Fourteen Months Abroad – Geneva, Switzerland

May 19.—Jungfrau loomed up grandly yesterday before we left Interlaken at 10:50. We came here by way of Lake Thun, Berne, Frieburg and Lausanne. After breakfast and after the packing was all done and we were ready to leave I left L. at the hotel (he not feeling well) and went out for a walk about Interlaken. I met soldiers, passed private houses and gardens and the Roman Catholic church, and looked with loving eyes on the white and red lilacs in bloom. Then I walked on the main street towards the station to a store where was to be obtained the grandest view of the Jungfrau. A man was there who spoke English. He said we had been “very lucky in seeing the mountains-so many people waited here a week without seeing the Jungfrau.” Soon L. came in the hotel omnibus and we looked together at this mountain of perpetual snow. We had glorious views from this point. Although twenty-five miles from Interlaken it seemed quite near. Mountains that were nearer, however, appeared higher than the Jungfrau and were very- impressive. I met the lady there who so kindly gave me flowers at the top of Brunig Pass. She said she would have gathered more for me the day before if she had known at which hotel we were stopping in Interlaken.

The weather was fine when we left Interlaken this morning, the air being very clear. We rode by the side of Lake Thun—the whole length of that lovely green lake. There were green mountains for a foreground and snow mountains for a background—grand clouds, bright sunshine, lovely green water and a cascade tumbling into it. There were strange, lovely flowers, and a splendid view of a snow range on the other side of the lake.

The tallest of these mountains was the Eiger. It was very high and like a pyramid among the clouds, rising above them. There were farm houses with high sloping roofs and cut off gables.

At Thun we reached the end of the lake. At Berne we changed cars, and there we ate our lunch. We passed Swiss farms embowered in apple blossoms. At Freibourg we saw the cathedral and the famous bridges and the city wall which is built of stone and has fine stone towers. We bought two picture postais of Freibourg of a woman who came to the car window at the station. We saw the town of Romont on a high hill. This was another walled city with high towers. At last we reached Lake Leman, on which this city is situated. Our first view of the shore was a surprise. It was all brown. There was nothing green–no grass even. By and by we began to see that this ground was covered with stumps of grape vines with a stick at each one. The grape leaves were small and inconspicuous and gave no appearance of green and there was no green about the houses. It all made a curious impression. This was about an hour before we reached Geneva. On our right as we rode along were the Jura mountains.

It was a pleasant journey, but we are thankful to reach a resting place at Pension Richardet, No. 8 Rue Mt. Blanc.

Today we crossed the Mt. Blanc bridge over the Rhone river where the lake ends and have seen the cathedral, which is a Romanesque structure of the eleventh century, with a modern Corinthian portico. The bell has deep, peculiar tones.

It is Ascension Day—Cook’s office and the stores are closed. L. hoped to find an English guide book. Ile is resting in an easy chair and is feeling better today. I have been looking out of our window at the holiday crowds of people on the street and on the bridge. Many of them had been to church and were walking out. Then while L. was still resting I went for a little walk with our field glass in hand. We had been watching for Mt. Blanc through the day, thinking we could see it from our window when the air cleared. We could see the nearer mountains, but not Mt. Blanc. I walked to the river Rhone, which is very near here, and then on to a little park by the river where people were sitting, and just there I discovered mountains of snow beyond the other mountains. Although the air was not yet clear, I put my glass upon them and there was Mt. Blanc ! I recognized it from pictures I had seen of it and its surroundings since coming here. How I wished that L. was with me. When I reached our hotel it was too late for him to go.

May 20.-We are having rain. There was fine violin and piano music in the parlor this evening and an altercation between our landlady and the Dublin lady, Mrs. B., who was annoyed by the talking of two young ladies while she was playing on the piano and her daughter on the violin. She retaliated afterwards by reading in a very loud tone while the young ladies were playing on the piano and violin. The landlady (the mother of one of the young ladies) was greatly roused and irritated. There were high words in French from both. A young Russian gentleman gave us some fine piano music. This morning we went to a watch store, and this afternoon to another.

May 21.—L. and I walked to the place where we knew we could see Mt. Blanc if he felt inclined to show himself. We were not wholly disappointed. Other snow mountains were plainly visible in that direction but Mt. Blanc we had to “work hard to see,” as L. said.

Today I have made L. a present of another watch. Left it with Haas & Co. for engraved initials. Had a tooth drawn –the second since leaving home.

This evening L. went between eight and nine o’clock to see if Mt. Blanc could be seen. He was to return and let me know if it could be. To my surprise he quickly re-turned, saying, “as true as I live I could see the whole out-line of the mountain with the naked eye.” He took the glass and I hurried out with him to see it. We were much pleased to find that the glass assisted us greatly even in the evening. That we could see Mt. Blanc at that hour and at such a distance was a great surprise. L. thought it seemed to loom up higher and larger in the evening. Others came and saw it too. A little after nine o’clock it clouded over and we could see it no more.

On our way to the dentist’s office this afternoon we crossed the river Rhone by a bridge where the water is dammed up for the purpose of regulating the level of the lake just at the point where the lake and river separate. The water was like the rapids of Niagara.

May 22.-The Promenade of the Bastions and the pretty park have given us pleasure today. I was delighted to hear the birds sing again, among them the black birds which we have so much enjoyed. There we saw a great display of tamarisk blossoms, besides Judas trees, lilacs, hawthorns and large chestnut trees with red blossoms. There were also large trees covered with blossoms the color of purple wisteria but shaped like a trumpet. We saw the exterior of the theatre, museums, conservatory of music, library and other attractive public buildings. The post office building is exceptionally handsome. From the park we looked up to the remains of the old fortifications in the old part of the city. It rained while we were gone. We tried to attend services in the English church but a misunderstanding about the time caused us to be too late, which we much regretted. We heard a band play.

Geneva, a place of great antiquity, is believed to have been an important city more than two thousand years ago.

It not only seems strange to be once more in a Protestant city, but it is most interesting to be here where John Calvin lived and taught the doctrines of the Reformation. Geneva, sometimes called “Protestant Rome,” was for six centuries under the protection of the Romans.

Many people from abroad are drawn to Geneva by its excellent private schools. In this pension we meet mothers from Russia and other countries who have brought their children to be educated in these schools.

Geneva was long ago a refuge for persecuted Protestants. It is at the south end of the Lake of Geneva or Lake Leman, which is the largest lake in Switzerland and is a crescent in form. The old part of the city and the more modern part are connected by eight bridges.

In the English garden this afternoon we saw a laburnum tree, its drooping yellow blossoms resembling those of our locust tree. There was also a shrub peony with very large semi-double pink blossoms, crimson-tipped daisies, growing in the grass, and a double buttercup with very large blossoms. A building in the English garden contains a model of Mt. Blanc, glaciers and all, which we looked at with interest. While L. went to see the house where Calvin lived and died (1564), at 11 Rue Calvin, I returned and went into an English church close by.

May 24.—Yesterday was another “red letter day.” L. went out early in the morning to see if the weather seemed favorable for a day on the lake. To his surprise he found that he could see Mt. Blanc. He returned for me and the field glass. We hurried out and there was the mountain, without a cloud, and the two neighboring peaks on the left. This decided us to make the tour of the lake. Hastening in for our breakfast and ordering our lunch we were soon on our way to the express boat close by.

Before starting we had a splendid view of Mt. Blanc from the steamer, and thought that a good beginning. We kept our eyes on it after the steamer left the wharf. Occasionally we looked back to see the town. Farther on there was another view of Mt. Blanc. The mountain could be seen lower down than in Geneva. There were distinct views of other snow mountains. L. was delighted.

We passed Coppet and Madame de Stael’s chateau and had clear sunlight views of the Jura mountains. Only a little snow was on them. These are genuine Alps—opposite Geneva from Mt. Blanc. We admired the very picturesque shores of the lake.

We were interested in the beautiful village of Nyon and in its chateau. We saw odd, striking looking buildings in the village of Thonon les Baines. The mountain views kept changing as we sailed along. There were splendid cloud views! The lake was very clear; the reflections in the green water of the blue sky, trees and houses were lovely. The different shades of green, the bright red roofs of the cottages, the yellow laburnum and red Judas trees all gave additional beauty. The Alps were all about us. Dents d’Oche mountain had one high point which became round as we sailed on. Dent du Midi, with its seven points, was in view. Farther on was the town of Evian where we saw ancient-looking buildings-”Rust of ages,” L. said. Soon there was a fine view of Lausanne and its cathedral. “Set up like a picture,” L. said. Lausanne was one of our stop-ping places. We noticed all along the shore the brown vineyards—which struck us with such surprise from the cars when we reached the lake on our way here. The pretty groups of houses and small villages on the brown hills interested us. We passed Vevy, Clarens and Montreux, favorite resorts at the end of the lake. It was beautiful all along the shore. There were high bluffs and mountains, rocky cliffs and flowers. “Riviera-like,” L. said. There were sharp, rocky points; one mountain had a rocky summit like a bee-hive. Here was the valley of the upper Rhone, with snow-covered mountains at the end of the view. Here the Rhone rises in a glacier. Houses are set up high for views at Montreux, also at Clarens. There was a fine display of Banksia roses again; horse chestnut trees with red blossoms and some with white; the laburnum tree with its yellow, graceful, drooping blossoms and the red Judas trees, all harmonizing beautifully.

At Bouveret (at the end of Lake Leman) the steamer stopped forty minutes. I again went on shore and gathered a beautiful bouquet of wild flowers, which delighted me. L. was surprised that I found so many. A lady gave me some wild forget-me-nots and her Australian maid brought me wild mignonette. Bouveret is a strange, grand, picturesque place, with high mountains and hills and the lovely green lake. L. says “it is not the beauty of cultivation, but of nature.”

Montreux is a place made up of large hotels and other buildings. We passed the prison of Chillon, or chateau—the scene of Byron’s poem, built on the lake shore. Not far away is the Byron hotel. L. thought we should “have to own that there was nothing even among the Italian lakes so fine as this end or head of Lake Leman.” It is grand beyond description. In one place drooping willows drape the shore. On our way home we could see that it was raining in the distance. Dark purple mountains frowned upon the lovely green lake. By and by it rained where we were. The lake became rather rough. We looked upon green, white, purple, grey and blue mountains. The shadows on the mountains were deep as indigo—almost black. It was perfectly grand ! This was seeing an Alpine lake in a storm !

While on the steamer yesterday morning we read letters from Professors Platner and Emerson, and from my friend, Miss Nicholson. We are greatly surprised and grieved to learn of the death of our president’s wife—Mrs. Charles F. Thwing. She passed from earth April 24th, 1898.

After leaving the steamer last evening about eight o’clock, while on our way to the hotel, we stood transfixed at the lovely view before us. It was after sunset. There on a dark mountain lay a broken line of bright red clouds like a rosy girdle. This was one of the nearer mountains.

We heard an orchestrion this afternoon in a music store, which gave us both organ and orchestral music, imitating all kinds of musical instruments, including drums and cymbals. At L.’s request they played the William Tell overture. We heard in this store mechanical song birds, some of which had brilliant plumage. There was a nightingale whose song resembled somewhat the singing of the nightingales in the grove at Bellagio.

Horses wear strings of bells here which resemble sleigh bells. This morning L. received his watch with his initials engraved beautifully on the case. This is to replace the one stolen from his vest pocket in St. Peter’s church, Rome, February 13, 1898. I left my watch for engraved initials.

May 25.—We leave Geneva this morning. L. says he would like to remain here a week longer. It is an interesting city. We have been on a number of the eight bridges that cross the river Rhone. The most notable monument here is that of the Duke of Brunswick, which we at once recognized as imitating the Scaliger monuments in Verona. A bronze statue of Rousseau is on the small island named for him, which we can see from our window. Two of the Russian ladies in the pension play beautifully on the piano—one of them being an elderly lady with hands much out of shape from rheumatism.

French has been spoken at table more than any other language. Miss Webber is English. Mr. and Mrs. Byrnes and daughter speak English—Mr. Byrnes being Scotch and his wife Irish, of which she is proud.

Geneva has no beggars. It is, as we all know, noted for the manufacture of watches, musical boxes and jewelry. And now farewell to Geneva and to Mt. Blanc. To see this monarch from Geneva would not mean much to those who can visit Chamouni, but we are much pleased to have seen it from this point. Before leaving we got my watch with engraved initials.