The Things That Mattered Most – Baedeker’s Guide to 1911 Lemberg (Lviv: The History of One City: Part 22)

Baedeker, the name is still spoken with reverence when it comes to travel guides. Prior to the First World War, Baedeker’s travel guides were as much a part of European travel as steam locomotives. The guides acted as the go to source of information for legions of travelers. Kept readily at hand, they were unmatched in detail and breadth of coverage, a direct reflection of their characteristic meticulousness. As A. P. Herbert once said, “Kings and governments may err, but never Mr. Baedeker.” The founding father of the Baedeker guidebooks was Karl Baedeker, born at the turn of the 19th century in Essen, Germany. By his mid-twenties Baedeker was firmly ensconced in the world of book publishing. At the age of thirty-one, he bought a bankrupt publishing house. With this transaction he acquired the rights to a scholarly book that focused on the history and art of the Rhine region. Three years later, Baedeker published an update to this volume, adding practical information, such as the lodgings and restaurants in each city that were best suited to serve a traveler’s needs. Today this type of information can be found in almost every guidebook, in Baedeker’s day this was a path breaking innovation. At the time, no one imagined that he was just getting started.

Karl Baedeker

Karl Baedeker – the man who helped guided millions all over Europe

Touring Lemberg –  Guided By Baedeker
Through the latter half of the 19th century, Baedeker and his family published guidebooks covering much of Europe. The Baedeker brand benefited from being at the right place, at the right time. The 19th century brought the industrial revolution to the European mainland. This meant a growing middle class and mass travel by railroad which beget the birth of modern tourism. The whole of Europe was now within reach by rail travel for those with a good income. This included the multinational Austro-Hungarian Empire. In 1896 the Baedeker firm published its first guidebook covering the Empire, Austria : including Hungary, Transylvania, Dalmatia, and Bosnia; handbook for travelers. This included coverage of the far flung reaches of the empire including the province of Galicia, focusing on Lemberg (the German name for Lviv). Between 1896 and the outbreak of World War One, Baedeker’s would publish two more updates of this guidebook. The last one in 1911 was called Austria-Hungary : with excursions to Cetinje, Belgrade, and Bucharest ; handbook for travellers. It provides a fascinating glimpse of Austro-Hungarian Lemberg, a city that just a few years later would undergo a process of upheaval that would change it forever. Baedeker’s coverage of Lemberg in the 1911 guide was two pages in length and chock full of detailed information. An additional two pages was devoted to a map of the city center and its immediate surroundings.

Reading through the entry, it is hard not to notice that the city’s name is given in three languages, German, French and Polish. In retrospect, a specific omission stands out. The Ukrainian name of the city, Lviv, is nowhere to be found. The use of Polish place names is pervasive throughout the entry, befitting a city that at the time was dominated politically and culturally by Poles. A close study of the two page pullout map for Lemberg reveals that the city’s street and boulevards all had Polish and German language names. Svobody Prospekt, the Ukrainian name for the urban heart of the city today, was then known as Waly Hetmanskie. The Marien-Platz – a decidedly German name – which is right in front of the Hotel George, is now named Miskevchya Square. Though the name has been Ukrainianized it still recalls the fervently nationalistic Polish poet, Adam Mickiewicz. The first point of arrival in Lemberg, the central Railway Station, is termed the Hauptbahnhof. While the Polish translation of the name, Glowny dworzec, is listed directly below it in parenthesis. Five hotels are deemed worthy of a stay. This of course includes the famous Hotel George which can still be visited. Only one restaurant that was not part of a hotel is mentioned, the Stadtmuller which could be found on Ulica Krakowska (Krakow Street). The Stadtmuller no longer exists, but Ulica Krakowska does. The street’s name has been changed to the Ukrainian language Krakivska.

Postcard of fin de siècle Lemberg

Postcard of fin de siècle Lemberg

Shadows of the Past – Fin de siècle Lemberg
There are other differences between fin de siècle Lemberg and present day Lviv that are more noticeable and with hindsight quite shocking. The population is listed as 11% Jewish, a cumulative total of 22,700. Today Lviv’s Jewish population is about one-tenth that figure, though the city’s population has increased by 250% since 1911. The decline of the Jewish population is due almost entirely to the devastation wrought by the Holocaust. A visitor to the city in 1911 would have experienced a thriving Jewish presence in hotels, restaurants, markets, synagogues and street life. That has all since vanished. Baedeker’s also notes that the 11th Army Corps of the Imperial Army was headquartered in the city. That too disappeared, much of it lost in the surrounding countryside just three years later in the Battle of Galicia, a devastating defeat from which the empire never really recovered.

Reading Baedeker’s makes one realize that some things in the city have not changed. Among the major attractions listed are such famous religious buildings as the Roman Catholic Cathedral (Latin Cathedral), the Boimow Chapel (Boim Chapel), the Dominican, Armenian and Greek Catholic (St. George’s) Cathedrals. The Rathaus (Town Hall, now known in Ukrainian as the Ratusha) is also noted for “its tower 213 feet high – good survey of the town from the top.” Looking out from the pinnacle of the Rathaus at the skyline of the Old Town in 1911, a visitor would have much the same view as today. There are two present day attractions in Lviv that Baedeker’s did not deem worthy of mention for good reason. Lemberg’s famous Opera House was just over a decade old in 1911. Its newness was probably the reason that it was overlooked.

Baedeker's Guide to Austria-Hungary

Baedeker’s Guide to Austria-Hungary

The Ultimate Omission – Lemberg Without Ukrainians
The other notable absence concerns the famous Lychakiv Cemetery. The lone mention of Lycakov (Lychakiv in Ukrainian) comes as one of the city’s four main suburban distrcits. The cemetery is nowhere to be found. To understand this calls for a bit of historical context. The Lychakiv Cemetery of today is given much of its meaning by the loss of multi-cultural Lviv in the first half of the 20th century. In 1911 no one could envision that the city was on the cusp of multiple cataclysms that would wipe out almost all of its Polish, Jewish, German and Armenian citizens. Each one of these groups is mentioned in Baedeker’s 1911 Austria-Hungary guidebook entry for Lemberg. The only group missing happens to be the one that dominates the city today, the Ruthenians (as Ukrainians were then known). It turns out that Baedeker’s guidebooks were not as thorough as many believed.

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