Get a Fix

As we all know – at least those of my venerable readers, who grew up listening to German Schlager (“hits”) -, es gibt kein Bier auf Hawaii, there’s no beer on Hawaii. XL may know better, and feel free to correct me please, but this is my level of information.
But there is (Bavarian) beer in Greece. The oldest trade mark is “Fix“. According wikipedia (Ger., Eng.) it is the greekisied version of the German name “Fuchs”. In the 1830s Johann Georg FUCHS started a small brewery in Athens, later the enterprise grew and became a de facto monopolist right through to the 1980s. The family came originally from the Bavarian (better : Franconian) Spessart.
Why Greece ? Because they followed the newly appointed Greek king OTTO (1815-1867) (Ger., Eng.), former Bavarian Prince & second son of king LUDWIG I. of Bavaria (1786-1868) (Ger., Eng.). OTTOs reign (1832-1862) was, after all, unsuccessful, and – with all due respect – I find his father the more interesting historical figure & personality.
But why would a Bavarian king put his second born, under-age son on a newly installed throne in a foreign country an der Schwelle zum Orient, at orient’s threshold ?
Because he loved Greece, or better : the idea of it.
This leads us back to Rome (where else ?) and in the Café Greco in the Via Condotti (Eng.). (Open bottle of red now.) *

LUDWIG went on his first major travel in autumn 1804. His youth had been a bit of an up-and-down, but he received a good education. He did not become a galant adventurer, a mercenary-type, or a glory-seeking condottiere (think of Friedrich II. of Prussia, who started a long war right after sitting on the throne, just because of his hunger for “Gloire” ; at least he had the insight to regret his deeds afterwards.) ; LUDWIG was a Schöngeist with a real interest in art, a serious Schwärmer, an enthusiast. Art became his escape – the politics he was thrown into were not to his liking, especially because his strong dislike of Napoleon BUONAPARTE. Sadly his father had made peace with NAPOLEON already in 1801, had formed an alliance with the destroyer of worlds, and was richly rewarded for this after the end of the old Reich – the more or less average Bavarian dukes were made kings.
The ink was not yet dry on the document when the newly made Kronprinz, crown prince, was sent to Paris in January 1806. And his sister AUGUSTA (Ger., Eng.) was married to the son-in-law of the French monster (at least it was a happy marriage). LUDWIG used the opportunity to visit the large (stolen) art collection of the self-styled “emperor”, and was impressed.
LUDWIG became a Philhellene  par excellence (Ger.,  Eng.) – WINCKELMANN had founded this new cult ; WIELAND had sung about a kind of “Rokoko-Arkadien”; HEINSE propagated an idea of Greek beauty; GOETHE (there is more to old Wolfie as just the nonsense they told us in school) projected an enlightened ideal of humanism back into the classical age ; HÖLDERLIN, well, was Hölderlin, and BYRON finally wrote travelogues & died romantically. The classical age of Greek art & civilization became a large canvas for ideals of the romantics of the day.

But it had a pretty material side too. Mr Thomas BRUCE, later Lord ELGIN (Ger., Eng.), had received a ferman (Ger., Eng.) that allowed him (or his agents) to measure classical sites, paint pictures of those sites, and make plaster casts of figures & statues in reach. Also the agents should have the chance to acquire “transportable antique works of art”. This went reasonable well at the first expedition of ELGINs people, namely under his main representative, the Neapolitan painter Don Giovanni Battista LUSIERI (Eng.). For the second expedition into the Greek wilderness ELGIN received a second Firman that basically allowed him to “help himself”. LUSIERI interpreted the term “transportable” now as “being possibly made portable” with the help of saws, levers, cranes and whatever needed. He filled some ships with the old stuff (more than thirty), the nasty French tried to capture them unsuccessfully, a commission was established. Finally they gave ELGIN thirtyfive-thousand pounds, what was not covering his expenses, and he had his place in modern art history. “Quod non fecerunt Gothi – fecerunt Scoti”, as BYRON put it. Roughly : The Goths did not dare, but the Scots.
This had happened in 1801. So when LUDWIG came to Rome in 1804 Greece was en vogue among all art enthusiasts ; 1806 he saw what NAPOLEON had brought from Egypt. Later (1807) the crown prince engaged the help of a certain Johann Martin (von) WAGNER (Ger., born in Würzburg) as agent, always asking for Greek sculptures, or at least drawings or casts.

Some night in 1810 (open 2nd bottle of red now) the regulars in the Café Greco had the idea of a “greek expedition” : Why not go there and look for themselves ? Why not go there and search for the wonders ? So they threw their Pausanias in the Rucksack, grabbed the pistols (all those robbers !), and visited the godforsaken village in the middle of nowhere called Athens in 1810 : Baron Karl Haller von HALLERSTEIN, Otto Magnus von STACKELBERG, Jacob LINKCH (Ger.), sorry if I forgot one. The Athens of these day was dusty, ugly and far from its former classical glory. Venetians had bombed the acropolis, in the Erechtheion the Pascha’s harem was established, magnificent ruins nevertheless, perhaps a bit like Rome before the Pope came back from Avignon. They lodged in LUSIERIs house, and two Englishmen joined the group, Charles Robert COCKERELL, an architect, together with his friend John FOSTER.
In April 1811 they had measured Athens and COCKERELL, HALLER, FOSTER & LINCKH deceided to visit a small island called Aegina – there shall stand a well-preserved temple (Ger., Eng.). They dig a bit around to be able to take the correct measurements, only to stumble over some very fine sculptures : They had accidentally found the crashed down gable with its group of figures. A lot of “Bakschisch” is handed to the local Turkish commander until the sculptures are brought to Athens unscathed – and it is clear that the “Aigineten” (pics) are a European sensation. There must be a solution found, and finally it is agreed that the sculptures will be auctioned off in Zante (Italian for Zakynthos (Ger., Eng.)) under the auspices of the colourful Georg Christian GROPIUS (Ger.), consul of this and that. HALLER lets LUDWIG know what they are sitting on, who in turn sends carte blanche (Zvgmv ?) to WAGNER in Rome, and a helpful bill of exchange over seventy-thousand Gulden. While WAGNER is on his way to Athens the director of the British Museum is also on his way, sending ahead the brigg “Paulina”, her captain ready to collect those old marble-stones. The group of friends who discovered the sculptures receive some unethical offers, remarkably none accepts, they seem – as a group – to be able to survive this and safe their friendly relations amongst each other.
The sculptures are brought to Malta – the greedy French again ! – while the auction is held in Zante. WAGNER arrives just in time, looks at the plaster casts, and slams the seventy thousand on the table – good enough for GROPIUS, and that’s it. WAGNER redeems the sculptures in Malta, makes it through a terrible storm near Stromboli, and finally reaches Naples. THORWALDSEN (Ger., Eng.), one of the regulars at the Greco, and assigned by LUDWIG for the reconstruction, is besides himself. The Russians offer cool hundred-thousand Dukaten, the English have a word with COCKERELL, but he had done nothing wrong. Today the sculptures are shown in LUDWIGs Glyptothek in Munich.

All this just illustrates the role of art in those days, the worship of the idealised Greece, and gives an idea about the world of ideas of the Bavarian king LUDWIG, who has a bust of HOMER in his study and reads the gospel in the Greek urtext every evening. When “Greece” all of a sudden is not just marble past any more, but becomes bloody present reality in 1821 (Ger., Eng.), he will not retreat in his library and write some poems – he does, yes – , but he will link the Greek fight for independence against the Sultan (Ger., Eng.) with the German struggle for unity, and he will use a lot of (own) money for equipment, ransoms (to buy back prisoners of war) et cetera, and finally he will sent his son to be king of Greece.

* I use for this scribblings the enjoyable and well-written book by SEIDL, Wolf : Bayern in Griechenland. Die Geburt des griechischen Nationalstaats und die Regierung König Ottos. Erweiterte Neuauflage, München 1981 (first 1965 ?), especially chapter one (17-42), and pages 337-355.

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8 thoughts on “Get a Fix

  1. Pedantic Corner: There is Primo Beer in Hawaii. Originally a local brew but now owned by a large conglomerate. Never had a sip of it. In the late 1960s I did, however, want one of their logo Aloha Shirts, but I didn’t have the money to buy one.

  2. For FIX’s sake – you are right Dinahmow !
    But I think it would have been very nice for LX to wear this shirt. The blue figure also looks a bit Greek, like wearing a helmet. Perhaps to keep the head together after all these Primo Fixs …

  3. As it’s barely 8 in the morning, I swapped the red wine for coffee. However, it was fascinating enough to get through with just the one cup. Although I’m going to have to have another now so I can follow (and likely get lost in) those wikipedia links!

  4. Sorry Norma, I am not sure what this expression means.I think basically I’m softnickeled…

    Very cool stuff LX ! This looks like what the Greeks and Romans had, just different materials. Perhaps did the Greek discover Hawaii ?

    I only had coffee for one cup left IDV, so it takes a bit … Yes, mostly wiki-links this time. I did not find something more specific about the Greco and its crowd.

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