Canada Slim and the Author’s Apartment 2: Suffering

Landschlacht, Switzerland, Sunday 17 November 2019

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

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

 

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It is cluttered.

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

 

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Two subjects dominate my library: travel and history.

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

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

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

 

Above: Belgrade by night

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

Above: Braque Triptych, Rogier van der Weyden

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

(Ivo Andric, Signs by the Roadside)

 

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

 

Frontal view of a bespectacled man

Above: Ivo Andric, 1961

 

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

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

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

 

Flag of Yugoslavia (1946-1992).svg

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

 

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

 

Above: Andricgrad, Bosnia-Herzegovina

 

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

 

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

 

Flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Above: Flag of Bosnia – Herzegovina

 

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

 

Flag of Croatia

Above: Flag of Croatia

 

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

 

Flag of Serbia

Above: Flag of Serbia

 

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

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

 

The Balkan region according to Prof R. J. Crampton

 

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

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

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

 

Yugoslavia during the Interwar period and the Cold War

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

 

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

 

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Above: Josip Broz Tito (1892 – 1980)

 

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

 

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

 

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

(Ivo Andric, Signs by the Roadside)

 

Above: Ivo Andric, 1951

 

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

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

 

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

But not all Serbians were / are like Milosevic.

Nesha certainly is not.

 

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Above: Slobodan Milosevic, 1988

 

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

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

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

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

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

One of the reasons we get along so well.

 

Above: House of the National Assembly, Belgrade, Serbia

 

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

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

 

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

 

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Belgrade, Serbia, 5 April 2018

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

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

 

Above: Birthplace of Ivo Andric, Dolac, Bosnia

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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Above: Kaiser Wilhelm II (1859 – 1941)

 

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

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

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

Negotiations between Berlin and Paris resolved the crisis:

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

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

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

There was talk of war, and Germany backed down.

Relations between Berlin and London remained sour.)

 

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Above: French troops on the move in Morocco

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Above: Franz Joseph I (1830 – 1916)

 

Franz Ferdinand was the nephew of the Emperor.

He became heir apparent to the Habsburg throne in 1889.

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

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

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

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

 

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Above: Franz Ferdinand (1863 – 1914)

 

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

Even his timing was provocative:

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

 

Above: Battle of Kosovo, Adam Stefanovic

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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Above: Nedeljko Cabrinovic (1896 – 1916)

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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“Sophie, Sophie, don’t die!

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

The couple died within minutes while still in the car.

 

 

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

 

Above: Gavrilo Princip (1894 – 1918)

 

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

There was no state funeral.

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

 

Above: Arstetten Castle, Austria

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

This was enough.

 

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Above: Drazutin Dimitrijevic (1876 – 1917)

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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Above: Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf (1852 – 1925)

 

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

 

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Above: István Tisza (1861 – 1918)

 

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

Kaiser Wilhelm II had been outraged by the assassinations.

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

Flag of Austria–Hungary

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

 

No one was planning for a full scale war.

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

However, nothing could happen quickly.

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

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

 

Flag of Serbia

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

Above: Kingdom of Serbia, 1913

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

Flag of Imperial Russia

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

 

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

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

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

 

Flag of France

Above: Flag of France

 

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

Is the Fatherland in danger?

Moltke answered in the affirmative.

 

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

 

On 1 August, Germany declared war on Russia.

 

Flag of German Reich

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

Location of Belgium

 

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

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

The war had officially begun.

 

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

 

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

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

 

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Above: Kraków Station

 

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

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

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

 

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Above: Vladimir Cerina (1891 – 1932)

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Ivo Andric, Signs by the Roadside)

 

Location of Croatia

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

Above: Images of Split

 

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

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

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

 

Above: Diocletian’s Palace

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

  • The most beautiful city in the world
  • Mediterranean flower

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

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

 

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

The most popular sport institution is the football club Hajduk.

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

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

 

HNK Hajduk Split.svg

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

 

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

 

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Above: Cathedral of St. Domnius

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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Above: Miljenko Smoje

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

The palace has well preserved main streets.

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

The palace has four monumental gates:

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

 

Above: The Silver Gate

 

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

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

 

Peristyle, Split 1.jpg

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

Riva is the main city promenade.

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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Above: Ivan Meštrović (1883 – 1962)

 

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

 

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  • Old graveyards
    • Sustipan Memorial Park

 

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    • The old Jewish Cemetery

 

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

 

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Above: Bacvice Beach

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

 

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Above: Rijeka Harbour

 

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

He took part in organizing the assassination of Slavko Cuvaja.

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

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

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

 

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

It is the principal seaport of the country.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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Above: The RMS Carpathia

 

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

 

Above: The RMS Titanic

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

Above: Untergang der Titanic, Willy Stöwer, 1912

 

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

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

 

Flag of Carnaro

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

 

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Above: Gabriele D’Annunzio (1863 – 1938)

 

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

 

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

 

Flag of the Soviet Union

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

 

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

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

….of this blog.)

 

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

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

 

Flag of Fiume

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

 

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

 

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

 

Flag of League of Nations

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

 

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

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

 

Flag of the United Nations

Above: Flag of the United Nations

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

Those two cities were merged in 1945.

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

Trsat Castle is worth the effort.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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Rijeka is a city with an unusual, turbulent past.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • Petar Kružić staircase

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

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

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

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

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

Later the stairway was extended up to 561 steps.

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

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

There is a legend about the Trsat stairway.

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

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

After some deliberation, the Devil accepted.

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

However, the Franciscans let a goat climb the stairway.

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

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

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

Today, their number exceeds 500.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Above: Sibenik Prison

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

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

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

 

Pogled iz gradu 2.JPG

 

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

 

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

 

Faust Vrančić

Above: Portrait of Faust Vrancic

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

The town walls are also well preserved.

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

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

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

 

  • Gradska vijecnica (Old City Hall)

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

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

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  • Kneževa palača (Dukes Palace)

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

(January 1915)

 

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

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

(March 1915)

 

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Above: Maribor Prison

 

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

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

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

It is the capital of Štajerska, the Slovenian Styria.

 

Location of Slovenia

 

Maribor was first mentioned in the 12th century.

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

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

Finally it fell to Yugoslavia.

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

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

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

 

Above: Flag of Maribor

 

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

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

Its key features are:

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

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

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

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

 

Maribor's Centre with Old Bridge along the Drava River

 

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

 

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

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

Sights to see:

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

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

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

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

Anton Martin Slomšek-Dunaj 1862.jpg

Above: Bishop Anton Martin Slomsek

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

      • the Plague Column (Kužno znamenje)

 

      • the Aloysius church (Alojzijeva cerkev)

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

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

Maribor Synagogue 02.JPG

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

Vodnistolp.jpg

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

Maribor Grad 20070107.jpg

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Above: Ovcarevo Monastery, Travnik

 

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

Mother is very happy.”, Andrić wrote.

It has been three whole years since she saw me.

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

She cries, kisses me and laughs in turn.

Like a mother.

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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Andrić was later transferred to a prison in Zenica.

 

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

It was opened in 1886.

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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Above: Images of Zenica

 

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

 

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Above: Zenica Synagogue

 

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

 

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Above: Zenica Mosque

 

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Above: Hadzimazica House

 

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

 

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

 

There are many things to do in Zenica.

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

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

 

Also, there are beautiful mountains around Zenica.

One of the most visited is Mount Smetovi.

It is very attractive in all seasons.

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

In winter it is attractive for skiing and snowboarding.

 

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Above: Mount Smetovi Monument

 

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

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

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

 

Višegrad

Above: Images of Visegrad

 

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

 

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

 

Above: Panorama of Sarajevo

 

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

 

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

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

 

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Above: Sisters of Mercy Hospital, Zagreb

 

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

 

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

 

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Above: Ivo Vojnovic

 

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

 

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

 

Walt Whitman, 1887

Above: Walt Whitman (1819 – 1892)

 

August Strindberg

Above: August Strindberg (1849 – 1912)

 

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

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

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

Medical treatment alternated with intensive literary and editorial work.

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

 

Above: Zagreb

 

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

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

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

In the universe, our Earth is this dying chamber.

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

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

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

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

(Ivo Andric, Signs by the Roadside)

 

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

 

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

It was his first book.

Towards the end of the summer it was published.

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

He is deeply sorry that his mother is suffering.

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

Time is gloomy, gentle, optimistic.

 

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

The female leitmotif is present in all his works.

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

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Now I see.

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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Krapina is a city in Central Croatia.

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

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

 

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Above: Krapina, Croatia

 

Krapina Neanderthal Museum (Muzej Krapinskih Neandertalaca)

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

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

The museum is located on the prehistoric habitat.

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

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

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

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

 

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Above: Images of World War One

 

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

 

 

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

 

In the words of Ivo Vojnovic:

We look at one another and ask:

Is it true?

Is this really happening to us?

 

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

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

 

Flag of Yugoslavia

Above: Flag of the Kingdom

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

University of Zagreb logo.svg

Above: Logo of the University of Zagreb

 

In December 1918, Ivo Vojnovic wrote to his brother:

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

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

A Serb from Bosnia, where he contracted tuberculosis.

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

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

C’est un grand poète et une âme exquise.

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

 

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

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

 

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Above: Tugomir Alaupović (1870 – 1958)

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

Get out on a summer day, my son!

 

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

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

 

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

I saw that love is short and hunger is eternal.

 

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

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

 

You want to sleep, my son?

No, father, I’m going to live.”

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

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

All the lower, the higher fear.

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

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

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

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

My heart pounding.

For long life and great joy!

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

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

For the living and for those who are young!

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

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

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

Changing false courtesies and torturing shallowness.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Supetar harbor

Above: Supetar Harbour

 

Above: Murvica

 

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

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

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

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

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  • Museum of the island
    • in the village Škrip.

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

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

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

 

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

He returned to Zagreb two weeks later.

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

Andrić refers to his fame in just one sentence:

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

His stature is at once diminished:

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

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

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

He is slow-witted and chronically lacking in imagination.

But he is also obsessive.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

Activists had begun to leave Zagreb.

Andric wrote to Alaupovic in March 1919:

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

In late October, Andrić left for Belgrade.

 

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Above: Images of Belgrade

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Хотел Москва

Above: Hotel Moscow, Belgrade

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

(To be continued)

 

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

 

Above: Ivo Andric, 1922

 

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

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

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

(Ivo Andric, Signs by the Roadside)

 

 

 

Canada Slim and the Author’s Apartment 1: Learning

Landschlacht, Switzerland, Thursday 13 June 2019

In everyone’s life there are marker moments that separate who you were from who you are, as significant to the individual as BC and AD are to the Western calendar.

I have had my share of such moments in my own life.

Some are as obvious as scar tissue from accidents and operations.

Others are so subtle, so intimate, that they are as soft as a lover’s whisper in the night, and are no less important, nay, sometimes are far more important, than moments that clearly marked and marred you in the eyes of others.

Who we were, who we are and who we will become are often determined by what happens where we happen to be.

 

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Certainly there are those who argue that we make our own destiny, that we create our own karma, but it is usually those who have known little hardship who wax poetically upon how they would have acted differently had they been in situations alien to their experience and understanding.

Their songs of self-praise usually play to the tune of “had I been there I would have….“.

“If I had been living in Germany during the Second World War I would have sheltered Jews.”

“If my country suffered a famine I would not remain.”

“If I lived in North Korea I would rise in revolt against the Kim dynasty.”

 

Flag of North Korea

 

Truth be told, we may have the potential to freely make such brave decisions, but in the harsh chill of grim reality whether we would actually possess the needed courage and have the opportunity to successfully act is highly debatable.

If the consequence of helping others might lead to your death and the death of your loved ones, would you really risk everything to shelter those whom your government deems enemies of the state?

Would you be able to abandon your family to famine to save yourself?

Would you really defy your entire country’s military might to speak truth to power and say that what is being done in the name of nationalism is wrong for the nation?

 

Flag of the United States

 

It is easy to condemn the Germans of the National Socialist nightmare, the starving masses in Africa and India, the North Koreans under the Kims, and suggest that they were weak to allow themselves to be dominated by circumstances.

The self-righteous will argue with such platitudes like “Evil can only triumph when the good stay silent.“, but martyrdom’s recklessness is not easily embraced by everyone.

 

Flag of Germany

 

I was born in an age and have lived in places where I have never personally experienced the ravages of war firsthand.

I have known hunger and thirst but have never been hungry or thirsty to the brink of my own demise.

I have been fortunate to live in places where democracy, though imperfectly applied at times, dominated society rather than being sacrificed for security.

As a Canadian born in the 60s, who has never been in a military conflict, it is not easy for me to fully appreciate the difficulties of others that I myself have never experienced.

 

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

 

I count former refugees among my circle of friends, but I cannot claim to fully comprehend what they have endured or what they continue to quietly endure.

I have known those who chose not to be part of a military machine, despite the accusation of treason and disloyalty to their nation this suggests, because they chose not to act in the name of a nation that does not respect a person’s rights to choose not to kill their fellow human beings.

 

 

I love my homeland of Canada but I have never been called to defend her, have never had to choose between patriotism and humanity.

Canada’s leaders I have known may not have been great statesmen, but neither have they been as reprehensible as the leadership of other nations.

Can it be easy to be a true believer in Turkey under a tyrant like Erdogan?

 

Flag of Turkey

 

Can it be easy to be a patriotic American with an amateur like Trump?

Can it be easy to call yourself a native of a nation whose government does things that disgust the conscience and stain the soil?

 

 

I grew up in Québec as an Anglophone Canadian and fortunately I have never been forced to choose between the province and the nation.

 

Flag of Quebec

 

I now live in a nation that certainly isn’t a paradise for everyone within its boundaries, but its nationalism has not tested my resolve nor has it required the surrender of my conscience.

 

Flag of Switzerland

 

Oh, what a lucky man I have been!

Others have not been so fortunate.

 

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I have visited places that have reminded me of my good fortune because of their contrast to that good fortune.

I have seen the ruins of the Berlin Wall and the grim reality of Cyprus’s Green Wall.

 

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I have stood inside an underground tunnel between the two nations of South and North Korea, where two soldiers stand back-to-back 100 meters apart, and though they share the same language and the same culture, they are ordered to kill the other should the other speak.

 

Korea DMZ.svg

 

I have seen cemeteries of fallen soldiers and the ravaged ruins that wars past have left behind.

 

A page from a book. The first stanza of the poem is printed above an illustration of a white cross amidst a field of red poppies while two cannons fire in the background.

 

I have seen the settings of holocaust and have witnessed racism firsthand.

I have heard the condemnation of others for the crime of being different.

 

 

How dare they love who they choose!

How dare they believe differently than we!

How dare they look not as we do!

How dare they exist!

 

Some places are scar marks on the conscience, wounds on the world.

Some places whisper the intimate injury of injustice and barely breathe the breeze of silent bravery against insurmountable obstacles.

I have not lived in a nation torn against itself where bully bastards hide their cruelty behind an ideological -ism that is a thinly disguised mask for their sadism.

 

 

What follows is the tale of one man who did, a man who lived in Belgrade, Serbia’s eternal city, and gave the world an image of the place’s perpetuity, the mirage of immortality….

A man’s whose life has made me consider my own….

 

Above: Belgrade

 

Some folk tales have such universal appeal that we forget when and where we heard or read them, and they live on in our minds as memories of our personal experiences.

Such is, for example, the story of a young man who, wandering the Earth in pursuit of happiness, strayed onto a dangerous road, which led into an unknown direction.

To avoid losing his way, the young man marked the trees along the road with his hatchet, to help him find his way home.

That young man is the personification of general, eternal human destiny on one hand, there is a dangerous and uncertain road, and on the other, a great human need to not lose one’s way, to survive and to leave behind a legacy.

The signs we leave behind us might not avoid the fate of everything that is human: transience and oblivion.

Perhaps they will be passed by completely unnoticed?

Perhaps nobody will understand them?

And yet, they are necessary, just as it is natural and necessary for us humans to convey and reveal our thoughts to one another.

Even if those brief and unclear signs fail to spare us all wandering and temptation, they can alleviate them and, at least, be of help by convincing us that we are not alone in anything we experience, nor are we the first and only ones who have ever been in that position.

(Ivo Andric, Signs by the Roadside)

 

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Belgrade, Serbia, Thursday, 5 April 2018

The weather was worsening but my spirits were high.

I was on a mini-vacation, a separate holiday without my spouse, in a nation completely alien to me.

My good friend Nesha had graciously offered me the use of his apartment while he was away on business in Tara National Park, and so I was at liberty to come and go as I pleased without any obligations to anyone else but myself.

 

Flag of Serbia

Above: Flag of Serbia

 

The day had started well.

I had visited Saint Sava Cathedral, the Nikola Tesla Museum and had serendipitiously stumbled upon a second-hand music store that sold Serbian music that my guidebooks had recommended I discover.

 

Front view of Church of Saint Sava

Above: Saint Sava Cathedral

 

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Above: Nikola Tesla Museum

 

(For details of these, please see Canada Slim and….

  • the Land of Long Life
  • the Holy Field of Sparrows
  • the Visionary
  • the Current War
  • the Man Who Invented the Future)

 

I was happy and so I would remain in the glorious week I spent in Belgrade and Nis.

I was learning so much!

(I still am.)

This journey I was making reminded me once again of just how ignorant I was (and am) of the world beyond my experience.

 

 

Before I began travelling the existence of life outside my senses remained naught more than rumours.

For example, I remember distinctly reading of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, but it was far removed from my life until I moved to Germany and later visited Berlin before I began to understand why this had been a significant event, a big deal.

 

 

I partially blame my ignorance on the circumstances of my life in Canada.

Canadian news dominates Canadian media, which isn’t surprising as we are more interested in that which is closest to our experience.

English-language literature remains more accessible in Anglophone parts of Canada than other languages and so that is mostly what we know.

Too few Canadians speak more than their native tongues of either English or French.

Only 10% of Canadians are truly bilingual and not necessarily in the other official Canadian language.

How sad it is that so many North Americans know so little of the outside world unless there is a military conflict or diplomatic gesture in which they are involved.

Send a Canadian soldier or the Canadian Prime Minister to Serbia then a few Canadians might make a curious effort to find Serbia on a world map.

 

A map of Canada showing its 13 provinces and territories

 

Part of the problem and the reason why world peace and true unity eludes humanity is nationalism.

Why care about those who are not us?

If “us” is defined and limited by our national boundaries then how can we include “them” in our vision of fellow human beings?

Only the truly exceptional of that which is foreign grabs our momentary attention.

How can we understand one another if that which has shaped us is unknown by others and that which has shaped them is alien to us?

 

Flag of the United Nations

 

Can a Serbian truly understand a Canadian without knowing of Terry Fox and Wayne Gretzky, Robert W. Service and Margaret Atwood, Just for Laughs and Stephan Leacock, the Stanley Cup and the CBC, Sergeant Renfrew and Constable Benton Fraser?

 

Statue of Fox running set on a plinth engraved with "Somewhere the hurting must stop..."

 

Can a Canadian truly understand a Serbian without knowing of Novak Djokovic and Nemanja Vidic, the Turija sausage fest and the Novi Sad Exit, the Drina Regatta and the Nisville Jazz Festival, Emir Kusturica and Stevan Stojanovic Mokranjac and Ivo Andric?

 

Frontal view of a bespectacled man

Above: Ivo Andric (1892 – 1975)

 

Possibly not.

 

I often think that it would be a good idea for the young to not only read what is / was written in their own tongue but as well to read Nobel Prize winning books translated from other languages.

It might even be a step towards world unity.

In my school years I was exposed to the writing of Nobel Prize winners Kipling, O’Neill, Buck, Eliot, Faulkner, Hemingway, Steinbeck and Bellow.

I had to travel to discover other Nobel laureates like Pamuk, Jelinek, Saramango, Neruda, Sartre, Camus, Marquez, Solzhenitsyn, Gidé, Mann and Andric by accident.

How much we miss when we stick to only our own!

How can we possibly have world peace when we are so ignorant of the world’s music, art and literature?

 

A golden medallion with an embossed image of Alfred Nobel facing left in profile. To the left of the man is the text "ALFR•" then "NOBEL", and on the right, the text (smaller) "NAT•" then "MDCCCXXXIII" above, followed by (smaller) "OB•" then "MDCCCXCVI" below.

 

The street that runs beside Belgrade’s New Palace, now the seat of the President of Serbia, is named Andrićev venac (Andrić’s Crescent) in his honour.

It includes a life-sized statue of the writer.

 

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The flat in which Andrić spent his final years has been turned into a museum.

 

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Several of Serbia’s other major cities, such as Novi Sad and Kragujevac, have streets named after Andrić.

Streets in a number of cities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, such as Sarajevo, Banja Luka, Tuzla, and Višegrad, also carry his name.

 

 

Andrić remains the only writer from the former Yugoslavia to have been awarded the Nobel Prize.

Given his use of the Ekavian dialect, and the fact that most of his novels and short stories were written in Belgrade, his works have become associated almost exclusively with Serbian literature.

 

(I asked my good friend Nesha whether Serbians can communicate with Bosnians and Croatians in a similar language, whether there was a Slavic tongue that unites the three.

He responded that it is all one Serbo-Croatian language with a difference in dialects that changes from region to region and divided by three different accents: Ekavica, Jekavic and Ijekavica

Even though Slovenians and Macedonians speak a little differently, they all understand and speak a Serbian-type speech.)

 

Serbo croatian language2005.png

 

The Slavonic studies professor Bojan Aleksov characterizes Andrić as one of Serbian literature’s two central pillars, the other being Njegoš.

The plasticity of his narrative,” Moravcevich writes, “the depth of his psychological insight, and the universality of his symbolism remain unsurpassed in all of Serbian literature.

 

 

Though it has been said that the Serbian novel did not begin with Ivo Andric – (that honour lies with Borisav Stankovic (1867 – 1927) who explored the contradictions of man’s spiritual and sensory life in his 1910 work Bad Blood, the first Serbian novel to receive praise in its foreign translations) – it was Andric who took Serbian literature’s oral traditions and epic poetry and developed and perfected its narrative form.

 

Image result for Borislav Stankovic the tainted blood

 

To this day, Andric remains probably the most famous writer from former Yugoslavia.

And, sadly, I had never heard of him prior to this day.

A visit to the Memorial Museum of Ivo Andric (to give its official title) this day helped correct this imbalance….

 

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By a decision of the Belgrade City Assembly, the property of Ivo Andric was heritage-listed and entrusted to the Belgrade City Museum immediately following Andric’s death on 13 March 1975.

It was an act meant to express the city’s deep respect for Andric as a writer and as a person.

In accordance with the practice common all over the world, Belgrade wished to preserve the original appearance of the writer’s apartment, surrounded by the Belgrade Old and New Courts and Pionirski Park, in its picturesque environment, to honour its famous citizen.

The establishment of this Memorial Museum also throws light on a very remarkable period in history encompassing the two world wars, as well as the post-war years, on which Andric left a strong personal and creative impact.

The holdings of Ivo Andric’s legacy chiefly consist of items found and inventoried at his apartment after his death – the underlying idea being to reflect the spirit and atmosphere of privacy and nobility surrounding him.

Andric’s personal library contains 3,373 items, along with archival materials, manuscripts, works of fine and applied arts, diplomas and decorations, 1,070 personal belongings and 803 photographs.

The apartment covers an area of 144 square metres (somewhat larger than my own apartment) and is divided into three units:

  • the authentic interior, encompassing an entrance hall, a drawing room and Andric’s study
  • the exhibition rooms, created by the adaptation of two bedrooms
  • the curators’ and guides offices and the museum storerooms, occupying the former kitchen, the maid’s room, the bathroom and the lobby

It is both an unusual and a subtle combination of ambiguously private and unabasedly public, presenting an overview of Andric’s private life while depicting his vivid diplomatic, national, cultural and educational activities.

Ivo Andric was an unusual man who lived in unusual times, a life captured by a small apartment museum that like Andric himself is deceptively normal in appearance….

 

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The original appearance and the function of the entrance hall have been preserved to a great extent.

The showcase with publications and souvenirs of the Belgrade City Museum is the only sign indicating that a visitor, though in residential premises, is actually in a Museum.

Already at the entrance to the Museum, an open bookshelf populated with thick volumes of Serbo-Croatian and foreign language dictionaries and encyclopedias and literary works in French, German and English, symbolizes Andric’s communication with European and world literature, history and philosophy as well as his own creative endeavours.

This is where the story of the writer begins to unfold….

 

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Ivan Andrić was born in the village of Dolac, near Travnik, on 10 October 1892, while his mother, Katarina (née Pejić), was in the town visiting relatives.

 

Above: The house in which Andric was born, now a museum

 

(Travnik has a strong culture, mostly dating back to its time as the center of local government in the Ottoman Empire.

Travnik has a popular old town district however, which dates back to the period of Bosnian independence during the first half of the 15th century.

Numerous mosques and churches exist in the region, as do tombs of important historical figures and excellent examples of Ottoman architecture.

The city museum, built in 1950, is one of the more impressive cultural institutions in the region.

Travnik became famous by important persons who were born or lived in the city.

The most important of which are Ivo Andrić, Miroslav Ćiro Blažević (football coach of the Croatian national team, won third place 1998 in France), Josip Pejaković (actor), Seid Memić (pop singer) and Davor Džalto (artist and art historian, the youngest PhD in Germany and in the South-East European region).

 

Skyline of Travnik

Above: Images of Travnik

 

One of the main works of Ivo Andrić is the Bosnian Chronicle, depicting life in Travnik during the Napoleonic Wars and written during World War II.

In this work Travnik and its people – with their variety of ethnic and religious communities – are described with a mixture of affection and exasperation.

 

Ivo Andriac, Ivo Andric - Bosnian Chronicle

 

The Bosnian Tornjak, one of Bosnia’s two major dog breeds and national symbol, originated in the area, found around Mount Vlašić.)

 

Bosniantornjak.jpg

 

Andrić’s parents were both Catholic Croats.

He was his parents’ only child.

(I too was raised as an only child.)

 

His father, Antun, was a struggling silversmith who resorted to working as a school janitor in Sarajevo, where he lived with his wife and infant son.

(The Museum disagrees with Wikipedia, describing Antun as a court attendant.)

 

At the age of 32, Antun died of tuberculosis, like most of his siblings.

Andrić was only two years old at the time.

(My mother died, of cancer, when I was three.)

 

Widowed and penniless, Andrić’s mother took him to Višegrad and placed him in the care of her sister-in-law Ana and brother-in-law Ivan Matković, a police officer at the border military police station.

The couple were financially stable but childless, so they agreed to look after the infant and brought him up as their own in their house on the bank of the Drina River.

Meanwhile, Andrić’s mother returned to Sarajevo seeking employment.

Andrić was raised in a country that had changed little since the Ottoman period despite being mandated to Austria-Hungary at the Congress of Berlin in 1878.

Eastern and Western culture intermingled in Bosnia to a far greater extent than anywhere else in the Balkan peninsula.

Having lived there from an early age, Andrić came to cherish Višegrad, calling it “my real home“.

Though it was a small provincial town (or kasaba), Višegrad proved to be an enduring source of inspiration.

It was a multi-ethnic and multi-confessional town, the predominant groups being Serbs (Orthodox Christians) and Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks).

 

Višegrad

Above: Images of Visegrad

 

(Like Andric, I was born elsewhere than the place I think of as home, though to Andric’s credit he lovingly wrote about his birthplace in The Travnik Chronicle.

I could imagine writing about St. Philippe, my childhood hometown, but I feel no intimate connection to St. Eustache, my birthplace, whatsoever, despite the latter having a larger claim to fame than the “blink-or-you’ll-miss-it” village of my youth.)

 

Above: St. Eustache City Hall

 

(My imagination plays with the notion of St. Philippe as “St. Jerusalem” and St. Eustache described during the Rebellion of 1837.)

 

Saint-Eustache-Patriotes.jpg

Above: The Battle of St. Eustache, 14 December 1837

 

From an early age, Andrić closely observed the customs of the local people.

These customs, and the particularities of life in eastern Bosnia, would later be detailed in his works.

Andrić made his first friends in Višegrad, playing with them along the Drina River and the town’s famous Mehmed Paša Sokolović Bridge.

 

Visegrad bridge by Klackalica.jpg

 

(The area was part of the medieval Serbian state of the Nemanjić dynasty.

It was part of the Grand Principality of Serbia under Stefan Nemanja (r. 1166–96).

In the Middle Ages, Dobrun was a place within the border area with Bosnia, on the road towards Višegrad.

After the death of Emperor Stefan Dušan (r. 1331–55), the region came under the rule of magnate Vojislav Vojinović, and then his nephew, župan (count) Nikola Altomanović.

The Dobrun Monastery was founded by župan Pribil and his family, some time before the 1370s.

 

Above: Dobrun Monastery

 

The area then came under the rule of the Kingdom of Bosnia, part of the estate of the Pavlović noble family.

The settlement of Višegrad is mentioned in 1407, but is starting to be more often mentioned after 1427.

In the period of 1433–37, a relatively short period, caravans crossed the settlement many times.

Many people from Višegrad worked for the Republic of Ragusa.

Srebrenica and Višegrad and its surroundings were again in Serbian hands in 1448 after Despot Đurađ Branković defeated Bosnian forces.

 

Đurađ Branković, Esphigmenou charter (1429).jpg

Above: Durad Brankovic (1377 – 1456)

 

According to Turkish sources, in 1454, Višegrad was conquered by the Ottoman Empire led by Osman Pasha.

It remained under the Ottoman rule until the Berlin Congress (1878), when Austria-Hungary took control of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

 

 

The Mehmed Paša Sokolović Bridge was built by the Ottoman architect and engineer Mimar Sinan for Grand Vizier Sokollu Mehmed Pasha.

Construction of the bridge took place between 1571 and 1577.

It still stands, and it is now a tourist attraction, after being inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list.

 

UNESCO logo English.svg

 

The Bosnian Eastern Railway from Sarajevo to Uvac and Vardište was built through Višegrad during the Austro-Hungarian rule in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Construction of the line started in 1903.

It was completed in 1906, using the 760 mm (2 ft 5 1516 in) track gauge.

With the cost of 75 million gold crowns, which approximately translates to 450 thousand gold crowns per kilometer, it was one of the most expensive railways in the world built by that time.

This part of the line was eventually extended to Belgrade in 1928.

Višegrad is today part of the narrow-gauge heritage railway Šargan Eight.

 

The area was a site of Partisan–German battles during World War II.

Višegrad is one of several towns along the River Drina in close proximity to the Serbian border.

The town was strategically important during the Bosnian War conflict.

A nearby hydroelectric dam provided electricity and also controlled the level of the River Drina, preventing flooding downstream areas.

The town is situated on the main road connecting Belgrade and Užice in Serbia with Goražde and Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a vital link for the Užice Corps of the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) with the Uzamnica camp as well as other strategic locations implicated in the conflict.

 

 

On 6 April 1992, JNA artillery bombarded the town, in particular Bosniak-inhabited neighbourhoods and nearby villages.

Murat Šabanović and a group of Bosniak men took several local Serbs hostage and seized control of the hydroelectric dam, threatening to blow it up.

Water was released from the dam causing flooding to some houses and streets.

Eventually on 12 April, JNA commandos seized the dam.

 

Бањска стена - Тешке боје.jpg

 

The next day the JNA’s Užice Corps took control of Višegrad, positioning tanks and heavy artillery around the town.

The population that had fled the town during the crisis returned and the climate in the town remained relatively calm and stable during the later part of April and the first two weeks of May.

On 19 May 1992 the Užice Corps officially withdrew from the town and local Serb leaders established control over Višegrad and all municipal government offices.

 

Soon after, local Serbs, police and paramilitaries began one of the most notorious campaigns of ethnic cleansing in the conflict.

There was widespread looting and destruction of houses, and terrorizing of Bosniak civilians, with instances of rape, with a large number of Bosniaks killed in the town, with many bodies were dumped in the River Drina.

Men were detained at the barracks at Uzamnica, the Vilina Vlas Hotel and other sites in the area.

Vilina Vlas also served as a “brothel“, in which Bosniak women and girls (some not yet 14 years old), were brought to by police officers and paramilitary members (White Eagles and Arkan’s Tigers).

 

Visegradska banja vilina vlas by Klackalica.jpg

Above: Vilina Vlas Hotel today

 

Bosniaks detained at Uzamnica were subjected to inhumane conditions, including regular beatings, torture and strenuous forced labour.

Both of the town’s mosques were razed.

According to victims’ reports some 3,000 Bosniaks were murdered in Višegrad and its surroundings, including some 600 women and 119 children.

According to the Research and Documentation Center, at least 1,661 Bosniaks were killed/missing in Višegrad.

 

With the Dayton Agreement, which put an end to the war, Bosnia and Herzegovina was divided into two entities, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska, the latter which Višegrad became part of.

 

Flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Above: Flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina

 

Before the war, 63% of the town residents were Bosniak.

In 2009, only a handful of survivors had returned to what is now a predominantly Serb town.

On 5 August 2001, survivors of the massacre returned to Višegrad for the burial of 180 bodies exhumed from mass graves.

The exhumation lasted for two years and the bodies were found in 19 different mass graves.

The charges of mass rape were unapproved as the prosecutors failed to request them in time.

Cousins Milan Lukić and Sredoje Lukić were convicted on 20 July 2009, to life in prison and 30 years, respectively, for a 1992 killing spree of Muslims.

 

LUKIC Milan copy.jpg

Above: Milan Lukic

 

The Mehmed Pasa Sokolovic Bridge was popularized by Andric in his novel The Bridge on the Drina.

A tourist site called Andricgrad (Andric Town) dedicated to Andric, is located near the Bridge.

Construction of Andrićgrad, also known as Kamengrad (Каменград, “Stonetown“) started on 28 June 2011, and was officially opened on 28 June 2014, on Vidovdan.)

 

Above: Main Street, Andricgrad

 

Throughout his life Andric was tied to Visegrad by pleasant reminiscences and bright memories of childhood.

 

The Bridge on the Drina.jpg

Above: First edition of The Bridge on the Drina (Serbian)

 

At the age of ten, he received a three-year scholarship from a Croat cultural group called Napredak (Progress) to study in Sarajevo.

In the autumn of 1902, he was registered at the Great Sarajevo Gymnasium (Serbo-Croatian: Velika Sarajevska gimnazija), the oldest secondary school in Bosnia.

While in Sarajevo, Andrić lived with his mother, who worked in a rug factory as a weaver.

 

 

(Today Sarajevo is the capital and largest city of Bosnia and Herzegovina, with a population of 275,524 in its administrative limits.

The Sarajevo metropolitan area,  is home to 555,210 inhabitants.

Nestled within the greater Sarajevo valley of Bosnia, it is surrounded by the Dinaric Alps and situated along the Miljacka River in the heart of the Balkans.

Sarajevo is the political, financial, social and cultural center of Bosnia and Herzegovina, a prominent center of culture in the Balkans, with its region-wide influence in entertainment, media, fashion, and the arts.

Due to its long and rich history of religious and cultural diversity, Sarajevo is sometimes called the “Jerusalem of Europeor “Jerusalem of the Balkans“.

It is one of only a few major European cities which have a mosque, Catholic church, Orthodox church and synagogue in the same neighborhood.

A regional center in education, the city is home to the Balkans first institution of tertiary education in the form of an Islamic polytechnic called the Saraybosna Osmanlı Medrese, today part of the University of Sarajevo.

Although settlement in the area stretches back to prehistoric times, the modern city arose as an Ottoman stronghold in the 15th century.

Sarajevo has attracted international attention several times throughout its history.

In 1885, Sarajevo was the first city in Europe and the second city in the world to have a full-time electric tram network running through the city, following San Francisco….)

 

 

At the time, the city was overflowing with civil servants from all parts of Austria-Hungary, and thus many languages could be heard in its restaurants, cafés and on its streets.

Culturally, the city boasted a strong Germanic element, and the curriculum in educational institutions was designed to reflect this.

From a total of 83 teachers that worked at Andrić’s school over a twenty-year period, only three were natives of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The teaching program,” biographer Celia Hawkesworth notes, “was devoted to producing dedicated supporters of the Habsburg Monarchy.”

Andrić disapproved.

All that came at secondary school and university,” he wrote, “was rough, crude, automatic, without concern, faith, humanity, warmth or love.

 

Andrić experienced difficulty in his studies, finding mathematics particularly challenging, and had to repeat the sixth grade.

For a time, he lost his scholarship due to poor grades.

Hawkesworth attributes Andrić’s initial lack of academic success at least partly to his alienation from most of his teachers.

Nonetheless, he excelled in languages, particularly Latin, Greek and German.

Although he initially showed substantial interest in natural sciences, he later began focusing on literature, likely under the influence of his two Croat instructors, writer and politician Đuro Šurmin and poet Tugomir Alaupović.

Of all his teachers in Sarajevo, Andrić liked Alaupović best and the two became lifelong friends.

 

Image result for tugomir alaupović

Above: Tugomir Alaupovic (1870 – 1958)

 

Andrić felt he was destined to become a writer.

He began writing in secondary school, but received little encouragement from his mother.

He recalled that when he showed her one of his first works, she replied:

“Did you write this? What did you do that for?”

Andrić published his first poem “U sumrak” (At dusk)  in 1911 in a journal called Bosanska vila (Bosnian Fairy), which promoted Serbo-Croat unity.

At the time, he was still a secondary school student.

His poems, essays, reviews, and translations appeared in journals such as Vihor (Whirlwind), Savremenik (The Contemporary), Hrvatski pokret (The Croatian Movement), and Književne novine (Literary News).

One of Andrić’s favorite literary forms was lyrical reflective prose, and many of his essays and shorter pieces are prose poems.

The historian Wayne S. Vucinich describes Andrić’s poetry from this period as “subjective and mostly melancholic“.

Andrić’s translations of August Strindberg’s novel Black Flag, Walt Whitman, and a number of Slovene authors also appeared around this time.

 

August Strindberg

Above: Swedish writer August Strindberg (1849 – 1912)

 

In 1908, Austria-Hungary officially annexed Bosnia and Herzegovina, to the chagrin of South Slav nationalists like Andrić.

In late 1911, Andrić was elected the first president of the Serbo-Croat Progressive Movement (Serbo-Croatian: Srpsko-Hrvatska Napredna Organizacija; SHNO), a Sarajevo-based secret society that promoted unity and friendship between Serb and Croat youth and opposed the Austro-Hungarian occupation.

Its members were vehemently criticized by both Serb and Croat nationalists, who dismissed them as “traitors to their nations“.

Unfazed, Andrić continued agitating against the Austro-Hungarians.

On 28 February 1912, he spoke before a crowd of 100 student protesters at Sarajevo’s railway station, urging them to continue their demonstrations.

The Austro-Hungarian police later began harassing and prosecuting SHNO members.

Ten were expelled from their schools or penalized in some other way, though Andrić himself escaped punishment.

Andrić also joined the South Slav student movement known as Young Bosnia, becoming one of its most prominent members.

 

 

In 1912, Andrić registered at the University of Zagreb, having received a scholarship from an educational foundation in Sarajevo.

He enrolled in the department of mathematics and natural sciences because these were the only fields for which scholarships were offered, but was able to take some courses in Croatian literature.

 

University of Zagreb logo.svg

 

(Today Zagreb is the capital and the largest city of Croatia.

It is located in the northwest of the country, along the Sava River, at the southern slopes of Mount Medvednica.

 

 

The climate of Zagreb is classified as an oceanic climate, but with significant continental influences and very closely bordering on a humid Continental climate as well as a humid subtropical climate.

Zagreb has four separate seasons.

Summers are warm, at the end of May the temperatures start rising and it is often pleasant with occasional thunderstorms.

Heatwaves can occur but are short-lived.

Temperatures rise above 30 °C (86 °F) on an average 14.6 days each summer.

Rainfall is abundant in the summertime and it continues to be in autumn as well.

Zagreb is Europe’s 9th wettest capital, behind Luxembourg and ahead of Brussels, Belgium.

Autumn in its early stages is mild with an increase of rainy days and precipitation as well as a steady temperature fall towards its end.

Morning fog is common from mid-October to January with northern city districts at the foothills of the Medvednica mountain as well as those along the Sava river being more prone to all-day fog accumulation.

Winters are cold with a precipitation decrease pattern.

Even though there is no discernible dry season, February is the driest month with 39 mm of precipitation.

On average there are 29 days with snowfall with first snow falling in early November.

Springs are generally mild and pleasant with frequent weather changes and are windier than other seasons.

Sometimes cold spells can occur, mostly in its early stages.

The average daily mean temperature in the winter is around 1 °C (34 °F) (from December to February) and the average temperature in the summer is 22.0 °C (71.6 °F).

 

 

Zagreb is a city with a rich history dating from the Roman times to the present day.

The oldest settlement located in the vicinity of the city was the Roman Andautonia, in today’s Ščitarjevo.

The name “Zagreb” is recorded in 1134, in reference to the foundation of the settlement at Kaptol in 1094.

Zagreb became a free royal town in 1242.

In 1851 Zagreb had its first mayor, Janko Kamauf.

After the 1880 Zagreb earthquake, up to the 1914 outbreak of World War I, development flourished and the town received the characteristic layout which it has today.

 

 

Zagreb still occasionally experiences earthquakes, due to the proximity of Žumberak-Medvednica fault zone.

It’s classified as an area of high seismic activity.

The area around Medvednica was the epicentre of the 1880 Zagreb earthquake (magnitude 6.3), and the area is known for occasional landslide threatening houses in the area.

The proximity of strong seismic sources presents a real danger of strong earthquakes.

Croatian Chief of Office of Emergency Management Pavle Kalinić stated Zagreb experiences around 400 earthquakes a year, most of them being imperceptible.

However, in case of a strong earthquake, it’s expected that 3,000 people would die and up to 15,000 would be wounded.

 

Zagreb Cathedral interior 1880.jpg

Above: Damage done to Zagreb Cathedral, 9 November 1880

 

The first horse-drawn tram was used in 1891.

The construction of the railway lines enabled the old suburbs to merge gradually into Donji Grad, characterised by a regular block pattern that prevails in Central European cities.

This bustling core hosts many imposing buildings, monuments, and parks as well as a multitude of museums, theatres and cinemas.

An electric power plant was built in 1907.

 

Since 1 January 1877, the Grič cannon is fired daily from the Lotrščak Tower on Grič to mark midday.

 

 

The first half of the 20th century saw a considerable expansion of Zagreb.

Before World War I, the city expanded and neighbourhoods like Stara Peščenica in the east and Črnomerec in the west were created.

The transport connections, concentration of industry, scientific, and research institutions and industrial tradition underlie its leading economic position in Croatia.

Zagreb is the seat of the central government, administrative bodies, and almost all government ministries.

Almost all of the largest Croatian companies, media, and scientific institutions have their headquarters in the city.

Zagreb is the most important transport hub in Croatia where Central Europe, the Mediterranean and Southeast Europe meet, making the Zagreb area the centre of the road, rail and air networks of Croatia.

It is a city known for its diverse economy, high quality of living, museums, sporting and entertainment events.

Its main branches of economy are high-tech industries and the service sector.

 

 

Zagreb is an important tourist centre, not only in terms of passengers travelling from the rest of Europe to the Adriatic Sea, but also as a travel destination itself.

It attracts close to a million visitors annually, mainly from Austria, Germany and Italy, and in recent years many tourists from the Far East (South Korea, Japan, China and India).

It has become an important tourist destination, not only in Croatia, but considering the whole region of southeastern Europe.

There are many interesting sights and happenings for tourists to attend in Zagreb, for example, the two statues of Saint George, one at the Republic of Croatia Square, the other at Kamenita vrata, where the image of Virgin Mary is said to be only thing that hasn’t burned in the 17th-century fire.

Also, there is an art installation starting in Bogovićeva street, called Nine Views.

Most people don’t know what the statue “Prizemljeno Sunce” (The Grounded Sun) is for, and just scrawl graffiti or signatures on it, but it’s actually the Sun scaled down, with many planets situated all over Zagreb in scale with the Sun.

There are also many festivals and events throughout the year, making Zagreb a year-round tourist destination.

The historical part of the city to the north of Ban Jelačić Square is composed of the Gornji Grad and Kaptol, a medieval urban complex of churches, palaces, museums, galleries and government buildings that are popular with tourists on sightseeing tours.

The historic district can be reached on foot, starting from Jelačić Square, the centre of Zagreb, or by a funicular on nearby Tomićeva Street.

Each Saturday, (April – September), on St. Mark’s Square in the Upper town, tourists can meet members of the Order of The Silver Dragon (Red Srebrnog Zmaja), who reenact famous historical conflicts between Gradec and Kaptol.

It’s a great opportunity for all visitors to take photographs of authentic and fully functional historical replicas of medieval armour.

 

 

Numerous shops, boutiques, store houses and shopping centres offer a variety of quality clothing.

There are about fourteen big shopping centres in Zagreb.

Zagreb’s offerings include crystal, china and ceramics, wicker or straw baskets, and top-quality Croatian wines and gastronomic products.

Notable Zagreb souvenirs are the tie or cravat, an accessory named after Croats who wore characteristic scarves around their necks in the Thirty Years’ War in the 17th century and the ball-point pen, a tool developed from the inventions by Slavoljub Eduard Penkala, an inventor and a citizen of Zagreb.

Many Zagreb restaurants offer various specialties of national and international cuisine.

Domestic products which deserve to be tasted include turkey, duck or goose with mlinci (a kind of pasta), štrukli (cottage cheese strudel), sir i vrhnje (cottage cheese with cream), kremšnite (custard slices in flaky pastry) and orehnjača (traditional walnut roll). )

 

 

Andrić was well received by South Slav nationalists in Zagreb and regularly participated in on-campus demonstrations.

This led to his being reprimanded by the university.

In 1913, after completing two semesters in Zagreb, Andrić transferred to the University of Vienna, where he resumed his studies.

 

Uni-Vienna-seal.png

 

(Vienna is the federal capital, largest city and one of nine states of Austria.

Vienna is Austria’s principal city, with a population of about 1.9 million (2.6 million within the metropolitan area, nearly one third of the country’s population), and its cultural, economic and political centre.

It is the 7th-largest city by population within city limits in the European Union.

Until the beginning of the 20th century, it was the largest German-speaking city in the world, and before the splitting of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in World War I, the city had 2 million inhabitants.

Today, it has the second largest number of German speakers after Berlin.

Vienna is host to many major international organizations, including the United Nations and OPEC.

The city is located in the eastern part of Austria and is close to the borders of the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary.

These regions work together in a European Centrope border region.

Along with nearby Bratislava, Vienna forms a metropolitan region with 3 million inhabitants.

In 2001, the city centre was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In July 2017 it was moved to the list of World Heritage in Danger.

Apart from being regarded as the City of Music because of its musical legacy, Vienna is also said to be “The City of Dreams” because it was home to the world’s first psychoanalyst – Sigmund Freud.

The city’s roots lie in early Celtic and Roman settlements that transformed into a Medieval and Baroque city, and then the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

It is well known for having played an essential role as a leading European music centre, from the great age of Viennese Classicism through the early part of the 20th century.

The historic centre of Vienna is rich in architectural ensembles, including Baroque castles and gardens, and the late-19th-century Ringstraße lined with grand buildings, monuments and parks.

Vienna is known for its high quality of life.

In a 2005 study of 127 world cities, the Economist Intelligence Unit ranked the city first (in a tie with Vancouver and San Francisco) for the world’s most liveable cities.

Between 2011 and 2015, Vienna was ranked second, behind Melbourne.

In 2018, it replaced Melbourne as the number one spot.

For ten consecutive years (2009–2019), the human-resource-consulting firm Mercer ranked Vienna first in its annual “Quality of Living” survey of hundreds of cities around the world.

Monocle’s 2015 “Quality of Life Survey” ranked Vienna second on a list of the top 25 cities in the world “to make a base within.”

The UN-Habitat classified Vienna as the most prosperous city in the world in 2012/2013.

The city was ranked 1st globally for its culture of innovation in 2007 and 2008, and sixth globally (out of 256 cities) in the 2014 Innovation Cities Index, which analyzed 162 indicators in covering three areas: culture, infrastructure, and markets.

Vienna regularly hosts urban planning conferences and is often used as a case study by urban planners.

Between 2005 and 2010, Vienna was the world’s number-one destination for international congresses and conventions.

It attracts over 6.8 million tourists a year.)

 

From top, left to right: Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna City Hall, St. Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna State Opera, and Austrian Parliament Building

Above: Images of Vienna (Wien)

 

While in Vienna, Andric joined South Slav students in promoting the cause of Yugoslav unity and worked closely with two Yugoslav student societies, the Serbian cultural society Zora (Dawn) and the Croatian student club Zvonimir, which shared his views on “integral Yugoslavism” (the eventual assimilation of all South Slav cultures into one).

Andric became acquainted with Soren Kierkegaard’s book Either / Or, which would have a lasting influence on him.

 

A head-and-shoulders portrait sketch of a young man in his twenties that emphasizes his face, full hair, open and forward-looking eyes and a hint of a smile. He wears a formal necktie and lapel.

Above: Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard (1813 – 1855)

 

Despite finding like-minded students in Vienna, the city’s climate took a toll on Andrić’s health.

He contracted tuberculosis and became seriously ill, then asked to leave Vienna on medical grounds and continue his studies elsewhere, though Hawkesworth believes he may actually have been taking part in a protest of South Slav students that were boycotting German-speaking universities and transferring to Slavic ones.

 

For a time, Andrić had considered transferring to a school in Russia but ultimately decided to complete his fourth semester at Jagiellonian University in Kraków.

 

POL Jagiellonian University logo.svg

Above: Logo of Jagiellonian University

 

(Kraków is the second largest and one of the oldest cities in Poland.

Situated on the Vistula River, the city dates back to the 7th century.

Kraków was the official capital of Poland until 1596 and has traditionally been one of the leading centres of Polish academic, economic, cultural and artistic life.

Cited as one of Europe’s most beautiful cities, its Old Town was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The city has grown from a Stone Age settlement to Poland’s second most important city.

It began as a hamlet on Wawel Hill and was already being reported as a busy trading centre of Central Europe in 965.

With the establishment of new universities and cultural venues at the emergence of the Second Polish Republic in 1918 and throughout the 20th century, Kraków reaffirmed its role as a major national academic and artistic centre.

The city has a population of about 770,000, with approximately 8 million additional people living within a 100 km (62 mi) radius of its main square.

 

 

After the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany at the start of World War II, the newly defined Distrikt Krakau (Kraków District) became the capital of Germany’s General Government.

The Jewish population of the city was forced into a walled zone known as the Kraków Ghetto, from which they were sent to German extermination camps such as the nearby Auschwitz never to return, and the Nazi concentration camps like Płaszów.

 

Krakow Ghetto Gate 73170.jpg

 

In 1978, Karol Wojtyła, archbishop of Kraków, was elevated to the papacy as Pope John Paul II—the first Slavic pope ever and the first non-Italian pope in 455 years.

 

John Paul II on 12 August 1993 in Denver, Colorado

Above: Pope John Paul II (1920 – 2005)

 

Also that year, UNESCO approved the first ever sites for its new World Heritage List, including the entire Old Town in inscribing Kraków’s Historic Centre.

Kraków is classified as a global city with the ranking of high sufficiency by GaWC.

Its extensive cultural heritage across the epochs of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture includes the Wawel Cathedral and the Royal Castle on the banks of the Vistula, the St. Mary’s Basilica, Saints Peter and Paul Church and the largest medieval market square in Europe, the Rynek Główny.

Kraków is home to Jagiellonian University, one of the oldest universities in the world and traditionally Poland’s most reputable institution of higher learning.

In 2000, Kraków was named European Capital of Culture.

In 2013 Kraków was officially approved as a UNESCO City of Literature.

The city hosted the World Youth Day in July 2016.)

 

 

Throughout his life Andric would feel that he owed much to the Polish excursion.

Andric met and mingled with painters Jovan Bijelic, Roman Petrovic and Peter Tijesic.

He transferred in early 1914 and continued to publish translations, poems and reviews.

Six poems written by Andric were included in the anthology Hrvatska Mlada Linka (Young Christian Lyricists).

In the words of literary critics:

As unhappy as any artist.  Ambitious.  Sensitive.  Briefly speaking, he has a future.

 

Flag of Poland

Above: Flag of Poland

 

(This perspective has always made me wonder….

Must a man suffer before he can call himself an artist?)

 

A portrait of Vincent van Gogh from the right; he is wearing a winter hat, his ear is bandaged and he has no beard.

 

Certainly, Andric lost his father and was separated from his mother in his childhood and the domination of his homeland by the Austrian-Hungarian Empire clearly bothered him, nonetheless Andric had had the distinct privilege of living and studying in four of the most beautiful and cultural cities that Eastern Europe offers.

Certainly, Andric would be plagued with ill health often during the course of his lifetime, but it would not be until the outbreak of war in 1914 that his, and Europe’s, suffering would truly begin….

(To be continued….)

Image result for ivo andric museum belgrade images

Sources: Wikipedia / Google / Lonely Planet Eastern Europe / Belgrade City Museum, Memorial Museum of Ivo Andric Guide / Komshe Travel Guides, Serbia in Your Hands / Top Travel Guides, Belgrade / Bradt Guides, Serbia / Aleksandar Diklic, Belgrade: The Eternal City / Ivo Andric, The Bridge on the Drina / Ivo Andric, Signs by the Roadside

Canada Slim and the Vienna Waltz

Landschlacht, Switzerland, 9 December 2017

There are moments when one has to accept one´s limitations.

For example, the wife and I were asked to attend her employer´s Christmas Party yesterday evening, but neither one of us was healthy (or motivated) enough to attend.

I have been home all week when I would have rather been working, but it is hard to be a barista or teacher when one has lost his voice.

The demands of work and other personal responsibilities limit my ability to travel very far at present, so some of the places where I would like to visit I cannot visit due to both the constraints of limited time and money to do so.

As regular readers (both of them!) of my blog know I have been retracing the life and “footsteps” of Swiss reformer Huldrych Zwingli (1484 – 1531).

Ulrich-Zwingli-1.jpg

Above: Huldrych Zwingli

(See Canada Slim and the Road to Reformation of this blog.)

I wrote about walking from Wildhaus to Strichboden to Arvenbuel to Weesen.

(See Canada Slim and the Wild Child of Toggenburg and Canada Slim and the Thundering Hollows of this blog.)

I wrote that Zwingli was born in Wildhaus and was first educated in Weesen (1489 – 1494)

Zwingli then completed his secondary education in Basel (1494 – 1496), then five years later returned to Basel to complete his Master´s Degree at the University of Basel (1502 – 1506).

I did not walk to Basel, but having frequently visited and worked in the city I felt that my readers would still like a glimpse of the place.

(See Canada Slim and the Basel Butterfly Effect of this blog.)

But what of the years (1496 – 1502) between Zwingli´s Basel educational periods?

Well, Zwingli was sent to Bern, the Swiss capital, and stayed with the humanist Henry Wölfflin.

The Dominicans in Bern tried to persuade Zwingli to join their order and it is possible that he was received as a novice, but as both his father and uncle disapproved of such a course of action, he left Bern without completing his Latin studies.

Zwingli then enrolled in the University of Vienna in the winter semester of 1498 but was expelled, according to the University´s records.

Zwingli´s activities in 1499 are unknown, but history records that he re-enrolled in the summer of 1500 and continued his studies until 1502, after which he transferred to the University of Basel.

After Basel, Zwingli would be ordained in Konstanz, celebrate his first mass in Wildhaus, and then take up his first ecclesiastical post in Glarus.

The walking tourbook Zwingli- Wege mentions Bern, Vienna and Konstanz, but the authors do not extend their book´s walks to these three cities.

As far as I can tell there is little celebration of Zwingli´s life in Bern, Vienna and Konstanz.

And even though Zwingli´s time in Glarus is definitely noteworthy, it isn´t until he began his reformatory crusade for change in the Church in Zürich do the Swiss take much notice of the man.

As I have written of both Bern and Konstanz in the past within this blog, I want to speak of Vienna, not so much in regard to Zwingli but in regards to the wisdom of spending time in this place.

(For stories about Bern, see Capital Be and Canada Slim in the Capital of this blog.)

(For stories about Konstanz, see Konstanz: City of Shattered Dreams?, Flames and Broken Promises, and Canada Slim and the City of the Thousand of this blog.)

Above: View of Vienna (Wien) from the Stephansdom (St. Stephen´s Cathedral)

Vienna, Austria, 2 October 1998

It was my second adventure travelling about Europe, and, as a result of my first adventure, this time I was not alone.

Accompanied by the woman who would one day become my wife, Ute and I travelled by train and bus from Freiburg im Breisgau in southwestern Germany´s Black Forest, north to Strasbourg, Heidelberg, Trier and Köln (Cologne), east to Nuremburg, Praha (Prague) and Kutná Hora, south to Ceske Budojovice and Cesky Krumlov, and finally southeast to Wien (Vienna) arriving by overnight train.

The journey to Vienna had been, for the most part, pleasant, filled with discoveries and missteps as are common to any long adventure spent together.

The arrival to this imperial city started poorly.

I had gotten into my head that Vienna was a place where I was expected to wear a suit.

Somehow I convinced myself that Vienna was an élite environment that would not accept me unless I was wearing a suit.

Said suit had lain balled up at the bottom of my backpack, but at the crack of dawn I rolled it out, put it on and waited for us to arrive.

A sudden braking of the train caused me to split wide open the crotch of my suit trousers, putting me in a frightfully ugly and grumpy mood.

My Ute is never one to let an ugly mood go to waste and she responded in kind, so perhaps it was a mixed blessing that we spent our nights in Vienna in separately segregated youth hostel beds.

And though we would later argue yet one more time during our sojourn there, we were generally happy together in this romantic city of hidden courtyards, mysterious cellars and forgotten cemeteries, of Harry Lime (The Third Man) and Mozart (Rock me, Amadeus!), of Schubert, Strauss and Freud, of Marilyn Monroe and Karl Marx, of Vivaldi and 007, the blue Danube and the kaleidoscope of colour that is the Hundertwasserhaus.

Above: Hundertwasser, Vienna

Vienna conjures up a myriad of memories: impressive imperial palaces and dictatorial failed artists, coffeehouses crammed with cakes and customers, baroque mirrors and angelic choirboys, Art Nouveau architecture and Klimt canvasses, horsedrawn fiacre carriages and lovely leaping Lippanzer stallions.

This is also a city of music: a Strauss waltz, a cathedral choir, an organ recital, an opera performance, a celebration of the talents of Beethoven, Brahms, Haydn, Liszt and Mahler, a litany of life, melodies of magic.

Above: Johann Strauss II Monument, Stadtpark, Vienna

As is normal in any relationship of two or more travelling companions, there must be a certain amount of give-and-take for harmony to happen.

And I must confess I was searching for the poetry of Canadian balladeer Leonard Cohen to be reflected on the streets of Vienna.

Leonard Cohen, 1988 01.jpg

Above: Leonard Cohen (1934 – 2016)

“Now in Vienna there are ten pretty women.”

Ah, the things men do to woo women….

The Neidhart Frescoes show a thief groping beneath a woman´s skirt, while another uses snowballs to win the favours of a peasant girl.

Bildergebnis für neidhart fresken

Ah, the things men do to escape women….

The Kornhäusel Tower was designed by architect Josef Georg Kornhäusel (1782 – 1860) as a refuge from his nagging wife, having a retractable iron staircase from the first floor rather than a conventional doorway at street level.

Bildergebnis für kornhäuslturm

Above: Kornhäuselturm, Vienna

“There´s a shoulder where Death comes to cry.”

On 15 March 1938 German Chancellor Adolf Hitler came to Vienna to proclaim the annexation (Anschluss) of Austria.

Above: Adolf Hitler, Heldenplatz, Vienna, 15 March 1938

Within days Vienna´s elegant Hotel Metropole at Morzinplatz was commandeered as the regional headquarters of the Nazi secret police and Heinrich Hemmler´s henchmen began rounding up opponents of National Socialism: Fascists, Communists, Jews, men, women and children for interrogation, torture and dispatch to concentration camps.

Above: The former Hotel Metropole, Vienna

Above: Monument to the Memory of the Victims of the Gestapo, Morzinplatz, Vienna

“There´s a lobby with nine hundred windows.”

A lobby is a place where people wait.

Kaballah (Jewish mysticism) teaches that this earthly existence is a lobby where we wait for the “world to come”.

10 Sephirot

Kaballah also teaches that there are 900 – yes, exactly 900 – potential types of death for a human being.

This refers not to the manner or cause of death, but to the inner experience of the person who is dying and the different experiences of death vary in degree of gentleness or painfulness.

The most gentle & peaceful death is referred to as “the kiss”, or “the kiss of Shekinah” and is described as feeling like a hair being pulled from a cup of milk.

The most painful death is described as feeling like a spiked ball at the end of a hairy rope being pulled out of the person’s throat.

Vienna is a city where some people still keep a separate savings account in order to ensure an appropriately lavish funeral.

Above: Grave of Ludwig von Beethoven (1770 – 1827), Zentralfriedhof, Vienna

Vienna´s chief cemetery, the Zentralfriedhof is one of the biggest in Europe, larger than the entire Innere Stadt, and with a much bigger population – 2.5 million – than the whole of the city (1.8 million).

Above: Grave of Johannes Brahms (1833 – 1897), Zentralfriedhof, Vienna

It even has its own bus service to help mourners get around the cemetery.

Above: Grave of Franz Schubert (1797 – 1828)

Opened in 1874, at the height of Viennese funereal fetishism – when having eine schöne Leich (a beautiful corpse) was something to aspire to, the Zentralfriedhof is still very much a working graveyard.

1 November / All Saints´ Day sees up to a million Viennese make the trip out here and leave candles burning in remembrance on virtually every grave.

And here the music is buried along with its decomposing composers: Beethoven, Schubert, Gluck, Brahms, Wolf and the entire Strauss clan.

Or could the 900 windows be more pedantic and simply be Vienna´s first skyscraper, the 16-storey, 50-metre high Hochhaus, built in 1932?

Bildergebnis für hochhaus wien herrengasse

Above: Hochhaus, Herrengasse, Vienna

“There´s a tree where the doves go to die.”

A cross where the King of Peace was crucified?

Stephansdom, a cathedral that has dominated the Viennese skyline for centuries and an obvious military target that has endured two Turkish sieges, Napoleonic bombardment, American bombers and Russian artillery.

Wien - Stephansdom (1).JPG

Above: St. Stephan´s Cathedral, Vienna

Despite the tourists, it is still very much a place of worship.

The Pötscher Madonna, an object of great veneration even today, wept tears from her unusual large eyes during the Battle of Zenta against the Turks in 1697 and in so doing miraculously secured victory against the invading infidels.

Above: The Pötscher Madonna, Stephansdom, Vienna

In the Apostles´ Choir is the glorious red marble tomb of Emperor Friedrich III (1415 – 1493) with the Emperor´s mysterious acronym AEIOU (Alles Erdreich ist Österreich Untertan / The whole world is subject to Austria.)

Down in the catacombs, around 16,000 locals are buried here, their bones piled high in more than thirty rooms.

“There´s a piece that was torn from the morning and it hangs in the Gallery of Frost.”

A reference to Sisi (1837 – 1898), a young girl torn away so soon in the morning of her life to become Empress Elisabeth to the Hapsburg Emperor Franz Joseph I and whose life and love were lynched to death by her loveless husband and his control freak mother?

Winterhalter Elisabeth 2.jpg

Above: Empress Elisabeth of Austria

Married at 16, her mother-in-law Sophie denied Sisi any privacy by choosing her ladies in waiting for her, denied Sisi any love by having her children removed from her care as soon as they were born.

Princess sophie of bavaria 1866.jpg

Above: Archduchess Sophie of Austria (1805 – 1872)

Later, Elisabeth would tell her daughter:

“Marriage is an absurd institution.

 

Above: Sisi´s husband, Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria (1830 – 1916)

At the age of fifteen you are sold, you make a vow you do not understand, and you regret for thirty years or more that you cannot break it.”

By 1860, Sisi had suffered enough.

She abandoned her children and husband and fled to Madeira for six months.

She then spent the rest of her lonely life travelling around Europe, crisscrossing the Continent, never staying in one place too long and went on endless cruises.

Sisi sought solace in fencing, hiking and horseback riding and in the preservation of her beauty.

When her cousin, King Ludwig, and then her only son Rudolf, committed suicide within a few years of each other, she became convinced that she was mentally unstable.

Above: Photos of Prince Rudolf (1858 – 1889) and his mistress Baroness Mary Vetsera who died together in a suicide pact in the Meyerling Hunting Lodge in the Vienna Woods

From then on, she dressed only in black and carried a black fan to hide her wrinkles.

“When we cannot be happy in the way that we desire there is nothing for it but to fall in love with our sorrows.”

By 1897, Elisabeth´s health began to deteriorate rapidly – a condition partly brought on by anorexia – to the extent that she could barely walk.

Despite her poor health and her obsession with madness and death, few would have predicted her final demise.

On 10 September 1898, the Empress was assassinated by an Italian anarchist Luigi Lucheni, on Lake Geneva.

Thousands turned out for Sisi´s funeral in Vienna.

Above: Sisi´s funeral procession, Vienna, 17 September 1898

She is buried in the basement vault of the Capuchin Church beside her estranged husband and her suicidal son, amongst other royal remains – some with death´s heads emblazoned on their coffins.

Above: Tombs of Sisi (left), Franz Joseph (centre), Rudolf (right), Kaisergruft (Imperial Crypt), Capuchin Church, Vienna

It is a gallery of glorified ghosts, a chamber of frost, a cold place indeed.

“There´s a concert hall in Vienna where your mouth had a thousand reviews.”

Could Leonard have meant the Staatsoper (Vienna State Opera), which opened in May 1869 with a performance of Mozart´s Don Giovanni?

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Above: The Staatsoper, Vienna

“There´s a bar where the boys have stopped talking.

They´ve been sentenced to death by the blues.”

Surveys have shown that the vast majority of Viennese are safely tucked up in bed by as early as 10 pm.

Nonetheless it is still quite possible to keep partying around the clock in Vienna.

Vienna´s late night bars are concentrated in three main areas, the most famous being the Bermuda Triangle, which focuses on Rabensteig, Seitenstettengasse, Ruprechtsplatz and the streets around.

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If I was searching for a blues bar, the Bermuda Triangle is where I would look.

“There´s an attic where children are playing, where I´ve got to lie down with you soon, in a dream of Hungarian lanterns, in the mist of some sweet afternoon.”

The attic of the body is the mind and who we are psychologically is often formed by the events of our childhood.

Few people are as intimately associated with Vienna as Sigmund Freud (1856 – 1939), for though he was born in Freiburg in Moravia and died in exile in London, in the intevening 83 years he spent most of his life here.

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Above: Sigmund Freud

The father of psychoanalysis was the first to come up with having patients discuss their problems while lying down on a couch.

Freud´s The Interpretation of Dreams contains two revolutionary ideas:

  1. All dreams represent the fulfillment of wishes.
  2. The functioning of dreams provides systematic evidence of the unconscious.

Sigmund Freud moved to the second floor of Berggasse 19 in 1891 and remained there until 4 June 1938 when he and his family fled to London.

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His apartment is now a place of pilgrimage, even though Freud took most of his possessions with him into exile.

His hat, coat and walking stick are still here.

There is movie footage from the 1930s, but the only room with any original decor, any ancient atmosphere, is the waiting room with odd oriental rugs, a cabinet of antiquities and some burgundy furniture sent back from London by his daughter Anna after the War.

Rooms of photographs and Freud-inspired art and a library are all that remain of eight decades of living in Vienna.

“And I´ll dance with you in Vienna….

….Take this waltz. 

Take this waltz. 

It´s yours now.

It´s all that there is.”

We would visit the bookshop Shakespeare & Company, have lunch at the University Mensa (cafeteria) and supper at the Restaurant Marché Mövenpick and coffee at Café Bräunerhof with Parisian style snooty waiters in penguin tuxedos.

Parliament Building, Vienna

Above: Austrian Parliament, Vienna

We would tour Parliament and watch horses perform ballet at the Spanische Reitschule (Spanish Riding School).

Above: The Spanische Reitschule, Vienna

The King of the Waltz, composer Johann Strauss the Younger (1825 – 1899) lived on the first floor of Praterstrasse 34 from 1863 until the death of his first wife, the singer Jetty Treffz, in 1878.

Today´s Strauss Museum contains a room with ceiling cherubs, a grand piano, an organ and a standing desk.

There are dance cards and ball pendants which were kept as mementoes of the evenings tripping the light fantastic.

Strauss is, of course, best known for having written Vienna´s signature tune, An der schönen blauen Donau (The Blue Danube), but he also composed stirring tunes such as the Revolution March and the Song of the Barricades.

His operatta, Die Fledermaus (The Bat), written to take Viennese minds off the economic crash of 1873, was another huge success.

Freud would have had a field day had he taken Johann Junior on as a patient.

Johann Strauss the Elder (1804 – 1849) began his career serenading diners in Viennese restaurants, however it was in the dance hall of Zum Sperl that Johann Senior made his mark as a band leader, conducting a frentic mixture of dances, orchestral fantasies and somber melodies.

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Above: Johann Strauss the Elder

Papa Strauss´ gypsy-like features and wild, vigorous conducting style became very popular in Vienna and he and his orchestra would gain fame touring Europe.

However Strauss Senior´s touring took a toil on domestic life and he created a public scandal in 1842 when he left the Family home and moved in with a young seamstress, who bore him several illegitimate children.

Strauss Junior, the eldest son, followed in his father´s footsteps, writing his first waltz at the age of six, though his father wished for him to become a banker.

Above: Johann Strauss the Younger (1825 – 1899), photo taken by Fritz Luckhardt

Father and son soon became rivals, both musically and politically, with son surpassing father in fame.

Despite their rivalry, father and son were quite alike, for Johann Junior was a difficult character like his father and something of an outsider.

And like his father, Johann Junior caused a scandal, divorcing his second wife Lili in order to marry his mistress.

What would Freud have thought?

 

Landschlacht, Switzerland, 9 December 2017

Cohen sings when I remember Vienna and think of my emotions towards my wife then and often now:

Take this waltz.

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Take this waltz with its “I´ll never forget you, you know!”

….And I´ll bury my soul in a scrapbook, with the photographs there and the moss.

And I´ll yield to the flood of your beauty my cheap violin and my cross.”

I no longer wanted “some hallway where love´s never been”, or to simply be “on a bed where the moon has been sweating”.

O, my love.

O, my love.

Take this waltz. 

Take this waltz. 

It´s yours now.

It´s all that there is.”

I would like to return to Vienna, not to visit the non-descript Zwinglikirche, but to walk on fog-filled streets to pay my last farewell to the impatient young man I was, his coffin lowered into the frozen ground of his impatience.

To perhaps pass him by with incredulity or perhaps no recognition of my present self in his past features, just other stranger on the Strand.

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But for now we walk in the cold Swiss air, our freezing breath on the window pane.

Lying, waiting.

I am a man in the dark in a picture frame, so mystic and soulful.

Memory stays with me until the feeling is gone.

The waltz is weaving.

The rhythm is willing.

Cold, empty silence?

Cold grey sky?

These mean nothing to me.

Oh, Vienna.

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“Slow down, you crazy child.

You´re so ambitious for a juvenile.

But then if you´re so smart,

Tell me why you are still so afraid.

Where´s the fire?

What´s the hurry about?

You better cool it off before you burn it out.

You got so much to do and only so many hours in a day.

But you know that when the truth is told

That you can get what you want

Or you can just get old.

You´re gonna kick off before you even get halfway through.

When will you realize….

Vienna waits for you?

….Slow down, you crazy child.

Take the phone off the hook and disappear for awhile.

It´s alright you can afford to lose a day or two.

When will you realize….

Vienna waits for you.”

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Sources: Wikipedia / Lonely Planet Austria / Lonely Planet Central Europe on a Shoestring / The Rough Guide to Austria / Richard Appignanesi and Oscar Zarate, Introducing Freud: A Graphic Guide to the Father of Psychoanalysis / Graham Greene, The Third Man / Duncan J. D. Smith, Only in Vienna: A Guide to Unique Locations, Hidden Corners and Unusual Objects / Leonard Cohen, “Take this Waltz”, I´m Your Man / Billy Joel, “Vienna”, The Stranger / Ultravox, “Vienna”, Vienna

Canada Slim and the Right Man

Landschlacht, Switzerland, 6 December 2017

Is there such a thing as an indispensable man?

This is a question I have often asked myself when considering both my life and the lives of the famous.

I ask myself this question recently as I am, once again, forced to remain at home in bed with, yet another cold that has made both barista work and teaching impractical as I have been reduced to a coughing, sneezing, aching, quivering jellyfish of a man unfit and undesirable for public encounters.

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My voice sounds tortured and hoarse as if it is painfully emerging from a long tunnel.

My appearance is akin to a homeless street person and our apartment reflects this.

The wife mocks the man cold, but hers is a gender that endures menstruation on a monthly basis and usually survives the incredible ordeal of child birth with little hesitation to repeat or memory of the event.

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Hers is a mind of multiplicity handling every moment and memory simultaneously, while my mind is a series of boxes which are opened only one at a time, so when illness strikes all my focus is upon how truly horrid I feel.

A woman with a cold is simply a woman with yet another complication in her life, for she will incorporate the cold as part of life´s burdens she must bear and will further complicate her life with tortured emotions about the selfishness of her having a cold keeping her from doing her other duties.

A man, though he is aware of the selfishness of having others assume his duties, will moan and groan impatiently focused on his recovery, even so his conscience is little disturbed about staying at home until he deems himself fit to tackle the world again.

I think about work, of course, and consider what my absence will mean to my students and colleagues.

I know that there are other teachers who could teach in my place and that a barista can be replaced.

But does that mean my presence then is insignificant?

I don´t believe so.

For though I am far from being the most competent or qualified barista or teacher, I possess an entertaining and compassionate personality that I believe my students and colleagues value.

But short of historical accident thrusting me into greatness, I am self aware enough to realise that my eventual absence from existence will not impact history or much of humanity that significantly.

Though the life of my wife might have been greatly different without me in it, would she have been happier or sadder had we never met?

If I had not survived an accident with an axe during my teenage years, or if I had perished on the side of the mountain when I was stranded overnight three years ago, would the world have noticed my absence?

My social circle was and remains small.

I would have been missed by a few people, but I believe they would have found the strength to carry on without me.

I don´t believe I need an angel Clarence to show this George Bailey how It´s a Wonderful Life and how vastly different reality would be had I never existed.

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Above: Henry Travis as angel Clarence Oddbody (left) and James Stewart as George Bailey (right), from It´s A Wonderful Life (1946)

Certainly each man leaves his mark on the world by how his actions have affected others.

A man´s greatness could even be said to be measured by how many others his actions affected.

My mind often wonders how reality might be had certain great men never existed or didn´t exist at the time when they were most influential.

The recent resurgence of interest in Winston Churchill (1874 – 1965) – with this year´s movies Darkest Hour (starring Gary Oldman) and Churchill (starring Brian Cox) and last year´s Churchill´s Secret (starring Michael Gambon) – have led me to wonder would the world of today be different had Churchill not been present at those moments of yesterday when he made the most impact?

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This hypothetical “What If?” exercise is not so far fetched….

On a holiday in Bournemouth in January 1893, Churchill fell and was knocked unconscious for three days.

Churchill saw action as a soldier and war correspondent and risked his life in India, the Sudan and South Africa.

Above: Battle of Omdurman, Sudan (2 September 1898), where Churchill took part in a cavalry charge

It remains uncertain whether Churchill´s life was in any danger when he was present at the January 1911 Siege of Sidney Street when Latvian anarchists wanted for murder holed up in a house and resisted arrest.

Above: Winston Churchill (highlighted) at Sidney Street, 3 January 1911

And it is also unclear whether Home Secretary Churchill gave the police any operational orders during the Siege, though it has been suggested that when the house caught fire Churchill prevented the fire brigade from dousing the flames so that the anarchists burnt to death.

“I thought it better to let the house burn down rather than spend good British lives in rescuing those ferocious rascals.”

On 12 December 1931, during a lecture tour for his writing, Churchill, while crossing New York City´s Fifth Avenue, was knocked down by a car.

Above: The Empire State Building, completed 1931

Had Churchill not survived these events to become Prime Minister (1940 – 1945 / 1951 – 1955), would Britain have remained resolute against Germany during the Second World War?

How indispensable was Churchill to the world?

This question was certainly paramount in my mind when my wife and I visited the Churchill War Rooms six weeks ago….

Above: An external view of the New Public Offices building, the basements of which were chosen to house the Cabinet War Rooms

London, England, 24 October 2017

In 1938, in anticipation of Nazi air raids, the basement of the Treasury building on London´s King Charles Street was converted into “war rooms”, protected by a three-foot-thick concrete slab, reinforced with steel rails and tramlines.

It was here that Prime Minister Winston Churchill directed operations and held cabinet meetings for the duration of World War II.

By the end of the War, the six-acre site included a hospital, canteen and shooting range, as well as sleeping quarters.

Tunnels fan out from the complex to outlying government ministeries.

It is rumoured there are also tunnels to Buckingham Palace itself, allowing the Royal Family a quick getaway to exile in Canada (via Charing Cross Station) in the event of a Nazi invasion.

Above: Buckingham Palace

Walking the corridors of the Churchill War Rooms and exploring its adjacent Churchill Museum are experiences that live long in the memory.

Every corner tells a story.

Today we take for granted the idea of an underground command centre.

How else can political and military leaders run a country and control armed forces, safe from enemy bombardment?

But the Second World War was the first time that Britain faced such a concentrated aerial threat.

Should there be some sort of central war room?

Where should it be?

How should it be protected?

Who should work there?

What space and equipment would they need?

What exactly would they be doing?

Most of these questions began to be answered only in the final fraught months before Britain went to war.

A flag featuring both cross and saltire in red, white and blue

Many of them were still being answered during the War itself, even as bombs rained down over London and the threat of invasion loomed.

The story of the Churchill War Rooms is therefore one of improvisation in the face of deadly necessity.

After the First World War (1914 – 1918), the British government adopted a “ten-year rule”.

Until instructed otherwise, all departments should assume that the country would not go to war again for at least a decade.

Even so, some thought was given to how a future war might be fought.

In 1924, government experts predicted that London would be bombarded by up to 200 tons of bombs in the first 24 hours of a world conflict.

Casualities would be high and the country´s political and military command structure could be severely disabled.

Partly due to the ten-year rule, little was done to heed this warning until 1933 when a belligerent Adolf Hitler rose to power in Germany.

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Above: Adolf Hitler (1889 – 1945)

It came as a complete shock when Hitler declared his intention to have Germany leave the League of Nations, the forerunner of today´s United Nations.

War within the next decade suddenly seemed much more possible and the question of national defence became a priority.

In March 1938, Germany annexed Austria, adding to international tension.

General Hastings Ismay, Deputy Secretary of Britain´s Committee of Imperial Defence, immediately organised a search for an emergency working refuge to house the Cabinet and the Chiefs of Staff in case of a sudden attack.

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Above: Hastings Ismay (1887 – 1965)

Plans were still in a confused state in late May 1938, when the alarming news was received that German troops were massing on the Czechoslovakian border.

There might be war any day, but still no war room.

On 31 May 1938, the site was confirmed, a site conveniently close to both Downing Street (the Prime Minister´s residence) and Parliament.

It was thought that the steel structure of the Treasury building above the War Rooms would provide extra protection against bombs, but a direct hit on the site would have been catastrophic.

From June to August 1938, work on the War Rooms involved clearing rooms, sandbagging alcoves, replacing glass doors with teak, building brick partitions, installing telephone lines and estabishing a connection with the BBC.

As the site was situated below the level of the Thames River, flood doors had to be fitted and pumps installed.

By the end of August, the Map Room was manned and tested and plans were underway for airlocks and steel doors to defend against gas attack.

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Above: The Map Room, Cabinet War Rooms

There could be no hesitation or pause in these preparations.

Hitler had sparked a new crisis on the Continent by threatening to annex part of Czechoslovakia.

Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain attempted to defuse the situation by diplomatic means.

British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain

Above: Neville Chamberlain (1869 – 1940), British PM (1937 – 1940)

On 30 September, Hitler signed the Munich Agreement – heralded by Chamberlain as a guarantee of “peace for our time”, but the Central War Room was theoretically ready for use.

Above: Neville Chamberlain showing the Anglo-German Declaration, aka The Munich Agreement. guaranteeing “peace for our time”, Heston Air Force Base, England, 30 September 1938

It would have been desperately uncomfortable for anyone working there, as the ventilation system was poor, there were no overnight accommodations, no bedding, no kitchen, no food, no toilets or washing facilities.

Work continued on the War Rooms.

On 23 August, Hitler signed a non-aggression pact with Russia, leaving the way free for him to attack Poland.

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Above: Soviet Premier Stalin and German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, after the signature of the (Vyacheslav) Molotov – Ribbentrop German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact, 23 August 1939

On 27 August the Central War Room was officially opened.

On 1 September, Hitler attacked Poland.

Above: Adolf Hitler reviewing the troops on the march during the Polish campaign, September 1939

Two days later, Britain was at war.

The immediate bombardment of London that had been expected for so long failed to materialise in the first nine months of the War, though the War Rooms were operational.

A botched land campaign in Norway in April 1940 and Germany´s sudden attack on the Netherlands on 10 May caused Chamberlain to resign and Churchill to take his place.

A few days later, as British Forces were driven back towards the French coast, the new Prime Minister visited the Cabinet War Room and declared:

“This is the room from which I will direct the war.”

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Above: Cabinet War Room

In the summer of 1940, as the fall of France was followed by the Battle of Britain for aerial supremacy over southern England, Britain stood at risk of imminent invasion.

Above: German Heinkel HE 111 bombers over the English Channel, 1940

On 7 September 1940, Germany launched the Blitz – a sustained bombing campaign against British towns and cities, with London the chief target.

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Britain weathered the Blitz for nine long months.

When the Blitz failed to secure victory over Britain, Hitler turned his attention to the east, launching an invasion of the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941.

Britain was no longer fighting the Nazis alone.

When, on 7 December 1941, Japan attacked the American fleet at Pearl Harbour, the United States entered the War, changing the fortunes of Britain.

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Above: The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, Hawaii, USA

The War Rooms began deception plans intended to divert enemy resources away from genuine Allied operations.

This would play a crucial role in the success of Operation Overlord – the Allied invasion of Normandy on 6 June 1944.

The success of the D-Day landings helped to turn the tide of war against the Nazis, but they were not finished in attacking Britain.

On 13 June 1944, the first V1 flying bomb hit London, bringing a new threat to the capital.

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Above: A V1 guided missile

Over the winter of 1944 – 1945, the V1 flying bomb attacks were gradually superseded by the more destructive V2 flying bombs.

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Above: A V2 rocket

By the end of March 1945, most of the V2 production factories had been overrun by the unstoppable Allied advance towards Berlin.

Adolf Hitler spent the final weeks of the War sheltering in his bunker as  Berlin came under attack from Stalin´s armies.

After the fall of Berlin, the Allies declared victory in Europe on 8 May 1945.

By the time Japan surrendered on 15 August, Churchill was no longer Prime Minister having lost the General Election on 26 July.

On 16 August, after six years of continuous use, the War Rooms were simply and suddenly abandoned.

Their historic value was recognised and were mostly left undisturbed.

The preserved rooms were declared a national monument in 1948, with free guided tours given to people who had written to the Cabinet Office.

This practice continued until 1984 when the Imperial War Museum was asked to turn the site into a formal Museum.

Millions of visitors have since walked its corridors, tracing the steps of Churchill and the many men and women – both military and civilian – who helped run this underground complex.

The Churchill Museum was added to the Cabinet War Rooms in 2005 and this expanded Museum was later renamed the Churchill War Rooms.

It has to be said that the Churchill War Rooms is a fascinating place for it is filled with intimate details that bring home the immediacy of those times…

  • The sugar cubes hoarded by a Map Room officer
  • The noiseless typewriters that Churchill insisted be used by his staff
  • Accounts of what it was really like to eat, sleep and work below the streets of London as German bombs fell all around.
  • The coloured lights in the Cabinet War Room that signalled an air raid and the ashtrays positioned within easy reach around the table and the scratch marks on the arms of Churchill´s chair that show how strained the Cabinet Room could become
  • The multi-coloured phones where the men of the Map Room could follow every thrust and counterthrust of the War
  • The actual door that Churchill walked through at 10 Downing Street
  • The tiny Transatlantic Telephone Room where Churchill used to speak in secret to the US President
  • Churchill´s famous “siren suit”, a zip-up coverall that Churchill began wearing for comfort from the 1930s onwards
  • The Union Flag which was draped over Churchill´s coffin during his State Funeral which was broadcast around the world

Above: Grave of Winston Churchill, St. Martin´s Church, Bladon, England

(“I am ready to meet my Maker – but whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter.”)

  • The weather indicator in the main corridor that would read “Windy” when a heavy bombing raid was in progress
  • The story of how one of the women who worked at the War Rooms had a short relationship with James Bond author Ian Fleming and would be the inspiration for the character Miss Moneypenny
  • One of the Royal Marines guarding the entrance to the Cabinet War Rooms took up embroidery to pass the time.
  • To alleviate the health problems of working underground, staff were made to strip to their underwear and stand in front of portable sun lamps
  • Wartime graffiti on a map in the Cabinet Room showing Hitler fallen on his ass
  • A cat named Smoky that used to curl up on Churchill´s bed
  • A typist who learned that the ship carrying her boyfriend had perished with all lives lost

So, so much to see and learn and discover….

But what of the Great Man himself?

This man of contradictions, this man who took over as Prime Minister when Britain stood alone against the Axis powers, who is remembered for his trademark bowler hat and half-chewed Havana cigars, who is famous for his morale-inspiring speeches and clever wit….

“It is better to be making the news than taking it, to be an actor rather than an critic.”

“I have nothing to offer but blood, tears, toil and sweat.”

“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

“….We shall fight in France.  We shall fight on the seas and oceans.  We shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air.  We shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be.  We shall fight on the beaches. We shall fight on the landing grounds.  We shall fight in the fields and in the streets.  We shall fight in the hills.  We shall never surrender.”

“This is not the end.  It is not even the beginning of the end.  But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

An American visitor reported in late 1940 that:

“Everywhere I went in London, people admired Churchill´s energy, his courage, his singleness of purpose.  People said they didn´t know what Britain would do without him.  He was obviously respected, but no one felt he would be Prime Minister after the War.  He was simply the right man in the right job at the right time, the time being a desperate war with Britain´s enemies.”

Without this man´s uplifting spirit, would Britain have surrendered against the overwhelming odds of Hitler´s mighty war machine?

I am convinced that Churchill´s uniqueness of character means that its absence would have lead to Britain´s surrender.

Whether Britain´s surrender would mean Hitler wouldn´t ultimately still turn against Russia, or whether America wouldn´t come to Britain´s aid with or without the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour remains a point of conjecture and the province of alternate history / science fiction writers.

But I think a visit to the Churchill War Rooms is well worth the while, because there are several lessons to be learned here under the streets of London.

We are where and who we are because of what came before.

We need to recall the wars that lead us to where we are today, not to glorify in our victories but rather to somberly recall our losses and learn from them so to avoid future war or at least prepare ourselves for another dark future of bloodshed and destruction.

We are a product of our time and place.

It is doubtful whether Churchill could have accomplished what he did had time and circumstances been different.

In examining Churchill´s past carefully, one can see that he was quite an imperfect man, at times rash, impulsive, egocentric and foolish, sometimes to the cost and risk of others.

Nancy Astor: If I were your wife I would put poison in your coffee.

Winston Churchill: Nancy, if I were your husband, I would drink it.

But at a moment when Britain needed a man of courage and conviction, Churchill was indeed in the right place at the right time.

Let us not worship this man, but do offer him our thanks and respect.

Above: Statue of Churchill, Parliament Square, London

As legacies go, this museum and how he is remembered by so many even after so long a time has passed and so many have sacrificed so much blood, tears, toil and sweat then and now, this monument to the dark days of a vicious conflict and a man who steered a nation through them is truly fitting.

This is a living museum, commemorating the lives of those who make our lives possible.

Come to the Churchill War Rooms.

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Live the experience.

Sources: Wikipedia / Google / The Rough Guide to London / Alan Axelrod, Winston Churchill, CEO / Dominique Enright, editor, The Wicked Wit of Winston Churchill / Martin Gilbert, editor, Churchill: The Power of Words / Roy Jenkins, Churchill / Imperial War Museums, Churchill War Museum Guidebook

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Above: The Roaring Lion, Yousuf Karsh photo of Winston Churchill, Canadian Parliament, Ottawa, Canada, 30 December 1941

 

 

Canada Slim and the Calculated Cathedral

Landschlacht, Switzerland, 29 November 2017

It is a season of grey days and black, almost eternal, nights.

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

As much as I comprehend why Canadians celebrate their Thanksgiving in October rather than November because the growing seasons are shorter up there, I occasionally wonder if the Americans might not be onto something by celebrating life at a time of darkening skies and colder temperatures.

Flag of the United States

Thanksgiving, celebrated every third Thursday of November in the US, is meant to convey thanks to God for the blessings bestowed upon self, friends and family through the bountiful harvest received and shown by a fully laden dining room table.

It is a New World celebration meant to commemorate the Pilgrims´ first year in America when they gave thanks to God that through the help of native tribes they learned how to produce food to survive and thrive as a transplanted people.

Above: The First Thanksgiving, 1621, by Jean Farris (1899)

Above the Equator, in the Northern Hemisphere, there are many countries who have similar seasonal changes and similar harvest times, and to be fair Americans did not invent the concept of praising divinity for blessings received as this ritual has been celebrated in one form or another for millennia.

As the weather turns colder than even Donald Trump´s soul, I find myself thankful that I am still alive, that I have a roof over my head and regular food in my belly, that I am of (relatively) sound mind and body and that I have people in my life whom I love and by whom I am loved.

I am truly a fortunate man.

That having been said I am not unaware that there are those who don´t feel so fortunate.

I have known people, good people, for whom reality seems to them to be cruel and unkind, for whom life seems to be a never-changing cycle of sadness, of eternally grey days and black ink evil evenings with slim hope for the dawn.

I cannot begin to imagine what life must be like for those who feel illness within their minds, who feel an emptiness within their souls.

I cannot but feel sympathy for those who feel death is a release, a relief, from the hell of their perceived existence.

I know just enough, and yet far too little, that changing one´s perspective is not simply emotional determination but could also be both a product of one´s history and chemical make-up.

It is easy to condemn humanity´s monsters, like the recently deceased Charles Manson, for they made life decisions that brought extreme pain and suffering to others.

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Above: Charles Manson (1934 – 2017)

It is impossible and frightening to imagine how on God´s green Earth that the murder and torture of others can be justifiable in the minds of these rare abominations of the mentally unwell.

I say rare abominations, for I believe that the vast majority of those hurting members of the psychologically unhappy are more victims to their condition than they are bent on taking others down with them in their descent into darkness.

We, the seemingly rational and arrogantly confident in our inappropriately felt superiority, blame the illness on the ill victims, not sensing nor caring that they too wish to feel welcome by a humanity that does not understand them and thus struggles, often in vain, to assist them, or, failing that, remove them from the general populace.

I watch in silent frustration when those I love hurt themselves and others as they blindly grope their way through illogical reality simply trying to survive.

Life has somehow injured them and they have selfishly sought solace in safer corners of their minds where no one else can go.

I have seen wonderful, compassionate friends and family victimised by their own private pain and there seems nothing I can do or say to help, because the everpresent fear of swimming into psychologically insecure deep waters instinctively instills a fear that we too might be swept along in and dragged down by the wake of their thrashing.

We judge them by standards we understand, rather than by their standards we can´t understand.

I want to hold each one of them and tell them in a way they might truly believe, that their lives matter, that they are worthy of love and dignity, but sometimes I am scared by my inability to do so.

I want to tell them that though there truly is a vast amount of pain in this vale of tears that we share, there is also the potential for great joy.

Perhaps here is the value of Thanksgiving, of giving thanks to something or someone beyond ourselves, of prayer to whatever or whomever may be either within or from outside ourselves.

In the brutal honesty of a sleepless night, I reject my rational analysis of the folly of believing in a God whose only proof of existence is that His non-existence has yet to be proven and hope beyond reason that God does exist whether or not His existence is a creation or a manifestation of my own making.

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Above: Michelangelo´s The Creation of Adam, Sistine Chapel ceiling, Rome

And this I think is the value of faith, of religion – finding hope and comfort in that which might exist.

To somehow believe that pain can be endured, that there will be a dawn beyond the darkness, even if it is unclear how this can happen.

Mankind has built mighty edifices in an attempt to enclose the divine and bend it to our will for our benefit….

Sheer folly.

Yet the symbolic gathering together of humanity into congregations, bound by faith and traditions, giving meaning to the passages of life in its forms of birth, maturity, matrimony and death, gives purpose to the construction of shrines of worship.

Though cathedrals and churches, monasteries and mosques, temples and tabernacles, by the very act of enclosure create a division of people between those within and those outside and have caused those within to feel both a superiority and a zeal to extend the choir invisible beyond the ecclesiastical doors with some even willing to break the taboos of religion in the name of religion, nonetheless these places of illogical and irrational faith sustain and console us.

I am reminded this morning of the places of worship I visited while I was in London last month and though the seeds of the religious fell mostly on mentally stubborn and stone hard ground, my visit to these places still left their impression upon me.

A visitor walking around London cannot help but be impressed by the number of churches in this city more renowned for trade and commerce, but, as we know from the remains of the Temple of Mithras at Walbrook discovered in 1954, religious buildings have always been an integral part of the fabric of London.

Some of London´s most breathtaking modern structures are religious buildings dedicated to many faiths, whose communities form a strong part of the social fabric of modern London.

As hard as it is to imagine London without its many churches, it is even harder still to imagine London without its many faiths.

Our discovery of the faithful of London began on our first night in town….

London, England, 23 October 2017

My wife, aka She Who Must Be Obeyed, wanted to take pictures of the Thames River before we headed back to our B & B in the Paddington district.

It had already been quite the full day: pre-dawn departure from our beds and dash down the highway to Zürich, the bureaucratic exit from one designated country and the bureaucratic entry into another, the search and finding of our week´s accommodations, the navigating of the nefarious nightmare beneath called the Tube, and a mad race through one of the world´s most famous museums – the Tate Modern.

A large oblong brick building with square chimney stack in centre of front face. It stands on the far side of the River Thames, with a curving white foot bridge on the left.

Above: The Tate Modern, London

But my wife wanted to see more while she could with what remained of her day´s energies.

I had no objections.

We, like many before, crossed the London Millennium Footbridge, or as it is affectionately known by Londoners “the wobbly bridge”, the steel suspension bridge for pedestrians crossing the River Thames, linking Bankside on the south bank with the City of London to the north.

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Above: Millennium Bridge, as seen from St. Paul´s Cathedral

The Bridge, 1,066 feet/325 metres long, 13 feet/4 metres wide, officially opened on 1 June 2000 and quickly was closed again shortly thereafter as the 90,000 people crossing it on its opening day felt that the Bridge was wobbling and lurching dangerously.

It reopened in 2002 after engineers refitted 37 energy dissipating dampers to control horizontal movement and 52 inertial dampers to control vertical movement to solve the wobble effect.

You may have seen the Bridge and not realised it….

The Millennium collapsed following an attack by Death Eaters in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007).

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The Bridge also appeared as part of the climatic battle scene on the planet Xandar in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014).

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And the Bridge was in the video of the Olly Murs song “Heart on my Sleeve”.

To the south the midpoint standing pedestrian on the Bridge sees the Globe Theatre and Tate Modern.

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Above: The Globe Theatre, London

To the north the red brick City of London School (actor Daniel Radcliffe / “Harry Potter” ´s old alma mater) can be spotted nestling below the magnificence that is St. Paul´s Cathedral.

How strange and yet familiar St. Paul´s appeared to me in the fast-approaching darkness.

Above: St. Paul´s Cathedral

The enormous lead-covered dome of St. Paul´s Cathedral has dominated the City skyline for generations and will probably continue to do so for generations to come if Star Trek: Into Darkness is any accurate omen to go by.

The poster shows the USS Enterprise falling toward Earth with smoke coming out of it. The middle of the poster shows the title written in dark gray letters, and the film's credits and the release date are shown at the bottom of the poster.

The Cathedral facade is particularly magnificent, fronted by a wide flight of steps – seen in Mary Poppins (1964) and Sherlock Holmes (2009) – and a two-storey portico and two towers, and is said to be amongst the finest examples of Baroque architecture in London.

Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law, in-character. The background is a window display, featuring shelves containing miscellaneous objects relating to the story. The poster reads "Sherlock Holmes" across the top, with the tagline "Holmes for the holiday" centered at the bottom. The poster is predominately turquoise coloured.

The west front of St. Paul´s shows the Saint surrounded by others of his ilk as he is dazzled by the glory of God whilst on the road to Damascus.

In the northeast churchyard, a plaque marks the location of Paul´s Cross, a popular centre of fake and real news and contemporary commentary, where during the Reformation William Tynsdale´s New Testament was burned because it was sinfully an English translation.

While it can´t compete with Westminster Abbey for celebrity corpses, royal remains and awesome atmosphere, St. Paul´s is nevertheless a perfectly calculated architectural space, a burial place for captains rather than kings, artists not poets, and a popular wedding venue and favoured funeral locale for the privileged few.

The current Cathedral is the fifth on this site, including Old St. Paul´s, a huge Gothic cathedral built by the Normans, with a 489 foot spire that once was part of the longest and tallest Christian church in the world.

During the English Civil War and the Republic which followed the execution of King Charles I in 1649, St. Paul´s was allowed to become dilapidated and was used for stabling horses and as a marketplace with a road running through it.

When the monarchy was restored in 1660, King Charles II threw out the traders and began to return the scarred Cathedral to the status it once had, but before work could begin the Great Fire of London intervened.

The blaze started on 2 September 1666 and destroyed 2/3 of the City of London.

It burned for four days and nights, destroying 13,200 houses and 87 parish churches, including Old St. Paul´s.

Miraculously, fewer than 20 people lost their lives.

In 1668, Christopher Wren was asked to produce a new Cathedral.

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Above: Christopher Wren (1632 – 1723)

Wren was not only an architect, he was also an astronomer, scientist and mathematican.

Wren was a founding member in 1660 of the Royal Society, a national academy for science, but he was also a man of profound Christian faith.

He came from a family of clergy who had been loyal to the Royalist cause during the Civil War, and it was faith which inspired him.

He once explained: “Architecture aims at eternity.”

As an architect favoured by royalty and state, Wren´s commissions varied widely, including the Greenwich Observatory, Greenwich Hospital, Hampton Court Palace, Kensington Palace, as well as some magnificent buildings in Oxford, where he studied and worked as Professor of Astronomy from 1661 to 1673.

St. Paul´s was just one of over 50 church commissions Wren received in the wake of the Great Fire.

Sir Christopher Wren

Said, “I´m going to dine with some men.

If anyone calls,

Say I´m designing St. Paul´s.” (Edmund Clerihew Bentley)

Hassles over his initial plans and wrangles over money plagued the project throughout, but Wren persevered and England´s first Protestant cathedral was completed in 1711 under Queen Anne, whose statue stands below the steps.

Above: Statue of Queen Anne (1665 – 1714), St. Paul´s Cathedral

Opinions of Wren´s Cathedral differed.

Some loved it.

“Without, within, below, above, the eye is filled with unrestrained delight.”

Some hated it.

“There was an air of Popery about the gilded capitals, the heavy arches.  They were unfamiliar, un-English…”

Until his death, at the age of 91, Wren regularly returned to St. Paul´s to sit under its dome and reflect on this masterpiece of faith and imagination.

For over 300 years this particular reincarnation of St. Paul´s has been a place where both the individual and the nation can express those feelings of joy, gratitude and sorrow that are so central to our lives.

St. Paul´s has borne witness to the funeral of Admiral Lord Nelson (1758 – 1805)(buried in the centre of the Cathedral Crypt), the funeral of Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington (1769 – 1852)(buried also in the Crypt)(13,000 people filled the Cathedral.), the Diamond Jubilees of Queen Victoria (1897) and Queen Elizabeth II (2012), the bombs of the Blitz (1940), a sermon from Martin Luther King Jr. (1964), the funerals of Prime Minister Winston Churchill (1965) and Margaret Thatcher (2013), and the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana (1981).

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Above: Queen Elizabeth II

Services have also been held to mark the valuable contributions made by ordinary women and men involved in armed conflicts in the Falklands, the Persian Gulf and Northern Ireland.

A vast crowd also gathered at St. Paul´s following the terrorist attacks on America on 11 September 2001, as London expressed its solidarity with Americans at a time of great grief.

A montage of eight images depicting, from top to bottom, the World Trade Center towers burning, the collapsed section of the Pentagon, the impact explosion in the south tower, a rescue worker standing in front of rubble of the collapsed towers, an excavator unearthing a smashed jet engine, three frames of video depicting airplane hitting the Pentagon

People of other faiths also have a place in national services at St. Paul´s.

The memorial service for King Hussein of Jordan in 1999 was the first Christian service in St. Paul´s to include a reading from the Qur´an.

A paper Quran opened halfwise on top of a brown cloth

In 2005, at the service of remembrance following the terrorist bombings in London in June of that year, young people representing different faith communities lit candles as a shared sign of hope during turbulent times.

Take a journey through this place mortal designed to evoke the divine.

We took our own calculated journey through St. Paul´s two days later.

 

London, England, 25 October 2017

Begin with the Nave, the font of baptism, marking the beginning of the journey of faith that Christians believe leads from Earth to Heaven.

Here is the final stop, the last resting place, of the Duke of Wellington, best known for his defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

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Above: Wellington (1769 – 1852)

Wellington died 37 years later and is buried in the Crypt beneath the Monument.

Nearby in the All Souls´ Chapel is the Kitchener Memorial, dedicated to the servicemen who died in World War I and to Field Marshal Lord Kitchener who died at sea and whose body was never recovered.

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Above: Lord Kitchener (1850 – 1916)

Kitchener is best known for his restructuring of the British Army and for his most effective recruitment campaign reminding Britons that “Your Country Needs You”.

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Quietly light a candle for those you wish to have remembered inside St. Dunstan´s Chapel, a place of prayer and stillness.

The silver pyx that hangs above the altar in this chapel contains the sacrament – the consecrated bread that Christians believe is (or represents) the body of Jesus, shared at services of Holy Communion.

The Chapel of St. Michael and St. George honours those who have rendered important service overseas.

It takes only a modicum of observation to see that St. Paul´s is built in the shape of a cross with a large dome crowning the intersection of the cross´s arms.

At 365 feet / 111.3 metres high, the Dome is one of the largest cathedral domes in the world and weighs approximately 65,000 tons.

The area under the Dome is the space where congregations congregate for the Cathedral´s most important rituals of faith – the Liturgy, the worship of God.

The altar is the focus, the place where the Eucharist (mass) is celebrated every day, where people of all ages of many different languages and nationalities, gather to eat bread and drink wine that symbolise the body and blood of Jesus Christ sacrificed by God the Father to save mankind from itself.

Or so the story goes.

The Dome is actually not one dome but three: the outer dome shell is seen prominently on the London skyline, while the painted dome that the congregated sees from the cathedral floor conceals an inner layer of brick which provides the structure strength and support.

Within the Dome´s construction there are three gallery levels.

The Whispering Gallery runs around the interior of the Dome, 257 steep steps up from ground level.

There is a charming acoustical quirk in the gallery´s construction which makes a whisper spoken against the walls on one side audible on the opposite side.

Two higher galleries encircle the outside of the Dome – the Stone Gallery and the smaller Golden Gallery offering superb views across London….

Or so we were told as they were closed the day of our visit.

Upon our descent from the Whispering Gallery, further exploration of the Cathedral reveals many aspects of what makes St. Paul´s unique unto itself.

To the north of the interior is the Chapel of Saints Erkenwald and Ethelburga, with a statue of Dr. Johnson.

Man staring intently at a book held close to his face

Above: Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709 – 1784)

Above the altar is William Holman Hunt´s painting The Light of the World, showing Jesus holding a lantern as He knocks at the handleless bramble-strewn door of the human Soul which must be opened from within, above the caption that reads:

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. 

If any man hear my voice and open the door I will come in to him and will sup with him and he with me.”

Close by the Chapel is Henry Moore´s Mother and Child, a sculpture he made when he was recovering from an illness so it is heavily indolent in religious meaning.

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Above: Mother and Child by Henry Moore (1898 – 1986)

By Moore´s Mama Madonna with child are two pairs of wrought-iron gates made by Jean Tijou.

Inside the gates at the top northern part of the architectural cross is the Quire, the first part of the Cathedral to be built.

The organ within, built in 1694 and rebuilt several times, is the third largest in the UK with 7,256 pipes.

The 1694 version of this organ was much loved by the composer George Frederick Handel (1685 – 1759).

The organ case and the stalls on both sides of the Quire are decorated with exquisitely delicate carvings by the Anglo-Dutch sculptor Grinling Gibbons, whose work can still be seen in many royal houses and great houses.

One contemporary commentator wrote:

“There is no instance of a man before Gibbons who gave to wood the loose and airy lightness of flowers with the free disorder natural to each species.”

Yet free disorder seems particularly ironic here, as each of the canopied stalls has a designated occupant and definitively determines how the Cathedral is to be governed.

It is within the Quire where choir, clergy and congregation gather to sit for Evensong, the service that draws the day to a close.

As dusk descends, we the people are to be remanded and reminded of the proper calculation of our place in the universe, both manmade and celestial.

Queen Victoria, she of the inaccurately attributed “We are not amused.”, is said to have complained that St. Paul´s was “dull, dingy and undevotional”, so in response William Blake Richmond decorated the ceilings and the walls of the Quire with mosaics depicting the story of Creation and the story of the angel Gabriel´s visitation to the Virgin Mary with the news that she is pregnant with the Son of God.

Photograph of Queen Victoria, 1882

Above: Queen Victoria (1819 – 1901)

(That had to be quite the shock!)

Behind the alter stands the Jesus Chapel, commemorating the 28,000 Americans who were killed on their way to, or while stationed in, the UK during the Second World War, their names recorded in a 500-page roll of honour glass enclosure.

“Defending freedom from the fierce assaults of tyranny they shared the honour and the sacrifice. 

Though they died before the drum of victory, their names and deeds will long be remembered wherever free men live.”

So reads the American roll of honour, but as the Canadian descendant of Commonwealth soldiery I cannot help but cynically observe that the Cathedral today is funded by multitudes of tourists, the majority of whom are American.

A cynical attitude that is met with a punch in the arm by my loving spouse whose German ancestors were conscripted soldiers of the aforementioned tyranny.

In the south is the statue of John Donne, which somehow survived the Great Fire of London intact.

Above: Statue of John Donne (1572 – 1631)

Donne, a former Dean of St. Paul´s, wrote passionate love poems and eloquent odes expressing with eloquence his zeal for God.

He is perhaps best remembered for his meditation on the human condition:

“No man is an island, entire of itself….

 Never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.”

Fourteen bells of St. Paul´s toll for thee: Great Tom tolls to mark the death of a sovereign; Great Paul, the largest swinging bell in Europe, strikes the hours; the remaining twelve bells sound the peal.

And here one finds a statue of Nelson, a cloak covering the area where Nelson´s right arm should be – amputated in 1797.

Three skulls guard the entrance to the Crypt.

Nelson lies buried in a coffin made from the timber of a French ship he defeated in battle, atop a black marble sarcophagus.

Would he have thought his memorial truly “humanity after victory“?

Keeping him company across from him in the Crypt, the Iron Duke, Lord Wellington, rests in a casket of Cornish granite.

Wellie would have hated it, for he was said to be a man not prone to bask in his own glories:

“Nothing except a battle lost can be half so melancholy as a battle won.”

Why do places of worship glorify those who murder in the name of a flag?

Beside the Crypt, close to the foundations of the former church, is the Chapel of St. Faith, created in recognition for the contribution made by women during the First World War.

Surrounding the Chapel are memorials celebrating the remarkable of the arts and sciences: painters Joshua Reynolds (1723 – 1792), J.M.W. Turner (1775 – 1851) and John Guille Millais (1865 – 1931); composer Arthur Sullivan (1842 – 1900) and poet William Blake (1757 – 1827); scientist Alexander Fleming (1881 – 1955).

Sir Christopher Wren himself is buried here, his tomb marked by a simple stone which translated from Latin reads:

Bildergebnis für christopher wren s tomb inscription

“Reader, if you seek his monument, look around you.”

And, so we did.

“I was glad when they said unto me:

Let us go into the house of the Lord.” (Psalm 122:1)

St. Paul´s has stood here defiantly unscathed amid the carnage of the Blitz and was defended by the St. Paul´s Watch – volunteers who patrolled the Cathedral´s roof every night to combat the incendiary bombs and died carrying out their duties.

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Time and choice did not permit us to see the worship of God at work, or listen to virgin boys attempt in song to reach within us to find something beyond ourselves, or ponder important issues ranging from global economy to climate change by prominent speakers, such as Kofi Annan or Bianca Jagger.

As we leave St. Paul´s, I recall the words of Mary Poppins:

Marypoppins.jpg

Early each day to the steps of Saint Paul’s
The little old bird woman comes.
In her own special way to the people she calls:
“Come, buy my bags full of crumbs;
 
Come, feed the little birds.
Show them you care
And you’ll be glad if you do.
The young ones are hungry.
Their nests are so bare.
All it takes is tuppence from you.
Feed the birds, tuppence a bag
Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag
Feed the birds.”, that’s what she cries
While overhead, her birds fill the skies.
 
All around the Cathedral, the saints and apostles
Look down as she sells her wares.
Although you can’t see it,
You know they are smiling
Each time someone shows that he cares.
 
Though her words are simple and few,
Listen, listen, she’s calling to you
“Feed the birds, tuppence a bag
Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag”

No, we didn´t feed the birds, for security measures no longer permit little old bird women to feed assemblies of pigeons on the steps of St. Paul´s.

Poverty is very offputting for the tourists and, after all, charity begins at home.

The tourist entry fee at the door is 18 pounds per adult.

In October 2011, the anti-capitalism Occupy London encampment was established in front of St. Paul´s, after failing to gain access to the London Stock Exchange on Paternoster Square nearby, costing the Cathedral revenue of 200,000 pounds per day.

The encampment was evicted at the end of February 2012, by court order, without violence, by the City Corporation.

Our visit to St. Paul´s made me ask, as St. Paul´s Cathedral Arts Project and its artistic installations have asked:

What makes life meaningful and purposeful?

What does St. Paul´s mean in that contemporary context?

Those questions, much like questions of faith themselves, can only be answered by individuals themselves.

Should one care to ask.

Black and White photograph of the dome of St Paul's, starkly lit, appearing through billowing clouds of smoke

Above: St. Paul´s Cathedral, 29 December 1940

Sources: Wikipedia / Google / DK Eyewitness Travel, Top London 2017 / The Rough Guide to London / Lonely Planet, London Condensed / St. Paul´s Cathedral / http://www.stpauls.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canada Slim Underground

Landschlacht, Switzerland, 9 November 2017

I don´t drive.

I never learned how.

(I know….strange for a Canadian adult to say that, eh?)

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

We own a car.

My wife drives it.

My work takes me to places well outside of reasonable walking distance, so I spend a lot of time on buses and trains.

And as much as I dislike bus travel and loathe the SBB (Schweizerisches Bundesbahnen or Swiss Federal Railways), the one advantage that constant passenger travel offers me is the opportunity to read.

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Recently I have been reading Ben Aaronovitch´s Rivers of London, the first in his series of Peter Grant novels.

Rivers of London.jpg

“Meet DC Peter Grant. 

He will show you his city. 

But it´s not the capital that you all see as you make your way from tube to bus, from Elephant to Castle. 

It´s a city that under its dark surface is packed full of crime. 

And of magic. 

A city that you never suspected….”

Monday, after a frustrating day at work, I bought myself J. K. Rowling´s The Tales of Beedle the Bard.

Tales of Beedle the Bard.jpg

Inspired by this purchase, today I bought the British Museum´s Harry Potter: A Journey through the History of Magic.

Just ten days ago I bought at Heathrow Airport a keychain train ticket passage from London to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, departing from King´s Cross Station´s Platform 9 3/4.

If there is one thing that Aaronovitch and Rowling (the Harry Potter series) and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (the Sherlock Holmes series) have taught me is that there is much we take for granted and that magic lies just below the surface of what we see.

Just yesterday, I went into Kreuzlingen and Konstanz to get our phone repaired and to do some shopping to change the funky mood I have been in since Monday, and I serendiptiously made some discoveries.

I had lunch in a Japanese café I had not known existed on the Hauptstrasse and was served by a young woman from Newcastle, England.

I visited the Kreuzlingen Tourist Information Centre and I found myself astonished to bring home many brochures and pamplets from my visit.

Later still I found a street in Konstanz that leads from the border post to  Rosengartenstraße, offering restaurants previously undiscovered and a second hand shop that gives away free CDs and books from time to time.

So often I think I know a place and then I am surprised by something new that had escaped my previous attention.

As tourists we visit places with preconceptions of places that often are quite different from reality.

From 23 to 29 October, the wife and I visited London and, of necessity, we rode the London Underground with its own magic just under the surface….

London Underground logo, known as the roundel, is made of a red circle with a horizontal blue bar.

London, England, 23 October 2017

It was inevitable.

First day in London and we were compelled to use the Tube, London´s nickname/brandname for its Underground subterranean railway system.

The world´s first below-ground railway, first began operations in 1863, the Underground handles over 1 billion passengers a year, at an average of 8 million per day, and yet it is not the world´s busiest metro system.

Ten other cities have busier systems with Beijing the busiest.

Beijing Subway logo.svg

Though the entire London Underground comprises a total of 250 miles/400 km of track, Shanghai has the longest route system.

Shanghai Metro Full Logo.svg

Although the Underground has 270 stations, New York City has more.

File:MTA New York City Subway logo.svg

There are 157 cities in 55 countries that possess a metro system.

This country boy has only ridden the metro systems in 21 cities in 15 countries.

(As fellow Canadian Michael J. Fox commented in the NYC-set 1993 movie The Concierge / For Love or Money, “I take the subway like any other animal.”)

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And the idea of having a metro system keeps expanding, with Australian cities like Melbourne and Sydney constructing new metro systems, and even Honolulu getting into the metro scene.

But the London Tube, being the oldest, is the metro system with the longest history of being under attack.

As early as 30 October 1883 (Paddington Station) and as late as 15 September 2017 (Parsons Green), the Tube has been bombed (or has been attempted to be bombed) for over 150 years.

ParsonsGreen1.jpg

And the memory of the 7/7 Tube attacks in 2005 remains fresh in many people´s minds, when bombs were set off between Aldgate and Liverpool Street stations, Russell Square and Kings Cross St. Pancras stations, and Edgware Road and Paddington stations, and on a double decker bus above ground on Tavistock Road, resulting in the deaths of 52 UK residents of 18 different nationalities* and more than 700 people injured.

(*Every week 2,000 migrants unload at Victoria Coach Station.

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At least 55% of people living in London are not ethnically white British.

There are more people in London with little or no English than the entire population of the city of Newcastle.)

Still Londoners and visitors keep calm and ride the Tube.*

(*Except for, sadly, those who use the Tube to commit suicide.

In the first decade of the new Millennium, there were 643 suicide attempts on the Underground between 2000 and 2010, including successful attempts.

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More people commit suicide at King´s Cross and Victoria stations than at any other Tube location.

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People who throw themselves under Tube trains are called “one-unders” by the staff.

In New York they call them “track pizza”.)

During the London Blitz in World War II many people used Tube stations as bomb shelters.

Above: Aldwych Tube Station, 1940

A Tube station was never once struck by aerial bombardment.

But on 3 March 1943, after British media reported a heavy RAF raid on Berlin on the night of 1 March, the air raid Civil Defence siren sounded at 8:17 pm, triggering a heavy but orderly flow of people down the blacked-out staircase leading to Bethal Green station from the street.

A middle-aged woman and a child fell over, three steps up from the base and others fell around her, tangled in an immovable mass, which grew as they struggled, to nearly 300 people.

Some managed to get free, but 173 people, most of them women and children, were crushed and asphixiated.

And speaking of Tube air quality, an environmental study in 2000 showed that the air quality of the Tube was 73 times worse than the air quality above ground.

In the heatwave of 2006, temperatures inside the Tube reached the sweltering extreme of 47° Celcius/117° Fahrenheit.

Still Londoners and visitors keep calm and ride the Tube in 26 of London´s 32 boroughs.

Our experience in London left me with an uncertainty of how to feel about the Tube.

It is definitely an odd sensation to stand in a Tube car where no one talks to one another as if talking on the Tube was an silent taboo everyone understood.

Is it a shared misery to ride the Tube wherein one mustn´t complain?

It is certainly an exercise in map-reading and decryption trying to navigate through London´s maze of Underground stations and lines, which always makes me wonder if the architects who designed the entire network were inspired to create a system that resembles multi-coloured strands of twisted spaghetti thrown randomly upon the heart of this great metropolis after nursing hangovers in an Italian restaurant.

It wouldn´t at all surprise me if this were true.

Setting out to explore London on two feet remains the best way to discover the city´s most interesting corners, but above ground navigation can be equally confusing.

As well, the distance between central Tube stations is always further than you think, as the schematic Tube map is very misleading.

So most Londoners find that, except for very short journeys, the Tube is the quickest way to get around and about London.

Eleven different lines cross much of the metropolis, although south of the Thames River is not very well-covered.

Each line has its own colour and name.

All you need to know is which direction you are travelling in: northbound, southbound, westbound, eastbound, unless you are taking the Circle Line then…..well, good luck, mate.

As a precaution, one must also check the final destination displayed on the front of the train, as some lines, such as the District and Northern Lines, have several different branches.

All this complexity which Londoners take simply in stride does this country boy´s head in.

I grew up in a village of less than 500 people and live today in a village with a little more than 700.

There is almost no planning or logistics computation needed to navigate from one end of the village to the other.

Only one city in Switzerland has a metro – surprisingly neither Zurich nor Geneva do – Lausanne, with its two lines and 30 stations, is the smallest city in the world to have such a system.

Pink circle with three diagonal white lozenges forming stylised letter 'm'

Above: The logo of the Lausanne Métro

So though I have visited and lived in cities with metro systems, I have never felt at ease zooming at high speed through underground tunnels in overcrowded trains.

Yet despite all this I know there is magic and history to be found in London´s Underground.

Some of the history of the Underground is horrible.

Victorian Londoners were very superstitious.

One preacher, Dr. Cuming, said that digging into the ground would be digging into Hell and the Devil would be disturbed.

(Even today people say the Underground is Hell.)

The first Tube trains ran on 10 January 1863 from Paddington to Farringdon.

Sketch showing about a dozen people standing on an underground railway platform with a train standing at the platform. Several more people are visible inside the train, which has the words "Baker St" visible on its side.

So many people got on at the start that there was no room for anyone to get on at the other stations.

(Not a lot has changed since then.)

Steam trains were used for the first 25 years, filling the tunnels with smoke.

The railway companies said the smoke was a good thing.

If you had a bad chest then Tube smoke would clear it.

(….and putting your head on the track will cure your headache.)

Electric trains were first used in 1890.

The law said a person would be fined two Pounds if he/she tried to ride on the roof of an electric train.

If you rode on the roof your head would be knocked off.

Headache gone, two Pounds saved.

To test the first escalators, of which the Tube now has 426, the operators used a man called Bumper Harris to demonstrate that even a man with two wooden legs could use the escalators safely.

The first Tube carriages had no windows and had buttoned seats, looking uncannily similar to the padded cells of insane asylums, which might lead one to question the sanity of riding the Tube.

The tunnels were cleaned at night by ladies with feather dusters, dustpans and brushes.

They were known as “fluffers”!

Many carriages are too small today for many people who travel on the Tube, as the tunnels were built in the 1860s when people were smaller.

And, of course, an old Underground must be rumoured to be haunted.

An actress from the Royal Strand Theatre, knocked down to build Aldwych Station, is said to haunt Aldwych.

Station entrance when open: a canopy covers the station's previous name.

(More on Aldwych in a moment…)

Sarah Whitehead became a nun and haunts Bank Station, because she is searching for her brother Philip who was executed in 1811 for forging bank notes.

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Above: Entry to Bank Station, in front of the Bank of England

The ghost of Amen-Ra, an Egyptian pharoah who died in about 1500 BC was said to haunt the abandoned British Museum station, because the trains disturbed its eternal slumber.

Wearing only a loincloth and Egyptian headdress, he was said to scream so loudly that the sound would carry down the tunnels to the adjoining Holborn tube station.

The rumour grew so strong that in 1932 a newspaper offered a reward to anyone who would spend the night there.

No one took up the challenge.

The story takes a stranger turn after the closure of the station on 25 September 1933.

The comedy thriller Bulldog Jack, made in 1935, featured a chase through a secret tunnel that led from the station (called Bloomsbury in the film) to the Egyptian Room of the Museum, from where a necklace belonging to Amen-Ra was stolen.

UK film poster - Bulldog Jack.jpg

On the very night that the film was released, two women are said to have disappeared from the platform at Holborn – the next station along from the British Museum station.

Oblique angle view of pedestrians on a wide pavement passing the station entrance in a stone building. A long blue canopy bears the words "Holborn station" and a clear glazed screen above contains the London Underground roundel in blue, white and red glass.

Strange marks were later found on the walls of the closed station.

More sightings of the ghost were reported, along with weird moanings from within the tunnels.

London Underground has always denied the existence of a tunnel from the station to the Egyptian Room.

The actor William Terriss was stabbed to death in 1897 and is said to haunt the Covent Garden station.

Above: William Terriss (1847 – 1897)

One can hear the tapping of footsteps and doors flung open at the Elephant and Castle station.

“The Screaming Spectre” of Anne Naylor, who was murdered and chopped to pieces by her mistress in 1758, is said to haunt Farringdon Station.

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There is no Tube station at Muswell Hill as there is supposed to be, as construction workers came across a deep pit full of the skeletons of people buried during the Plague.

And there are, of course, the urban legends with just enough truth in the telling to make the tales believable.

An art student, a woman was travelling on the Underground back to her campus from central London late at night – she no remembers which line – alone except for one other person – a man in his 30s – in an empty carriage when three people boarded – she can´t recall which station – and sat opposite her.

The art student decided that the trio looked like drug addicts and avoided making eye contact with them.

Then the 30-something man started acting strangely.

He walked over to the student and behaved as if he knew her, asking:

“Hi.  How are you?  I´ve not spoken to you in a long time.”

….before leaning into her and whispering:

“Get off at the next stop.”

The student was wary of this, but did not wish to be left alone on the train with what she thought were three drug addicts, so she followed the man off the train and onto the platform.

Once they were off the train, the man revealed to the student that the girl in the trio was dead.

He had seen the two men drag her onto the train with a pair of scissors embedded in the back of her skull.

The story of the corpse on the train….simply an urban legend….just a horror story about travelling with strangers in enclosed spaces?

People do die on London´s public transport.

There are instances when bodies have been found on the Tube, if rumour and gossip are to be believed.

A train arrived at the East Finchley station at the end of the morning peak time.

East Finchley stn building.JPG

The crew inspected the train and found a man slumped in a seat, who they tried to wake.

They discovered that the man was dead, and had been for so long that rigor mortis had set in and he was rigid in his seat.

The body had to be removed by being laid sideways on a stretcher to prevent it rolling off.

While rigor mortis begins three to four hours after death – so it was possible after the morning peak – maximum stiffness does not set in until around twelve hours.

It is possible the body was left overnight on the Tube.

On the eastbound Piccadilly Line at Southfields, a passenger raised the alarm when a man on the packed train seemed “a bit poorly”.

Southfields station II, SW18 - geograph.org.uk - 1049755.jpg

The guard did not wish to delay the train so he persuaded a couple of passengers to help him drag the corpse off the train and left it sitting upright on a bench.

The police were called and complained about the disrespectful treatment of a body.

The guard then responded with:

“What else could I do?  I couldn´t delay the train, could I?”

121 Westminster Bridge Road was once the site of London´s strangest railway station – the terminus of the Necropolis Railway, which operated between 1854 and 1941.

First London Necropolis terminus.jpg

In the mid-nineteenth century, cemetery spaces in London were becoming increasingly limited due to the rapid increase in population and the legacy of the cholera outbreaks of recent years.

So, in an effort to find a solution, Richard Bourn started the Necropolis Railway Company.

A station was first set up in York Street, opposite Waterloo, from where trains could transport the London dead to Brookwood Cemetery in Surrey.

Map of a city surrounded by small cemeteries, and two larger proposed cemeteries slightly further out. A railway line runs from the city to a single large cemetery to the southwest, a long way further out.

When Waterloo was expanded at the turn of the 20th century, the Necropolis line had to be relocated to allow more room for regular train services, so a new terminus was opened in Westminster Bridge Road in 1902.

The railway was divided both by class and by religion with 1st, 2nd and 3rd class tickets for each.

Railway ticket labelled "Southern Railways London Necropolis Coffin Ticket, Waterloo to Brookwood, Third Class

These class divisions didn´t just apply to the travelling mourners; they also affected the style in which the deceased travelled, with more ornate coffins and storage compartments for 1st class, while in 3rd class the plain coffins were stacked up and crammed into a hearse carriage.

On arrival at the terminus, mourners would be led to an appropriate class waiting room, while the coffin was discreetly unloaded from the hearse and sent to platform level by lift.

At its peak, 50 corpses a day were transported along this line.

One of the more notable bodies to be carried by the train was that of Friedrich Engels, the German socialist political theorist and philosopher, who died in London on 5 August 1895.

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Above: Friedrich Engels (1820 – 1895)

Engels had expressed a wish to be cremated and for his ashes to be cremated at sea, but at the time there was no crematorium near London, so he was taken first to Brookwood, then on to Woking Crematorium.

By the 1930s London had more cemeteries and crematoria of its own, so the service was reduced to two trains a week.

During the Second World War the station was heavily damaged in an air raid, which brought the Necropolis Railway to a halt.

The repair work was not seen as financially worthwhile, so at the end of the War the station building was sold as office space.

The track to the cemetery was removed in 1947.

As previously stated above, there are 267 tube stations in operation.

Twenty-one have been taken offline since 1900.

Most of them were closed when London Transport was created in 1933, merging several independent transit operators who had been stations very close to each other to compete for passengers.

Some were a real loss for commuters, while others had just been badly designed.

Most of these ghost stations have been abandoned or walled up.

Visiting these ghost stations is largely impossible.

Closed since 1994, the ox-blood red brick facade of Aldwych Underground still stands on the corner of the Strand and Surrey Street.

During WW II, Aldwych was used as an air raid shelter, while treasures from the British Museum were stashed away in the tunnels.

Today, the abandoned station is often featured in films (Patriot Games, Die Another Day, V for Vendetta).

View along platform in 1994.

Access to the public is denied, but visits can sometimes be arranged through the London Transport Museum.

I suspect that most of the millions who ride these rails every day, year after year, neither know nor care about corpses, ghosts or ghost stations, and they choose not to remember the Tube´s history of being attacked.

With Oyster Cards firmly in hands and a bland uncaring resigned look on their faces, London passengers keep calm and carry on with their journey, reading one of the many free papers distributed at many central London stations, looking down at their mobile electronic gizmos or grimly staring off into the distance at the space between spaces.

Oystercard.jpg

(The Oyster Cards, “smart” cards that register your entry and exit from tube stations and debit your travel account accordingly, are named after the idea that “the world is your oyster”, that the world is just waiting to be discovered like a pearl of great value.)

Our first Tube ride together took us from Paddington Station to Piccadilly Circus (on the Bakerloo Line via Edgware Road, Marylebone, Baker Street, Regent´s Park and Oxford Circus) to pick up our Internet-ordered London Passes from the Tourist Information Kiosk at Leicester Square.

We encountered no corpses, no ghosts, no ghost stations then nor during our seven-day sojourn in London.

We never felt threatened nor nervous about being attacked either above ground or below it.

We ate well, drank well and had a merry old time.

We used the Tube, because it was convenient, but like a marriage of convenience, there was not much love felt for the experience.

Perhaps there is magic beneath the streets of London, a world of possibility behind the sliding doors of the Tube carriages.

I honestly can´t say I felt it within the crowded, friendless confines of a speeding carriage hurtling its way through dark and damp tunnels.

I quickly lost count of how many staircases I climbed, how many times I used my Oyster Card, how often I felt confused by the complexity and tangle of train maps and schedules, how many miles I walked without seeing the sun or the stars or feeling fresh air against my face.

Perhaps the Tube is a part of London life, but it is a life that I cannot eagerly embrace, for one doesn´t ride the Tube as much as one haunts it.

Like a ghost that cannot leave until its goal is realised, one cannot abandon the use of the Underground until one´s destination is reached.

Rail romance has been replaced by Underground urgency.

Without travelling companions or time restrictions, I would rather walk.

Too much of modern day reality is rushed and packaged.

A free man prefers to walk.

Sources:  Wikipedia / Google / The Rough Guide to London / Terry Deary, Horrible Histories London / Rachel Howard and Bill Nash, Secret London: An Unusual Guide / Ben Judah, This Is London: Life and Death in the World City / Simon Leyland, A Curious Guide to London: Tales of a City / Scott Wood, London Urban Legends: The Corpse on the Tube and other stories

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canada Slim and the Danger Zone

Landschlacht, Switzerland, 22 October 2017

Tomorrow, we fly to London.

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My wife is concerned.

2017 has been a bad year for London.

22 March: Attack on Westminster Bridge – 6 dead, 40 injured

3 June: Attack on London Bridge – 11 dead, 48 injured

19 June: Attack on Finsbury Park Mosque – 1 dead, 11 injured

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Above: The North London Central Mosque, Finsbury Park

15 September: Attack on Parson´s Green Tube Station – 22 injured

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Still these pale in comparison to the 7 July 2005 Tube attacks, resulting in 52 dead and 0ver 700 people injured.

Are we walking into a danger zone?

But these days is there truly any place that is completely safe?

In Switzerland, during our vacation in Italy, a crazy man stabbed to death an Indian student just outside our Starbucks store window in St. Gallen.

File:Starbucks Corporation Logo 2011.svg

Just the year prior, another disturbed individual attacked train passengers with fire and a knife near Salez-Salenstein, mid-distance between St. Gallen and Chur.

And this is Switzerland, a neutral, peaceful country.

Flag of Switzerland

Yet, despite these events, I still continue to work at the same location of the Starbucks incident and have a number of times ridden the train between St. Gallen and Chur passing Salez-Salenstein, and I remember.

These are times that test men´s souls and cause hearts to race with fear, but nonetheless we must keep on living.

Is London dangerous?

The City of London, seen from the south bank of the Thames in September 2015

Can a city that has existed for two millennia always be safe?

Yet today over 8.7 million people continue to survive and thrive in central London, over 13.8 million in the 33 Boroughs of the Greater London area, speaking over 300 languages.

They haven´t fled in panic despite the 7/7 attacks and it would take much more than this before Londoners would lose their nerve and abandon the place.

London remains the world´s largest financial centre, has the largest concentration of wealth in the world and is the leading investment destination, which means it will continue to be a target.

Yet despite all the anguish and fear that these events create in the world press, London remains the most visited city on the planet, with the world´s largest city airport system and the oldest underground railway network.

London Underground logo, known as the roundel, is made of a red circle with a horizontal blue bar.

I confess, despite having lived in Britain before, that my knowledge of London is sparse.

A flag featuring both cross and saltire in red, white and blue

During my time in Britain (England and Wales) when I lived in Oxford, Leicester, Nottingham and Cardiff, I did not visit London, for both the expense of the city as well as the immensity of the place intimidated me.

Only through the encouragement of my old friend Iain have I seen a wee bit of London: the Theatre District, the Greenwich Observatory, a section of the Thames Path (a 184 mile path that stretches from the Thames Barrier (where the Channel meets the River) to Kemble, just south of Cirencester) and a hodgepodge of meandering streets that confused me more than remained memories.

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Above: The Royal Observatory, Greenwich, London

Now I will travel there with my wife, Ute, whom I met in Stratford-upon-Avon two decades ago.

Above: William Shakespeare´s birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon

She hasn´t been to London since, though we both visited Cornwall a few years ago.

Above: Land´s End, Cornwall

Tomorrow, two people who live in a village of a population under 800, who both grew up in towns not much bigger than Landschlacht, will try and explore the world´s most visited metropolis on the planet in a short seven-day period.

The true danger is not terrorist attack, but rather being overwhelmed by London´s expanse and expense.

We have tried to prepare ourselves.

The hotel and flights have been booked ages ago.

We will bring ten guidebooks with us: Top 10 London 2017, London Stories, This Is London, London for Lovers, Horrible Histories London, Secret London, Lonely Planet London, Baedeker London, Brandt/ English Heritage`s London: In the Footsteps of the Famous and the German language Müller guide to London.

And, if we remain true to our past experiences of travelling, we will curse the weight of carrying the damn books around with us, which we probably won´t read more than a few pages of, before passing out into exhausted slumber each night, because we walked around so much being lost.

There is simply too much to see and do in London: the British Museum (the world´s oldest public museum), the National Gallery, the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum, Buckingham Palace, the London Eye ferris wheel, the Tate Gallery, Westminister Abbey and Parliament Square, the Tower of London and St. Paul´s Cathedral.

Clock Tower - Palace of Westminster, London - May 2007.jpg

And these are the best known attractions in London.

We could try to see London through the eyes of famous folks who once lived here: Sherlock Holmes, Charlie Chaplin, Dr. Samuel Johnson (who coined the phrase: “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.”), John Keats, Sigmund Freud, Georg Handel, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Benjamin Franklin, Charles de Gaulle, Virginia Woolf, Mahatma Gandhi, Jimi Hendrix, Henry James, Samuel Pepys, Geoffrey Chauncer, Oscar Wilde, and, not forgetting, the British Monarchy, just to name a few.

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Above: Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709 – 1784)

My wife´s Swabian tendencies and my ancestral Scottish blood will probably compel us to see what we can for free in London: the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, the Tate Modern Gallery, the British Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Royal Institution, Free London Walking Tours, opera recitals at the Royal Opera House, the Roman ruins at the Guildhall Art Gallery, the view from the Oxo Tower Wharf, the feeding of the pelicans at St. James Park, Parliamentary debates, evensong at Westminister or St. Paul´s, stand-up comedy at the Camden Head Pub, and loads more of free entertainment across the City.

Above: Buckingham Palace, London

For three of the seven days we are in London, we shall explore the magic and mystery of London together, maybe even discovering some sites recommended by London for Lovers.

Above: Flower Walk, Kensington Gardens, London

For the four remaining days, while she attends a medical conference, I will wander about the streets on my own.

So what shall I do?

There are a number of temptations.

Do I trace Ben Judah´s explorations as chronicled in his This Is London, hoping to see London in the eyes of its beggars and bankers, cops and gangsters, sex workers and witch doctors, locals and immigrants?

Do I systematically pick neighbourhoods to explore as London Walks´ London Stories suggests?

Do I try to follow from cover to cover the alternative guidebook to London, Secret London, which promises to show me monsters in Trafalgar Square, have me check into Bedlam, praise God, buy meatballs, have a sauna, visit the House of Dreams, join the secret society to which Prince Charles belongs, and discover the secret to instant weight loss?

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Above: Trafalgar Square, London

Or do I take the pedestrian approach and take a walk through London via the Southeast London Green Chain Walk, the London Outer Orbital Path, the Jubilee Walkway, the Lee Valley Walk, the Diana Memorial Walk or the Thames Path?

Above: OXO Tower, Thames Path on the riverside of building

Of course, there is, as well, the temptation of shopping.

I am a native English speaker resident in a country where English is not one of the official languages, who will be visiting England, the birthplace of English.

Flag of England

Above: The flag of England

To have unlimited access to an orgasmic cornucopia of endless variety of English language literature and music and movies….

Heaven!

I want to buy things like…. anime or foreign films that are only translated into German where I live, or music that is unknown in Switzerland, or BBC TV series that I would have to special order at high cost at a local Orell Füssli chain bookshop in St. Gallen or Zürich or at the English Bookshop across the German border in Konstanz.

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Damn the weight restrictions that airlines impose!

Hilde Cook, the owner of the English Bookshop, suggested that I won´t want to return to Switzerland once I am away in London.

She may be right.

London is dangerously seductive.

But my home and my heart are in Switzerland so I must return.

But my wife is right, London is a danger zone.

The stress of trying to see and do so much in too short a time is dangerous indeed.

Sources: Wikipedia / Dorling Kindersley Eyewitness Travel, Top 10 London 2017 / Ben Judah, This Is London / London Walks, London Stories / Sam Hodges & Sophie Vickers, London for Lovers / Bradt & English Heritage, London: In the Footsteps of the Famous / Ralf Nestmeyer, Michael Müller Verlag, London / Lonely Planet, London Condensed / Baedeker´s, London / Rachel Howard & Bill Nash, Secret London: An Unusual Guide / Terry Dreary, Horrible Histories London