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 Harry Potter Fado

Landschlacht, Switzerland, Friday 11 October 2019

As you read what follows….

Download a fado piece.

Portugal’s most famous musical form, fado (Portuguese for “fate“) is urban music, of night and bars, of a yearning that is beautiful and melancholic, accompanied by guitarra and viola.

 

Above: Fado, José Malhoa (1910)

 

To the south, fado is feminine.

But in the north, fado is a man’s music, full of lusty lyrics and soaring vocals, and usually the most memorable fado of all is performed by the least advertised, the most anonymous, performer of all, where one’s identity is overwhelmed by one’s soul.

Fado is to the Portuguese soul as rich, deep and satisfying as a cup of Portuguese coffee or a glass of Porto port.

Fado is played on the radio, on buses, in taxis, cafés and restaurants, on TV and drifting down darkened streets from shadowy clubs.

Fado is fate and how fate has foiled the lover in love and in life.

Fado is the homeland that is missed or the longing for a lover that has left.

To sing fado, the singer must become fadista with an attitude that cries out:

I am a pessimist, a nihilist and everything that fado demands from me is me.”

It is the mourning of a devil cast out of heaven, a broken heart beyond repair, a spirit beyond redemption….

 

 

What the hell was she thinking?

This is a question that American Catholic theologians are asking J.K. Rowling the creator of the Harry Potter franchise….

 

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Above: Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington DC – the largest enclosed church building in the world

 

Religious debates over the Harry Potter series of books by J. K. Rowling are based on claims that the novels contain occult or Satanic subtexts.

 

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A number of Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox Christians have argued against the series, as have some Shia and Sunni Muslims.

 

Above: The Kaaba, Mecca, Saudi Arabia – the Muslim destination of pilgrimage

 

Supporters of the series have said that the magic in Harry Potter bears little resemblance to occultism, being more in the vein of fairy tales such as Cinderella and Snow White, or to the works of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien, both of whom are known for writing fantasy novels with Christian subtexts.

Far from promoting a particular religion, some argue, the Harry Potter novels go out of their way to avoid discussing religion at all.

 

The Harry Potter logo first used for the American edition of the novel series (and some other editions worldwide), and then the film series.

 

However, the author of the series, J. K. Rowling, describes herself as a practising Christian, and many have noted the Christian references which she includes in the final novel Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

 

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.jpg

 

In the United States, calls for the books to be banned from schools have led to legal challenges often on the grounds that witchcraft is a government-recognised religion and that to allow the books to be held in public schools violates the separation of church and state.

 

Flag of the United States

 

The Orthodox church of Bulgaria and a diocese of the Orthodox Church of Greece have also campaigned against the series, and some Catholic writers and officials have voiced a critical stance.

 

Church of St. George, Istanbul in 2010

Above: Patriarchal Cathedral of St. George, Istanbul (Constantinople)

 

The books have been banned from all schools in the United Arab Emirates.

 

Flag of UAE

Above: Flag of the United Arab Emirates

 

Religious responses to Harry Potter have not all been negative.

Rowling notes:

At least as much as they’ve been attacked from a theological point of view the books have been lauded and taken into pulpit, and most interesting and satisfying for me, it’s been by several different faiths.

 

Rowling in April 2010

Above: J.K. Rowling, 2010

 

From The Times, 3 December 2018

The Harry Potter books gave birth to a global franchise, provided steady work to grateful British actors and created millions of new readers, convinced of the magical properties of a good book.

 

A large crowd of fans wait outside of a Borders store in Delaware, waiting for the release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Above: Crowd outside a bookshop awaiting the midnight release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

 

They also created a generation of Americans who are more likely to believe that they are possessed by the Devil, with Catholic priests reporting that they are overwhelmed with requests to perform exorcisms.

 

When I was appointed 13 years ago, I probably received maybe 100 inquiries a year.“, said Vincent Lampert, the official exorcist for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

Now I receive about 1,700 inquiries a year.

He thinks the Harry Potter books and films, which spurred a broad interest in magic, are partly to blame.

Magic is the focus on the individual, rather than having to deal with God.“, he said.

It encouraged “the belief that somehow the power is within them.

Even within the world of exorcism, the premise would be that God is not a bystander.

God is the main actor.

Priests who conduct exorcisms say occult practices and symbols can serve as doorways for a demon.

The Harry Potter books “disarmed Americans from thinking that all magic is darkness“, one unnamed exorcist recently told The Atlantic magazine.

 

Above: St. Francis Borgia performing an exorcism, Goya

 

Adam Jortner, a historian of religion in American life at Auburn University, Alabama, said it was not the first time that members of the church had feared the influence of children’s books.

The church had a go at C.S. Lewis for the Narnia books, a powerful allegory of Christianity itself.“, he said.

 

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Jortner agreed that interest in the occult had grown.

Harry Potter is responsible for mainstreaming magic.“, he said.

Exorcism had a clear history within the church and it sought to treat magic with respect.

He added:

The Catholic church has some of the most stringent rules about exorcism in the world.

Most Catholic exorcists are required to go through this long list of things to ensure that it is not a neurological problem.

Father Lampert said that all who sought his help were required to undergo an assessment by a medical professional, which ended most applications….

 

Above: St. Francis exorcising the demons of Arezzo, Giotto

 

When I read an article like this I am shocked to find that this sort of folly is taken seriously.

Putting aside for the moment the question of the existence of God, for which the largest defence is that God’s non-existence cannot be proven, and grasping with the notion that God possesses a team (angels) to battle another team (demons) led by His most bitter opponent (the Devil), then to further suggest that demons possess people….

This pushes rational credibility.

 

 

But then to blame the author of a series of children’s books for the rise in exorcism applications is utter poppycock in my opinion.

 

To play the Catholic advocate for a moment it can certainly be argued that children are gullible, easily influenced and misled.

But it insults the intelligence of our young people to suggest that they cannot discern the difference between a clever storyline and reality.

 

Could they believe in magic?

Sure, for there is much about existence that is difficult to explain.

But it stretches my incredulity that children, those poor deluded Muggles, would assume from a story that they too possess magical powers as the alumni and staff of Hogwarts do.

 

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Above: Model of Hogwarts, Warner Bros. Studio, Leavesden, England

 

Nonetheless, let us humour these men of the cloth for a moment….

Let us imagine (if that is even possible) that Harry Potter leads to the need for exorcism.

Over the years, some religious people, particularly Christians, have decried Rowling’s books for supposedly promoting witchcraft.

 

Rowling identifies as a Christian.

She once said:

I believe in God, not magic.

 

Early on, she felt that if readers knew of her Christian beliefs they would be able to predict plot lines of characters in her books.

In 2007, Rowling said she was the only one in her family who went regularly to church.

She was an adherent of the Church of England.

 

Logo of the Church of England.svg

 

As a student she became annoyed at the “smugness of religious people” and attended less often.

Later, she started to attend a Church of Scotland congregation at the time she was writing Harry Potter.

Her eldest daughter, Jessica, was baptised there.

 

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Above: Logo of the Church of Scotland

 

In a 2006 interview with Tatler magazine, Rowling noted:

Like Graham Greene, my faith is sometimes about if my faith will return.

It’s important to me.”

 

Greene in 1939

Above: Graham Greene (1904 – 1991)

 

She has said that she has struggled with doubt, that she believes in an afterlife and that her faith plays a part in her books.

In a 2012 radio interview, she said that she was a member of the Scottish Episcopal Church, a province of the Anglican Communion.

 

In 2015, following the referendum on same-sex marriage in Ireland, Rowling joked that if Ireland legalised same-sex marriage, Dumbledore (Headmaster of Hogwarts) and Gandalf (of the Lord of the Rings series) could get married there.

 

Flag of Ireland

Above: Flag of the Republic of Ireland

 

The Westboro Baptist Church, in response, stated that if the two got married, they would picket.

Rowling responded:

Alas, the sheer awesomeness of such a union in such a place would blow your tiny bigoted minds out of your thick sloping skulls.

 

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Above: Westboro Baptist Church, Topeka, Kansas

 

Is Rowling then guilty of intellectual or spiritual manslaughter by unintentionally killing children’s beliefs in God?

Or taking the concept to its ultimate crazy extreme….

Was this death of the divine within our children pre-meditated by Ms. Rowling?

Is she guilty of spiritual murder?

 

To answer this question with any certainty we must ask ourselves how and why did Rowling write the Harry Potter series.

To answer this question, come with me, back in time, both in Rowling’s past and my own….

 

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Joanne Rowling (born 31 July 1965), better known by her pen name J. K. Rowling, is a British author, film producer, television producer, screenwriter, and philanthropist.

 

Above: J.K. Rowling, 1999

 

She is best known for writing the Harry Potter fantasy series, which has won multiple awards and sold more than 500 million copies, becoming the best-selling book series in history.

The books are the basis of a popular film series, over which Rowling had overall approval on the scripts and was a producer on the final films.

 

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She also writes crime fiction under the name Robert Galbraith.

 

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Born in Yate, Gloucestershire, Rowling was working as a researcher and bilingual secretary for Amnesty International when she conceived the idea for the Harry Potter series while on a delayed train from Manchester to London in 1990.

 

Amnesty International logo.svg

 

The seven-year period that followed saw the death of her mother, birth of her first child, divorce from her first husband, and relative poverty until the first novel in the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, was published in 1997.

 

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone Book Cover.jpg

 

There were six sequels, of which the last, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was released in 2007.

 

Since then, Rowling has written five books for adult readers: The Casual Vacancy (2012) and—under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith—the crime fiction Cormoran Strike series, which consists of The Cuckoo’s Calling (2013), The Silkworm (2014), Career of Evil (2015), and Lethal White (2018).

 

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Rowling has lived a “rags to riches” life in which she progressed from living on benefits to being the world’s first billionaire author.

She lost her billionaire status after giving away much of her earnings to charity but remains one of the wealthiest people in the world.

She is the UK’s best-selling living author, with sales in excess of £238 million.

The 2016 Sunday Times Rich List estimated Rowling’s fortune at £600 million, ranking her as the joint 197th richest person in the UK.

Time named her a runner-up for its 2007 Person of the Year, noting the social, moral and political inspiration she has given her fans.

In October 2010, Rowling was named the “Most Influential Woman in Britain” by leading magazine editors.

She has supported multiple charities, including Comic Relief, One Parent Families, and Multiple Sclerosis Society of Great Britain, as well as launching her own charity, Lumos.

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Joanne Rowling was born in Yate, Gloucestershire, the daughter of science technician Anne (née Volant) and Rolls-Royce aircraft engineer Peter James Rowling.

 

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Above: View of Yate, Gloucestershire, England

 

Her parents first met on a train departing from King’s Cross Station bound for Arbroath in 1964.

They married on 14 March 1965.

 

A platform on the London Underground.

 

One of Rowling’s maternal great-grandfathers, Dugald Campbell, was a Scottish man from Lamlash.

 

Her mother’s French paternal grandfather, Louis Volant, was awarded the War Cross for exceptional bravery in defending the village of Courcelles-le-Comte during World War I.

Rowling originally believed Volant had won the Legion of Honour during the war, as she said when she received it herself in 2009.

She later discovered the truth when featured in an episode of the UK genealogy series Who Do You Think You Are? in which she found out it was a different Louis Volant who won the Legion of Honour.

When she heard her grandfather’s story of bravery and discovered that the War Cross was for “ordinary” soldiers like her grandfather, who had been a waiter, she stated the War Cross was “better” to her than the Legion of Honour.

 

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Rowling’s sister Dianne was born at their home when Rowling was 23 months old.

The family moved to the nearby village Winterbourne when Rowling was four.

As a child, Rowling often wrote fantasy stories which she frequently read to her sister.

 

Above: Duck pond, Winterbourne, Gloucestershire

 

Aged nine, Rowling moved to Church Cottage in the Gloucestershire village of Tutshill, close to Chepstow, Wales.

 

Above: Church Cottage, Tutshill, Gloucestershire

 

When she was a young teenager, her great-aunt gave her a copy of Jessica Mitford’s autobiography, Hons and Rebels.

Mitford became Rowling’s heroine and Rowling read all of her books.

 

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Rowling has said that her teenage years were unhappy.

Her home life was complicated by her mother’s diagnosis with multiple sclerosis and a strained relationship with her father, with whom she is not on speaking terms.

Rowling later said that she based the character of Hermione Granger on herself when she was eleven.

 

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Above: Emma Watson as Hermione Granger, poster for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

 

Sean Harris, her best friend in the Upper Sixth, owned a turquoise Ford Anglia which she says inspired a flying version that appeared in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

 

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.jpg

 

Like many teenagers, she became interested in rock music, listening to the Clash, the Smiths and Siouxsie Sioux, adopting the look of the latter with back-combed hair and black eyeliner, a look that she would still sport when beginning university.

 

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Above: Siouxsie Sioux, 1980

 

As a child, Rowling attended St Michael’s Primary School, a school founded by abolitionist William Wilberforce and education reformer Hannah More.

Her headmaster at St Michael’s, Alfred Dunn, has been suggested as the inspiration for the Harry Potter headmaster Albus Dumbledore.

 

Above: Richard Harris (1930 – 2002) as Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

 

She attended secondary school at Wyedean School and College, where her mother worked in the science department.

Steve Eddy, her first secondary school English teacher, remembers her as “not exceptional” but “one of a group of girls who were bright, and quite good at English“.

Rowling took A-levels in English, French and German, achieving two As and a B, and was Head Girl.

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Above: Logo of Wyeburn School, Sedbury, Gloucestershire

 

In 1982, Rowling took the entrance exams for Oxford University but was not accepted and earned a BA in French and Classics at the University of Exeter.

Martin Sorrell, a French professor at Exeter, remembers “a quietly competent student, with a denim jacket and dark hair, who, in academic terms, gave the appearance of doing what was necessary“.

Rowling recalls doing little work, preferring to read Dickens and Tolkien.

After a year of study in Paris, Rowling graduated from Exeter in 1986.

In 1988, Rowling wrote a short essay about her time studying Classics titled “What was the Name of that Nymph Again? or Greek and Roman Studies Recalled“.

It was published by the University of Exeter’s journal Pegasus.

 

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Above: Crest of the University of Exeter

 

After working as a researcher and bilingual secretary in London for Amnesty International, Rowling moved with her then boyfriend to Manchester, where she worked at the Chamber of Commerce.

 

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In 1990, while she was on a four-hour-delayed train trip from Manchester to London, the idea for a story of a young boy attending a school of wizardry “came fully formed” into her mind.

When she had reached her Clapham Junction flat, she began to write immediately.

 

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Above: Clapham Junction Railway Station

 

In December, Rowling’s mother, Anne, died after ten years suffering from multiple sclerosis.

Rowling was writing Harry Potter at the time and had never told her mother about it.

Her mother’s death heavily affected Rowling’s writing and she channelled her own feelings of loss by writing about Harry’s own feelings of loss in greater detail in the first book.

 

An advertisement in The Guardian led Rowling to move to Porto, Portugal, to teach English as a foreign language.

JK Rowling moved to Porto in 1991.

 

A panned out image of city buildings.

Above: Porto

 

This was a difficult time in her life, as her mother had recently passed away after a long battle with multiple sclerosis.

And to rub salt in the wound, her house in Manchester had been burgled, and everything her mother had left her was stolen.

 

Eager for a change of scenery, she accepted a job teaching English as a second language in Porto at a private language school on Avenida de Fernão de Magalhães called Encounter English.

 

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Rowling spent her evenings teaching English to young teenagers, business people and housewives and spent her days working on the manuscript of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

 

The time Rowling spent in Portugal was in many ways a dark and painful period of her life, and one that she rarely talks about.

For this reason, it’s hard to know for sure exactly which elements of the Harry Potter saga were inspired by her experiences in Porto.

Nevertheless, the influence is clearly there.

 

Many people have speculated that Rowling took inspiration from certain Porto landmarks, shops and cafés.

Some of these supposed inspiration locations almost certainly did inspire her, while others require a stretch of the imagination.

Rowling may have been subconsciously influenced by them, even if she didn’t recognize it at the time.

She taught English-as-a-foreign language at the Encounter English School at night and began writing in the day while listening to Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto.

 

Above: Pyotr Tchaikovsky (1840 – 1893)

 

After 18 months in Porto, she met Portuguese journalist Jorge Arantes at a café and found they shared an interest in Jane Austen.

Arantes would later tell London’s Daily Express newspaper the story of his whirlwind romance and doomed marriage to the then-unknown Joanne Rowling.

 

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Above: Jorge Arrantes

 

It was a sexually passionate relationship that ended in violence and bitterness.

She was a 25-year-old teacher, he was a 23-year-old journalism student.

He spotted her drinking with some friends in a café, was drawn to her piercing, aquamarine eyes and tried to pick her up.

Immediately there was a connection between us.“, Arrantes said.

Joanne could not speak any Portuguese, but my English was good.

We both realized we had a great deal in common with our love of books.

I remember her saying she was re-reading Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, which I had also read.

 

SenseAndSensibilityTitlePage.jpg

 

Arrantes said she told him about an affair she had had with another Portuguese man and about a love affair with a man in England.

When the night ended, they exchanged telephone numbers – and a kiss.

 

Two days later, he said, they had their first date – and ended up in bed.

Before we knew what was happening, she was back at my flat and we spent the night together.

There was nothing sordid about it.

We were simply two young, independent people enjoying life.

After that night, Joanne and I saw each other two or three times a week.

It was an intense and passionate relationship.

 

It was also tempestous.

Their frenetic lovemaking was punctuated with furious arguments.

We were always either in Heaven or in Hell.

 

They moved into his mother’s apartment, a shabby two-bedroom flat with a tiny kitchen, on Rua do Duque de Saldanha.

 

Casa onde morou depois de ter casado com Jorge Arantes. Foi lá que Jessica, a filha de ambos, viveu os primeiros meses de vida e foi de lá que Rowling foi expulsa numa madrugada de Novembro de 1993

Above: Entry to Arantes flat, Rua do Duque de Saldanha, Porto

 

Arantes later claimed he had helped her come up with ideas for the Harry Potter novels, though she denies this.

Among the belongings she brought to their home, according to Arantes, was a well-thumbed copy of J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic The Lord of the Rings.

 

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Several months later, Joanne discovered she was pregnant.

It was unplanned and both were afraid of the responsibilities parenthood might bring.

 

According to Arantes, Rowling began writing her first Harry Potter book during this pregnancy.

She kept her writing secret for a time, then showed her work in progress to Arantes.

I am proud to say that I was the first person to read about Harry Potter.

It was obvious to me straight away that this was the work of a genius.

I can still remember telling Joanne:

‘Whoa! I am in love with a great, great writer.’

Even in those days, Joanne had a great talent for structure.

I never doubted it would be a success.

 

Arantes says they discussed the stories, which Rowling found helpful.

We studied each other’s work and made suggestions.

When I told Joanne to change something, she would usually make an alteration.

He claims she had planned the full series of seven books, because  she believed the number 7 has magical associations.

 

Lucky Seven.jpg

 

But just as they had begun to look forward to the birth of their child, tragedy struck.

Joanne miscarried.

 

They married on 16 October 1992 and their child, Jessica Isabel Rowling Arantes (named after Jessica Mitford), was born on 27 July 1993 in Portugal.

 

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Above: Joanne and Jorge Arantes with baby Jessica

 

Two months after Jessica’s birth, Arantes admits, he ordered Joanne out of their apartment.

She refused to go without Jessica and, despite my saying she could come back for her in the morning, there was a violent struggle.

I had to drag her out of the house at 5 in the morning and I admit I slapped her very hard in the street.

 

The couple separated on 17 November 1993.

Biographers have suggested that Rowling suffered domestic abuse during her marriage, although the extent is unknown.

 

In December 1993, Rowling and her then infant daughter moved to Edinburgh, Scotland, to be near Rowling’s sister with three chapters of what would become Harry Potter in her suitcase.

Seven years after graduating from university, Rowling saw herself as a failure.

Her marriage had failed and she was jobless with a dependent child, but she described her failure as liberating and allowing her to focus on writing.

During this period, Rowling was diagnosed with clinical depression and contemplated suicide.

Her illness inspired the characters known as Dementors, soul-sucking creatures introduced in the third book.

 

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Rowling signed up for welfare benefits, describing her economic status as being “poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain without being homeless.”

 

Rowling was left in despair after her estranged husband arrived in Scotland, seeking both her and her daughter.

She obtained an Order of Restraint and Arantes returned to Portugal, with Rowling filing for divorce in August 1994.

 

She began a teacher training course in August 1995 at the Moray House School of Education, at Edinburgh University, after completing her first novel while living on state benefits.

She wrote in many cafés, especially Nicolson’s Café (owned by her brother-in-law) and the Elephant House, wherever she could get Jessica to fall asleep.

 

 

Meanwhile Arantes’ life was falling apart.

He lost his job as a television journalist and descended into a nightmare of drug addiction.

 

His 70-year-old mother, Marilia Rodrigues, told the London Daily Mail that Arantes stole family heirlooms and jewellery to feed his drug habit.

He still loved her very much and was heartbroken when they parted.“, Rodrigues said.

He still believes they could get together again and he would take her back at the drop of a hat.

He just wants her and his daughter.

 

Arantes says he has recovered from his drug addiction and lives in a small apartment in the Paris suburb of Clichy with his brother Justino, a travel agent.

 

Rowling rarely talks about her first marriage, but once told the Times of London:

I married on 16 October 1992.

I left on 17 November 1993.

So that was the duration of what I considered to be the marriage.

Obviously, you do not leave a marriage after that very short period of time unless there are serious problems.

I’m not the kind of person who bales out without there being serious problems.

My relationship before that lasted seven years.

I’m a long-term girl.

And I had a baby with this man.

But it didn’t work.

And it was clear to me that it was time to go, and so I went.

I never regretted it.

 

In a 2001 BBC interview, Rowling denied the rumour that she wrote in local cafés to escape from her unheated flat, pointing out that it had heating.

One of the reasons she wrote in cafés was that taking her baby out for a walk was the best way to make her fall asleep.

 

In 1995, Rowling finished her manuscript for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone which was typed on an old manual typewriter.

Upon the enthusiastic response of Bryony Evens, a reader who had been asked to review the book’s first three chapters, the Fulham-based Christopher Little Literary Agency agreed to represent Rowling in her quest for a publisher.

The book was submitted to twelve publishing houses, all of which rejected the manuscript.

A year later she was finally given the green light by editor Barry Cunningham from Bloomsbury, a publishing house in London.

The decision to publish Rowling’s book owes much to Alice Newton, the eight-year-old daughter of Bloomsbury’s chairman, who was given the first chapter to review by her father and immediately demanded the next.

Although Bloomsbury agreed to publish the book, Cunningham says that he advised Rowling to get a day job, since she had little chance of making money in children’s books.

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Harry Potter is now a global brand worth an estimated US$15 billion and the last four Harry Potter books have consecutively set records as the fastest-selling books in history.

The series, totalling 4,195 pages, has been translated, in whole or in part, into 65 languages.

The Harry Potter books have also gained recognition for sparking an interest in reading among the young at a time when children were thought to be abandoning books for computers and television, although it is reported that despite the huge uptake of the books, adolescent reading has continued to decline.

 

On 26 December 2001, Rowling married Neil Murray (born 1971), a Scottish doctor, in a private ceremony at her home, Killiechassie House in Scotland.

Their son, David Gordon Rowling Murray, was born on 24 March 2003.

 

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Above: Joanne and Neil Murray

 

Shortly after Rowling began writing Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, she ceased working on the novel to care for David in his early infancy.

Rowling’s youngest child, daughter Mackenzie Jean Rowling Murray, to whom she dedicated Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, was born on 23 January 2005.

 

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.jpg

 

Regarding Jessica’s career, she can best be described as an Instagram model who posts beautiful photos of herself as well as videos with her family and friends.

Jessica started her Instagram account in 2013 and instantly started sharing photos.

She has now managed to gather almost 7,000 followers.

Apart from that, Jessica owns a clothing line called Jc.closefit.

She also loves travelling and taking photos while on her exotic tours.

 

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Above: Jessica Arantes

 

Rowling’s life in Portugal clearly influenced aspects of the books:

 

Many of Potter’s spells can be easily understood by Portuguese speakers:

  • aguamenti (bring out water)
  • duro (make things hard)
  • protego (protect people)
  • silencio (to silence people)

 

One of Hogwart’s founding professors was Salazar Slytherin.

Dr. António de Oliveira Salazar was Portugal’s notorious dictator for much of the 20th century.

 

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Above: António de Oliveira Salazar (1889 – 1970)

 

There are also many similarities between Porto’s most colourful buildings and elements of Hogwarts, and as my wife (Ute) and I explored the city of Porto, I found myself trying to imagine Joanne Rowling’s life pre-Harry Potter fame and fortune.

I also found myself marvelling at her choice of a dictator’s name for one of the school’s founders.

Was her deciding to take the name of Salazar suggesting that despite his  nature he was partially responsible for making the place possible?

Without a Salazar could it have become what it eventually became?

Rowling’s relationship with Arantes did not end well though their union resulted in Jessica’s birth.

Perhaps Arantes was Rowling’s Salazar?

Perhaps the rumours of domestic violence are true, but perhaps Arantes’s claims of inspiring Rowling’s ideas are also credible.

What would Porto, through a Rowling lens, tell me about writing and inspiration?

What would it tell me about myself?

 

From the top left corner clockwise: Clérigos Church and Tower; Avenida dos Aliados; Casa da Música concert hall; Ribeira district; Avenida da Boavista business hub; Luiz I bridge and Porto from Vila Nova de Gaia

Above: Images of Porto

 

Porto, Portugal, Thursday 26 July 2018

There are a number of sites in Porto frequently mentioned on Potterhead blogs that my mentioning will surprise no one.

The only difference I can offer is my perspective of them.

I shall briefly list them here and then offer my perspective:

  • Livraria Lello
  • Escovaria de Belomonte
  • Universidade do Porto
  • Café Majestic
  • Fonte dos Leones
  • Torre dos Clerigos

 

The Livraria Lello, Porto’s famous galleried Art Nouveau bookshop, with its neo-Gothic exterior and inner staircase just begging for a grand entrance, is a visual delight beyond words.

It was founded by the well-to-do Lello intellectual brothers in 1906 and specialized in limited edition books – many of which are still here.

The brothers now appear as bas-reliefs on the walls, alongside busts of great writers, including Eca de Queiroz and Miguel Cervantes.

The Lellos commissioned an engineer and fellow bibliophile Francisco Xavier Esteves to design the interior, which is simply stunning.

The ground level even has rails set into the floor for transporting book “carriages“.

 

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The impressive double, freestanding staircase (actually made of concrete) lures people upstairs where you can admire the extraordinary plasterwork ceiling, which resembles ornately carved wood.

Columns and a stained glass roof light add to the air of something far grander than a bookshop, the whole design having an almost organic feel, as if the walls and ceiling are the ribs and bones of a living creature.

 

 

The first floor was the traditional meeting point of artists and intellectuals and was frequented by Rowling during her time in Porto in the 1990s.

It is this, and the similiarity of the shop’s decor to some of Hogwarts’ more outlandish design characteristics, that has put the bookshop firmly on the tourist circuit, with up to 4,000 people visiting daily.

There are often queues to get in, but if you come first thing in the morning or in the evening shortly before closing time, you may be able to experience the place more as a bookshop than a tourist site.

 

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Porto’s famous galleried Art Nouveau shop has become a tourist site in its own right, but behind the crowds this still remains one of the city’s best bookshops.

There’s general fiction on the ground floor (including the Harry Potter stories in many languages), much of it in English, with reference and non-fiction (including travel) on the upper floor.

 

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You can also find rare editions of Portuguese books.

 

Look out for the original till, made in 1881, the first in Portugal to issue paper receipts and with prices in reis (the currency before the escudo and the euro).

 

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You get your €5.00 entry fee back on any purchase.

 

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In 1869, the Livraria Internacional de Ernesto Chardron was founded, from a shop on Rua dos Clérigos by the Frenchman Ernesto Chardron.

Following its founder’s death, at the age of 45, the firm was sold to Lugan & Genelioux Sucessores.

Alternately, in 1881, José Lello along with his brother-in-law created the firm David Pereira & Lello.

But, the following year, after the death of David Lourenço Pereira, the establishment began to be operated as José Pinto de Sousa Lello & Irmão, when he partnered with his younger brother (António Lello).

The brothers both became prominent members of Porto’s intellectual bourgeoisie by the turn of the century.

The brothers hired engineer Francisco Xavier Esteves (1864-1944) to construct the new bookstore on Rua das Carmelitas.

In 1906, the Livraria Lello was inaugurated.

By 1919, the bookstore was simply designated as the Lello & Irmão, Lda.

With the 1930 addition of José Pereira da Costa, the bookstore began to be known simply as Livraria Lello.

But, between 1930 and 1940, it once again became designated Lello & Irmão.

Beginning in July 2015, the bookstore began requesting entrance fees for visitors.

On 21 April 2016, an artistic mural was erected to conceal the scaffolding placed on the facade of the building, during its restoration, by graffiti writer Dheo and colleague Pariz One.

 

 

Dheo painted the central area of the mural with a pile of old books, a lit candle and a bottle of Port wine, while the rest was painted by Pariz One with geometric shapes, referring to the stained glass inside the bookstore.

The work took two months to produce.

On 31 July, following the restoration, the main facade of the building was uncovered, showing the laboratory-tested recovered primitive gray.

 

 

There is no denying that the woodwork and the glass art and the red winding staircase do make the Livraria Lello a beautiful place to visit and certainly there is a good case to argue that Hogwarts’ moving staircases and the interior of the Diagon Alley bookstore Flourish and Blogs were inspired by the Livraria.

 

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Above: Hogwarts’ moving staircases

 

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But therein lies the problem.

It attracts too many tourists and it knows it.

 

As a passionate bibliophile I certainly admire the architecture, but for me a bookshop should in some ways resemble a library, a sanctuary of literature, a temple of tomes, rather than a marketplace for mobs.

A person cannot linger in any one spot too long before some impatient patron will jostle and push you about the place.

One could make a grand entrance if the store were a little less crowded, but one loses one’s regal bearing very quickly after enduring long queues to get in, for the indignity of paying an entrance fee just to view the shop, down each and every aisle, up and down the staircase, and at the cash register….

This is not the place for those who dislike crowds in enclosed spaces.

And though the Livraria does offer rare Portuguese books I am not so certain the Lello brothers would have liked the changes that time and fame have wrought, for as wonderful as it is to see people eagerly seeking books to read in this awkward age of automation and animation, a sense of intellectualism no longer pervades this establishment.

The place feels like a souvenir shop at one of Walt Disney’s magic kingdoms of artificiality than it does a sacred reminder of Portugal’s literary past.

 

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Above: Disney World, Orlando, Florida

 

I doubt the American tourists who came to or left the Livraria had any conception of, or compassion for, the existence of a Portuguese literary history.

For the place is populated with Potterheads and nothing else seems to matter.

But suggesting such sacrilege to these Rowling fanatics is akin to being Cervantes’ Don Quixote tilting at thick stone windmills.

 

 

Pointlessly defending an honour long gone.

 

The Livrario made me think of St. Gallen’s Stiftbibliothek (Abbey Library) with its hefty admission fee and cramped interior when crowds congregate.

It is my hope that Rowling (or those of her ilk) never visit the Abbey Library and over-popularize the place with their writing, for the Library at least still maintains an aura of the sacred which the Livrario has long ago lost.

 

Above: The Abbey Library of St. Gallen

 

I was seeking a Porto version of Paris’ Shakespeare & Co., but got instead an amusement park souvenir shop.

 

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It was worth a visit for the heart but at a cost to the mind and soul.

 

The Escovaria de Belomonte (Brushes of Belomonte), founded by Antonio da Silva on 29 January 1927, is not, at present, part of guidebook description, but it is most definitively part of Potter lore and appears on every blog where Rowling and Porto are mentioned in the same breath.

Though the Escovaria de Belomonte has only existed for 82 years, they excel in the manufacture and restoration of industrial brushes.

Why buy new brushes when you can have your old ones renewed?

The Escovaria de Belomonte replenishes and renews any type of brush.

They create brushes for every kind of customized applications for all types of industries, including industrial factories, textile production, footwear producers, jewelry stores, cast moulding manufacturers, grinding establishments, water treatment plants, car washes, typographical firms, gastronomy, and the list goes on….

They make any and every kind of brush and broom.

Whatever your needs, Escovaria de Belomonte will help you find a solution.

 

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The handsome Belomonte brooms with their rustic luxurious look, many of them hanging from the store ceiling, handmade with high-quality wood and natural fibres, bear a striking resemblance to Harry Potter’s flying broom, the Nimbus 2000.

 

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It has also been suggested that the name of Harry Potter that graces the front cover of every Potter novel bears a striking resemblance to the lettering and design of Escovaria de Belomonte‘s street sign.

Visually it is a great store to visit, but I wonder whether Potterheads actually make a purchase here.

There is no entrance fee and I am certain the place is much photographed by Potterheads, but whether the Escovaria is pleased with being a tourist attraction more than a serious business establishment is debatable.

 

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It has been suggested by Potterhead blogs that the outfit worn by Universidade do Porto (University of Porto) students was the inspiration for the outfits that Hogwarts students were required to wear during academic hours.

The wife and I were not able to fit in a visit to the University, saw no one on the streets dressed in such attire and found very few photos of students dressed in this manner.

 

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What can be said about the University:

  • Founded on 22 March 1911, it is the 2nd largest Portuguese university by enrolled students (after the University of Lisbon) and has one of the most noted research outputs in Portugal.
  • It is ranked among the best Portuguese universities, is among the 100 universities in Europe and ranked 328th of the best 400 universities in the world.
  • Today, about 28,000 students (11,000 postgraduates) attend the programmes and courses provided by the University of Porto’s 15 schools (13 faculties, a biomedical sciences institute and a business school) each with a considerable degree of autonomy.
  • It offers 63 graduate degree courses, over 160 master courses and several doctoral degree courses and other specialization courses, supported by 2,300 lecturers and a technical and administrative staff of over 1,600 people.
  • Of those who can call themselves alumni or staff of the University are:
    • Richard Zimler (journalist / writer / professor)
    • Julio Dinis (1839 – 1871)(writer)
    • Jorge de Sena (1919 – 1978)(doctor / writer)
    • José Neves (billionaire businessman / founder of Farfetch)
    • Marisa Ferreira (artist)
    • Camilo Castelo Bianco (1825 – 1890)(writer)
    • Agostinho da Silva (1906 – 1994)(writer)

(This last mentioned I find inspirational:

What you need, above all, is to not remember what I said. 

Never think for me. 

Think always for yourself. 

Be sure that all your mistakes that you commit are, according to your own thinking and deciding, all more valuable than all your correct actions made according to my thinking, not yours.

If the Creator wanted to put us together we perhaps couldn’t have two different bodies and two different heads.

My counselling should serve you to confront it.

It is possible that, after this confrontation, you come to think like me, but, at this time, your thought is yours.

My disciples, if I have any, are the ones who oppose me, because in their deep soul they guard what truly animates and what I most want to transmit to them.

The wish is to not conform.“)

 

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Above: Agostinho da Silva

 

It is more likely that Rowling was inspired not by the University of Porto, but rather by the University of Coimbra – 1.5 hours south of Porto – whose students do indeed wear academic robes similiar to those of Hogwarts students.

We did not get to Coimbra.

We did not need to.

 

Above: University of Coimbra students in ceremonial robes

 

There are hundreds of places to eat and drink in Porto, from old town tascas and Art Nouveau cafés to riverfront designer restaurants.

Of these, the one place that attracts the Potterhead is the Café Majestic.

In 1916, Rua de Santa Catarina 12 was built on a paved shopping street.

Opened in 1921, the Café Elite was designed in Art Nouveau style.

The then Bohemian quarter of the city did not think the name “Elite” was appropriate as it was not part of the Zeitgeist that was the post-1910 revolutionary Portuguese Republic.

The coffee house was subsequently given the name it is still known by.

The Majestic became over time a place frequented by intellectuals and literary legends, including Gago Coutinho, Beatriz Costa, Júlio Resende, José Régio and Teixeira de Pascoaes.

 

 

(Carlos Viegas Gago Coutinho, generally known simply as Gago Coutinho (1869 – 1959) was a Portuguese geographer, cartographer, naval officer, historian and aviator.

An aviation pioneer, Gago Coutinho and Sacadura Cabral were the first to cross the South Atlantic Ocean by air, from March to June 1922, from Lisbon, Portugal, to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.)

 

Above: Coutinho (right) and Cabral (left) on the Lusitánia

 

(Beatriz Costa (born Beatriz da Conceição; 1907 – 1996) was a Portuguese actress, the best-known actress of the golden age of Portuguese cinema.)

 

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Above: Beatriz Costa

 

(Júlio Resende is a Portuguese pianist and composer.

He is active as a jazz musician (both as a bandleader and as a sideman for other artists) and is also involved in the Fado scene, having recorded a solo piano tribute to Amália Rodrigues and collaborating with singers like António Zambujo, Ana Moura and Aldina Duarte.

He is also the leader of Alexander Search, a rock band fronted by Eurovision Song Contest 2017 winner Salvador Sobral and inspired by Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa.)

 

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(José Maria dos Reis Pereira, better known by the pen name José Régio (1901 – 1969), was a Portuguese writer.

José Régio was the author of novels, plays, poetry and essays.

His works are strongly focused on the theme of conflict between man and God and between the individual and society, a critical analysis of solitude and human relations.)

 

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Above: José Régio

 

(Joaquim Pereira Teixeira de Vasconcelos (1877 – 1952), better known by his pen name Teixeira de Pascoaes, was a Portuguese poet.

He was nominated five times for the Nobel Prize in Literature.)

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Above: Painting of Teixeira de Pascoaes

 

In the 1960s, the Café experienced a decline, parallel to the increasingly repressive social situation of Portugal under the authoritarian regime of António de Oliveria Salazar’s Estado Novo (“New State“).

In 1992 the Barrias family decided to extensively restore the Majestic.

Using old photographs as their guide, the restoration was completed, a new floor laid and the Café reopened in 1994.

In the year prior to the commencement of the Majestic’s renovations, Rowling often visited the Café, writing her thoughts for her first Harry Potter novel on Majestic napkins.

The Majestic today is the best known of Porto’s belle époque cafés, with a perfectly preserved decor of celestial cherubs, bevelled mirrors, carved chairs and wood panelling.

 

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Waiters float to the strains of The Blue Danube.

Come for coffee or afternoon tea as we did.

 

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The Fountain of the Lions (Portuguese: Fonte dos Leões), is a 19th-century fountain built by French company Compagnie Générale des Eaux pour l’Etranger.

 

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Cast by the Val d’Osne foundry in France, it is a copy, in most part, of the fountain in the Town Hall Square of Leicester, England.

The fountain is located in an urban, isolated location, within the gardened Praça de Gomes Teixeira.

The central fountain has a cruciform layout with a group of sculptures at the base supported by four seated lions on the extremes.

Between each lion, the axis of the source has a column with base, shaft and capital.

To top, two central, circular cups superimposed and staggered, with a pine cone surmounting all.

The octagonal shaped granite tank has rounded edges.

The outer profile of the tank walls is corrugated.

The edge of the lower plane bowl is outlined in relief by a frieze with plant elements interrupted only by four cornets from which water flows.

 

 

It is thought by Potterheads that this fountain inspired Rowling’s choice of logo for the House of Gryffindor at Hogwarts.

 

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The Clérigos Church (Portuguese: Igreja dos Clérigos,”Church of the Clergymen“) is a Baroque church with its tall bell tower, the Torre dos Clérigos, seen from various points of the city and is one of Porto’s most characteristic symbols.

 

Torre de los Clérigos, Oporto, Portugal, 2012-05-09, DD 01.JPG

 

The main façade of the church is heavily decorated with baroque motifs (such as garlands and shells) and an indented broken pediment.

This was based on an early 17th-century Roman scheme.

The central frieze above the windows present symbols of worship and an incense boat.

The lateral façades reveal the almost elliptic floorplan of the church nave.

The Clérigos Church was one of the first baroque churches in Portugal to adopt a typical baroque elliptic floor plan.

 

 

The monumental tower of the church, located at the back of the building, was only built between 1754 and 1763.

The baroque decoration here also shows influence from the Roman Baroque, while the whole design was inspired by Tuscan campaniles.

The tower is 75.6 metres high, dominating the city.

There are 240 steps to be climbed to reach the top of its six floors.

This great structure has become the symbol of the city.

 

 

Did the Torre dos Clerigos inspire Hogwarts’ Astronomy Tower?

Potterheads like to think so.

 

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At all of these sites, especially atop the Torre dos Clerigos, the visitor, headphones on, fado playing, can ponder how fado, Arantes, Rowling and yours truly all interconnect.

We have learned that Arantes probably abused Rowling as possibly did her father.

Fans who re-read Harry Potter as adults quickly realize that the behaviour of the Dursleys reads like child abuse: starvation, forced labour and confinement.

 

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Starvation has been a stranger to me, but forced labour and confinement I did know.

 

In the Harry Potter series, more explicit abuse is described when Harry learns through a Pensieve memory that Severus Snape’s father beat his son and wife.

Porto is a Pensieve for me….

 

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And then there is Rowling’s post-Potter writing….

 

In her novel The Casual Vacancy, Andrew is a restless teen who lives with his abusive, degrading father.

Rowling once told The New Yorker that Andrew represented her mindset as a teen, and although Andrew was not exactly based on her father, she said:

I did not have an easy relationship with my father.

 

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Above: Andrew Price, The Casual Vacancy

 

Abuse also finds its way into Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Credence has an adopted mother who hits him with a belt.

That resentment from his mother’s frequent beatings turns him into an Obscurial, a repressed being that the evil Gellert Grindelwald wants to use for dark magic.

 

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Often, but certainly not always, children who were abused by their parents often abuse their children when they become parents.

Perhaps this was the case in the behaviour of Arantes.

 

And, lest we forget, why Rowling chose António de Oliveira Salazar as the inspiration for the repressive Hogwarts co-founder Salazar Slitherin….

One overriding criticism of Salazar’s regime is that stability was bought and maintained at the expense of suppression of human rights and liberties.

Abuse on a national level.

Under Salazar’s authoritarian rule, he brought stability and prosperity to Portugal, but at enormous cost: censorship, imprisonment and torture.

 

Above: Salazar, 1939

 

Arantes was born in 1967.

Salazar’s Estado Nova lasted from 1932 to 1974.

Arantes’ father knew abuse and repression and so would Arantes.

 

It is hard to sympathize with those that abuse unless we realize that they were probably a product of abuse themselves.

Arantes lost the mother of his child and his daughter as well.

In the quiet of night as Arantes lies in his solitary bed in his brother’s Clichy apartment fado music plays inside his head.

Arantes is a pessimist, a nihilist, alone, and forever known for his greatest failure:

Losing the world’s most famous novelist as his lover and the child they made together.

 

We quietly walk through the wonders of Porto.

Fado fills the streets.

Sadness of memory fills my soul.

And sits upon my shoulders like an invisibility cloak.

 

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Above: Porto, night

 

Sources: Wikipedia / Google / Facebook / Pocket Rough Guide Porto / Lonely Planet Portugal / Rough Guide Portugal / Matthew Hancock, Xenophobe’s Guide to the Portuguese / A.H. de Oliveira Marques, A Very Short History of Portugal

 

A poster depicting a young boy with glasses, an old man with glasses, a young girl holding books, a redheaded boy, and a large bearded man in front of a castle, with an owl flying. The left poster also features an adult man, an old woman, and a train, with the titles being "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone".

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canada Slim and the Elastic Novice

Landschlacht, Switzerland, Tuesday 17 September 2019

Damn that man!

One man’s writings has had and continue to have a major effect on my life and this has been reflected in my travels and I have already spoken of the man previously in this blog.

 

Charles Dickens

Above: Charles Dickens, New York, 1867

 

(Please see Canada Slim and the Dickensian Moment – first published as “Goodbye, Charles” on 9 June 2015.)

 

(As one of the shortest and woefully inadequate posts I have ever written, expect to see an updated version of “Goodbye, Charles” as soon as possible and the addition of another post that continues the chronicle of my first travels in Europe last described in Canada Slim and the Promised Land – first published as “That which survives 3: The promised land“.)

 

It was he who made me decide to first enter Britain via Broadstairs.

 

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Above: Dickens House Museum, Broadstairs

 

It was he who compelled me to convince my good friends Samantha and Iain to visit his birthplace in Portsmouth.

 

Above: Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum, Portsmouth

 

It was he who inspired me to first find the courage to write.

 

It was he whose footsteps I was determined to trace during my visit to London in the last week of October 2017.

 

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My wife had purchased for us two London Passes, offering free entry to over 60 attractions, as well as free public transport on buses, on the Tube, and on trains.

She strongly suggested I use mine as much as possible during the time when she was attending her medical conference.

 

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26 October was the first day that I would have a chance to view London on my own.

I had, following the Passbook alphabetically, already visited the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Manhir that morning, so my next goal was the Charles Dickens Museum in the Bloomsbury district.

 

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Above: BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir

 

(For previous posts on London, please see….

Canada Slim….

  • and the Paddington Arrival
  • and the Street Walked Too Often
  • Underground
  • and the Outcast
  • and the Wonders on the Wall
  • and the Calculated Cathedral
  • and the Right Man
  • and the Queen’s Horsemen
  • and the Royal Peculiar
  • and the Lamp Ladies
  • and the Uncertainty Principle
  • and the Museum of Many
  • and the Breviary of Bartholew
  • and the Body Snatchers
  • and the Freudian Slippers
  • and the Mandir of Nose Hill )

 

 

London, England, 26 October 2017

Few cities are as closely associated with one writer as London is with Charles Dickens (1812 – 1870).

The recurrent motifs in his novels have become the clichés of Victorian London (though Dickens was active and successful before Queen Victoria came to the throne) – the fog, the slums and alleys, the prisons and workhouses and the stinking river.

Drawing on his own personal experience, Dickens was able to describe  the workings of the law and the conditions of the poor with an unrivalled accuracy.

 

Above: Charles Dickens, 1850

 

Born in Portsmouth (Please see Canada Slim and the Dickensian Moment.), Dickens was the second of eight children.

His father, John Dickens, was a clerk who worked for the Navy and had set up home in Portsmouth with his wife Elizabeth.

 

A view of Old Portsmouth taken from the viewing deck of the Spinnaker Tower. Old buildings, cobbled streets and a small island can be seen in the frame.

Above: Old Portsmouth

 

In 1817 John was posted to the dockyard in Chatham.

John and his family took a full part in the life of the community.

They were friendly with neighbours and with the family of a local landlord.

 

Charles and his sister Fanny were frequently set up by their father atop a table in the Mitre Inn to entertain the tavern with songs and ballads of the day.

It was in Chatham that Charles began his education.

 

Above: Chatham Dockyard

 

His widowed aunt Mary Allen married for a second time while the Dickens family were in Chatham.

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Above: 2 Ordnance Terrace, Chatham (Dickens’ home: 1817 – 1821)

 

This was to a widowed doctor, Matthew Lambert, who had a son Matthew, a little older than Charles and became a great influence upon this early part of Charles’ life, for it was Matthew who introduced Charles to the wonders of the theatre.

This was the beginning of a lifelong passion.

I tried to recollect whether I had ever been in any theatre in my life from which I had not brought away some pleasant association, however poor the theatre, and I protest, I could not remember even one.

In fact, Charles always had a great relish for bad theatre.

 

Allow me to introduce myself—first negatively.

No landlord is my friend and brother.

No chambermaid loves me.

No waiter worships me.

No boots admires and envies me. 

No round of beef or tongue or ham is expressly cooked for me.

No pigeon pie is especially made for me.

No hotel advertisement is personally addressed to me.

No hotel room tapestried with great coats and railway wrappers is set apart for me.

No house of public entertainment in the United Kingdom greatly cares for my opinion of its brandy or sherry. 

When I go upon my journeys, I am not usually rated at a low figure in the bill.

When I come home from my journeys, I never get any commission. 

I know nothing about prices, and should have no idea, if I were put to it, how to wheedle a man into ordering something he doesn’t want. 

As a town traveller, I am never to be seen driving a vehicle externally like a young and volatile pianoforte van, and internally like an oven in which a number of flat boxes are baking in layers. 

As a country traveller, I am rarely to be found in a gig, and am never to be encountered by a pleasure train, waiting on the platform of a branch station, quite a Druid in the midst of a light Stonehenge of samples.

And yet—proceeding now, to introduce myself positively—I am both a town traveller and a country traveller, and am always on the road. 

Figuratively speaking, I travel for the great house of Human Interest Brothers, and have rather a large connection in the fancy goods way. 

Literally speaking, I am always wandering here and there from my rooms in Covent Garden, London—now about the city streets: now, about the country by-roads—seeing many little things, and some great things, which, because they interest me, I think may interest others.

These are my chief credentials as the Uncommercial Traveller.

 

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In The Uncommercial Traveller, he revisited Rochester where he enjoyed the somewhat shaky productions he saw there.

He does not spare the company:

Many wondrous secrets of Nature had I come to the knowledge of in that sanctuary:

Of which not the least terrific were, that the witches in Macbeth bore an awful resemblance to the Thanes and other proper inhabitants of Scotland, and that the good King Duncan could not rest in his grave, but was constantly coming out of it and calling himself somebody else.

 

Above: High Street, Rochester

 

John Dickens’ job entitled him and his family to regard themselves as middle class, but the middle classes had little money behind them if things went wrong or if they couldn’t support their large families in seizing the opportunities they had anticipated.

Prosperity could unravel very quickly.

By the time John was recalled to London in 1822, the debts were considerable and his new post meant a drop in salary.

 

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Above: John Dickens (1785 – 1851)

 

Such was the family situation in 1823 that the young Charles, age 11, had to go out to work, finding employment in a boot-blacking factory, Warren’s Blacking Warehouse, on the north bank of the Thames, near the site of the modern Charing Cross Station.

Charles and his colleagues had to cover pots of boot polish (blacking) and paste on to them paper labels.

He was paid six shillings a week.

Great numbers of children in early 19th century England would have done similar work – and many, much, much worse.

 

drawing

 

It was a crazy, tumbledown old house, abutting, of course, on the river, and literally overrun with rats.

Its wainscotted rooms and its rotten floors and staircase, and the old grey rats swarming down in the cellars, and the sound of their squeaking and scuffling coming up the stairs at all times, and the dirt and the decay of the place, rise up visibly before me, as if I were there again.

The counting house was on the first floor, looking over the coal barges and the river.

There was a recess in it, in which I was to sit and work.

 

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This episode affected Charles profoundly.

He thought his parents had given up on him.

It is amazing to me how I could have been so easily cast away at such an age.

It is amazing to me, that, even after my descent into the poor little drudge I had been since we came to London, no one had compassion enough for me … to suggest that something might have been spared, as certainly it might have been, to place me at any common school ….

No one made any sign.

My father and mother were quite satisfied.

They could hardly have been more so, if I had been 20 years of age, distinguished at a Grammar School and going to Cambridge.”

 

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Above: Cambridge University coat-of-arms

 

On 20 February 1824 John Dickens was arrested and imprisoned in Marshalsea Debtors’ Prison.

 

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Above: Marshalsea Prison Gate

 

Charles was deeply ashamed of his family’s circumstances and hurt further when his mother forced him to keep his blacking job even after his father’s release.

 

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Above: Elizabeth Dickens (1789 – 1863)

 

This influenced Dickens’s view that a father should rule the family, and a mother find her proper sphere inside the home:

I never afterwards forgot, I never shall forget, I never can forget, that my mother was warm for my being sent back.

His mother’s requesting his return was a factor in his dissatisfied attitude towards women.

 

Righteous indignation stemming from his own situation and the conditions under which working-class people lived became major themes of his works, and it was this unhappy period in his youth to which he alluded in his favourite, and most autobiographical, novel, David Copperfield:

I had no advice, no counsel, no encouragement, no consolation, no assistance, no support, of any kind, from anyone, that I can call to mind, as I hope to go to Heaven!

 

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In the end, a number of circumstances brought an opportunity for change.

John inherited some money, began receiving a pension from the Navy and started working as a journalist, thus enabling the family to dispense with the few shillings Charles was adding to the family income.

 

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Dickens got to school eventually.

He spent two years at Wellington House, which he remembered with little affection.

He did not consider it to be a good school:

Much of the haphazard, desultory teaching, poor discipline punctuated by the headmaster’s sadistic brutality, the seedy ushers and general run-down atmosphere, are embodied in Mr Creakle’s Establishment in David Copperfield.

 

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When he left, at age 15, he was ready for work.

An acquaintance of the family found Charles work as a lawyer’s clerk with the firm of Ellis and Blackmore, which lasted 18 months.

Dickens worked at the law office of Ellis and Blackmore, attorneys, of Holborn Court, Gray’s Inn, as a junior clerk from May 1827 to November 1828.

 

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Above: Gray’s Inn Square, London

 

Charles was a gifted mimic and impersonated those around him: clients, lawyers, and clerks.

He went to theatres obsessively—he claimed that for at least three years he went to the theatre every single day.

His favourite actor was Charles Mathews and Dickens learnt his monopolylogues (farces in which Mathews played every character) by heart.

 

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Above: Charles Matthews (1776 – 1835)

 

Then, having learned Gurney’s system of shorthand in his spare time, he left to become a freelance reporter.

 

Above: Example of Thomas Gurney (1705 – 1770) shorthand

 

A distant relative, Thomas Charlton, was a freelance reporter at Doctors’ Commons and Dickens was able to share his box there to report the legal proceedings for nearly four years.

 

Above: Doctors’ Commons in the early 19th century

 

This education was to inform works such as Nicholas Nickleby, Dombey and Son, and especially Bleak House—whose vivid portrayal of the machinations and bureaucracy of the legal system did much to enlighten the general public and served as a vehicle for dissemination of Dickens’s own views regarding, particularly, the heavy burden on the poor who were forced by circumstances to “go to law“.

 

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Charles had family in journalism.

His father wrote occasional pieces, but Charles also had a maternal uncle, John Henry Barrow, who in 1828 launched The Mirror of Parliament.

It was not long before Charles was part of Barrow’s parliamentary reporting team and was soon striking out writing for other publications, including the radical newspaper The True Sun.

 

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Sometime before 1830, Dickens fell in love with a young woman called Maria Beadnell, the daughter of a banker.

The relationship between them flashed on and off for around four years, despite hostility from her parents, interference from friends and Maria’s own capricious nature.

The letters that survive show how thoroughly Dickens was absorbed in pursuing her.

Maria’s parents disapproved of the courtship and ended the relationship by sending her to school in Paris.

When the end finally came, he wrote to her, claiming:

I have never loved and I can never love any human creature breathing but yourself.

 

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Above: Maria Beadnell (1810 – 1886)

 

She is thought to be the model for the character Dora in David Copperfield.

 

Above: David Copperfield and Dora Spenlow

 

Many years later, Dickens got a letter from Maria out of the blue and a short correspondence between them began in which he proclaimed the intensity of his original feelings for her.

The tone of these letters soon changed after he arranged to see her and she turned out to be “toothless, fat, old and ugly” (her words).

 

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Above: Miriam Margoyles as Maria Beadnell Winter

 

The Maria romance is interesting because of the marked contrast it makes with Dickens’ engagement and marriage.

Catherine Hogarth, the daughter of his boss at the Evening Chronicle, could hardly have been a more different young woman.

At least Dickens looked at her in a completely different way.

His letters to her are affectionate but occasionally overbearing, as if he was asserting himself to ensure that no more nonsense got in the way of his own ambition.

He was particularly careful to outline the primacy of his work and its demands.

His commitments at this time were extremely heavy.

Catherine and Charles married on 2 April 1836 and went for a week’s honeymoon to Chalk in Kent (during which, true to form, Dickens was busy with The Pickwick Papers).

 

Above: Catherine Hogarth Dickens (1816 – 1879)

 

In August 1834 Charles was given a permanent position on The Morning Chronicle, a liberal paper, to report on all parliamentary matters.

This included elections (there were two in 1835) and political meetings – all around the country, before there were railroads.

Deadlines were nevertheless overwhelmingly important and Dickens experienced many freezing, wet stagecoach journeys, bouncing about, writing on his knees, racing back to London to get his account in before the rival reporters on The Times.

 

 

Dickens’ first published piece of creative work appeared in the Monthly Magazine in 1833.

It was called “A Dinner at Poplar Walk“.

The publication had a circulation of 600 and the young author wasn’t paid, but he knew what it all meant.

 

Above: Monthly Magazine (1796 – 1843) issue, 1 February 1810

 

In the preface of the cheap edition of The Pickwick Papers, Dickens tells us that he practically smuggled the piece into the magazine’s offices:

It was dropped stealthily one evening at twilight, with fear and trembling, into a dark letter box, in a dark office, up a dark court in Fleet Street.”

The piece’s emergence into print was an occasion of some emotion:

I walked down to Westminster Hall and turned into it for half an hour, because my eyes were so dimmed with joy and pride, that they could not bear the street and were not fit to be seen there.

 

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More pieces for the Monthly Magazine followed.

These were comic stories, which owed a lot to the theatrical farces so common on the London stage.

It was at the end of one of these pieces, published in May 1834, that he signed his name as “Boz“, the nom de plume by which he first began to establish his reputation and indeed his brand.

Boz being a family nickname he employed as a pseudonym for some years.

Dickens apparently adopted it from the nickname “Moses“, which he had given to his youngest brother Augustus Dickens, after a character in Oliver Goldsmith’s The Vicar of Wakefield.

 

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Above: Augustus Dickens (1827 – 1866)

 

When pronounced by anyone with a head cold, “Moses” became “Boses“—later shortened to Boz.

As “Boz“, Dickens began to collect readers.

He was given further opportunities to please them.

 

Dickens began to write occasional pieces for the Morning Chronicle in addition to his reporting.

These were his “sketches” – informal surveys of parts of London, London themes or observations of London people, held together by a conversational tone rather than a narrative: a Londoner talking to Londoners.

When an evening sister paper to the Morning Chronicle was launched, Dickens obtained a salary to continue his writing explorations in the same vein.

 

Above: London, 1886

 

The increasing exposure brought Dickens to the attention of Harrison Ainsworth, a writer not much read today, but a real star of the literary scene at this time.

Ainsworth admired Boz‘s work and introduced Dickens to his own publisher John Macrone.

 

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Above: William Harrison Ainsworth (1805 – 1882)

 

Soon a collected volume of the newspaper and magazine pieces with drawings of George Cruikshank, the leading illustrator of the day, was published in February 1836.

Sketches by Boz sold so well that a second edition was needed that year and two more in 1837.

 

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As the first edition of Sketches by Boz emerged in 1836, Dickens was approached by the publishers Chapman and Hall.

They came with an idea that had been proposed to them in turn by a well-known illustrator, Robert Seymour.

The plan went like this:

Seymour would produce a series of engravings depicting the amusing mishaps attending a club of Cockney sportsmen – men from the new middle classes, with money to spend on the aristocratic pursuits of previous generations: hunting, shooting and fishing.

These illustrations would be published as a monthly serial.

Would Dickens care to write some text to help string the images together?

Fourteen pounds a month might be possible.

No one really knows what or how much Dickens saw in this offer at the time.

He liked the money.

He was told that serials were a “low, cheap form of publication” that would ruin him.

The fact that he kept all his other irons in the fire suggests that he did not count too much on the new venture establishing his reputation.

But that is exactly what it did.

He claims, in the preface to The Pickwick Papers, that he recognized that the idea wouldn’t do:

I objected, on consideration, that although born and partly bred in the country I was no great sportsman, that the idea was not novel, and had already been much used, that it would infinitely better for the plates to arise naturally out of the text, and that I should like to take my own way….

At first sales were disappointing, but by the end of its run in November 1837,  The Pickwick Papers was selling 40,000 copies per month, it had been adapted for the stage many times over and the words of its characters  seemed to be on everyone’s lips – as was the name of its young author.

 

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After their 1836 wedding, Charles took Catherine to a set of chambers he was renting in Furnival’s Inn, one of the inns of court, the traditional home of English law practice and accommodation for many non-lawyers too.

 

 

As The Pickwick Papers started bringing in a more secure income, Charles set his sights on more substantial living quarters.

These turned out to be at 48 Doughty Street, into which Catherine and Charles moved with their son Charley in March 1837.

 

Above: 48 Doughty Street, London

 

They took in Catherine’s younger sister Mary Hogarth, who had supported Catherine during her first pregnancy.

It was not unusual for a woman’s unwed sister to live with and help a married couple.

Dickens became very attached to Mary.

She inspired characters in many of his books.

Mary is seen as the inspiration for Rose Maylie in Oliver Twist.

She is also seen as the inspiration for Little Nell in The Old Curiosity Shop.

Nell had many traits that Dickens associated to Howarth, including describing Nell as “young, beautiful and good“.

Other characters believed to have been inspired by Mary include:

  • Kate Nickleby, the 17-year-old sister of the hero of the novel Nicholas Nickleby
  • Agnes Wickfield, the heroine in David Copperfield
  • Ruth Pinch from Martin Chuzzlewit
  • Lilian, the child who appears in Trotty Veck’s visions in The Chimes
  • Dot Peerybingle, the sister in The Cricket on the Hearth.

 

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Above: Mary Hogarth (1819 – 1837)

 

Unlike Mary, Dickens’ wife Catherine does not appear to have been the inspiration for any of his characters.

 

Bloomsbury is a district in the West End of London, famed as a fashionable residential area and as the home of numerous prestigious cultural, intellectual and educational institutions.

It is bounded by Fitzrovia to the west, Covent Garden to the south, Regent’s Park and St. Pancras to the north, and Clerkenwell to the east.

Bloomsbury is home of the British Museum, the largest museum in the United Kingdom, and numerous educational institutions, including the University College London, the University of London, the New College of the Humanities, the University of Law, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and many others.

 

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Above: The British Museum, London

 

Bloomsbury is an intellectual and literary hub for London, as home of world-known Bloomsbury Publishing, publishers of the Harry Potter series, and namesake of the Bloomsbury Set, a group of famous British intellectuals, including author Virginia Woolf and economist John Maynard Keynes, among others.

 

Photograph of Virginia Woolf in 1902; photograph by George Charles Beresford

Above: Virginia Woolf (1882 – 1941)

 

Bloomsbury began to be developed in the 17th century under the Earls of Southampton, but it was primarily in the 19th century, under the Duke of Bedford, which the district was planned and built as an affluent Regency era residential area by famed developer James Burton.

The district is known for its numerous garden squares, including Bloomsbury Square, Russell Square and Tavistock Square, among others.

Notable residents of Bloomsbury have included J.M. Barrie (Peter Pan), Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens, Ricky Gervais, Vladimir Lenin, Bob Marley, Catherine Tate (Donna Noble, Doctor Who) and William Butler Yeats.

 

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Above: Vladimir Lenin (1870 – 1924)

 

Despite a plethora of blue plaques, Bloomsbury boasts just one literary museum, the Charles Dickens Museum, the only one of the writer’s fifteen London addresses to survive intact.

 

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Doughty Street was a well-to-do gated Georgian street when Dickens – flush with the success of his first two published works – moved here in 1837.

The family lived in this light and airy house for two years, during which he completed Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby and worked on Barnaby Rudge.

Catherine gave birth to two children in the bedroom here.

 

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On Saturday, 6 May 1837, Charles took Catherine and Mary to the theatre.

They returned home in good spirits, enjoyed some supper and a drink together and went to bed at one in the morning.

A few moments later Charles heard a cry from Mary’s bedroom and hurried in to find her still in her day clothes and visibly ill.

Catherine came to see what was wrong.

Charles said afterwards that they had no idea there was anything seriously the matter with Mary, but that they sent for medical assistance to be on the safe side.

Whatever Dr. Pickthorn did had no effect, yet still there seemed no cause for alarm.

Mary was, after all, only 17 years old and until then had been in perfect health.

Fourteen hours went by before Mary sank under the attack and died – died in such a calm and gentle sleep, that although Charles had held her in his arms for some time before, when she was certainly living (for she swallowed a little brandy from his hand) Charles continued to support her lifeless form, long after her soul had fled to Heaven.

This was about 3 o’clock on Sunday afternoon.

Thank God she died in my arms and the very last words she whispered were of me.“, Charles told fellow reporter and friend Tom Beard.

Before Charles laid Mary’s body down he was able to remove a ring from her finger and put it on one of his own.

And there it stayed for the rest of his life.

 

Above: Mary’s bedroom, Charles Dickens Museum

 

Mary’s death is fictionalized as the death of Little Nell in The Old Curiosity Shop.

 

 

The building at 48 Doughty Street was threatened with demolition in 1923, but was saved by the Dickens Fellowship, founded in 1902, who raised the mortgage and bought the property.

The house was renovated and the Dickens House Museum was opened in 1925, under the direction of an independent trust, now a registered charity.

 

Above: Study, Charles Dickens Museum

 

48 Doughty Street is presented as far as possible in its inhabited state, the idea being to give the impression that the Dickens family is still resident.

Much of the house’s furniture belonged, at one time or another, to Dickens, and the house also owns the earliest known portrait of the writer (a miniature painted by his aunt Mary Allen in 1830).

 

Above: Charles Dickens

 

Perhaps the best-known exhibit is the portrait of Dickens known as Dickens’s Dream by R. W. Buss, an original illustrator of The Pickwick Papers.

This unfinished portrait shows Dickens in his study at Gads Hill Place surrounded by many of the characters he had created.

The painting was begun in 1870 after Dickens’s death.

 

Above: Dickens’ Dream, Robert William Buss

 

(Gads Hill Place in Higham, Kent, sometimes spelt Gadshill Place and Gad’s Hill Place, was the country home of Charles Dickens.

Today the building is the independent Gad’s Hill School.

The house was built in 1780 for a former Mayor of Rochester, Thomas Stephens, opposite the present Sir John Falstaff Public House.

Gad’s Hill is where Falstaff commits the robbery that begins Shakespeare’s Henriad trilogy (Henry IV: Part 1, Henry IV: Part 2 and Henry V). )

 

Above: Gad’s Hill Place, Rochester

 

Other notable artefacts in the Museum include numerous first editions and original manuscripts as well as original letters by Dickens, and many personal items owned by Dickens and his family.

 

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The only known item of clothing worn by Dickens still in existence is also displayed at the Museum.

This is his Court suit and sword, worn when Dickens was presented to the Prince of Wales in 1870.

 

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The Charles Dickens Museum also owns the adjacent house, #49, where they stage special exhibitions, house the bookshop and have a lovely café with free Wifi.

 

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There runs within both London and Rochester (where Charles spent the last years of his life) a Dickens Trail.

On London’s Dickens Trail, there is:

  • the Old Curiosity Shop (currently a shoe shop) on Lincoln’s Inn Fields, the inspiration of Dickens’ novel of the same name
  • the atmospheric Inns of Court (once the headquarters of the Knights Templar) which feature in several Dickens novels
  • Nancy’s Steps, where Nancy tells Rose Maylie Oliver’s story in Oliver Twist
  • the evocative dockland area east of Shad Thames where Bill Sykes (also of Oliver Twist) had his hide-out.

 

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(This dockland area, known as China Wharf – today very photogenic with its stack of semicircular windows picked out in red – was once dubbed “the very capital of cholera“.

In 1849, the Morning Chronicle described it thus:

Jostling with unemployed labourers of the lowest class, ballast heavers, coal-whippers, brazen women, ragged children, and the very raff and refuse of the river, the visitor makes his way with difficulty along, assailed by offensive sights and sounds from the narrow alleys which branch off.

This was the location of Dickens’ fictional Jacob’s Island, a place with “every imaginable sign of desolation and neglect“, where Bill Sykes met his end in Oliver Twist.)

 

Above: China Wharf, London

 

Charles John Huffam Dickens (7 February 1812 – 9 June 1870) was an English writer and social critic.

He created some of the world’s best-known fictional characters and is regarded by many as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era.

His works enjoyed unprecedented popularity during his lifetime, and, by the 20th century, critics and scholars had recognised him as a literary genius.

His novels and short stories are still widely read today.

Despite his lack of formal education, he edited a weekly journal for 20 years, wrote 15 novels, five novellas, hundreds of short stories and non-fiction articles, lectured and performed readings extensively, was an indefatigable letter writer and campaigned vigorously for children’s rights, education and other social reforms.

 

Above: Charles Dickens, 1842

 

Dickens’s literary success began with the 1836 serial publication of The Pickwick Papers.

Within a few years he had become an international literary celebrity, famous for his humour, satire and keen observation of character and society.

His novels, most published in monthly or weekly instalments, pioneered the serial publication of narrative fiction, which became the dominant Victorian mode for novel publication.

Cliffhanger endings in his serial publications kept readers in suspense.

The instalment format allowed Dickens to evaluate his audience’s reaction, and he often modified his plot and character development based on such feedback.

For example, when his wife’s chiropodist expressed distress at the way Miss Mowcher in David Copperfield seemed to reflect her disabilities, Dickens improved the character with positive features.

His plots were carefully constructed and he often wove elements from topical events into his narratives.

 

Above: Charles Dickens, 1850

 

Masses of the illiterate poor chipped in ha’pennies to have each new monthly episode read to them, opening up and inspiring a new class of readers.

His 1843 novella A Christmas Carol remains especially popular and continues to inspire adaptations in every artistic genre.

 

Brown book cover bearing the words "A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens" in gold.

 

Oliver Twist and Great Expectations are also frequently adapted and, like many of his novels, evoke images of early Victorian London.

 

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His 1859 novel A Tale of Two Cities (set in London and Paris) is his best-known work of historical fiction.

 

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The most famous celebrity of his era, public demand saw him undertake a series of public reading tours in the later part of his career.

 

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Dickens has been praised by many of his fellow writers—from Leo Tolstoy to George Orwell, G. K. Chesterton and Tom Wolfe—for his realism, comedy, prose style, unique characterisations and social criticism.

However, Oscar Wilde, Henry James and Virginia Woolf complained of a lack of psychological depth, loose writing and a vein of sentimentalism.

 

Above: Dickens’ chair, Charles Dickens Museum

 

The term Dickensian is used to describe something that is reminiscent of Dickens and his writings, such as poor social conditions or comically repulsive characters.

 

There is much in Charles Dickens’ life before and up to his residency at 48 Doughty Street that I can relate with.

Charles came from a large family, as did I, but like the titular hero of Oliver Twist it was not until later in my life did I come to realize that I was neither an orphan (nor an only child) as far as my biological heritage went.

 

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My first work during my school years was labour intensive like Charles’ was.

While his was labouring in a blacking factory, mine was summer employment as a farmhand.

(A position I occasionally returned to when financing my travels.)

 

 

Like Charles, I spent much of the early years of my life outdoors when I wasn’t reading voraciously.

The boy Charles read Tobias Smollett and Henry Fielding and The Arabian Nights.

I read Charles Dickens, Robert Louis Stephenson and the adventures of the Hardy Boys.

 

 

Charles was separated from his family by mounting debts and living beyond one’s means.

It is said that these were the cause of my biological parents’ break-up and it was the prevention of these to my foster parents that led to my being taken in for the provincial support the government provided for my care.

 

Canadian Provinces and Territories

 

Unlike Charles, I was never small for my age and I would by the age of 14 surpass Charles’ adult height of 5’9″ to reach my current height of 6’4″, but, like Charles, I had felt that I was a “not-over-particularly-taken-care-of boy“.

 

After my secondary and post-secondary studies, I, like Charles, worked as a clerk, but what for him would be a brief two years would be for me always a position to return to between my travels.

I have worked as a clerk for a customs broker, federal government departments and for a registered charity.

 

 

More akin to George Orwell, I would later work as a teacher and a restaurant worker, but in a Dickensian vein, I have written (sometimes for money, sometimes for exposure) for local newspapers and school publications.

 

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I have never achieved great fame, but then neither have I greatly sought it to the extent that Dickens did.

 

What I have always admired about Dickens and his works are:

  • his humour, satire and keen observation of character and society.
  • his carefully constructed plots wherein he often wove elements from topical events into his narratives.
  • his realism, comedy, prose style, unique characterisations and social criticism.
  • his walking which led to his descriptions of the neglected and forgotten corners of London.

 

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Cities, like cats, will reveal themselves at night.“, wrote the poet Rupert Brooke.

London’s own Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare, William Blake and Thomas De Quincey were all night time perambulators, but of those who walk the streets at night the supreme nightwalker was Charles Dickens.

 

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In Great Expectations (1861), Pip at one point visits Miss Haversham in her home in Kent in order to inform her and her ward Estella, with whom he is still madly in love, that he has finally discovered the identity of his benefactor, the convict Magwitch.

Pip confirms that, because he knows Miss Haversham was not responsible for his transformation into a gentleman, he realizes that she and Estella have all along treated him not as their protegé but “as a kind of servant, to gratify a want or whim“.

It is on this occasion, too, that Estella admits she is to be married, as Pip feared, to the odious and oafish aristocrat Bentley Drummle.

Thus discarded, and in a deeply disconsolate state of mind, Pip escapes from Satis House and, as the afternoon light thickens, hides himself for a time “among some lanes and bypaths“.

Then, in a moment of decision, he strikes off “to walk all the way to London“.

I could do nothing half so good for myself as tire myself out.”, he decides.

It is “past midnight” when he eventually crosses London Bridge.

 

 

Four years later, Dickens made roughly the same journey on foot, in reverse.

 

One night in October 1857, when he was in his mid-forties, Dickens retired to bed in the family home in Bloomsbury, but found himself completely unable to get to sleep.

He had suffered from intermittent insomnia throughout his adult life, but on this occasion he felt particularly agitated.

He did not feel at home at home.

So at 0200 Dickens climbed out of bed, dressed in warm clothes and set off through the gaslit streets of the city.

 

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Dickens had written more than two decades earlier:

The streets of London, to be beheld in the very height of their glory, should be seen on a dark, dull, murky winter’s night.

When the heavy, lazy mist, which hangs over every object, makes the gas lamps look brighter.

 

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In the damp silence of the autumn night, beneath the scuffing sound of his boots on the stone pavements, Dickens would have heard the gas whispering its secrets in the softly rasping pipes.

Heading south in the direction of the Thames, Dickens walked through London directly to Gad’s Hill Place, his country residence in Kent.

Like Pip’s journey through the night, it was a distance of some 30 miles.

 

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Catherine and Charles had been….prolific – ten children – “the largest family ever known with the smallest disposition to do anything for themselves” as Dickens later described them – and 15 novels, each published in monthly (or weekly) installments, which were awaited with baited breath by the public.

Then in 1857, at the peak of his career, Dickens fell in love with the actress, Ellen Ternan.

Charles was 45, Ellen just 18.

 

Above: Ellen Ternan (1839 – 1914)

 

On the evening of his nightwalk, Catherine and Charles quarrelled.

They were becoming inrcreasingly estranged, partly because of his relationship with Ellen.

For this reason, Charles visited Tavistock House, their home at this time, only rarely.

 

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Above: Tavistock House, London

 

Charles spent most of the autumn of 1857 at Gad’s Hill Place.

When he needed to be in central London, he tended to stay in a bachelor flat at the offices of his periodical, Household Words.

It was shortly after Charles insisted on partitioning the bedroom he shared with Catherine so that they could sleep separately.

 

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The nighttime journey on foot to Gad’s Hill Place, driven by an acute sense of anguish and guilt, took Dickens little more than seven hours.

(According to present day Google Maps, the same journey normally takes 9.5 hours.)

 

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Above: Google Maps logo

 

Dickens was a fast walker, who took pride in the fact that he could sustain a pace of at least four miles an hour across long distances.

(In my walking days my average pace was 3 mph and on a descent 5 mph.)

 

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Above: Canada Slim, The Dutton Advance, 6 March 1991

 

His friends frequently complained of the speed and impatience with which he walked.

 

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Above: Charles Dickens

 

Edward Johnson, one of his biographers, wrote:

Sometimes his perspiring companions gave way to blisters and breathlessness.

 

Charles himself was boastful of his feats as a pedestrian.

He professed in 1860:

So much of my travelling is done on foot that if I cherished betting propensities, I should probably be found registered in sporting newspapers as the Elastic Novice, challenging all 11-stone mankind to competition in walking.

 

No doubt he secretly harboured dreams of bettering Captain Barclay, a celebrated athlete who, in 1809, when pedestrianism first became a sporting activity, walked a thousand miles in a thousand hours for a thousand guineas.

 

Above: Captain Robert Barclay-Allardyce (1779 – 1854), the celebrated pedestrian

 

In the late 1850s, Dickens remained a fit man precisely because he insisted on walking, both in London and in the countryside, whenever he could find the opportunity.

Even so, he was increasingly afflicted with ill health at this time.

His symptoms included neuralgic and rheumatic pains.

His feet also troubled him.

 

According to biographer Claire Tomalin:

First his left foot, and then his right, took to swelling intermittedly, becoming so painful that during each attack he became unable to take himself on the great walks that were essential part and pleasure of his life.

 

Dickens had gout, though he was reluctant to accept the idea, claiming instead that he contracted the pain because he had incautiously walked in snowy conditions.

This did not deter him from walking in all conditions, clement or inclement.

 

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G.K. Chesterton, identifiying a “streak of sickness” in Dickens, which he detected in the novelist’s “fervid” intelligence, nonetheless confirmed that “he suffered from no formidable malady and could always through life endure a great deal of exertion, even if it was only the exertion of walking violently all night.

 

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Above: Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874 – 1936)

 

For John Hollingshead, who had been apprenticed to Dickens on Household Words, and who therefore saw a good deal of him in the 1850s, this proclivity for “violent walking” was itself a malady.

Hollingshead recalled in retrospect that “when Dickens lived in Tavistock House he developed a mania for walking long distances, which almost assumed the form of a disease.”

When he was restless, his brain excited by struggling with incidents or characters in the novel he was writing, he would frequently get up and walk through the night over Waterloo Bridge, along the London, New Kent and Old Kent Roads, past all the towns on the old Dover High Road, until he came to his roadside dwelling (Gad’s Hill Place).

His dogs barked when they heard his key in the wicket-gate. 

His behaviour must have seemed madness to the ghost of Sir John Falstaff.

(Gad’s Hill Place stood opposite the Falstaff Inn, formerly a notorious haunt of robbers and highwaymen.)

 

Above: John Hollingshead (1827 – 1904)

 

It is likely, then, that Dickens conducted his 30-mile nightwalk to Kent on more than one occasion.

But Dickens’ celebrated feat on that night in October 1857 was less about overcoming physical afflictions than capitulating to his psychological ones.

This was a flight both from his everyday life and from his self.

 

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From an early age Charles had been running away from something, or walking “fast and far” from something.

Going astray“, he called it.

In an article entitled “Going Astray“, printed in Household Words in 1853, Dickens described how he had “got lost one day in the City of London” as an 8-year-old child and roamed and strayed and strolled through London’s precincts all day and into the night, until he found a watchman.

I have gone astray since, many times, and farther afield.“, Dickens concludes with a certain sad pride.

 

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Chesterton argued that Dicken’s originality and genius resided in the fact that he possessed, “in the most sacred and serious sense of the term, the key of the street.

Few of us understand the street.

Even we step into it, as into a house or a room of strangers.

Few of us see through the shining riddle of the street, the strange folk that belong to the street only – the street-walker or the street Arab, the nomads, who generation after generation, have kept their ancient secrets in the full blaze of the sun.

Of the street at night many of us know even less.

The street at night is a great house locked up.

But Dickens had, if ever man had, the key of the street.

His stars were the lamps of the street.

His hero was the man in the street.

He could open the inmost door of his house – the door that leads into that secret passage which is lined with houses and roofed with stars.”

 

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Night Walks, first published in All the Year Round in 1860 and then reprinted in The Uncommercial Traveller in 1861, was Dickens’ finest, most haunting piece of non-fictional prose.

At once impressionistic and replete with intensely related detail, it relates his experiences on the streets of the capital between half past midnight (0030) and the moment when “the conscious gas begins to grow pale with the knowledge that daylight is coming.”

A sense of solitude echoes through his sentences, empty and hollow as the midnight streets through which he walks.

 

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When a church clock strikes, on homeless ears in the dead of the night, it may be at first be mistaken for company, but as the spreading circles of vibration echo out into eternal space, the mistake is rectified and the sense of loneliness is profounder.

Dickens confesses to have discovered a lonely sense of community in the cold depths of the London night, among men defined by “a tendency to lurk and lounge, to be at street corners without intelligible reason“.

My principal object being to get through the night, the pursuit of it brought me into sympathetic relations with people who have no other object every night of the year.

 

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These are the everyday casualities of life in the capitalist metropolis – the victims of unemployment, addiction and other symptoms of social and spiritual alienation.

The homeless must conquer time and defend themselves against its blank emptiness, from minute to minute, moment by moment, the shame, desertion, wretchedness and exposure of the great capital, the wet, the cold, the slow hours and the swift clouds of the dismal night.

For the police, the proof of a home, a legal nocturnal place to stay, is the precondition for the recognition of existence.

So the situation of homelessness, roaming the night without aim, without rest, represents exclusion from society.

It is a form of non-existence, non-being, the outer limits of society’s psychological and sociological borderland, the hinterland of humanity, the dark hollow interior of human nature.

 

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London is a city where 55% of people are not ethnically white British, nearly 40% were born abroad, and 5% are living illegally in the shadows.

Every week 2,000 migrants unload at Victoria Coach Station, tens of thousands of migrants arriving here every year.

But who can trust statistics?

 

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You will never understand what it means to be a beggar until you have slept on the streets.

They sleep in front of the glare of shop windows, for the light lends a sense of safety.

Crackheads and Roma, street life, disorientation, a jumble of faces, an eternal rumble of traffic, where working girls sell their bodies and throw in their souls for free, the rhythm of the streets, a never sated drumbeat.

 

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Ute (my wife) and I on London evenings are one of many after-dinner couples strolling along.

I hear others with their contempt and disgust regard the beggars who congregate upon the concrete like lost church mice, like mangy parasites, cosmopolitan cockroaches, best belittled than assisted.

 

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They are the invisible, because we choose to ignore them.

They are painful reminders of our privileged life that they cannot imagine having or, if once had, reacquiring.

They are the old and the prematurely aged, shuffling and stumbling, snuffling and sniffing, pleading for pennies from those whose hearts are void of compassion.

Washed-up soiled souls marooned, listless and almost lifeless, easy prey to those who would use them for cruel sport, they lie beneath walls smeared in blood and feces upon flattened cardboard boxes that soften the sidewalk.

Human rubbish amidst human refuse, they are gaunt faces with sunken eyes, needing to beg to survive, to live, to exist, but to beg is to break the law.

What is earned is confiscated.

Law and order trumps love and outreach.

They see the beggar as an offense not as a fellow human being.

Those without homes are an invisible city deliberately unseen by the lucky with lodgings.

 

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Charles Dickens’ home is remembered as I hold my wife’s hand tightly to lend ourselves courage to encounter what we do not comprehend.

Charles feared poverty, was obsessed with money, felt that unease that only those who have raised themselves out from poverty can truly understand.

But his talent, hard work, perseverance and good fortune never required a return to a hand-to-mouth, payment-to-payment survival.

He encountered the homeless and destitute during his night walks but was never reduced to joining their ranks.

 

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Above: Charles Dickens

 

My wife and I have London lodgings during our sojourn here and a warm comfortable flat awaiting our return to Switzerland.

 

Coat of arms of Switzerland

 

I too have known a poverty of sorts, though my begging was limited to government assistance and hitching rides and seeking emergency overnight shelter in the places where rides left me.

In my long-distance walking days I slept wherever I could and rarely needed the tent I carried upon my backpack.

 

Like those migrants of London for whom hope remains despite their desperate circumstances, I worked where and when I could, sometimes in the safety of the law, sometimes not.

Though I have never been much of an evening perambulator I have nonetheless encountered the homeless in more than a few cities I have visited.

I see it regularly amongst the Roma in Konstanz and I give as prudently as I can when I encounter the beggar Bruno in St. Gallen.

I remember the helpless and hapless of London and Paris, Seoul and Istanbul, Naples and New York.

 

Above: The Old Beggar of Bordeaux, Louis Dewis, 1916

 

I think of Oliver Twist.

Advancing to the master, basin and spoon in hand, said, somewhat alarmed at his own temerity:

“Please, sir, I want some more.”

 

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Above: Mark Lester as Oliver Twist, Oliver!, 1968

 

Everyone’s hungry for something.

 

Sources: The Rough Guide to London / Matthew Beaumont, Night Walking: A Nocturnal History of London / Jeremy Clarke, The Charles Dickens Miscellany / Charles Dickens, Night Walks / Ben Judah, This Is London / Claire Tomalin, Charles Dickens: A Life

 

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Canada Slim and the Road to Utopia

Landschlacht, Switzerland, Tuesday 27 August 2019

Sometimes a place defines a person.

Sometimes a person defines a place.

 

 

Take the eminent Canarian author Alberto Vásquez-Figueroa as an example of the first.

 

Álberto Vázquez-Figueroa in Barcelona in 2009

 

Alberto’s grandfather was an architect.

Alberto’s father was born in Guadalajara while Alberto’s grandmother was there.

Alberto’s mother, the daughter of a local farmer, was born on Isla de Lobos, one of the Canary Islands.

 

 

Alberto himself was born on 11 October 1936 in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, although he had not yet reached one year old when his family was exiled for political reasons to Spanish Africa, since his father was a Socialist Republican during the Spanish Civil War.

There Alberto spent his childhood.

His father was released, but he was admitted to hospital for several years because of tuberculosis.

While Alberto was in Africa, his mother died.

 

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Alberto’s care was picked up by his uncle, the civil administrator of the military fort in the Spanish Sahara where they lived.

His uncle provided Alberto books to read, especially beloved adventure novels, by authors such as Joseph Conrad (Heart of Darkness), Herman Melville (Moby Dick) and Jules Verne (Around the World in 80 Days), which would later become Alberto’s preferred genre.

Since his youth, Alberto visited the Sahara and would later describe the culture of the desert region in his writing.

 

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At 16 Alberto returned to Tenerife to study, working as a scuba instructor in the Cruz del Sur Diving School, along with Jacques Cousteau, where he would remain for two years.

Alberto worked on the rescue of bodies in Lake Sanabria after the Vega de Tera Dam burst, destroying the town of Ribadelago.

 

Monumento a las víctimas de la catástrofe de Ribadelago.

Above: Monument to the victims of Ribadelago

 

He attended the studios of the Escuela Oficial de Periodismo de Madrid in a 1962 and worked in the Destino specials.

He was a war correspondent in La Vanguardia, for TVE (Televisión Española) and for the program A toda plana with de la Cuadra Salcedo and Silva.

As a correspondent, he documented revolutionary wars in countries such as Bolivia, the Dominican Republic and Guatemala.

 

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He later wrote his first novel, Arena y viento (Sand and Wind) and in 1975, he published as many as 14 to 15 novellas such as Ébano.

His other works include Tuareg and El perro as well as the sagas Cienfuegos, Bora Bora, Manaos and Piratas.

 

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Ébano was cinematized in 1979 by director Richard Fleischer and renamed Ashanti.

Ashanti (also called Ashanti, Land of No Mercy) is a 1979 action adventure film.

Despite its impressive cast and setting (on location in the Sahara and in Kenya, Israel and Sicily), it was widely panned by critics upon release.

Michael Caine was reportedly very disappointed with the project and claims it was his third worst film.

Ashanti is an action adventure film, set against the background of modern-day slave trading, with a man who determinedly takes on a perilous journey in order to find his beautiful wife, who has been kidnapped by brutal slave traders.

David and Anansa Linderby (Caine and supermodel Beverley Johnson respectively) are doctors with the World Health Organization (WHO).

On a medical mission carrying out an inoculation programme, they visit a West African village.

While David takes photographs of tribal dancers, Anansa goes swimming alone.

She is attacked and abducted by slave traders led by Suleiman (Peter Ustinov), who mistake her for an Ashanti tribeswoman.

The police can do nothing to find her and David has almost given up hope when he hears rumours that Anansa has been kidnapped by Suleiman to be sold to Arab Prince Hassan (Omar Sharif).

The African authorities deny that the slave trade even exists.

So David must find help in a shadowy world where the rescuers of slaves are just as ruthless as the traders themselves.

As David tracks her across Africa and the Sahara desert, he is helped by a member of the Anti-Slavery League (Rex Harrison), a mercenary helicopter pilot (William Holden) and Malik (Kabir Bedi) a tribesman who is seeking revenge on Suleiman.

 

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Alberto’s novel Tuareg was cinematized in 1984 by director Enzo G. Castellari.

Tuareg is a thriller novel that was his most critically and commercially successful, with global sales in excess of 5,000,000 copies.

It was adapted into a 1984 movie starring Mark Harmon, Tuareg – The Desert Warrior.

This is the first book in the Tuareg trilogy, followed by Los Ojos del Tuareg and El Último Tuareg.

 

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One day, two old men and a boy appear in Gacel Shayah’s camp in the Sahara.

He, a noble inmouchar observing the millennial tradition of the desert, shelters travelers.

But he fails to protect them.

People in dusty military uniforms violate the ancient hospitality law.

They kill the boy and take one old man away.

Gasel Shayah remembers the great commandment of the Tuareg people:

Your guest is under your protection.

Therefore, he must seek vengeance.

 

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Alberto’s novel Iguana was cinematized in 1988 by Monte Hellman.

Iguana is a 1988 American adventure drama/thriller film starring Everett McGill in the main role.

The movie is based on the life of a real Irish sailor called Patrick Watkins.

The movie was mainly shot on location in Lanzarote.

 

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The film takes place at the beginning of the 19th century.

Oberlus (Everett McGill), a harpooner on a whaling ship, is regularly subjected to ridicule and abuse by other sailors.

The right half of his face is bizarrely disfigured and covered with hummocky outgrowths, which leads him to being nicknamed Iguana.

One night, after a brutal beating, Oberlus escapes to the uninhabited Hood Island.

He is soon discovered by a team led by Captain Gamboa (Fabio Testi).

Gamboa brutally tortures Oberlus and ties him up for further punishment, but Iguana manages to escape and hides himself in a cave.

The ship leaves the island and Gamboa orders that sailor Sebastian (Michael Madsen) be tied to a post on the coast as punishment for letting Iguana escape.

Oberlus finds Sebastian and proclaims himself “King of Hood Island” and Sebastian his first slave, forcing him to cook his food.

Declaring revenge upon the world, Oberlus enslaves two other sailors thrown ashore after the shipwreck.

He keeps his captives in a cave with a disguised entrance.

After some time, a ship holding Carmen (Maru Valdivieso) and her fiancé Diego (Fernando De Huang), is moored near the island.

Oberlus takes them prisoner.

Oberlus kills Diego and makes Carmen his concubine.

The captain of the ship, assuming Carmen and Diego to have died in the storm, does not look for them, but sails away.

One day, Oberlus notices the arrival of his former whaling ship.

At night, he climbs on board, kills two sailors on the deck, takes Gamboa prisoner, and sets the ship alight, having previously locked the hull.

Gamboa fights Oberlus, but is killed by him.

Resigned to her fate, Carmen tells Oberlus that she is pregnant with his child.

Months later, the captain of the ship Carmen and Diego arrived on, returns with a group of armed sailors.

They begin their search and Oberlus has to flee to the other end of the island with pregnant Carmen and his surviving prisoners.

Oberlus plans to sail away with Carmen on the boat.

Carmen gives birth, but Oberlus takes the child, claiming that he will allow him to suffer.

With the child in his arms, he enters the sea, intending to drown himself and the child.

 

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Alberto’s novel Garoé (the name of a sacred tree in the Canary Islands) won the 2010 Historical Novel Prize Alfonso X El Sabio, valued at €100,000.

He has also published an autobiography entitled Anaconda.

He is also a screenwriter and film director and has made such films as Oro rojo (Red Gold).

 

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Alberto currently resides between an attic apartment in the Madrid neighbourhood of Argüelles and a home on Lanzarote.

I am not sure if that home is in the village of Haría in the north of the island of Lanzarote, but I suspect it might be, for Alberto once described Haría as the most beautiful village in the world.

Although this description is a tad exaggerated, Haría really does have a pretty bucolic setting, in a palm-filled valley punctuated by splashes of brilliant colour from bougainvillea and poinsetta plants.

 

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But we were not searching for Alberto and had we passed him on the streets we would not have recognized him.

Instead we were looking for a local legend, Lanzarote’s favourite son, César Manrique.

My wife and I spent our mini-vacation tracking down buildings across the Island of Lanzarote that César designed.

We hoped to understand why this place and this man remain inseparably intertwined in the hearts and minds of those who come here and those who knew him.

César Manrique defined Lanzarote.

To understand César Manrique is to understand Lanzarote.

We came to learn.

We began in Haría where his story ends.

 

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Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Spain,  Monday 2 December 2018

Much like César, our first discovery of Lanzarote was Arrecife.

For us it was the international airport north of Arrecife the day previously.

 

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On this day we drove our rented car, from our hotel in Costa Teguise (See Canada Slim and the Royal Retreat of this blog.), past an aquapark and golf grounds, through the town of Tahiche (more on this town in a future post), through Nazaret and Teguise (See Canada Slim and the Pirates of Teguise of this blog.), through Los Valles and past a windpark to arrive at Haría.

 

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(Los Valles, a quiet agricultural hamlet between Teguise and Haría, is situated in a valley at the foot of the Famara Massif.

Los Valles was founded by refugees from the village of Santa Catalina, which has been destroyed during the eruptions of 1730 – 1736 of Mount Timanfaya.

 

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The pretty, white village church of Ermita de Santa Cantalina stands at the bottom of the valley on the side of the highway.

 

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Immediately after you pass the restored Casa de los Perazas, one of the oldest buildings on Lanzarote.

 

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The road begins to climb steeply passing the Mirador Los Valles.)

 

César Manrique Cabrera was born in Arrecife on 24 April 1919, the son of Francisca and Gumersindo Manrique.

César’s father was a food merchant and his grandfather a notary public.

César preceded his twin sister Ampara by just a few minutes.

He had another sister and a brother.

Gumersindo came from Fuerteventura and emigrated to Lanzarote.

The Manriques were a typical middle class family, without financial burdens.

In 1934, Gumersindo bought property in Caleta de Famara and built a house next to the ocean.

This house left a visible impression on César that lasted his lifetime.

 

 

Ute and I on our first day spent a few hours on Famara Beach and like César did we remember it with joy:

My greatest happiness is to recall a happy childhood, five-month summer vacations in Caleta and Famara Beach with its eight kilometres of clean and fine sand framed by cliffs of more than 400 metres high that reflected on the beach like a mirror.

That image has been engraved in my soul as something of extraordinary beauty that I will never forget in all of my life.

 

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César would fight in the Spanish Civil War as a volunteer on dictator Franco’s side.

His experience of the War was atrocious and he refused to talk about it.

In the summer of 1939, once the War was over, César returned to Arrecife, still wearing his military uniform.

After greeting his family, he went up on the flat roof, took off his clothes, angrily stepped over them, sprayed them with petroleum and burned them.

 

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César attended the University of La Laguna to study technical architecture, which he would abandon after two years.

In 1945 he moved to Madrid and studied art at the Academia de Bellas Artas de San Fernando where he graduated as a teacher of art.

 

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In 1953, César began painting abstracts, which in Franco’s Spain was tantamount to treason, and one year later he exhibited his works alongside those of his friends Manuel Manpaso and Luis Féito.

By the late fifties César had made a name for himself in Madrid.

There followed exhibitions in major cities of Europe, Japan and America, which gave him international renown.

 

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In the fall of 1964, following the advice of his cousin Manuel Manrique, a New York psychoanalyst and writer, César lived in New York City until 1966.

He was the guest of Waldo Diaz-Balart, a Cuban painter, who lived in the Lower East Side, at a time when this was a neighbourhood of artists, journalists and bohemians.

Through César’s cousin Manuel’s friendship with the Director of the Institute of International Education, which was sponsored by Nelson Rockefeller, a generous grant allowed César to rent his own studio and produce a number of paintings which he exhibited with success in the prestigious New York gallery of Catherine Viviano.

 

Clockwise, from top: Midtown Manhattan, Times Square, the Unisphere, the Brooklyn Bridge, Lower Manhattan with One World Trade Center, Central Park, the headquarters of the United Nations, and the Statue of Liberty

 

While in New York, he wrote his friend Pepe Dámaso:

More than ever I feel true nostalgia for the real meaning of things.

For the pureness of the people.

For the bareness of my landscape and for my friends.

My last conclusion is that Man in New York is like a rat.

Man was not created for this artificiality.

There is an imperative need to go back to the soil.

Feel it.

Smell it.

That’s what I feel.”

 

 

In his unpublished diary, César wrote of his homesickness for Lanzarote.

At the time he was still undecided as to where to set up his permanent studio.

In 1968, César travelled straight from New York City to Lanzarote, which he found exactly as he had left it in 1945.

He felt Lanzarote needed him.

He made himself the Island’s champion.

 

 

When I returned from New York, I came with the intention of turning my native island into one of the most beautiful places on the planet, due to the endless possibilities that Lanzarote had to offer.

 

 

The Canarian Island was then just beginning to develop a tourism industry, but César promoted a model of sustainability in an attempt to protect Lanzarote’s natural and cultural heritage.

This Manrique model was a determining factor in Lanzarote being declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1993.

 

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In parallel with his commitment to the Island, César opened his creative work up to other forms of artistic expression.

He developed a new aesthetic ideology, dominated by art-nature / nature-art.

He began a dialogue of respect for the natural surroundings in which  values of local traditions blended harmoniously with modern designs.

Well versed in many forms of creative expression, a very real desire for integration with the surrounding natural landscape underlies César’s body of artistic work as a whole.

 

 

One of the fundamental preoccupations which has guided my artistic work has been to try to achieve harmonious integration of the forms and ideas of painting, sculpture and spaces into nature.

I believe that this way, of integrating the greatest possible number of artistic elements – colour, texture, dimension, ambience, proportion – leads to a greater aesthetic enjoyment and quality of life.

It is necessary to create and act in freedom, to break with formulae and extend the concept of art to everyday human life, to create non-hostile spaces modelled on the integration of art into nature and nature into art.

 

 

That César’s ideas were carried out on Lanzarote is all thanks to the man’s tireless energy, persistence, immense abilities and international fame.

Without César Manrique, Lanzarote would scarcely be what it is today.

It is his influence and his work that have shaped the Island.

César shaped planning policy on the whole island and his influence can be seen everywhere.

He began with a campaign to preserve traditional building methods and a ban on roadside hoardings.

He convinced the authorities to impose a universal ban on advertising and ensure that telephone and high voltage cables were laid underground.

A multifaceted artist, César turned his flair and vision to a broad range of projects, with the whole of Lanzarote becoming his canvas.

César was a painter, sculptor, architect, ecologist, monument preserver, construction advisor, urban development planner, landscape and garden designer.

 

 

César’s work is full of vitality, colour and light.

There is nothing gloomy in either his paintings or sculptures or in the buildings he designed.

 

 

Together with his friend from his youth, José Ramirez Cerdá, who was president of the Cabildo Insular (island government), César skillfully put his architectural projects into operation.

Luis Morales, an employee of the Cabildo, was a sympathetic partner in all this.

As a practical builder, Morales had the skills to execute Manrique’s plans.

 

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Above: Flag of Lanzarote

 

César encouraged the traditional cubic form of architecture.

A house is capable of growth.

The Lanzarotenos start with one or two rooms.

As a family grows, they add cubes of one or two storeys, arranged around a central courtyard and the water tank.

 

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César’s idea was harmony with nature and the continuation of natural processes.

He wanted to preserve Lanzarote tradition and achieve a landscape-related architecture in proportion to the natural surroundings.

He believed in a humane architecture where nature should be spared and not choked with buildings.

Tourism threatened to sweep away everything before it, but César’s ceaseless opposition to such unchecked urban sprawl touched a nerve with Lanzarote locals and led to the creation of an environmental group known as El Guincho, which has had some success in revealing – and at times reversing – abuses by developers.

 

 

As we drove through villages across the Island, we could see how traditional stylistic features still remain.

The standard whitewashed houses are adorned with green-painted doors, window shutters and strange onion-shaped chimney pots.

The entire Island is a testimony to César’s influence and ever-enduring spirit.

 

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The awareness of the miracle of life and its brevity have made me see clearly that we are impoverished by the tragic sentiment of our existence.

The only important reality is the great mystery of life and of man with his inexhaustible imagination and his infinite ways of acting.

We must observe and learn from the energies of life.

 

 

Those who knew César only superficially ignored the streak of puritanism that ruled his conduct.

He was a frugal man.

He didn’t drink or smoke or allow others to smoke next to him.

He regularly went to bed very early and got up at dawn and began work in his studio very early.

 

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In all César carried out seven major projects on the Island and numerous others elsewhere in the archipelago and beyond.

At the time of his death, he had several more in the works.

It was the buildings that my wife and I were determined to visit on our five-day sojourn on Lanzarote.

We wanted to see how César’s life-affirming architecture relates to the Lanzarote landscape.

We were confused by descriptions that suggested that César’s buildings were generous but at the same time deeply modest.

Guidebooks wrote that César, with great aesthetic powers and unerring taste, had created places for the muses, of contemplation, of meditation, which radiate joy and tranquillity, places endowed with humanity.

It was written that César had striven to discover the beautiful and make it visible to everyone, but not simply beauty for beauty’s sake, but a unity of truth and intrinsic originality.

We wanted to see this for ourselves.

 

180° panorama photo taken from Mirador del Río showing La Graciosa

 

To speak of harmony with nature we need to speak of the landscape of Lanzarote.

On arriving in Lanzarote one feels transported in time, whisked back to the beginnings of the world, a fresh, clean world, in which the Traveller himself is the hero of discovery.

Here are seas of lava, enchanted grottos, columns of steam seeping from the bowels of the planet, magnificent multicoloured stone walls, threatening volcanoes, waves that furiously smash upon tortured cliffs that loom like giants frozen for all time in their march to the sea and eternally punished for such audacity, lurking lagoons that appear suddenly among the rocks, pockets scooped from deadly lava where livelihood-sustaining vines thrive to produce unsurpassable wine, golden beaches of skin-caressing sands, transparent blue waters….

Another world, another time, a unique place.

Here are peaceful, flower-bedecked whitewashed villages and a heritage of hardy people who overcame, will always overcome, the desolation that civilization commits and the fury of nature defied.

From lava and ash, drops of dew defiantly defended have been clawed from nature’s clutches and cultivated.

Yet these sturdy island warriors are kind, hospitable people who shelter guests in comfort and compassion.

Civilization’s constants are also found on Lanzarote, but they blend rather than blind the visitor to the natural delights of the Island.

 

 

By far the most beautiful place in the archipelago, Haíra lies within a sea of palm trees and has the charm of a small sheltered oasis.

Haría is a place to relax, a Utopia where the locals set the tone.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, locals traditionally planted a palm tree to celebrate a birth (two for a boy, one for a girl), thus resulting in today’s tourist viewing a palm-filled valley upon a barren Island.

 

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Haría has many positive qualities: magnificent flora, an abundance of trees.

The mind can manage this place so peaceful, so tranquil, as the body sits comfortably under wide spreading canopies of leaves.

No one, except children in haste, runs in Haría.

One strolls here.

The soul quietly smiles at the serenity.

 

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The central pedestrian avenue, Plaza León y Castillo, is shaded by lush leafy laurel and eucalyptus trees and cast-iron lanterns above benches where children play and seniors meet watching tourists gorge themselves at the Plaza’s open-air restaurant.

This is also the site of a superb Satuday morning craft and produce market.

 

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From the town hall up the street about 100 metres, the Traveller comes to the municipal arts and crafts centre, the Taller de Artesania Municipal.

Handicrafts are available throughout the week at the Taller de Artesania Reinaldo Dorta Déniz (to give its full name) on Calle Barranco de Tenesia, a town hall-backed craft workshop where local artists produce macramé, silverware, ceramics, dollmaking, embroidery and some charming pieces made of palm leaves and reeds, where one can watch the crafters at work before buying.

It is open Tuesday to Sunday 1000 – 1330 and 1600 – 1900, Monday only 1000 to 1330.

 

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The Mercado Municipal de Abastos, adjacent to the arts and crafts centre, is a small market here with a health-conscious attitude, with fruit, vegetable, meat and fish counters.

There is also a food stall here where the locals are tempted with tapas.

It is open Monday to Saturday 0900 – 1400.

 

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Haría does not boast any monuments of particular historical or architectural importance, for the history of this municipality is of little relevance.

Theirs is a past marked by poverty, foreign invasions and mass emigrations.

A 1587 account of the neighbourhood mentions a fountain and 100 people, a time when it was the only village on the Island besides the capital of Teguise.

In 1590, there were no more than 1,000 people on the Island, of which 250 were military, as well as 40 horses.

Population scarcity was due to three raids carried out for 16 years by Moorish and Turkish pirates.

One of the most devasting pirate attacks was that of the troops of Morato Arráez, who, in August 1586, burned down all the palm trees.

Fortunately they grew back again.

 

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What is immediately outstanding is the good taste of the town’s buildings and the way they blend into the landscape.

Some stately Andalusian-style houses date back to the 19th century when Haría at times played an important role in island politics.

 

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At the far end of the Plaza Leon y Castillo stands the modern parish church of Our Lady of the Incarnation.

The church was built in 1619 although it has suffered numerous setbacks over time.

The most significant was the storm of 1956, which left only the tower standing.

Inside the church five fine lovingly-carved arches support the ceiling.

 

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In front of the church is the La Tegala Cultural Centre, a more than 100-year-old house which has already served as a barracks, a shop and a workshop.

 

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A visit to the Diocese of the Canaries’ Museum of Popular Sacred Art in Plaza León y Castillo is recommended for the abundance of wonderful works springing from the imagination of the people of Lanzarote.

 

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At the Plaza de la Constitución, the small square next to the Plaza Leon y Castillo, stands the classical town hall also containing the local police station.

 

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Around the corner is the beautiful city library with its rich selection of Canarian historical and cultural materials.

 

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On the square there is a small rest area with benches, above the large cistern Aljibe which has been converted into a meeting and exhibition hall.

 

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Since the advent of tourism in the early 1980s Haría has flourished, but the tourists come not  only for the celebrated beauty of the town or for the Sacred Art Museum or for the handicraft workshops, but they come to see the Casa Museo César Manrique on Calle Elvira Sanchez.

 

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But before we remember the dead, let us honour the living while we can.

 

Behind the Museum one can, if lucky, witness an artist at work in a garage.

That craftsman is Don Eulogio Concepción Perdomo, signposted as “Cesteria“.

This man, the only and last basket weaver on the Island, is now over 80.

In patient manual labour Perdomo makes, from the strong fronds of Canarian date palms, stable baskets of various sizes and the famous Lanzarote conical-shaped hats.

We witness him making a small fruit basket, which takes more than an hour to produce, costs about €20.

I call his name and shake his hand.

Does he know of his fame?

Does he understand just how important he is?

 

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A palm-fringed property was the final home of Lanzarote’s favourite son and has been opened as a shrine to his memory.

This is a house frozen in time, complete with César’s clothes in the closet and personal art collection adorning the walls.

It is an intimate and personal view of César in his domestic surroundings.

It is a strikingly beautiful home situated in a lush palm grove in a charming village that is itself a showcase of Lanzarote’s traditional lifestyle.

This relatively new attraction of Haría, César’s last home, was opened in the summer of 2013.

 

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Surrounded by date palms and tucked away and back from the street, César’s home is a pleasure to stroll through.

The entrance fee is steep but the Museum is well laid out.

Rarely does one experience such harmonious living space with such a feel-good factor.

Within this spacious property, within the context of the comfortable and tasteful decor are many personal items, including painting items and incomplete works.

 

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The living room with a large fireplace and heavy wooden ceiling, the light-flooded dining room, the bedroom with high panelled ceiling, and, as always with César, an extravagant bathroom that opens with glass fronts to the outside, César designed his home with much love, a house that was far from completion when he died.

The Casa Museo César Manrique is open every day from 1030 to 1800 (last entry 1730).

 

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It is in Haría where César was lain to rest, when at the age of 73, still in good health and full of vitality and the joy of living, he was killed in an automobile accident on 25 September 1992, next to the present site of his Fundacion.

The irony of fate that he would meet his death in a car accident is rich as he loathed the massive amount of vehicles.

 

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Above: Painted BMW from 1990 Art Basel exhibition, Casa Museo César Manrique, Haría, Lanzarote

 

César’s final resting place in Haría’s cemetery is located at the exit to Arrieta atop a low hill.

His simple grave is located on the left in front of the small chapel.

César’s differs fundamentally from the other graves which are made of stone slabs and crosses.

His is a flat oval bordered by lava stones under a palm tree and adorned with succulents and cacti.

The carving “C. Manrique 1919 – 92” testifies that here lies Lanzarote’s loyal son.

From the forecourt of the cemetery there is a beautiful view of the valley below.

 

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In retracing his life in reverse chronology, I am reminded of a text he wrote to describe himself and his view of life:

I have never followed the signs indicating the road to Utopia.

Utopia, I do presently believe, is an inner path.

My enthusiasm, in any case, is the sole force that can guide me approximately.

 

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Starting from César’s endpoint is appropriate.

For it is in Haría we view not the celebrity César, not the artist César, but the man César, a man as common as we all are, mortal and preoccupied with all the minutae that comprise a life lived daily.

 

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To fully appreciate César’s impact on the Island one must journey out of Haría, away from a traditional Lanzarote, to a Lanzarote of the future built upon five volcanic bubbles of a lava flow 6km north of Arrecife, César’s birthplace.

The Taro de Tahíche is a dormant remnant of the 1730 eruption of the volcano Timanfaya on the northwest corner of the Island, and it is upon this that the Fundación César Manrique sits.

 

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From the Fundación and the overview of all that César Manrique was and did, the Traveller is encouraged to explore Lanzarote through César’s eyes and creations:

  • the Jameos del Agua

  • the Monumento al Campesino

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  • the Restaurante El Diablo

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  • the Mirador del Río

  • the Castillo San José

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  • the Jardín de Cactus

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It is at the Fundación and at the aforementioned half-dozen Manrique creations that the Traveller senses how César’s life-affirming architecture relates to the Lanzarote landscape:

Generous and yet deeply modest.

With great aesthic imagination and impeccable taste César created monuments for muses, cathedrals of contemplation, monoliths of meditation, jubilees of joy, temples of tranquillity, havens of humanity.

He sought what was beautiful and brought to this beauty his strength of purpose and crystalline originality.

In Lanzarote posts to come his creations and the Island that inspired them will be patiently revealed.

I hope that you will enjoy learning of them as I shall enjoy the experience of sharing them with you.

 

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Above: Undiscovered Planets, César Manrique

 

Sources: Wikipedia / Google / Fernando Gómez Aguilera, César Manrique in His Own Words / Wolfgang Borsich, Lanzarote and César Manrique: Seven Buildings / Lucy Corne and Josephine Quintero, Lonely Planet Canary Islands / Jorge Echenique and Andrés Murillo, Lanzarote / Eberhard Fohrer, Müller Lanzarote / Raimundo Rodriguez, Lanzarote

 

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Canada Slim and the Italian Twilight

Landschlacht, Switzerland, Tuesday 23 July 2019

There are advantages and disadvantages to everything.

 

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

 

Skyline of Schwangau

Above: Schwangau

 

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

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

 

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The things we do for love.

 

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

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

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

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

Such pettiness a husband can harbour!

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

Above: Toscolano – Maderno

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

I was complacent, quiet and uncomplaining.

 

 

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

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

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

It is more workman’s base than tourist resort.

 

Skyline of Gargnano

Above: Gargnano

 

Nonetheless Gargnano has a few claims to fame:

 

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

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

 

Above: The Austrian Steamer Hess

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

Above: Peschiera

 

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

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

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

 

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Above: Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807 – 1882)

 

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

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

 

 

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

 

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Above: Captain Rivera (1842 – 1904)

 

Other skirmishes took place on the lake every few days.

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Skyline of Malcesine

Above: Malcesine

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Flag of Italy

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

 

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

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

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

 

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Above: Moritz Manfroni von Montfort (1832 – 1889)

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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Above: Giovanni Beatrice (aka Zanzanù)

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

Repubblica di Venezia – Bandiera

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

 

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

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

 

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Above: Bogliaco

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Above: Salò

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Above: Monastery of San Francesco di Gargnano

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

Limone sul Garda

Above: Limone sul Garda

 

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

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

 

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Above: Salò Cathedral

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

Above: Manerba del Garda

 

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

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

 

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Above: Duchy of Parma flag (1545 – 1731)

 

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

 

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

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

 

Capovalle – Veduta

Above: Capovalle

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

Diachronic map of the Republic and the Venetian Empire.

Above: Greatest extent of the Venetian Empire

 

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

His body was taken to Salò on the 19th.

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

 

Above: Brescia Castle

 

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

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

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

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

 

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In reality the provincial of Salò was not satisfied.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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Above: Self portrait of Pietro Bellotti

 

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

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

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

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

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

His principal works are:

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

 

Above: The Old Pilgrim, Pietro Bellotti

 

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

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

 

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Blanc starred in several cult European horror films, including:

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

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

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

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

Her other film credits include roles in:

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

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  • Tony Arzenta (1973)

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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Above: Benito Mussolini (1883 – 1945)

 

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

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

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

At 12 years he was considered a mature artist.

Ughi involves himself in many activities to promote music culture.

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

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

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

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

 

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Above: Uto Ughi

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Above: Basel Music Academy

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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Above: Gargnano

 

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

 

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

 

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Above: D. H. Lawrence

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

Above: Riva del Garda

 

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

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

 

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Above: David and Frieda

 

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

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

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

 

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Above: Villa Igea, Villa, Gargnano

 

VILLA IGEA

DIMORA DI D.H. LAWRENCE

DAL SETTEMBRE 1912 ALL’ APRILE 1913

 

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No explanation of Lawrence’s identity is given.

 

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

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

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

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

To him, this was paradise.

 

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

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

 

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Though not everything Lawrence wrote was so pleasant:

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

Now everything is theatrical.

 

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Like living on a set where everything demanded literary criticism.

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

Yet the play is of questionable comprehensibility to Italians.

The husband threatens Barbara with his own suicide.

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

Certainly not talked about suicide.

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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Above: Frieda and D.H.

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

A sad reminder of a once majestic past.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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Above: San Tommaso, Villa, Gargnano

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

He says of San Francisco:

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

It was another world, a world of fierce abstraction.

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

Its thin grey neck was held up stiffly.

Beyond was a vision of dark foliage and high hillside.

 

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

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

It’s hardly surprising that Lawrence described this platform as suspended above the village like the lowest step of heaven or Jacob’s ladder.

The terrace of San Tommaso is let down from heaven and does not touch the Earth.

 

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Everywhere Lawrence went in Villa and Gargnano seemed to provide him with the new experiences and inspiration he had been searching for when he first embarked on his travels.

San Tommaso certainly found a special place in his heart.

 

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As you wander the streets of Villa and Gargnano,  stopping briefly at the pretty little harbour where Lawrence first arrived in the town and passing by the theatre which remains as it would have looked to Lawrence on the outside, you can see why he chose to stay here so long.

Italy and Lake Garda are familiar destinations for us today, but for Lawrence there was still so much to explore and understand, so much that was alien and intimidating and yet at the same time captivating and exciting.

He couldn’t help but be drawn to the unique character of the town, the intriguing local people and the beauty of the lake itself.

 

 

The Hotel Gardenia al Lago is a hotel in Villa, a romantic little village administered by Gargnano, the largest and most distinctive municipality on the “lemon Riviera”.

It stands, proud and elegant, with its Mitteleuropean architecture, right on the shores of Lake Garda, with the mountain peaks of the Parco Alto Garda Bresciano nature reserve as its backdrop.

The waters of the Lake lap the edges of the magnificent garden and surround the panoramic lookout point in the dining room, and on the opposite shore stands the majestic Monte Baldo mountain range, which generously lays on the most unforgettable displays of light and colour at both sunrise and sunset.

Hotel Gardenia al Lago has a particular charm and aura, not due to the opulence and richness of its décor, but to its harmonious setting, the elegance of its rooms, furnished with pieces from the old house dating back to 1925, and to the warm welcome given by the Arosio family, who have owned and run the hotel personally for three generations.

 

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Inside the Hotel, on the 4th floor, guests will find an exhibition dedicated to Lawrence, organized in 2012 by the Historic Gargnano Committee, on the centennial of the writer’s residence.

Through the descriptive panels and photographs, you can trace the life of the writer, famous for having written Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Sons and Lovers.

 

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I longed to visit Villa.

I longed to relax in a waterfront café by the port of Gargnano.

 

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I wished to wander around the abandoned olive factory, the lakefront villas with their boathouses, the Palazzo Comunale with the two cannonballs wedged in the walls from the aforementioned naval bombings.

 

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I longed to stroll along the road which leads out of Gargnano from the harbour for 3 km past the beach and through olive and lemon groves, past the Villa Feltrinelli – the grand lakeside house / world-class hotel with tastefully furnished rooms (€1,380 per night) where Mussolini once ruled….

 

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To the tiny 11th century Chapel of San Giacomo di Calino.

I wanted to look, on the side facing the lake, under the portico where fishermen keep their equipment, at the 13th century fresco of St. Christopher, the patron saint of travellers.

 

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But we were not travellers.

 

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We were tourists, and tourists by their very nature value the destination far more than the journey.

We do not linger in Toscolano-Maderno.

We do not stroll through Gargnano.

We do not detour down the road to Lake Idro through the hills of Valvestino.

 

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We are on a mission.

We will not procrastinate.

We do not see the green of olive trees or the blue of the sky and the Lake.

 

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I love my wife, so practical and pragmatic.

A better wife than I will ever deserve.

 

 

But a quiet voice within me weeps.

It longs to one day find a place and on that day spontaneously decide to linger there for six months or for a lifetime.

 

I say nothing as we zoom past Toscolano-Maderno.

I am silent as we speed past Gargnano.

 

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My mind’s eye sees sailboats afloat on turquoise waters, orchards of olives and groves of lemons, huge stone walls and tall pillars, testaments of memory.

 

 

The Buddha is rumoured to have said that the greatest folly of men is that we believe that we have more time to live than we are actually granted.

 

 

Nonetheless I find myself thinking about retracing the routes followed and described in Lawrence’s Twilight in Italy.

To walk from Innsbruck to Riva del Garda or from Schaffhausen to Milan, time and money be damned….

That would be amazing.

 

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But as the years zoom by at breathtaking speed I find myself entering a state of obscurity, of ambiguity, a general decline.

 

It is twilight when we reach Riva.

 

The soft gleaming glow of the sky is light clinging to a descending sun disappearing below the horizon, a semi-darkness, the gloom of a dying day.

So much to see, so much to do, so little time before night falls.

 

Such is twilight in Italy.

And everywhere else.

 

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Sources: Wikipedia / Google / Sally Fitzgerald, “D.H. Lawrence’s Lake Garda”, http://www.travelandlife.com / http://www.lakefrontboutiquehotels.com / http://www.gargnanosulgarda.com  / Gaby Logan, “Gargnano Celebrates D.H. Lawrence Centennial“, http://www.italymagazine.com / D.H. Lawrence, Twilight in Italy

 

Canada Slim and the City at the Crossroads

Landschlacht, Switzerland, Saturday 6 July 2019

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

 

Location of Alsace

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Each experience was entirely unique and original in itself.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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Above: Gare de Strasbourg (rail station)

 

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

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

 

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Above: Notre Dame Cathedral, Strasbourg

 

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

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

 

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

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

On average, snow falls 30 days per year.

 

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Above: Palais Rohan, Strasbourg

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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Above: Palais du Rhin, Strasbourg

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Circle of 12 gold stars on a blue background

 

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

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

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Above: Hemisphere, European Parliament, Strasbourg

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Above: Strasbourg Grand Mosque

 

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

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

Strasbourg proved that it knew how to win:

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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Above: The port of Strasbourg

 

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

 

Musically, Strasbourg is a sidenote.

 

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

 

Above: Notre Dame Cathedral, Strasbourg

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

Above: Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf (1739 – 1799)

 

In literature, Strasbourg is a footnote.

 

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

 

Portrait, 1760

Above: Laurence Sterne (1713 – 1768)

 

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

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

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

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

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

Only one of these stories is reproduced in Tristram Shandy.

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

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(Baptiste is a robber living outside of Strasbourg.

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

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

He then forced Marguerite to marry him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Above: The Monk (2011 French film)

 

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

 

In film, Strasbourg is merely backdrop.

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

The duel is inconclusive.

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

(“Rosebud”)

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

She drew him a map on a beer coaster.

Perhaps he hopes to run into her again.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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(“The year was 1891.

Storm clouds were brewing over Europe.

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

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

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

 

Image result for sherlock holmes a game of shadows strasbourg bombing images

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Strasbourg celebrated its 2,000th anniversary in 1988.

 

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

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

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

 

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Above: Battle of Hausbergen, 8 March 1262

 

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

 

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

 

(Marguerite LePaistour was born in 1720 in Cancale.

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

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

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

And everything returns to normal!)

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

He must be spinning in his grave.)

 

Above: Place Gutenberg, Strasbourg

 

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

 

Above: The Strasbourg Massacre

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

Thus, no military secret could be disclosed.

The postcard was born.)

 

Above: Bombardment of Notre Dame, Siege of Strasbourg

 

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

 

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

 

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Above: The Oaths of Strasbourg

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

Note for note.

To listen on the Internet is edifying.

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

Well, well.

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

 

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Above: Marseillaise volunteers, Arc de Triomphe, Paris

 


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

 

Above: The Dancing Plague of 1518

 

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

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

 

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

 

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Those are the facts.

They speak little of beguiling intangibles and apparent contradictions.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Coat of arms or logo

Above: Logo of the European Parliament

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

And they are offered something truly extraordinary:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Even in the evening, there is no boredom.

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

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Strasbourg is a unique destination filled with special eccentricities.

Take the Cathedral for example.

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

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

On this occasion, Protestants and Catholics pray together.

 

Above: Rose window, Notre Dame Cathedral, Strasbourg

 

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

Among the variety are:

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

 

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Above: Strasbourg Observatory

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

The Université de Strasbourg includes:

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

 

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

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

 

Above: The BNU, Strasbourg

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

Above: The Nuremburg Chronicle incunabula, 1493

 

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

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

 

Canada Slim and the Third Man

Landschlacht, Switzerland, Wednesday 26 June 2019

To understand something alien to one’s self it becomes necessary to make time and effort to learn and study that which one does not already know.

I have often considered it a sign of wisdom and maturity when one does not only admit when one does not know something but as well makes no pretense that he does.

For the past year I have been following, as literally as possible, in the footsteps of Huldrych Zwingli, the Swiss Reformer, from his birthplace in Wildhaus to the site of his death in Kappel am Albis, using Yvonne and Marcel Steiner’s excellent guidebook, Zwingli-Wege: Zu Fuss von Wildhaus nach Kappel am Albis: Ein Wander- und Lesebuch.

 

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(Please see:

Canada Slim and….

  • the Road to Reformation
  • the Wild Child of Toggenburg
  • the Thundering Hollows
  • the Basel Butterfly Effect
  • the Vienna Waltz
  • the Battle for Switzerland’s Soul
  • the Monks of the Dark Forest
  • the Privileged Place
  • the Lakeside Pilgrimage
  • the Family of Mann
  • the Anachronic Man
  • the Chocolate Factory of Unhappiness

….of this blog for an account of these adventures and discoveries.)

 

(Zwingli and Zürich are also mentioned in:

Canada Slim and….

  • the Rush for Reformation
  • the City of Spirits)

 

I have written of Zwingli’s life and my retracing of that life from Wildhaus to Kilchberg.

 

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Above: Huldrych Zwingli (1484 – 1531)

 

In Canada Slim and the Rush for Reformation, I described a tour through Reformation-time Zürich that takes the reader to the most important places in Zwingli’s life and in those of his successors, starting at the Wasserkirche (Water Church) where the Zwingli Monument stands to the Rathaus (City Hall) where the political decisions of the Reformation were decided, for the Reformation was not only a transformation of church government but as well as civic government.

 

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I visited and described my visit to the Wasserkirche and the Grossmünster with its Cloister where the Prophesy took place, the Zwingli Portal depicting 16 scenes from Zwingli’s life and Zwingli’s successor Heinrich Bullinger’s statue.

 

 

I visited the Haus zur Sel where Zwingli once lived and the Froschau Fountain named after Christoph Froschau, who had a major impact on the Reformation in Zürich.

 

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I visited the Preacher’s Church, a former Dominician convent abolished in the Reformation that was first converted into a bread line for the poor and a hospital and then later the parish church of the neighhourhood of Niederdorf.

 

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I saw the Schipfe where the first Anabaptist was martyred and St. Peter’s with Europe’s largest church tower clock.

 

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I visited the Fraumünster and its amazing stained glass windows created by Marc Chagall.

 

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I also visited the City Hall where religion and civic government met.

 

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I came to the realization on 23 January 2018 that I could not make Zwingli’s actions, most significantly in Zürich, understandable, if I couldn’t explain why the Reformation actually matters, then and now.

So I went to Geneva (Genève) to finally see two Museums I had not as yet seen but had always wanted to see:

  • The International Museum of the Reformation
  • The International Red Cross Museum

 

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Above: Musée Internationale de la Reforme, Geneva

 

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Above: International Museum of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, Geneva

 

(The latter will appear in a future blog post.)

 

Genève, Suisse, Mardi le 23 Janvier 2018

The airy Musée International de la Reforme is housed in the handsome 18th century Maison Mallet, which backs onto the Cathedral.

The Museum explores the ideas behind 500 years of Protestantism, from early theological debates to the influential charismatic preachers who today lead many churches around the world.

State-of-the-art exhibits and audiovisuals bring to life everything from the earliest printed Bibles to the emergence of Geneva as “Protestant Rome” in the 16th century, from John Calvin all the way to the 21st century.

 

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The causes that led to the break between Roman Catholicism and what came to be known as Protestantism are complex and are still in dispute.

Political economy, nationalism, Renaissance individualism, and a rising concern over ecclesiastical abuses all played their part.

They do not, however, camouflage the fact that the basic cause was theological, a difference in Christian perspective between Rome and those that did not share her views.

 

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Above: St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City

 

This is what I learned from my tour of the Museum….

 

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Above: The Calvin Room, International Museum of the Reformation

 

View the 16th century, when most of the events we now call the Reformation took place, as a vast tunnel.

The Western Church entered that tunnel whole and emerged from it in several sections, or movements of churches.

 

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The two great enduring themes which split the Western Church apart were justification by faith and the principle of idolatry.

 

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Faith, in the Protestant conception, is not simply a matter of belief – an acceptance of knowledge held with certainty to be true yet not based on evidence.

Faith is a response of the total self – a totality act of the whole personality.

As such it is not only a conviction of God’s limitless, omnipresent creative power, but as well it is a movement of the affections in love and trust and a decision of the will in a desire to be an instrument of God’s redeeming love.

When Protestants say that human beings are justified by faith, they are saying that faith requires a movement of the total self, in mind, will and affections.

It is a mark of the strength of the ecumenical movement in the 20th century that Roman Catholic theologians, including the present Pope Francis, now increasingly understand faith in the same way.

 

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Above: Jorge Mario Bergoglio (aka Pope Francis)

 

Thus defined, faith is a personal phenomenon.

Right beliefs” or “sound doctrine” can be accepted secondhand and largely by rote, but service and love cannot.

Faith is the response by which God becomes God for me, my God.

This is what Martin Luther meant when he said:

Everyone must do his own believing as he will have to do his own dying.

 

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Above: Martin Luther (1483 – 1546)

 

To feel the force of the Protestant emphasis on faith as the response of the entire self, we need to see it as a passionate repudiation of religious perfunctoriness, the unthinking repetition of routine.

Luther’s protest against indulgences – a kind of “she’s buying a stairway to Heaven” – which were thought to help reduce the buyer’s time in Purgatory – is only a symbol of this wider protest.

 

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No number of religious observances, no record of good deeds, no roster of doctrines believed, could guarantee that an individual would reach their desired state.

Though such things are not irrelevant to the Christian life, unless they help to transform the believer’s heart (his attitudes and response to life), these things were inadequate.

This is the meaning of the Protestant rallying cry:

Justification by faith alone.”

It does not mean that creeds or sacraments are unimportant, but unless they are accompanied by the experience of God’s love and a returning love for God, they are insufficient.

The same goes for good works.

 

Creeds, sacraments and good works are the consequences of faith, not the prerequisites.

 

If one really has faith, good works will flow from it naturally.

The reverse cannot be assumed.

Good works do not necessarily lead to faith.

 

To a large extent both Paul and Luther had been driven to their emphasis on faith precisely because a respectable string of good works, doggedly performed, had not succeeded in transforming their hearts.

 

Above: Paul the Apostle, Rembrandt

 

The other controlling perspective in Protestantism, often called the Protestant Principle, comes to its conclusions in the following fashion:

Human allegiance belongs to God – this all religions will affirm.

God, however, is beyond nature and history.

While God is not removed from nature and history, the divine cannot be equated with either or any of these parts, for while the world is finite, God is infinite.

With these truths all the great religions agree.

But these truths are very hard to keep in mind.

So hard, in fact, that people continually let them slip and proceed to equate God with something they can see or touch or at least conceptualize more precisely than the infinite.

Early on mankind equated God with statues, until prophets (protesters on this score) rose up to denounce these substitutions.

Though much of mankind would stop deifying wood and Stone images, the secular world proceeded to absolutize the state or the self or human intellect, while Christians fell to absolutizing dogmas, the Sacraments, the Church, the Bible or personal religious experience.

Protestants don’t devalue these, but it does insist that none of them are God.

All, being involved in history, contain something of the human.

Since the human is always imperfect, then these instruments are also to some degree imperfect.

Therefore any human claim to absolute truth or finality must be rejected.

So, for example, Protestants cannot accept the dogma of papal infallibility because this would remove from criticism forever opinions that, having been channeled through human minds, can never wholly escape the risk of limitation and partial error.

Creeds and pronouncements can be believed, but to place them beyond the cleansing crossfire of challenge and criticism is to absolutize something finite to the position that should be reserved for God alone.

Protestants believe that God speaks to people through the Bible, but to elevate the Bible to a point beyond criticism is to insist that every word and letter was dictated directly by God and so can contain no historical, scientific or other inaccuracies, is to forget that in entering the world, God’s word must speak through human minds.

 

 

The problem with Protestantism is that this concept of the word of God speaking to each individual soul directly is that it creates two dangers:

First, there is the danger of misconstruing God’s word, for if all things human are imperfect, than each individual’s vision of God is limited and sometimes erroneous.

Second, each person derives a different individual truth, which explains why Protestantism has split into more than 900 different denominations in the United States alone.

 

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To be fair, 85% of all Protestants belong to 12 denominations and considering the freedom of belief Protestantism affirms, the wonder is not the diversity that exists but the extent to which Protestants have managed to stay together at all.

The divisions that do exist in Protestantism are more a reflection of differing national origins or differing social groups rather than differing theologies.

 

And one could argue whether diversity is actually such a bad thing.

People and their historical circumstances create life-affecting differences that must be taken seriously.

New occasions teach new duties.

Protestants believe that life and history are too fluid to allow God’s redeeming word to be enclosed in a single form, whether it is doctrinal or institutional.

Though they take steps to mend differences that are no longer meaningful, they do not believe that people should congregate together just for comfort.

Protestants prefer precarious freedom to the security of doctrines or institutions that remain fallible.

It is their faith that, in the end, bolsters them.

Asked where he would stand if the Church excommunicated him, Luther replied:

Under the sky.”

 

Luther's rose

Above: Luther’s rose standard

 

Although the Reformation began during the 16th century, the need for reform within the Western Church had been felt already.

Several attempts for reform took place, especially during the 15th century, such as the one led by Jan Hus in Bohemia, which ended with his burning at the stake during the Council of Constance in 1415.

 

Above: Execution of Jan Hus, 1415

 

(Please see Canada Slim and the City of Broken Promises of this blog for the story of Jan Hus and the Council of Constance.)

 

Other Councils of this period tried to limit the abuses plaguing the Church, which seemed more concerned with its own temporal power than with the salvation of the faithful, but these measures did little more than the skim the surface.

Although ecclesiastic institutions were established in an effort to reform the clergy, such measures did little to satisfy the spiritual craving of late medieval Christians.

The Reformation took place not only because the Church was living badly, but because it was also believing badly.

It had allowed the message of the Gospel to become distorted.

 

The purpose of the reformers was to reconnect with the original message of Christianity – the Gospel – as preached by Jesus Christ and his apostles in the first years of the Christian era.

As they saw it, over the centuries the Church had obscured this message.

Thus, in an era that was haunted by the fear of Hell and sustained by the hope of salvation, these men turned to the Bible, where they found that God was revealed not as a judge who pursued men with His wrath, but as a Father who sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to offer salvation.

They found the Gospel offered greater comfort against the terror of damnation than did the purchase of indulgences.

Reformers argued that Heaven could neither be bought or sold.

Christ, who had died and then risen, graciously allowed anyone who believed in Him to enter.

Reformers were rediscovering the true sense of Paul’s message – that one is saved through belief in Christ rather than by attracting God’s grace with good works.

Faith, not works, justified salvation.

 

A depiction of Jesus on the cross

 

As reformers returned to their original sources of their faith, they naturally began questioning the legitimacy of the Church.

They accused the Church of hijacking salvation.

 

From this point on, the battle lines were drawn.

On one side, the Church which saw itself as the sole guardian of the gates of Heaven.

On the other, reformers who called for believers to return to the Bible – the word of God that announced free salvation in Christ.

The Reformation thus took place in a climate of controversy.

Humanist scholar Erasmus warned Luther that attacking the “bellies of the monks” would earn him no end of trouble.

 

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Above: Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus (1466 – 1536)

 

The Reformation was not born in Paris or Rome, the great cities where fashionable ideas usually originated, but in Wittenberg, a small university town in Saxony where a well-known doctor of theology named Martin Luther taught.

Luther launched the Reformation with the publication, in November 1517, of a treatise arguing that divine grace was a more effective means of securing salvation than the purchase of indulgences.

This was a direct attack on the authority of the Pope.

Luther’s ideas were soon debated far and wide.

 

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Above: Luther’s Ninety-five Theses

 

Young humanist intellectuals were inspired by Luther.

He also had a following in convents and monasteries, many of which emptied after reading his works.

Above all, Luther’s ideas answered the aspirations of a population preoccupied with the existential question of their final destiny.

The sudden success of his movement was due in part to the appearance of a new media that disseminated information without distorting it, namely, the printing press.

 

 

Several princes sympathetic to Luther encouraged the dissemination of his ideas by creating national churches that opposed or even replaced the Roman Catholic Church.

Their support was a decisive factor in establishing the Reformation.

The face of the Reformation changed from a spontaneous popular movement to a contest between princes and city-states.

 

 

A complex figure, Huldrych Zwingli was active and influential in many related areas, all of which are important for our understanding of the man: a self-taught humanist, a religious thinker and reformer, he is also considered to be a patriot and Swiss national hero.

Zwingli was a humanist and a scholar with many devoted friends and disciples.

He communicated as easily with the ordinary people of his congregation as with rulers such as Philip of Hesse.

His reputation as a stern, stolid reformer is counterbalanced by the fact that he had an excellent sense of humour and used satiric fables, spoofing, and puns in his writings.

He was more conscious of social obligations than Luther and he genuinely believed that the masses would accept a government guided by God’s word.

He tirelessly promoted assistance to the poor, who he believed should be cared for by a truly Christian community.

Zwingli’s life and the history of Switzerland are closely linked.

Outside of Switzerland, no church counts Zwingli as its founder.

Scholars speculate as to why Zwinglianism has not diffused more widely,even though Zwingli’s theology is considered the first expression of Reformed theology.

Although his name is not widely recognised, Zwingli’s legacy lives on in the basic confessions of the Reformed churches of today.

He is often called, after Martin Luther and John Calvin, the “Third Man of the Reformation“.

 

Flag of Switzerland

 

In 1516, Zwingli adopted Erasmus’s view of Christ as the source of every good and the idea that God calls Christians to master their passions.

As soon as he arrived in 1519 to assume his position as preacher and minister of Zürich Cathedral, Zwingli attempted to reform the city in the spirit of Erasmus without breaking with the Church as Luther had done.

 

Above: Grossmünster, Zürich

 

Nonetheless, Zwingli’s criticism of the Church and his ideas on justification by faith betray the influence of the monk of Wittenberg.

In 1522, Zwingli openly affirmed the primacy of the Gospel as the only basis for the doctrine and the life of the Church.

He rejected both doctrine and worship of anything that seemed to be a human addition.

 

 

That same year, he defended several friends (primarily book printer Christoph Froschauer) who had broken the Lent fast by eating sausages – the Church banned the consumption of meat during Lent – by preaching about a Christian’s freedom to choose one’s own diet.

The Council of Zürich organized a disputation (discussion) of Zwingli’s teachings and, being convinced completely changed the laws on fasting.

 

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In July 1522, Zwingli questioned the celibacy of priests, which he himself had previously broken by secretly marrying Anna Reinhart the previous spring.

 

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Above: Anna Reinhart-Zwingli (1484 – 1538)

 

He addressed a petition on behalf of himself and eleven other priests to the Bishop of Constance requesting the right for priests to marry.

The Bishop in turn wrote to the Zürich city authorities, demanding that they take action against these “disorders“.

 

Above: Konstanz (Constance) Cathedral

 

The following year, on 29 January 1523, the first Dispute of Zürich took place at the request of the city council.

The Bishop’s delegate dismissed the authority of the Council, but attended nevertheless.

Completely outmatched, he witnessed the strength of the ideas of Zwingli and his allies.

Zwingli presented a list of 67 theses as a basis for discussion.

His doctrine was derived principally from the Epistles of Paul and claimed that faith was granted by the Holy Spirit.

Zwingli asserted the equality of all Christians and added that civilian authorities, provided they were Christian, should take charge of church affairs, but could also be disposed if they failed to follow the teachings of Christ.

He called for the Reformation to take place in an orderly fashion with the support of the magistrates, but some of his followers rushed matters and destroyed images and statues in churches.

 

 

A second Dispute focusing exclusively on the Mass and images was organized in October 1523 to resolve the issue.

Images were finally abolished in 1524 after a third Dispute.

 

Relations between the Bishop of Constance and the city of Zürich broke off at the end of the summer of 1524.

Convents were secularized and their possessions sold to endow the poorhouses.

A school of Biblical education, The Prophesy, opened in 1525 with the mission of presenting its findings to the people, in German, during five weekly lectures.

Students and scholars met in the Choir of the Grossmünster Cathedral to translate the Bible and preach to the people.

 

 

Theirs was the first complete German translation of the scriptures, called the Froschauer Bible after the sausage-eating bookbinder who printed it.

It was the first school of its kind and a model for Reformed academies everywhere.

The Prophesy would become a school of theology which in turn would lead to the establishment of the University of Zürich.

 

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Above: Logo of the University of Zürich

 

That same year, the Council abolished Mass, replacing it by a a very sparse service without music, distinct from the Communion service, which was celebrated only four times a year.

Communion was understood as a communal meal in memory of Christ’s death, through which the faithful expressed their desire to belong to Him.

 

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Meanwhile, the establishment of a matrimonial court extended the spirit of the Reformation to the area of public morality.

 

 

Some of Zwingli’s followers demanded a more radical Reformation.

The common features of this community was the rejection of child baptism as a sign of entry into the Christian faith (for which they were labelled “Anabaptists“), as well as the refusal to conduct the oath of allegiance to local government authorities and the law.

Under the influence of Conrad Grebel and Felix Manz, they accused Zwingli of subordinating church reform to the approval of the political authorities.

Zwingli tried to win them over to his views through several pamphlets and debates, but was unsuccessful.

The Council feared that the Anabaptist movement could eventually lead to a general revolution.

Felix Manz was sentenced to death and drowned in the Limmat River for “rebellion against the Christian bourgeosie, destruction of the Christian community and perjury“.

 

 

Five more Anabaptist executions would take place before 1532.

The worldwide Anabaptist-Mennonite movement considers Zürich one of its prime places of origin, though the executions rang the death knoll of Anabaptism in Zürich itself.

 

 

Zwingli’s other great adversary was Martin Luther, for although Zwingli admired the German reformer, he could not endorse Luther’s position on the real presence of Christ in the bread and wine during Communion.

For Zwingli the presence of Christ was purely symbolic.

The two theologians met at the Colloquy of Marburg in 1529, but could not agree.

 

 

Meanwhile, the onslaught of the Reformation split Switzerland in two.

On one side, the Cantons that remained faithful to Roman Catholicism – Luzern, Uri, Schwyz, Unterwald and Zug.

On the other, those that followed the new ideas – Zürich, Basel, Bern and St. Gallen.

In 1524, the Catholic Cantons came together to form the Beckenried Alliance and began to present a real threat to Zürich.

Zwingli tried to appease the tensions, but in 1526 the Alliance decided to resolve the religious questions in a Diet.

They organized a Dispute in Baden that lasted four weeks from late May to early July 1526.

 

 

Johann Eck, an opponent of Luther, was invited to defend the Catholic faith and very skillfully sowed discord amid the Reformed camp by exposing the disagreement between Luther and Zwingli over Communion.

 

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Above: Johann Maier von Eck (1486 – 1543)

 

The Catholics won.

Zwingli was excommunicated.

Yet the Zürich authorities refused to give up their Reformer, despite the threats of exclusion of Zürich from the Swiss Confederation.

Zürich obtained the support of Basel, Bern and Schaffhausen.

War was coming.

 

 

Meanwhile the Reformation had been slow to establish itself in Geneva.

Introduced in 1526 by German merchants, the Reformation did not reach an impact on Geneva until 1533 with the preaching of Guillaume Farel and was not officially adopted until 21 May 1536.

 

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Above: Guillaume Farel (1489 – 1565)

 

John Calvin would not arrive in Geneva until later that summer.

 

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Above: Jehan Calvin (1509 – 1564)

 

Too late to assist Zürich and her allies.

Too late to save Zwingli.

 

Understanding the background made me understand the events that would lead to Zwingli’s death at Kappel am Albis.

 

 

And that final chapter of the Zwengli Trail Chronicles will follow soon in an upcoming post….

 

Of course, there is much more that could be said and much more was learned in the Museum about the Reformation and its many players and events that shaped the world: Théodore de Bèze, the Edict of Nantes, Frederick the Wise, Philip Melanchton, Martin Bucer, Johannes Hussgen, Pierre Viret, Moise Amyraut, Francois Turrettini, Bénédict Pictet, Jean Le Clerc, Jean-Alphonse Turrettini and Karl Barth, and so on.

And we all know the names of famous Protestants who inherited the struggle the aforementioned Reformers passed on to them: George Bush and George W., Desmond Tutu and Queen Elizabeth II, Albert Schweitzer, Oliver Cromwell and William of Orange, to name a few.

Some more faithful in name than in practice.

 

Image result for musée de la reforme images

 

But this is a story of two men: your faithful blogger and Huldrych Zwingli, the man whose footsteps I followed based on a guidebook that intrigued me.

 

 

(Of course, as my travels coincide with some of the aforementioned people and events not as yet detailed, they shall be mentioned.)

 

Earlier I mentioned that there is much I don’t know, much I don’t understand.

But there is one thing I am sure of….

 

It is not enough for me to see.

I want to understand what I am seeing.

 

I hope you share that same impulse.

 

 

Sources: Wikipedia / Google / Huston Smith, The World’s Religions / International Museum of the Reformation, Understanding the Reformation / Yvonne and Marcel Steiner, Zwingli-Wege: Zu Fuss von Wildhaus nach Kappel am Albis: Ein Wander- und Lesebuch