Sunday, February 3, 2013

At the Gates of Vienna

The Turks' hasty retreat from Vienna in 1683 has always been seen as one of the Great Turning Points in history, as if to suggest that if only the Turks had succeeded, they could have kept going all the way to Paris. More likely, they would have been forced to retreat after a little while anyways, and Vienna would have a couple crumbling mosques that no one visits. In any case, these maps show the Turkish siege as it looked then, and as it would look mapped onto the urban fabric of modern Vienna. These are from Cevat Ustun's "1683 Vienna Campaign" although enthusiasts of  mid-twentieth century Turkish military history might prefer M. Sevki Yazman's "Return from the Gates of Vienna." Yazman relates that as an Ottoman soldier fighting with the Austrians on the Gallicean front in World War One he often went to Vienna when on leave. Naturally, he didn't think much about history, for he was a young man and knew that he could die any day. One night, after a lengthy dinner he began to feel that if he drank another glass of wine he would be unwell, and asked his Austrian friend if he could find a cup of strong, unsweetened coffee somewhere. His friend laughed. "Can it be that a Turk, whose people brought coffee not just to this city but to all of Europe, has never tried it here?" The friend went on to explain how when the Turks retreated in haste they left behind sacks of coffee, and the innumerable prisoners, which they also left behind, taught the Viennese to prepare it.