Tuesday, 1 March 2011

The Way I See It

I don't really find history interesting.

At all.

I took an entire semester on the French Revolution and can't recall off the top of my head, anything about it. In fact, if you asked me when it started and what it was all about I would probably come back with a very erudite answer of: Ah, didn't it start sometime in the 1700s? And I think it, like, had something to do with bread being expensive?

Clearly you are all in awe of my knowledge super powers that don't make me appear at all like my brain has been preserved in peroxide. However, just because I don't find old wars and sh*t interesting (again, bow to my intellect) doesn't mean I hate all history.

I like old stuff.

(I'm willing to accept my Nobel Prize for Talkin' Good and Thinkin' Smart now).

And I don't mean 'Anitques Roadshow Your Treasures Are Actually Trash' old, but rather I'm fond of 'cobblestoned streets and collapsing ruins' old.

When Dan and I first started dating, he told me that when his grade school class studied the Romans, their teacher took them on a field trip to an actual Roman colosseum that was just down the road. My brain exploded as I tried to comprehend that, because the oldest history lesson that I got to experience first hand was when we learned about the Gold Rush, and our class went an hour down the road to Barkerville where we had the humiliating pleasure of having to dress-up in 1800's garb and pretend that modern times didn't exist.

Now, do I remember anything about the gold rush?

Um, I think it had something to do with...gold? And also, I think there was a guy who hoped that using camels instead of horses would become a 'thing'.

But there is one history lesson I do remember from that day in Barkerville and it's the fact that all the furniture in olden times had dust covers brushing down to the floor because the sex crazed men used to get turned on just by looking at the curve of a chair leg.

True story.

The town barber/tour guide told me. He just used language that was more appropriate for a twelve year old. The point of that fascinating story though is to explain that that's the type of history I remember: weird crazy facts that are hilarious. And now that I live at the epi-centre of Old, you'd think my brain would be busting with so much interesting history but the fact is...*yawn*...*stretch*...not so much. It's all pretty boring: religious war this, political war that, etc, etc..

So I've been forced to invent my own historical tidbits, and I'd like to share with you all the one that I'm most proud of.

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In Bern's old town, all the buildings have a chimney, and every chimney has a little peaked roof on it.

Why do the chimney's have roofs?

Such a lovely architectural touch that surely can't have a reason as pragmatic as keeping out rain or snow, or swan diving birds with a suicide wish?

Surely there must be a good reason!

And the reason, Internet? The reason why the chimney stacks have roofs is because Bern became one of the first cities, way back in Olden Times, to seriously consider the plight of the chimney sweep. In case you're not familiar with the chimney sweep, they were those disadvantaged and orphaned boys in society who could only find work by shimmying up on rooftops and climbing down the chimneys to clean out the soot and ash buildup.

But as soon as that little orphan got a decent meal beyond a bun, those poor chimney sweeps could get stuck in the chimney! Apart from being very inconvenient for the owner of the said chimney who (if they had a heart) could no longer use their fire what with a person being jammed in it and all, it also proved very embarrassing for the city of Bern because tourists all reported being creeped out by hearing numerous and faint cries of: 'Help! Help! I'm stuck, I am! I'm stuck!' Thinking the city was overrun with ghosts who had problems figuring out they could walk through walls, tourists started telling their friends that Bern was a creepy city, it wasn't to be visited, and you know--the roesti hadn't even been that good.

As you can imagine, this made a huge impact in Bern's earned tourism dollars and so they needed to find a way to keep those sweeps from getting trapped in the chimneys. Their solution was to roof every chimney and put those poor unemployed sweeps on a train up to Zurich for somebody else to worry about.

And that, Internet, is why all the chimneys have roofs.

Please tell your friends about this. Write in your journals. Pen it on urinal walls instead of telling the world that JP + MB = WHO CARES.

I'm sort of hoping the history of the Bernese chimney sweep will catch on and become a 'thing'.

It makes for interesting history.

3 comments:

T said...

Interesting history indeed!

I agree though, I love hearing random facts from history...but find most of the details to be boring and easily forgotten...

Dad said...

Cait - You probably don't remember me cleaning the chimneys of our wood burning stoves in Hazelton, 100 Mile and Quesnel. I'd be up on the roof fighting with the brush and handles to make sure I got all the way down the chimney so no creosote was left. I never thought; I could have dressed you girls up in a snowsuit, dropped you down the chimney and presto! Goodness knows you were all small enough.....hmmmm

Caitie said...

T--Glad I'm not the only one! And it would be super if you also told me that I wasn't the only one who spent time *inventing* historical tidbits ;-) I'm convinced I'm certifiably loco ;-)

Dad--Hahaha! I do remember you getting up and cleaning out those chimneys, I always liked to watch! And the mental picture of you dropping us down the chimney in our snowsuits is hilarious. And for some reason, it's Meghan that I'm picturing, in that old purple suit of hers....hahaha!