Münchhausen's trip to Russia and St. Petersburg

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Postcard motif for Münchhausen's wedding in Pernigel ( Liepupe )

Münchhausen's trip to Russia and St. Petersburg is one of the stories attributed to Karl Friedrich Hieronymus Freiherr von Münchhausen , which he is said to have given the best of his friends. The story was written by Gottfried August Bürger under the title “ Wonderful journeys on water and on land. Campaigns and funny adventures of the Baron von Münchhausen, as he tends to tell the same about the bottle in the circle of his friends ”as the first chapter written down and first published in German in 1786 .

In the narrative, actual people and events mix with fantasy and the art of storytelling.

Travel occasion

Historically proven is the fact that Münchhausen traveled from his estate in Bodenwerder via Riga to Saint Petersburg .

In 1738 , Duke Karl I of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel sent Münchhausen to Russia . At first he served the duke's brother, Anton Ulrich von Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel , who commanded a regiment in Saint Petersburg, as a page . At the end of December 1739 he was accepted into the "Braunschweig-Kürassiere" regiment, which was now stationed near Riga .

The beginning of the narrative corresponds to a travel description:

I started my trip to Russia in the middle of winter because I correctly concluded that frost and snow made the roads through the northern regions of Germany , Poland , Kurdistan and Livonia almost even more miserable, according to the description of all travelers than the ways to the Temple of Virtue would have to be repaired at last, without the special costs of high-priced, well-caring state governments. I traveled on horseback, which is the most comfortable way to travel when things are otherwise good for horses and riders. Because then you risk neither having an affaire d'honneur with some polite German postmaster, nor being dragged to every inn by your thirsty postilion. I was only lightly clothed, which I felt pretty bad the further I got to the northeast. "


Ever since the Münchhausen stories were written, they have been accused of blasphemy . Blasphemy and lies obviously belong together: According to the Book of Revelation , boasting, blaspheming, lying and denying God are the same thing: sin and the work of the devil.

Some of the editors of these stories saw a problem in the following paragraphs, as it deals with lies as a form of blasphemy .

So has Protestant theology even against the most harmless lie biggest concerns. She appeals to the Revelation of John and sees the kingdom of untruthfulness as identical to the kingdom of the Antichrist . So anyone who lies is a blasphemer. Münchhausen, who behaves like Saint Martin , claims to have heard someone cursing thanks to him from heaven (a contradiction in terms, because the Church believes that there is no cursing in heaven):

" Now one can imagine how, in such severe weather, under the quickest swath of the sky, a poor old man had to feel like, who lay helpless and shuddering in Poland on a desolate hillside, across which the northeast cut across, and had hardly anything to do with he could cover his pubes. "

The poor devil lasted with all my soul. Even though my heart froze in my body, I still threw my traveling coat upon him. Suddenly a voice rang out from heaven, which highlighted this work of love and called out to me. "The devil fetch me, my son, that shouldn't go unreported! "

The steeple

In Riga, Münchhausen was invited by the Baltic German nobleman Georg Gustav von Dunten to go duck hunting on his estate in Dunte (Livonia). Münchhausen met his daughter Jacobine on this occasion and married her on February 2, 1744 in the church in Pernigel (today: Liepupe ), not far from Dunte.

The locals in Dunte and the surrounding area still claim today that it was the church at Pernigel, to the top of which the horse of Münchhausen is said to have been tied, as shown above and reported below:

I let that go and rode on until night and darkness fell upon me. Nowhere could a village be heard or seen. The whole land was covered in snow; and I knew neither way nor footbridge. "

Tired of riding, I finally dismounted and tied my horse to a kind of sharp tree stake that protruded from the snow. To be on the safe side, I took my pistols under my arm, lay down in the snow not far away, and took such a healthy nap that my eyes didn't open again until it was broad daylight. But how great was my astonishment when I found that I was lying in the middle of a village in the churchyard! Initially my horse was nowhere to be seen; but soon afterwards I heard it neighing somewhere above me. When I now looked up, I became aware that it was tied to the weathercock of the church tower and hung down from there. Now I knew at once what my turn was. The village had been completely covered in snow all night; the weather had suddenly changed, I was asleep, little by little, just as the snow had melted, sunk down very gently, and what I thought in the dark to be the stub of a little tree protruding above the snow, and my horse to it that had been the cross or the weathercock of the church tower. "

Without thinking twice, I took one of my pistols, fired at the holster , happily got back to my horse and followed my journey. "

In the Ingermanland forest

On the way from Riga to St. Petersburg in the north, the journey leads through areas of today's Estonia and the historical region around St. Petersburg, which was called Ingermanland . At that time it was a very swampy and inhospitable area, in which there were enough opportunities for imaginative adventure stories. With this in mind, the narrative continues:

Then everything went well until I came to Russia, where it is not the fashion to travel on horseback in winter. As it is now always my maxim to follow the familiar "rural morality", so I took a little racing sled on a single horse and drove off to St. Petersburg. Now I don't know whether it was in Estonia or Ingermanland, but I can still remember that much, it was in the middle of a terrible forest when I saw a terrible wolf, with all the swiftness of greediest winter hunger, come up behind me. He soon caught up with me; and it was utterly impossible to escape from it. Mechanically I lay down flat in the sleigh and let my horse act alone for our mutual benefit. What I suspected, but hardly dared to hope or expect, happened immediately afterwards. The wolf did not care in the least about yours truly, but jumped over me, fell furiously on the horse, tore off and suddenly devoured the whole rear of the poor animal, which only ran the faster in terror and pain. Just as I had gotten off so well and unnoticed myself, I raised my face quite furtively and saw with horror that the wolf had almost eaten its way into the horse. But no sooner had he squeezed himself into it so nicely than I noticed my speed and fell hard on his skin with my whip. Such an unexpected attack in this case caused him no small fright; He strove forward with all his might, the body of the horse fell to the ground, and behold, in his place my wolf was stuck in the harness . In my locality I stopped whipping even less, and we arrived at full gallop safe and sound in St. Petersburg, contrary to our mutual expectations and to the astonishment of all spectators. "

Courtly company

At the time of the Enlightenment in the 18th century, society at the Petersburg court was very much oriented towards French . The French language, preoccupation with the fine arts, yes, science in general, were considered an expression of the sophisticated way of life.

Münchhausen now makes fun of this phenomenon by blaspheming about society, which pays so much attention to the " good tone " ( Bonton ). Even the contemptuous swipe at the "hair curler" succeeds here through the literal translation of the French term 'friser' ( German : kräuseln, wellen ), from which the job title " hairdresser " was derived:

" I don't want to make you, gentlemen, bored with chattering about the constitution, the arts, sciences and other peculiarities of this splendid capital of Russia, much less you with all the intrigues and funny adventures of the Bonton companies , where the woman from the house is the guest." always receives and entertains with a schnapps and smack. Rather, I stick to larger and nobler objects of your attention, namely horses and dogs, of which I have always been a great friend; also foxes, wolves, and bears, of which, as well as other game, Russia has a greater abundance than any country on earth; Finally, of such pleasure games, knightly exercises and priceless deeds which dress the nobleman better than a bit of musty Greek and Latin or all the little smells, puzzles and capers of French beauties and hair-curlers. "

The true life

The last part of the story relates to the actual way of life of the Russians, which, in contrast to the courtly demeanor, consists in an extremely virtuoso handling of the bottle ( French : Bouteille ):

Since it was some time before I could be employed in the army, I had complete leisure and freedom for a few months to make my time and money younger in the noblest way in the world. Many nights were spent playing games and many with the clang full of glasses. The coldness of the country and the customs of the nation have given Bouteille a much higher rank among social entertainments in Russia than in our sober Germany; and therefore I have often found people there who could be considered true virtuosos in the noble art of drinking. But all were miserable bunglers against a grayish, copper-colored general who dined with us at the public table. The old gentleman, who had missed the upper half of his skull since a fight with the Turks and therefore, whenever a stranger came into the company, apologized with the most kindly honesty that he had to keep his hat on at the table, always took care of him during dinner to empty a few bottles of brandy and then, usually with a Bouteille Arrak, to make the decision or, depending on the circumstances, to make a few da capo times ; and yet not once could you see so much drunkenness in him. - This is beyond your belief. I forgive you, gentlemen; it also exceeded my concept. For a long time I didn't know how to explain it to myself until I found the key all by itself. The general used to pick up his hat from time to time. I had often seen this without being suspicious of it. It was natural that his forehead would be warm, and that he would then lift his head no less. But at last I saw that at the same time as his hat he was picking up a silver plate attached to it, which served him instead of the skull, and that then all the vapor of the spirits he had consumed was always up in a light cloud rose. Now the riddle was suddenly solved. I told a couple of good friends and, since it was evening when I made the remark, offered to prove the correctness of them at once by an experiment. I went behind the general with my pipe and, just as he was putting down my hat, lit the rising vapors with some paper; and now we saw a spectacle as new as it was beautiful. In an instant I had turned the pillar of cloud over the head of our hero into a pillar of fire, and that part of the vapors that still lingered between the hair of the hat formed a nimbus in the most beautiful blue fire , more splendid than the head of the largest Has shone around saints. My experiment could not remain hidden from the general; but he was so little indignant about it that he even sometimes allowed us to repeat an attempt which gave him such a lofty reputation. "


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