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sffcorgi ([personal profile] sffcorgi) wrote2013-04-17 08:10 pm

Cartography to resolve problems of visualising distance in Transylvania, and locating Sturmhalten

This entry shall attempt to provide a context for travel in Yarth's Europa at the time of the emergence of Agatha, Lady Heterodyne.  Given that the one map we have been provided has been declared to be a few shades of unreliable, and the directions quoted in the histories are at best confusing, I present a few tools over which heads may be scratched.

Providing a map seems to have resulted instead in generating several maps with an added sharp veer into airship operations, to wit:  Given that the Goodyear blimp (current circa-2006 roundy edition) travels by itself between 20-30mph,  it seems to be a fair extrapolation that the Castle Wulfenbach travels about normal-human walking speed, rounded for convenience to 5kph.

This gives us a straight-line daily travel distance of 120 kilometers, which can vary by a kilometer depending on which end of the ship you're using to measure the distance, and does not account for Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott, headwinds, tailwinds,  crosswinds, up/downdrafts, hostile ground-to-air fire, accidental fire in the dustbin, storm diversions or any other possible variable.  (This is a pitiful distance - I do 23s this distance just for work and back, but like the CW, I get to travel in nearly straight lines with little environmental interference, unlike ground travel in much of Europa.)

Agatha spends more than one day on the Castle Wulfenbach — her first very busy day ends with meeting (but not being introduced to) Krosp; she sleepwalks to Moloch's lab for her second day.  The Airship City novel (chapter 6) mentions 'The biggest problem was caused by Agatha herself, who continued to sleepwalk each night, ending up in the lab, sprawled over one of the workbenches.'  This suggests a few more days, unenumerated, in-between.  This same 'few days later' (which may mean the morning of anywhere from her fifth to eighth day on board) she wakes up from sleepSparking again, belts Moloch after their fight and reports to Gil's lab that afternoon.  The hive engine is activated later that same night.  Agatha awakes on her next morning in Gil's lab, having build her first fully-operative Dingbot and the Rescue Engine.  Unfortunately, that's about the time the evacuation alarms go off, she and Gil fight the Slaver Queen, Lilith and Adam come to rescue her and Krosp flies off with her in a little airship.

This gives us perhaps six to nine days of travel — let's be stingy and round like crazy and say 600 to 1000 kilometres of travel.  We don't have a starting point, as the retaking of Beetleburg was done with Wulfenbach units, not the Castle.  Let's pretend, however, that she was looming over Mechanicsburg, not far away, as she would do in a few months from the start of the histories.

Okay... where's Mechanicsburg?

Let's look at a map.

We have to remember AT ALL TIMES that the geography is not going to be exactly congruent; in some cases, it's radically different.  All we can use, however, are the tools at hand and be ready to make wild allowances when we get contradictions.  That stipulated, the Danube (in all Her various names) seems to be surprisingly similar in course, nearly identical.  She provides a great alignment and scaling tool for our cartography.  Here is an apologetically shiny closeup of the Mechanicsburg-Beetleburg area in Transylvania:

Off to one side, you can see Budapest.  What state Budapest is in in Europa is anybody's guess at the moment, but it is likely extremely battered if it is still there at all.  Given what we can extrapolate about Transylvanian history in Agatha's timeline, it was likely the front lines for many, many battles for many, many years.  Poor Budapest.

To the south, somewhat out of place, there's The Iron Gates; although it is a natural feature, someone very likely decided to be literal about it and built something across the gorge even more impressive than either Trajan's Bridge or the modern hydroelectric dams in our timeline.

Here's an overlay of the modern Transylvania of our time.  The teardrop marker is over Miercurea-Ciuc, named after Wednesday/Mercury.  I'll explain why in a moment.  (By the way, any John Landis fans out there?  Are you cracking up yet?)

Notice the Mechanicsburg dot lines up almost perfectly with Târgu Mureș — but Miercurea-Ciuc is a much more logical candidate for being the proximate location of Mechanicsburg.  Remember, unreliable maps.  Ciuc is surrounded by highlands, if not actual mountains, while Targu Mures is on the rolling lowlands.  Situated on the River Mureș ( Marisus, Maros, Moriš, Мориш, Mieresch, Marosch or Muresch), the market town was an important salt-trading post and had been settled since at least the early 1200s.  However, it's too exposed to be Mechanicsburg.

Miercurea-Ciuc, on the other hand, was an Iron Age settlement, and later Dacian and Szekler villages developed there.  The Olt River (Alt, Aluta or Alutus, Alytos, Άλυτος), originating in the copper-bearing mountains not far to the north, runs through the city, not too unlike the Dyne.

Here you can see the Mures and the Olt overlaying our Yarth-based map.  The Olt is the unlabelled river running vertically from the bottom of the frame and 'pointing' at Beetleburg.  Ironically, the town closest to the Olt's source, and possible Beetleburg location, is Bălan — but would be a very poor location for Balan's Gap and Sturmhalten (it's only 38 km away).

Let's get a sense of distances.  It seems fairly safe to presume that the proportions of Transylvania are the same, and things are neither vastly farther apart nor absurdly closer together than they are here.  Here, for instance, are two routes from the famous location that used to be called the Borgo Pass (now Pasul Tihuţa, Tihuţa Pass) to our temporarily-stipulated 'Mechanicsburg':


The first route is 192 km; the second, 249 km.  Hardly an intimidating distance even for the sauntering Castle Wulfenbach, nor something that it would take months to reach.

Here's some radii of possible Castle travel — the smaller circle is about four days' good sailing, 420 km; the larger is 1000 km:

Notice exactly how much of Europa and surroundings can be reached by the Castle in a little over a week of normal headway.   That's almost half of the major cities in the east, Istanbul (not Constantinople) and Athens.

Just for the sake of it, here's another more general map I made plotting the approximate borders of Europa Wulfenbach against an our-world map:

Mechanicsburg and the ruins of Wulfenburg (Wulfenbachburg?) are marked with stars; the routing is Othar's journey from his alternate-timeline Twitter account.  You will note on the other maps above that Schloss Wulfenbach seems awfully congruent with the modern city of Cluj-Napoca, which was known in Roman times as Castrum Clus or Claudiopolis.  I'm just going to leave that second name there for you to look at for a while.

Looping back to one of the problems that maps are supposed to resolve:  Where in Newton's name is Sturmhalten?!  Even using the completely unsupported assumption that the Castle Wulfenbach set off from Mechanicsburg once Agatha was appropriated, the radii above show that it would be nearly impossible to guess just from that alone.  We do know, however, that Agatha crashed in the Wastelands; that the Circus took months just to get to Balan's Gap and Sturmhalten; that Sturmhalten itself, 200 years before the main storyline in the histories was heavily fortified by Andronicus Valois to beat back the Heterodynes from invading western/northwestern Europe.  I would like to suggest that a large portion of the Wastelands, and the land Agatha and Krosp overflew was once what we call the Great Hungarian Plain.  There is a gap between the easternmost Austrian Alps and the Western Carpathians, where Bratislava and Vienna are situated where the Circus might have travelled, and the Brenner Pass between Austria and Italy is said by Wikipedia to be the lowest and one of the most desired passes through that mountain range.  Could Agatha have travelled that far, beyond the Alps?  Not over the Alps themselves, but easily within reach of the mountain passes, which would have been crossed by the Circus over Wulfenbach-laid roads and bridges.

We might never know for certain where our world's Sturmhalten-equivalent lies.  There may, in fact, be nothing there; or Balan's Gap may have been named after the Spark who blew up half a mountain range to create it.  At least we can surmise where it is not and work from there.