China’s Boxer Rebellion, 1900, finds the lifelong family friends Markus Mathais and Soloman Levi as young Imperial German soldiers battling with other Europeans besieged in Peking. Even in these dire circumstances, Markus abandons the legations safety for dangerous adventures cross country seeking his love, Li Ling. Soon after finding his love, he must escape with Sun Yat Sen down river on a pirated Imperial mail boat. He reunites with his friend Levi, after the battle of Peking.
The two encounter dangerous adventures on their return by ship to Germany, but not before stops at other Imperial German Colonies. In German New Guinea a shark attack, in German Samoa a sexual bacchanal with natives, and in Uruguay, Levi meets his future wife, Katherina Obermaier, a beautiful young Jewish woman bound for university in Berlin.
Continuing their trip home, the ship encounters trouble the south Atlantic, necessitating a stop at the tiny island of Tristan Da Cunha where a heartbreaking drama unfolds. Christmas 1900 finds the homeward bound friends in German South West Africa, where love blooms in the desert sands.
Home again in Bavaria: Levi to his ancestral home Kalvarianhof, the grand estate of the Levis deep in the woods outside of Munich, and Markus to his Mother’s apartment in Munich. The two attend university: Levi marries Katherina, and honeymoons in Paris, encountering the ‘Dreyfus Affair’. Meanwhile Markus learns to fly the dangerous first aeroplanes, while developing a forbidden romantic interest in Levi’s sister Ilsa. Happiness is fleeting, as Katherina miscarries several times and has a baby that dies. In her misery, she becomes addicted to Vin De Mariana, a cocaine laced wine. This necessitates her admission to a psychiatric hospital. Finally recovered, she pursues her university study and her ambition to become an archeologist.