Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Finckenstein Allee to Kirchstraße

The route from Andrews Caserne to the Standesamt in Zehlendorf
The Treaty of Finckenstein (sometimes spelled “Finkenstein” without the “c”) was signed on May 4, 1807 between France and Persia, two years after France lost the Battle of Trafalgar, and France turned its attention to the East.  Napoleon I of France would guarantee Fath Ali Shah of Persia a bunch of goodies, specifically Georgia and parts of Transcaucasia, as well as guns and ammunition, officers and workmen.  All the shah had to do in return was declare war on Britain, expel all Britons from Persia and clear the way for France to claim British possessions in the Middle East.  Not the first time Britain and France were at odds over goings on in the Middle East, nor the last.  The treaty didn’t hold.  Two years later it was Britain that signed a treaty with Persia, forcing the French this time to buzz off.

The treaty was named after the castle in which it was signed.  Finckenstein Castle, what’s left of it after the Russians burned it down in 1945, is located in what was once West Prussia and today is Poland.  Napoleon I (yes, that one, born Napoleone di Buonaparte in 1769) actually lived here with his mistress, Maria Walewska, who abandoned husband and child for the honor.  Josephine had pissed him off when she took up with  Hippolyte Charles, and Maria was only one of his many mistresses. 

Finckenstein Castle was owned by a man named Finck.    Finck von Finckenstein.  Actually, Count Albrecht Konrad Reinhold Finck von Finckenstein.  The Finck von Finckenstein family lost it eventually to the Schlobittens – the Dohna-Schlobittens, to be more precise, who lived in it till the Russians burned it down.  Before they did, Greta Garbo and Charles Boyer made a movie in it, the 1937 film titled Conquest. 

During the 1960s I lived along with several friends who would become friends for life in a military barracks in Finckensteinallee in the Southwestern Berlin suburb of Lichterfelde.  I can’t be sure the street was named after the castle, but how many Finckensteins are there running around, I ask you?  These friends included Craig Buchanan, Jerry Rodgers and Merrill Van de Graaff, all three now passed on, and Bob Grous and Ed Schanda and me, still very much alive and well.  The barracks was known by its snootier French name, “caserne.”   Andrews Kaserne, in German; Andrews Caserne in English.  Andrews Kaserne had been built originally in 1873-74 as the Imperial "Hauptkadettenanstalt" - the main military academy of the newly formed German Empire under Bismarck.  Just before the Americans took possession in 1945 it had been the home of Adolph Hitler’s personal guard, a fact that lent an air of some discomfort at times when sleep was slow to come.

From Andrews Caserne in Finckenstein Allee to the Standesamt – the official records office where weddings are performed – next to the city hall in Zehlendorf – is a 40-minute walk.  Seven minutes by car, I am informed by Google Maps.

That’s where Ed Schanda married his childhood sweetheart Bonnie, from Southeast Missouri, on this day, fifty-one years ago.  Bob Grous and I were the witnesses.

Finckenstein Castle had nothing to do with it.

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