Buitenzorg to Batavia to Tandjong Priok, 27 April 1893

I used the time left in Buitenzorg to see two objects: one a peaceful creation, the botanical garden, the other a military institution, the barracks.

The world famous botanical garden (’s lands plantentuin), that was created in 1818 under governor general Baron van der Capellen by a German, agricultural director professor Reinwardt, is dedicated to the cultivation of plants for scientific and educational purposes and of course only contains plants that grow in the tropical climate of Buitenzorg. To cultivate plants from cooler zones, they have built a number of botanical higher altitude stations on various levels of the Gede mountains at whose foot Buitenzorg lies as well as on the top of Pangrango. Under the direction of Buitenzorg’s botanical garden those plants are raised there that require an altitude of more than 985 m and up to 2700 m.

This garden contains about 60 ha and gives way in the north to the park of the governor general’s palace. At first sight the park distinguishes itself by its beautiful location. To the south rise the grandiose peaks of the „blue mountains“, that is the extinct volcanoes Salak and Pangrango. The saddle connecting those two peaks descends in undulating terrain to Buitenzorg. The palace garden itself is lightly terraced and borders in the east on Tji Liwung. It is ornamented with beautiful deciduous trees, palm tree alleys, bamboo bushes, green meadows and water pools.

In total there are about 9300 plant species cultivated here (300 families, 2500 genera). I had heard much talk about this garden and had been made aware of its splendor by many so that I entered it with expectations which however were not completely fulfilled. From a scientific point of view this garden with its specialized library and agricultural museum is without doubt of extraordinary high value. Every year scientists out of Europe come to Buitenzorg to do studies and research. The desire, however, to assemble a huge number of the most diverse plants of the tropical regions of all parts of the world and especially of the Malaysian zone in a very limited space necessitates that much is all too close together and much is not free to fully develop, while others do not find the conditions that the soil and climate in their natural habitat or in a fully acclimated place provides.

The layout of the garden is highly scientific so that the expert can orient himself immediately. In one part of the garden, one finds only palm trees of various species, in another part only oaks or conifers. Therefore each part has a certain monotony in forms. This arrangement, however, is very convenient for observation. The amateur prefers to look for the beautiful and the original in such institutions or picturesque groupings, luxurious or curious solitary trees, attractive or strange. He follows, in short, either the path of aesthetics or the avenue of curiosity. Thus the non-professional visitor will miss the distribution and mixture of plants with which a sensitive artful gardener knows to create spectacular groupings out of the flora. All in all the botanical garden of Buitenzorg is a practical compendium of botany according to the requirements of hard science that provides a regular view which could benefit from greater beauty in its space, all the more so as the frame of this fixed picture is created by nature in all its luxury and attraction.

Given the goal of this institution I hasten to add that the garden is maintained step by step with admirable industry and tireless care and contains beautiful rare specimen, single and in groups, of interesting plant families and species. Among others, these were especially remarkable: an alley out of huge Canarium trees (Canarium altissimum) in which each trunk is covered by a different species of orchid. In the various water pools in which the garden holds splendid specimens of Nymphaeaceae, such as the South American Victoria regia, Nymphaea lotus,  Nymphaea pubescens (in Javanese: Taratte ketjil), Nymphaea stellata (Taratte biru); specimens of Nelumbium speciosum (Taratte gede) etc.

The visit of the barracks gave me the desired opportunity to inform myself about the actual composition of the land and sea armed forces of Dutch East India.

The Dutch East-Indian army currently is 33.339 men strong with1360 officers, among them 26.536 men (697 officers) of infantry; 3120 men (83 officers) of artillery; 832 men (29 officers) cavalry; 646 men (12 officers) of engineers and 2205 men (539 officers) of other troops such as staff etc. This army is recruited entirely from Europe, especially the German Empire as well as the colonies. Among the soldiers are 13.847 Europeans, 19.437 natives, 55 Africans.

The commander of the East Indian army is Lieutenant General A. R. W. Gey van Pittius, who succeeded in this function Lieutenant General T. J. A. van Zyll de Jong on 4 April 1893.

The Indian fleet is divided into the navy which in turn is divided into the Indian navy and the auxiliary squadron and the governmental fleet. The navy counts 25 ships — among them 2 sailing ships — with 5273 net tons displacement, 14.913,5 indexed horse power, 87 guns and a nominal crew of 1340 Europeans and 643 natives. The navy also has 2 guard ships with 10 guns, with a crew of 557 Europeans and 313 natives. The auxiliary squadron contains 4 ships with 4040 net tons displacement, 11.932 indexed horse power, 58 guns and a nominal crew of 832 Europeans and 282 natives. The total number of crews thus is 2729 Europeans (281 officers), among them 519 men (50 officers) marine infantry, and 1238 natives. The governmental fleet consists of 17 sea steamboats, 5 river steamboats and 10 small sailing boats (Avisos). The steamboats have 111 guns and 1100 indexed horse power, as well as a crew of 132 Europeans and 636 natives. The Avisos are manned by 11 natives each and armed with 2 guns.

In command of the fleet is currently Vice admiral Jonkheer J. A. Roell. Commander-in-chief of the army and navy of Dutch East-India is the governor general.

Besides the regular army Dutch East India has a number of semi-military forces that are required in peacetime to uphold the public order and in wartime to assist the army. All these forces combined are 8228 men strong and divide themselves as follows: In the civil guard (Schutterijen) 3790 men (130 officers), which are organized in the larger cities under the command of the resident and are to contain the majority of the local Europeans and Indo-Europeans. Furthermore the police corps called Pradjoerits, which are constituted by 2073 natives in 56 detachments under the command of European NCOs and are stationed in smaller towns. Then there are auxiliary forces of Madura island, called Barisans, composed out of 1356 natives under 38 native officers and are divided into three detachments under a lieutenant colonel or major each. Each of these detachments has a captain of the army assigned for the supervision of the exercises. Among the irregular forces are the guard dragoons recruited among the Europeans and each 96 men strong (2 officers ) of the Soesoehoenan, Emperor of Surakarta and the Sultan of Djokjakarta, as well as the legion of the Emperor of Surakarta, 817 natives strong. The legion of Prince Pakoe Alam, the crown prince of Djokjakarta, was dissolved in August 1892.

The barracks at Buitenzorg, situated on the road to Tjiloewar, has enough space for an infantry battalion but without officers which are housed in the villa quarter behind the station. According to the new system the barracks is divided into pavilions in which are crew quarters and NCO quarters, the school, the kitchen, storerooms, fencing and exercise halls and mess rooms. At the entrance to the camp I was received by the battalion commander and led me through the different rooms. The companies were on the exercise square and only the charges of the day were in the barracks. First we visited the guard and arrest rooms. Then the commander led me into the crew quarters where the Europeans and the natives separated by company live. These are only different in the way that Europeans sleep on iron beds while the natives sleep on high wooden beds. In all these very large rooms there was a scrupulous cleanliness and order.

What I found strange was the large amount of iron used in the buildings under the tropical sky: All the rooms were covered by  corrugated iron and thick iron walls were installed between twenty beds each on which the people hung their possessions. In my view bamboo would serve the same purpose as iron which naturally will increase the heat in the interior of these buildings.

Also I think the uniform is not practical — the heavy blue cloth and the small cloth helmet which does not after all protect the head or especially the neck. The soldiers are very well equipped with shoes. Every man receives three new pairs annually. Nevertheless, the native companies almost always walk barefoot.

As a weapon they use Berdan rifles. Our Mannlicher ones, however, are currently tested; as  a sideweapon, a middle thing out of a bayonet and an angled blade is used. This knife is especially suitable to cut down the branches, lianas and especially bamboo in the jungle. The rear part of the knife carried by the NCOs has a saw.

Very large and beautiful are the rooms of the NCOs as well as the chancelleries. The NCOs also have a mess room and some kind of casino which is comparable to many European officers‘ mess rooms. In the mess room whose walls are decorated with numerous images and military emblems beautiful crockery and cutlery are used, while in the casino there are all kinds of games for recreation and a buffet for the refreshment of the visitors. A special  canteen manager offers beverages. The medical officers make sure that the consumption of „sterken drank“ (alcohol) remains within suitable limits for the climate of Java. The consumption of alcohol is not only bad in itself but it also especially hurts the process of acclimatisation that Europeans undergo during a longer stay on the island.

The men of the European companies have a similar recreation hall as the NCOs.

A very strange introduction is that all soldiers, Europeans and natives, are allowed to have women in the barracks who serve them as laundress, seamstress and food vendors. Also on campaign as in the time of the German Landsknechte in the 15th and 16th century the whole baggage train including the women follows the army. The women then are all assembled in real companies which are led by the women of the NCOs while one officer, like the „Weibel“ of the Landsknechte, is tasked with the supervision of the whole Amazon corps. In the morning, while the men are outside the barracks, all these women are assembled in a large room where they perform all their domestic duties and also provide the meals for their numerous offspring. Here the atmosphere is often very vivid and it must not be easy to contain the temperament of the large number of women of minor quality maintained by the government. I visited the above mentioned room in which there were around a hundred women and which was in a terrible state of disorder. The women of the natives have to sleep in the night on pallets on the naked ground. The children are partially cared for the government as most returning European soldiers simply leave their families behind after they have completed their service and these families would otherwise be left in misery.

During the visit to the kitchen I was surprised by the rich meals for the men in comparison to what is given to our soldiers. In the morning each man receives coffee, as well as eggs and butter and ham. At 11 o’clock soup, a very large portion of meat and a large ration of vegetable. At 4 o’clock again meat and rice.

Now I was led to the exercise hall, the school hall, the workshops and storerooms. The latter ones are in contrast to ours only very poorly equipped and contain only a very small amount of supplies as most deliveries are immediately issued out to the troops and the necessary resupply is undertaken from the main supply point in Batavia.

Even though the Dutch government and namely the war department had been busy during the last years to improve the military installations and take care in all aspects of the army, still much remains to be done as among others is shown by the failure in the war with Aceh on Sumatra. What circumstances in this war of almost endless duration have played a role against the Dutch and whether this can be taken as an indicator that the military genius of the Dutch people is not as developed as its talent for colonial management and its highly developed commercial skills is probably difficult to decide.

That the Dutch know to enhance their military occupation of East India by a reasonable colonial policy is beyond doubt. The government of the colonies makes an excellent impression. Everywhere there is wealth, and both the Europeans and the natives display satisfaction with the government to a much greater degree that is the case in other colonial empires.

Regarding the human aspect, the Dutch on Java seemed to me hospitable and homey people whom I will best remember by their open and heartfelt courtesy as well as the fact that they do not overrate their own facilities and qualities — a virtue one does not find everywhere.

At the station of Buitenzorg I said good-bye to the governor general and all other Dutch gentlemen to return to Batavia where I was invited by our consul Fock to a breakfast. Mrs. Fock, an impressive presence, gave the honors in a very kind way in the very neatly furnished house.

So many things in the dining room reminded us joyously and cozily of home. There stood the images of His Majesties the Emperor and the Empress. The table was draped with flowers and bands in our colors. Even the menus had photographies with views from the beloved mountain land of Austria and beautiful Vienna.

A special train took us to Tandjong Priok where I embarked again on board of „Elisabeth“. The merchant ships in the harbor presented their flag gala during my arrival at the harbor.

The gentlemen of my Dutch entourage visited the „Elisabeth“ in detail, its artillery  and other modern equipment was of special vivid interest to Colonel De Moulin. He had, amongst others, all the guns demonstrated in the utmost details.

Finally we said a very heartfelt good-bye to the gentlemen of my Dutch entourage. The anchors were hoisted and amidst the sound of the Dutch anthem we left beautiful Java in the direction of Australia.


  • Location: Tandjong Priok, Jakarta, Indonesia
  • ANNO – on 27.04.1893 in Austria’s newspapers.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is playing „Der Erbförster“, while the k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is performing the opera „Der Barbier von Sevilla“.

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