Passport To Venice

by Kathleen Ann Gonzalez

As promised, I’m sharing photos of another passport I received from my generous friend Marco. But this passport is not just a copy – it’s the real thing!

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When E. A. Berckmans de Meert was 25 in 1843, he was “1 aune, 7 palmes, and 4 pouces” tall. With light brown hair and eyebrows, blue eyes, and a petite nose, he fit the national stereotype of a Dutchman. As an officer of the communal guard of the Hague, he traveled a lot, as his passport attests to.

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This passport entitled him to visit England, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Prussia, France, and Belgium. The stamps fill 49 of 58 pages of the book and span from May 12, 1843, to August 20, 1844. Here are a few of the stamps he collected in his travels.

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I’m thrilled by the varied stamps – from inked ones to wax seals to embossed stamps.

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The signatures are fabulous! Check these out.

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Marco, knowing my love for Venice, specially marked this page for me

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I sat with numerous friends and family members and even a couple interested students to pore over these pages until I thought I might start to wear them out (both the pages and the people!) But what a shame it would be to not enjoy these pages and to let E. A. sit on a shelf and grow dusty!

If I were a fiction writer, I would take this passport as a starting place to fashion a story from it. We know his eyes of blue, his height, his many weary miles. Did he enjoy traveling or detest it? What was his preferred method of travel? His favorite city? Was he good at his job? Who did he leave behind? Who did he meet on the way? All these people who stamped his passport–were they kind or tired or officious or pretentious (as some of those signatures indicate)? We may never know what his life was really like, but it could inspire a fascinating re-creation.

What would E. A. think of a passel of strangers oohing and ahhing over his  documents? Is this an invasion of his privacy, over which he obviously has no control? Or would he be the kind to chuckle over it? Would he like to thumb through my passport and marvel at the visas for Kenya and China or grumble over the rather boring-by-comparison stamps for Venice and Frankfurt?

Marco had two of E. A. Berckmans de Weert’s passports. I may have a chance to meet the owner of the other one. I’ll keep you posted. Maybe that will be a story in itself….

Dear Kathleen, thanks again for another nice article! You are always welcome to share your passport stories. Cheers Tom.

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