An Old-fashioned And Simple People

IN keeping with the picturesque surroundings of this little spot are the old-fashioned and simple ways of the people. The houses are built mostly of stone, or brick stuccoed, the roofs being covered with tiles made of burnt clay. All the trimmings—the door-knobs, locks, latches, hinges, and window-fastenings–are exceedingly primitive and massive, and the whole effect is that of old-fashioned solidity.

The farm buildings are generally long and narrow, and the same roof covers the habitation of the people and the domicile of the animals. The matter of ventilation seems not to have been considered, either for the people or the animals, as we notice that the windows and doors are all kept tightly closed, and we naturally conclude that the quality of the air would be about the same in both departments. We had the pleasure of visiting the cows on several occasions, and refrained from investigating the atmosphere at the other end of the building, being quite satisfied with the sample already obtained.

The carts and wagons and barns, and even the farming implements, are of ancient design and manufacture, each generation having resisted innovations and clung tenaciously to the old ways. There is no market here for improved mowing-machines or reapers, and the introduction of modern farming appliances would create a revolution. It would take the stolid, plodding women out of the field and remand them to the duties of the household where they belong, and to the care of their neglected and unkempt children. At present the women greatly outnumber the men as farm laborers, and no doubt the conservatism of ages of fixed habit in this regard will preserve the same relative proportion, and this degrading spectacle will continue to mar the beautiful landscape for hundreds of years to come. Comparatively few men are seen in the field, and scarcely ever a young man. The latter go into the army, or to some neighboring city to procure more lucrative employment, or emigrate to America, where they soon forget the old, plodding ways left behind and become assimilated to the new conditions. Many of them marry American girls instead of returning to their old homes for wives, thus lessening the already meagre chances of their own country-women to procure husbands.

We met on the steamer, on our recent journey across the Atlantic, an illustration of this, a young German who had been in America only a few years. He had settled in California, established a successful business as a builder, married an American girl, and was on his way to his old home to spend his honeymoon among his relatives. He had become so thoroughly imbued with the spirit and energy of his new home that even before he had landed in his old one he had a feeling that he would not be content to re-main long, and that he would be irresistibly drawn back into the activities he had left be-hind.

In a country where the home life is so much thought of, and where every girl hopes to be married and begins when yet a child to knit the stockings for her trousseau, it is pitiful that only a few are likely to realize their ideals. Some of them are comely maidens, and one can scarcely realize that in a few years their uncovered blonde heads, already discolored by exposure, will be as gray as those of their grandmothers who work beside them ; and their skins, now brown and ruddy, will become sallow and wrinkled ; and their muscles, now vigorous and well rounded, shrivelled and hardened until the last trace of beauty has departed.

For some reason which we have not yet dis-covered, the Swiss and German women seem to have a predilection for the hoe, and the hoe seems, if anything, more ponderous than the rest of the farming implements, and more fit for the grasp of a giant than for the hand of a woman. But in blissful unconsciousness of this they hoe on from year to year. After a certain age they all look a good deal alike, and one cannot help thinking, There is that same woman with that same hoe digging away for dear life in that same eternal spot. The sinewy, sunburnt arms and many-shaded, faded hair, the coarse shoes and garments, the determined, stolid, everlasting dig, dig, dig, is repeated again and again all through the landscape. One wonders why they do not hurry, so they can rest or do something else. One wonders how they ever managed to turn into such poor, monotonous hoeing-machines.

But there is no answer in their movements or their faces–one is about as expressionless as the other, and both seem to mean work, and beyond that have little significance. Nothing seems to claim their attention or distract them. They scarcely look up as one passes. Even those who chance to be mothers, and whose little ones lie asleep in their rough baby-wagon near by, or toddle about the fields in the sun, give their whole minds to the hoe.

While the Swiss and Germans make excellent citizens when stirred up by our American life, in their own country home they are inclined to stagnation. In and around Baden we find them deliberate and slow in their business, and rather painstaking than striving. Instead of using their time in getting ahead, they spend it in caring for the little things, being more conservative than aggressive in their methods. Not a straw or blade of grass goes to waste. Every stick or chip that can be utilized for fuel is saved. In spite of the abundance of fruit we see little branches with only two or three apples carefully tied up to the stronger limb above to insure the safety of the twig bearing them. Not infrequently the utilities impinge upon the elegancies if not upon the comforts of life, for we often see the precious manure piled up directly before the front door of the dwelling.

The average citizen of this Baden gives an hour or two in the morning to his business. At ten A.M. he finds it necessary to repair to an adjacent restaurant, refresh himself with a glass of wine, and talk over the news of the day with his neighbors. At twelve he appropriates the good things his frau has prepared for him for dinner, after which he again finds it necessary to talk over the news at another restaurant while sip-ping his coffee, thus attending to his digestion undisturbed until two P.M. After this he de-votes a couple of hours again to his mild form of business. At six he repairs once more to one of his favorite resorts to spend another hour and take more wine. At seven he goes to supper, and finishes the day by visiting one of the numerous societies, to several of which he belongs. There they talk and sing and pass from mouth to mouth the drinking-horn, filled with the golden wine. Thus they realize the tradition of the German song :

“The old Teutons lived on both sides of the Rhine ; On bearskins they lay, and for ever drank wine.”

We had often wondered that so many houses, both in the city and country, were ornamented with quaint old signs, indicating that they fulfilled the conditions required for the supplying of the daily wants of the class of citizens above described. But, in spite of all these temptations to indulgence, in spite of the fact that so many spend several hours a day over the bottle, we have never seen a drunken man during the whole month that we have been here. The ex-planation of this is that they drink nothing but wine made from the neighboring vineyards.

Bordering upon Germany, and having a climate and soil suitable for the culture of the grape, this is preeminently a country of vine-yards. Thousands of acres can be seen from almost any elevated point in or near the city. The grapes are mostly used for wine, and all the wine is consumed at home. Hence wine is the universal beverage, of the rich and the poor alike. Our landlord, who makes his own wine, showed us through his cellars, and told us that he used about 4,000 gallons for his guests during the season, and nearly the same amount of an inferior quality for his servants. Wine takes the place not only of the strong liquors, but of tea, which, among the peasants, is only drank as a medicine on the prescription of a physician.

There can be little doubt that pure wine, made from the juice of the grape, is a much more healthful beverage than most of the teas that reach the consumer, all of which contain a large amount of tannin, and many, especially the green teas, foreign ingredients which are poisonous. The great prevalence of dyspepsia and other kindred diseases in America, and the al-most entire freedom from them here, may be largely attributed to the general use of tea in the one and wine in the other.

It is remarkable that during the whole month of our visit here we have not only not seen the semblance of a bar, but we have not seen whiskey, brandy, rum, gin, or any other distilled spirit. Indeed, we should not know, by any visible token, that a drop of either could by any possibility be obtained, while wine seems to be everywhere present. Would it not for ever settle the question, about which there seems to be so much honest difference of opinion—whether pure wines ought to be classed with distilled liquors, pure and impure, in the great crusade against intemperance—if some single State of the Union could be selected, with a climate and soil suited to the culture of the grape, and the making and use of wine within its limits encouraged in every way by all classes, and the manufacture and use of distilled spirits of all kinds discouraged, both by appropriate legislation and by enlightened public opinion? It seems as though the honest and earnest men and women who are striving to lessen the evils of intemperance could be better employed in making the above experiment than in pushing to extremes their present unreason-able and ineffective methods.

While the grape seems to be the principal crop here, much hay and grain is also raised, and immense quantities of fruit, especially apples and pears. But it is nearly all natural fruit, and very small, and has a crude and uninviting appearance. Many of the trees are very large and so heavily loaded that the branches have to be propped up, a dozen or more supports being sometimes placed under the limbs of a single tree. These trees are vigorous and abundant bearers, and if grafted with choice varieties would produce delicious fruit, but the owners seem to think the old way the best.

The people have an extraordinary number of holidays and give their whole mind to celebrating them. Something in the way of innocent amusement takes place every Sunday, which day is always given up, more or less, to relaxation and enjoyment. The first Sunday we were here a boat-load of young men from Zurich came sailing down the rapid Limmat, singing songs and having a general good time. The next Sunday a large athletic society of peasant boys, from the neighboring agricultural districts, arrived and took possession of the parade ground on the edge of the city, where they had matches in running, jumping, climbing, wrest-ling, trapeze performances, etc., in the presence of an admiring multitude. They acquitted themselves creditably, and the winners were awarded prizes of belts, stockings, sashes, lamps, sausages, hams, bottles of wine, etc. One in each group carried around his neck a, large ox-horn, ornamented with ribbons and filled with wine, from which the members drank from time to time.

There is a delightful simplicity and apparent unselfishness among the common people which we often see illustrated in small matters. On stopping one day at a little stand where several old women were selling fruit, we purchased a pound of cherries of one of them, when, spying some rather more attractive ones in a, basket be-longing to another woman, we also purchased a pound of her. She had no paper to do them up in, when the first one came forward, with a perfect good-nature, and furnished the paper for that purpose. She evidently had no desire to monopolize our custom or get the better of her neighbor.

One of the cabmen, too, proved his disinterestedness, when we were about starting out for our first drive, by assuring us that there “was no-thing to see here.” His price, he said, was three marks an hour. He was willing to take us if we said so, but there was nothing to see. His whole manner seem to regret the conditions which forced this avowal, and that he should be obliged to assist in a course which could only result to our disadvantage. When we finally insisted upon going he turned his attention to the horses and carried on a confidential conversation with them as we went along, only interrupted from time to time to turn the crank at his feet which works the brake on the wheels, creating the impression that he had the contract for grinding the coffee for the whole neighbor-hood, and that he carried his coffee-mill along with him to economize time. He turned it vigorously, even where the descent was so gradual as to be hardly perceptible ; so, between the screwing of the brakes for the down grades, and the unscrewing for the up grades, the coffee-mill was in constant operation.

The carriages are set low, on very small wheels, and are such as one can easily imagine may have rolled through the streets of Pompeii nineteen hundred years ago. On returning from one of these drives we pass under the shadow of the old fortification, around which a crop of children are scattered on the ground like apples shaken from the trees—hatless and shoeless little dervishes, dancing about in their rags, running and screaming and kicking with delight, rolling down hill on top of each other, and some of them tugging about the carriages of their infant brothers and sisters, though they are scarcely tall enough to peep over the edge of them ; and the baby brothers and sisters rub their tiny fists in their eyes, yawn, and stretch their little fat limbs, while the mothers of these tender babes are wielding, in the distant fields, the everlasting hoe, and the brave fathers are emptying, in the near café, the everlasting bottle.