Kaiser Wilhelm III
2004-11-21 12:36:32 UTC
Thanks to William Baird and Faeelin for inspiring this...
* * *
6 August 1952,
As Michelle enters the terminal, the woman in the blue uniform and smart
white cap announces, in German, "Welcome to Otto von Bismarck International
Skyport, my lords, ladies, and gentlemen. First-class passengers, please
progress to luggage collection and customs clearance to your left.
Regular-class passengers, please form a line on the right."
The announcer starts to repeat the message in Yankee-accented English as
Michelle moves past. Her new husband keeps pace with her as they collect
their luggage, using one of the same wheeled trolleys that are ubiquitous in
Australian skyports, and then they reach the brief queue for customs
When their turn comes, Michelle and her husband try to step forward
together, but the customs officer holds up one finger. After a glance at
her husband, Michelle comes forward first, handing across her passport and
visa folded inside.
The customs officer looks inside the passport, nods at the visa, then says,
"Guten Middag, Frau Doktor Professor Kelvin. Purpose of visit?"
"Honeymoon," Michelle says. "With my husband," she adds unnecessarily, but
she likes saying that word. Husband.
At that, the customs officer waves her husband forward, and extends his hand
for that passport, too. "Guten Middag... ah, Baron von Kelvin."
Andrew smiles, no doubt pleased by the complimentary but incorrect von.
The customs officer hands them two printed cards and says, "Please sign this
declaration that you are bringing no prohibited substances, as listed, into
the Reich. Possession of any of the prohibited drugs in Category-A carries
an automatic ten-year jail term if discovered anywhere within the Reich or
the Greater European Economic Union, and likewise drugs from Category-B
carry a five-year jail term. Within the Reich itself, trafficking or
attempting to traffic in any Category-A drugs is an offence punishable by
Michelle signs the declaration without hesitation, although cocaine is on
the neatly-printed list of drugs in Category-A. She is sure the Germans
will not search her luggage beyond the most cursory inspection, particularly
not for drugs. Not a first-class visitor from Australia. If she had come
from America, if they had let her in at all, her luggage would have been all
but torn apart in the search for drugs.
The customs officer adds another stamp to each of the already over-crowded
visas, and hands back their passports. He smiles. "Welcome to the Reich,
Baron and Lady von Kelvin. Please proceed to luggage inspection on your
Michelle smiles back, but as she does so, she can't help noticing the
black-clad soldiers in the background, carrying automatic rifles. That is
something she is unused to, and that she has seen nowhere else in their long
journey, not in Eden's [OTL Auckland, New Zealand] skyport, or the stopovers
in Sydney, Palmerston [OTL Darwin, Australia], Singapore, Colombo, Muscat,
They move through luggage clearance, and as she expects, the clearance
officer only gives her luggage the briefest of inspections before waving her
through. Though that may have had more to do with the twenty-mark note she
folds into her passport before she hands it to the man.
Her husband Andrew has no more trouble with luggage inspection than she
does; tipping the inspectors to avoid the inconvenience of a full inspection
is a time-honoured if illegal aristocratic tradition in Europe. Michelle
knows better than to try it in most of Australia - she might get away with
it in Liverpool [OTL Melbourne, Australia] or Adelaide, but an inspector in
Sydney or Richmond would throw her in jail if she tried it.
Once through luggage inspection, they find a tuxedo-clad chauffeur waiting
for them by the first-class entrance to the skyport terminal. The chauffeur
holds up a sign reading "Lord and Lady Kelvin." He bows to them as they
approach, takes the luggage trolley off Michelle, and guides them to the
waiting Hansom . Michelle thinks she sees a slight frown when he notices
that she wears a skirt which reveals her ankles and calves, but decides to
ignore it. The Reich is far more conservative about such matters, as she
knew before she arrived.
"Straight to the hotel, my lord?" the chauffeur asks.
"Drive us around Frankfurt first," Andrew says. "Show us the city."
"Yes, my lord," the chauffeur says, as the Hansom leaves the skyport.
From the way he shifts effortlessly into the role of tour guide, Michelle
knows he has been called on to do this many times before. But that is to be
expected. Frankfurt has been the capital of the Reich for more than a
century - studying and teaching history has given Michelle an appreciation
for anything which lasts a long time - and it is the seat of government for
one of the three most powerful nations on earth. Michelle doesn't care all
that much for how the Reich has used its power, but that doesn't diminish
her appreciation for the city it has built.
The chauffeur says, "Frankfurt is a city like no other in Europe.
Elsewhere, cities have built up over centuries, their ancient, narrow
streets winding here and there."
"Awfully picturesque," Andrew says, and Michelle nods. They will be
visiting several such cities on their honeymoon.
"But not so convenient for horsts," the chauffeur replies with a smile.
"The heart of Frankfurt was destroyed during Napoleon IV's invasion. After
that war was over, Chancellor Otto von Bismarck ordered that Frankfurt be
rebuilt on a scale and grandeur suiting the capital of the Reich. So he
filled it with wide boulevards and open spaces... and those boulevards later
suited horsts very well."
Michelle murmurs, "So, Bismarck was the architect of the Reich in more ways
than one." But the chauffeur doesn't seem to hear her.
"As Frankfurt expanded, the city fathers have maintained this space, and
built roads to suit its role as the transport hub of Germany. This
Wagenbahn - excuse me, this highway, you would say auf Englisch - is the
Outer Ring Road, which circles the city and has... highways which meet from
across the Reich. That one leads to Amsterdam, and others lead to Hanover,
Berlin, Prague, Munich, Vienna and Strasbourg."
The Hansom turns left in a wide curve as it leaves the outer ring road ,
opening up a sweeping view of Frankfurt on the River Main. It looks compact
to Michelle, no matter what the chauffeur says about being more open than
European cities. Of course, she knows mostly Australian cities, which
sprawl like few others on earth. She has heard that some American cities
are the same, especially those on the Northwest Coast, but she has never
seen them, and doubts she ever will. The United States will never grant her
an entry visa even if relations between Australia and America were not so
Frankfurt looks mostly flat, with none of the grassy volcanic cones
scattered across Eden, and of course its skyline has nothing like the
triple-humped shape of Rangitoto Island to give it definition. But the
staggered line of cloudscrapers beside the riverside has a charm of its own.
The chauffeur says, "Few cities in Europe allow cloudscrapers. Frankfurt
permits them, but they are not allowed to overshadow the city's historic
Michelle is less impressed by the presence of cloudscrapers than the
chauffeur seems to expect. Cloudscrapers are commonplace in Sydney and
Liverpool and Richmond and they are starting to spring up in Eden, too. But
one massive building which dominates the eastern end of Frankfurt's skyline
does grab her notice, a gray-and-glass cloudscraper slowly closing to a
towering spire. It is much higher than any of the other cloudscrapers in
When she remarks on it, the chauffeur says, "Yes, that is the Leger Geheug
Aufsatz, the Army Memorial Tower. With 100 storeys, it is the tallest
building in Europe." He chuckles. "After it was built, most floors were
empty for so long that we called it the Leer Geheug Aufsatz, the Empty
The Hansom brings them to another four-lane highway, which the chauffeur
announces as the Inner Ring Road. He turns left, and begins describing the
landmarks of Frankfurt's heart. "On the left there is the Habsburg-Wettin,
the premier hotel in Frankfurt, home to monarchs, chancellors and presidents
for fifty years, which you will see much more of soon, when you stay there."
"To the right is the National Museum, with its famous grounds which stretch
along the Main." To Michelle, the National Museum looks like someone has
grabbed the columns of the Parthenon and painted them silver and green.
"This is the Gelbe Brücke, the Yellow Bridge, one of the main bridges across
the Main." Michelle looks out at the yellow sandstone facing on the walls
on the bridge, and at the many pedestrians scurrying across the outer
footpaths, and nods.
"To the right is the Three-fold Palace, where the Kaisers reside when they
visit Frankfurt." Michelle glances outside to see three sets of buildings
arrayed equidistantly around a central courtyard with a fountain and a clock
tower. As far as she can tell, the buildings' exteriors are identical in
"To the left is the Bundestag, the "Beehive" where the chief administrators
reside, and the other buildings of the National Government." Michelle turns
to see the long, angular, but gargoyle-festooned shape of the Bundestag, and
the round form which indeed looks like a beehive. The black, red and gold
tricolour with triple-headed eagle, flag of the German Reich, flutters from
a pole between them. These grounds also have plenty of black-clad soldiers
"To the right is St. Nikolaus's Palace, where the state monarchs reside when
they are in Frankfurt." The many wings of St. Nikolaus's Palace - St.
Nicholas's Palace, Michelle supposes - cluster along the bank of the Main,
but she mostly notices a towering red-painted statue of a bearded man in a
bishop's mitre, which stands closest to the highway.
"To the left is Embassy Avenue, which contains all the major diplomatic
missions to Germany. The two closest buildings are the American and Russian
embassies." Michelle glances at them, and sees two more or less identical
cubes for the embassies. Typical German efficiency, she thinks, to have
constructed both primary embassies as similar as possible and with neither
of them having any obviously superior status. But she still tells them
apart easily, for the Russian embassy has only a low hedge to separate it
from the boulevard, while the American embassy has a high white-painted wall
topped with four lines of razor wire, and barriers in front of the driveway.
"To the right is the Römerberg, the rebuilt heart of Old Frankfurt. We
cannot drive there, but I suggest that you visit the Römer, the town hall,
and the Cathedral Saint Bartholomeus, where the Holy Roman Emperors are
"Rebuilt after the war?" Michelle asks.
"Rebuilt after the Second Napoleonic Wars," the chauffeur answers. "The
heart of Frankfurt took only minor damage during the war, although much of
the Bundestag needed to be rebuilt."
Andrew whispers, "They rebuilt half the Römerberg to match the original
buildings, no matter what the Germans claim. My uncle used to say the flak
over Frankfurt was the worst in the world."
"Also on the right is the commercial district of Frankfurt. Most of the
offices here are headquarters of banks, as Frankfurt is the financial
capital of Europe." The political capital of Europe too, Michelle adds to
herself, at least if you decide that Europe ends at the Russian border.
Which is probably how most Germans see it.
The highway ducks into a low tunnel as the chauffeur says, "We are now
travelling beneath the Palmengarten, the great park which contains the
Botanic Gardens you must see. This Saturday also brings the Lange Nacht, an
all-night festival - no, you would say carnival - in the park."
The Hansom emerges back into sunlight, and dazzling reflections off the edge
of the Army Memorial Tower close by Michelle's right. The River Main
stretches before them as they approach another bridge, this one with a huge
limestone gateway where pedestrians and vehicles can pass beneath. The
chauffeur does not name this gate, perhaps for fear of the sensitivities of
his passengers, although he has no need. Michelle has no tenderness over
the end of the war, which ended when she was still in school. The
Bogentriomf [Arch of Triumph] is merely a part of history to her, including
the seven national flags which fly upside down from the gate, all
symbolically placed below the level of the carved triple eagle atop its
spire. None of them is the Australian flag, after all, so why should she
"This is the Eiserner Steg, the Iron Bridge, named in the Frankfurt dialect
rather than standard German. First designed for pedestrians, it was rebuilt
as a road and rail bridge after the original was destroyed during Napoleon
IV's invasion. The rail link has now been replaced by the new bridge you
see to your left, and the Iron Bridge converted to form part of the Inner
"To the right is the Opera House, the world's leading site for performing
artists. Operators  come from across Europe, Asia and Australia to
perform here. May I recommend that you see Heinrich Göring's "Faust", an
operatic adaptation of Frankfurt's own Wolfgang von Goethe's classic tale.
Bianca Reinblume's rendition of "The Jewel Song" is particularly moving."
Michelle looks out to see the familiar arched porticos around the Opera
House, and feels a touch of wistful envy. She doubts that Australia will
ever have an opera house to match this one.
"And now, my lord, my lady, we are back at the Habsburg-Wettin, where the
staff eagerly await the chance to make your stay a memorable one. May I add
my own best wishes for your honeymoon."
"Thank you," Michelle says, as she steps out of the Hansom, slipping the
driver a two-mark note before she walks up the grand steps to the
* * *
 "Hansom" is an early version of a stretched limousine. There were still
Hansom cabs ITTL (Joseph Hansom, who invented them, was born before the
POD), but the name was applied to more upmarket stretched limousines. In
North America, Hansoms are usually called "strets" or "strethorsts" (short
for stretched horsts).
 The Reich (and hence most of Europe) ITTL drives on the left, as that
was Austria's practice in both our history and TTL, and the Holy Roman
Emperor imposed that practice on the entire country when transportation was
 Michelle has published various books and lectures on slavery and
property rights, under her maiden name of Michelle Davies. See posts #23b,
#32, and #56.
 More precisely, where the man who is already Austrian Emperor is crowned
as Holy Roman Emperor as well.
 Yes, I know this is the wrong word in English. The chauffeur doesn't,
* * *
Kaiser Wilhelm III
P.S. The concluding post for the Second Napoleonic Wars, "The Sword and the
Mind", is coming soon - I just need to finalise a few of the colonial
borders, casualty lists, and a couple of other bits and pieces.