Posts Tagged ‘wwi’

Taking It On The Chin

Sunday, November 16th, 2014

The Habsburgs were a crazy, out of control dynasty that ruled for over 600 years (a.k.a. Austro-Hungarian Empire) and were the most powerful European entity since Rome! They started out mostly a peaceful group and found that marrying their royals with other countries’ royals enlarged  their holdings without firing a shot. But this eventually resulted in a lot of in-marrying, and a slew of reasons that this was not a good idea for their gene pool (more in a minute on that).

The 19th Century was their time to shine with Beethoven, Mozart, Brahms, and Strauss, Freud, Doppler and a host of others. At the turn of the century, Vienna was the world’s 5th largest city in the world and had managed to avoid all revolutions and revolts. Then came World War I, (which I could make a case for the greedy Habsburgs starting and losing) and their holdings were split asunder. Then Hitler took over in 1938 and that’s enough of a history lesson for now. I read tons about everyplace I visit.

After a few generations of sisters marrying brothers, uncles with nieces, you get the idea, a few quirky things started showing up in the family Christmas photo. We see hemophilia, cystic fibrosis, and skeletal deformities such as smaller stature and the easiest to spot; ‘Habsburg chin’. This is a very pronounced chin (think Jay Leno x 10). Phillip II of Spain was so deformed he could not swallow or speak.. In this portion of a prominent statue in the city center, you see Leopold I (and Holy Roman Emperor) kneel in thanksgiving for the plague being over. He was married to his niece who was also a first cousin so they weren’t fast learners either.

Habsburg Chin

Habsburg Chin

The Austrian Navy

Saturday, November 1st, 2014

DSC02376We are in Bolzano (Bozan),Italy. This region of Italy has an identity crisis as it doesn’t know if it’s Italian or Austrian. It belongs to an area known as Tirol: think Heidi, mountains, streudal, and beer. Mix with it pizza and pasta and your confusion would be justified.

Up until World War I, Austria had a coast line on the Adriatic Sea (Colonel Von Trapp from’ Sound of Music’ fame was a submarine commander in real life). The entire region for centuries was germanic and then to the victors go the spoils and it becomes Italian.

Today, all signs are in both languages and 85% of the inhabitants speak German. But it is a rich agricultural and industrial area for Italy (tons of apples are grown here, and of course wine) so despite protests and initiatives, it remains  Italy’s domain.

I think it’s the best of both worlds!