Batavia, 11 April 1893

After 6 o’clock in the morning I had myself woken up and immediately went to the bridge as we were expected to land in Batavia in half an hour. The sky was very cloudy and the temperature on deck very agreeable. As earlier I was here too pleased to be disappointed that my fear of having to endure much heat in the tropical but especially in the equatorial regions did not manifest itself. After all, it was quite tolerable, except for the lead chambers, that is the cabins, where the temperature namely during the night were almost unbearable.

The first we saw of Java were the two extinct volcanoes Salak (2215 m) and Gede (2962 m) that are located just above Batavia or, better said, south from a spot above Buitenzorg. More and more one could distinguish the green coast and the beautiful harbor Tandjong Priok where the masts of many ships became visible. The pilot came on board and guided us into the inner harbor. At that moment the merchant ships anchored there hoisted their grand flag dressing.

Having anchored we offered the territorial salute which was answered by  a land battery. Close to us lay three Dutch warships, that is the habor guard ship „Gede“, the cruiser „Aceh“ and the armor deck corvette „Sumatra“, all officers and the crews stood on deck to watch our arrival and out of many gunports, female heads were peeking, armed with glasses and opera glasses.

First arrived our consul Dirk Fock on board and soon thereafter, sent by the governor general, lieutenant colonel Nepveu to welcome me and present the program for the stay in Java.  The discussion of that program presented the range of sights of this beautiful island and the large number of excursions one can undertake there.  As my voyage around the world had so many other locations to cover, I was forced to constrain my program in Java for the short duration  of 14 days. After long negotiations we succeeded to determine what could be managed to see during such a time span which repeatedly meant to rank the most interesting spots behind the spots most worth seeing and at the same time easily accessible.

Now it was important to be ready within an hour, having packed all baggage and given all orders as the special train to Batavia was set to depart already at 10 o’clock in the morning. Strangely, this was achieved. At a quarter to 10 o’clock we steamed to the railway station Priok where a large crowd had gathered, mostly Chinese and Malays, as well as a few Europeans. A police guard whose duty it was to guard Batavia and its surroundings lined the road.  It was a really comical company, mostly elderly Malays wearing some sort of circus uniform and a head cloth and were armed with hacking knives and lances. As a form of salute the held the lances high in front of the face and made hideous faces.

The Javanese railways fortunately have open view carriages; in one such carriage we sat down and arrived in Batavia half an hour later after a drive through a friendly land, past many canals. At the station we were received by the governor general of Dutch East India, Dr. C. Pynacker Hordijk, as well as the resident of Batavia province, Jonkheer van Schmidt auf Altenstadt, and the gentlemen assigned to me, artillery colonel De Moulin and captain Fabius.

For the drive into the city I used the four horse team of the governor in which I sat down beside him. The driver of this strange carriage, a coffee-brown Malay was wearing a white-red uniform with golden laces. The headdress of the driver made him look quite funny as he wore a very large lacquered top-hat under whose brim the stiff tails of the cloth wrapped around the head in the local manner loosely peeked out. Behind us stood two servants in a similar uniform on the rear foot board, holding a golden sunscreen on a long staff over our heads.

While my first impression of Batavia was very pleasing as we were driving in the middle of gardens and palm groves where almost everywhere there were clean settlements inhabited by Malays, I liked the city even more. Seen from the station, there were nice single story buildings enclosed by gardens on the right and left of the road. These houses are inhabited by Europeans and are built airily in conformity to the climate and had a cosy character.

Our arrival was attended by a large crow of Chinese, Malays, Javanese and Europeans in front of the houses and in the street. Colorfully intermingled they vividly showed their interest in u. I had for the first time the opportunity to see the airy outfit used, it is said, by the European women here in the whole of Java. As a dress they use the Sarong, a large piece of cloth, tied picturesquely around the waist that falls down like a gown, The upper body is veiled in a cut linen jacket. This very simple outfit fits the temperature and climatic conditions well. Especially the younger wearer of this dress look great in it and all female members of the European families use it and also the upper class society is wearing it during the day until the hour when the dress is changed for dinner. Until the 12th and 13th year, the girls make do with a baby-like camisole. As the body of a child develops faster in a tropical climate than in countries with a temperate climate, the new arrival is faced with the strange view of girls in this dress who seem to look almost like adults.

In front of the house which the government had rented for my accommodation there was a large triumphal arch made out of bamboo and blooming palm branches, decorated in our colors and those of the Dutch tricolore.

The one story house, as almost all buildings on Java as this island is prone to earthquakes, lies in a small garden on one of the most active roads in Batavia. Noisy and grinding the steam tramway rushes past from the morning to the evening, on the canal nearby small bamboo rafts are rocking melancholically. The interior of the house is also influenced by the Javanese style. Behind the large covered veranda is an extended room which serves both as a dining room and parlor and contains the entrances to the different individual chambers. The windows and doors seem not to be ever closed even during the night. Instead there are folding screens. The rooms are all high and airy. The floors are covered with straw mats, the canopy beds that provide rest are spacious, long and wide but are so hard that they recall the beds in our mountain huts. Apparently, the experience with the local hygiene forces the Dutch for whom in general nothing tops domestic comfort to spend the night only on hard beds.

The sky was cloudy, the temperature was muggy even tropical. An hour after our arrival, a storm started with a flood like rain, though without cooling the air. It only increased the air’s humidity so that the disagreeableness of humid heat was experienced even more.

We discussed the program for the next days with the resident as well as the two gentlemen assigned to me and ate breakfast which was conspicuous for its long duration. Even though we were served by no fewer than 16 old Malayan servants who were decorated with the local long-eared head cloths, the dinner seemed to go on without an end due to the slowness of the service.

Then  appeared Mr. E. J. Kerkhoven, the owner of large tee plantations in Singapore in the residence of Preang and an excellent hunter about whom I had already been informed at home and with whom we would undertake a hunting expedition of multiple days into the interior of Java.But at the start of our conversation with Mr. Kerkhoven it seemed as we had to cut this plan from our program as Mr. Kerkhoven, despite being a passionate hunter, and the governor general highlighted the difficulties of such an expedition and offered many reasons against it: bad communication. important physical exertions, cholera, malaria as well as other endemic mountain diseases etc. Our desire to visit the hunting grounds rich in game of Preang was clashing with the program that the governor general had planned for me in advance. I could not fully trace the different causes in favor and against which were mentioned during the discussion but it was nevertheless clear that each of the gentlemen had a different motive to paint the risks of this hunting expedition in the blackest of colors.

Finally I succeeded to allay all concerns, assisted by the clever and effective secretary general Sweerts de Landas, after I managed to particularly explain to the gentlemen that I was willing to abstain from all comfort in matters of hunting. Thus, an expedition of ten days to the southern parts of Preang was finally agreed upon. So Mr. Kerkhoven asked for a delay of five days to make all necessary arrangement, appoint hunters and carriers etc. This delay was granted and it was decided to use the time to visit Buitenzorg and other interesting spots in Java.

But I could already on this day pay homage to the joy of hunting  as the kind resident of Batavia had organized a crocodile hunt for the afternoon to which we started out as soon as the rain had mostly stopped. In the suburb of Weltevreden we crossed a long road which is inhabited only by Chinese. Here too in Batavia the „Yellow Flood“ is very noticeable. Among the 114.864 inhabitants are 27.279 Chinese.  Fixated on earning money like almost no other people and equipped with a subtle merchant spirit and a surprising frugality, these true Mongols have established a foothold not only in Batavia but in all other trading places on Java so that among a total population of 22,754.749 souls on Java — except for the army and the crews of the fleet — besides 46.631 Europeans, 13.995 Arabs, 2843 other Orientals and 22,449.553 natives 241.727 Chinese were counted.

The mistrustful and deceitful character of the Chinese,  their pure egoistical nature and their other traits make me abhor this even physically unsympathetic people even though I can not deny that they have their positive sides. Incredibly active and inventive in commercial affairs, very skilful in technical competences,  intelligent farmers and gardeners and where the primary extraction demands it and where it is advantageous to not shy away from heavy labor, the Chinese strive primarily to profit by any means from the competition in the exchange of goods and in financial business. Most are merchants and traders, partly as peddlers (Klontongs), shopkeepers, agents, partly as commission agents, retail merchants, government lessees, money racketeers, bankers. The remaining Chinese sustain themselves as handymen, domestic servants, clerks, coachmen, cooks until they too can, starting small first with goods bought on credit, become merchants as well and exploit their mercantile skills.

Scorned in the country and seen as enemies, as the persecutions in the prior centuries demonstrated — on a single day, 9th October 1740,  under the government of the governor general Valkenier, the agitated population had butchered over 10.000 Chinese — the Chinese have managed nevertheless in their strange tenacity to  hold their ground on Java and expand once more. The government shows them no favor but hits them with a special contribution, the queue tax, Bea Kondeh, forces them to live in segregated city districts and uses other rulings to restrict the fast growth of the Chinese on Java. Still and in spite of all this, the sons of the Heavenly Kingdom are partly as immigrants partly as natives – the latter are called Feranakan Chinese — have developed roots especially in the north of the island and even in the interior of the country.

Continuing on through the small alley we finally stood in front of the Kasteel (Fort), which today, preserved by the government in its old form, only is of historical value. It has been built by the East India company at the start of the 17th century and later been equipped with bastions, outworks, earth walls and fortification ditches that now have been levelled or filled in.

An important protection of the Kasteel during the time when it had been the citadel of Batavia was formed by the canals of the fortification system. As the Dutch had,  following the example of their homeland, in Batavia which is cut in two by the river Tji Liwung (Liwoeng) arranged a system of water canals partly to drain the city of water, partly to set up a dense network of shipping paths. Thus Batavia offers with its navigable canals and ditches, its shore constructions and the vessels which swim in the canals lined by tree alleys a view of a city where water canals are of great importance.

On one of the canals that led from the fort to the sea was a small flotilla of boats ready to take us, drawn by a steam barge, to the crocodile hunt. We sat down in the vehicle which was beautifully decorated with flowers and flags. The barge which was directed by a high government official in person started moving and we glided forward on the canal, swinging agreeably, refreshed by a glass of cooled champaign served by an uniformed servant and animated by the sights of the shore landscape that we were passing by.

A colorful packed crowd on both shores watched our journey with curiosity. Still appeared small settlements, now and then a Malay village, then fields of arrowroot (Maranta arundinacea), which provides the known nutritive flour, became visible. Swimming between these fields and low bushes we finally stopped at the mouth of a small natural side ditch which led into the midst of Tamarind and myrtle bushes and was in some way grown together with the jungle.

It looked to me as if there had been too much preparation to ease hunting crocodiles in this ditch. The bushes had been cut back, so that it did not limit our sight. Alongside the canal, barricades had been built in order to prevent crocodiles from escaping and upstream and downstream guards had been posted.

Right at the arrival at the canal I had noticed tiny points emerging out of the water, the eyes and nose ridges of some crocodiles but they quickly submerged and only some time later an especially strong specimen appeared again. I bagged the animal with a head shot. During its final convulsions it kicked out violently, sending water and dirt widely into the air until it finally turned a wheel for some minutes only to sink down dead. Now the native hunters threw a rope around its neck and drew it on land.

Then I marched up and down along the shore and soon discovered a second crocodile which had buried itself so deeply into the soft mud after my first shot had frightened it that I could only notice how the earth was moving alternating up and down. I fired by chance at the spot where I thought the animal’s head and soon a blood trail as well as the kicking around of the jagged tail in the mud showed that I had hit the crocodile. Then everything was quiet as the reptiles refrained from appearing again. They had hidden themselves under water in the deep mud and only after many people started hitting the water with long bamboo staffs and pierced the mud at the bottom of the canal, life returned to the canal.  The crocodiles were very much resented these operations and attacked the staffs snatching and biting. As soon as a head became visible I fired on the eyes and the cervical vertebra, the only vulnerable places of a crocodile, and thus managed to bag another six strong specimens, so that my total number came to eight crocodiles, each of which was longer than 2 m.

The coloring of the individual specimens was very different. It varied between black or greenish-gray and a clear yellow with black edges. What a thick and impenetrable skin and what hard skull a crocodile possesses, I could observe on a specimen that appeared at a distance of about 25 paces, while only its head was visible. I fired with my Express rifle, caliber 500, three times one shot after another upon the skull of the animal between the eyes. After each shot the crocodile dove without displaying any kind of wound, only to reappear on the surface again. The fourth shot finally hit close above the eye which made the animal turn and killed it.

After the animal had been drawn on land, I found upon close examination that the three bullets had not pierced but had bounced off the skull between the eyes like from armored plate without leaving more than a barely noticeable spot where I had hit it.

The killed crocodiles were stored in a boat that was towed by our flotilla and now we returned on the same path which we had used before driving through in the midst of the now brightly illuminated and therefore very picturesque Chinese quarter. Returned home we had to change clothes for the dinner at the governor general’s.

The governor general Dr. C. Pynacker Hordijk, whose residence is in Buitenzorg, owns in Batavia, the seat of the government, a beautiful one story palace, in which he and his wife were expecting me. In the large dining room decorated with coats of arms and the emblems of the homeland, there was unfortunately a muggy heat during the dinner that followed. I sat between the lady of the house and vice admiral Jonkheer J. A. Roell. This charming person told me all kinds of interesting things about the martial expedition of 1873 of the Dutch against the resisting and still independent kingdom of Aceh on Sumatra. At the dinner during which a military band was playing its melodies were also the commander of the Dutch East Indian army, lieutenant general A. R.W. Gey van Pittius, the secretary general Sweerts de Landas and other dignitaries among them many members of the council of India (Raad van Indie).

The dinner which was notable for its absence of toasting and circles was soon declared to be ended and so I could discuss the continuation of our voyage with the ship captain in my apartment.

Links

  • Location: Jakarta, Indonesia
  • ANNO – on 11.04.1893 in Austria’s newspapers. Neue Freie Presse reports that FF bagged 15 tigers and 7 panthers in India.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is playing „Goldfische“, while the k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is performing the opera „Die Rantzau“.
Franz Ferdinands Jagderfolge in Indien, Die Presse 11.4.1893

Franz Ferdinand bagged 15 tigers and 7 panthers in India, Die Presse 11.4.1893

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