That fine late autumn day, we were heading to examine and inspect the new railway line which was being built near the city. Actually, the line was old, but the tracks had to be new as 30km maximum speed wouldn’t take anybody anywhere. As I have figured out, you are back at the beginning of your journey or into your bed instead of reaching your destination.
“The Chinese and Russians are building it. Come you silly dog, we should check out the progress”, my “walking manager” put the leash on me and we were on our way. To bark you the truth, I would rather enter the forest along the Danube or the river itself, but I had to comply. First chance I got, when he released me, I went in it, swimming in a hot pursuit after a couple of swans. Don’t take literally hot pursuit as they were cruising around wondering who or what is that orange head moving in their direction. When I returned, I was surprised that he had company, a girl and a dog. I have passed by her, carefully sniffing it. My nose didn’t like it or its tail was very hairy and upright like the top of some palm tree. Since the two-legged creatures involved themselves into an interesting conversation we, the canines, had to obey and be nice, although we were growling at one another.
“Danny behave”, he was holding a stick high.
“He looks so peaceful and interesting”, the girl patted me, with my master putting the grimace on his face.
“We were heading to Tekije, to check out the construction site”.
“Oh, really! Where is that?” – She cheerfully answered, with him opening eyes in dismay. Classical error, not knowing historical sites around the city.
Every chance for a nice and entertaining relationship was thrown out the window, or should I say better, tossed in the Danube marshes. Now, like it or not, we all have to attend yet another history class with me and palm tail not really caring but the boredom clearly visible on the girl’s face. I was hoping that some dog would be playing a major part, but it was wishful thinking as history only remembers such great generals as Julius Caesar and Pompeii Magnus or Napoleon and Kutuzov, not ordinary men or the dogs.
His hands were flying around as he tried to evoke those glorious days when the Romans and the Turks clashed here in the battle for world supremacy or American liberation war, I wasn’t sure. I was often wandering off from the grassy dam, checking for potential prey. I bet that girl wanted she could trade with me and her dog listening all the time of fierce fighting and preparations for the decisive strike against the enemy. In the distance we could spot the church, erected where once was Tekije, an old Turkish term for a small Islamic praying facility, just outside the town.
At that time, the Turks had advanced along the river from the south, supported by the river fleet. However, local pirates in small boats attacked Turkish galleons as the Greeks with small boats defeated huge Persian ships at Salamina many eons ago, when dinosaurs roamed the lands. Turkish general, I mean, the Great Vizier had to stop at two small hills, waiting for provisions to arrive by land. In those days, there were no trains, planes and fast cars and dinosaurs couldn’t be trained to carry anything. He could see the fortress straight ahead, but without the support of the guns from the ships, he could only wait for all of his forces to arrive.
In the meantime, Austrian general Eugene of Savoy gathered his troops, a very mixed breed, since there were all sorts of Christians, but from different fractions – Roman-catholic, protestant and Orthodox. If there were no Turks attacking they would be fighting among themselves. There was Hungarian cavalry, very proud and independent, Serbian infantry, good soldiers, but without any discipline, Austrian and German mercenaries and French elite force, only reliable one. They were outnumbered as the Ottoman Empire stretching from Crimea to Egypt and Persia could muster many many poor soldiers and attract them with lucrative spoils of war. Finest European wines, women and ducats could be theirs, if victorious.
Even more important, for contemporary situation, the girl suddenly turned right when she saw one lonely path, excusing herself, forgetting that she needed to broil the tea to her aging and blind one-legged grandmother. The dog looked at us for the moment and followed her.
“I hope your granny would be fine”, he yelled and waved away with me rolling my eyes.
“Well, it looks like it is the pair of us alone, again. Come on, you wouldn’t mind that I told you the story. I hate when things are left unsaid.” I could only wiggle my tail as we reached the shady part of the churchyard.
“You see Danny, this church is unique. It has altars in all three Christian confessions inside and on top there is the Cross and Muslim crescent moon underneath, beaten by unity of Christians of that era. And all thanks to her, the Snow Lady. It was like this…”
Instead of listening to the old war story, we were interrupted:
“What are you doing here? Who let that dog in the churchyard?” – One aging man attacks as with words.
“He can’t be here, what will the bishop say?” – Another, dressed very poorly aided alongside, nearly cursing us both.
We had to retreat with my walking manager lost for words. Later, much later he cried out:
“Even the dog is a heavenly creature. What harm would it do to an ordinary churchyard?”
It was too late as we were miles away, on the riverbank, to my satisfaction. Unlike great Mick Jagger I got what I wanted and needed, refreshment in the cold and fast-flowing waters of the Danube. The story remained untold right up to last week when we stumbled upon palm-tail with a lady in a wheelchair.
To my surprise the granny existed and she was very curious to hear everything about those events. It seemed to me that maybe she remembers them from her childhood, but that was very mean of me. Anyhow, the clash was between Turkish and Austrian army, not some other, and of course, the dinosaurs were still long extinct, otherwise there wouldn’t be any battle, only another act of Jurassic Park movie.
In the exact moment when Grand Vizier ordered the attack, the tranquil, blue and peaceful sky had to retreat with dark, ominous and snowy clouds prevailing. High above nature had a battle of its own and the creatures down there soon realized it is not a joke. The winds were hauling; blizzard confused and frightened Oriental warriors and their animals, they all, especially camels, weren’t prepared for this kind of weather early in the August and snowstorm easily destroyed all the tents, including the largest and the wealthiest one. The proprietor of it got some senses and ordered the retreat, but in massive confusion, his forces sprinkle in all directions, many in the hands of the enemy.
The Austrians, the Alpine people, better organized, reacted swiftly and pulled back the troops in the trenches, last resort if the battle wouldn’t go accordingly. All they had to do was wait it out and collect the victory, the personal wealth of many Turkish noblemen and the entire camp with harem, many golden pieces and jewelry. Among many things captured that and following days, was a new brew – coffee. Very soon, it became hugely popular in the capital Vienna and many other cities around the Habsburg empire. Also, many ladies from European courts were rescued out of the harem. All thanks to Snow Lady and the mayhem she brought to the attackers.
“What about the Vizier”, the old lady was very curious. She was a teacher or a librarian in her youth, many eons ago, I was mean again, with her dog staying put, not an inch far from her ride. “I heard he fell in some well and that hill is known after him – Ali Beg”.
Looking at the church, we all paused for a while, reminiscing to the events of those glorifying and terrifying clash. I was sure this was a start of a beautiful friendship, when he pushed the wheelchair, between two history geeks and like it or not I had to be close friend to the palm-tail dog. Considering how many are there strange looking dogs and their masters I could do much worse.