Time for Part Twenty-Seven of my serialization of The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers. As we count down to the final moments, I've particularly enjoyed listener reaction to this caper. Steyn Club member "CrossBorderGal" - I'm not sure whether the border she's crossing is the most traversed one-way frontier in the world, the US/Mexican border, or the second most, the German/Syrian border, but at any rate CrossBorderGal is enjoying our adventures in the Frisian corner of the map:
Having come to sailing late in life, I am loving the sailing maneuvers descriptions and nautical vocabulary (and in awe of Davies' (Childers') skill in the doing and the writing about it). We began listening to your tales before bed, then also from time to time during lunch, and now almost with every meal! So much for pillow or table talk, and ditch the evening news! Give us a Steyn tale for our time instead! Thank you!
Thank you, CBG. In tonight's episode our hero Carruthers is border-crossing himself. Having changed his mind about returning to England, he's now "sitting in a third-class carriage, bound for Germany, and dressed as a young seaman, in a pea-jacket, peaked cap, and comforter":
The transition had not been difficult. I had shaved off my moustache and breakfasted hastily in my bedroom, ready equipped for a journey in my ulster and cloth cap. I had dismissed the hotel porter at the station, and left my bag at the cloak-room, after taking out of it an umber bundle and substituting the ulster. The umber bundle, which consisted of my oilskins, and within them my sea-boots and a few other garments and necessaries, the whole tied up with a length of tarry rope, was now in the rack above me, and (with a stout stick) represented my luggage. Every article in it—I shudder at their origin—was in strict keeping with my humble métier, for I knew they were liable to search at the frontier Custom-house; but there was a Baedeker of Northern Germany in my jacket pocket.
Members of The Mark Steyn Club can hear Part Twenty-Seven of our adventure simply by clicking here and logging-in. Earlier episodes can be found here.
The word "Baedeker" crops up in almost all novels of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that venture to the Continent or even to the Levant and Sudan. But it occurs to me that persons under a certain age might not have a clue what it means. It was the travel guide to Europe and beyond - published by an enterprising German family, but with a bestselling anglo branch in London's Soho Square. Its market share was so dominant that "Baedeker" became a synonym for travel guide in the way that Hoover did for vacuum cleaner or Aspirin for headache pill. But in truth it had few competitors: Founded by Karl Baedeker in 1827, the company's guides were nigh on mandatory for Continental travelers a century or so back. The firm never quite recovered from the Second World War, and then the death of Karl's young great-great-grandson Florian in a parachuting accident in 1980. Florian's mum ceded control to larger corporations a few years later. That must have been around the time I met H A Piehler, a colonel in British wartime intelligence of German descent who ran the English-language branch on and off for over half-a-century. At any rate, I only have to hear the word "Baedeker" and I'm lying on the floor of a first-class compartment on the Blue Train, my sleeping powder having been spiked by persons unknown and my body about to be discovered by a night steward who alerts Poirot and Captain Hastings.
With that in mind, tonight's map is from the 1900 Baedeker for Northern Germany. Carruthers is heading straight east from Amsterdam to Rheine, in the lower right-hand corner, then north all the way to Norden, and a short branch-line service to Esens, in the top right-hand corner:
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