Buried in Madeira

IN CENTRAL SARAJEVO, there used to be a pair of footprints carved on the corner of a pavement where two roads met. I do not know whether these impressions, which I saw in the 1980s, still exist. They marked the spot where a young sharpshooter, Gavrilo Princip, took aim and assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary in 1914. Had his aim not been so accurate, the last Emperor of Austria might not have been buried in a church high above the city of Funchal in Madeira.

Emperor Karl of Austria-Hungary

Had Princip’s aim not been so good,  his victim, Franz Ferdinand, would have been successor to the imperial throne. With the Archduke eliminated, his nephew, Karl (1887-1922), succeeded Emperor Franz Joseph when he died in 1916.

Following the end of WW1 in 1918, Austria’s last Emperor, Karl, fled to Switzerland. After a couple of attempts to regain his throne,  the British exiled him and his wife to Madeira in 1921.

In 1922, Karl died of pneumonia.  He was interred in a chapel on the north side of the nave in the Igreja Nossa Senhora in the Monte district high above Funchal.

Plenty of tourist gawp at Karl’s simple tomb in the lovely church, which overlooks the city and the Atlantic Ocean far below.  I wonder whether Madeira would have been the final home of the Archduke had he not been so unlucky in Sarajevo.

Curiously, Karl was beatified in 2004. Equally strange was the British choice of a Portuguese island for Karl’s exile. After all, Napoleon Bonaparte was eventually exiled to a British possession: St Helena.

Diverting water in Madeira

A damming plate hanging on a wall beside a stream in Funchal

WHEN WE WERE IN the Western Cape of South Africa,  I  noticed streams running alongside roads in rural farming areas. Occasional small channels led off from them and into the fields of farms. At each junction of the main stream and a side channel, there were small plates that could be used  to temporarily dam the main stream to divert water into the channel leading to the fields.  

We are staying in Funchal, Madeira. Our guesthouse is high above the city centre and the seafront on a road that leads down an extremely steep hill.  On one side of the road there is a fast flowing stream. Every now and then, there are metal plates that can be inserted into slots on both sides of this stream to divert water into the property beside the water. This is just like what I saw in rural South Africa. Perhaps I should not be surprised by the similarity of the damming system, but I cannot recall having noticed it anywhere else I have visited.

Landing in Madeira

MADEIRA IS A PORTUGUESE island in the Atlantic Ocean. Most people, including us, arrive by air and land at the Airport of the island’s capital, Funchal.

We flew from London to Lisbon to Funchal on the Portuguese airline. The climax of the somewhat poorly organised and unsympathetic airline‘s handling of its passengers was not entirely the fault of the airline: it was the landing at Funchal airport.

Funchal airport is hazardous to say the least. It consists of a single short runway with sea along one side and at both ends. This short runway, rather like that of a large naval aircraft carrier, lies almost surrounded, not only by water, but also by nearby rocky mountains.

After flying over the empty Atlantic for about 80 minutes,  the rocky island of Madeira, partly shrouded in clouds, loomed into view.

We descended towards the short runway and almost a few seconds before we were to have touched down on the concrete,  the pilot caused the ‘plane to ascend steeply. We headed back into the clouds before the pilot announced that his first attempt to land had been thwarted by an unexpected gust of crosswind and that he would make another attempt to land.

I noticed that during the second attempt, we approached the runway far slower than the first time. The few hair-raising minutes before we touched down seemed like hours, so anxious I was beginning to feel. It was a great relief to set foot on the tarmac when we left the aircraft.

The cabin crew laughed at us when we told them how scared we were during the landing. They could have tried to be reassuring at the very least. I was unimpressed by their reaction to our concern.

Terrifying and alarming as was the landing, Funchal is proving to be a delightful destination.