Saturday, April 21, 2007

Overview of Ober-Bindlestiff

Above is the Electoral Bunny, which adorns a great number of flags in Ober-Bindlestiff.

The Hereditary Electorate of Ober-Bindlestiff is one of those countries that just sort of happened. It is made up of a lot of little duchies, counties, free states, and other odds and ends that sort of got swept together into three provinces: Hither, Thither, and Yon. The core of the country is the province of Hither, but even this is subject to some confusion (the histories are silent on some of the details). The other two provinces were acquired as part of the Peace of St. Vitus-Where-He-Danced. There is a pleasant story that the Electorate gained the provinces because nobody else wanted anybody else to have them, but this can’t be confirmed.

The Electorate was originally the County of Gehen-Downtown. At that time the Elector was the Count Karl, Hereditary Count of Gehen-Downtown, an ancient family that traced its roots to the time of Frederick Barbarossa. During a campaign against the Infidel Khafooli’s, Frederick’s Army had settled in siege around the famous fortress of Khafanni-Khafooli. While the troops were laboring at their siege works, someone had the bright idea of holding skits to pass the time. Count Karl took part, and lampooned Frederick so thoroughly, and with such telling effect, that Frederick exploded in anger. He roared that Count Karl should “...go hither to his estates!” and banished him from the army, along with his entire retinue of playwrights, actresses, clowns, jugglers and acrobats. As a result Count Karl thought it necessary to rename his County Gehen-Sie-Hither.

Count Karl’s grandson married Esmerelda, the only child of the Hereditary Duke of Kommen-Sie-Often. Together they had four children (separately, 23), and were rumored to host the wildest parties seen since ancient times. Esmerelda, though, was insistent upon settling some sort of future on each of her children. She developed and practiced a shrewd diplomacy involving gauze curtains, breathless sighs, and tabarets that were a finger-width lower than those worn by other Countesses. Her personal diplomacy resulted in the elevation of her husband to the rank of Elector, and the position being made Hereditary. This was just in time for the Seventeen Year and Five Month War.

That war drew heavily upon the resources of the newly created Electorate. But the people of the Electorate were up to the requirements of modern war, and created some of the best baggage trains yet seen on the continent. And, mindful of the effects of their acting on Frederick Barbararossa, the skits and plays were always tastefully done and of the highest tone (the same, however, could not be said for the actors, actresses and card sharks that populated the baggage trains). The people of the Electorate grew rich on the war, many of the actresses sending money home, along with little bundles of joy. The infusion of money and noble blood enriched the Electorate beyond all expectations. Not only was the wealth of the peasants greatly enhanced by the war, but so were the various families.

The support role by the Elector’s people did not go unnoticed. When the peace conference finally opened, the Elector agreed to host it at the quaint town of St. Vitus-Where-He-Danced. The delegates were quite taken by the pure rustic charm of the town, and the (not so) pure rustic charm of the local maidens. There was one thorny issue that threatened to bog down the talks: what to do with two provinces that nobody else wanted. Each side did not want the other to have them. For a time it looked like the war would resume, but this impasse was brought to an end by a clever solution. It was proposed to offer them to the Elector of Gehen-Sie-Hither as payment for the sacrifices his people had undertaken in the common cause (the people of the Electorate had, by then, a very well developed self-promotion industry). Very few people commented on how both sides in the war were in debut to the Elector for support (his people had formed baggage trains for all armies).

The Elector demurred, at first. But then the spirit of noble self-interest broke out--by having three provinces, he actually was granted a non-revocable vote during the elections. He feigned reluctance as he took over rule of the provinces of Thither and Yon. At first he thought of using the same name for the newly enlarged electorate, but after some thought, chose Ober-Bindlestiff to commemorate the nomadic lifestyle of the people directly responsible for his newly created country.

Twenty-six years later the country was torn by civil war. The event was the War of the Bindlestiff Succession. For a number of reasons the Electoress had not produced an acceptable Heir. As given by custom, though, the first born son of an Official Mistress would succeed to the title. Unfortunately for all concerned, at the time there were several Official Mistresses who were great with child. Two happened to give birth on the same day, and both produced a male child. There was no record as to what time of the day these children were born, and this led to the disputed succession.

As a civil war, the WBS was a decided success. Both armies did their best to avoid each other (both sides were trying to be civil about this war, after all). Once, when both armies came to the same crossroad at the same time, one army civilly stopped to allow the other to pass. But the war spilled over the borders when a small but aggressive neighbor, the tiny Duchy of Gehen-Sie-Broke, attacked in an effort to seize a part of Ober-Bindlestiff.

Both Successor armies united long enough (they resented anyone intervening in a family squabble) to thoroughly thrash Gehen-Sie-Broke, winning a stunning triumph against inferior odds (though that is not the way it is written in the history books) at the famous Battle of Burg-und-Fries. Other battles quickly followed as the two Successor Armies took turns battering the army of Gehen-Sie-Broke. The battles roll off the tongue: Stadtdorf, Obersitzenflesch, Muhlhaus unter der Wasserdam (Millhouse behind the Watergate), until the Duchy surrendered to the Successor Armies. The armies, their reason for uniting behind them, resumed their campaign of march, counter-march, and demi-marche.

Meanwhile, in the background, negotiators were resolving the differences between the two sides. In the end it was decided that whichever of the two children would fill a diaper the most in a single day would inherit the country (this was called the Grand Poop-off--the official who presided at the event was later granted the ennobling title of the Grand Poop-bah, later shortened to Grand-Pooh-bah). The loser would be compensated by inheriting the now vacant throne of Gehen-Sie-Broke. The negotiators also decided that the latter Duchy would be merged with Ober-Bindlestiff when that successor died. This happened a few years later when the new Duke of Gehen-Sie-Broke died (fortunately without an heir) while he and his number two mistress were sporting on horseback. His fall settled any succession problems at once.

The current Elector (grandson of the successful pooper) assumed the at the age of 26. He concerned himself with many important affairs, among which can be numbered the affairs of state. He was married to his wife while both were of the tender age of 19.

Now let us look at the provinces in more detail.

Hither -
Technically speaking this is the County of Kommen-Sie-Hither, composed of the Barony of Gehen-Sie-Hither, the Barony of Hither-und-Dither, the Duchy of Kommen-Sie-Often and the Duchy of Gehen-Sie-Broke. Hither is a well-populated province, with an open, rolling countryside a (relatively) adequate network of roads, canals and rivers, a warm and sunny climate, and four major cities. The transportation system is best described as adequate. All four cities are developed, three of them are fortified, the same three recognize the legitimacy of the crown. The other city (Ripplestadt) houses the famous University of Ripplestadt. The same three cities are well-developed, Ripplestadt has well-developed coffee houses where wretched poetry and bad songs are served with the morning coffee. Ripplestadt also features more newspapers per capita than anywhere else in Ober-Bindlestiff. By decree of the University Chancellor, a free press has been instituted. Since, by that decree, all newspapers are free of charge, this has given rise to a flourishing pulp and paper industry, and the best practiced bankruptcy lawyers in Ober-Bindlestiff. Ripplestadt also has the least expensive printing presses in the entire country. It might be noted that the University is in the more elevated, up-country, part of the province, and, by decree, all university buildings are painted alabaster white (they couldn’t import enough ivory paint).

The people of west Hither (around the city of Grootdefeatfontein--see below) are sort of like the Dutch in that they are willing to negotiate anything, if the price is right. This has resulted in the one known festival in the west country, the Haggling Festival, where people haggle and bid on merchandise they could never hope to own. The people of central and eastern Hither tend to be fun loving, with numerous parties, festivals, and other holy days (the days spent celebrating the Festival of St. Bacchus are known as the High Holy Days).

Yon -
Yon is the furthest from the capitol (to the east), an open land with a pleasant (warm) climate and one major city. What is it about the people of Yon that mark them as different? Think distant relatives you aren’t normally wild about seeing. That is the attitude of the people of Yon towards the rest of Ober-Bindlestiff, and that is especially the attitude of the citizens of their provincial capitol, Ober-Jonder. The transportation system is the charitably described as execrable, though parts of it rise to merely wretched. Ober-Jonder is homogenized (more in the culinary sense than in the population--their chief products are cheese and milk duds). However they do recognize the legitimacy of the ruler--perhaps the fortifications have something to do with that, perhaps it was the way in which the Elector acquired them. The city fathers (in every sense of the word) are currently in competition to build the biggest Opera House in the country, bigger than the one they completed two years ago. It won’t be as big as the famous Yodel-Hall, home of the Yonder Yodel Hall Corps d’Ballet. However, the new Opera House will be big enough to seat hundreds of people in moderate comfort while they listen to the works of the great Masters (Barney and Siegfried Masters). The new Opera House also features the first bronze spittoons (not that cheaper brass) in the whole country.

Thither -
Thither lies between Hither and Yon. This province is definitely difficult going, with lots of small valleys and thick woods with poor transportation (think eastern Kentucky), and one city, Polka. Geographically Thither is the largest province of Ober-Bindlestiff. Thither is also known (at least in Hither Province) as the back country. It is part of Ober-Bindlestiff simply because it never occurred to anyone that they could be part of any other country. They are also somewhat conservative in their manners, and cling to their allegiances with a stubborn pride that does not even allow a hint that they might be better off somewhere else. The people of Thither are a rustic, simple people, who practice a hedonistic lifestyle full of feuds and in-breeding. Every valley seems to be a separate political entity. Their chief exports are sons (hired out as mercenaries and servants in everyone’s army), daughters (the girls of the local “nobility” are trained in all of the arts of the coquette at the various Convents of Our Lady of the Night, Saint Jezebel, the other orders make some of the best domestic servants in the country, and apply their own native talents to their domestic “duties”). They also produce strong liquor made from tree bark and other unidentified vegetable matter, and some of the finest nosewhistle players seen this side of the north pole.

Many touring companies of actors and musicians can be found in Thither, where they are “honing their skills” before trying to land a gig in the capitol.

The people of Polka recognize the legitimacy of the ruler, their attitude being “If he leaves us alone, we’ll leave him alone”. This equitable arrangement has been a pleasant working relationship between the rulers and the ruled for years.

* Ober-Jonder - the capitol of the province of Yon. It is fortified, and the people prefer the current ruler of the country to most others, perhaps recognizing that others would intrude into their private lives and thus be worse.

* Krashtinkeldorf - this is located in Hither province. It is the home of several world-famous porcelain factories, and currently the only place where commemorative plates are manufactured (be the first to collect all six of the set “Famous Mule Teams of Thither”). Krashtinkeldorf was originally composed of two smaller towns (Krash and Tinkel) divided by the Splash River. The porcelain factories are in Tinkel. The people of Krash annually celebrate the Great Cattle Fair by driving their cattle through the streets of the city (both cities, actually). Young men demonstrate their bravery by running in front of the cattle, attempting to incite them to stampede. In this they are usually successful.

* Polka - the capitol of Thither Province, and home of the (in-)famous Polka Opera Company--it is not often you hear opera sung with an oompah backbeat (provided by accordions and accompanied by horns) while dancers in clogs perform in the foreground. Truly it is an...experience. This city is unfortified, just hard to get to due to the primitive transportation system. It is a city only because all of the local competition is not. Polka is also a religious center, and home to several Holy Orders that practice salvation through penance in old age. Of course one can only achieve salvation by having sins one can repent, so the early part of one’s life (the first 30-40 years) is spent accumulating those sins that one can repent later in life. Polka is also home to Our Lady of the Perpetual Audit, a very poor religious order that preaches salvation through double-entry sinning--you must commit sins to offset all the good deeds you did when you were an innocent young child (and ideally end up with just one sin outstanding for man is a sinful creature). This Order also teaches double-entry bookkeeping to those who are interested (which is very few). Polka is also home to the famous Pig-Squealing Contest, in which contestants are supposed to squeal like a “stuck pig”. Pigs are provided, gratis, as a comparison for this contest.

* Grootdefeatfontein - in the western part of Hither Province. Named for the most stunning defeat the country ever had (at the hands of the Khafoolistani’s who looted it during the Great Pirate Migration of only a few hundred--well, several hundred--years back). The city of Grootdefeatfontein is the home of most of the Anabaptists in the country, who obviously prefer their sins without the patina of religious blessing. The city is the banking capitol of the country, and is located on an estuary (or what passes for one). This dour people do not have Opera companies, or Chorale groups, or any other form of entertainment (except taverns, of course). This is the home of the country’s Mint Works, producers of mints and other confections that are created from produce drawn from the nearby countryside. The city is a hereditary fee-for-service city (as opposed to other cities, which are Preferred Provider), which means you pay as you go rather than as you the local monopolies. As a result it has very flourishing market dealing in anything that can be traded (the famous Black Market, so named for the black soot that covers the walls of the buildings. These are from fires--did I mention that Grootdefeatfontein has the worst fire department in the country?). It is ruled by the Stellenbosch family (who later emigrated to South Africa where they founded a Pension and Half-Pay Club for British officers, but that is another story). Their ruling concept is that you can do anything you want, provided you bought a license for it, first (in later years this will be known as licensed anarchy). This even includes overthrowing the Stellenbosch family (the license for that is very very expensive). Grootdefeatfontein is the terminus for the famous Worsted Fiber Route that tried to carry Worsted Fiber to Cathay in exchange for silk (it was not a financial success). As far as cities go, it is even reasonably developed--the streets are paved, there is a sewer system (of sorts), and they have recently installed street lights (red in certain districts...well, most districts). The city is known for having the least crime in the country, the various large financial houses and major families hate freelance competition.

* Grösser Bindlestiffdorf is, no surprise, the capitol of Ober-Bindlestiff. This is the city home of the Elector (well, his winter home). This city has more concert halls and stages per capita than any other city in Ober-Bindlestiff. The city is well-developed (both in the citizens as well as in the city infrastructure; the city is famed for its breastworks, both those of the city's fortifications, and also with the distaff side of the population), featuring a sewer system, paved streets, street lights, and a large number of breweries and wineries. The city is a leader in chocolate, wine, and has a flourishing trade in crème de menthe. The city is also well-known for linen, lace and gauze production. Spring is the favorite time of the year as that is when the new fashions are displayed by the fashion salons of Ober-Bindlestiff, many featuring the aforementioned lace and gauze. Every year the latest fashions are displayed in a series of Spring Fashion shows. These clothes have recently caused a great deal of comment. Men now can add padding to their silk stockings, while the hemlines of women's dresses have scandalously risen so they only brush the ground, rather than drag on it. The bust lines on dresses have plummeted to the point that chills in the evening are a very real possibility. Life in Grösser Bindlestiffdorf features many parties, festivals and other entertainments.

* Ripplestadt is the home of the University of Ripplestadt, and was formerly the capitol of Gehen-Sie-Broke. The city is divisive and poorly developed. Every proposal to fortify the city is turned down by the Elector’s government; in case of student riots (a tradition in Ripplestadt) the government does not want any fortifications for the students to hide behind. The government has stated openly that anyone who conquers Ripplestadt will take it, but they doubt they can keep it--they believe that garrisoning the place to hold the students down would take more troops than anyone could afford. Aside from the University, Ripplestadt is famed for a large number of taverns, cabarets and dives. These often feature bad poetry, worse folk-singing, and very bad musicianship. There are other entertainments offered in Ripplestadt appealing to the baser instincts of the student body. There is the pleasant story that there is more drinking done in Ripplestadt than by the rest of the populace of Ober-Bindlestiff put together. This story is repeated very often by the purveyors of the city’s only domestic product, Ripplestadt Ripple.

1 comment:

Frankfurter said...

Of Course, it should be noted that Frankurter on Rye considers Ober-Bindlestaff to be a serious trading partner .... after all, where better to get all the sausages and other condiments that their baggage train and concessionaire stands require?
BTW, there's an easy way to add a "links" page when you sing in as a blogger, which I think will be fun for this site as we create a series of interconnected fantasies!