Migrants entering Slovenia from Croatia

Plus Gibbon and Leigh Fermor on migrations past.

Željko Vračun is filming thousands of people who are being directed, day and night, by Croatian police to use an informal crossing into Loče, an outlying hamlet of Dobova on the Sava plain:

I like woods and marshes and fences, and I even like dogs, so I rather miss the challenge, albeit generally minor, of borders. This one may change quite soon.

Near Tours with the organ and with MJS a couple of weeks ago, and thoughts inevitably (?) turned to what might have happened had Charles not become the Hammer on that day in 732. Michael Gilleland the other day quoted Paddy Leigh Fermor’s alternative history of the last, late Ottoman thrust up from the Balkans, aimed at setting up coffee shops under the walls of Vienna and franchising northwestwards:

And suppose the Sultan, with half the east at heel, had pitched his tents outside Calais? A few years before, the Dutch had burnt a flotilla of men-of-war at Chatham. Might St. Paul’s, only half re-built, have ended with minarets instead of its two bell-towers and a different emblem twinkling on the dome? The muezzin’s wail over Ludgate Hill?

You can’t hear the East London Mosque from Ludgate Hill, even at 5 in the morning.

Gibbon covered the western flank:

A victorious line of march had been prolonged above a thousand miles from the rock of Gibraltar to the banks of the Loire; the repetition of an equal space would have carried the Saracens to the confines of Poland and the Highlands of Scotland; the Rhine is not more impassable than the Nile or Euphrates, and the Arabian fleet might have sailed without a naval combat into the mouth of the Thames. Perhaps the interpretation of the Koran would now be taught in the schools of Oxford, and her pulpits might demonstrate to a circumcised people the sanctity and truth of the revelation of Mahomet.

I take a more conservative view: Germania would have halted the advance; England would be a linguistic colony of the marine lingua franca spoken north and east from Friesland, and would not be subject to an Anglo-Norman oligarchy; Dutch would by now be spoken along the Loire (it is!); Islam would have benefitted from the contact and would have taken music in general and, eventually, the barrel organ in particular to its heart and become a more interesting and amenable religion.

I learnt minor bits of Arabic a few years ago, encouraged inter alia by atheist Arab friends from Iranian Khuzestan, who took a rather more serious interest in borders. But the lack of literature + music + pillow dictionary, as well as sheer indolence, caused me to desist. Though I have no intention of replying to the enticements of Muscovite ladies in my spam box, Russian does offer rather more goodies:

Have you ever walked in the autumn late in the evening through the outlying streets of Petersburg?

The high walls of houses, occasionally illuminated by the glow of dim lights, seem even blacker than the sky; in some places the buildings and the grey clouds merge into a single mass, and the lights in the windows shine like shooting stars; rain falls with a monotonous noise on the roofs and the pavement; a cold wind blows powerfully and, hammering on the gates, moans piteously…

Or something. Read on and you’ll see why I’m interested.

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