Christopher Columbus and Bergonia





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The "Giovano" portrait, likely the oldest portrait of ColumbusIn 1492 Columbus sailed the Nina, Pinta & Santa Maria from Spain to the Canary Islands, and then westward into the unknown.  The three ships sailed to the south of Bergonia, and then came upon the island of San Salvador. Columbus thus "discovered" America.  On the return voyage the Nina & Pinta were pushed by the currents northward, and then when reaching a latitude of 40 degrees turning to the east and home, by-passing Bergonia again.  Columbus essentially circumnavigated Bergonia, not realizing it.  

For his second voyage Columbus commanded a great fleet.  It also visited the Canaries before setting out westward.  On this voyage Columbus set a more southward course than the first, and thus missed Bergonia again.  On 2 November 1493 Columbus reached Dominica in the Lesser Antilles.  He remained in the Caribbean for more than two years, sailing about and supervising the holocaust of Hispaniolan natives.  

On 7 June 1494, while Columbus was still gone, Spain and Portugal executed the Treaty of Tordesillas, which divided the world between them.  Spain received all the lands to the west of a meridian located 370 leagues west of the Cape Verde Islands-- about 48 degrees west longitude, right through Bergonia.

On 10 March 1496 Columbus set out for home from Hispanola, with 225 Europeans and a large number of natives he had enslaved, but with very little gold.  He sailed with a bitter, heavy heart. But on 20 March 1496 a hard storm blew up from the west.  Columbus trimmed his ships and let the storm push them eastward.  During the night of the 21st the seas calmed but hard rain stormy persisted.  In the very first gray light of morning one of the ships plowing through the dense rain abruptly came upon huge rocks.  Then out of the sheets of rain appeared a rocky, thickly forested coast.  (A bronze plaque at an oft-visited scenic overlook along the coastal road commemorates this.)

Thus on 22 March 1496 Columbus "discovered" Bergonia.  

He had come upon the coast of a region called Coninipati in northwest Bergonia. It took Columbus two days to find a calm harbor-- he sailed his fleet into the harbor of a rather prosperous fishing town called Chalresi.   Columbus led a party ashore.  They met fishermen and workmen carrying iron and bronze tools, and they saw several buildings with glass windows.  Columbus and his men realized that they had found a civilized people. The local headman unctuously greeted them, led them into one of the glass-windowed buildings and ordered a great deal of food for them.  By day's end a high functionary arrived.  He wore tailored wool garments and finely crafted jewelry and seemed very hospitable, but a hundred uniformed men armed with swords marched in his train. Columbus guessed or assumed he was a prince, and came to call him "Prince Guzmu."  The uniformed men, obviously soldiers, kept Columbus' men from exploring at will, and confined them to the fishing town.  

Communications were very difficult, but the two sides brought objects out for the other to see, and they traded.  The "Prince" hosted Columbus and his officers to a fine feast, and sent food and water to the sailors waiting on his ships.  The "Prince" brought in a group of men, evidently scholars, who pleasantly and eagerly tried for hours to communicate with Columbus and his men. Columbus escorted them onto his ship and showed them his astrolabe.  He also fired a gun for them.

Columbus correctly concluded that he was on an island, but incorrectly guessed that he was on Cipango (Japan) just off the Asian mainland.  Yet his hosts denied knowing of any other land at all besides their own island, and they presented Columbus with a hand-painted map of it. Columbus examined it, and saw that these people understood cartography wel.  They had just presented him with a detailed map of their very large island's coastlines, a land at least the size of Iberia.

The "Prince" and his scholars kept Columbus and his men engaged in conversation for days, and Columbus grew impatient.  He expected these people to convey him to meet their sovereign, but the "Prince" seemed quite determined that Columbus would see no one other than himself.  Finally Columbus returned to his ships and on 20 April he pulled out of Chalresi and proceeded northward along the coast.  Columbus was surprised to see all the canoes and small sail-boats that sailed alongside his ships.  When he saw another inviting port on 22 April he made for it.  Men in the same uniform as before appeared, and Columbus' men were treated as before, nicely but very firmly.  In few days appeared the Prince again.  Columbus and his men had been used to seizing, branding, whipping, and commanding natives, and now they were being handled.  

On 25 April several of Columbus' men quarreled with villagers and then with the armed men. A swordfight broke out and several men on both sides were cut.  One side or another retreated and again Columbus returned to the safety of his ships. More negotiations between Columbus and the "Prince" resulted in an agreement that the Prince would conduct Columbus to see his sovereign, and in exchange Columbus would give the sovereign a gun, ammunition and some of the powder that made it work.

It turned out that the capital city was just another half day's sail further along the coast.  Columbus had arrived at the city of Sonai, a modest place, population 30,000, small compared to the cities of Spain.  Its "King" was a leader elected by a council of nobles.  He politely greeted Columbus, and Columbus presented the "King" with the promised gifts.  The King in exchange bestowed exquisite gifts-- jewelry, scarves and ribbons, several paintings, and a glass bowl.  Columbus promised the King to return with a trading ship, but the King refused his request to leave behind some of his men as ambassadors.  On 13 May 1496 Columbus, very happy, left Sonai for home.  On his eastward voyage home he followed Bergonia's northern coast for a while.

Columbus' report of the new discovery prompted exultation in among the Court.  When told about the treaty of Tordesillas, he confidently asserted that "Cipango" lie on the Spanish side of the line of division.  The next year, in 1497, Columbus sailed with five caravels to explore the eastern side of "Cipango" and contacted other "Kings."  In order to induce a spice trade, he took with him a great many precious stones.  He sailed north of the trades as far as he could, and discovered the small island of Calaigo, off Bergonia's eastern coast.  He planted a colony there of 74 men, which he named Ascension. He explored the eastern coast for three months, meeting with local "Princes and Scholars," though language constituted a serious impediment.  The natives there presented him with local herbs and spices, but none of them were the nutmeg, allspice or pepper that he sought, and he judged inferior their sage, lemon grass, capers and rosemary, although the hot chilies fascinated his men. 

He returned home, and in May of 1498 Columbus commenced another voyage, this time veering far to the south in hopes of finding the Spice Islands.  He meant to visit Cipango on his return voyage home.  But his gross mismanagement of the colony of Hispaniola resulted in his disgrace-- Ferdinand and Isabella sent Francisco de Bobadilla to arrest him and take over the colony.  Bobadilla sent Columbus back to Spain in chains, aboard a ship called the Gorda.  Pridefully refusing the captain's offer to remove them, Columbus nevertheless advised him about Bergonia, and the Gorda traced the northern coast on its way back home to Spain.

Ferdinand and Isabella absolved him, and in 1502 he embarked on a grand scheme to circumnavigate the globe.  This voyage was not to involve "Cipango" at all.  By now other Spanish ships were visiting and re-supplying the Conception colony, and by now the Portuguese were in the act as well.  Columbus never found a passage to the Indian Ocean and instead explored the Central American Coast.  After a year marooned on Jamaica he returned to Spain, again exploring Bergonia's coast. He stopped again in Sonai, and enjoyed a reunion with "Prince Guzmu."  He returned New Years Day 1505, not long after his patron, Isabella, had died.  Columbus, by now sickened and weak-- he was prematurely aged at 53-- quarreled with Ferdinand over his titles and income.  He died 20 May 1506, which was coincidentally Ascension Day. 

"Prince Gusmu" was in fact Cosmue Saetler (Cos'-mweh Sah-et'-lair), the Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence for the Republic of Sonaipiti, dispatched immediately from Sonai upon word of the strange ships. 

Cosmue, 36 at the time, recorded his experience with Columbus and the Spaniards in successive daily reports to his chief, in terse, urgent and vivid terms that survive to us today. He found the Spaniards course, direct, severe, intelligent and intensely curious. He was struck by their interest in all material things, as well as their aversion to bathing.  He was the fist of many Bergonians who compared their religion-- Christianity-- to Shufrantei. 

Cosmue had seen Columbus' men fire their guns.  He subsequently became the first Bergonian to ever study gunpowder.  And he greeted the French when they arrived in Sonai in 1521. In 1529 he wrote a treatise on Europeans, of which only a fragment survives.  The next year he died of smallpox.


(Actually, if Bergonia really existed, Columbus would just have likely bumped into southeastern Bergonia on his first voyage.  The civilized, rich Bergonians would have so fascinated Columbus and other Europeans as to have delayed discovery of the Americas by a number of years-- perhaps as many as fifty.  Colonization patterns of the Americas, and the subsequent unfolding of nations, would no doubt have been drastically altered-- there may never have been a United States of America (see left) -- but I don't want to change history that much. --j.c.)

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rev. coincidentally on 22 Mar 03. 

map rev. 15 Sept 04