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Satis Shroff's CATMANDU CHRONICLES
Satis Shroff's CATMANDU CHRONICLES
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Drinking Darjeeling in England (Satis Shroff, Freiburg im Breisgau)
Translations available in: English (original) | French | Spanish | Italian | German | Portuguese | Swedish | Russian | Dutch | Arabic

Drinking Darjeeling Tea in England (Satis Shroff, Germany)

Beware the Ides of September
Manchester will be a milestone
In Gordon Brown’s polit-life.
Your economic ‘competence’
Has become an Achilles heel,
Your weak point.

The people’s party of New Labour
Wants to get rid of you.
These are the rumours,
Heard in the trendy streets of London.

Twelve months ago Gordon Brown
Was the Messiah of Brit politics,
After Blair’s disastrous role in the Labour,
Unpopular, depressed,
His energy absorbed by Iraq.

Alas, even the new Messiah
Has lost his face,
Within a short time.
His weakness: decision making.

England is nervous, fidgety,
For Labour fears a possible loss,
Of its 353 Under House seats.
Above the English cabinet,
Looms a Damocles sword.

Will Labour watch
And drink Darjeeling tea,
Till a debacle develops?
Labour is in a dilemma.

Hush, help is near.
David Miliband is going vitriolic.
A silly season indeed,
Drinking Darjeeling tea in England.


FROM LICHHAVIS TO MAOISTS (Satis Shroff)

Lichhavis, Thakuris and Mallas have made you eternal
Man Deva inscribed his title on the pillar of Changu,
After great victories over neighbouring states.

Amshu Verma was a warrior and mastered the Lichavi Code.
He gave his daughter in marriage to Srong Bean Sgam Po,
The ruler of Tibet, who also married a Chinese princess.

Jayastathi Malla ruled long and introduced the system of the caste,
A system based on the family occupation,
That became rigid with the tide of time.

Yaksha Malla the ruler of Kathmandu Valley,
Divided it into Kathmandu, Patan and Bhadgaon for his three sons.

It was Prithvi Narayan Shah of Gorkha,
Who brought you together,
As a melting pot of ethnic diversities.
With Gorkha conquests that cost the motherland
Thousands of ears, noses and Nepalese blood.
The intrigues and tragedies in the palace went on unabated.

The Ranas usurped the royal throne
And put a prime minister after the other for 104 years.
104 years of poverty, isolation and medieval existence.

Times have changed.
The Ranas and even the Shahs
Are ghosts of the past.
The Maoists won a military and political battle,
Nepal is a republic,
With Cantons instead of Anchals,
Is Mother Nepal going apart?
The madhisays want a separate Terai,
The parbatays want their share of the cake,
Denied to them since generations,
The Newars, Tamangs, Gurungs, Thakalis,
Sherpas all want their share of power,
The federal idea has served well
In Switzerland and Germany.
Are the Maoists ready for a republican federalism?
Or do they insist on all men and women are equal
But some men and women are more equal
Than the others when it comes to power politics?



About the Author and poet: Satis Shroff is a writer based in Freiburg (poems, fiction, non-fiction) who also writes on ethno-medical, culture-ethnological themes. He has studied Zoology and Botany in Nepal, Medicine and Sozialarbeit in Germany and Creative Writing in Freiburg and Manchester. He is the published author of three books on www.Lulu.com: Im Schatten des Himalaya (book of poems in German), Through Nepalese Eyes (travelgue), Katmandu, Katmandu (poetry and prose anthology by Nepalese authors, edited by Satis Shroff). His lyrical works have been published in literary poetry sites: Slow Trains, International Zeitschrift, World Poetry Society (WPS), New Writing North, Muses Review, The Megaphone, The Megaphone, Pen Himalaya, Interpoetry. Satis Shroff is a member of “Writers of Peace,” poets, essayists, novelists (PEN), World Poetry Society (WPS),The Asian Writer and Boloji.

He describes himself as a mediator between western and eastern cultures and sees his future as a writer and poet. He is dedicated to promoting and creating awareness for Nepal’s literary heritage and culture in his writings and in preserving Nepal’s identity in Germany. Satis Shroff was awarded the German Academic Exchange Prize.















August 12, 2008 | 6:25 AM Comments  {num} comments



Memoir: In the Cobbled Streets of Prague (Satis Shroff, Germany)
Translations available in: English (original) | French | Spanish | Italian | German | Portuguese | Swedish | Russian | Dutch | Arabic


Memoir: IN THE STREETS OF PRAGUE (Satis Shroff)

‘It’s awfully nice to see you in Czech surroundings’ said my long-lost friend Kundan, as he raised his massive, ornate glass of pivo, the famous black Czech beer. That was in 1976 and the Czechs and Slovaks were a single nation. Kunda Dixit was “Our Man Behind the Iron Curtain” and wrote a column in The Rising Nepal named “Prague Prattles.” Kanak might have the gift of the gab, but I’d always enjoyed Kunda’s literary articles during my Katmandu days, when Hippies and Flower Power people were everywhere, mostly to be seen in the high temples and pagodas, stoned with Cannabis sativa, wearing deshi clothes with the word “Ram” printed on them a thousand times.

In Katmandu it was a delight to go to the many psychedelic cafes, where you could drink tea and relish Katmandu’s “special” cake baked with hash. After that, and a round of charas smoking, Katmandu looked different. Fantastic, psychedelic Katmandu, made immortal by Cat Stevens in those days.

The place was U-Thomas, a well known beer tavern in Prague, and seated on a long table were five Nepalese male students and two female Germans. It was good to hear Nepalese being spoken, because over the months I’d had been in Germany, I’d heard only German, French, Spanish or Italian. The joint reminded me of a disco-cellar called ‘Le Caveau’ in Freiburg, a small town in southern Germany, except that there wasn’t any music. However, the din that arose from the tables loaded with loquacious and jolly Czechs would have drowned any type of music, and their presence only heightened the noise.

And who bothers about music, especially when old friends meet in a tavern 9000 km away from the Himalayas. It was one ‘cheers’ and ‘prost’ after another. That’s the wonder of the excellent 13% pivo. They say in Prague beer foamed in the tankards of its citizens long before Columbus discovered America.

When abroad, the Nepalese are always confronted with the question: ‘how do you say ‘cheers’ in your language?’ Which is quite embarrassing, because Nepalese always say ‘pyuno hos!’ (please feel free to drink) or ‘pyunu paryo!’ (let us drink), ‘huncha?’(shall we?) huncha! (we may). The whole affair is carried out non-verbally with a lot of affirmative head shaking from left to right, smiles and the eyebrows taking off like a pair of boomerangs..

The tavern just wasn’t a place where one could do any serious talking because of the general clamour. and we had to contend ourselves with small-talk that passed in the name of conversation. There were a good many interruptions when curious Czechs, high on beer, would stop over at our table and ask us where we came from. One could imagine their curiosity since we looked very different from the usual European foreigners in stature and complexion and, of course, sense of humour, for there we were rollicking with what the Germans call ‘Lebensfreude’ and the French ‘vivre’.

One burly, rosy-cheeked Czech, with a receding forehead, wearing a sailor’s uniform, who had plainly drunk one pivo too much, came every now and then asking for cigarettes. Either there were no cigarette-automats in the tavern or the fellow was broke. When we ignored him, the Czech began to pantomime a Sherpa-porter carrying a load on his back. We didn’t react. After a short while he got bored and left. We also left U-Thomas.

It was winter and there was snow everywhere in the city, and icy gusts of wind blew incessantly, as we walked along the slippery streets of Prague. We boarded the rickety red-coloured state-run tram.

‘That’s the Eiffel Tower of Prague,’ said the jolly Gurung friend, as he pointed to the look-out tower on the Petrin, which formed an impressive background to the grey student hostels, where our Nepalese friends were residing. The amiable Gurung was entertaining the two German ladies in good German, and I noticed that he’d started the conversation with a game of associations: German associations. He mentioned the positive images of Germany: Beckenbauer, Bayern Munich, the VW Beetle (which was still in production at Wolfsburg then), Berlin as a wonderful city, Karel Gott the Czech singer who sings successfully in German, and soon he’d found a tenor which amused the Teutonic ladies. He was doing famously.

I noticed that quite a few Nepalese students had married blonde Czechs and settled down in Prague. There they were, out in the cold, fresh air with their wives and prams, exchanging greetings in Nepali, Newari and Czech languages. The idea appealed to me. Bilingual or multilingual children who visited Czech or Nepalese schools in Czechoslovakia or Nepal. Why not settle down in a foreign country? Or bring your foreign wife or husband home? You could decide where you wanted to live later. There was also the possibility of oscillating between two countries to counter the people who shout “brain-drain!” Or open a travel agency and send Czech tourists on guided trekking tours to the Himalayas? A good many Nepalese students from the Lumumba-Friendship University and Moscow University have brought their Russian spouses along, and they run elite-schools in Katmandu, where the children learn English, Nepal and French. It’s not unusual to see foreign females teaching in Nepalese schools since decades. The number of foreign women married to Nepalese males is rising. And also the number of foreign males taking a Nepalese bride.

On the next day we were invited to a Nepalese lunch: dal-bhat-shikar cooked by one of the brahmin students, and it was delicious. The German ladies Andrea Okewitz and Antonia Trapp relished it. Their only complaint was: ‘Es war scharf!’ (It was hot with chillies). But what’s an Asian meal without chillies? Or sambal olek? Or chutney and achar? Most Germans have a mild taste indeed, and prefer plain boiled potatoes and lot of sauerkraut, in addition to mountains of meat.

While waiting for a bus near the student hostel, I couldn’t resist the temptation of scooping handfuls of snow and confronting the others with snowballs. Soon we had, what the German ladies called a big ‘Schneeballschlacht’ in progress. It had snowed heavily the night before and was awfully chilly.

‘Do you have any samachar (news) from Nepal?’ I asked my pale, bespectacled friend Kundan, who was a brahmin, a high-caste Hindu, and could easily pass off as a European from the north. He’d been home and had mentioned that the policeman at the Pashupatinath hadn’t let him through into the sanctum sanctorum becaus they’d thought he was a foreigner, a “quiray: He Who Has Grey Eyes,” as Nepalese are wont to call westerners. My friend Kundan had reassured the policeman in fluent Nepali but the man had retorted with, ‘A lot of foreign development workers speak better Nepali.’ It was only after Kundan had produced his janai (sacred thread), which most high caste Hindus wear after an elaborate ritual-ceremony, that the policeman waved him past.

“When I left Nepal about two months ago, Nepal was rotting. It was dying. One of those slow painful processes, complete with rattles and groans,” said my long lost friend

‘Was it so dramatic?’ I asked him, for ever since I’d been living in Germany I had only heard of Nepal in the German media when some German expedition had climbed a peak or some crazy yeti-search expedition had thought they’d sighted the abominable snowman.

‘I won’t go through the morbid details and make your life miserable,’ he said with a beneign expression and a twitch of his facial muscles, as he went on to say: “Frankly, I’ve been so anaesthesized by time and instance. I couldn’t express the horrors of contemporary Nepalese life, even if I wanted to. I’m not a pessimist, neither a fatalist, but I don’t see any hope for my beloved motherland. Don’t expect any news coming from that direction to be good news.’

That sounded very pessimistic indeed. Perhaps the Nepalese are survival artists. I couldn’t find another explanation. In the past we have adapted to different dynasties of rulers in Nepal, and in modern times have survived the rule of the arrogant Ranas and the greedy Shahs. And now the republic-minded Maoists under Prachanda. I like to compare politics in Nepal as an eternal game of chess in which the players change after the shuffle of power but the plights of the poor farmer and common man remains miserable all the while. At the moment, the Maoists (tigers) are making the move, but the democratic goats are fighting for the political rights as equaly in the republican parliament. Meanwhile, the Madhesi goats in this political game of bagh-chal (Tiger Move) want to quit the chess board called Nepal and want a pro-Indian state of their own.

‘Just a week ago the Nepalese rupee was devalued 16%. Imagine the plight of an ordinary Nepalese civil servant, who is by comparison much better off than his fellow men financially’, said Kundan.

‘He’ll have to pay 16% on basic commodities like rice and dal. It’s saddening.’

He was right. There was no real democracy in Nepal. The Panchayat System, with its intricate, archaic network of nepotism, corruption and couldn’t-care-less mentality was bleeding the country. The Nepalese intellectuals were playing it safely, and those who cared were living in exile in India in those days. The entire media was controlled by the Palace Secreta­riat, and letters, pleas and petitions to the government for justice went unanswered. If you had connexions in the government or the palace, you could climb the career ladder fast, and if you didn’t have what the simple, honest Nepalese calls “source and force” or “afnu manchey” in the higher echelons of the government and the Narayanhiti palace, you could slave all your life, and still remain in the same job. Now that the king has been ousted and declared a common citizen of Nepal with the previlige of having to pay tax like all mortals, chakari has changed sides and, like in all socialist countries, it helps to have connections in the Maoist-cadre and among the democrats among the Congress and other parties.

A Nepalese king, Prithvi Narayan Shah who was declared the founder of Nepal, had described Nepal as a ‘yam between two big stones’ meaning thereby Tibet (later China) and India. The small country has had a tough time trying to keep a balance between its two gigantic neighbours, who had already fought a Himalaya-war in 1962, which the Chinese had won. After China had annexed Tibet, India did likewise in a­nnexing Goa and Sikkim. And now Nepal was in the news again. There was an article in the French Le Monde datelined New Delhi about the Indo-Nepalese trade and transit agreement which was to expire in August that year (1976).

“The Empress has not forgotten the Nepalese indignation over Sikkim, and demands that Nepal should pay for oil in dollars,’ said my friend. ‘Transit duties have also been raised.’ The word ‘Empress’ was reserved for Indira Gandhi. She was known for her constitutional chicanery and her almost totalitarian Emergency of 1975.

I remember my New Yorker journalist friend Paul Wohl, who used to write for the Christian Science Monitor, quoting from a Parisian newspaper and telling me, ‘On April 2, 1976 Nepal signed a treaty with Bangladesh providing for use of the port of Chittagong for transit shipments to Nepal, but India is taking advantage of the narrow strip of Bengal which separates Bangladesh from Nepal.’ Thus Le Monde.

Whereas the Chinese had their own problems with Tibetans and the implementation of maoistic-ideology, and in maintaining a strict border policy, Nepal’s southern border with India was open for smugglers, tradesmen and border-dwellers from both sides. The government carried out a programme of resettlement of hill tribes in the flatlands, but the recent Madhesi movement which has gained momentum shows a different trend. The Madhesis, as the people of the Terai call themselves (and hill people are called Paharis), have a lot in common with the Indian culture and would like to see themselves integrated with the big neighbour to the south, for Katmandu has ignored them in all those years. Be that as it may, a peaceful compromise has to be found.

After India’s two major border conflicts with Pakistan, and the storming of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), the Indian armed forces were getting bolder. Nepal and the other Himalayan nations wouldn’t be able to put up much resistance against the newly created mountain-divisions of the Indian Army. The diplomatic and peaceful channel was the call of the hour. And thus King Birendra’s fervent wish to have Nepal declared as ‘a zone of peace’ guaranteed by international treaty’ like Switzerland in Europe, which was recognized by all warring countries as a neutral territory. Even though China, USA and a host of countries supported the proposal, its immediate neighbour Indian didn’t.

India, through an inspired article, put it this way: ‘The pre-condi­tion for an improvement of Indo-Nepalese relations is the unequivocal acceptance that Nepal, which forms an enclave on the Indian side of the Himalayas, must belong to the defence system of the subcontinent.’ Thus Her Gracious Imperial Majesty...’, said Kundan, with bitterness in his voice. There was no doubt that Nepal was India-locked and not only land-locked. Mrs. Gandhi made also insane internal attempts at social discipline of the Indian masses through licensed thuggery and mass sterilisations.

All that was a long time ago. Indira Gandhi, the uncrowned Empress of India, is dead. Rajiv Gandhi has been murdered. (And so is Benazir Bhutto recently). There was democracy and a multiparty-system in Nepal. A congress party, which had operated all those years in exile in India, held the maximum number of seats in the Nepalese parliament in those days, and Indo-Nepal relations were flourishing with new trade and joint ventures, despite the protests from the communist faction that Nepal was selling out to the neighbour from the south. In the Panchayat era, Katmandu’s beggars were rounded up and transported to the south. They turned up two days later after a long return-march along the Tribhuvan Rajpath. This only showed that you can’t drive people away. They wanted their rights. Human rights, which was long ignored in this kingdom of the past.

Then came Katmandu’s ecological-minded mayor, who wanted to drive the hawkers and peddlers away from Asan Tole and Indrachowk, without much of an alternative, apparently because Katmandu has sister-cities in the western world. But will driving away hawkers and beggars alone be a lasting solution to the problems? After all, what is a hawker or a beggar or a leprosy patient? A human being, a Nepalese in search of a better means of existence and medical treatment. Promising a better quality of life to one section of the population at the cost of the other? There are too many unanswered questions still floating in the Himalayan air. Since King Gyanendra has been stripped of his power, but still prefers to pay his ritual homage to the Katmandu Kumari, the Living Goddess, there are some democrats who still want him as their monarch. The Maoists, however, have took a no-nonsense course and have enforced their idea of turning the former kingdom as the republic of Nepal. Instead of the Anchals or zones we have Swiss Cantons now. The disarming and disbanding of the militant Maoist warriors is another social problem in Nepal. Does the new nation need so many ex-Maobadi fighters in the Nepalese Army? Can the former fighters be recruited to work for the development of Nepal in different development projects? The would be in interest of the country for the youth of Nepal need to be given a future and their destructive energy acquired during the decade-long war be, to borrow a Freudean expression, sublimised towards creativity.

We in the west have to wait and see what unfurls in the years to come with curiosity, anguish and interest. Meanwhile, the first thing that my old friend did when he returned to Nepal with a Slovanian degree from Bratislava, was to build a gobar-gas installation for our dear Deviji.l creation. I’m sure Door Bahadur Bista was delighted to see Kundan’s technologic The food was excellent., as usual, but the kitchen smelt a bit of Landluft, as we say in the German-speaking word. It’s a pity Deviji doesn’t cook for lesser mortals. Her cuisine is the best in Patan. I’d even go further---in the whole Kathmandu Valley.

Another dear friend Christa Drigalla who runs the Interplast hospital at Sankhu mentioned that she has also started a new kitchen production for Nepalese moms, this time a German designed one.


August 5, 2008 | 10:46 AM Comments  {num} comments



The Revered Mountain Kanchenjunga (Satis Shroff)
Related to country: India

Translations available in: English (original) | French | Spanish | Italian | German | Portuguese | Swedish | Russian | Dutch | Arabic

Memoir:

Oh, Kanchenjunga (Satis Shroff)

A splash of the crimson rays of the sun appeared on the tip of the 8598m Kanchenjunga Range. Then it turned into orange and was gradually bathed in a yellowish tint, becoming extremely bright. You could discern the chirping of the Himalayan birds in the surrounding bushes and trees, amidst the clicking of cameras. I was on Tiger Hill. But my thoughts were elsewhere.

I was thinking about Kanchenjunga, my Hausberg as we are wont to call it in Germany, and the former memories of my school-days in the foothills of the Himalayas. These mountains had moulded and shaped me to overcome odds, like other thousands of other Gorkhalis, Nepalese, Lepchas, Bhutanese, Tibetans and Indians, from both sides of the Himalayas. I have watched the Kanchenjunga ever since I was a child in its different moods and seasonal changes. Cloud-watching over the Kanchenjunga was always a fascinating pastime whether from Ilam, Sikkim or Darjeeling´s Tiger Hill or even Sandakphu. To the Sikkimese the Kanchenjunga has always been a sacred mountain, and on its feet are precious stones, salt, holy sciptures, healing plants and cereals. It is a thousand year belief and tradition that the Himalayas, the abode of the Gods, should not be sullied by the feet of mortals.

Oh Kanchenjunga, you have taught us Gorkhalis and Nepalis to keep a stiff upper-lip in the face of adversity created by humans in this world and to light a candle, rather than to curse the darkness. To adapt, share and assimilate, rather than go under when the going gets tough in foreign shores. The Himalayas have taught us to be resilient and to bear pain without complaining, to search for solutions and to keep our ideals high, and not to forget our rich culture, tradition and religious beliefs.

After a brisk drive through pine-forested areas and blue mountains, I was rewarded by a vision of the Kanchenjunga Massif in all its majesty. At Ghoom, which is the highest point along the Hill Cart road, we went to the 19th century Buddhist monastery, about 8km from Darjeeling. In the massive, pompous pagoda-like building with a yellow rooftop, was a shrine of the Maitree Buddha, with butter lamps and Buddhist scarves in gaudy scarlet, white and gold.

It´s was a feast for the eyes. Tibetan art in exile. You go through the rooms of the museum which has precious Buddhist literature, traditional Himalayan ritual masks and a numismatic collection in the centre of the room, with coins and currency from Tibet that were in circulation till 1959. A small friendly lama-apprentice posed for a photograph of the tourists. And another little Buddha,with jet-black hair, suddenly came up, behind a mask of a Tibetan demon with ferocious-looking teeth, and sprang in front of us to get photographed for posterity.

A blue coloured Darjeeling Himalayan train built in 1881 by Sharp, Steward & Co, Glasgow, chugged along on its way to Kurseong (Khar-sang), another hill station along the route from Darjeeling to Siliguri in the plains of India. There were young Gorkhali boys from Ghoom, having a jolly time, jumping in and out of the running toy-train, with the conductor shouting at them and doing likewise, and trying to nab one of them. But the Ghoom boys were far better and faster than the ageing, panting train-conductor, whose tongue almost hanged out of his red face. It was a jolly tamasha indeed. A spectacle for the passengers amidst the breath-taking scenery in tea-country.

I thought about my friend Harka, who used to live in Ghoom, and who was one of those boys during my school-days. The last I heard of him was when he and his dear wife invited yours truly and a student friend named Tekendra Karki, now a physician in Katmandu, to have excellent Ilam tea with Soaltee Oberoi sandwiches. Tek and I were doing our BSc then at Tri Chandra college in Katmandu.

Along the side of the mini railway track, reminiscent of the Schwabian Eisenbahn from Biberach , were groups of vendors of Tibetan origin selling used clothes, trinkets, belts, bags and most other accessoirs that you find being sold along the Laden La road, leading to Chowrasta in Darjeeling.

A short drive to the Batasia loop, where the blue train made a couple of loops during its descent to Darjeeling, and suddenly you saw the clouds above the silvery massif, rising languidly in the morning.

The families of the British officers used to retreat to the hills of Darjeeling, Simla, Naini Tal to escape from the scorching heat of the India summer, and carried out their social lives and sport under the shadow of the Himalayas. Cricket, polo, pony-riding,soccer. You can still go to the Gymkhana and do roller-skating, try out a Planter's Punch and, of course, a First Flush or dust Darjeeling tea to suit your pocket. The Chogyal of Sikkim gave the hill-station Darjeeling to the British as a gesture of Friendship, for the Sikkimese fought with the British troops against the Nepalese in the Anglo-Nepalese Wat (1814-15). The British government thanked the Chogyal of Sikkim and rewarded him with a handsome annual British pension.Didn't he become a vassal of Great Britian after this act?

I went with my burly Gorkha school-friend to Dow Hill via Kurseong, past the Tuberculosis sanatorium, in a World War II vintage jeep driven by a Gorkha named Norden Lama, who had blood-shot eyes and a whiff of raksi. There´s no promillen control (alcohol-on-wheels) in Darjeeling, and in the cold winter and rainy monsoon months it isn´t unusual to find jeep and truck-drivers stopping to take a swig of raksi, one for the road, to keep themselves warm. I must admit, I felt relieved when we reached our destination in one piece.

Driving along the left track of the autobahn at 150 km per hour is safe compared to all the curves that one has to negotiate along the Darjeeling trail on misty days. We were rewarded with excellent ethnic Rai-cuisine comprising dal-bhat-shikar cooked with coriander, cumin, salt, chillies, garlic, ginger and love. My school friend who´s a Chettri, a high caste Hindu, known for the ritual purity and pollution thinking, had married a Rai lady, much to the chagrin of his parents, but unlike Amber Gurung´s sad song "Ma amber huh, timi dharti," they were extremely happy and had come together after the principle: where there´s a will, there´s a way. Or "miya bibi raaji, to kya kareyga kaji."

As is the custom among Gorkhalis, we ritually washed our hands, sat down cross-legged, put a little food symbolically for the Gods and Goddesses, and relished our meal without talking. Talking during meals is bad manners in the Land of the Gorkhas, Nepal and the diaspora where the Gorkhalis and Nepalese live.Gorkhaland is a dream of people who cam from Nepal through migration to the British tea gardens, roads and toy-train workshops in Tindharia, and since the roads have gained importance after the British left and in the aftermath of the Indo-Chinese conflict in 1962, there was a need for the roads to be repaired by the Indian government and what better workers to hire in the foothills of the Himalayas than the sturdy, willing helpers of Nepalese origin who have lived in the area since generations.

Just as the government of Nepal under King Mahendra and Birendra carried out resettlement programms for the hill people who were eternally foraging for work in the plains (Terai) and India, the Bengal government did the same through its bureaucratic rules of transferring the Nepalese of Darjeeling district who had worked in the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway to the plains at Katihar and other places. It was a difficult transfer for the Gorkhalis, and they not only had to battle with the beastly and scorching sun of the the Indian plains but also had to learn to communicate in Hindi, Bihari, Bengali and English with the arrogant Bengalis. On the other hand, the Bengali babus started coming in teeming numbers to the hills of Darjeeling fleeing from the plains of Calcutta, and delighted at the prospects of living in the hills of Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong with perks and enjoying the fresh air and Nature, especially Kanchanjunga. The mountain took a new meaning for the Bengalis and Satyajit Ray was inspired to produce and direct a film with the title Kanchenjunga. It became „Amar Kanchanjunga" for the Bengalis.And thereby hangs a tale.

July 18, 2008 | 9:00 AM Comments  {num} comments



Adieu Royals in the former Himalayan Kingdom of Nepal (Satis Shroff)
Related to country: Nepal

Translations available in: English (original) | French | Spanish | Italian | German | Portuguese | Swedish | Russian | Dutch | Arabic

Memoir:

ADIEU ROYAL FAMILY IN NEPAL (Satis Shroff)


König Birendra fragte mich: "Gefällt es Ihnen hier?"

Ich war so überwältigt von der neue, einmalige Situation, daß ich gar nicht wußte, ob ich in Nepali oder in Englisch reden sollte. Ich neigte mich ein bißchen und machte eine Namaste. Eine Namaste bedeutet eigentlich "Ich begrüße das göttliche in Dir", denn in Hinduismus glaubt man, daß in jeder Mensch etwas göttliches beiwohnt. Aber vor mir stand ein König der meine Schule besucht hatte, in Eton und Havard gewesen war, und für 23 Millionen Nepalis als die Reinkarnation der Hindu-Gottheit Vishnu verkörperte.

Ich antwortete: "Ich bin vor einigen Jahren gekommen und mir gefällt es sehr hier, weil ich in der Schwarzwald mit eine Schwarzwald Mädel lebe und es ist genau so schön wie in Nepal. Mit fehlen bloß die Himalayagipfeln."

Ich erzählte auf Englisch, daß ich mit Prinz Dhirendra in St. Josephs zur Schule gegangen war.

"Oh, St. Joseph's? War Pater Stanford noch in der Schule?"

"Jawohl, Your Majesty, und Pater Burns und Mr. Bannerjee." Mr. Bannerjee war ein indische Rektor mit Fulbright (USA) Erfahrung und die anderen waren Jesuitenpriester, die eine Eliteschule leiteten.

Seine Majestät lachte herzlich und fragte: "Kahile pharkaney? Wann kehren sie zurück?"

Ich war verlegen und sagte: "Das weiß ich nicht." Ich habe damals nicht gewußt, daß ich eine Zähringerin heiraten wurde und vier bezaubernde Kinder haben wurde. Nun bin ich in Freiburg geblieben und schreibe nach und über Nepal und mache Nepal-Watch durch das Internet, denn ich interessiere mich immer noch sehr für die gesellschaftspolitische und wirtschaftliche Entwicklung Nepals, und vor allem Nepals literarische Szene. Demnächst bringe ich ein Buch über die Lyrik und Kurzgeschichten Nepals bei Horlemann Verlag (Bad Unken) heraus, weil ich gute Beziehungen in der literarische Szene Kathmandus habe. Ja, man kann mich als ein Dozent mit eine literarische Flair für Englisch, Nepali und Deutsche Literatur nennen.

Starb mit König Birendra auch die Hoffnung?

Die Nachricht, daß es ein Blutbad gegeben hat im Narayanhiti-Palast von Kathmandu und daß der Krönprinz Dipendra seine Eltern König Birendra und Königin Aishwarya und andere Familien Mitgliedern, war ein Schock für mich. Ich konnte es nicht fassen.

Daß es Dissidenten in Nepal gibt und daß die maoistische Guerillaorganisationen sehr militant und aktiv sind im westlichen Teil Nepals war mir schon bekannt. Aber daß der Kronprinz sein Vater König Birendra Bir Bikram Shahdev 55 und seine Mutter Aishwarya Laxmi Devi Shah geboren Rana (51), Bruder Niranjan (22) und Schwester Shruti (24), ein Schwager sowie eine Cousine des Königs, erschossen hat war unglaublich. Dies in einem Land, wo Buddha geboren war (Lumbini) und wo Frieden und friedliche Koexistenz, sowohl in Nepals Außen- und Innenpolitik groß geschrieben ist.

Was bedeutete König Birendra für Nepal?

Birendra Bir Bikram Shahdev, wie der König von Nepal genannt wurde, hatte seine Schuljahren in St. Josephs (Darjeeling) verbracht und danach ging er nach Eton College (England) und war auch ein Jahr in Havard als Gasthörer. Von den 23 Millionen Einwohnern Nepals sind 90 Prozent Hindus und der König von Nepal wurde, seitdem der Gurkha König Prithvi Narayan Shah das Kathmandutal mit List erobert hatte im Jahr 1768 als der Reinkarnation von Vishnu, der Hauptgott in Hinduismus, verehrt. Nepal ist das einzige Land mit Hinduismus als Staatsreligion.

In Nepals chaotische, unsichere politische Landschaft, wo es ständige Regierungswechsel gibt, hat man gesehen, daß die Regierung von Nepal unter Girija Prasad Koirala (Kongresspartei) der maoistischen Rebellion im Westen des Landes nicht Herr werden kann. Seine Idee, als Sozialdemokrat, die Maoisten mit einer 15 000 Mann Eliteeinheit zu bekämpfen, ist ein Schritt in der falsche Richtung. Probleme wie Armut, Mißwirtschaft, Korruption und Vetterwirtschaft kann man nicht, wie es in der Vergangenheit ohne Erfolg gemacht war, mit Gewalt und Macht gelöst werden.

Meine Erinnerungen an König Birendra und Königin Aishwarya?

Ich habe gute Erinnerungen an den König und Königin. Ich bin von der Nepali Botschafter Singa Pratap Malla in Bonn zu einem Empfang für den König und Königin von Nepal in La Redoute eingeladen worden. Ich habe ein Blumenstrauß an der Freiburger Kaiser-Joseph-Straße besorgt und als ich aufgeregt zu der Verkäuferin sagte, daß die Blumen für eine Königin seien, hat sie geschmunzelt und fragte: "Ach, wirklich?"

Ich habe ihr erklärt, daß sie tatsächlich für die Königin von Nepal waren, die zu einem Staatsbesuch nach Deutschland gekommen war mit dem König von Nepal. In Bonn waren die Straßen mit Deutsche und Nepali Fahnen geschmückt. Ich habe eine Taxi genommen am Bahnhof und der Taxifahrer, ein Bonner mit Humor erklärte mir, daß es ihm Spaß machen wurde, die weiße Mäuse vor den VIP Autos zu sehen.

In La Redoute waren schon Journalisten and der Tür, und ich ging hinein und begegnete eine ganze Menge Nepali Damen und Herren. Die Damen trugen bunte, elegante Saris und die Männer in Anzüge. Woher kamen all diese Landsleute?" fragte ich mich damals. Ich hatte die Nepali Botschaftsangestellte und ein paar Studenten und natürlich der Bundespräsident Richard von Weizsäcker und seine Frau Marianne, Deutsche Diplomaten und andere Gäste erwartet. Ich fragte ein Mann in Nepali, der smart gekleidet war und aussah, wie ein Rai- Stammesangehörige. Meine Vermutung war richtig. Es war ein Rai und er erklärte, daß er und die anderen Nepalis alle Britische Gurkhas von der Rheinarmee und deren Frauen waren. Ah, Britisch Gurkhas die in den Falklands auch eingesetzt worden waren gegen den Argentenier.

Plötzlich kam ein Deutsche Polizeioffizier, begrüßte mich freundlich und stand neben mir. Es stellte sich heraus, daß er der Polizeikommissar war und sagte zu mir, daß er häufig bei solche Empfänge dabei war. Er zeigte mir ein bekannter Bonnerfotograf, der nie ein Blitzgerät benutzte. Sein Geheimnis? Er nahm nur Filme mit Höhe ASA oder DIN Werte. Der Oberkommissar zeigte mir eine Interessante alte Dame, die einen sympathischen Eindruck machte. Von ihrem Aussehen, konnte sie eine Adelige sein mit einem 'von Titel' und von der Kleidung her ein bisschen altmodisch aber passend zu ihrem alter, denn sie sah mindestens über 60 aus.

"Ist sie ein VIPs Frau?" fragte ich.

"Nein, nein, Sie werden staunen. Sie ist nur eine einfache Rentnerin, aber sie ist bei jedem Empfang in verschiedene Botschaften dabei," sagte der Oberkommissar. Später erfuhr ich, in eine Fernsehsendung, daß King Birendra sie sogar mit "Frau Baronin" begrüßt hatte, als die Büffet geöffnet wurde."

Mein Herz pochte als die königliche Paar endlich hineinkamen. König Birendra sah wohlauf aus und die Königin Aishwarya trug weiße Handschuhe, ihre schwarz-blau glänzende Haare gesteckt/versteckt in einem Netz, und sie trug eine blaue Bluse und ebenfalls blaue Chiffon Sari. Sie war eine Erscheinung und ich habe ihr die Blumen überreicht. Sie sagte eine leise, schüchterne: "Dhanyabad, thank you" und danach gab sie meine Freiburger Blumen an den Aide-du-Corps, ein gewisser Captain Khatri Chettri. Unter den Nepali Journalisten die mit der königliche Entourage gekommen waren auch Gauri KC, die immer Freitags meine Kommentare in Radio Nepal gelesen hatte und Shyam KC, der für die Reportagen in Kathmandu zuständig war. Er arbeitet jetzt für die Kathmandu Post. Chiran Samsher war auch dabei, der königliche Palastsekretär.

Nachdem die Büffet eröffnet war, gingen wir alle zu einem großen Saal. Es gab sogar echte französische Champagne, serviert von wunderschöne Fräuleins. Eine Deutsche Korrespondentin hat einmal über Nepal geschrieben: "Entwicklung und Fortschritt sind Fremdworte in diesem hoffnungslos rückständigen Land, das nach wie vor zu den ärmsten der Welt gehört." Aber solche Wörter waren fehl am Platz an diesem Abend.

Nach eine Weile, wurde die Stimmung besser und lockerer, wie es bei Empfänge ist, und während Königin Aishwarya sich ruhte nach der anstrengenden Bonner Tagesprogramm, mischte sich König Birendra unter das Volk bzw. die Gäste. Er begrüßte jeden und als er lächelnd auf mich zukam, wußte ich nicht ob ich ein Bild knipsen sollte oder Seiner Majestät begrüßen sollte. Ich kannte seiner dritter Bruder Prinz Dhirendra, da wir beide in der gleiche St. Josephsschule in Darjeeling unsere Abitur gemacht hatten. Prinz Dhirendra verlor seinen adeligen Titel, weil eine ausländerin heiratete und lebte in London in Exil. Bei der Schießerei wurde auch er verletzt.


Manchmal denke ich, ein bißchen Phenomenologie, die Fähigkeit die Sichtweise von beiden Seiten zu sehen, und Familientherapie hätte sowohl die englische als auch die Nepali Königshäuser nicht geschadet. Auf jedenfall wäre es nicht zu solche Gewaltakten nicht gekommen. Aber die uralte hinduistische Strukturen in den Köpfen von Eltern in der Nepali Gesellschaft macht es unmöglich die Sachlage mit eine andere Sichtweise zu betrachten.

In Nepal wollte der Index-Person Prinz Dipendra eine Frau heiraten, die er liebte. Seine Herzensdame hieß Devyani Rana (29), eine Rana-adelige mit indisches Blut aber seine Mutter Königin Aishwarya, die immer als herrisch und stur galt, lehnte die Heiratspläne ab. Es gab keine entgegenkommen und die Konflikt zwischen Prinz Dipendra und seine Mutter bzw. Eltern eskalierte so sehr, daß er nur die Waffe als eine Endlösung sah. Da wurde die humanistische Erziehung von Nepals Budanilkantha Schule und Englands Eton und USAs Havard über den Haufen geworfen, weil solche Gedanken in Nepals Palastwände, Gesellschaft und Machtstruktur fremd waren. In der Narayanhiti-Palast herrschten die Ansichten von Königin Aishwarya, die alles andere als humanistisch war in ihre Denkweise. Sie war für die altmodische hinduistische Machterhalt in der Palast und im Königreich.

Prinz Dipendra lebte in eine zwiespaltige, ambivalente Welt. Wenn er, wie sein Vater Birendra, gekrönt worden wäre, dann wäre er wieder von den meisten Nepali Landleute nicht nur als ein konstitutionelle Monarch, sondern auch als eine Reinkarnation von dem Hindugott Vishnu verehrt.

In Nepal ist es nun so, daß die Eltern bestimmen wollen, wer mit wem heiratet. Ich erinnere mich, daß nur wenige Nepali Schul- und Uni-Freunde von mir eine Liebesheirat durchgesetzt haben. Die meisten Menschen in heiratsfähigenalter lassen sich einheiraten, weil es alte, vedische Tradition in Nepal ist, daß man den Eltern ehrt und folgt.

Die Verwundbarkeit: Mit seiner Kurzschlußhandlung hat Prinz Dipendra nicht nur seine Eltern ausgelöscht, sondern auch ein reinkarnierter Hindugott. Generationen von Nepali Kinder werden sich die Fragen stellen: "Ist denn Vishnu doch verwundbar, genauso wie die lebende Göttin Kumari, die sich abdanken muss, sobald sie ihre Menstruationsblutungen bekommt oder durch eine Verletzung verblutet. Denn eine Göttin darf nicht bluten. Der König von Nepal hat auch geblutet als er von seinem Sohn erschossen wurde.

Raktakunda" bedeutet ein Blutlaken, wurde von dem Nepali journalist Krishna Bhattarai geschrieben, der den Pseudonym 'Abiral' trägt, was 'fortschreitend' bedeutet. Ein Schachspiel namens 'Baghchal' (Tigertaktik) wurde im Himalaya von der damaligen chinesischen Regierung gestartet, wobei China die Autonome Region von Tibet annektierte, denn nach chinesische Meinung waren die Himalayastaaten Sikkim, Bhutan, Ladakh die Phalanx von China. Chinas territorial Wahn ging so weit, dass 1962 ein Krieg im Himalaya mit India angezettelt wurde.

Nachdem Indien seine Unabhängigkeit von der britischen Raj errungen hatte, fnng an Indien seine Territorium zu konsolidieren, denn einige Teile waren noch in kolonial Hände z.B. Goa ein ehemalige portugesische Kolonie und Pondicherry (Frankreich) und der Nizam von Hyderabad ein dickköpfiger Herrscher, der von den indischen Union nicht verschlückt werden wollte. 1962 war eine bittere und traumatische Erlebnis für Indien, was dazu führte, dass Indien anfing Gebirgskampdivisionen für die indischen Armee zu trainieren und die alte vernachlässigte Strassen die zu den strategischen Punkten in Ladakh, Sikkims Nathu La, Bomdilla und anderswo im Himalaya führten fahrtaugnich zu machen.

Indien lies seiner Nachbarstaaten (Sikkim, Bhutan, Nepal) im norden seine heranwachsende militärische Stärke immer wieder spüren. Indien wollte Stalilität im Norden des Subkontinents und die exil Nepalis von Sikkim machten es einfach für die indische Regierung, da in einem demokratischen Wahl in Sikkim waren die Nepalis in überzahl, und die Ursprunglichen Einwohner Sikkims, die Lepchas, waren in der Minderheit. Obwohl der Chogyal von Sikkim mit eine US Amerikanerin verheiratet war, konnte dies die US Lobby nicht mobilisieren, weder in der diplomatischen, noch auf der politischen Front. Bhutan müsste seine Außenverteidigung an Delhi übertragen und die Befreiung von Ost Pakistan, den heutigen Bangladesh (Das Land der Bengalis) von den West Pakistanischen Militärs bereitete Nepals König Mahendra viele Sorgen, da er befürchtete, dass Nepal von Indien verschluckt werden konnte. Laut Krishna Bhattrai dies war der Grund, warum König Mahendra sein leben nahm.

Als ich noch Student war in in Katmandus Tri Chandra College, spielten sie häufig das nepalesisches Lied: “Ma marey pani mero desh bachhi rahos” was 'auch wenn ich sterbe, soll mein weiter Leben' bedeutet. Es wäre ein Jammer, wenn das Land Nepal auch sterben würde, nach dem Tod von dem selbsternannte Gottkönig, dessen Sah-Dynastie Nepal 239 Jahre lang regierte---bis ein Maoist namens Prachanda und seine Maobadi-krieger das Land eroberte, wie einst König Prithvi Narayan Shah und seine Blutrunstigen Gurkhas ins Katmandutal siegreich einmarschierten, nachdem Kirtipur gefallen war.

Im Roman erwähnt ein Palastbeamter, dass er ein Mann weglaufen gesehen hatte von der Bankettsaal von Narayanhitipalast. Der Verdacht ist, dass der Mann, der der Schwieger Sohn ist von Prinz Dhirendra (mein Schulkamarad), der auch während der Massaker getötet worden war, wüßte mehr über den Attentat.

Das Buch erzählt auch, dass König Mahendra's Tod direkt in zusammenhang steht mit der Streit zwischen ihm und die indische Premier Indira Gandhi. Mahendra Shah hatte Nepals gewählte Primierminister von seinem Amt entlassen, die politische Parteien verboten politisch Tätig zu werden und führte eine repressive, hinduistischen Regierungsystem genannt Panchayat, die von den Royalisten geführt wurde. India war dagegen und setzte Köig Mahendra unter Druck und verlangte von ihm es wieder rückgängig zu machen.

Dieser Massaker kam den Kommunisten Nepals, vor allem die militanten Maobadi Gruppierung nicht ungelegen. Sie wussten es, die Situation auszunutzen.

Als herkünftiger Nepali kann ich nur hoffen, daß die Ruhe wieder einkehren wird. Der neue König von Nepal Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shahadev kenne ich als ein Mann seitdem ich als Journalist bei The Rising Nepal gearbeitet habe. Seine erste Statement, nämlich dass das automatische Gewehr von allein losgegangen wäre, sprach nicht von Weisheit. Die Nachricht ging durch die ganze Welt. Es mag sein, dass es eine königliche Notlüge war. Er gilt als jemand, der ein Herz für Nepals Flora und Fauna gezeigt hat und er engagierte sich für die Ideen des World Wildlife Fund, indem er National Parks einrichten lies. Er war und ist der Vorsitzender von der King Mahendra Trust for Nature Conservation mit Sitz in Kathmandu. Dass er auch Diplomatie und die Fähigkeit besaß, ein armes, problembeladenes Land wie Nepal als sein konstitutionelles Monarch führen konnte war fragwürdig, da die Maoisten waren de facto die eigentliche militärische Herrscher Nepals. Er galt als konservativ im hinduistischen Sinne, sanft aber unbeliebt, aner seine Sanftheit was leider nur vorübergehend.

In Nepali Dokumentarefilme ist er häufig gesehen worden bei der Eröffnungsfeiern von Schulen, Krankenhäusern und National Parks. Er hat die Chance, die Rolle des Gottkönigs anders zu gestalten und Nepal auf dem Weg zum Fortschritt zu führen verspielt. Er war kein Staatsman, sondern nur in Geschäfte interessiert und konnte mit den Maobadis und andere kommunistische Oppositionellen mit Dialog und konstruktive Argumentationen, Zugeständnisse und Kompromisse nicht besänftigen, denn Kommunismus und Monarchie waren und sind nicht kompatibel.

Es bleibt ein schwieriger Job, ein Land wie Nepal zu regieren, da die pro China Maobadis und die pro Indien Congress Partei befinden sich in einem Clinch und kämpfen um die Macht in Schatten des Himalaya Staates.

June 23, 2008 | 10:46 AM Comments  {num} comments



Zähringen is 1000 Years Old (Satis Shroff, Freiburg)
Related to country: Germany

Translations available in: English (original) | French | Spanish | Italian | German | Portuguese | Swedish | Russian | Dutch | Arabic

1000 Years of Zähringen (Satis Shroff)

The ruins of Zähringen’s castle lies on a hillock overlooking the Vale of Dreisam. And the hamlet of Zähringen is a part of Freiburg. Zähringen is 1000 years old, reason enough to celebrate a festival with the inauguration of the Zähringer fountain, which is a tall monolith with a scarlet heart on the top, a work of art. Like all such celebrations, the 1000 years of Zähringen began with a mass at the St.Blasius church, followed by a cultural program with the cooperation of the Zähringer towns.

Zähringen’s history which dates back to a document entitled ‘castrum Zaringen,’ was founded in 1128 at the end of the 11th century, on the fundament of a once Allemanic building. The event was the heir, who came had Swabian blood in his veins, Berthold II, who received the town from the Count of Rheinfelden. Bertold II is seen as the founder of Zähringen, and in the year 1100 he was bestowed the title of ‘dux de Zaringen.’ A dux or duke is called ‘Herzog’ in German and thus the Zahringer. Became nobility in the German Empire, although the nobility lasted only a short while---till the death of Bertold V. The castle of Zähringen became their main residence and had been raised to the rank of a Reichsburg (Empire Castle).

At the beginning of the 12th century, the dukes changed their main residence to Freiburg and left the old castle in the care of the Vögten.

The year 1278 brought the first destruction of Zähringen castle at the hands of the Freiburger. The old castle was renovated from 1281 onwards. In 1327 Zähringen became the property of the Freiburger Patrizier Snewlin-Bernlapp. (Today there’s Bernlapp apothecary and a street carrying his name in downtown Zähringen, right near the tram station).

The castle was besieged and destroyed again during the Peasants’ War (Bauernkrieg) in the year 1525. The Thirty Year War brought a complete destruction of the castle. The castle ruin changed hands from the Abbot of St. Peter, and finally became the property of Baden in 1805.

Today, the castle ruin of Zähringen dates back to the late 13th century and the castle wall ring and the fundaments of the olde castle are still intact. The castle ruin has become an attraction for visitors who like nordic walking and hiking, school-kids and senior generations, although it doesn’t have the same allure as the ruins of Staufen, Schiltach, the ruins of Rötteln, Schloss Ortenberg at Ortenau or Hornberg-upon- Neckar.

Ach, Zähringen (Satis Shroff)

Zähringen lies to the north of Freiburg,
A castle ruin, which is a tourist attraction.
In the early days they used to dig for silver ores below the castle.
The ores that were dug were brought to the 'Poche',
Where they separated the silver from the ore
By melting them at high temperatures in the charcoal-kilns.
 
At the moment it smells of smoked-fish.
The adjacent barn has been rented to a German,
Who wears his spectacles on the tip of his nose,
He lisps and tells stories of the old times in Zähringen.
He smokes trout from the Black Forest thrice a year.
I think he sells them, otherwise he wouldn't smoke so many fishes.
He always hands me a freshly smoked trout
Wrapped on a piece of German newspaper.
I thank him and hand him a bottle of Weissherbst from our cellar.
 
When I sit and read a book on the terrace,
Frau Keller greets me with a friendly 'Hallochen!' from the street.
She has short, silvery hair and has a warm smile across her face.
She's an ethnic German from Romania.
I like her soft-spoken East Bloc accent.
Her friendliness is disarming even though she has a lot of pain.
 
In the afternoon I hear soft piano melodies,
When my son Julian does his music exercises.
The tones of the piano mingle with bird-cries,
And suddenly one hears the loud noise of a lorry,
Transporting either furniture or building materials,
Up and down the Pochgasse.
A lot of expensive villas are cropping up.
 
The Zähringer, as people living in Zähringen are wont to be called,
Are an active folk when it comes to organising things.
Every autumn there's a Hock around the St. Blasius church,
A get together, with Blasmusik, children's cries of joy,
The smell of waffel, noodle soup, roasted pork, sausages,
Fried potatoes and pizza lies in the air.
 
The ancestors of the people in Zähringer were charcoal-burners,
Who lived behind the castle.
One day the coal-burner discovered melted silver under his oven.
In those days there used to live a king, who'd fled to Kaisersstuhl.
He lived with his family in poverty.
The coal-burner went and gave the silver he'd found to the king.
The king was so impressed that he gave his daughter
In marriage to the coal-burner,
As well as the land surrounding Freiburg.
The king named him the Herzog von Zähringen.
The Zähringer duke founded Freiburg and other castles.
 
There's a tunnel at the end of the Pochgasse.
The cars drive below and the ICE and Swiss trains above.
Young and elderly Germans come by and ask only one question:
„Wo, bitte, geht’s zum Zähringerburg?“
Where's the road to the Zähringen castle-ruins?
 
The castle was built in 1091 by Herzog Bertold V.
It was destroyed by war and fire.
What has remained is an 18 meter high tower,
With a commanding view of Freiburg.
 
Glossary:
Gasse: small lane
Köhler: charcoal-burner
Köhlerei: charcoal works
Weissherbst: a German wine
Burg: castle
Meiler: charcoal-kiln
Blaskapelle: brass-band
spanferkel: porkling
Herzog: Duke of Zähringen


Meanwhile, as they say ins stories, the charcoal-burner became so powerful that he turned into a tyrant. One day the charcoal-burner or Kohler as we say in German, commanded his cook to fry a boy and serve it for dinner. The cook complied fearing for his own life. When the duke saw what the cook had done at his command, he repented the barbarious act and promised to mend his ways by building two monasteries---St.Peter and St. Ruprecht in the Black Forest.

However, it must be mentioned that there are different versions to the castle of Zähringen. In the verses of Schuzler 1846 (page 353-355), the Kohler finds gold instead of silver, and it’s not a king with whom he bargains but the emperor, who comes personally clothed as a monk and seeks refuge at the charcoal-burner’s home, who in turn offers the emperor his gold as a sign of loyalty. The emperor accepts the gold and gives him his own daughter’s hand to show his thankfulness, and also gives him the acres of Breisgau as his dukedom.

June 19, 2008 | 4:19 AM Comments  {num} comments

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