The memoir as travel diary. The journey of Tokaj wine based on the memoir of Dov Ber Birkenthal, a Jewish merchant from Bolechow
A Hebrew manuscript was found in the Library of Jews’ College, London in 1912, written by Jewish wine merchant Dov Ber Birkenthal (1723-1805) from the region of Galicia, which was at first part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, then belonged to the Habsburg Empire. The manuscript was translated by Mark Vishnitzer in 1922, and it was published in English under the title The Memoirs of Ber of Bolechow. Due to his secular education and language skills Birkenthal was an important figure in the events that shaped the lives of the Jewish people in the era, and he participated in the theological debates between the talmudists and the frankists as an interpreter. This was the source of his other work, Divrei Binah. As a wine merchant he travelled the 18th century North-eastern Hungary, especially the Tokaj-Hegyalja region, and during the last decade of his life he wrote a memoir recording his experiences. This work provides valuable information about the Jewish community in 18th century Poland, as well as the Jewish-Christian relationship. The author also retells the political crisis and first partition of Poland. Through his memories we learn about the 18th century Tokaj-Hegyalja wine trade, and we can follow the routes of wine transportation. The social network of the Bolechow merchant is also clearly identifiable, even though it was probably even more extensive then what we see in the memoir. We can also read about the business relations of merchants from different ethnic backgrounds, the financial circumstances of the time, as well as a method of wine fraud.
When aristocrats travel. Types of aristocratic travel in the 18th century: the travels of Prince Albert of Saxony-Teschen and Archduchess Marie Christine
The 18th century was a golden age of travel. The number of people undertaking journeys increased significantly. This gave rise to new types of travel. This study presents old and new types of aristocratic travel with the help of three examples. These three were the journeys of Prince Albert of Saxony-Teschen and his wife, Archduchess Marie Christine. The destinations and dates in question are: Kingdom of Hungary (1766), Italy (1775–1776) and Paris/France (1786). These are compared to other types of travel. All three journeys are atypical in the sense that an aristocratic couple traveled rather than a single person, or a male aristocrat with his female companion. During these journeys the high status of Marie Christine as daughter of Empress Maria Theresa, was significant. The couple’s first shared trip was a representative court visit. It was Prince Albert’s first journey to the Kingdom of Hungary as royal governor. His official role notwithstanding the Hungarian nobility accorded higher status in the proceedings to the Archduchess. Their journeys to Italy and France, however, were not official visits. Besides calling on family members, their goals were learning and self-improvement. These travels were informal. The couple consciously avoided lavish receptions and formal social events. In accordance with the new fashion of ‘improvement’ tours (Reformstudienreise), they familiarized themselves with economic and social institutions, visited churches, galleries and art collections. They avoided any official ceremonial responsibilities during their stay in Paris, traveling ‘in incognito’ as the lord and lady of Béllye. They did this probably in order to avoid possible conflicts of interest. Their incognito enabled them to have a private, unofficial meeting with the Archduchess’s sister, Marie Antoinette. The novelty of these journeys lies in the fact that they are unique examples of the travels of a married couple in the 18th century.
From Mogilev to Smolensk: the first encounter and shared trip of Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II and Russian Empress Catherine II (1780)
Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II visited Russia during his time as co-ruler, not long before the death of Maria Theresa, between May and August 1780, to meet Russian Empress Catherine II. As Hungarian historiography recorded, this visit had significant consequences for the rest of the Emperor’s reign: it resulted in the Habsburg Monarchy entering a war against the Ottoman Empire on the side of Russia in 1788. Of course, joining the war had several other causes as well, and it was also preceded by another visit to Russia in 1787, but it is clear that the first visit started the intensive correspondence between the two emperors, as well as the harmonization of their foreign policies. Still, there are only vague Hungarian sources about these meetings, and even these don’t go much further than the most important events, which are often mentioned by foreign historiographers as well. One of the most important moments of this visit was the first meeting, which took place in Mogilev. This first encounter between these two important European monarchs – who are not only connected by the effect of Enlightenment values on their reigns, but also by the modern day historians’ heightened interest in them – provides valuable information about their personalities, as well as the circumstances and living conditions of the era, and by extension the 18th century Russian Empire in general.
Peter the Great in Pressburg
Russian tsar Peter the Great visited Pressburg for a few days during the summer of 1698. This study aims to reconstruct the exact date of the visit based on various sources and tries to answer the question why the tsar visited this particular city, even though he passed near Prague during the trip, and didn’t visit the city at all. The first reason is probably that by the order of the young tsar a wooden fortress was built in the village of Preobrazhenskoye on the left bank of the Yauza River in 1684, which was named Pressburg. It was most likely named after the famous imperial castle, about which the tsar might have heard from his teacher or the builders of his “toy fortress”. The plan to equip the Pressburg castle with state-of-the-art defences came up in the preceding decades, and maybe this piqued the Russian monarch’s interest. Another reason behind his trip might have been to see the Emperor’s Danube fleet. In Pressburg he could visit the shipyard while new ships were being built. It is likely that Peter was not only interested in the process of building ships, but also wanted to recruit builders for his own ships. The “great diplomatic tour” (which included the visit to Pressburg) had well-defined political aims as well: furthering the goals of the Holy Alliance, strengthening the relationship between the allies, and gathering support for the fight against the Ottoman Empire and the Crimean Khanate. Further goals included getting loans, recruiting professionals, ordering and buying weapons and munitions, and acquiring new training methods.
Russian Grand Duke Paul in Vienna in 1781–1782
The article aims to reconstruct the circumstances that surrounded the preparation for the long European trip Archduke Paul and his wife Archduchess Maria made in 1781–1782, the rich cultural programme of their stay in the Habsburg capital, which included visiting the military, administrative, cultural and educational institutions and getting acquainted with the first dignitaries of the state and representatives of the major aristocratic families at the court. The article is based on the unpublished Russian and Austrian ambassadorial reports, published correspondence of Catherine II with her son and daughter-in law and with Emperor Joseph II, the newspaper Wiener Zeitung, and other sources.
The experiences of an Austrian commercial counsellor in Moscow based on the 1774 diary of Karl von Zinzendorf
Count Karl von Zinzendorf, the commercial counsellor of the Habsburg Empire was beyond doubt one of the most active travellers of the 18th century. In 12 years, he visited Switzerland, Italy, French, Great Britain, Spain, Belgium, and Hungary, as well as distant locations like Portugal, Sicily, or Transylvania. This study focuses on a short episode of his last big trip to Eastern and Northern Europe: his stay in Moscow in August 1774. We believe that Zinzendorf’s experiences in the old Russian capital deserve the attention of not only historians, but wider audiences as well. The reason for this is that as an experienced traveller and expert on economy he could form an unbiased opinion about what he saw and compare it to his experiences in other countries, and he could evaluate the modernization efforts as well.