By Torben Silberberg, our Southern Island Kingdom correspondent
Whoever enters the port of Acron is surprised to find that the air does not smell fishy, or stink of putrid brackish water from sewage. Instead the nose is enveloped with the pleasing aromas of thyme, pepper, turmeric and a thousand other fragrances of herbs and spices.
Ships from all over the world wait patiently in the harbor to load their freight.
We are on the spice island of Halos in the Southern Island Kingdom.
Once we go outside the thick walls of Acron, the first spice production areas come into view. Anyone who thinks that, for example, vanilla is just picked, dried and crushed in a mortar – and is relatively tasteless — would be very surprised.
Just beyond Acron are large wooden sieves piled high with vanilla pods, waiting to ferment. Only then will its essential flavor come out. It’s a similar process with coffee, which also only gets its flavor through fermentation.
After that are the cinnamon trees. Their bark results in the cinnamon we are familiar with. I ride with my guide for half an hour through a cinnamon forest before we get to the turmeric and ginger fields.
It occurs to me that fields alternate with forests, because after the turmeric and ginger fields we ride into a forest of clove trees, which are eye-catching with their red flowers.
My guide Sahid says that the alternating method of planting was defined by a Druid, and now there are hardly ever crop failures due to pests.
The Druids have a large sanctuary to the north of the island in the middle of a forest of Moringa trees. Their leaves yield a sharp green herb that helps to prevent gangrene.
We ride back to Acron, where each resident lives directly or indirectly from the spices.
And so it’s not surprising that at the University of Acron primarily spice procurement and medicinal herbalism are taught.
Despite the tense political situation between the Western Empire and the Southern Island Kingdom, I know there are a large number of students from the Western Empire, mostly from Crown Island Merkap where they have climatic conditions similar to Halos, but so far there is very little spice cultivation.
When I fall into my bed exhausted at night, I soon encounter fragrant dreams of unknown spices, which I would like to discover as soon as possible…