A Niccolò Moment for a Lymondaine
For me, the definition of Dunnett Moment is a moment you have had because you have read the books.
Well everybody here has such moments, they are the Déjà-Vues of Dunnettdom: They happen when we stand before a painting, a building or on a place we recognise from the books.
While I'm a Lymondaine, most of my Dunnett Déjà-Vues I have with places of the Lymond Chronicles. But, I was completely swept of my feet, when I had recently a very special encounter of the Niccolò Universe. And that in a town, where no Dunnett protagonist has ever set foot, - in Berlin.
And I can honestly tell, I have been in San Michele while not being to Venice.
San Michele, the monastery in Venice where Nicholas goes to talk about sea charts and about navigation? He goes clandestinely, only taking Umar with him, and he sets over to the island with a boat from Murano. This happens in the beginning of Scales of Gold.
All of you who have been in Venice do agree, the San Michele monastery does not exist anymore. In the Napoleonic Wars in the beginning of the 18th century, the Austrian army, occupying the Serenissima, has destroyed the old monastery to built a forteress on the island. Today San Michele is a graveyard of Venice.
Apart from a belltower and a few remains of the cloisters, the monastery of San Michele has vanished from earth.
How now, does one boast, she has been "there"?
The older one of you remember the cold war, and perhaps a Berlin place called Glienicker Bridge? That's the bridge they used to change spies on. Remember all this dark spy and Cold War movies?
What nobody ever thinks of, is that near this notorious bridge, so far south in Berlin that in the times of the Cold War it was nearly east, lies a charming castle from the beginning of the 19th century. A Prussian prince, brother of the Prussian King has built it there, surrounded by a beautiful pleasure ground and a big landscape garden. He has built his Arcadia after the stanzas of Renaissance architecture and Medici Villas and was dreaming himself to Italy.
The above mentioned landscape garden is a miniature journey from Germany over the Alpes and over the St. Gotthard mountain pass (yes, you are doing a real miniature travelling in the shoes of Claes, but no avalanches, I regret!) to the shores of the Adria (here the Havel Lakes) and to Venice. The latter is symbolised by a closed yard, made from Venetian remains the prince saved from - ...
... the monastery of San Michele.
It was years ago, the Niccolò books had not been written then, when I was jobbing for a theatre and film project on Heinrich von Kleist, and the crew was filming inside this courtyard. I enjoyed the day, and the enchanted place.
In summer I sometimes visit Glienicke, going along the shore of the Havel and stepping before the big iron grating door, which keeps the visitors out the little yard. And thinking of that I have had the privilege to be in there once.
And it was not before this summer, Carol and I were doing one of the rare guided tours at Glienicke, while she was visiting Berlin, that I learned, that the remains the yard is built from, were brought from San Michele by this Prussian Prince, who liked to spent a lot of money (even money he did not own -) on art and archaeology. I bet, he would have been a gorgeous Dunnett Reader!
Martine Däuwel in Berlin
Do you want a look on Glienicke?