Snobbery and caste spirit

Snobs dining
Snobs dining

[Rhineland, around 1893/94]  1893 was a happy year. Sophie’s aged parents Anni and Jean were doing well. Jakob ran the “Stübchen” for them. Lorenz Bergmann came to visit from the USA with his wife Annelie.

Sophie and Andras Csabany were also there. They had all spent many wonderful days together with excursions, celebrations and conversations until late at night.


Even though it was an entirely private visit, Count Csabany’s presence had nevertheless attracted attention. The ball season was in full swing, and many a hostess was eager to adorn her residence with his presence. After all, he was a diplomat in the service of the close ally, Austria-Hungary. So he received an invitation to a very distinguished ball in Bonn, to be accompanied by his wife. It was to be an elegant party, only ladies and gentlemen of the best society, with selected food and drinks and hand-picked servants. As a highlight shortly before midnight, a Guglhuf glacé would be served according to an original Alsatian recipe.

Andras sensed right away that Sophie was only invited because otherwise he would not come. Lena and Emil and had not been invited, let alone the Americans Lorenz and Annelie. He was well aware that there were many snobs around who secretly turned their noses up to his beloved wife, as if she was not an appropriate match for a count. These people could not bear that she, a commoner from a democratic family who had spent some time in exile, had married into the aristocracy and was now seeing the elegant world, with her husband and a diplomatic passport. Her talents, her hard work and commitment seemed not to count. Couldn’t a count like him have made a much better match?

Count Andras was outraged. He would gladly accept, he let the hosts know, but did not want to neglect his wife’s relatives. They hastened to assure him that Mr. and Mrs. Emil Bergmann and Mr. and Mrs. Lorenz Bergmann were also welcome.

A weird ball

On the evening of the ball, in the festively decorated ballroom of the first house on the square, elegantly dressed gentlemen were enjoying themselves. The Guglhupfs, old nobility, the von Zasters, nouveau riche nobility, and Stina Stinkzahn, the most feared gossip far and wide, who now pretended that she had always liked Sophie.

“That’s the dark side of Wilhelmine Society,” Lena whispered, “so much snobbishness, caste spirit, so many people, in uniform or not, who look down on others.” Count Andras nodded. “Yes, an expensive dress and a pearl necklace don’t make a lady, and this gentleman with the top hat and a diamond tiepin is probably having an affair with the housemaid, who fears for her job and won’t turn him down.”

Sophie wore an elegant, deep blue gown; Annelie an equally elegant, but plainer dark gray gown. People dined, drank, smoked, and danced. Everyone admired the delicate food, the exquisite gowns, and the excellent service. Then it was almost midnight. Annelie, who until recently had danced with her husband Lorenz and Count Csabany, took a brief leave to freshen up. But instead she quickly disappeared into the kitchen. Meanwhile, a singer was reciting.

The Guglhupf

At midnight, the Guglhuf was cut and boom – the raisins from the Guglhupf flew around the ears of the guests, leaving ugly stains on the gala robes. Many ladies, close to fainting, tried to save their gowns. Many gentlemen struggled to calm their consorts. Still other gentlemen were so annoyed by the ladies’ dramas that they preferred to feast on the host’s precious cigars.

Annelie, however, smiled quietly to herself. She hadn’t freshened up and powdered her nose, but had quickly put on a large kitchen smock and a kitchen hood, sneaked into the kitchen and soaked the raisins for the Guglhupf with pop powder. No one in the room would have suspected such cunning from the lovely elderly lady. Almost imperceptibly, she smiled at Sophie – it was for a good cause, after all.

Secret joy

The Guglhupfs’ misfortune secretly pleased the von Zasters, because the Guglhupfs had rather only tolerated the “newly rich” Zasters. Now they would not object to their son Sigismund Ferdinand marrying the Guglhupf bride Euphoebia. New money to old nobility, that was fitting. The heads of the families already put their heads together. Stina Stinkzahn was already whispering to some of the ladies that it wasn’t such a shame about the ruined dresses, they wouldn’t have flattered their wearers anyway.

With impeccable manners and very subtly, they played the snobs around them against each other, smiling at each other as they saw their plan working out. Then very discreetly Sophie nodded to Annelie. “Let’s go, this is not our world.”

Lottie and Matthias

“I just worry about Lottie,” said Annelie on their way home to the Bergmann vineyard, “we love our children and want them to live the life of their dreams, and Lottie’s dream is here, growing wine with Matthias. Yet, all these snobs around would rather expect you to lock her up in a boarding school for well-brought-up young ladies until she gets married to some boring Mr. diamond tiepin.”

Count Andras thought about his daughter. Since her childhood days, Lottie was most happy when she could roam through the vineyards, she was best friends with Susan and Matthias, another cousin from the big Bergmann family. Their childhood friendship had become love, Lottie and Matthias wanted to spend their lives together, on the Bergmann vineyard. “You need not worry,” he said with a big smile, “the love for the land, for cultivating and harvesting, these are my mother’s genes. The born hostess and manager, that Sophie’s mother’s genes. From both grandmothers, Lottie has inherited a strong-willed and optimistic nature. She is not the girl to let anyone interfere with her happiness.” 

“There is something we wanted to discuss with you”, Sophie added, “our son Joscha will go to university, but as a girl Lottie can’t. We want her to have the best education possible, and since her dream is be a winemaker, we would love to send her and Matthias for one year to America, to perfect their skills on the Mountain Men Vineyard.” Lorenz and Annelie were speechless. Smilingly, Lena continued. “You see, the two of them will gradually take over our vineyard, we would love to see the family business go on. And Sophie will bring them. Do you think your family in Virginia will agree?” “They’ll beyond themselves with joy”, Lorenz and Annelie said with one voice.

Meet you in New York!

They remained for Lottie’s and Matthias’ wedding, celebrated on the Bergmann vineyard. Soon, a dream would come true, they would go for a year to America, accompanied by Sophie.

Then it was time for Lorenz and Annelie to say good-bye. Their German family saw them off at Bonn main station. Lorenz’ heart grew heavy, he did not know if he would see his home on the Rhine again. Yet, he had something to look forward to. “Annelie and I will meet you in New York,” he yelled, as they were standing at the open train window, waving good-bye.

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