A WINTER'S JOURNEY Part 3
And here let me pause to pay ajust tribute to one of the greatest comforts in the way of inventions that has been of late bestowed upon travellers,— I mean the air-pillow of India-rubber-cloth made by Messrs. Mackintosh and Co. and others. I had purchased one for quite another purpose ; but finding, after a few hours,that the stuffing of the back of the
carriage had been worn so bare as to leave almost exposed a cross-bar, to the serious annoyance of my shoulders, Itookoutmy pillow, and, slightly inflating it, interposed it between myself and the offending part of it.
The effect was perfect, the relief instant; - the pillow accommodated itself at will to any position I pleased, and formed the most delightful support that art could have contrived. I have no doubt that, but for it, I should have been almost knocked up in the long-run : with it, I continued not only fresh and unwearied, but comfortable. Let all travellers, therefore, who love their ease, provide themselves with such an air-pillow.
The repairs of the carriage occupied about fourteen hours, during which time a severe headache prevented me from seeing much of the town : but, indeed,the continued fall of snow would at all events have done that; and I regretted it,as both the town and its environs appeared worthy of attention. As it was, there was nothing struck me so much as the enormous quantities of cabbage in the markets, and the large hats of the women , or the handkerchiefs on their heads, chiefly red, or spotted with red. In
the shops, all the young women were bareheaded, and many of them very pretty.
At eight o'clock we quitted Liege, and were jolted along an execrable road to Aix-la-Chapelle: a capital trial for the new springs, and my temper, or rather patience, for I was in momentary expectation that the whole fabric would go to wreck, and leave me helpless on the road, which, as snow and sleet never ceased, would have been a most undesirable consummation.
Why is Aachen called Aix-la-Chapelle?
This word became Åxhe in Walloon and Aix in French, and subsequently Aix-la-Chapelle after Charlemagne had his palatine chapel built there in the late 8th century and then made the city his empire's capital.
On entering the Prussian territories, I was in stantly struck with a very agreeable change of tone in all I came in contact with: the authorities, or at least their delegates at the gates, were perfectly civil, the postilions better and more obliging, and, after passing through a sandy tract near Aix, the road greatly improved.
THE RHINE COBLENTZ.
In the grey of the morning we reached Cologne, of which I saw little more than the summits of its lofty buildings; and I regret that I can say scarcely more of the beautiful valley of the Rhine from thence to Coblentz, where I dined and discussed a flask of its pleasant wine. Something, indeed, of grand and imposing did occasionally burst into view during the intermissions of the storm, and the
mountains and castellated rocks loomed
more magnificent through the dull haze and clouds that enveloped them ; and, as sometimes we approached the noble river, it was beautiful to see them all reflected in its swift stream, broken into uncertainty by the occasional gusts. It was sufficiently provoking to see just enough to whet the appetite, and no more : but who can tell?-mystery always excites interest, and, though I regretted to lose so much fine scenery, and saw the vine-covered hills and plains, and the multitudes of picturesque buildings and villages, flitting past me with regret, it is possible that, fully seen, the landscape might have been less pleasing. I am sure, however, that in spring and early summer it must be enchanting.
Darkness and continued rain hid everything of Coblentz from me as I entered it,- even the bridge by which I crossed the river to reach it was undistinguishable ; but the lights flashed brilliantly along the banks, and cheerless enough I felt it, plunging once more into the darkness to push on towards Frankfort. We passed the fortified town of Mayence with its pretty gardens and orchards, in early morning, and reached the Englishers Hoff hotel at Frankfort about eleven o’clock. Bad as the weather
was, I was charmed with the whole country around Mayence and Frankfort; indeed, all the way from
Cologne it was like a perfect garden, and even the open fields were studded with fruit-trees. The roads too were excellent, and in many places I observed a very respectable approximation towards
I may here remark, that I found the posting better in Belgium than in France, and in Prussia superior to either ; horses far better, postilions more civil, and less time lost in changing.
Frankfort is a handsome town, and on the Sunday morning , when we entered it, presented a pleasant spectacle. All ranks were going to church, clad in their sabbath clothes. The lower orders, with their sober garb and staid gate, reminded me of the men of the Scottish Lowlands. The blue waggoner's frock and foraging-cap are much worn by the young, and I remarked that most of them had a military air— no doubt caught from the military people by whom the place is surrounded. Of the women several were very pretty, but too much disposed to embonpoint.
The chaussées of Belgium and the roads of Aix-la Chapelle having shaken my poor carriage, Sunday though it was, it became necessary to have it repaired.
This detained me till eight at night, when I left Frankfort in a perfect storm. The wind was high, and the rain beat in so fast, that I congratulated myself at having provided a good fur cloak, and bag for my feet; a precaution which some sharp suffering on the preceding night had induced me to take. The morning found us among hills rather of a bleak character, though varied in many places with oak and stunted fir, and cultivated in some parts to the top with corn or vineyards. The hollows, too, were occupied by neat little villages, from the centre of each of which arose its spire. It was, no doubt, a populous country.
Towards eleven o'clock we came down upon Wurtzburgh, the first city of Bavaria ; and a picturesque town it is, with its cupolas and minarets, and spires, that have a tinge of Saracenic architecture, lying as it does low in the valley of the Maine, surrounded by richly-clad hills, and crowned by its striking and noble castle. The old bridge, by which we reached the city, adorned with numerous statues of saints and bishops, in stone, particularly attracted my attention ; and so many buildings did there seem worthy of examination, that I deeply regretted the necessity which forced me to fore go all objects but that of getting forward.
The Bavarian government is more jealous and strict on the subject of passports than those of France, Belgium, or Prussia ; and the examination of mine, courier as I was, cost a delay of an hour and a half. The view of the town, as we looked
back upon it from a height,was particularly fine; but the country a round it is not very inviting, and the roads were so bad, that, as night closed in, it became a matter of painful anxiety to know how the carriage would stand the heavy jolts.
To add to my uneasiness, just about dusk, and at the beginning of a very long stage, we got a drunken postilion, who seemed resolved to over set the carriage, or, at least, to try how near he could go to each side-ditch with out doing so. Darkness and uncertainty are the parents of anxiety and alarm ; and when to these is added utter ignorance of the language and a want of confidence in your own people, perplexity is in creased tenfold. Suppose,for instance,that the carriage had been overturned or broken in some part of the road far from any of the thinly -scattered villages, what reliance could I have placed in the exertions of the drunken boor who drove it for procuring assistance? while I myself, tied to the spot by the necessity of guarding my charge, and,in fact, unable from ignorance of the localities around me to take any step for extricating the vehicle, must have stood there until relieved by casual passers-by next morning. It was by no means a pleasant situation, I assure you ; and all thought of sleep, or even rest, was out of the question.
We got through, however, by the goodness of Providence, and a dull morning broke upon a high bleak country, partially covered with dark and stunted forests of fir, much ofwhich seemed in a state of decay. W e breakfasted at Nieumarkt, a mean-looking place, affording, however, a comfortable auberge: and a little after quitting it, for the first time since leaving London, the sky began to clear and the sun to shine out bright. The black clouds that had hung over us so low that they seemed resting on the earth broke and let in the light, and all the scene was changed. One must have travelled as I had done for several days and nights during a continued succession of stormy weather, wet, cold, and comfortless, with the fear of an overturn or breakdown continually before my eyes, to appreciate the effect of such a change not only on external objects, but on the mind that regards them.
What a host of black doubts and dreary forebodings were flitting over it last night, colouring not only the present, but the future,with their own sable hue ! Where were they now? - fled with the morning mists, leaving it bright and clear as the face of that same heaven which so lately loured, to reflect visions of happiness and success. May not a thinking mind draw a good moral lesson from such incidents? - do they not impressively illustrate the changing and transitory character of all earthly pursuits, and point to a more implicit reliance on that Being with whom alone can perfect rest and tranquillity be found? Such, at least, was the train of thought it awakened in me ; and though the gleam of sunshine soon vanished and the sky was again overcast, I trust that the lesson it seemed to teach and the salutary feel ings it had awakened were of longer duration.
In the afternoon of this day we first crossed the Danube,here but a small stream. A few miles
below, at the old and interesting town of Ratisbon, it becomes broader and shallower, and we crossed it again by an old stone bridge.https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regensburghttps://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Ratisbon
ASPECT OF THE COUNTRY.
The whole country through which we had been travelling from the preceding morning,- that is, from about half-way between Frankfort and Wurtzburgh to Ratisbon,- is a succession of long undulating swells, divided by deep valleys with water -courses, never rising into mountains, seldom into hills of any great height, but certainly of great general elevation, for the snow and ice were more abundant than below,and then but slowly melting.
Rock seldom appears on the surface, but moulders in beds below it, affording, we are led to suppose, favourable soil for the vine, as there are vineyards planted in some places almost to the greatest height. In fact, though the country has a bleak aspect, there is no part of it waste, and I apprehend that it is populous. Where the surface is not wooded , it is employed as pasture or in tillage, and villages and spires may be seen even on the tops of the fir covered knolls. Nearer Ratisbon the swellings spread to a greater extent, so as to form almost a table-land, on which these knolls are more frequent and form the only elevated points. The aspect of the whole is. dreary enough -- the sombre forests of pine, and the sickly yellow of the pastures and fallows, suggest only images of cold and wet discomfort to the traveller; yet the summer climate of this country cannot be bad, for fruit-trees are seen everywhere studding the bleakest fields, and occasionally bordering the roads. Sheep were abundant, dotting the brown fields; and there were plenty of black cattle.
At Nieumarkt I believe it was that I first observed oxen drawing carts by the horns ; a better way, I should think, than, as usual in some countries, by a heavy yoke suspended from the neck : it is the common way all over Bavaria, Austria, and Hungary.
Of the Bavarian peasantry I remarked that they seemed to be in circumstances of great comfort; they were well lodged and clothed. The streets of the smaller villages were miry, it is true, because the weather was wet, and they were not paved ; but the houses all seemed comfortable and warm, and there were no huts, or even very mean cottages. The lower orders wore sheep-skin pelisses, or coarse thick great-coats, and hats : those a little higher, had clothes of broad-cloth, caps of the same, and, instead of the great -coat, threw a short cloak or mantle over their shoulders. They were generally well-made and stout, comely but blunt, and of rather a dogged expression of countenance. The women were remarkably comely, small-featured , and plump. They wore the hair shaded back on the brow, and all had combs stuck in it. In their dress, they might be said to have some resemblance to the broom-girls we see in England, but in nothing else, and their petticoats were never so abominably short. Some of the older ones wore that strange-fashioned, black velvet, and lace-trimmed cap, which is exhibited in all collections of European costumes. One thing struck me as remarkable, that with all this appearance of general comfort there should be so many beggars. The moment you enter a village, you are beset by crowds of boys, who bawl out for money in the most importunate way ; and in the roads, as you pass along, you are constantly accosted by well dressed persons on foot, who seem to be travelling, and who are equally urgent in their application for relief. I suspect, however, that an absence of shame, a want of honest pride and feeling, is at the bottom of this, rather than actual poverty.
In reaching Ratisbon, we descended from our altitudes, and got upon a lower level. The country.....