Ida Hahn-Hahn was born on June 22,1805 in Mecklenburg, Prussia. After the family fortune was squandered by her father who was infatuated with the theater, she forced by her mother into a marriage with a cousin, Count Adolf von Hahn. This union which only lasted three years gave her a daughter who unfortunately was both physically and mentally handicaped. Ida left the raising of this child and the son she had a year later to a hired foster family.
Baron von Bystram was the father of Ida Hahn-Hahn's son and her companion for the next twenty years. She began her writing career six years after her marriage ended and continued to write for the rest of her life. In the years 1829-1849 she led an emancipated life and it was during these years that she did what many critics consider her best work in both novels and travel writing.
The Countess converted to Catholicism in 1850 and founded a convent with her own money in 1854. She spent the last 30 years of her life living in humble surrundings and writing novels and prayer books for the Catholic Church. She died at the convent on January 12,1880 at the age of 74.
The Countess started her journey to the Holy Land from the town of Breslau in the county of Silesia, Prussia. From there, she traveled by coach through,the countryside to the train depot in Olmutz. From Olmutz to Vienna she traveled by railway. Countess Hahn-Hahn spent two weeks in Vienna and departed from there on August 8,1843. She then traveled on the river Danube for nine days on the steamer, Ludwig. She left the steamer Ludwig at Drenkowa and proceeded in a covered boat with nine rowers until it arrived in Banat; from there she traveled by coach to the city of Cladowa were she boarded the steamship, Zriny. She was sailing on the Lower Danube by August 31,1843, She then boarded the steamer Ferdinand and sailed with this ship over the Black Sea to the Bosphorus near Constantinople.
She arrived in Constaintople on Sept 7,1843 and departed on September 26,1843 on the steamer Seri Pervas. She arrived in Smyrna on September 29, 1843 and then sailed on the Lodovico to Rhodes on the island of Cyprus. She arrived in Beyrout (Beirut) on October 6, 1843. She then left Beyrout on October 9,1843 on horseback and rode to Damascus, arriving on October 15,1843 and leavening on the 17th. She then traveled back to Beyrout on October 21st and stayed in the Monastery on Mount Carmel until October 25, 1843. She then traveled to Nazareth across the mountains of Judea and because of unsafe conditions traveled back to the Monastery on Mount Carmel. Not wanting to board a ship again, the Countess and her guides traveled down the coastal beaches to Joppa. Then she traveled by horseback through the Plains of Sharon, arriving in Jerusalem on November 2,1843. She left Jerusalem on November 15,1843 and journeyed across Ramla to Gaza on camel. She departure from Gaza, again on camel, and journeyed across the desert to El Arish. She was quarantined at El Arish until November 21,1843 and finally reached Cariro, Egypt on December 2,1843 traveling by camel and at times on foot.
Leaving Cairo on December 18,1843 she sailed down the Nile on sailing barks. She floated down the Nile to Assuan arriving on January 13,1844. After a few days in Wadi Halfa, she departed and traveled back up the Nile to Assuan arriving on January 28,1844. On February 13,1844 still on the Nile she sailed back into Cairo and on February 18,1844 arrived in Alexandria on March 6, 1844. From there, she sailed to the island of Delos, Syria. Once again quarantined on Delos, she finally left for Athens on March 20,1844. The Countess left Athens on April 6th and sailed to Trieste, Italy, a large industrial town on the top of the Adriatic Sea. The entire trip took her about eight months.
Brief History of the Text:
This travelogue was the Countess Hahn-Hahn's fifth and last travel book, her other travelogue described her trips too; Switzerland in 1835, Italy in 1838/39, Spain/France in 1840 and Scandinavia in 1842. Her trip to the Orient was in 1843/44. All of her travelogues consisted of a collection of letters, which she had written to family and friends. Orientalische Briefe is a collection of fifty-five letters in three volumes written by the Countess Ida Hahn-Hahn during her travels to the Holy Land and beyond. The letters were written to her mother, her brother Dinand, her sisters, Clara and Louisa and a close friend Countess Schonburg Wechselburg. Twenty-six of the letters are addressed to her mother whom she also dedicates the entire book. Her letters were sent home by messenger and published in newspapers, though I can find no account of how many different newspapers or in what year. The letters were complied and put together in three volumes under the name Orientalische Briefe and published in 1844 by A. Duncker of Berlin. By 1845, Henry Colburn Publishing of London had published a text that contained both the original German on one page and the translated English on the facing page. In 1846, Henry Colburn published a second edition of the countess's travels this time in English alone and renamed the book, Letters of a German Countess: written during her travels in Turkey, Egypt, the Holy Land, Syria, Nubia &c. in 1843/44. As a result of the success of this travel book, J. & D. A. Darling of London obtained the rights to the Countess's book and published all three volumes in English under the shorten title Letters from the Holy Land.
One year later, in 1850, Hahn-Hahn converted to Catholicism and tried to stop a reprinting of her collected works by her first publisher in Berlin, Duncker. Because of her conversion, she no longer wished to be associated with her early works. She was unsuccessful in stopping the reprint. In 1899, the German publishing house of Duncker released a new edition of the Countess's eastern letters. After that publishing, her work lay silent for decades.
However, through the research of Renate Mohrmann, Ida Hahn-Hahn's work and the works of many other female writers of this time were once again brought into the public eye, and in 1991, an Austrian publishing house Promedia once again published her Orientalische Briefe, in German, and it is presently on sale at the Amazon.com/German site.
The Countess letters, in German, may also be found online within the Gutenburg project.