs

 

After this development, Jung recognised that his position was untenable and resigned as editor of the Jarhbuch and then as president of the IPA in April 1914.

The Zürich Society withdrew from the IPA the following July.

 

Later the same year, Freud published a paper entitled “The History of the Psychoanalytic Movement“, the German original being first published in the Jahrbuch, giving his view on the birth and evolution of the psychoanalytic movement and the withdrawal of Adler and Jung from it.

 

The final defection from Freud’s inner circle occurred following the publication in 1924 of Rank’s The Trauma of Birth which other members of the committee read as, in effect, abandoning the Oedipus Complex as the central tenet of psychoanalytic theory.

Abraham and Jones became increasingly forceful critics of Rank and though he and Freud were reluctant to end their close and long-standing relationship the break finally came in 1926 when Rank resigned from his official posts in the IPA and left Vienna for Paris.

His place on the committee was taken by Anna Freud.

Rank eventually settled in the United States where his revisions of Freudian theory were to influence a new generation of therapists uncomfortable with the orthodoxies of the IPA.

 

Psychoanalytic societies and institutes were established in Switzerland (1919), France (1926), Italy (1932), the Netherlands (1933), Norway (1933) and in Palestine (Jerusalem, 1933) by Eitingon, who had fled Berlin after Adolf Hitler came to power.

The New York Psychoanalytic Institute was founded in 1931.

The 1922 Berlin Congress was the last Freud attended.

By this time his speech had become seriously impaired by the prosthetic device he needed as a result of a series of operations on his cancerous jaw.

He kept abreast of developments through a regular correspondence with his principal followers and via the circular letters and meetings of the secret Committee which he continued to attend.

The Committee continued to function until 1927 by which time institutional developments within the IPA, such as the establishment of the International Training Commission, had addressed concerns about the transmission of psychoanalytic theory and practice.

There remained, however, significant differences over the issue of lay analysis – i.e. the acceptance of non-medically qualified candidates for psychoanalytic training.

Freud set out his case in favour in 1926 in his The Question of Lay Analysis.

He was resolutely opposed by the American societies who expressed concerns over professional standards and the risk of litigation (though child analysts were made exempt).

These concerns were also shared by some of his European colleagues.

Eventually an agreement was reached allowing societies autonomy in setting criteria for candidature.

In 1930 Freud was awarded the Goethe Prize in recognition of his contributions to psychology and to German literary culture.

 

Though in overall decline as a diagnostic and clinical practice, psychoanalysis remains influential within psychology, psychiatry, and psychotherapy, and across the humanities.

It thus continues to generate extensive and highly contested debate with regard to its therapeutic efficacy, its scientific status, and whether it advances or is detrimental to the feminist cause.

Nonetheless, Freud’s work has suffused contemporary Western thought and popular culture.

 

In the words of W.H. Auden’s 1940 poetic tribute, by the time of Freud’s death, he had become “a whole climate of opinion / under whom we conduct our different lives.”

 

Somehow I got the feeling that the Freud Museum, try as it may, fails to truly capture the essence of what Sigi was trying to do.

Because the man was just too big.

At least in terms of the average tourist-layman, the simple man I am.

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Sources: Wikipedia / Google / The Rough Guide to London / Richard Appignanesi & Oscar Zarate, Introducing Freud / Joel Whitebook, Freud: An Intellectual Biography / Rebecca Wallersteiner, “If you’re sitting comfortably….a trip to the Sigmund Freud Museum!“, Spotlight, 23 October 2015 / Sophie Leighton, “Freud’s Collections“, Freud Museum London Friends News

Canada Slim and the Shrine of Italian Victories

Landschlacht, Switzerland, 25 December 2018

Picture if you will a lake without compare, a Mediterranean oasis immersed in the savage grandeur of alpine mountains.

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A merger of nature and history brought together to form a corner of Paradise, where sandstone meets spinosa, and lemons are kissed by oleander, where bay and cedar and orange dance together by shores where virgin waters gush out of living rock formed by ancient volcanoes encircled by periwinkles, heather, daisies and geraniums.

Where once the deer played, the wolf howled and the wild boar foraged and eagles and hawks once filled the skies, now ancient monasteries quietly crumble invisible as speed boats race and only the carp seem unimpressed by man’s ceaseless destructive cycles.

This is a land where the restless never lingered.

Through here marched Ligurians and Euganians, Etruscans and Enetites, Isarcs, Erectus and Celts.

Rome would drive an empire through here but all empires fall.

Let us speak mere mentions of the tribes Fabia and Polibia before they too fall before Ostrogoths, Goths and the Alemanni, who themselves were supplanted by Byzantines and Longobards.

Bishop saints and ancient churches stand and fall before Carolingian and Hun.

A lake that held secure in its bosom widows and heretics greeted Guelphs and Ghibellini and trembled as emperors rose and fell and Verona fought Venice.

Fall, Venice to Napoleon, the French to Austria.

Then cry the winds of freedom and join to form the new Rome, a proud Italy defiant regardless of the odds or whether king or Fascist, democrat or autocrat sits above all others in power and glory.

Upon this guarded Garda there is a spot of elegance and beauty, where magnificent vegetation thrives within a mild climate and where a famous, international sojourn lies among bright hills, large gardens, voluptuous villas and halycon hotels.

Gardone Riviera – Veduta

This is Gardone Riviera, a small town with a short history, designed by a German fighting for Italian independence whose peculiar impulses caused him to love the locale at once, inspiring him to construct hotels and found initiatives and cultivate contacts with the cosmopolitan world.

Soon would follow promenades and villas and the casino, but of all these nothing and no one enlivened this artificial tourist town more than Gabriele D’Annunzio: child prodigy of outstanding talent, poet, lover, man of society, father, journalist, novelist, playwright, pilot, francophile and art collector, war hero and conqueror, Fascist and anti-Fascist, architect and adventurer.

Ask not what did D’Annuzio do, for it is more remarkable how little he didn’t do.

On reading D’Annunzio’s tale and of his labour and the legacy of love that remains here, you may very well find yourself absolutely loving or loathing the man, but once you learn of this man you may find it difficult to forget the man or the mansion he built and named the Shrine of Italian Victories.

This is his story.

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D’Annunzio was born in the township of Pescara, in the province of Abruzzo, the son of a wealthy landowner and mayor of the town Francesco Paolo Rapagnetta d’Annunzio (1831–1893) and his wife Luisa de Benedictis (1839-1917).

Above: Gabriele D’Annunzio Birthplace Museum, Pescara

 

His father had originally been born plain Rapagnetta (the name of his single mother), but at the age of 13 had been adopted by a childless rich uncle Antonio d’Annunzio.

Legend has it that he was initially baptized Gaetano and given the name of Gabriele later in childhood, because of his angelic looks.

His precocious talent was recognised early in life and he was sent to school at the Liceo Cicognini in Prato, Tuscany.

He published his first poetry while still at school at the age of 16 — a small volume of verses called Primo Vere (1879).

Influenced by Giosuè Carducci’s Odi barbare, he posed side by side some almost brutal imitations of Lorenzo Stecchetti, the fashionable poet of Postuma, with translations from the Latin.

His verse was distinguished by such agile grace that Giuseppe Chiarini on reading them brought the unknown youth before the public in an enthusiastic article.

In 1881, D’Annunzio entered the University of Rome, where he became a member of various literary groups, including Cronaca Bizantina, and wrote articles and criticism for local newspapers.

In those university years he started to promote Italian irredentism.

 

(Italian irredentism was a nationalist movement during the late 19th and early 20th centuries in Italy with goals which promoted the unification of geographic areas in which indigenous ethnic Italians and Italian-speaking persons formed a majority, or substantial minority, of the population.)

 

He published Canto novo (1882), Terra vergine (1882), L’intermezzo di rime (1883), Il libro delle vergini (1884) and the greater part of the short stories that were afterwards collected under the general title of San Pantaleone (1886).

Canto novo contains poems full of pulsating youth and the promise of power, some descriptive of the sea and some of the Abruzzese landscape, commented on and completed in prose by Terra vergine, the latter a collection of short stories dealing in radiant language with the peasant life of the author’s native province.

Intermezzo di rime is the beginning of D’Annunzio’s second and characteristic manner.

His conception of style was new and he chose to express all the most subtle vibrations of voluptuous life.

Both style and contents began to startle his critics.

Some who had greeted him as an enfant prodige rejected him as a perverter of public morals, whilst others hailed him as one bringing a breath of fresh air and an impulse of new vitality into the somewhat prim, lifeless work hitherto produced.

 

Meanwhile, the review of Angelo Sommaruga perished in the midst of scandal and his group of young authors found itself dispersed.

Some entered the teaching career and were lost to literature.

Others threw themselves into journalism.

Gabriele D’Annunzio took this latter course, and joined the staff of the Tribuna, under the pseudonym of “Duca Minimo“.

Here he wrote Il libro d’Isotta (1886), a love poem, in which for the first time he drew inspiration adapted to modern sentiments and passions from the rich colours of the Renaissance.

Il libro d’Isotta is interesting, because in it one can find most of the germs of his future work, just as in Intermezzo melico and in certain ballads and sonnets one can find descriptions and emotions which later went to form the aesthetic contents of Il piacere, Il trionfo della morte and Elegie romane (1892).

 

D’Annunzio’s first novel Il piacere (1889, translated into English as The Child of Pleasure) was followed in 1891 by Giovanni Episcopo, and in 1892 by L’innocente (The Intruder).

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These three novels made a profound impression.

 

L’innocente, admirably translated into French by Georges Herelle, brought its author the notice and applause of foreign critics.

His next work, Il trionfo della morte (The Triumph of Death)(1894) was followed soon by Le vergini delle rocce (1896) and Il fuoco (1900).

The latter is in its descriptions of Venice perhaps the most ardent glorification of a city existing in any language.

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D’Annunzio’s poetic work of this period, in most respects his finest, is represented by Il Poema Paradisiaco (1893), the Odi navali (1893), a superb attempt at civic poetry, and Laudi (1900).

A later phase of D’Annunzio’s work is his dramatic production, represented by Il sogno di un mattino di primavera (1897), a lyrical fantasia in one act.

His Città Morta (1898) was written for Sarah Bernhardt.

Above: Poster of Sarah Bernhardt (1844 – 1923)

 

In 1898 he wrote his Sogno di un pomeriggio d’autunno and La Gioconda.

In the succeeding year La gloria, an attempt at contemporary political tragedy, met with no success, probably because of the audacity of the personal and political allusions in some of its scenes.

Francesca da Rimini (1901) was a perfect reconstruction of medieval atmosphere and emotion, magnificent in style, and declared by an authoritative Italian critic – Edoardo Boutet – to be the first real, if imperfect, tragedy ever given to the Italian theatre.

At the height of his success, D’Annunzio was celebrated for the originality, power and decadence of his writing.

Although his work had immense impact across Europe, and influenced generations of Italian writers, his fin de siècle works are now little known, and his literary reputation has always been clouded by his fascist associations.

Indeed, even before his fascist period, he had his strong detractors.

 

A New York Times review in 1898 of his novel The Intruder referred to him as “evil“, “entirely selfish and corrupt“.

Three weeks into its December 1901 run at the Teatro Constanzi in Rome, his tragedy Francesca da Rimini was banned by the censor on grounds of morality.

 

A prolific writer, his novels in Italian include Il piacere (The Child of Pleasure)(1889), Il trionfo della morte (The Triumph of Death)(1894) and Le vergini delle rocce (The Virgins of the Rocks)(1896).

He wrote the screenplay to the feature film Cabiria (1914) based on episodes from the Second Punic War.

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D’Annunzio’s literary creations were strongly influenced by the French Symbolist school and contain episodes of striking violence and depictions of abnormal mental states interspersed with gorgeously imagined scenes.

One of D’Annunzio’s most significant novels, scandalous in its day, is Il fuoco (The Flame of Life)(1900), in which he portrays himself as the Nietzschean Superman Stelio Effrena, in a fictionalized account of his love affair with Eleonora Duse.

His short stories showed the influence of Guy de Maupassant.

 

The 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica wrote of him:

The work of d’ Annunzio, although by many of the younger generation injudiciously and extravagantly admired, is almost the most important literary work given to Italy since the days when the great classics welded her varying dialects into a fixed language.

The psychological inspiration of his novels has come to him from many sources—French, Russian, Scandinavian, German—and in much of his earlier work there is little fundamental originality.

His creative power is intense and searching, but narrow and personal.

His heroes and heroines are little more than one same type monotonously facing a different problem at a different phase of life.

But the faultlessness of his style and the wealth of his language have been approached by none of his contemporaries, whom his genius has somewhat paralysed.

In his later work, when he begins drawing his inspiration from the traditions of bygone Italy in her glorious centuries, a current of real life seems to run through the veins of his personages.

The lasting merit of D’Annunzio, his real value to the literature of his country, consists precisely in that he opened up the closed mine of its former life as a source of inspiration for the present and of hope for the future, and created a language, neither pompous nor vulgar, drawn from every source and district suited to the requirements of modern thought, yet absolutely classical, borrowed from none, and, independently of the thought it may be used to express, a thing of intrinsic beauty.

As his sight became clearer and his purpose strengthened, as exaggerations, affectations and moods dropped away from his conceptions, his work became more and more typical Latin work, upheld by the ideal of an Italian Renaissance.

In Italy some of his poetic works remain popular, most notably his poem “La pioggia nel pineto” (The Rain in the Pinewood), which exemplifies his linguistic virtuosity as well as the sensuousness of his poetry.

 

In 1883, D’Annunzio married Maria Hardouin di Gallese, and had three sons, Mario (1884-1964), Gabriele Maria “Gabriellino” (1886-1945) and Ugo Veniero (1887-1945), but the marriage ended in 1891.

In 1894, he began a love affair with the actress Eleonora Duse which became a cause célèbre.

Above: Eleonora Duse (1858 – 1924)

 

He provided leading roles for her in his plays of the time such as La città morta (The Dead City) (1898) and Francesca da Rimini (1901), but the tempestuous relationship finally ended in 1910.

After meeting the Marchesa Luisa Casati in 1903, he began a lifelong turbulent on again off again affair with Luisa, that lasted until a few years before his death.

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Above: Luisa Casati (1881 – 1957)

 

In 1897 D’Annunzio was elected to the Chamber of Deputies for a three-year term, where he sat as an independent.

By 1910, his daredevil lifestyle had forced him into debt and he fled to France to escape his creditors.

There he collaborated with composer Claude Debussy on a musical play Le martyre de Saint Sébastien (The Martyrdom of St Sebastian)(1911), written for Ida Rubinstein.

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The Vatican reacted by placing all of his works in the Index of Forbidden Books.

The work was not successful as a play, but it has been recorded in adapted versions several times, notably by Pierre Monteux (in French), Leonard Bernstein (sung in French, acted in English) and Michael Tilson Thomas (in French).

In 1912 and 1913, D’Annunzio worked with opera composer Pietro Mascagni on his opera Parisina, staying sometimes in a house rented by the composer in Bellevue, near Paris.

 

After the start of World War I, D’Annunzio returned to Italy and made public speeches in favor of Italy’s entry on the side of the Triple Entente of Russia, France and Great Britain.

Since taking a flight with Wilbur Wright in 1908, D’Annunzio had been interested in aviation.

Above: Wilbur Wright (1867 – 1912)

 

With the war beginning he volunteered and achieved further celebrity as a fighter pilot, losing the sight of an eye in a flying accident.

 

In February 1918, he took part in a daring, if militarily irrelevant, raid on the harbour of Bakar (known in Italy as La beffa di Buccari, literally the Bakar mockery), helping to raise the spirits of the Italian public, still battered by the Caporetto disaster.

Above: The harbour of Bakar

 

On 9 August 1918, as commander of the 87th fighter squadron “La Serenissima“, he organized one of the great feats of the war, leading nine planes in a 700-mile round trip to drop propaganda leaflets on Vienna.

This is called in Italian “il Volo su Vienna“(the flight over Vienna).

 

The war strengthened his ultra-nationalist and irredentist views and he campaigned widely for Italy to assume a role alongside her wartime allies as a first-rate European power.

 

Angered by the proposed handing over of the city of Fiume (now Rijeka in Croatia) whose population, outside the suburbs, was mostly Italian, at the Paris Peace Conference, on 12 September 1919, he led the seizure by 2,000 Italian nationalist irregulars of the city, forcing the withdrawal of the inter-Allied (American, British and French) occupying forces.

Above: Fiume, September 1919

 

The plotters sought to have Italy annex Fiume, but were denied.

Instead, Italy initiated a blockade of Fiume while demanding that the plotters surrender.

D’Annunzio then declared Fiume an independent state, the Italian Regency of Carnaro.

Flag of Carnaro

Above: Flag of Carnaro

 

The Charter of Carnaro foreshadowed much of the later Italian Fascist system, with himself as “Duce” (leader).

Some elements of the Royal Italian Navy, such as the destroyer Espero joined up with D’Annunzio’s local forces.

He attempted to organize an alternative to the League of Nations for selected oppressed nations of the world (such as the Irish, whom D’Annunzio attempted to arm in 1920) and sought to make alliances with various separatist groups throughout the Balkans (especially groups of Italians, though also some Slavic and Albanian groups) without much success.

D’Annunzio ignored the Treaty of Rapallo and declared war on Italy itself, only finally surrendering the city in December 1920 after a bombardment by the Italian navy.

 

D’Annunzio is often seen as a precursor of the ideals and techniques of Italian fascism.

His political ideals emerged in Fiume when he coauthored a constitution with syndicalist Alceste de Ambris, the Charter of Carnaro.

Above: Alceste De Ambris (1874 – 1934)

 

De Ambris provided the legal and political framework, to which D’Annunzio added his skills as a poet.

De Ambris was the leader of a group of Italian seamen who had mutinied and then given their vessel to the service of D’Annunzio.

The constitution established a corporatist state, with nine corporations to represent the different sectors of the economy (workers, employers, professionals) and a tenth (D’Annunzio’s invention) to represent the “superior” human beings (heroes, poets, prophets, supermen).

The Carta also declared that music was the fundamental principle of the state.

 

It was rather the culture of dictatorship that Benito Mussolini imitated and learned from D’Annunzio.

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Above: Benito Mussolini (1883 – 1945)

 

D’Annunzio has been described as the John the Baptist of Italian Fascism, as virtually the entire ritual of Fascism was invented by D’Annunzio during his occupation of Fiume and his leadership of the Italian Regency of Carnaro.

These included the balcony address, the Roman salute, the cries of “Eia, eia, eia! Alala!” taken from the Achilles’ cry in the Iliad, the dramatic and rhetorical dialogue with the crowd and the use of religious symbols in new secular settings.

It also included his method of government in Fiume: the economics of the corporate state, stage tricks, large emotive nationalistic public rituals and black-shirted followers, the Arditi, with their disciplined, bestial responses and strongarm repression of dissent.

He was even said to have originated the practice of forcibly dosing opponents with large amounts of castor oil, a very effective laxative, to humiliate, disable or kill them, a practice which became a common tool of Mussolini’s black shirts.

D’Annunzio advocated an expansionist Italian foreign policy and applauded the invasion of Ethiopia.

Flag of Italian East Africa

Above: Flag of Italian East Africa

 

After the Fiume episode, D’Annunzio retired to his home on Lake Garda and spent his latter years writing and campaigning.

 

Although D’Annunzio had a strong influence on the ideology of Benito Mussolini, he never became directly involved in fascist government politics in Italy.

As John Whittam notes in his essay “Mussolini and The Cult of the Leader“:

This famous poet, novelist and war hero was a self-proclaimed Superman.

He was the outstanding interventionist in May 1915 and his dramatic exploits during the war won him national and international acclaim.

In September 1919 he gathered together his ‘legions’ and captured the disputed seaport of Fiume.

He held it for over a year and it was he who popularised the black shirts, the balcony speeches, the promulgation of ambitious charters and the entire choreography of street parades and ceremonies.

He even planned a march on Rome.

One historian had rightly described him as the ‘First Duce’ and Mussolini must have heaved a sigh of relief when he was driven from Fiume in December 1920 and his followers were dispersed.

But he remained a threat to Mussolini and in 1921 Fascists like Balbo seriously considered turning to him for leadership.

In contrast Mussolini vacillated from left to right at this time.

Although Mussolini’s fascism was heavily influenced by the Carta del Carnaro, the constitution for Fiume written by Alceste De Ambris and D’Annunzio, neither wanted to play an active part in the new movement, both refusing when asked by Fascists to run in the elections of 15 May 1921.

 

D’Annunzio was seriously injured when he fell out of a window on 13 August 1922.

Shortly before the march on Rome, he was pushed out of a window by an unknown assailant, or perhaps simply slipped and fell out himself while intoxicated.

He survived but was badly injured and only recovered after Mussolini had been appointed Prime Minister.

Subsequently the planned “meeting for national pacification” with Francesco Saverio Nitti and Mussolini was cancelled.

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Above: Francesco Nitti (1868 – 1953), Prime Minister (1919 – 1920)

 

The incident was never explained and is considered by some historians an attempt to murder him, motivated by his popularity.

 

Despite D’Annunzio’s retreat from active public life after this event, the Duce still found it necessary to regularly dole out funds to D’Annunzio as a bribe for not re-entering the political arena.

When asked about this by a close friend, Mussolini purportedly stated:

When you have a rotten tooth you have two possibilities open to you:

Either you pull the tooth or you fill it with gold.

With D’Annunzio, I have chosen for the latter treatment.

 

In 1924 D’Annunzio was ennobled by King Victor Emmanuel III and given the hereditary title of Prince of Montenevoso (Italian: Principe di Montenevoso).

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Above: Italian King Victor Emmanuel III (1869 – 1947)

 

Nonetheless, D’Annunzio kept attempting to intervene in politics almost until his death in 1938.

 

He wrote to Mussolini in 1933 to try to convince him not to take part in the Axis pact with Hitler.

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Above: Adolf Hitler (1889 – 1945)

In 1934, he tried to disrupt the relationship between Hitler and Mussolini after their meeting, even writing a satirical pamphlet about Hitler.

Again, in September 1937, D’Annunzio met with the Duce at the Verona train station to convince him to leave the Axis alliance.

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Mussolini in 1944 admitted to have made a mistake not following his advice.

 

In 1937, D’Annunzio was made president of the Royal Academy of Italy.

 

D’Annunzio died in 1938 of a stroke at his home in Gardone Riviera.

He was given a state funeral by Mussolini and was interred in a magnificent tomb constructed of white marble at Il Vittoriale degli Italiani.

D’Annunzio’s life and work are commemorated in a museum, Il Vittoriale degli Italiani.

The Vittoriale degli italiani (English translation: The shrine of Italian victories) is a hillside estate in the town of Gardone Riviera overlooking  Lake Garda.

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It is where the Italian writer Gabriele d’Annunzio lived after his defenestration in 1922 until his death in 1938.

 

The estate consists of the residence of d’Annunzio called the Prioria (priory), an amphitheatre, the protected cruiser Puglia set into a hillside, a boathouse containing the MAS vessel used by D’Annunzio in 1918 and a circular mausoleum.

Its grounds are now part of the Grandi Giardini Italiani.

 

The Prioria itself consists of a number of rooms opulently decorated and filled with memorabilia.

Notable are the two waiting rooms: one for welcome guests, one for unwelcome ones.

 

It is the latter where Benito Mussolini was sent to on his visit in 1925.

A phrase was inscribed specifically for him above the mirror:

To the visitor:
Are you bringing Narcissus’ mirror?
This is leaded glass, my mask maker.
Adjust your mask to your face,
But mind that you are glass against steel.

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The leper’s room is where D’Annunzio’s wake was held upon his death.

Its name comes from the fact that D’Annunzio felt that he was being spurned by the government due to their continued efforts to keep him in Gardone, rather than possibly in the limelight in Rome.

 

The relic room holds a large collection of religious statues and images of different beliefs, purposely placed together to make a statement about the universal character of spirituality.

The inscription on the inner wall reads:

As there are five fingers on a hand, there are only five mortal sins.

D’Annunzio wished to make clear hereby that he didn’t believe that lust and greed should be considered sinful.

 

A most unlikely relic is the distorted steering wheel of racing speedboat Miss England II, donated after the coppa dell oltranza powerboating trophy, organized under D’Annunzio patronage, was held in 1931.

Miss England II had crashed in a world speed record attempt, killing her pilot, Sir Henry Seagrave in 1930 (though winning the record nevertheless) and was rebuilt to race and win at Lake Garda the following year with Kaye Don at the helm.

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D’Annunzio, who was a syncretist (believer in all religions), deemed the distorted steering wheel “a relic of the religion of courage“.

 

The amphitheatre is the first major structure one comes across after entering the estate and was clearly based upon classic models, the architect Maroni even visiting Pompeii for inspiration.

Its location, like the other buildings of the Vittoriale undeniably offers a majestic view of Lake Garda, it is still used for performances today.

Image result for amphitheatre vittoriale

 

References to the Vittoriale range from a “monumental citadel” to a “fascist lunapark”, the site inevitably inheriting the controversy surrounding its creator.

He planned and developed it himself, adjacent to his villa at Gardone Riviera on the southwest bank of Lake Garda, between 1923 and his death.

Now a national monument, it is a complex of military museum, library, literary and historical archive, theatre, war memorial and mausoleum.

The museum preserves his torpedo boat MAS 96 and the SVA-5 aircraft he flew over Vienna.

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The house, Villa Cargnacco, had belonged to the German art historian of the Italian Renaissance Henry Thode from whom it was confiscated by the Italian state, including artworks, a collection of books, and a piano which had belonged to Liszt.

D’Annunzio rented it in February 1921 and within a year reconstruction started under the guidance of architect Giancarlo Maroni.

 

Due to D’Annunzio’s popularity and his disagreement with the fascist government on several issues, such as the alliance with Nazi Germany, the fascists did what they could to please D’Annunzio in order to keep him away from political life in Rome.

Part of their strategy was to make huge funds available to expand the property, to construct or modify buildings and to create the impressive art and literature collection.

 

In 1924, the airplane that D’Annunzio used for his pamphleteering run over Vienna during World War I was brought to the estate, followed in 1925 by the MAS naval vessel used by him to taunt the Austrians in 1918 in the Beffa di Buccari.

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In the same year the protected cruiser Puglia was hauled up the hill and placed in the woods behind the house and the property was expanded by acquisition of surrounding lands and buildings.

Jutting out of one of the hilltops the cruiser Puglia makes a surreal sight.

It was placed there, with its bow pointing in the direction of the Adriatic, “ready to conquer the Dalmatian shores”.

The ship was equipped with a main armament of four 15 cm (5.9 in) and six 12 cm (4.7 in) guns, and she could steam at a speed of 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph).

88.25 meters (289.5 ft) long overall and had a beam of 12.13 m (39.8 ft) and a draft of 5.45 m (17.9 ft).

She displaced up to 3,110 metric tons (3,060 long tons; 3,430 short tons) at full load.

Her propulsion system consisted of a pair of vertical triple-expansion engines, with steam supplied by four cylindrical water-tube boilers.

Puglia was capable of steaming at a top speed of 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph).

The ship had a cruising radius of about 2,100 nautical miles (3,900 km; 2,400 mi) at a speed of 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph).

She had a crew of between 213 to 278.

Puglia was armed with a main battery of four 15 cm (5.9 in) L/40 guns mounted singly, with two side by side forward and two side by side aft.

Six 12 cm (4.7 in) L/40 guns were placed between them, with three on each broadside.

Light armament included eight 57 mm (2.2 in) guns, eight 37 mm (1.5 in) guns, and a pair of machine guns.

She was also equipped with two 45 cm (18 in) torpedo tubes.

Puglia was protected by a 25 mm (0.98 in) thick deck.

Her conning tower had 50 mm thick sides.

Puglia served abroad for much of her early career, including periods in South American and East Asian waters.

She saw action in the Italo-Turkish War in 1911–1912, primarily in the Red Sea.

During the war she bombarded Ottoman ports in Arabia and assisted in enforcing a blockade on maritime traffic in the area.

She was still in service during World War I.

The only action in which she participated was the evacuation of units from the Serbian Army from Durazzo in February 1916.

During the evacuation, she bombarded the pursuing Austro-Hungarian Army.

After the war, Puglia was involved in the occupation of the Dalmatian coast, and in 1920 her captain was murdered in a violent confrontation in Split with Croatian nationalists.

The old cruiser was sold for scrapping in 1923.

While the ship was being dismantled, the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini donated the ship’s bow section to the writer and ardent nationalist Gabriele D’Annunzio, who had it installed at his estate as part of the Vittoriale degli italiani museum.

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In 1926, the government donated an amount of 10 million lire, which allowed a considerable enlargement of the Villa, with a new wing named the Schifamondo.

In 1931, construction was started on the Parlaggio, the name for the amphitheatre.

 

The mausoleum was designed after D’Annunzio’s death but not actually built until 1955 and D’Annunzio’s remains were finally brought there in 1963.

The circular structure is situated on the highest point on the estate.

It contains the remains of men who served D’Annunzio and died during the Fiume incident and d’Annunzio himself.

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Luigi Barzini once argued that Gabriele D’Annunzio was perhaps more Italian than any other Italian, because for Italians the first purpose of life is to make life acceptable.

Life in the raw is notoriously meaningless and frightening, therefore dull and insignificant moments in life must be made decorous and agreeable with decoration and ritual.

Everything must be made to sparkle whether it be a simple meal, an ordinary transaction, a dreary speech, or a cowardly capitulation, all must be embellished and ennobled with euphemisms, adornments and pathos.

Not because Italians find life rewarding and exhilarating but because Italians are a pessimistic, realistic, resigned and frightened people.

Even though D’Annunzio was a penniless provincial son of a small merchant, he lived like a Renaissance prince, a figure of voluptuousness, surrounding himself with a gaudy clutter of antiques, brocades, rare Oriental perfumes and flamboyant, inexpensive jewellery.

He dressed like a London Beau Brummel, slept with duchesses, world famous actresses and mad Russian ladies, wrote exquisitely wrought prose and poetry, rode to hounds, hounded Italian politics with extreme right politics.

Like his role model Cola di Rienzo, D’Annunzio believed that facade and reality were one and the same thing.

Thus in seeking to disguise an ordinary origin in extraordinary finesse, D’Annunzio would lead an exceptional life.

As much as I am disgusted by his aggressive nationalism and appalled by his reckless reputation as a womanizer, D’Annunzio lived a life of overheated emotion and sexuality and was a man of original talent remarkable not only in his time but as well in the ambigous legacy he left behind.

I cannot but notice.

Sources: Wikipedia / Google / Gabriele d’Annunzio: An Exceptional Life (Skira editore Vittoriale souvenir album) / The Rough Guide to Italy / Writers: Their Lives and Works (Dorling Kindersley) / Luigi Barzini, The Italians