Schlagwort-Archiv: December

Aden, 27 December 1892

When I woke up early in the morning, many activities around SMS Elisabeth was already going on in full force. With infernal yelling, customary to the place, coal was embarked onto the ship. Out of countless canoes circling around our ship, with naked brown or black boys on board, came howling cries for baksheesh. The small Arabs and Somalis, splendid fellows, were diving for the coins we threw as prizes into the sea. The dexterity and stamina of these boys, many of which not yet six years of age, astonished us. How they moved under water only to finally re-emerge with their mouth full of copper coins. Anna upon Anna, a small East-Indian coin of around 5 Kreutzer in value converted at the time, flew from board into the sea and we enjoyed watching that funny activity for a long time.

In the mean time, Jewish merchants and peddlers from the Parsis tribe had climbed on board and offered ostrich feathers, antelope horns, conches, local weavings and many other products so that a brisk trade was established at the gangway. The productivity of the area around Aden is so minimal that only small objects created by a cottage industry or hunting prizes or beach hauls were displayed as indigenous trade goods.

Aden with Perim, Little Aden and the newly acquired territories are part of the Bombay presidency and are governed by a political resident. Aden is in English possession since 1839.

The south oriented peninsula jutting out into the sea carries on its East coast the fortress city of Aden, on the West coast 8 km distant the small harbor city Steamer Point. As the harbor of the actual city, East Bay, offers shelter to ships only during the summer months, all trade has shifted to West Bay, a good roadstead.

Aden’s population including that of Perim but excluding the garrison counts 35,932 souls consists mainly of Arabs and Somali Negroes. The peculiarity of this bustling place brings about that, besides Asian and African people, members from different nations create a colourful mix of people.

What Aden is, has been entirely created by trade. Aden’s exports had a value of 26,067.306 fl. in Austrian currency in 1892, the imports a value of 30,788.033 fl. in Austrian currency. In the year 1892, 1572 ships with 2,582.221 tons entered port and 1573 ships with 2,585.808 t departed port.

The territory of Aden yields only very meagre products due to the tiny amount of rain and the rocky soil that is only partially open for cultivation. Part of the victuals thus have to be imported from more advantaged surrounding regions and from the Somali coast.

Steamer Point harbour is picturesquely encased: In the East rises the mighty, steeply jagged crater of Jebel Shamsan, to the North the high mountains of the Arabian coast are visible whose terraces crash down to the beach. Especially at sunset, when the horizon is glowing red and green, it creates a powerful image so that a visitor might think to look at a vividly painted theatre stage decoration.

At 8 o’clock, the territorial salute of 21 rounds was fired which was answered by the land battery. Then resident general J. Jopp in a scarlet red uniform of a brigadier general came on board and invited me to a luncheon, a dinner and a lion hunt. In consideration of the very limited time allocated to my stay, I had to decline all these offers with thanks. Because General Jopp only speaks English, I had to call the captain for assistance as an interpreter. The Resident, he had spent 36 years in India before he was given the post in Aden, is said to be a great tiger hunter and has personally killed more than 70 tigers, certainly a colossal result as these animals in all probability aren’t as common in India as hares in a field.

After the visitor had bid farewell, I changed out of the uniform adapted for tropical use that I had put on to honour him and went on land to visit Steamer Point and Aden as well as make some purchases.

In the black wagon of the consular agent, driven by a black Somali, we drove first to the military quarters of Steamer Point where barracks stack upon barracks and officer barracks stand row upon row, mostly airy one storey buildings with verandas and flat roofs in red and white, standing on the yellow sand or on naked volcanic stone without any vegetative decoration. Numerous tennis courts as well as cricket and football grounds are tribute to the fact that Englishmen are housed here. The garrison consists of around 2500 men, the artillery is one company strong, the cavalry one squadron; the rest of the troops are infantry – bronze colored Indians tall as trees in their practical and really becoming uniforms.

The non-military part of Steamer Point is situated on a semicircle quay and contains mostly big stores, as well as the consulates and two hotels; large coal depots, storage areas and wharfs are situated next to the quay and continue alongside the road to Aden.

The Jewish element is strongly represented in Steamer Point. As soon as a European sets foot on land he is surrounded by a flock of Semitic moneychangers in original costumes with long sidelocks. They do business very aggressively. Very comical also was a very small boy, around eight years of age, who declaimed the values and rates of many different currencies with ease.

My first visit was to the resident who, together with his very charming wife, occupied a very pleasant ground-level house equipped with all comforts in the middle of the military quarters, with a beautiful view of the sea. In the house, it was refreshingly cool. One could almost forget the tropical heat that ruled outside. The visit could not last long as we had to depart early.

In a small one-horse wagon with a top we drove quickly on the first-rate roads to Aden where a very colourful view presented itself to our eyes. Long caravans moving at a slow pace, heavily burdened camels. Silent Arabs, clad in long burnous, or bawling half-naked Somalis riding on dromedaries or on small donkeys. One wagon after the next came near. One a vehicle of a Parsis who can be identified by his distinct headdress. Another one filled with a full harem of veiled women. Somalis, men and women all to the last person beautiful, like statues cut out of ore, the head most often closely cropped or with but a short bit of curly hair, walked with uncovered heads in the heat of the sun and the dust of the road. Bleating, blocking herds of fat-tailed sheep moved along the road creating whirls of dust. To the right and left sat or circling in the air were visible countless vultures and harriers.

Through a small narrow gate cut into the stone one enters into the fortress zone of Aden which continues in a very smart way the peaks and ridges of the mountains and secures the whole city against any Arab desires of attack. After a few more skilfully built serpentines and two more tunnels we are in Aden, a city laid out as a square grid. Situated in the middle of a crater it offers a desolate view. Hot, clear and bare – that is the signature of the city and that of its enclosure. The sharply dropping rock walls, that are criss-crossed by caves, surround the city and are bereft of any vegetation. They serve as roosts and nesting places for all sorts of birds of prey.

Every stranger first visits the famous ancient cisterns. Large tanks, some cut into the stone, some cemented, hold about 1.5 million hectoliters that collect the water for the city during the heavy rains. A potent and imposing work that featured the only bushes and trees of the whole of Aden. Two handsome bulbuls were jumping around on them. During my visit nearly all of the cisterns were empty. Only from a cavern deeper down did some Arabs draw water which, however, tasted awfully.

The city itself impresses only by its monotone look of commonly built houses. All houses are low and stark white so that one looks like the other. In the way of compensation. There is a large variety of colourful crowds from all countries in the streets. Somali boys with happy and beautiful faces, pitch black eyes and impeccable snow-white teeth were circling around us like a swarm of bees. Eager for baksheesh, the cried and sang, demonstrated wrestling moves and performed their national dances, clapping their hands. When one threw a small coin among these boys, then such an imprudence was punished with a longer blockade of one’s way.

On the way back we passed by the „Towers of Silence“. These burial places of the Parsis are square small buildings on which they place their dead which are then eaten by vultures and eagles. This abhorrent practice offers the sole benefit of a quick disposal as in no time there is nothing left of a body but a few bony remains. A hundred full vultures were sunning themselves at the foot of the towers …

Through another gate that we entered the city we left the fortress and returned to Steamer Point.

Here we passed some hours, negotiating and bargaining, in the different shops, and finally returned on board, taking four Somali boys with us on board to have their photographs taken.

After Ramberg had completed the photography of the black quartet the youngest among them, a barely six year old boy astonished us against a small consideration with the feat of jumping with a header from the height of the bridge into the sea. Many an adult would have considered a jump from such a height too dangerous. Lavishly compensated, smoking cigarettes, the cute guys returned to the land with a miniature canoe.

The remainder of the day was given over to postal matters due to depart the next morning. This activity was interrupted by a curious intermezzo, namely the hoisting onboard of a number of Zebu oxen that did not cooperate in this activity and caused much trouble. One ox even jumped into the sea and could only with difficulty be fished out again.


  • Location: Aden
  • ANNO – on 27.12.1892 in Austria’s newspapers. The Neue Freie Presse notes that the council of ministers has completed the draft of the next year’s agenda. The Hungarian prime minister wil arrive soon in Vienna and report about activities in Hungary. France continues to be stuck in diverse scandals.

Steamer Point, 26 December 1892

During the night we passed the reefs of the dangerous narrows between the islands of Jebel Zuquar and Hanish. Our Arabian pilot demonstrated cat-like eyesight as he could locate even the most distant reef in this dark night without moonshine.

In the morning, the sea is quieter. On the right is the African mainland, on the left is the Arabian coastline on which appear the high jagged mountains of Yemen whose steep cliffs reveal a different type of landscape than the granite mountains on the Northern coast of the Red Sea. A view through the telescope also shows some spare vegetation on the front of Yemen’s mountains. At the shore glister huts and tents, probably occupied by Arab nomads.

After the church service we pass through the straits of Bab-el-Mandeb, the „gate of grief“, a name verified by the silent witnesses of so many wrecks.

The practical English have occupied this important location on the way to India already in 1857, that is even before the Suez Canal was opened. A seemingly strong fort on the rocky island of Perim guards and blocks the passage of the narrowest point of the Red Sea. Both coasts are within cannon range of a passing ship. When we signalled the lighthouse of Perim the name of our ship, we received the common answer at the end of the year: „The compliments of the season!“

A giant turtle of nearly 2 m length surfaced a few paces away from the fore, observed us with its large yellow head for a number of seconds and vanished again in the sea.

Now the African coast disappears more and more while Arabia’s 844 m high rocky Jebel Kharas comes into view.

A large smack of jellyfish is approaching. They glitter and glow in the most beautiful rose red and dark violet colors which makes us stop the machines to pick up some of these sea flowers.

At 8 o’clock in the evening the lighthouse of Steamer Point was blinking and soon we were anchoring in the outer harbour of Aden. A small English patrol boat, the cannon boat „Redbreast“ and three large steamships were moored in the harbor, where just a powerful English transport ship was hoisting its anchor. This colossus let loose its steam whistle and departed quickly towards the East, probably in the direction towards India.

Just after we had dropped the anchor, the consular representative came on board, followed by a couple of merchants who eagerly offered their services in numerous languages.


  • Location: Aden
  • ANNO – on 26.12.1892 in Austria’s newspapers. Due to Christmas Day, few newspapers are published on 26 December. Time for the Wiener Sonn- und Montagszeitung to shine: In Dublin on 25 December, a dynamite bomb killed a British detective, wrecking the detective office. In Paris, the Panama scandal is hotly debated.

At Sea to Steamer Point, 25. December 1892

The South wind became stiffer and stiffer. The huge sea waves made it questionable whether church services could be held. Only our brave chaplain did not let himself be intimidated and read mass on the altar which was surmounted by the standard, despite the fact that all lights went out and the candelabra tumbled down.

In the afternoon the islands of Jebel Teir und Zebayir came into view, naked empty islands without any vegetation. Again some flying fishes crossed our path like silver stars. Of birds, I observed besides the common seagulls multiple flocks of swifts.

The sea grew more and more violent; wave upon wave crashed onto the bridge on which we, completely drenched, stayed during nearly the whole evening and admired the impressive play of waves.


  • Location: Red Sea
  • ANNO – on 25.12.1892 in Austria’s newspapers. On 22 pages, the Wiener Zeitung lists the army promotions separated by rank and branch of service. The Wiener Salonblatt notes that the Emperor is spending Christmas with his son-in-law, Prince Leopold of Bavaria, in Munich while the Empress departed from Palermo, Italy, to her villa Achilleïon on Corfu.
  • It also informs its readers about the progress of Franz Ferdinand’s journey as well as fellow passenger Archduke Leopold Ferdinand (who will be recalled shortly after Franz Ferdinand’s plea to the Emperor to do so). The Salonblatt states that they arrived in Port Said on 20 December and departed the following day to Colombo (Ceylon) . It pledges to provide a weekly update about the journey.

At Sea to Steamer Point, 24 December 1892

Christmas Day, the day whose purpose seems to consist solely of an evening, with a Christmas tree at the center and happy give and take among the family members. Wistful feelings overcome me. For 29 years, this is the first time of spending that evening not with my family. Even though I stand on patriotic ground, we miss out on the winter landscape that is presented at home and which is connected so closely with this day. Truly glowing wishes and thoughts I send home from the Red Sea, as Phoebus is not considerate of us. In the sun, we have more than 40°, in the machine room over 60° Celsius, plus a glowingly hot South-Southeastern wind that takes away all refreshing effect out of the air.

Clam and I smiled as we dressed up a small Christmas tree I had taken along from the woods in Konopiště and were sweating copiously: „from the hot brow, sweat must flow”. Every quarter hour we hurried on deck to breathe better air as the oppressing mugginess below deck was barely supportable. The lights and other objects which my mother has given me to decorate the tree were showing signs of the tropical heat too: They had become all soft and started melting.

During the day, I saw for the first time flying fishes which flitted swift as an arrow above the waves and resembled large butterflies with their shiny wings. On the aft deck we caught some large locusts whose flying skills I admired as the next stretch of land lay 56 sea miles distant from the ship. The poor animals were very exhausted and therefore easy to catch!

Just after dinner we ignited the lights of the Christmas tree and started a small ceremony in my cabin to which besides the gentlemen of my suite had assembled Leopold, the captain and the officer of the day?. Many different small presents including many surprises from home secretly taken aboard were laid out on the table.

Based on an invitation of the officer corps, I went to the Carré where the gentlemen had put up a beautiful Christmas tree that was covered in artificial cotton snow flakes and with its many lights was shining very merrily and clear. A joke tombola with the strangest of objects started the feast, while our chief medical officer Dr. Plumert brewed a tremendous pineapple mulled wine. With the first cup, the captain remembered in warm words all those left behind at home who were certainly with us on this day in thoughts. Afterwards, there were musical numbers. A cadet played the zither magnificently, while other gentlemen were putting the piano through its paces. The singing also commanded the attention and I felt very much at home, listening to so many truly Austrian melodies. So many canons, so many soldierly songs showed at least the good will as well as the love of our compatriots for their local songs. To my great delight I discovered a talented fellow yodeller in the person of our navigation officer. The captain and an engineer were so kind to join in and so we four yodelled all those famous yodel songs such as »Auerhahn«, »Zillerthal«, »Zwa Sterndia am Himmel« out into the Red Sea. A few weeks ago I had listened to the yodellers and hurrahs in the Salzburg mountains among firn and ice, as the hunters and boys were gaily singing during the chamois hunt in the cold but delicious morning, so that the echo resounded a hundred fold against the walls and Alpine bowls – and now we were singing the same songs swimming in the ocean at 40° Celsius. What a strange contrast! In unadulterated hilarity we passed the evening and it was late when I went up to the bridge to dream a bit more about the glorious starry sky.


  • Location: Red Sea
  • ANNO – on 24.12.1892 in Austria’s newspapers. On 23 December, the Prague diocese excommunicated a fallen priest („große Excommunication“). Out of Lemberg, Galicia, it is noted that 80,000 inhabitants emigrated. Hamburg counts two cases of cholera, one a local man who died. Budapest notes that it counts zero cases of cholera.
Thomas Cook & Sons on Stephanplatz, Vienna, promote tours on the Nile.

Thomas Cook & Sons on Stephansplatz, Vienna, promote tours on the Nile.

At Sea to Steamer Point, 23 December 1892

On the open sea. Saltwater around the ship’s planks and above it the canopy: That is all that is offered to the mariner’s view. And still it is a painting of simple majesty, not a monotonous image which brings forth air and water to us. Whoever is blessed with a sentiment for nature’s beauty will retain very enjoyable impressions of these changing images created by the elements. Off and on we are captivated by the range of colors and forms, then by their movements and again by the majestic calm of the sea and time and again, this grand work of god’s creation continues to excite our thoughts and feelings: now by the spray of the whirl in which the iron ship is spinning up and down like a shuttlecock. then by the foam crowns of the waves at the fore — a shroud of mist may obscure the horizon, the fiery sun may paint the air and sea in a rose or purple light or the soft moonshine may bathe the tireless waves in a silver light. Hour upon hour, I delight to stand on the bridge glancing first at the swelling waves, then to the sky. To whom the sky is more than airless space, who loves and understands the sea, will be pleased by the power and the might of the light, its glittering smoothness, as well as the roaring sea. When the sun has set, we look at the constellations and remember that our dear ones at home are looking at the same constellations and that they feel what is moving us.

I observe the beings that become visible from the ship like visiting ambassadors of our element, the Earth, a dolphin ambling around our vessel and boldly jumping out of the water, a soaring seagull, fast as an arrow; a small bird twittering on the yard, recovering for the long voyage over the shear endless sea. Most charming was a white wagtail that followed us on part of our journey and sang its happy song unbashfully on the rails of the command bridge and later picked up crumbs of bread fallen down from the seamen’s table in the battery.

The good seamen enjoyed a short midday rest to which they were fully entitled. From early morning to the evening, they are without interruption at work, not a moment of idleness or boredom. After reveille („Ausspurren“) starts the cleaning of the whole ship, and bucket upon bucket of water is versed upon the beautiful ship in order that she may complete her daily work in splendor. Exercises of all kind in the battery and on deck, from time to time a fire alarm or to test the martial impulse in earnest a battle stations alarm and are continued after a frugal meal and are filled with hours of countless mental composition in the ship’s school rooms. In the evening, after the toils of the day, the crew is meeting on deck, smoking cigarettes and sing their native songs and ballads, in which the Slavs and Dalmatians usually excel all others in their choirs about the old heroic tales of Marko Kraljevic, Peter Klepec and other songs. Finally, the retreat call („Abpurren“) is sounded and the hammocks are entered. Quietness reigns, apart from the pounding of the machines and the call of the outlook every half hour, „All right“ and „Lanterns clear“.

I passed the whole day on deck. The temperature is fully southern now. In front of my cabin, the thermometer shows  40° in the sun, the sea is 22° Celsius. The wind has changed and blows hot and dry from the south. Now and then a large mountain is visible in the far away mist on the horizon, otherwise just a few passing single steamboats. In the morning, we passed the lighthouse of Daedalus, which emerges out of the sea as it is located on a submerged coral reef — not even the tiniest morsel of land around it. Three Maltese men pass their lonely life here as lighthouse guards. One after the other is given a short vacation to escape to the mainland every six months.


  • Location: Daedalus Reef, Red Sea
  • ANNO – on 23.12.1892 in Austria’s newspapers. The Neue Arbeiter Zeitung reminds its comrade-readers that the new quarter will be starting soon and that subscribers better pay up on time in order not to miss an issue. The subscription is to be paid in advance. Content-wise, it informs that cholera is threatening from Hamburg. In Austria, protective measures which should have been undertaken to contain the disease have not been executed to the inactivity of the planning committees.  In other news, the consumption of horse meat has increased in comparison to the year before. Given that only weak and old horses are slaughtered, this is not seen as an improvement of the workers‘ lot.

At Sea to Steamer Point, 22 December 1892

We are in the Gulf of Suez. The canal lies behind us and we proceed quickly at full speed towards the Red Sea. The wind is still blowing strongly from the Northeast. Starboard, we see the mountains on the Egyptian shore, among them Jebel Gharib of 1749 m, on backboard, the Sinai peninsula with its naked, ragged mountains. These mountains remind me vividly of those in Palestine and Syria. The higher parts without any vegetation, steep,  broken with jagged sharp peaks, parts situated lower down likewise extraordinarily irregular; cones of debris and small hills alternate with deep cut, washed out gorges and valleys; it is as if a tempestuous sea had been abruptly turned into stone. Towards the southern peak of the peninsula the aventuruous form of the mountains is even increasing;  on many a high-lying point between wild peaks one looks upon broad sand moraines which extend down to the sea.

Our pilot Akhmed Ali, an Arab from Port Said, clad in a long yellow burnous with a red fez on his head, always used to call me “Padisha” while bowing disquietingly with an air of docile mischievousness that can be observed very often among the sons of the desert. In my absence he made vivid enquiries with the officer of the watch whether I would offer him baksheesh in Aden. On the officer’s remark that such customs were not observed [in Austria], he proposed him to help him get baksheesh and receive a share of it. This original idea which highlights the local custom of certain practices really entertained me and I decided to offer the honest gentleman a baksheesh at his debarkation to his sole disposition in order that he might learn about our customs.

The steamship wreck fixed on a coral riff at the southern tip of the Sinai peninsula of which only parts of the prow and one mast reach out of the water makes a stern impression. The sad debris set off ghastly fantasies. One believes to hear the howling storm, the roaring sea whose waves, high as a tower, had smashed the poor ship mercilessly against the rocks. What pains the crew must have suffered, which ghastly scenes of horror might have taken place!


  • Ort: Gulf of Suez
  • ANNO – on 22.12.1892 in Austria’s newspapers. The Neue Freie Presse informs that among Austria’s military institutions, Germany’s reform to reduce mandatory military service from three to two years are debated too. There are concerns that recruits will not be able to learn all the necessary military skills in the shortened period.
  • The k.u.k. Burgtheater is closed from 22 to 24 December 1892. Part of the revenue of the Sunday play of Faust, Part I, on 25 December 1892 will be donated to charities.

Das Burgtheater bleibt vom 22. zum 24. Dezember geschlossen.