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First Balkan War Ends

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The First World War was an unprecedented catastrophe that killed millions and set the continent of Europe on the path to further calamity two decades later. But it didn’t come out of nowhere. With the centennial of the outbreak of hostilities coming up in 2014, Erik Sass will be looking back at the lead-up to the war, when seemingly minor moments of friction accumulated until the situation was ready to explode. He'll be covering those events 100 years after they occurred. This is the 71st installment in the series.

May 30, 1913: First Balkan War Ends

After six months of negotiations at the Conference of London (above), on May 30, 1913 the members of the Balkan League—Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece, and Montenegro—signed a peace treaty with the Ottoman Empire ending the First Balkan War. In the Treaty of London, brokered by Europe’s Great Powers, the Turks agreed to give up virtually all of their European territories to the victors, redrawing the map of the Balkans and bolstering the populations (and self-confidence) of the Balkan states.

The loss of the Balkan provinces deprived the Ottoman Empire of 54,000 square miles with a population of 4.2 million, although 400,000 Muslim refugees from the lost provinces ended up fleeing to other parts of the empire. From 1910 to 1913, between the First Balkan War and the Italo-Turkish war Ottoman territory shrank from roughly 1.39 million square miles to 928,000 square miles, while the empire’s population fell from around 26 million to 20 million (there are few firm statistics).

Although it confirmed the Balkan League’s gains at the expense of the Ottoman Empire, the Treaty of London left several major issues unresolved. First of all, the Great Powers deferred a decision on the exact borders of the new, independent state of Albania to some later date, raising hopes in Serbia and Greece that they might be allowed to keep some or all of their Albanian conquests after all (in fact, on May 14 they divided up Albania into Serbian and Greek spheres of influence). This put Serbia on a collision course with Austria-Hungary, whose foreign minister, Count Berchtold, helped create Albania in order to prevent Serbia from gaining access to the sea.

Furthermore, the Treaty of London said nothing about the division of spoils from the First Balkan War, leaving the Balkan League to divide their conquests among themselves. Since Bulgaria still claimed a large amount of territory in Macedonia occupied by the Serbians and Greeks (a final Serbian request to revise the treaty dividing up Macedonia was rebuffed on May 26, 1913) and also refused to cede its own northern territory of Silistra to Romania, this was an invitation to renewed conflict between the former allies in the Second Balkan War, now just a month away.

Consequences of the First Balkan War

Following the Ottoman Empire’s humiliating defeat in the First Balkan War, it was reasonable for the leaders of Europe’s Great Powers to assume that the “sick man of Europe,” in decline for centuries, was entering its final death throes. This, in turn, triggered a scramble by European diplomats, soldiers, and businessmen, all jockeying for a piece of the moribund empire when the big crack-up finally came.

The main menace came from Russia, which coveted Constantinople and the Turkish straits and was making inroads in eastern Anatolia as well: In June 1913, the Austro-Hungarian ambassador to Constantinople, Marquis Johann von Pallavicini, reported a Russian diplomat’s boast that the division of Anatolia was a done deal, and a similar warning came from the German ambassador, Baron Hans von Wangenheim, that same month. Meanwhile, France and Britain were eyeing Ottoman territories in Syria, Palestine, Mesopotamia, and the Arabian Peninsula, which they later divvied up during the Great War with the Sykes-Picot Agreement, signed March 1916. Italy had just taken Libya as well as Rhodes and some other islands in the Aegean—and could conceivably take more territory on the coast of Asia Minor.

Among the Great Powers, Russia, France, Britain, and Italy were all well-placed, either by virtue of their geographic position or naval power, to project influence across the Middle East. Germany and Austria-Hungary, however, were much less likely to benefit from a division of the Ottoman Empire in the short term; indeed, Germany’s main attempt to build its influence in the region, the Berlin-to-Baghdad Railroad, relied on continued peaceful relations with the Turks. So it was to their advantage to prop up the Ottoman Empire as long as possible, or at least until they were in a position to back up their claims with force (Kaiser Wilhelm II was hardly averse to the idea of taking a chunk of Turkish territory when the time came: On April 30, 1913, he privately vowed that when the Ottoman Empire disintegrated, “I will take Mesopotamia, Alexandretta, and Mersin,” referring to two Mediterranean ports in what is now southeast Turkey).

The Rise of Serbia

Perhaps the most important consequence of the First Balkan War, however, was the rise of Serbian power and prestige, which triggered serious alarm in Austria-Hungary.

As a result of the Balkan wars from 1912 to 1913, Serbia’s area almost doubled from 18,650 to 33,891 square miles, and its population jumped from 2.9 million to 4.5 million. Meanwhile “Yugoslav” activists (who advocated the union of all the Balkan Slavic peoples) were whipping up Slavic nationalism among the Dual Monarchy’s Serbian, Bosnian, and Croatian populations. Slavic nationalists in the Kingdom of Serbia were fanning the flames, and the Russians—while urging moderation and compromise in public—were secretly egging them on: On December 27, 1912, the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Sazonov, promised the Serbian ambassador, Dimitrije Popović, that “the future belongs to us,” adding that the Slavs would “shake Austria to the foundations.” On February 13, 1913, Sazonov described Austria-Hungary as a “boil” that would eventually be “lanced” by the Serbs with Russian support.

Austria-Hungary’s leaders were keenly aware of Serbian and Russian ambitions. The belligerent attitude of the chief of staff, Conrad von Hötzendorf, was well-known, and his views were gaining ground with Count Berchtold (in spite of the opposition of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the throne). By mid-1913, after months working to keep the peace, in the face of repeated Serbian provocations Berchtold was swinging around to the war party. On July 3, 1913, he warned the German ambassador, Heinrich von Tschirschky, that Austria-Hungary was in danger of losing its Slavic territories to Serbia.

As for Austria-Hungary’s ally, the Germans left no doubt they believed a confrontation was coming eventually, mirroring Russia’s advice to Serbia. On April 28, 1913, the former German chancellor Bernard von Bülow wrote to the influential Austrian publicist Heinrich Friedjung, lamenting that Austria-Hungary ought to have occupied the Serbian capital, Belgrade, at the beginning of the First Balkan War—and clearly implying that Vienna should seize the next chance to cut Serbia down to size, whenever it might arise. Bülow also dismissed the risk of Russian intervention: “Right from the beginning of the Balkan war I said the odds against a major war were nine to one. Today I say they are ninety-nine to one, but only if the Central Powers pursue a manly and courageous policy.” In a little over a year, the same attitude would lead the world to disaster.

See the previous installment or all entries.

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Food
The Gooey History of the Fluffernutter Sandwich

Open any pantry in New England and chances are you’ll find at least one jar of Marshmallow Fluff. Not just any old marshmallow crème, but Fluff; the one manufactured by Durkee-Mower of Lynn, Massachusetts since 1920, and the preferred brand of the northeast. With its familiar red lid and classic blue label, it's long been a favorite guilty pleasure and a kitchen staple beloved throughout the region.

This gooey, spreadable, marshmallow-infused confection is used in countless recipes and found in a variety of baked goods—from whoopie pies and Rice Krispies Treats to chocolate fudge and beyond. And in the beyond lies perhaps the most treasured concoction of all: the Fluffernutter sandwich—a classic New England treat made with white bread, peanut butter, and, you guessed it, Fluff. No jelly required. Or wanted.

There are several claims to the origin of the sandwich. The first begins with Revolutionary War hero Paul Revere—or, not Paul exactly, but his great-great-great-grandchildren Emma and Amory Curtis of Melrose, Massachusetts. Both siblings were highly intelligent and forward-thinkers, and Amory was even accepted into MIT. But when the family couldn’t afford to send him, he founded a Boston-based company in the 1890s that specialized in soda fountain equipment.

He sold the business in 1901 and used the proceeds to buy the entire east side of Crystal Street in Melrose. Soon after he built a house and, in his basement, he created a marshmallow spread known as Snowflake Marshmallow Crème (later called SMAC), which actually predated Fluff. By the early 1910s, the Curtis Marshmallow Factory was established and Snowflake became the first commercially successful shelf-stable marshmallow crème.

Although other companies were manufacturing similar products, it was Emma who set the Curtis brand apart from the rest. She had a knack for marketing and thought up many different ways to popularize their marshmallow crème, including the creation of one-of-a-kind recipes, like sandwiches that featured nuts and marshmallow crème. She shared her culinary gems in a weekly newspaper column and radio show. By 1915, Snowflake was selling nationwide.

During World War I, when Americans were urged to sacrifice meat one day a week, Emma published a recipe for a peanut butter and marshmallow crème sandwich. She named her creation the "Liberty Sandwich," as a person could still obtain his or her daily nutrients while simultaneously supporting the wartime cause. Some have pointed to Emma’s 1918 published recipe as the earliest known example of a Fluffernutter, but the earliest recipe mental_floss can find comes from three years prior. In 1915, the confectioners trade journal Candy and Ice Cream published a list of lunch offerings that candy shops could advertise beyond hot soup. One of them was the "Mallonut Sandwich," which involved peanut butter and "marshmallow whip or mallo topping," spread on lightly toasted whole wheat bread.

Another origin story comes from Somerville, Massachusetts, home to entrepreneur Archibald Query. Query began making his own version of marshmallow crème and selling it door-to-door in 1917. Due to sugar shortages during World War I, his business began to fail. Query quickly sold the rights to his recipe to candy makers H. Allen Durkee and Fred Mower in 1920. The cost? A modest $500 for what would go on to become the Marshmallow Fluff empire.

Although the business partners promoted the sandwich treat early in the company’s history, the delicious snack wasn’t officially called the Fluffernutter until the 1960s, when Durkee-Mower hired a PR firm to help them market the sandwich, which resulted in a particularly catchy jingle explaining the recipe.

So who owns the bragging rights? While some anonymous candy shop owner was likely the first to actually put the two together, Emma Curtis created the early precursors and brought the concept to a national audience, and Durkee-Mower added the now-ubiquitous crème and catchy name. And the Fluffernutter has never lost its popularity.

In 2006, the Massachusetts state legislature spent a full week deliberating over whether or not the Fluffernutter should be named the official state sandwich. On one side, some argued that marshmallow crème and peanut butter added to the epidemic of childhood obesity. The history-bound fanatics that stood against them contended that the Fluffernutter was a proud culinary legacy. One state representative even proclaimed, "I’m going to fight to the death for Fluff." True dedication, but the bill has been stalled for more than a decade despite several revivals and subsequent petitions from loyal fans.

But Fluff lovers needn’t despair. There’s a National Fluffernutter Day (October 8) for hardcore fans, and the town of Somerville, Massachusetts still celebrates its Fluff pride with an annual What the Fluff? festival.

"Everyone feels like Fluff is part of their childhood," said self-proclaimed Fluff expert and the festival's executive director, Mimi Graney, in an interview with Boston Magazine. "Whether born in the 1940s or '50s, or '60s, or later—everyone feels nostalgic for Fluff. I think New Englanders in general have a particular fondness for it."

Today, the Fluffernutter sandwich is as much of a part of New England cuisine as baked beans or blueberry pie. While some people live and die by the traditional combination, the sandwich now comes in all shapes and sizes, with the addition of salty and savory toppings as a favorite twist. Wheat bread is as popular as white, and many like to grill their sandwiches for a touch of bistro flair. But don't ask a New Englander to swap out their favorite brand of marshmallow crème. That’s just asking too Fluffing much.

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The Hospital in the Rock
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History
Budapest’s Former Top-Secret Hospital Inside a Cave
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The Hospital in the Rock

At the top of a hill in Budapest, overlooking the Danube River, sits Buda Castle, a gorgeous UNESCO World Heritage site visited by thousands of tourists every year. Directly underneath the castle, however, lies a less-frequented tourist attraction: a series of ancient, naturally formed caves with a colorful and sometimes disturbing history.

The entire cave system is over six miles long, and most of that has been left unchanged since it was used as cold storage (and a rumored dungeon) in the Middle Ages. Between 1939 and 2008, however, a half-mile stretch of those caves was built up and repurposed many times over. Known as Sziklakorhaz or The Hospital in the Rock, its many uses are a testament to the area’s involvement in World War II and the Cold War.

At the start of World War II, the location served as a single-room air raid center, but operating theaters, corridors, and wards were quickly added to create a much-needed hospital. By early 1944, the hospital had officially opened inside the cave, tending to wounded Hungarian and Nazi soldiers. After less than a year of operation, the facility found itself facing its largest challenge—the Siege of Budapest, which lasted seven weeks and was eventually won by Allied forces on their way to Berlin.

As one of the few area hospitals still operational, the Hospital in the Rock was well over capacity during the siege. Originally built to treat around 70 patients, close to 700 ended up crammed into the claustrophobic caves. The wounded lay three to a bed—if they were lucky enough to get a bed at all. Unsurprisingly, heat from all those bodies raised the ambient temperature to around 95°F, and smoking cigarettes was the number one way to pass the time. Add that to the putrid mix of death, decay, and infection and you’ve got an incredibly unpleasant wartime cocktail.

A recreation inside the museum. Image credit: The Hospital in the Rock 

After the siege, the Soviets took control of the caves (and Budapest itself) and gutted the hospital of most of its supplies. Between 1945 and 1948, the hospital produced a vaccination for typhus. As the icy grasp of the Cold War began to tighten, new wards were built, new equipment was installed, and the hospital was designated top-secret by the Soviets, referred to only by its official codename LOSK 0101/1.

Eleven years after facing the horrors of the Siege of Budapest, in 1956, the hospital hosted the casualties of another battle: The Hungarian Uprising. Thousands of Hungarians revolted against the Soviet policies of the Hungarian People’s Republic in a fierce, prolonged battle. Civilians and soldiers alike lay side-by-side in wards as surgeons attempted to save them. During the uprising, seven babies were also born in the hospital.

Surgeons lived on-site and rarely surfaced from the caves. The hospital’s chief surgeon at the time, Dr. András Máthé, famously had a strict "no amputation" rule, which seemed to fly in the face of conventional wisdom, but in the end reportedly saved many patients' lives. (Máthé also reportedly wore a bullet that he’d removed from a patient’s head on a chain around his neck.)

The Hospital in the Rock ceased normal operations in December 1956, after the Soviets squashed the uprising, as the Soviets had new plans for the caves. With the Cold War now in full swing, the still-secret site was converted into a bunker that could serve as a hospital in case of nuclear attack. Diesel engines and an air conditioning system were added in the early '60s, so that even during a blackout, the hospital could still function for a couple of days.

The Hospital in the Rock

The official plan for the bunker was as follows: In the event of a nuclear attack, a selection of doctors and nurses would retreat to the bunker, where they would remain for 72 hours. Afterward, they were to go out and search for survivors. Special quarantined rooms, showering facilities, and even a barbershop were on site for survivors brought back to the site. (The only haircut available to them, however, was a shaved head; radioactive material is notoriously difficult to remove from hair.)

Thankfully, none of these nuclear procedures were ever put into practice. But the hospital was never formally decommissioned, and it wasn’t relieved of its top-secret status until the mid-2000s. For a while, it was still being used as a storage facility by Hungary’s Civil Defense Force. The bunker was maintained by a nearby family, who were sworn to secrecy. In 2004, it was decided that responsibility for the site fell solely on St. John’s Hospital in Budapest, who were seen as the de facto owners in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union.

By 2008 the bunker was renovated, refurbished, and ready to be opened to the public. Today it operates as a museum, with exhibits detailing life in the hospital from various periods of its history, as well as the history of combat medicine as a whole. The sobering hour-long walk around the hospital concludes with a cautionary gaze into the atrocities of nuclear attacks, with the final walk to the exit featuring a gallery of art created by survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings.

Another part of the caves beneath Buda Castle. Image credit:Sahil Jatana via Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

The caves beneath Buda Castle have certainly had a bumpy history, and walking through them now is chilling (and not just because they keep the temperature at around 60°F). A tour through the narrow, oppressive hallways is a glimpse at our narrowly avoided nuclear future—definitely a sobering way to spend an afternoon.

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