There is a chestnut tree in our backyard, which we call the Queen Luise tree. When we brought it from Germany in a Coke bottle filled with water, it had just sprouted. During the war years I was aware that this queen’s ancestral home was on the far side of the lake of my high school town, but I didn’t have a chance to visit then.
In the entrance foyer of our farm near the Baltic Sea, my family had a marble bust of this queen. It was a copy of an original by the German artist J. G. Schadow, who is famous for having created the Quadriga on the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. The bust was lost in the tumult at the end of WWII. When we were on a cruise of the Baltic four weeks ago, we passed within 30 miles of my childhood village, and also Tilsit, where Queen Luise and Napoleon came to a peace agreement on July 9th 1807, 200 years ago today. When she died a couple years later, she was laid to rest not far from the engineering college I attended in Berlin.
I needed to cross only 2 streets from my student quarters to get to my school, Levertzow Street and Dortmunder Street. Dortmunder Street popped up to my surprise on a framed and autographed letter with photo that Brigitte bought at a flea market in NY. It was of Hindenburg, the President of Germany until 1934. At the beginning of WWI he became the hero of the Battle of Tannenburg. As a young officer he had participated in the crowning of Kaiser William I, the son of Queen Luise. As a young man the prince had participated in a hunting event and stayed at the estate where my mother grew up.
As for Levetzow Street: out of curiosity, I found out who Levetzow was when I was still living in Berlin. But only now, 50 years later have I had a chance to read the book of famous essayist, Stefan Zweig: Sternstunde der Menschheit”, (“Stellar Moments in Mankind”). One of the essays was about Goethe’s Marienbäder Elegie, his famous poetry about his last great love: Ulrike von Levetzow, rightfully called a “stellar experience”.
When one lives long enough, it becomes possible to recognize the links between events and possessions. “Connecting the dots”, came to my mind during the Baltic Cruise; through the stimulus of travel, I for the first time made the connection between the chestnut tree in our garden and the signed Hindenburg letter in our den.
These connections led to the creation of this blog, which allows me to share the stories that have punctuated some of the stellar moments of my life.