Episode 1: PlansJagdschloss of the duke of Sachsen-Eisenach, Marksuhl, ThuringiaMarch 1634
"Maximilian von Pasqualini," the servant announced loudly.
Max, a young architect, straightened and entered the salon. An elderly man rose from a heavy chair behind an enormous work desk. Max knew this had to be Johann Ernst, Hereditary Governor of West Thuringia, but his clothes didn't show his high status. He wore simple black trousers and a white shirt, the sleeves rolled up. He was just taking off his spectacles; he had obviously been reading in a book.
Max bowed. "Hoheit." Highness was the proper honorific when addressing a German duke. Max didn't much care for this new Excellency title the governor deserved. And he had heard that he liked his old mode of address more.
The duke extended his right hand. "My dear young friend, it's a pleasure to meet you at last."
Max was surprised by the unconventional greeting from such a high noble, but managed to shake the duke's hand without hesitating too long.
"Please take a seat." The duke indicated another heavy chair in front of the work desk and sat down on his own again. "Hans, please bring us something to drink! My young friend here prefers a good beer, and bring me a Köstritzer, too." The servant nodded and left the room.
Max wondered how the duke knew his favorites. But he probably had spies in Grantville, like many other nobles.
While the duke put the books and papers—which covered most of the desk's surface—aside, Max could settle down and remember what had brought him here. He received the duke's first letter last October, which had told him that the duke had heard about his work in Grantville. Max had done the construction plans for some of the new factory buildings that had been erected in the last two years.
The duke wrote that he wanted a reconstruction of his Wartburg after the flaming inferno the Americans had wreaked in 1632, and he had asked if Max felt in the position to create some plans. He also wrote that he didn't want a new fortress, but a center of culture as the Wartburg had been in the Middle Ages.
Everybody here in Thuringia knew about the Sängerkrieg, a medieval epic poem describing a song contest in the thirteenth century. And Saint Elizabeth of Thuringia had spent most of her short adult life from her wedding at the age of fourteen in the Wartburg.
But the best-known anecdote was indubitably the story of Junker Jörg. This was Martin Luther's alias when he spent nearly a year in the castle, translating the New Testament into German. The legend said that he drove off Satan himself by throwing an inkpot at him.
The Luther Room had been devastated, along with the complete interior of the castle. Max had nearly burst into tears when he had seen the black ruins for the first time a year ago.
"Hoheit, you asked me to look for the great architects of the future. I spent many days and nights in the libraries last winter, and developed some plans based on their works." Max took the large scroll of paper which protruded from a bag he had worn on his back and laid it flat on the desk.
"I'd like to start with Antoni Gaud', a Spaniard who has built—will build—would have built a cathedral called the Sagrada Fam'lia, the Holy Family in Barcelona." Max showed a sketch he had drawn based on the existing foundation walls of the Wartburg. A multitude of slender round towers framed a large center building which looked like a gothic cathedral.
"Oh no, Max. I certainly want to have a church integrated in the New Wartburg, but this is more a reminiscence of the Middle Ages and not of the future."
"Okay, the next is based on the rebuild of the Reichstag in Berlin, done by an Englishman called Norman Foster at the end of the twentieth century." The entry to the area showed a triangular roof, supported by six round columns like the eight columns of the Parthenon in Athens. The center was a single large building with little statues on the roof all along the edges and a glass dome in the middle. "I'm not sure if we can already build something like this glass dome, but without it, the whole building looks too massive.
"Here I have something from America." A big round tower was the center of the area which widened to the top. The windows went up in a spiral and the roof was made from glass, another round tower next to it was completely covered with glass. Both towers were connected by a walkway on the first floor.
"Max, I think we cannot use so many glass surfaces. I don't know how these Americans managed to keep the winter out of their buildings, but I heard the climate will change in the next centuries. And what is this?"
"Oh sorry, it's just a little study I made, when I did the investigations. It's a private mansion, also done by the American Frank Lloyd Wright who designed the Guggenheim Museum, which was the inspiration for the previous model. It's called Falling Water, and I rather fell in love with it." Max began to stuff the sketch back in his bag, but the duke stopped him.
"Oh, we should definitely show this sketch to the duchess. My wife will love it too. And if we have any money left after the Wartburg, perhaps . . . " The duke's eyes stared into the distance through the walls.
And so it went on the whole afternoon. They only stopped when Hans, the servant, quietly switched on the electric light in the room, and then announced "Hoheit, the dinner is ready."
The duke rose and stretched himself. "Is it so late? Come on, Max, I shall introduce you to the rest of my household."
The duke's wife welcomed Max and the duke into the dining room. Christine von Hessen-Kassel was twelve years younger than the duke's sixty-eight and an aunt of the current Landgraf Wilhelm von Hessen- Kassel. Max had already heard of her vast knowledge in mathematics, history, astronomy and astrology and was very keen to make her acquaintance. He had also heard that she had become rather deaf in the last years, so he prepared to speak a little louder.
"Christine, you must look at the marvelous drawings young Max did," the duke shouted excitedly, kissing his wife's cheeks. "He did a very good job with his selections of up-time architects."
The look she gave Max made him a little uncertain. Was that appreciation or something different? "Please, Johann, don't shout." She pointed to her ear, where Max could see a little device with a wire which ran to her back. "This new hearing aid has cost you a little fortune, so rest your voice."
Max saw the man behind the duchess flinch. The duke obviously noted that, too. "Max, may I introduce you to Samuel Nasi, my financial advisor?" The small, portly man with slightly oriental features and enormous mustachios nodded solemnly. Max nodded in return. This was apparently a member of the Jewish family which played such a big role in the financial management of the Ottoman Empire.
The fact that he would also participate in the dinner told Max something about this man's integration into the duke's family and the open-mindedness of the duke. It was not customary to have one's court Jew attend a family meal.
But the duke seemed to be an unconventional man, anyway.
So was the meal, at least on the dinner table of a duke. They had fish, mashed potatoes and sauerkraut. When Max looked quizzically to Samuel Nasi, the Jew seemed to read his thoughts. "Oh yes, it's kosher. My wife is a very good cook, who has learned to combine the kashrut with the German kitchen very well."
The duke added, "I heard that the Americans were accustomed to call us Germans patronizingly Krauts, and that derives from sauerkraut, but according to their doctors, you can eat nothing healthier in the winter."
After dinner they met in another salon and had a cup of coffee. Yes, good connections to Turkey had their benefits.
Now, Max had to answer a lot of questions about himself and his family.
"Oh yes, the famous Alessandro was my great-grandfather. No, I can't affirm the rumor that he worked with Leonardo da Vinci, but our family legend tells that he drew many of the plans when Raffaelo was chief architect at Saint Peter's in Rome."