We have often commented on how lucky we are to have been able to travel so much, to so many interesting places. During our travels over the years, we were fortunate enough to witness several locations that involve what I call ‘firsts’. Some, we came across accidentally. Others, we found in our ‘before trip’ research and preparation. These ‘firsts’ include:
1) The world’s first mountain funicular
2) The world’s first international peace treaty
3) The world’s first cable suspension bridge
4) The world’s first written law code
The first funicular or mountain cable car in the world
The first ‘first’, is one which I have included before in a previous ‘travel tale’, on the mountain above Bolzano, Italy, heading up to our favourite hotel, ‘Gasthof Kohlern’. This is the site of the first mountain cable car, or ‘Seilbahn’ which was included in another tale.
A bronze plaque commemorates this achievement together with a replica of the original car.
THE HISTORIC FUNICULAR
On 29 June 1908, the Kohlerer-funicular went into service in Bozen. It was the first cable car in the world to carry passengers. About 800m difference in altitude could be covered in 15 minutes (nowadays 5 min.). It was a small sensation for the world. A bold idea by the innkeeper Josef Staffler to bring guests up to Kohlern in the summer to the inn of the same name for a holiday away from the heat of Bozen.
The Treaty of Kadesh, the first International Peace Treaty
This was mentioned another ‘travel tale’ about my find in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum, the original clay tablet (actually, the original was made in silver) outlining the first international peace treaty between Ramesses II of Egypt and King Hattuşillis III of the Hittites, which brought a cease to the hostilities that had gone on for decades.
In the year 1274 BC, in the fifth year of Rameses’ reign, he launched an attack against Hittite forces in Syria to capture the city of Kadesh. His armament factories were producing 1000 weapons a week, about 250 chariots in two weeks, and 1000 shields in a week and a half. Egypt launched their attack with 20,000 troops with 2000 chariots, against the Hittites who had from 25 to 40,000 men and 2500 to 3500 chariots. This ‘Battle of Kadesh’ is thought to be the largest ever battle involving chariots. The copy in the Istanbul Museum is written with cuneiform in ancient Akkadian language . There is another one in Egypt written in Egyptian hieroglyphics.
There are many interesting details about this treaty, but I am intrigued by the diplomatic wording used in the preamble.
Treaty of Rea-Mashesha-Mai Aman the great king of the land of Egypt the valiant, with Hattuşillis, the great king of the Hatti land for establishing good peace and good brotherhood worthy of great kingship forever.“
The treaty goes on in great detail with complex diplomatic language about what would happen if either party was attacked by another, and what the response would be. This treaty is treated with such importance and respect that a copper copy of it was presented to the United Nations and currently resides in the UN building in New York.
The first cable suspension bridge – “Älteste Kabelhängebrücke Deutschlands”.
Before I describe this bridge, I must say a few words about the German language. First, I am not even close to being fluent in this language, but I find the structure and rules very interesting. When the Germans want to use a new word to name something, they combine many other words that describe it into a new name. In this case, we are describing the ‘oldest cable hanging bridge in Germany’ (cable hanging, meaning suspension bridge). So, the Germans combine several words and come up with “Älteste Kabelhängebrücke Deutschlands”. The word ‘brücke’ means bridge, so Kablehängebrücke is not hard to figure out.
We first came across this bridge while bicycling by the Bodensee, or Lake Constance. As I mentioned in a previous travel tale, the bicycle paths around this lake are fabulous. This bridge is about 150 m. long, and crosses the Argen River, between Kressbronn and Langenargen. The commemorative plaque on the bridge says it is the oldest in Germany, and the map I was using also states the same. While researching this further, I found others that say it is the third oldest, after the Kettensteg in Nuremberg and the Tiergartenbrücke in Berlin. It really doesn’t matter, they are all old bridges. This one was built between 1896 and 1897 under King Wilhelm II of Württemberg. Apparently it was manufactured in Paris for the world exhibition. As you can see from the photo, it is a pretty substantial bridge for a bike path! It is popular with pedestrians and bicycles, even the occasional horse-drawn carriage. Another bridge close-by handles other traffic.
The Law Code of Gortyn
“The Great Inscription of the Law Code of Gortyn” is an amazing piece of work. Discovered at a Roman Odeum on Crete in the archaeological site of Gortyn over 100 years ago, it consists of twelve columns, or ‘Deltoi’, on four rows of incised Ashlar slabs. They are 1.5 m by 9m in width, each containing 53 to 66 lines, totalling over 600 lines! The method used for inscribing the code is called ‘Boustrophedon’, meaning ‘plowing a field’. The words travel from right to left, then on the next line turn around and go from left to right. Even the letters in each word are reversed. Having carved stone in Greece myself, I cannot imagine how monotonous the job would be of carving out all of the letters and words of this inscription. They figure that one person carved the entire inscription. I do not know how many of the average public would know how to read this, and especially how many know how to read it backwards?
The find dates back to approximately 500 to 450 BC, when most of the rest of Europe was struggling to survive in caves and killing each other in tribal wars. This detailed inscription is often referred to as the “Queen of Inscriptions” or the “Twelve Columns of Deltoi” is the earliest European civil code, and one of the greatest contributions of Classical Greek to Ancient Crete civilization.
The code covers many situations that might arise in society of the day and require a ‘legal opinion’. Here are a couple of examples:
“If a serf goes to a free woman’s house and marries her, their children are to be free, but if a free woman goes to a serf’s house and marries him, their children are to be serfs.”
“If a divorced wife takes anything more from her husband’s property, she is to pay a fine of five staters and to give back whatever she has defrauded.”
“If someone buys a slave from the market place and has not completed the agreement within 60 days, and the slave has done something wrong before or after the purchase, this will be a matter of trial.”
The code goes on for over 600 lines, covering almost every social and family interaction and situation you might imagine. If anyone wants an interesting read, especially if you are a lawyer or are in the legal business, just Google this subject and read more examples.
We missed visiting this site the last time we were in Crete, but it’s at the top of the list for our next visit in a few months.
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