Schlagwort-Archiv: Ceylon

Kandy to Colombo, 13 January 1893

At half past 7 o’clock in the morning, the Papal delegate for India, Monsignore Zaleski, who stays most of the year in Kandy, celebrated a mass in the small Catholic church attended by the whole Catholic community consisting mostly of mixed bloods of Europeans and Sinhalese. A large number of mostly dark-colored priests assisted the Montsignore while music and song in a not so harmonic way was contributed by the faithful. After the end of the mass I wanted to meet the delegate but unfortunately did find him there.

We then went on a glorious morning drive on Lawrence Drive, a road that leads along a number of hills with a beautiful view of Kandy, the large pond, the Buddha temple, the whole panorama of the city and the mountain peaks in the distance. Everything was still covered in a blueish morning mist: the city houses at my feet, the Kandy valley and the distant mountain ranges.

After I had browsed through the Reuter dispatches, eager for news about home, I took my leave from Sir Arthur und Lady Havelock in the governor’s pavilion. To remember the hours spent together with this lovely couple with a visible memento, we had a group photograph of us with the couple taken.

The return drive to Colombo was glorious, part of which I did in the locomotive to have an unrestricted view. I couldn’t get enough of the wonderful scenery of the whole journey.

The afternoon in Colombo was dedicated to shopping. We took the dinner, upon the invitation of our consular agent Schnell in his country house located outside the city. Mr and Mrs Schnell, the latter a young and pretty woman dressed in a patriotic black and yellow dress, gave me the honors and after the dinner, enchanted me with a performance of a devil dance which differed markedly from that seen in Kalawewa. It was, I might say, more civilized, less grotesque and notable especially by the dancer’s large wooden grimacing head masks out of which they very skilfully blew and spit fire. Music and song were of the same type as that of the jungle dance performed in Kalawewa. We were sitting under palm trees in a garden kiosk while the dancers moved on the open green.

The devil dance was followed by an act of a conjurer who performed many tricks. The way in which he demonstrated the growth of a mango tree was interesting. The conjurer laid out a cloth on the ground, lifted it after a bit of hocus-pocus and, well, there suddenly was inch-high small green plant. The conjurer repeatedly covered the plant with the cloth and every time he lifted it, the plant had grown. It grew larger and larger and became a rich bush with long beautiful leaves, a growing little tree, a blooming tree and finally there stood a full grown blooming mango tree with ripe fruits in front of us on the green. He also showed his skills as a snake charmer. Out of two baskets, to the sound of a shalm, emerged two cobra snakes. They beamed and displayed their hood with clearly visible marks that looked like glasses and starred and moved hissing towards their master which looked dangerous but was in reality harmless as the teeth of the snakes had been removed. Still, Mrs Schnell uttered a light scream when one of the beasts turned and advanced on the green toward our feet.

This garden party concluded our stay in Ceylon. We took leave of our very obliging hosts and returned hours later on board of SMS Elisabeth.


  • Location: Colombo, Ceylon
  • ANNO – on 13.01.1893 in Austria’s newspapers. In Paris, the Panama scandal is still raging in the streets, in the newspapers, in parliament as well as in the court room where the third day in court has started. A new 3,5 m long photographic panorama of Vienna’s city center has been completed and will soon be on public display. Out of Calcutta comes a telegram that informs about the planning of a governmental gala dinner for Franz Ferdinand, a reception of the Austro-Hungarian community, museum visits, parades, a native dance performance as well as a sightseeing trip to Darjeeling.
  • The Wiener Salonblatt Nr. 3 of 15 January already includes a notice about Franz Ferdinand’s stay in Ceylon and departure to Bombay.
Notice in the Wiener Salonblatt no. 3 about Franz Ferdinand's stay in Ceylon

Notice on page 8 in the Wiener Salonblatt no. 3 about Franz Ferdinand’s stay in Ceylon

  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is playing „Der Bibliothekar“, a comedy by Gustav von Moser while the k.u.k Hof-Operntheater performs Jules Massenet’s Werther.

Kalawewa, 11 January 1893

We had asked the governor by telegraph to prolong the trip by one day because I wanted to try my luck in hunting an elephant again, despite my quite shattered confidence about the successful completion of that venture.

Already at half past 4 o’clock, with the moon and the stars still up on the sky, we departed in the boat. All nature seemed asleep and not a breath of air was noticeable, until finally a beam of light in the east announced the approaching day. By and by one could listed to the voices of the adult birds. Ducks flew from here to there and everywhere one could hear the hoarse cries of the herons and cormorants. When it had become a bit more light, we started examining the shore and soon noticed that the whole elephant herd had left its usual jungle spot and had moved across part of the pond. Kinsky who had at first intended to stalk an elephant separated from the herd, joined us and we were then wading for a good hour through arms and pools of water, swamps and thickets. The activity of wading was a rather refreshing bath in the water given the increasing heat of the air.

The landscape of this part of the hunting area was a wonderful spectacle due to its rich swamp vegetation which consisted of numerous open spaces of open water covered in water lilies and huge erect trees standing in between them. On these trees sat the most beautiful great white herons and in particular, a specimen of a Lesser Adjutant (Leptopilus javanicus) I had not observed before with metallic green wings, a white breast and reddish legs. Amazed, all those birds were watching our wading caravan.

Lesser Adjutant (Leptoptilos javanicus, source: Photo by Greg Hume/Wikicommons)

Lesser Adjutant (Leptoptilos javanicus, source: Photo by Greg Hume/Wikicommons)

The elephant tracks were easy to distinguish in the wet earth. The herd must include a rather tall elephant as the guides explained because of the large number of torn twigs.

In the shadow of a huge tree we rested and developed a new campaign plan as the elephants had retreated into a relatively small jungle area after having waded across the pond. This area, bordered by the pond and the road was nearly triangular in size. As long as the elephants had not yet crossed the road, we would win the game. Quickly we advanced but noticed after a few steps in the red sand of the road that the elephants had crossed over the road from the safe jungle which made us feel sad because a pursuit now became unthinkable. Just as we were freely expressing our anger, a shikari approached with a joyful face and reported that the elephants had recrossed the road into the jungle a bit farther than our resting place. They were still there as one could clearly hear them breaking branches. Already at the beginning of today’s hunt, learning from the experience of the previous days, I had requested to keep my hunting party small. Thus, Kinsky and Pirie remained near the road crossings, while I and Mr Murray and my favorite shikari, an old man with a flowing beard and a jovial friendly face, entered into the jungle.

We advanced about five hundred paces when I heard the elephants and saw a large elephant shortly after in a small clearing. He stood calmly and browsed now and then on the bushes. A glorious view. My hunter’s heart was beating faster in view of this giant reminding me of anti-diluvian animals. I sneaked up as close as possible, aimed at the ear and pressed the trigger, and saw the elephant go down with the shot. The shot caused a lot of activity in the jungle, from all sides one could hear elephants turn and run – it was a terrible noise as, we later learned, about thirty elephants fled in all directions. I was still standing on the spot I had fired the first shot when I saw, six paces in front of me, a huge single elephant with long tusks break out of the thicket into the small clearing at full speed. My second barrel was still loaded and so I fired at the spot between eye and ear. A trumpet-like sound was the response and the apparently heavily wounded giant careened off, breaking whole trunks in two and fled in the opposite direction. The remaining animals of the herd were unaware of the shooter’s location and ran around like crazy in the dense jungle. Moment by moment, I saw either the legs or the tusk or the head of an elephant appear between the bushes. Unfortunately my companions were so excited and lost their heads so that they failed to hand me my reserve rifles. Instead they kept up a well-nourished rapid fire but without targets and goals which only made the elephants even more timid and even increased the risk of shooting each other. Standing in the midst of the hail of bullets I shouted out to the wild shooters to cease fire but without effect. In the mean time, I had reloaded my rifle and jumped into the clearing where I had heard a loud noise. In the thick undergrowth I vaguely saw many animals  flee by quickly, chose one large animal glancing through one small gap and shot it down in full flight.

A strong feeling of hunter’s satisfaction was swelling in my breast as I stood before my second elephant, a strong cow dying there. I returned to my first elephant and checked that we had killed an extraordinarily strong male that even had tusks – a great rarity among elephants on Ceylon. My old shikari was giddy with pleasure and expressed his admiration in Sinhalese and even patted me.

dead elephant (p. 74)

Dead elephant (p. 74)

Now shots rang out on the street both in the direction of Pirie as well as from that of Kinsky. Soon Pirie returned in a highly excited mood and congratulated me vividly when I shouted out at considerable distance that I had bagged two elephants and told me that he had bagged also a strong elephant and wounded a second one. I had to show him my two specimen on the spot and personally cut off the two tails that serve as trophies in the whole of India and upon the particular request of the Sinhalese to mount upon my two elephants to mark the moment of possession.

Everyone was laughing, crying and gesticulating and jumped around the elephants so that my request to go after the third strongly bleeding elephant went unheard.

Finally I returned to the road as it was hopeless trying to command the people where I found Kinsky who advanced towards me proudly because he had also bagged a fleeing elephant. The elephants, thirty in numbers, had noticed Kinsky on his hunting position and had turned but he had smartly run in advance of their path and shot down from a rock. Apparently all local elephants made timid by the previous two days of hunting had retreated to this small part of the jungle on the other side of the pond. Wurmbrand and Clam who hunted in that territory had thus only saw the fresh tracks leading into said jungle and went back as soon as they became aware that is was following the same tracks far in advance. Clam then pursued a family of monkeys of which he bagged two after much running and shooting.

Surrounded by the shikaris still shouting with joy I returned to the bungalow to fetch Hodek and returned after a quick breakfast into the jungle where Hodek and a photographer from Kandy took pictures. Hodek then cut up the elephant into pieces. With great trouble the heads, the legs as well as the large pieces of the inch-thick hide were separated. The cutting off of the legs with large axes resembled the cutting of strong trees.

Hundreds of curious Sinhalese who had assembled with their wives and kids in two from the surrounding villages observed the entertainment in a large circle.

As sufficient time remained I decided to undertake a trip on the pond to bag some water fowl. In a small boat, Pirie, I and my hunter rowed out into the northern part of the pond we had not yet entered. The sun was already close to the horizon and shone picturesquely upon the barren giant trees and their convoluted almost snakelike branches and their roots glittering in the water. Right at the moment of departure I bagged a few cormorants, as well as a black-white kingfisher, more precisely a pied kingfisher (Ceryle rudis). I then did not continue to shoot at swamp fowl as I discovered up in the air a circling majestic white-bellied sea eagle (Haliaetos leucogaster). After some time of searching for it, I found its eyrie on a tall tree occupied by the female that apparently guarded the young. I sent up two shots which hit the animal but did not kill it so that he soared away only to return after a few minutes, but flying at much higher altitude. As a second shot proved unsuccessful, I decided to check again an hour later.

I then managed to discover two eyries also occupied by white-bellied sea eagles but these owners were more timid than the female eagle of the first eyrie. Even though I had sent away the boat and waited out of the water on an erect trunk, the eagles did not return but chipped without much motion far away.

Two tall monkeys that performed huge jumps from tree to tree I shot with bullets without bagging them because one was caught in the tree branches while the other sank immediately in the water.

An hour passed, I returned to the first eyrie and bagged with a wide shot the beautiful old eagle. That was not all. Saint Hubertus was very gracious on that day! We had only rowed for about a few hundred paces when we discovered a strong wild male buffalo (Bos bubalus) sunning himself at the edge of the pond. The distance was considerable, we approached it with quiet rowing strokes in a diagonal direction. When the buffalo finally took notice of us, he didn’t flee in no way but on the contrary even advanced a few steps and glanced at us challengingly, angrily. In this moment, the mighty bull presented a magnificent view: He soon raised, soon lowered his strong head with long horns. Then he dug into the morass and stomped the ground, sending water and mud through the air a meter wide. The lights were glowing, the flanks of the bull were trembling, without interruption his tail was whipping his shaggy body. Our presence seemed to infuriate the animal greatly as it thrashed the earth more and more violently bristling with his blood-shot nostrils.

Even though Pirie assured me that my small 450 rifle would have little effect I still tried a shot with a hundred groves up, trusting in the quality of my favorite rifle. The buffalo was hit and ran away. While he was fleeing, I shot a second time. After about fifty paces, he stood there quietly and glanced back angrily, a moment I used to send another bullet after it. Well hit, he disappeared back into the jungle.

We disembarked and found a few steps away the bloody tracks but we couldn’t continue the hunt because oft he approaching darkness.

When we returned to the bungalow it was already night. We were talking valiantly during the dinner we truly deserved and all participants were very merry. After the dinner we experienced the spectacle of one of the strange devil dances which the superstitious Sinhalese perform to banish evil spirits. They also perform symbolic dances which illustrate the fight with the evil spirits. Dressed in the most diverse costumes with gems made out of silver and shells, about twenty men in alteration performed various grotesque and ferocious dances that reminded me sometimes of a Csardas, sometimes they only consisted of convulsive clownesque jumps and body contortions while the dancers sang or uttered hoarse cries. Longish, barrel-like drums were beat in time by the dancers themselves or by persons close by and completed the musical arrangement of the strange ballet. The local elderly and the chiefs had attended the performance in rich dress and sat beside us. An hour later, fireworks were burned, then this interesting and wild feast was over.

At an advanced hour in the middle of the wilderness far from civilized settlement and inhabited only by Sinhalese, full of elephants, buffaloes and crocodiles I was suddenly reminded about institutions of the civilized world. Two reporters had followed me here to interview me! An interview in a bungalow late at night after many tiring days of hunting seemed a bit much to me and thus the two dedicated professional victims of journalism had to depart without completing their mission and find their own bivouac miles away.


  • Location: Kalawewa, Ceylon
  • ANNO – on 11.01.1893 in Austria’s newspapers. The Neue Freie Presse informs that Empress Elisabeth (namesake of the SMS Elisabeth) has arrived in Malaga after a visit to Granada (where it had been falsely reported that she had been in danger of bandits). The Empress will continue to Cadiz, Lisbon and Madeira. In Paris, eight intractable amblers were arrested by the police on the Place de la Concorde as well five anarchists carrying guns and daggers.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is offering Donizetti’s opera „Lucrezia Borgia“; the k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater plays „Dorf und Stadt“, again a replacement due to the indisposition of a Mr Sonnenthal. Is this due to Vienna’s especially ghastly winter weather of 1893 or were the actors and singers of the 19th century much more fragile creatures than today?

Kalawewa, 10 January 1893

The shikaris had reported yesterday evening that the wounded elephant had been spotted. They saw him in the midst of a herd, crying loudly so that he will die in the coming days. The other elephants are in another part of the jungle but also close to the pond. At 5 o’clock, I was ready but a hard rain kept us back so that we only entered the jungle at 6 o’clock. This time only Mr Pirie and the shikaris kept me company. Shortly after disembarking I saw three new species namely a hare (Lepus nigricollis), somewhat smaller and shorter ears than the ones at home, as well as a peacock and the majestic timid Ceylon junglefowl (Gallus lafayetti).

We were soon on the tracks of the elephants and stalked them in the jungle until after a short while I heard the monsters browsing branches and saw in thick bushes the legs and trunks of multiple elephants. I intended to approach them from a supposedly good direction but was unfortunately prevented by my companions who cautioned me to wait. The consequence was that the elephants escaped with great turmoil as soon as the wind changed and before I could fire a shot.

Now it also started raining very heavily so that we were truly soaked and like “wet poodles”. My companions assured me that we would soon close in again on our fugitives but this event only happened after seven hours of searching and stalking.

At first we followed the tracks but then decided that it was easier in the heavy rain to send out two shikaris to find the elephants again, encircle and confirm their location. We used the waiting time for breakfast. During the search for an apt breakfast location we met an exceedingly rare and interesting animal, a very colossal specimen of a lizard (Varanus salvator) that reminded me about the fairy tale of the wyrm (Tatzelwurm). The reptile was laying about 2 m off the path, blinking at us with its tiny eyes and didn’t move even though we were talking loudly and argued how to kill it because I didn’t want to shoot due to the elephants. Finally we cut down a young tree, Pirie approached the lizard like Saint George the dragon and hit the worm on the head. The animal thrashed its long spiked tail wildly and stirred up the earth. Multiple hits caused the animal’s skull to crack and it soon lay dying on its back. We then crippled it and opened its breast with a deep incision.

Varanus Salvator (source: Jerzy Strzelecki/Wikicommons)

Varanus Salvator (source: Jerzy Strzelecki/Wikicommons)

It was a giant animal: No less than 2 m long and 0.5 m of circumference and 20 cm high, it resembled a crocodile for which I had first taken it to be one. The skin was enormously thick and we could pierce it only with a sharp hunting knife. It consisted of hard scales, the back was black with yellow rings and points, the underside totally yellow, the legs were turned to the outside like those of a dachshund and had long claws. We left the strange animal on the ground, marked the place and moved to a small clearing to breakfast there while a swarm of hornbills flew over our heads.

My prudent John had brought fresh clothes assuming correctly that I would be completely soaked from the rain. As the sun was currently again shining in a friendly manner I quickly changed my dress. As soon as I had completed the change, it started to pour again and within minutes I was drenched again to my skin. But one quickly grows accustomed to such things and I even excellently slept on the ground for two hours.

In the mean time, the shikaris who had been sent out had returned with two messages. The first one was very good: It confirmed the location of the elephants. The second, however, was less so: our monster, the wyrm (Tatzelwurm) had fled and was nowhere to be found. The second message was so unbelievable that Pirie instantly ran to the spot to confirm there that indeed the reptile had disappeared. Only a small blood track led from the spot where we had cracked the worm to some steps away in the grass. I was inconsolable about having lost such a highly interesting curiosity for my collection. I could not understand how that wyrm had escaped with a broken skull and a cracked spine. Instead of attributing it to the unbroken force to live I assumed a more plausible reason, as without doubt the very living superstition of the natives knew of good uses for such a captured worm.

Still the lost reptile did not make me forget the elephants that had been sighted again. They were exceedingly disquiet and moved without interruption from here to there so that we achieved to stalk one only with great effort. I came really close and could have gotten even closer if I hadn’t noticed the elephant to show signs of discomposure as my companions again overzealously had sneaked up on me and had been apparently noticed by the elephant. It was high time. I aimed for a spot at the root of the trunk and shot. At the same moment, four more shots rang out beside me – Pirie and the black shikari had fired the reserve rifles. It is a bad habit to sneak up on the point man in the thickest jungle with a loaded gun which causes even the most calm hunter to become nervous and turn safe stalking into a difficult action.

The dense smoke caused by the five shots of in total 40 grams of powder obscured my view for quite some time and only after the air had become clear again I noticed the sad truth – the elephant had disappeared. Due to the heavy rain there was no question of continuing the stalking. Such a tropical rain can only be compared to our hardest cloudburst in our land.

A truly miserable day today. Somebody must have uttered a hunter’s curse upon me. Annoyed, freezing and completely wet I marched nearly 7 km to my boat which brought me back across the pond to my bungalow. Here I was fortified with punch and various grogs which Mr. Jevers had given me against fever.


  • Location: Kalawewa, Ceylon
  • ANNO – on 10.01.1893 in Austria’s newspapers. The Neue Freie Presse informs that soldiers have been ordered into the streets of Paris to protect the parliament from the mob. The police will cut all access to the Place de la Concorde and multiple regiments have been placed on alert. The first page also carries a devastating critique of the opera „Die Rantzau“, which was to be repeated in the Operntheater the same day. Switzerland informs that it has lifted all the cholera epidemic-induced import restrictions.
  • Dillinger’s Reisezeitung (issue no. 2, 10. Januar 1893, p.3) carries a short report about Franz Ferdinand’s stay in Ceylon together with an etching of Colombo: „Currently, the ram cruiser SMS Elisabeth is swaying in Colombo harbor, where Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Este is staying, fêted by the local British colonial administration within the city walls whose picture we are showing in the current issue.“ Then follows a short account more or less identical to the one published in the diary with a rather nasty deviation: Dillinger’s description of the population is much more racist: „Colombo’s population of 112.000 persons is divided into numerous tribes, races and mixed races. Besides the Europeans there are: Sinhalese, Parses, Jews, Muslims, Malays, Tamils, Kaffirs, as well as degenerate descendants of the Portuguese and mixed-bloods of English and Dutch with local women. All these are divided again by creed: the Sinhalese are Buddhists, the Tamils Brahmins and the mixed-bloods usually Catholics. A large number of Protestant creeds, especially Weysleyians, are present, even the Salvation Army has adherents and missionaries.“
Colombo Harbor, Ceylon (Dillingers Illustrierte Reisezeitung, no. 2, 10. Januar 1893, p.3)

Colombo Harbor, Ceylon (source: Dillingers Illustrierte Reisezeitung, no. 2, 10. Januar 1893, p.3)

  • The k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is repeating the opera „Die Rantzau“; the k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater offers a comedy „Der Unterstaatssekretär“ by Adolf Milbrandt as replacement for the the third part of Grillparzer’s trilogy „Das goldene Vließ – Medea“ because of the indisposition of a Mr Kraftel.

Kalawewa, 9 January 1893

This day was dedicated to ornithology. We started in the morning to disperse us in all directions in order to bag as many different bird species for my collection as possible.

I patrolled along the dams and bagged specimen of different cuckoos among them Zanclostomus viridirostris plus two species of bee-eaters (Merops philippinus and viridis), a majestic, intensively colored yellow black oriole (Oriolus melanocephalus), a charming red-breasted minvet (Pericrocotus peregrinus), a grass-greene Jerdon’s Leafbird (Chloropsis jerdoni), a starling species (Acridotheres melanosternus), bulbuls (Molpastes haemorrhous), zebra finches (Uroloncha punctata and striata), a marvelous blue sunbird (Arachnechthra lotenia), a tiny spotted dove (Turtur suratensis), a beautiful brown-white Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus) as well as an interesting darter (Plotus melanogaster).

Blue-winged Leafbird (C. cochinchinensis). Photo by J.M.Garg/Wikicommons

Blue-winged Leafbird (C. cochinchinensis). Photo by J.M.Garg/sWikicommons

In a dense group of trees in the pond I saw to my great pleasure for the first time a group of monkeys which moved with phenomenal speed from branch to branch and executed huge jumps through the air to reach the next tree. A shot fired at great distance served only to disperse the group from view.

From the dams I drove to various smaller ponds which were full of game. I could identify snakebirds, large and small silver and purple herons, water rails, kingfishers, Indian masked lapwings and multiple darters. I also observed the beautiful lesser whistling duck (Dendrocygna javanica). Everywhere there were semi-feral buffaloes in the water which dispersed and fled as soon as a shot was fired. In one small pond, as soon as I approached, hundreds of common snipes soared up into the air.

Wurmbrand and I waded for a long time during which I managed to bag a 2 m long snake. Towards noon we were resting under a shady tree and soon all members of the hunting party assembled there, all with interesting catches.

After a reviving two-hour rest a native informed us that he knew about a pond close by with crocodiles. The Sinhalese, however, seemed to be related to some of our Alpine folks in terms of estimating distances and time as at a rapid march we had to walk more than 6 km and cross two fords to get there. We were compensated with the sight of two large crocodiles that were sunning themselves at the edge of the pond which we had finally reached. I tried to sneak up on them but the timid animals slid into the water and disappeared for good.

How forceful crocodiles are is demonstrated by a fight that happened recently between one of these animals and a grown buffalo close to Kalawewa and had ended with a victory of the crocodile which had dragged its enemy – biting into its head – under water.

Various natives brought us opened coconuts whose milk I tried but contrary to expectations found very bland and sweet.

I then killed some darters, a beautiful black drongo (Dicrurus ater) and finally returned to our bungalow where I soon slipped under my mosquito net.


  • Location: Kalawewa, Ceylon
  • ANNO – on 09.01.1893 in Austria’s newspapers. The Neue Freie Presse informs that the Emperor had a family dinner yesterday evening with Archduke Ludwig Victor. Vienna is still suffering from the icy cold: Minus 8° C. Trains are having difficulties to reach their destinations and the passengers have great trouble entering and exiting the train due to the large masses of snow on the platforms. The Viennese singers, 7000 throats strong and organized in 150 clubs, have constituted themselves as the Wiener Sängerhausverein.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is playing Weber’s „Freischütz“ as a replacement for „Don Juan“ due to the indisposition of a Ms. Schläger; the k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater offers the first part of Grillparzer’s trilogy „Das goldene Vließ“.

Kalawewa, 8 January 1893

In great excitement, the preparations for the elephant hunt were undertaken, the various rifles tested and also an elephant skull sawn in two to show the spot that kills an elephant without fail and the projects for a successful hunt were extensively studied.

I had just tried a shot with the eight-bore-rifle and having returned to the bungalow, stood on the veranda with the gentlemen when one of the English gentlemen handled one of the large caliber guns without care. The gun went off amidst us. The projectile plunged through the ceiling so that one could see through the light from the blue sky. We fortunately escaped with only a rain of small brick pieces.

Finally after long discussions, we were ready to go and our expedition consisting of Captain Pirie who assumed the lead in our elephant hunt, multiple native hunters called shikaris, departed in a boat across the pond. Mr. Murray, Wurmbrand and Kinsky followed at a certain distance as spectators.

The sun was burning hot on the surface of the lake on whose edge trees sat snakebirds, large and small cormorants, various herons as well as beautiful kingfishers. They let our boat approach them closely without interference. After we had crossed the pond, we debarked out into the jungle and soon found the mighty tracks of the elephants. The animals had sought the watering hole during the night and had then returned into the boundless thicket. Two shikaris, an old guy and a younger man, were sent out and soon returned with the message that the elephants were in the thickest jungle but one could seek them out there. With a prayer to Saint Hubertus we entered the jungle, first the shikaris then I, Pirie and at the end another shikari who carried a spare rifle.

Someone who has never entered such an elephant jungle will be unable to understand the thickness of thorns as well as the difficulty of moving in it as one can advance only in a crouching position or on all fours. I might compare such a jungle with our thickest areas in the Danube wetlands with the notable difference that in the tropical heat, the mosquitoes and the terrible thorns made the situation much harder. At any moment thorns and bushes held back the cap or dress, with bloody hands and face, with torn clothes, scratched and excited one emerged finally into the open space again.

Assiduously we crawled on until half an hour later we heard a tiny cracking of twigs made by eating elephants. Although I am normally not prone to hunting fever, I must admit that I was gripped by it when listening out for the elephants and stalking them.

Like Red Indians we sneaked forward in a row towards where we had heard noises when suddenly a shikari crouched and gestured toward a bush. I could not see anything clearly but only heard the loud noise which I first assumed was made by the grinding of the elephant teeth but later learned that it was made by the flapping of the elephant ears. The wind was not from a favourable direction and thus we had to stalk them from another direction as these colossal animals neither possess good eyes nor good hearing but are excellent in catching a scent. We approached to about 25 yards from the elephants. I saw through the thick bushes only a huge mass laying on the ground which looked like a termite mound or a haystack but could not, despite all efforts,  for the longest time not distinguish the form of an elephant.

Finally, there was some commotion among the bulky animals so that I could see a huge black elephant with his back towards me whose legs were pushed to all sides. From time to time its trunk aptly caught a few leaves while its ears fought against the mosquitoes. In a similar posture was an even bigger elephant, apparently a happy mother as at her feet a kid was sleeping while in the background a half grown elephant was standing. An image of the truest peace of these quiet beasts in the deepest jungle.

I hoped to sneak closer upon them but it seems the wind had already changed as the black elephant stood up, turned in our direction and then fled into the thicket. All his companions then also stood up and tried to escape. Although all hunters had told me only to shoot at a distance of 6 to 8 m and only to target the place between the eye and the ear or the grove above the trunk, I decided to try my luck with a shot at the middle of the head of one of the animals. After the smoke had cleared, we went to the location and found blood tracks but unfortunately no elephant. We unsuccessfully pursued the tracks for some time. Captain Pirie believed that the distance of 20 m had been to great and the bullet was unlikely to have pierced the inch-thick elephant hide. In a pretty bad mood I worked my way back out of the jungle to the gentlemen who had stayed behind.

It is astonishing how little noise an animal the size of an elephant is making. Even a whole herd of these colossal animals in the thicket sneaks about like foxes and only very close by does one hear the snapping noise of breaking branches.

Finally at 4 o’clock in the afternoon we traced some elephants again which was confirmed by two of our shikaris who had been sent out earlier.

Again I started sneaking up but unfortunately I let myself be diverted from the one I originally intended. Thus I approached up to 10 m of a unworried browsing elephant standing in thick bushes together with a comrade but unfortunately from the backside of the elephant so I couldn’t shoot. At that moment, one of the shikaris must have stepped on a twig as the elephant became uneasy, turned and tried to escape. Now I could see his head and fired into the light – with a dull crash the monster fell. Quickly two further shots rang out by my companions so that due to the thick smoke on the ground I could distinguish nothing. Suddenly did out of the smoke and above our own heads appear an elephant’s head. The elephant charged towards us and seemed to have identified us as targets. Quickly we jump to the side while, stomping on trees and bushes, the large herd runs by – for all of us, a very exciting and thrilling moment. As Pirie assured me healthy elephants rarely pursue humans as this was the case here. If we had not retreated into the bushes, the elephant would have crushed us as the distance between the angry animal and us was less than two meters.

While this scene was taking place, the elephant that had stumbled rose again and escaped. Following the copious blood tracks Pirie and I pursued it for more than an hour paying no attention to the branches and thorns until we had to stop due to our exhaustion from the hunt and because it started getting dark and we feared of forcing the very sick elephant to disappear entirely.

Returning tot he bungalow not exactly with the sunniest disposition I bagged some sandpipers, red-wattled lapwings (Lobivanellus indicus) and kingfishers close by that had ventured out along the pond. The evening saw us reunited for supper where everybody told his day’s events as best as he could. The other gentlemen had hunted various small game in the vicinity and brought back monkeys, striped squirrels and various birds home, giving Hodek plenty of work to do.


  • Location: Kalawewa, Ceylon
  • ANNO – on 08.01.1893 in Austria’s newspapers. The Neue Freie Presse uses the slow news day to comment about the construction project going on at the Hofburg in Vienna and give an update about the Bosnia.
  • The Wiener Salonblatt which had promised to publish a weekly update about Franz Ferdinand’s journey fails to do so in its second number of the year. Its pages are filled with aristocratic wedding announcements and reports instead.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is playing Shakespeare’s „Romeo und Julie“ (today usually translated as „Romeo und Julia“, they are Italian not French); the k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater offers Emilia Galotti in the afternoon and the comedy „Die Biedermänner“ in the evening.

Kandy to Kalawewa, 7 January 1893

In the morning at 6 o’clock we started on the hunting expedition into the interior of the island of an expected duration of five days, 108 km north from Kandy to the ponds and jungle of Kalawewa.

Up to Matale we took a special train to Mahaiyawa Station through smiling valleys an high mountain peaks covered in light mist while deeper down thaw was glittering on the leaves and flowers. The day was glorious and cool.

We reached Matale in a bit less than three quarters of an hour and mounted high wagons there, after the baggage, the guns, the photographic apparatus and Hodek’s sorcerer’s toolbox stuff were loaded.

The road led through the most beautiful palm and banana groves in which there were plenty of Sinhalese settlements whose inhabitants were lining the road with curious eyes. Colorful birds and majestic butterflies flew past among which was a Papilio iophon  of carmine red with white-black wings and a intensive black-yellow Ornithoptera darsius which caught my special attention given my particular professional interest to its color choice. The bearer of our colors we renamed into “Lepidopteron austriacum”. We also observed the white and orange colored Hebomoia glaucippe which followed our wagon for a long time, as well as the white black Hestia iasonia, multiple small lemon yellow Terias, also the glorious white black and light-blue speckled Papilio parinda and in the jungle swarms of Chilasa clytioides. The first parrots we saw were greeted by our wild cries.

After about 30 km the scenery and vegetation change. High tall deciduous trees mixed with impenetrable bushes and mighty Euphorbias replace palm trees. The wildlife also changes and becomes more numerous. We observed a cuckoo bird named Indian jungle crow, multiple heron species, noticeably many bee-eaters, striped squirrels and a mongoose.

Every 19 to 20 km government built small, one floor rest stop houses provide accommodation for the travelers, food and sometimes also horses along the excellent road cutting through the park-like landscape. We changed our horse teams regularly at these stops. These horse teams were sometimes 17 hands tall Australians, sometimes small Indian double ponies or military horses. Everything went according to plan and we drove extraordinarily quickly.

Towards 11 o’clock in the morning, we had travelled for 45 km to have a breakfast rest on the cone-shaped rock Dambulla after a visit to its famous Buddha temple. At the foot of the rock we were received by the most respected local nobleman escorted by his spear-armed lifeguard. As the ascent to the temple is rather long and steep, we were carried on small seats mounted on poles by teams of eight Sinhalese. The poor devils were sweating and breathing mightily but in the tropical heat my egoism has to surpass my compassion, so I staggered comfortably up to the entrance of the temple which is remarkable both due to its age and construction style.

Five important caves with very small entrances have been hacked by humans into the rock and serve as a temple for Buddha. His image and scenes from his life are depicted in countless variations. At the entrance to this temple caves one can see on the opposite side under a canopy a statue of Buddha which shows him as an example of tranquility partly standing as an instructing god partly sitting with his hands folded in his lap. The face of god which expresses nothing less than intelligence as well as his extremities are in all images covered in flashy yellow color while his dress is playfully colored. In a third posture, namely lying, Buddha is present five times in the temple caves of Dambulla. These statues are hewn out of the rock, each 20 m long and 3 m high and resemble more whales than an image of a god. Around these representations are pedestals with a number of sitting Buddhas of larger-than-life size partly made out of stone, partly made out of burned clay.

The walls and the ceiling of the caves are often covered in highly imaginative paintings which most of the times treat the life of Buddha and give the impression of a large hanging rug due to their thoughtful arrangement and disposition. Apart a few statues of Buddha we saw in the temples also those of the Indian king Räma, the legendary conqueror of Ceylon.

A mythical darkness reigns in these six-hundred-year-old rooms as only a few beautiful bronze lamps decorated with giant peacocks emit a bit of light while the scent of white flowers, temple flowers which amply grow outside the temple, are overpowering the senses.

A number of bonzes told us – naturally in Sinhalese language – apparently highly interesting things of which we understood nothing which ended with a very comprehensible demand for baksheesh.

The charming governor who cared so much about our well-being had had a tiny house built out of bamboo sticks and palm leaves on the height of the rock near a small pond. There we found a dining room with kitchen as well as a luxuriously equipped cabin for each of us to rest at noon. We blessed Sir Arthur E. Havelock in thought, as that comfortable place nor only allowed us ample refreshment and quiet rest but also an almost fairy-like panorama of that part of the island. Deep down below us was the wide green sea of palm and deciduous trees out of which one could detect a small lake or a Sinhalese settlement and, island-like, mountain peaks in blue hue. Also the famous and notorious Sigiri mountain on which the kings of yore had built important fortresses with stone galleries that could be viewed with a spyglass.

For long we could not force us to separate us from this enchanting panorama but as another 37 km were still to be covered we had to enter into the wagon again.

The heat had diminished and quickly we drove along the road. The only interruption was caused by two Sinhalese high priests who offered with many bows a long piece of writing which asked for a contribution for the restoration of a Buddha temple as one of the men in the party translated. Perhaps one head of the Buddha is now receiving an even more beautiful canary yellow coating thanks to my small contribution.

The sun was just setting when the thick tropical forest opened up in front of us.

A cry of amazement escaped from our lips after we had reached the top of the high dam in front of us which offered a completely new picture. On the one side the enormous water basin of Kalawewa, a pond in glittering blue in which hundreds of dead large trees pushed their branches to the sky – the golden red light of the sun rays relay turns this landscape into one of Dore’s fantastic landscapes. On the other side of the dam is the endless jungle with its closed canopy and the grotesque forms of the mountain peaks in the distance.

The dam on which we moved – built by king Dhatu Sena during the 5th century AD, incredibly without any technical assistance but only with the use of human labor – had a length of 9.6 km, a height of 20 m, a width of 7 m and dams the water of two rivers so that a pond is formed as a reservoir which covers a circumference of 64 km. The goal of this great land improvement work is the irrigation of numerous rice fields in the surrounding areas while a large bifurcating canal with locks supplies water to the 83 km distant Anuradhapura as well as over 100 village ponds on its way.

With time, the giant stone and earth dam had become loose and the dam broke and the whole surrounding area was flooded. Everywhere the fever, nourished by the miasma, ravaged the population so much that the survivors decided to emigrate. After the canal leading to Anuradhapura had been repaired some kilometers from that place by governor Sir William Gregory (1871-1877) did the British government order the whole canal repaired during the years from 1884 to 1887 and also to repair the dam which also restored the pond. The government intends to urge Sinhalese from the northern provinces to settle in this area offering the settlers free land, a measure only partially successful as people still fear the fever. The fear of the fever is grounded in reality as we could personally witness seeing many locals deeply marked by treacherous disease.

The accumulated water due to the restitution of the dam has made large tracts productive but flooded and killed the large trees at the edge which formerly had stood on firm ground.

We had reached our destination and found our home for the next days, the hunting camp, ready. Up on the dam crest, next to a small engineer house small bungalows out of bamboo and palm leaves had been built which made a comfortable and friendly impression. First were the small rooms for me and the men of my entourage, then a large dining room, the kitchens and, a bit lower down, a barn for about thirty horses.

For a long time we sat in front of our bungalows on this beautiful evening and enjoyed the myriads of fireflies swarming around the tree branches.


  • Location: Kalawewa, Ceylon
  • ANNO – on 07.01.1893 in Austria’s newspapers. The Swiss government informs that it denies the rumors circulating in the press that it will replace its ambassador to Austria, Mr Aepli. Amidst the turmoils of the Panama scandals in France, it is unclear whether the former minister Charles Baïhaut has been arrested, as Le Figaro says, or not.
  • The Neue Freie Presse informs its readers about Franz Ferdinand’s journey with an update about his time in Aden and informs about his sightseeing trip to the city.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is playing Adolf von Wilbrandt’s  „Der Meister von Palmyra“; the k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater again combines an opera and a ballet: Pietro Mascagni’s Die Rantzau and the ballet the „Four Seasons“.

Colombo — Kandy, 6 January 1893

There is an old tale that Ceylon had once been the location of paradise where Adam and Eve had lived prior to the fall of mankind. If that is true, our ancestors had enjoyed a truly heavenly place. Those who have seen Ceylon will understand the size of the damage caused by the frivolous game with the apple. This island, embellished by the incredible attractions and wonders of the tropical nature, inexhaustible in its delightful imagery, blessed with an exhaustive creative force, lost for all mankind for the sake of a single apple! The richness in vegetation taunts all possible description, not a single spot resembles another one. At every step, every drive, I might say, at every turn of the way the images changed. Now there are palm groves, then giant bushes covered in lianas and orchids, then cactus-like Euphorbias with magnolia-like totally straight branches that captivated us. In between are flowers of the most colorful kind such as the purple red Gloriosa superba and a sky-blue Ranunculacee. Scintillating butterflies fly from flower to flower. Striped squirrels (Sciurus palmarum) run up and down the trunks, the most colorful birds, parrots, bulbuls, kingfishers, herons and bee-eaters cross the sky.

For today, a trip to Kandy, the old capital of the kings of Ceylon and the favourite spot of the present governor, was planned. The city of 20.252 inhabitants is 119 km distant from Colombo. At 9 o’clock, I went on land and through the guard of honor to the railway station of the fort where another honor guard was waiting. Most lovely to look at was a tame antelope with gilded horns – black buck of the English – that was a mascot of the music band.

The governor and his entourage and we mounted the wagons oft he Kandy railway which are very suitably and airily built and operated for the climate. Sinhalese act as railguards while the conductors and civil servants are Europeans. In spite of the large costs of the enterprise it is highly profitable thanks to the tea exports and the native predilection for train trips.

The railway tracks led first through thick banana and palm groves which alternated with extended rice plantations. The rice harvest which occurs twice per year had been completed shortly prior to our arrival and so the heavily watered and terraced fields were most fresh and of young green color. Everywhere there were buffalos standing up to their head in the water, surrounded by cowboys who looked almost snow-white from the distance. At Rambukkana station, the railway starts to enter mountain territory and the panorama changes. Ever steeper and steeper the railway tracks snake upwards. Tunnels and overhanging stone galleries follow, everywhere there are sources, brooks, rivers which descend in the fastest path towards the plain and greatly enliven the scenery. The eye is feasting on the blue mountain peaks and the deep-cut jungle valleys – it is, I might say, a Semmering-Bahn transposed into a tropical world. A high black rock cone standing tall beside the track has gained sad notoriety as a Tarpeian rock during the time of the kings of Ceylon of the Mahawani family, as these rulers pushed inconvenient prisoners down into the abyss to their death. Close to Kadugannawa station is a monument to Captain Dawson paying tribute to his construction of the first stage of the railway.

In front of Kandy, the rice fields are displaced by tea and cacao plantations which offer a pleasant impression with their deep green leaves.

At the station at Kandy we were festively received. A honor guard of native volunteers presented arms while a newly organized mounted guard of native noblemen rode on excellent ponies in front of our government carriage and behind it. All Kandy was outside. Thousands of Sinhalese and many Europeans stood at the roadside or on the verandas to greet us and welcome us most friendly.

Kandy is very picturesque situated in a greenish smiling valley and distinguishes itself through its clean houses and mild climate.

Near the ruins of the old royal palace, gigantic, strongly anchored walls with imaginative crenelations, was installed a towerlike triumphal arch built out of bamboo and palm leaves. On the other side of it was the fairylike garden of Government House or Pavillon. Bamboo and rubber trees of unimaginable height, covered in blooming lianas, form an alley that leads to the Government House. It is built in tropical style with wide stairs and large airy halls and offers a very pleasant stay.

I first paid my compliments to Lady Havelock and was then presented by the governor to a numerous delegation of native noblemen, the old hereditary nobility of Ceylon, where the following protocol was observed: I stood in the middle of the large hall while the individual members of the delegation came up singly, bowed deeply, the vice governor declaiming their names which were particularly long.

The costumes of these dignified, long-bearded men are most imaginative: On the head they wear a four or six-pointed flat red hat on which is fixated an agraffe with a jewel. The upper body is covered by a small jacket wrought in gold. On the breast hang different amulets and badges on golden chains which are often heavily trimmed with diamonds. Among the jewelry, I especially noted a flying eagle decorated with rubies and emeralds which is said to have been owned by a minister of the last king. In broad belts are knives with richly ornamented blades. The strangest part of their attire, however, was the way they cover their lower extremities. Firstly these are covered with white narrow trousers that reach down to the ankles, around which are wrapped 54 m of muslin – a task which requires more than two hours. This somewhat strange costume turns their wearers into comically walking pears.

After the parade we rested. At the start of the cool evening we paid a visit to Buddha’s tooth, the largest sacred site of the Buddhists. With ear-shattering tam-tam noises and drum music we were received by temple guards and high priests at the foot of the temple and led inside by a number of small stairs. In the entrance hall, numerous priests, all with heads clean shaved and clad in yellow Sarongs, were smilingly bowing standing at attention. After a few rooms with images from the life of Buddha I was in a square dark Sanctuarium lit only by a few lamps in which the musty smell of decomposing cut flowers, present in great number, flowed towards me. The high priest mumbled a few prayers and then showed me the tooth which lies in a large golden rose. The god Buddha must have had giant dentures because the tooth measures 5 cm in length and 25 cm in width. It has a dark chestnut brown color and is said to be made out of ivory smuggled in by clever priests after the original tooth had been burned by the Portuguese. Many pilgrims and processions arrive here to this sanctuary annually. The tooth is encased in six or seven tower-like covers made out of massive gold and decorated with gemstones, true masterworks. The whole is kept in a barred cage that contains also another object of value, a 12 cm high statue of Buddha made out of a single pure emerald stone.

We saw here also a second relic with many especially crystalline Buddhas as well as the temple library which keeps old Sinhalese writings etched into palm leaves. Then we drove to the 6 km distant majestic botanical garden of Peradeniya which exceeds everyone’s wildest expectations by its variety of plants and trees as well as its tasteful composition into groups. The tropical climate that supports the gardener’s art is capable of achieving nearly fairy-like outcomes. Peradeniya is said to be the most beautiful botanical garden in the world. That it is unmatched I can firmly believe. The chief gardener tasked me with planting a tree to commemorate my visit, as did the Prince of Wales and the Tsesarevich. The tree planted by the first has already reached a sizeable height. The orchid collection of the park is housed indoors with straw mats replacing glass windows to safeguard the plants from the intense sun rays.

Lady Havelock which we encountered in that part of the garden with her daughter invited us to a cup of tea in the garden pavilion.

At 8 o’clock there was a grand parade dinner in Government House in Kandy which was attended by numerous dignitaries and multiple ladies. Giant Indians with long spears were set up in the staircase as a guard of honor. The table in black and yellow was richly decorated with flowers. For the delicious meal, musically accompanied by the band of the 6th regiment that played lovely melodies, I sat between Lady Havelock and the German wife of our consul general Schnell, who was born in Calcutta. At the end of the dinner the governor declared a toast to the queen’s health, to that of our emperor and to mine, accompanied to the people’s hymn.

After the conclusion of the dinner, a religious procession called the Perahera procession, which is performed but once a year and which is attended by all the nobles of the land from the most distant places with their attendants and their elephants to create the largest pomp possible, started in the large forum in front of the Buddha temple. The glittering procession of the dignitaries, the nobles and the men, the majestic elephants, the gaudy play of the colors, the glittering and sparkling gold and gems, the activities of the crowd, the performance of fantastic dances, the magic scenery – all covered in a clear light of torches, turned it into a Arabian Nights fairy tale. The procession moved with a deafening sound of the drums past the Buddha temple on whose dais all guests of the governor and the members of the English colony had taken their seats.

At the front of the parade marched a beautifully ornamented giant elephant that carried a representation of the golden hull of Buddha’s tooth on a rich silk blanket. The giant was escorted by two smaller elephants, then about a hundred Sinhalese with colors and torches came. Then, surrounded by dancers moving in grotesque jumps, followed the nobles of the land in their dress sparkling with diamonds. In the procession of at least 800 to 1000 m length were assembled forty elephants ornamented in the most diverse of trappings. All houses up to the roofs and the whole large forum were filled with the mass of the united country folk which set up a captivating strange background in their red and white Sarongs and the disquieting changing illumination. Twice the procession passed by us. Then we returned home to the governor’s pavilion, enriched by the interesting day’s events.

Huts in Colombo, Ceylon

Huts in Colombo, Ceylon


  • Location: Kandy, Ceylon
  • ANNO – on 06.01.1893 in Austria’s newspapers. The Panama scandal in France is always a good topic to fill the pages, apart from the snow storm that is.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is playing „Krisen“ – a character study by Eduard von Bauernfeld; the k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater presents a French opera „Der Prophet“.

Colombo, 5 January 1893

When I arrived a little too late on deck, Ceylon lay already only a few miles in front of us, so that we could clearly distinguish the palm tree woods at the coast on this beautiful morning. Clam, who had been up on deck since dawn, said to me that Adam’s Peak too had been a spectacular sight when it became visible between the suddenly parting clouds. I could unfortunately not partake in this view as, in the mean time, shrouds of mist covered the horizon again.

Numerous boats with Sinhalese approached us shouting “Hossani” and encircled our ship  while it entered the harbor. These boats are of the most adventurous form. For the primitive requirements of the Sinhalese boatmen a hollowed out tree trunk is sufficient, a sort of canoe on whose side is fixed a strong post with poles in order to keep the balance. If they use a sail, one of the boatmen shifts to the post to handle it from there. It is beyond belief how many persons can be carried on such a vehicle and how skilfully the Sinhalese manage to operate it. For short distances, they only use four linked posts which are set in motion by a board-type rudder. As totally similar boats are used in the South Sea islands, it is believed that this supports the conclusion that the Sinhalese are descended from the South Sea islands.

Colombo, the capital and the most important harbor of Ceylon has seen an extraordinary development since the British have occupied this island (1802) so favored by climate, vegetation and commercial location.

This can be measured by the current production, culture and trade relations of the island of Ceylon, once called by the old Taprobane and Singhala by the Indians. The island has a surface of 63.976 km2 and according to the census of 1891 3,008.466 inhabitants. The English blue books list the exports of Ceylon in the year 1891 as 51,449.772 fl. in Austrian currency the imports as 58,305.960 fl. in Austrian currency. The ship traffic in Ceylon’s harbors (Colombo, Point de Galle, Trincomali etc.) amounts to 5,696.940 t during the same year.

In the harbor of Colombo lay many large postal and passenger steamboats, multiple transport ships, one English gunboat and a Russian vehicle. As soon as we had anchored, we were greeted by the usual territorial salute which was answered by the land battery.

Then came our consul general in Bombay, Mr Stockinger, on board to join me for the duration of the journey in Ceylon and India and to present me with a large program organized by the governor of Ceylon. Shortly afterwards, governor Arthur E. Havelock presented himself, together with an adjutant. This highly educated man, having invited me to visit Ceylon and especially to an elephant hunt, knew many interesting facts about this majestic island and namely about Kandy to which he added reminiscences of his prior posting in Natal in a most attractive manner.

Shortly afterwards arrived Kinsky too who had been sent on a reconnaissance mission to India to prepare the journey across that country. Kinsky came directly from Calcutta and had suffered from bad weather during the whole passage to Colombo so that he arrived later than expected. He would from now on be, like Stockinger, part of our travel expedition.

To return the official visit of the governor I went on land where I was met at the landing bridge by the governor, the dignitaries of Colombo as well as a number of representatives of the native community. There was also a splendid looking honor guard of the 6th English infantry regiment present with beautiful tall people in fitting white tropical uniforms.

After I had inspected the honor guard, the governor presented me a number of native notables, then military dignitaries, churchmen, judges and other civil servants. Communication was restricted to silent hand gestures as I did not have sufficient command of English for a full conversation.

Through a sort of porta triumphalis made out of palm leaves, coconuts, pineapples, blooming flowers etc. with an inscription welcoming me we arrived at a four-horse governmental carriage which was escorted by a guard mounted on Australian horses. With their beautiful uniforms, the long lances and the colorful turbans, these choice soldiers looked very martial.

Behind the troops in line stood end to end, closely packed, a huge crowd – Englishmen, Sinhalese, Indians, Afghans, Malays wildly mixed together – greeted me with waving kerchiefs and inarticulate sounds. Especially my green wavy plume of feathers proved to be the object of curiosity for the Sinhalese youth as the boys of Colombo shouted, pointed and gesticulated at it with their fingers without interruption.

The guard of honor was ordered first by the regular military forces, namely infantry and artillery, then native artillery. The whole road was festively decorated.

After we had passed three more triumphal arches we finally arrived step by step at Queen’s House, the government building in which the governor does not reside as he spends all the time of the year at Kandy. This airy building, suitably adapted to life in the tropics, is reserved for festivities. A small ethnographic collection and delightful fresh flowers graced the reception room and the veranda from which we looked out into the garden which offered a glimpse of the wonder of the tropical vegetation we were bound to see during the following days. There stood a huge Ficus religiosa, yonder coconut and fan palms had put down their roots. Juicy green banana trees stretched their broad leaves into the air, Tamarix presented themselves covered in lianas, and everywhere gleamed the most beautiful and colourful flowers and blooms amidst which flew glittering bulbuls and frail butterflies.

In Queen’s House, I made the acquaintance of my newly recruited Indian servants, dark colored persons with long beards in a beautiful livery shot through with gold and covered with monograms. They were to accompany me during my whole time in India.

After we had changed our clothes, Sir Arthur E. Havelock had us served delicious refreshments, among them pineapple and mango fruits. We then made a sightseeing tour of the city with his adjutant Captain Pirie starting with the museum lying at one end of the city.

The most varied, interesting and strange impressions overwhelm the newly arrived on this journey. I didn’t know where to look, where to keep and where to stop looking. In the beginning I felt rather apprehensive and overwhelmed. Only with time, I managed to collect myself to observe and appreciate. Amidst the most luxurious tropical flora, the most beautiful and highest trees stood houses, bungalows, of the Europeans and the airily built huts of the Sinhalese. The Europeans living here, mostly Englishmen, most often civil servants and also some merchants, improve the surrounding of their houses with small gardens, an endeavour nature assists most willingly in this glorious climate.

The huts of the Sinhalese are poor. The people themselves are of a frail stature, also, it is said that they are not very industrious but of good nature. It gives the impression of big children living thoughtlessly from day to day. The clothes of the Sinhalese consist of the Sarong for the men, a large piece of red or white cloth which they wear around their waist while head, body and feet remain mostly naked. The women use beside the named Sarong a white cover or a picturesquely arranged cloth which they tighten as soon as a European is approaching. Children use as their only garment a small silver chain with a tiny heart or other amulet.

The facial expression of the Sinhalese is not nice; during my stay I could not discover a single pretty face among the women. The Sinhalese marry very early at the age of 12 to 14 years, are monogamous and are blessed with many children. The children are carried up to their fifth or sixth year by the mother, and namely by a peculiar manner in that they sit on the mother’s hip bone or more precisely, ride on it.

In front of the museum is a bronze statue of its creator, Sir W. Gregory who was governor of Ceylon from 1871 to 1877.

The ground floor rooms of the museum contain a rich ethnographic collection from all parts of the island of Ceylon, delicately crafted jewelry in gold and silver, different sets of weapons and knives, a large collection of grotesque masks that the natives use in their devil’s dances. In one of the display cabinets are healing masks with hideously distorted faces which, as a guide explained to me, are placed on the sufferer’s face to chase away the evil spirits and thus heal the patient. Depending on the type of illness, different masks are used. Particularly horrible is the grotesque mask against toothache which leaves no doubt about the artist’s intention to chase away the demon causing the pain. Whether he was successful, I could not obtain certainty about, otherwise I would have convinced a Ceylon dentist to practice his painless dentistry in Vienna to the benefit of suffering mankind, in spite of laughing gas and dental fillings. Also the numerous ship and boat models caught my attention as well as the rich clothes and the products of the Sinhalese local industry.

In the rooms of the ground floor one finds stone inscriptions on the walls whose origin is dated to the third century BC, colossal lions cut from stone, one of whom originating from Polonnaruwa is said to have served as a royal throne. Skillfully chiseled portal beams and other fragments of the temple of Anuradhapura and more.

Of particular interest were two models of which one represented a man the other a woman of the Vedda tribe which lives in the deepest jungle of Northern Ceylon, part of the original native population before the Sinhalese immigration and on the way to extinction. Also there are primitive weapons and other objects used by the natives. The savages themselves can almost never be observed. In an almost sick dread against all kinds of observation they know how to avoid to meet foreigners even for trade occasions on which they from time to time depend upon. Thus the natives deposit their trade objects – wild game – during the night at certain places in the woods which the Sinhalese recover by day and place their own trade objects of iron, cloth etc. there.

The first floor of the museum contains the zoological collection which consists solely of specimen from the fauna of Ceylon. Among the native species of birds I found so many animals that are common in Europe too. Especially numerous and in the most peculiar and colorful varieties are the genera of pigeons, kingfishers and water foil in general. Among the mammals, two genera of panthers as well as two different snake-eating types of mongoose with a strong resemblance to Ichneumon attracted my attention. A rich collection of butterflies forces even the layman to admire it.

After the museum visit we continued our trip through the most beautiful parts of the European city and the native quarters to the quay bridge. Streets according to our common understanding with closely arranged rows of houses exist in Colombo only straight at the edge of the sea and even then in limited numbers. In return, the city of 126,926 inhabitants ranges out park-like for many miles into the countryside.

The houses in the streets at the beach serve as shops and bazaars on the ground floor in which work and trade Sinhalese, Afghans and Muslims immigrated from India. The last group are easily recognized by their pudding-formed head covers made out of straw and are notable for their intelligence. They have managed to attract most of the trade business.

The Portuguese rule of Ceylon (1505 to 1656) lives on in many family names of the Sinhalese whereas the so called Burghers, mixed blood of Dutch and natives, are a reminder about the time of the Dutch occupation of the island (1656 to 1802). This is visible at a glance as the Burghers, while otherwise clad in oriental style, invariably wear a cap that resembles those worn by Dutch peasants. The only occupation of the Afghans is as knife grinders. The Tamils, people from Madras, perform the heavy lifting duties. All life is acted out on the street and like a kaleidoscope the turmoil and throng of the people is passing us by.

At noon, having returned on board, I received the members of the Austro-Hungarian colony, completed the letters to be sent home and went back on land again to do some shopping together with consul general Stockinger.

Towards evening a giant coach with four Australian horses, guided by Captain Pirie, led us to the 11 km distant Mount Lavinia, a resort the inhabitants of Colombo love to visit to catch the fresh air and sea breeze.

The journey of an hour is very picturesque. First one passes many small ponds, crosses bridges that fly over creeks and brooks and then traverses cacao and cinnamon plantations whose intense aroma discloses their presence from afar. These are encased by impenetrable high hedges of cactus-like Euphorbias, luxuriously blooming ferns, Rhododendrons and bamboo.

The excellent road continues through a never ending palm grove which offers shelter to many small Sinhalese huts. Everywhere are majestic trees, covered in lianas, such as the nutmeg tree, the mangosteen, the durian, the ebony trees (D. ebenum, D. ebenaster, D. melanoxylon), satinwood as well as the Egyptian Doum palm (Hyphaene thebaica), the Dracaena and so on. They offer refreshing shade, not a ray of the sun manages to pierce the canopy.

Close to the city, the houses of the Sinhalese are better built, mostly out of small bricks and boards, with a sharply pointed roof. The more one advances into the interior of the country, the poorer the houses become. Those are made out of clay. The land on which the house stands has to be acquired from the government. The needs of these people are small as only a small number of coconut palms are sufficient for survival so it is not surprising that the natives rely upon the blessing of heaven for their welfare and the majestic climate. A genre painter would find the most splendid subjects among the Sinhalese settlements: The whole family is lingering in front of the hut, a pater familias with a long beard at the top, at the side some old women looking like witches and furies, as well as a few young pretty women, most with a baby at their breast. The whole enclosed by the hopefully growing up youth in sweet communion with numerous dogs and cats in the sand as well as a colorful mixture of tools, pigs, zebus and empty coconuts.

The uncommon view of our coach irritated all the natives we passed; in large groups they stood and starred at us.

Lavinia is a large hotel in the European style, originally the villa of the governor Sir E. Barnes, which, situated on a bare hill, offers a beautiful view of the palm groves, the sea and Colombo in the distance. The temperature is here always a bit lower than in the city and a wonderful beach is inviting a swim. Sitting in front of the hotel, we whiled away the mild evening and enjoyed the view of the sea, the fiery picture of the sunset. The dinner partly French partly English partly Indian was notable by its colossal number and variety of dishes in which a wide range of animal and plant products with the most diverse sauces and aspic made their appearance. In our thirst for knowledge we tasted everything and had to pay bitterly for this the next day, having been used to much simpler fare during the long sea voyage.

The return drive to Colombo in the warm tropical heat was exquisite. The stars were twinkling through the palm groves, megabats flew slowly above our heads, countless brightly luminous fireflies soared like will-o‘-wisps in the canopy. Enchanted but also truly tired from the first day passed in the tropics we sunk quickly into deep sleep in our cabins.


  • Location: Colombo, Ceylon
  • ANNO – on 05.01.1893 in Austria’s newspapers. The snow storm continues to vex Vienna. Most railway lines are negatively affected, especially international connections. Warsaw reports three cholera deaths as well as multiple sick patients.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is playing Georges Ohnet’s Der Hüttenbesitzer (Le maître de forges); the k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater presents a one-act opera Cavalleria Rusticana as well as a ballet Rouge et Noir.