LEAVING Baden-Baden, we commence our journey through Switzerland to Italy, regretting that the season is too far advanced to spend much time in comfort amidst the incomparable scenery through which we pass. As Lake Lucerne lies in our route, we spend a day at the city of Lucerne. The first object of interest for all travellers here is the Lion by Thorwaldsen, a work of such marvellous beauty that the beholder is held to the spot with a strange fascination. It is indeed ” the Lion of Lucerne.”
This enormous statue was the spontaneous gift of the Swiss people, who erected it in commemoration of one of the most striking events of the French Revolution, which occurred on August 10, 1792. On that day a detachment of Swiss generals, who belonged to the French army, and had sworn allegiance to the king, Louis XVI., defended his palace and person, performing prodigies of valor, but who, through treachery and the overwhelming numbers of the mob, in-spired and led on by the Jacobins, were over-powered and slaughtered at their posts, only a few escaping in disguise after all hope had been abandoned.
Their countrymen felt that they owed a tribute to the memory of these brave men, who sealed with their blood the oath of fidelity they had sworn to the king, and in 1818 a sufficient sum was raised by subscription, to which all classes contributed, to erect a monument. By a happy chance they were enabled to secure the services of the celebrated sculptor Thorwaldsen, who seized the idea with enthusiasm and in a short time submitted a model which was the admiration of all who saw it. This model represented a, colossal lion, pierced with a shaft, in the agonies of death.
This figure is sculptured upon the surface of the great rock in Lucerne. Nature seems to have produced this rock especially for the immortal artist to cut his lion upon. Thorwaldsen showed wonderful skill in making the most out of the opportunity here afforded for the exhibition of his great artistic powers. The rock measures forty-four feet in height by twenty-six in width. The lion lies in the middle of it as in a cave, the rock being cut out of it above and around the figure. Every line of the colossal beast is full of significance. A shaft is driven unerringly through his most vital part. The whole figure is replete with expression, but the agony of the face, with its knitted brow and dilated nostrils, is something beyond description, and most fittingly represents the dying agonies of the heroes it symbolizes. We feel that only great brute strength can suffer such pain, and our gaze falls in relief upon the huge -paw which projects over the edge of the cliff. From whatever point one views this wonderful work a deep impression is produced.
The Swiss people are full of patriotic devotion and admiration of brave deeds, and this beautiful monument appeals with especial force to these sentiments ; and while it serves to perpetuate the memory of their heroic countrymen, it will at the same time help to preserve from generation to generation that love of liberty and that enthusiasm in its defence for which the Swiss nation is so justly celebrated.
Next in point of interest is the exhibition of the remains of the period of the glaciers, dis-covered in 1872 and subsequently. From any data discovered by geological researches, no reliable estimate can be formed of the number of centuries the period covers during which the whole of Switzerland and most of the northern hemisphere were buried under immense masses of ice, among which, in course of time, oases began to appear, fitted for the habitation of those animals of which remains have been discovered but which were long ago extinct.
This little section, showing the remarkable effect of the action of the glaciers, was accidentally discovered by the removal of a quantity of rubbish from the surface, which brought to view one of the gigantic pots or glacier holes, with erosions caused by the ice. The holes were formed by the whirling stones (sometimes immense boulders), by the force of the water melting from the glacier and forming a rapid current as it bounded down beneath the frozen masses above. And here we see these boulders, some of which weigh many tons, left in the very spot where they did their work, their surfaces, and the surface of the pots in which they were whirled, being polished perfectly smooth. The spiral windings worn by them are clearly visible. In some of the pots the whole surface of the boulders is scratched by the action of the sharp points of the ice, showing the effect of the ice crystals upon them, with their immense weight and terrific grinding force. Layers of rocks filled with fossils of sea-shells indicate that the whole country was once covered by the sea. In another series of rocks we see petrifactions of the palm.
On this small spot we have before our eyes a record of different pages of the history of the earthfirst embracing the period when the ocean covered the land, then that in which the tropical heat produced the forests, and in the glacier mills we have the actual debris left by the ice that once covered the entire northern hemisphere. With a knowledge of the laws governing the formation of the crust of the earth disclosed by the science of geology, and with the revelations here made, before our eyes, of the action of those laws, there can be no doubt that those changes in the aspect of the earth have required millions of years for their accomplishment.
Lucerne, lying at the head of the lovely lake of that name, with the Rigi and Pilatus standing like sentinels almost at its very gates, and with the snow mountains in the distance, and such a series of beautiful scenes on all sides, occupies a situation of surpassing loveliness. It is surrounded by a wall, built more than three hundred years ago, which is still, for the most part, in good condition. With its quaint old watch-towers it forms a conspicuous object in the prospect.
We make the Hotel Schweitzerhof our home during our visit here, and find it a marked ex-ample of the best class of Swiss hostelries, which have gained such a deserved reputation for good management. The whole establishment is scrupulously clean and orderly, and no detail is neglected, no want overlooked. One feels here, perhaps for the first time in his life (during which he has perchance visited hotels in all parts of the world), that there is no room for criticism, that no suggestions for improvement are in order. For, while nothing human is perfect, or absolutely beyond improvement, yet one feels in such a house as this, that, to find fault or presume to offer suggestions for improvement, would be ungracious, so complete and satisfactory is every detail of the service. We know nothing of the landlord, and draw these conclusions from our observations during a brief visit, but we have no doubt that this house is the out-growth, so to speak, of many years of experience in Swiss hotel-keeping, and that, in this establishment, we have the embodiment of the best results that have been thus attained.
Probably nowhere in the world has this business been so completely reduced to system, or so thoroughly organized into a profession, as in Switzerland, and probably in no other country do the landlords average so high in capacity and character as here. The position that many of them hold as citizens is not due solely or mainly to the fact that they have been financially successful in their business, but rather because they are known to be men of probity and reliability.
The Schweitzerhof and other leading hotels occupy the quay at the extreme end of the lake, commanding a beautiful view not only of the lake itself, but of the Swiss mountains far and near. To the left, and not far distant, stands the Rigi, with the group of hotels clustered around its summit, and at the extreme right grand old Pilatus lifts his rugged, many-peaked front, while the sweep of the horizon between these extreme points is dotted with numerous rising peaks which may be easily designated with the aid of a good map.
Lucerne furnishes hotel accommodations for a great number of people, and her resources, in this respect, are taxed to the fullest during the summer season.
Embarking on one of the little steamers that are constructed with reference to speed and to enable the tourist to enjoy the beautiful and ever-changing panorama, we pass the day with surroundings the memory of which will long linger with usa cloudless sky, a smooth lake, balmy air, and scenery unsurpassed. As we approach the foot of the Rigi we catch glimpses of the wonderful little railroad that carries its precious burden of tourists up its steep sides high above the clouds.
A short sail brings us to Vitznau, where we disembark and entrust ourselves to the little “rack-and-pinion” railroad which lifts us up, almost perpendicularly in some places, to the rugged summit. The Rigi rises so abruptly from the water’s edge that, as we begin the ascent, we very soon find a most charming vista of the lake dawning upon us, and as we rise higher, and soon gain a point above the clouds, we catch inspiring views of sombre Burgenstock and majestic Pilatus and their neighboring compeers, and when the summit is reached almost the whole of Lake Lucerne lies in plain sight, while several other neighboring lakes are included in the range of vision.
Now a grand panorama bursts upon us, embracing the near and distant Alps rising from almost the entire surface of Switzerland, while Lucerne, with its spires and battlements, appears in the rear, a few miles to the westward, yet lying apparently at our feet.
In common with most visitors to the summit of the Rigi, we spend the night here, in order to behold the sunset and sunrise, and we are fortunate enough to encounter the conditions that enable us to enjoy them in perfection, both the evening and morning being quite clear and fair.
As the sunset hour approaches all the visitors ascend to the highest point, which is a few hundred feet from the hotel. It would be difficult to find a more cosmopolitan group than the hundred or more comprising this sunset party. The marked physical characteristics, the varied and peculiar costumes, and, above all, the jargon of tongues, give the impression that almost every nation on the globe is represented.
But, however varied their appearance, or in-compatible their tongues, all unite in undisguised admiration of the scene when the sun disappears behind the distant mountains, “baptizing” the whole landscape with its expiring glories. The night shades, and the chill which is specially noticeable at this elevation, prompts our return to the hotel, where we find a good dinner awaiting us.
We retire early and it seems scarcely an hour before we are awakened by the lusty blasts of the Alpine horn, giving us half an hour’s notice of the reappearing, in the east, of the glories that so lately faded from our sight in the west. Soon the whole house is roused, and, after many hasty and some rather startling toilets, all rush again to the summit, and the hotel is left tenantless.
The first faint streak, before which the stars begin to pale, changes gradually into a golden glow, and in a few minutes a new day is born. During the process of this new birth each lofty peak receives in its turn a baptism of glory, the night shades fade away, and the towns, the mountains, and the lakes gradually disclose themselves. Soon the whole landscape is flooded with light and warmth.
Several days can be profitably spent in enjoying the Rigi, and but meagre justice can be done it in a single night and morning ; but, our time being limited, we descend the mountain and resume our steamboat journey upon Lake Lucerne.
On, on we go, passing many spots full of historical interest, till we approach Brunnen, which appears to constitute the termination of the lake. But to our surprise a turn to the right discloses another division not less beautiful than that already passed. Finally we reach Fluellen, the end of our steamboat journey, where we disembark and take the ears on the famous St. Gothard Railway, which has compassed the passage of the Alps by the most wonderful feats of engineering. Previous to the completion of this railroad, Fluellen was the point of departure for travellers crossing the St. Gothard, and it was, in those days, often the theatre of great bustle and activity, when the note of preparation sounded for departing trains, and the Swiss mountain horn announced the approach of those that were coming down from the heights above.
As the train climbs up the Alps from this point the most magnificent views are obtained of the mountain scenery, of Lake Lucerne and of the surrounding country. Our train passed through the long tunnelnine and three-quarter milesin twenty minutes. The loop tunnels, as they are called, constitute a most extra-ordinary piece of engineering. There are three of them on the Swiss side and four on the Italian, and. as each one makes a complete circuit in the mountain, by means of an opening twenty-eight feet wide by twenty-one high, cut through the solid rock, and lined with masonry, some idea of the magnitude of the task can be conceived. But this was the only way that the elevation on the one side and the descent on the other could be accomplished.
The St. Gothard Railway is one hundred and twenty-eight miles in length, has fifty-six tunnels, which aggregate twenty-five and one-half miles, thirty-two bridges, many of them very large and difficult of construction ; it was built in ten years at an expense of about $50,000,000, and is the most extraordinary achievement of modern times in railroad construction.
When we end our journey, which has taken us across the Alps, at Lugano, we are still in Switzerland, though the place possesses all the peculiar characteristics of an Italian city. Situate on the beautiful lake of the same name, and surrounded by high mountains, with a moderate temperature both in winter and summer, it is a charming place either for a brief or an extended visit. By a lovely steamboat ride of an hour and a half on Lake Lugano, and one of about the same length on a narrow-gauge railroad connecting it with Lake Como, we reach Bellaggio. This is the best point for the traveller to get the finest views of the famous lake, which is the gem of the celebrated group of Italian lakes.
Imagine our own lovely Lake George, with its surrounding mountains ten times as high as they are, with scores of towns occupying its promontories and sightly points, with the other accompaniments seen here, of villas, vine-yards, forests, projecting rocks and impending precipices, and some idea can be formed of what we now see.
A seat on the summit of a projecting promontory, five hundred feet above the shimmering lake, affords the most charming panorama we ever beheld. The sun is declining, the lights and shades are playing upon the mountain sides, the mountains themselves are duplicated in the glassy surface of the lake, the towns and hamlets are glistening in the sun or retiring in the shade, the fête-day bells are ringing their merry peals in all the villages, the steamers are shooting back and forth like weavers’ shuttles, and the small boats, propelled by sail or oar, are moving lazily about, each in its own course, while the jolly occupants wake the echoes with speech or song : this is what leaves upon the beholder’s mind an impression of combined sublimity, beauty, and repose which ever after is an inspiriting memory.
As the lake lies in a basin, formed by high. mountains, sometimes when very heavy rains fall, at the time the snow is melting, a sudden rise in the lake occurs. This has happened three times during the present centuryin 1829, 1868 and 1888. This year the water suddenly rose ten feet, causing great damage.
The pleasant custom prevails here among the proprietors of beautiful villas, many of which are owned by the nobility, of opening their grounds and often their houses to visitors. We visit one called the Carlotta, the property of a wealthy duke, where we see some extremely fine statuary in the entrance hall. Extending around the entire room, and about ten feet from the floor, is represented “”The Triumphal March of Alexander,” cut in marble in relief, by Thorwaldsen, presenting more than a hundred figures of men, horses, elephants, etc. It is a marvellous work and cost the original owner 375,000 francs. There are also in the same room several beautiful statues by Canova. The grounds are extensive and filled with a most extraordinary variety of rare trees, plants and flowers, the result of hundreds of years of painstaking.
Excursions by steamer, or small sail, or row-boat, disclose a succession of new scenes of beauty and grandeur till one is almost lost in enchantment.
The first stage of our journey southward is by steamboat on Lake Como, from Bellaggio to Como, and it is well worth a journey from America to enjoy this trip of two hours. We are continually passing promontories jutting out from mountains thousands of feet high, the sides of which are dotted with villas and smiling with vineyards far from the water’s edge. One gorgeous scene follows another in such rapid succession that we are almost glad at length to reach Como, being surfeited with the beauty and grandeur of all we have seen.
A short ride by railroad brings us to Milan, the centre of Lombardy and the most import-ant city in northern Italy.