Book 14. Exploring Western Asia


Book 14 presents some 125 pictures of an imaginary trip, long before World War I, to areas now known as Turkey and Cyprus, Syria and Lebanon, Iraq and Iran, on to the Arabian Peninsula (Saudi Arabia and Yemen now), and to what was then simply Palestine (now Israel and the Palestinian Gaza Strip and West Bank). And as we move from the Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmara, and the Bosporus to the mountains of Judaea and the valley of the Euphrates, we also meet the people—Turks celebrating Ramadan with a sword dance, Hebrews having fun at the Feast of Ingathering, Persians welcoming a New Year at the Temple of Holy Fire. We marvel at their musical instruments, their writing, their art, the groves of date palms and coffee trees growing on terraced farms at the very edge of the Arabian desert. And everywhere we run into history: the mausoleum at Halicarnassus, the temple of Diana at Ephesus, the hanging gardens of Semiramis at Babylon, the ruins of Persepolis, of Baalbek. More than that! Using grandmother’s time machine, we can go further back in time as well and watch Thutmose III of Egypt subject the Syrians in 1402 B.C., Cyrus giving birth to Persia in 538 B.C., King Gordius making the legendary knot and Alexander the Great cutting it in two with his sword and conquering Babylon in 331 B.C., the Greeks building a giant wooden horse and burning down Troy, Muhammad entering Mecca in 629, Caliph Omar entering Jerusalem in 638, Christian Crusaders laying siege to the city and storming it in 1099, Saladin taking it right back in 1187, and Tamerlane’s Mongols annihilating the Turks in 1402. So many stories, captivating all. So much to learn. But none of these war stories is a pretty one; after praying at Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives and worshiping at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, for example, Christian knights had no problem massacring the city’s Jews and Muslims. One can only hope that people one day will learn from history. Ignoring it certainly doesn’t help.

Copyright 2014-2017 by Heinz Kohler

Book 1: Extraordinary Birds


        Book 1 of the series shows us what happens when we "google" our set of Liebig cards to learn about the world's birds.We meet the most beautiful, the fastest, the largest, and the most powerful birds on earth; we come across magnificent bird’s nests unlike any we have ever known; we encounter birds that once carried the mail in peace and in war; we discover the role of birds in history; we marvel at the amazing patterns of migrating birds in the sky; we learn of birds that can’t fly at all and of birds inspiring poetry. We even go up in the sky and get a bird’s eye view of the earth at a time long before airplanes and satellites existed. And that’s not all. There are surprises on every page and there is fun for children of all ages.

           Once upon a time in a faraway country, a little girl learned a great deal about the world—not by going to school, but by collecting sets of fascinating picture cards that were put out by the advertising department of a new company. The company had been founded in 1865 by Justus von Liebig, a German scientist now also known as “the father of organic chemistry,” who was eager to alleviate malnutrition by selling little jars of meat extract to people of all ages. His Liebig’s Extract of Meat Company jars looked similar to those of present-day baby food and, if you bought enough of them, as our little girl’s parents apparently did, you could accumulate a sufficient number of associated trading cards to fill a colorful picture book with captivating stories about the world. In the process, you could travel the globe, meet people from any country on earth, and learn about their customs. You could visit lost civilizations, too, or view the world’s natural wonders. You could study up on plants and animals or the evolution of commerce and transport. You could discover the secrets of agriculture, forestry, and fishing or learn about new inventions that were transforming industry and life in general. And, just as our little girl, you could familiarize yourself with music and literature, great art and architecture, with famous men and women of all ages, and, most importantly for children no doubt, with giants and dwarfs, elves and gnomes, riddles and fairy tales!


             In fact, over 11,000 Liebig cards were issued, each like a little work of art. Eventually, as a group, they came to embody the sum total of human knowledge. Thus they made up a magical kind of Internet that held information on just about everything one might want to know. Quite miraculously, our little girl's collection survived both World War I and World War II and this website introduces a series of books based on her cards. Visiting her world in this way provides an intriguing look backwards into a time that came long before the one we now inhabit. And even though the world has changed greatly in the last 150 years or so, there is so much we can learn from those picture books, just as our little friend did when she “googled” her treasured trove of cards to find out everything about the big wide world.  More likely than not, readers of these books will be as charmed by the beautiful pictures as she was and the author’s associated comments will help another generation of children and adults discover exciting things about our world then and now. Find out more, judge for yourself and, above all, have fun!


SURFING A MAGICAL INTERNET


Book 12. Exploring Southeastern Europe


Book 12 presents over 100 pictures of an imaginary trip to the pre-World War I world of what is now known as Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, and European Turkey---pictures taken at a time when some of the areas visited here were still part of the Austro-Hungarian or Ottoman Empires. As we accompany grandmother on her trip, we follow the course of Europe’s second longest river, the Danube, as it passes ten modern countries on its way to the Black Sea. We marvel at the remnants of Roman roads and palaces---Emperor Trajan’s Road at the Iron Gate, Emperor Diocletian’s Palace at Split, or the ruins of Golubac, allegedly infested with hordes of blood-sucking flies, called “mosquitoes”, that have shown themselves capable of killing off entire herds of cattle! Before long, we stand in awe before the fortresses lining the Turkish Straits and protecting the Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmara, and the Bosporus. We relax on Greek islands---Corfu, Thera, Crete, Rhodes, and more --- and, using my grandmother’s time machine, we go further back in time as well, to explore life in ancient Greece at the golden age of Pericles, to visit the hermits at Mount Athos, to witness the founding of Byzantium, then Constantinople and now Istanbul, and to observe the construction of the Acropolis and two of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World--the Colossus of Rhodes and the Statue of Zeus at Olympia.

           Book 6: The World’s Greatest Inventions


Book 6 of the series presents 176 pictures and associated stories. They trace the history of civilization from the Stone Age to the early 1900s when the last one of these pictures was published. We watch people learn to make fire, to harness flammable gases, and, finally, make electricity. We see how they light up the night, using lamps at home and in the streets and lighthouses at the coast. We recognize the importance of fire in manufacturing, of the plow in agriculture, of weights and measures, clocks, money, writing, reading, printing, paper making, and musical instruments. We follow the history of medicine from outright quackery to later scientific approaches, of communications from bells and fire signals to the telegraph. We meet the steam engine, along with steamships and railway locomotives, which it spawned. We marvel at the fascinating story of the automobile (a windmill car drove in 1460) and of people taking to the air (the first balloon flight came in 1783, the first heavier-than-air plane, which used modern three-axis controls, flew in 1903).


Additional books in this series will be displayed here soon.


Book 11. Exploring Africa


Book 11 presents more than 160 pictures of an imaginary trip to Africa---at a time, before World War I, when many of the 29 modern nations visited here were still colonies of various European powers. In the process, we find ourselves at the fortress of Ceuta, the Kasbah of Marrakesh, among the minarets of Tunis. We stand in awe before the rock temple of Abu Simbel, the Great Sphinx of Giza, and Cheop’s Pyramid---at 481 feet it had been the tallest man-made structure on earth for over 3,800 years! We travel among the wonders of nature, too, from the snow-capped Atlas Mountains to Saharan petrified forests and on to Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak, which tops 19,300 feet. We follow some of the world’s longest rivers: the Nile, 4,350 miles, the Congo, over 700 feet deep at times and almost 3,000 miles long, and the Niger, 2,600 miles. We meet the most amazing plants---the Welwitschia, over a thousand years old, the manna lichens, said to have provided nourishment to the Israelites during their 40-year flight from Egypt, the baobab tree, storing 26,000 gallons of water in its swollen trunk. We meet most unusual animals, too---the Barbary sheep, the klipspringer and the dromedary, whose incredible abilities will surprise you, and the aardvark, whose sticky tongue can catch 50,000 insects in a single night! We can go further back in time as well, stand before Roman citadels, amphitheaters, triumphal arches, the ruins of Carthage, hang out with Phoenician traders, who brought us our alphabet, or watch Pharaoh Ramesses and his gods in 1300 B.C. And, of course, we meet dozens of modern-day tribes---Kabyles, Bedouins, Maasai, Bushmen, Zulu and many more, whose customs are simply fascinating.

Book 13. Exploring Russia and Central Asia


Book 13 presents some 136 pictures of an imaginary trip, long before World War I, to Russia and beyond, to areas now known as Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Mongolia, Tibet, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Afghanistan. We explore cities in Europe and Asia, from St. Petersburg, Moscow, and Nishny Novgorod to Tbilisi, Baku and Samarkand, on to Tashkent, Kandahar and Kabul. We join the Trans-Siberian Railway at Chelyabinsk and let it take us to the fur traders of Irbit, across the giant Yenisei bridge at Krasnoyarsk, past Lake Baikal to the sellers of frozen milk at Irkutsk, and on to the Sea of Japan at Vladivostok. We marvel at the beauty of Russia’s Arctic, of Eurasia’s great lakes and rivers, deserts, and mountain ranges. We meet people, so many different people, not just Russians, but also Buryats, Chechens, Circassians, Cossacks, Lezgians, Kalmyks, Kyrgyz, Mongolians, Ossetians, Tatars, Samoyeds, Ukrainians, Yakuts, and many more. And what stories we have to tell! About climbing Mount Elbrus, Europe’s highest peak, about watching crude oil being transported from Baku oil fields (in rubber tubes loaded onto camels), about the proper way to greet people in Tibet (stick out your tongue and rub the back of your ear). More than that! Using grandmother’s time machine, we go further back in time as well and experience the birth of Russia in 861 as Rurik becomes King, the crowning of Catherine the Great in 1762, and the abolition of serfdom in 1861. We accompany Sven Hedin on his treks through Tibet and his failed attempt to enter the forbidden city of Lhasa, we even witness the horrors visited upon these lands by Mongolian conquerors, like Genghis Khan and his Golden Horde and, later, by Tamerlane; the latter alone probably massacred some 17 million people and managed to wipe out 5% of the world’s population!

Book 3: Unusual Plants


      Book 3 of the series presents over 100 pictures along with fascinating stories about all sorts of unusual plants. We meet medicinal plants that may or may not heal people and others that would definitely poison them. We learn of plants that are the source of beautiful paints and dyes and of others that have long been celebrated in works of art. We study spice plants and carnivorous plants and find out how some plants came to be sacred plants. We visit night-blooming plants and nightshade plants and marvel at the world’s most remarkable trees. We meet up with exotic food plants and encounter others still that manage to prosper in the driest of deserts or on the highest of mountains.  And we come across intriguing stories about reeds and cane plants and all sorts of useful “industrial” plants that have supported a great variety of human endeavors for millennia.

Book 7: EXPLORING NORTHERN EUROPE


Book 7 presents 72 pictures and associated stories. They show what a person would have seen when traveling through Northern Europe a century or more ago. When joining that traveler to visit places like Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Iceland, some of which were not even independent countries at the time, the reader enters something like a time machine, which makes for an especially intriguing trip. Unlike the real thing, it is much less scary, too. In fact, in the process, readers can safely travel to an even more distant past and have fun by learning about a time when Norse gods ruled the world!         

                     Book 4: Remarkable Animals


     
Book 4 of the series presents almost 150 pictures along with fascinating stories about all sorts of remarkable animals. We meet magnificent creatures from antediluvian times and travel through different geological eras; most of these animals roamed the earth long before humans did. We visit beautiful animals inhabiting the sea --- colorful anemones, corals, jellyfish and all sorts of luminescent beings that light up the undersea world, but are rarely seen. Back on firmer ground, we discover animals celebrated in works of art and others once considered sacred and even worshipped by people. We come across individual animals that have been immortalized by stories historians tell. We study strange mammals without teeth and beasts of burden that have supported human endeavors for millennia. We marvel at insects that are masters of camouflage and at colorful butterflies of the day or the night. We face poisonous snakes and animals living on the world’s highest mountains. And we read intriguing stories about animals that lived among ancient gods who turned them into glimmering objects in the sky!

Additional excerpts from this series will be displayed here soon.

Book 2: Brainteasers


          Book 2 of the series shows us what happens when we "google" our set of Liebig cards to look for mental challenges. Over 150 pictures confront readers with riddles they can try to solve, present them with illustrations of proverbs they must identify, or depict scenes in which something is missing that they are urged to find. There are new conundrums on every page and there is fun for children of all ages. Even the book's cover contains a mental challenge. Keep looking at it; can you see it?


Book 5: Wonders of the World


Book 5 of the series presents nearly 100 pictures and associated stories. Right away, we meet the “seven wonders of the ancient world” of which, sadly, only the great pyramids of Egypt survive. But we can still visit the wonders of our own world, natural and man-made. We stand in awe before powerful volcanoes and geysers, amazing rock formations, and strange bridges that nature has built. We marvel at the beauty of giant caves and magnificent waterfalls, follow the paths of explorers through narrow waterways between the world’s oceans, enjoy the grandeur of fjords and the breathtaking splendor of mountain passes. We learn how people built seemingly impossible tunnels through the Alps, view colossal statues from ancient and modern times, inspect the ruins of lost cities and civilizations. Are nature’s works longer lasting? We examine the question by looking at lights in our sky: the sun and the moon, comets, rainbows, mirages and more.

Book 8: Exploring Western Europe


Book 8 presents over 250 pictures and associated stories about grandmother’s trip to Western Europe more than a century ago. As we join her to visit England, Scotland, and Wales, then Holland, Belgium, and France and, finally, Andorra and Portugal, we enter something like a time machine, which makes for an especially intriguing trip. When we find ourselves in Western Europe of, say, 1880, the white cliffs of Dover may look the same as they do now and so will, perhaps, mountain ranges and great rivers and lighthouses along the coast. But city streets with no automobiles in sight and people dressed in unfamiliar ways may well strike us as odd—not to mention their different customs, music, and dance. Likewise, we may marvel at grand structures from Europe’s Baroque, Gothic or Renaissance times—cathedrals, town halls, court houses, castles and palaces, and houses of parliament---but we certainly won’t be able to hail a cab or find a plane to fly home. Imagine visiting Paris without the Eiffel Tower! (It wasn’t there before 1889.) Imagine London without its famous Tower Bridge! (Construction began in 1886 and wasn’t completed until 1894.) In fact, as we will discover, grandmother’s Liebig cards can take us beyond her lifetime as well. We can visit medieval Flanders and Brabant at a time when fine Belgian lace first came into being or the England of 1750 when the first umbrella was put to use on London’s rainy streets. (Jonas Hanway, its inventor, was ridiculed by all!) And using grandmother’s Liebig-card time machine, we can even join the excitement in 1499 when Portugal’s Vasco da Gama returned home after having discovered a sea route to India!

Book 10. Exploring Central Europe


Book 10 presents over 270 pictures from an imaginary trip, well over a century ago, across the pre-World War I world of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Switzerland, which then included all sorts of places now found in Poland, the Czech Republic, and even Slovenia. In the process, we enter something like a time machine, which makes for an especially intriguing tour. To be sure, finding ourselves along the banks of the Rhine or the Danube, among breathtaking peaks and valleys of the Alps, or in front of grand structures from Baroque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Rococo times—city gates, cathedrals, town halls, court houses, castles and palaces, and houses of parliament---we may feel quite at home even in, say, 1895.  But city streets with no automobiles in sight and people dressed in unfamiliar ways may well strike us as odd—not to mention their different customs, music, and dance. We certainly won’t be able to hail a cab or find a plane to fly home. In fact, these Liebig card pictures can take us further back in time as well. We can inspect amazing structures from the days of ancient Rome and visit with Hannibal, the Carthaginian general, who surprised the Romans in 218 B.C. by his daring attempt to cross the Alps with 100,000 men, 12,000 horses, and 37 elephants! We can learn about the days in 1241 when Genghis Khan’s Mongolian hordes reached Silesia’s capital of Wroclaw (Germany’s Breslau) and burned it to the ground. We can watch Bohemian rebels in 1618, throwing an emperor’s emissaries out of a Prague castle window (the famous defenestration) and igniting the Thirty Years’ War, while Frederick II of Brandenburg, a few years later, swelled the population of Berlin by providing refuge to 5,000 French Protestants there. And much more recently, in 1910, we can follow Géo Chávez, the Peruvian aviator, who was first in crossing the Alps by air in a tiny plane.

 Book 9: Exploring Southwestern Europe


Book 9 presents over 300 pictures and associated stories about grandmother’s trip to  Southwestern Europe more than a century ago. As we join her to visit Gibraltar, Spain, Southern France, Monaco, Malta, and, finally, Italy and San Marino, we enter something like a time machine, which makes for an especially intriguing tour. To be sure, finding ourselves in, say, 1880, the Blue Grotto of Capri or the Leaning Tower of Pisa or the Fountains of Rome may look the same as they do now and so will, perhaps, mountain ranges and volcanoes, great rivers and lakes and famous villas along the coast. But city streets with no automobiles in sight and people dressed in unfamiliar ways may well strike us as odd—not to mention their different customs, music, and dance. Still, if we are willing to stay around, we can marvel at grand structures from Europe’s Baroque, Gothic or Renaissance times—city gates, cathedrals and bell towers, town halls, court houses, castles and palaces, and houses of parliament---but we certainly won’t be able to hail a cab or find a plane to fly home. In fact, as we will discover, grandmother’s Liebig cards can take us further back beyond her time as well. We can inspect amazing structures from the days of ancient Rome, explore fortresses and palaces from a time when Spain and Sicily belonged to the Moors, and we can even visit the Medieval world and come to know artists, explorers, and scientists like Dante, Columbus, da Vinci, Michelangelo, Titian, Raphael, and more. We can meet them all using grandmother’s Liebig-cards time machine and, farther down the road of time, we can feel the excitement in the air when Galileo insists that the earth is rotating around the sun rather than the sun around the earth and when Garibaldi’s Expedition of the Thousand helps create the Kingdom of Italy in 1861.

  Book 15. Exploring Southern Asia


Book 15 presents some 145 pictures of an imaginary trip, long before World War I, to areas now known as India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, on to Myanmar and Thailand, and, finally, Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia, all but one of which were colonies of various European powers at the time. And as we move from the Arabian Sea to the Indus and Ganges rivers, climb the breathtaking Himalayas, and marvel at temples, mosques, pagodas, and palaces on the way, we also meet the people of these lands. There are rajas, and fakirs, snake charmers and pious beggars, ordinary folk crowding the streets of Hyderabad, Mumbai (then Bombay), Kolkata (then Calcutta), Saigon, and Jakarta (then Batavia), and hard-working cultivators of the land growing black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, cotton, ginger, indigo, jute, nutmeg, rice, tea, and tobacco and what to us may seem the strangest of plants---caoutchouc trees, gutta-percha trees. And everywhere we run into history: Alexander the Great taking peacocks and pepper back to Greece in 320 B.C., Vasco da Gama finding the sea route to India in 1497, Robert Clive and the East India Company establishing British rule in 1757. Using grandma’s time machine, we can go farther back in time as well and meet the ancient gods of India---Brahma, Hanuman, Saraswati, Shiva, Vishnu and more--- and learn how cattle, cobras, elephants, and monkeys came to play a key role in their worship as well. So many stories, captivating all. So much to learn.