In comparison to this, the social obligations of the troops, for example participation in parades or in embassy trips to the Turkish area - which, for a Bavarian soldier, who up until then may hardly ever have trod on foreign soil, represented immersion in a completely foreign world - may have been less strenuous. Such political missions, which normally led to agreements, such as border settlements etc., were open only to a few high ranks. A trip held in 1834 and sketched by Köllnberger went to Larissa and culminated in a reception from the pasha and a military parade of Turkish units.
However, it was also possible to locally explore the at first foreign-seeming life in a less spectacular manner and thereby bring variety, and simultaneously entertainment, to the strict everyday life of the soldier.
One could enjoy oneself excellently on strolls through the streets and during visits to coffee houses. Adalbert Marc enthuses in his memoirs of Greece: “There, one saw Nafplio's whole beautiful world taking a stroll in their so wonderful national costumes, it was a colourful disarray […] Around eight o'clock one sat on the streets in front of the coffee houses and ate the splendid ice cream for a low price” (BayHStA HS 2691). The colourful traditional dress, with its abundant pleating and turban-like coiled cloths as a headdress, was very fascinating. Köllnberger, too, devoted a number of his watercolours to this subject.
Officers found a change at evening parties, balls and concerts. The court ball, annually held in Nafplio in celebration of King Otto's landing in Greece, was of particular social importance. In order to create a countrywide internal connection with the royal house, corresponding festivities took place in parallel in additional places in Greece. Johann Kayser participated in the ball in Modon and describes the celebration in his memoirs as follows: “To celebrate the glorification of the day, a ball was arranged, in which all the officers of the garrison, the kingly officials and esteemed citizens of the city took part. A large barracks hall had been prepared for this purpose, and credit to the Greeks who undertook the preparations – the hall was beautifully and tastefully adorned!” (BayHStA HS 777, p. 229). Functions of this sort also always provided the opportunity to witness unknown and foreign customs or practices, which were not always commented on in a friendly or flattering manner: “I was even more surprised when I saw that here, at a court ball, Greek women let the small children they had brought along drink from their breast in front of all those present, openly and without shyness” (ibid., p. 230).
Perception of National Customs
Music and dance are often discussed in the reports of the soldiers; two forms of entertainment that present themselves completely differently from the familiar ones. Although the Bavarians were very interested, they lacked deeper appreciation of that which they heard and saw. The harmonies and movements were too alien. Correspondingly, the descriptions often convey more than surprise. Frequently, the music and dance of the Greeks were thought of with biting ridicule, as in the case of Johann Kayser, who describes what he experienced at the court ball in Modon as follows: “Two Greeks, with crossed legs as per the Eastern custom, sat on cushions on a table and played their off-tune violins dreadfully […]. Their singing, which sounded like jackals howling far off in the woods, was, however, much worse than the zither players” (BayHStA HS 777, p. 229). Nevertheless, provided they had the opportunity, the soldiers leaped at these small pleasures, which represented a welcome change from their harsh and uncomfortable everyday life.
It is interesting that the soldiers – at least, one can gather this from the surviving reports – were, on the one hand, fascinated by the new and unknown things they saw and experienced, yet on the other hand also clearly unsettled, indeed, in part, even disgusted. It was not rare for them to respond to the Greeks with unconcealed arrogance, as though the world they lived in in Bavaria lacked problems of any kind.
Return of the Soldiers to Bavaria
The members of the Bavarian auxiliary brigade returned to Bavaria in the years 1834 and 1835. The “Greek” troops, which had, in the meantime, been recruited and shipped to Greece, now took over their duties. With this, the mission of the Bavarian units was brought to an end. Some of the soldiers voluntarily transferred to the Greek service in the hopes of a good livelihood, if not of opportunities for advancement; however, the majority was glad to be able to set out for home. Militant uprisings in the country, the battles against groups of bandits that would not end, and, above all, illnesses caused by the unfamiliar climate, drastically decimated the number of returnees. Added this was the failure to provide the auxiliary corps with enough field hospitals and healthcare professionals. The mortality was, accordingly, stupendously high. Of the 424 dead from the auxiliary corps, only twelve died from external causes. Incidentally, a commemorative monument in the form of a sleeping Bavarian lion was erected in Nafplio in 1841 for the dead from the Bavarian auxiliary corps.
Amongst the recruited volunteers, considerably more soldiers lost their lives in the subsequent years. A number of them also stayed in Greece permanently and started families there, with the result that less than half of the around 5000 soldiers returned to Bavaria. One of them was Ludwig Köllnberger, who, in 1838, requested reintegration in the Bavarian army as a “re-engaged corporal and cadet” after a quite respectable career in the Greek army. Although the revolution of 1843 had already caused the majority of the Bavarians to return, the “Greece” adventure was over (for the soldiers, too) at the latest in 1862, when the royal couple went into exile.
- Alben von Ludwig Köllnberger: Abbildungen aus der Zeit der bayerischen Hilfsbrigade in Griechenland, Bayerisches Hauptstaatsarchiv (BayHStA) Abt. IV Kriegsarchiv, BS III/21 I and BS III/21 II
- Tagebuch des Anton Pappus Frhr. von Tratzberg während der Expedition nach Griechenland, 1832-1833, Bayerisches Hauptstaatsarchiv (BayHStA) Abt. IV Kriegsarchiv, HS 774
- Tagebuch des Johann Christoph Kayser von der Expedition nach Griechenland, 1832-1837, Bayerisches Hauptstaatsarchiv (BayHStA) Abt. IV Kriegsarchiv, HS 777
- Erinnerungen an Griechenland von Adalbert Marc, 1834-1835, Bayerisches Hauptstaatsarchiv (BayHStA) Abt. IV Kriegsarchiv, HS 2691
- Friedrich, Reinhold: König Otto von Griechenland. Die bayerische Regentschaft in Nauplia 1833/34, Munich 2015.
- Heydenreuter, Reinhard et al. (eds): Die erträumte Nation. Griechenlands Wiedergeburt im 19. Jahrhundert, Munich 1995.
- Hildebrandt, Maria: "Jetzt fahren wir ins Griechenland". Bayerische Soldaten in Griechenland in Tagebüchern und Volksliedern, in: Heydenreuter et al. (eds), Die erträumte Nation, Munich 1993, pp. 103-111.
- Oelwein, Cornelia: Soldaten für König Otto. Der Marsch bayerischen Truppen nach Griechenland und zurück 1832 bis 1835 (=Series of publications by the König-Otto-von-Griechenland-Museum Nr. 19), Ottobrunn 2015.
- Oelwein, Cornelia: Soldaten für Hellas, in: Unser Bayern Vol. 64 Nr. 5, May 2015, pp. 3-6.
- Seidl, Wolf: Bayern in Griechenland, Munich 21981.
Haggenmüller, Martina: Bavarian Soldiers in Greece, 1832-1862: Introductory Text to the Exhibition of www.mwme.eu (2015), URL: http://www.mwme.eu/essays/index.html
Translated by Brier Field (Freie Universität Berlin)
Dr Martina Haggenmüller (Bayerisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, München)
Dr Haggenmüller is the director of the Kriegsarchiv (War Archives), which is a department of the Bavarian State Archives in Munich. She also wrote the annotations for the objects from the Bavarian State Archives in this exhibition in the categories 'Bavarian Soldiers in Greece, 1832-1862' and 'German Soldiers in Russia 1812'.