Count Fritz von Hochberg (aka Friedrich Maximilian, Graf von Hochberg) was a passenger aboard the ss Wimmera.
Together with a travelling companion, Mr Healy, the Count embarked the Wimmera at Dunedin, New Zealand. At Bluff the ship departed for Melbourne via Hobart at 5:45 pm on 30 December 1907. The latter port was reached on Thursday 2 January 1908 before sailing for and arriving at Melbourne on Sunday 5 January 1908.
His voyage on the Wimmera was one leg of a world tour that would take in Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea, The Philippines, Hong Kong, Macau, Canton, Singapore, the Straits Settlements, Burma, India and Cashmere, Ceylon and Japan.
It was on 6 October 1907 that the 38-year-old Count Fritz von Hochberg, departed Southampton aboard the G.M.S. Bremen en route Australia. Accompanied by his “Hindoo” servant, Jonas Lazarus (whom he engaged in Colombo) the Count arrived in Port Adelaide via Fremantle on 14 November.
In 1910 an account of his journeys were published in a two volume work under the title of ‘An Eastern Voyage: a journal of the travels of Count Fritz Hochberg through the British Empire in the East and Japan’.
On the whole his impressions of Australia and New Zealand were less than flattering. In reviews of his book that appeared in the Australian and New Zealand press in 1911 and 1912 these impressions received attention.
In the Ashburton Guardian of 3 January 1912, the following brief commentary on Australia was published:
AUSTRALIA TO GERMAN EYES
Count Fritz von Hochberg–that is the German gentleman’s name–saw Marvellous Melbourne and was not impressed. To him it was simply “a straight, broad-streeted, uninteresting, largish town, somewhat suburban-looking, with a vulgar-looking crowd of people, and overdressed, second-class-looking women. In vain I looked for one really good-looking face….
The country is hideous, nothing but dead eucalyptus trees and some sheep.” Sydney, which he also visited, “looks a suburb; nobody would have the impression of a town; as for the unsmartness of the people, it beats anything I’ve seen; they all look like second-class commercial travellers; the women, seem either fat or bony; …. look as much as you like, you won’t meet a really pretty girl or woman in the streets or see a fine-looking man.”
Adelaide he found to be “a wretched-looking suburban sort of place; doesn’t give one at all the impression of a town. Like almost everything else here it came out of the dust-pit, helter-skelter, so it can’t help it.” The people of Australia he considered “an awful lot,” and he felt among them as thought he were “dining in the servants’ hall, not even in the housekeeper’s room.” By his own confession, he managed to dine tolerably well, however. He praises the fruits and wines he had in Sydney, and pronounces the New South Wales claret “certainly better than the French;” but perhaps, in this matter, the “steed of friendship” was pricked by the “thistle of hatred.”
Of course New Zealand and New Zealanders did not escape the same cynical views. The Ashburton Guardian also reported on:
THE COUNT IN NEW ZEALAND.
New Zealand will enjoy the same immunity as Australia, if Count Fritz’s countrymen have any respect for his opinions. For in his eyes our beautiful and incomparable Dominion is little better than a wilderness and its people just a cut above primitive savages. He appears to have started at Auckland, and made his way southward to Invercargill. Hear what he has to say about the Queen of the North: —”Auckland, December 2.—We landed about 6 p.m. I never saw such disorder, and such primitiveness in all my life. . . . In the morning we went into the town—if one can call it a town; it seemed to me to consist of one main street.” There are beautiful landscapes round Auckland; but “the roads are simply awful; I think they haven’t even got a steam roller. And in spite of the luxuriant growth every thing looks frightfully untidy and unkempt. . . These people have absolutely no artistic sense.” Wellington, of course, was much worse. He writes of the Empire City : — “We took a cab and drove through Wellington. The fact that the sun shone and tried its best to make this God-forsaken place look cheerful was utterly handicapped by blasts of wind blowing through all the streets, hurling up clouds of dust. To be named Governor of New Zealand, and to have to reside in Wellington, would be, to my mind, equal to criminal exile to the lead mine’s of Siberia.” By way of compensation, Christchurch gave him “an absolutely civilised impression;” but Dunedin he dismisses as “an uninteresting, provincial-looking place.” Near Dunedin, however, he saw “one really good-looking woman” —the only one in all New Zealand. Could it possibly have been a German “frau” or “fraulein?” Finally, at Invercargill, the disgusted Count sat and watched the people, and “was again greatly struck by the really uncommon ugliness, vulgarity, ungracefulness, and unsmartness of these New Zealanders.” It is a pity that Count Fritz is not likely to revisit this country. It would have been interesting to have him given an address at the Somerset Corner some evening! Ashburton people like so much to hear candid opinions concerning themselves.
Unfortunately, the Count appears to have been somewhat inaccurate with names and vital statistics, for in his book the Count briefly describes his passage aboard a “quite a nice looking boat”, the 5000 ton Minerva [sic]”. However, despite the Count being somewhat accurate with dates, the “nice looking boat” on which the “Company had reserved [him] a very good cabin” was none other than the SS Wimmera on which the Count and Mr Healy boarded in [Dunedin] and sailed South via Bluff to Hobart [and then on to Melbourne].
At the time of his world tour the Count had been married for over two years to Eliza Caroline Burke-Roche yet his wife did not join him on his venture.
Known as a ‘Japanologist’ his written impressions of the East and Japan in particular were more elaborate and positive than those of the Antipodes. He is also recorded as having established a Japanese-style garden in the then German city of Breslau (now called Wroclaw in Poland).