Fourteen Months Abroad – Strassburg, Germany

May 27.-We left Basle yesterday afternoon at two o’clock, arriving here at a quarter past four. The journey was through a broad, flat valley with the Black Forest mountains on the right in the distance and the Vosges mountains nearer, on the left. This was the valley of the Rhine; although we did not see the river. The scenery was not remarkable and the journey was tiresome, as the compartment of our car was full of people and baggage and the sun was hot.

Strassburg, the capital of Alsace-Lorraine, once a French possession, but now restored to Germany, is on the river I11. a tributary to the Rhine. L. says “he does not see why in this world they didn’t put the city on the Rhine.”

Afternoon.—L. and I have been walking about this ancient city both this morning and this afternoon. We find some fine squares and broad streets, but many of the streets are narrow and crooked. The lofty houses with high sloping roofs attract our attention. We first visited the Gothic cathedral, with its remarkable spire of open stone fretwork (468 feet high) and its unfinished tower. In the interior we admired the elaborately and wonderfully carved Gothic pulpit and the surprising amount of stained glass. We saw the famous astronomical clock. At the stroke of twelve we were there to see the figures of the twelve apostles pass before an image of our Savior. As they bowed before Him He raised His right hand in blessing while the cock crowed and flapped his wings three times. It pleased me to hear the crowing of the rooster and to see the flapping of the wings.

We walked through a flower market after leaving the cathedral, and heard a band play. On our way to the market we passed through Gutenberg Platz, where we saw a statue of Gutenberg, the inventor of printing.

We walked to a church with two spires (one old and one more modern) and over the river Ill on one of the bridges.

There is much here that reminds us of Nuremberg. The old houses with curious roofs and some old towers are similar, but none of the old city walls are left. We have seen women wearing a striking headgear of very broad black ribbon with an enormous bow on the top of the head. I have bought picture postcards illustrating it. These women come into the city from the country on Wednesdays and Fridays—market days. Many of them carry baskets and are-dressed in peasant style. We are told that this is the Alsace-Lorraine costume.

Many soldiers are on the streets in different uniforms. We are told that there are sixteen thousand in the city. They have a prouder, happier look than the poor soldiers in Italy. Strassburg is one of the strong military towns of the German Empire.

May 28.—We have been again to see the cathedral, both within and without. It differs from many of the old cathedrals in having been handed down five hundred years ago fully completed, with the exception of the unfinished tower. Then we went at twelve to see the clock again. There has been a large crowd there both days. On our way to the cathedral we left the electric tram at Gutenberg Platz to see the storks if possible. We had been told we could see them there and about the cathedral. I could not believe that I should see a stork on the top of one of those high chimneys. We stood together on the sidewalk and looked carefully. All at once, L. says, I almost screamed with delight on discovering one on a high chimney top. I exclaimed, “Lemuel, I see one!” and there, sure enough, on the top of one of those tall chimneys—which was on a very tall house-was a live stork. There was a large nest which appeared to be made of sticks ; it was as large as the top of the chimney and was on what they call here the chimney-pot. The stork was standing in the middle of the nest and we could see the young, half-grown storks flapping their wings. We used the field glass, which brought them nearer. Presently I discovered another nest on the top of another high chimney with a stork standing over it. It was almost too much to believe—such a strange sight! Soon I saw the third stork; this one was standing on one leg in the nest. We then went to the cathedral again for an hour. When we returned to Gutenberg Platz the three storks were there, looking about as they did an hour before, with the same stork still standing on one leg in the midst of his family! “These birds live mostly in the valley of the Rhine and build their nests always on human dwellings. They breed here, and about the end of August all start on the same day for Africa, killing their young if they are not strong enough to undertake the long journey. In March they return and the same storks invariably occupy their old nests.” The rivers and meadows around the city supply them with frogs and small fishes. They are always warmly welcomed by the inhabitants on their return in the spring.

We think Strassburg a lively, interesting city and feel very glad indeed that we have seen it, partly because we see old Germany here much as we did in Nuremberg. But Nuremberg has no storks. Strassburg is two miles from the Rhine. The river Ill is not attractive. I thought it rather muddy looking this afternoon when I saw women washing and rinsing clothes in it. We saw a funeral procession ; a black shining cap and sword lay on the casket.

May 29.—We left Strassburg and its storks at 2:47 yesterday, arriving here last evening at eight o’clock. Soon after leaving Strassburg we saw the Rhine again as we crossed it on a long bridge. The Black Forests were on the right as we rode along through the flat country. A gentleman pointed in the direction of Baden Baden, which was quite near. We were interested in the German houses and villages. Almost as soon as we entered Germany we began to see cows worked instead of oxen.

We are in a pleasant room in the Pension Internationale. Two long rows of horse chestnuts with red blossoms are in front of the pension. A band playing quite near us last evening gave us a home feeling.

Later.—6 P. M.—L. and I have been out in the rear of the pension and up a steep, winding path in the garden which leads into a beautiful grove. We went where there were trees, but not into the grove itself, as it had been raining and everything was wet, but it was lovely. The birds were singing as we sat in a summer house. We saw a multitude of snails. Some with large shells were slowly creeping along, two horns sticking out at one end and a long tail dragging at the other. Others were without shells. “Quite a remarkable exhibition,” L. said. We saw both the oxeye daisy and the crimson-tipped together in the grass.

At noon we were taking a little walk when it began to rain ‘and we returned quickly. After supper we rode in a tram to Friedhof.

May 30.—A crowd of people was in and around the city garden (stadt garten) when we returned from our ride last evening. The band was playing. We can hear them quite well from a balcony outside our room, or in our room if our window is open. Whitsunday, which celebrates the pouring out of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost, will be observed here today by both Protestants and Catholics. Stores will be open only a short time.

Afternoon.—After breakfast we bought postals of Heidelberg at a store opposite the pension and beyond the horse chestnut trees. The man was anxious to close his store on account of the holiday. Soon after that we started for the castle. This is the great thing to see in Heidelberg. L. will give a description of our visit later on.

The city does not resemble Strassburg; there is very little old German architecture. L. says that “all the antiqueness is concentrated in the castle.” He has gone out to see the university building on Ludwig Platz.

Later.—Just as I was writing about L.’s being away he returned and told me about a stork’s nest he had seen on Ludwig Platz. He thought I would enjoy seeing one more. I hastily donned my wraps and went with him in a tram to see this nest and “the stork standing on one leg,” as L. had said. But he was not standing on one leg. Much to my disappointment he seemed about ready to retire for the night; he flapped his wings a few times after sitting down in the nest, and disappeared. We could see two or three heads, that was all. While we two disappointed ones stood gazing up at the nest I saw, unexpectedly, a stork flying in the air. L. said, “Are you sure it was a stork?” I felt very sure. The bird disappeared for an instant, but soon came flying towards the nest and lighted on the edge. Up came the heads of the young storks, with wide-open bills. We could see the stork drop things from his bill; a long worm was dangling from it. Much pleased were we to see this interesting sight. After the parent bird had fed the young storks he stood on the nest and seemed to be looking down upon us, and there he remained, on one leg, in the rain and fast approaching darkness. This is said to be the only stork’s nest in the city of Heidelberg.

May 31.-Before breakfast. It is still raining. We are enjoying this pension. The food is excellent and we meet pleasant people. Two Bohemian ladies sit at our table. They do riot live in Bohemia—one of them remarked that she hated her own people; she had a brother-in-law who was a Bohemian. She hated him and would not speak to him. They are intelligent, well-informed ladies-mother and daughter. The latter has married a German and their home is in Berlin. A little granddaughter is with them. Five Japanese students belonging to the university take their meals here. Two wear glasses. They are dignified and scholarly in appearance. We saw the principal university building, which is near the stork’s nest.

We find Heidelberg a delightful city to visit. It has extensive forests and many trees and right in its midst is the city garden, where the band plays every day, and the Neptune garden, which is free to all. Both are quite beautiful. We notice very few flowers here. In a hot, dry season I think it might be almost a little paradise, but now it is too damp and cold and rainy for comfort. Heidelberg is situated mostly on one side of the river Neckar. L. has written an account of our visit to the castle this morning, which I now copy.

“This forenoon was spent in visiting the castle, the largest and most famous castle ruins in Europe. We went up by cable-railway and entered what seemed like a great park surrounded by old massive walls. The great trees resounded with the song of birds. We looked down upon similar groves below, occupying the ancient moat, as we crossed the bridge leading to the Castle courtyard. Here on four sides were buildings of red sandstone, some badly ruined, but most of them preserving the essential features of their fine architecture. From the terraces we had fine views of the town and the river Neckar and its valley and the thickly wooded hills on both sides. Our visit was somewhat interrupted by a thunder shower which reminded us of the destruction of the castle in 1764 by a fire caused by lightning. A lady guide (whom we lost once because we could not keep up) led us through the interior but there was little of special interest except the gigantic wine cask, which seemed worthy of its fame for size. It holds fifty-two thousand gallons, was made in 1751 and was three times filled. In the dining’ hall we saw white sandstone statues that had been on the exterior. Walls in some places were seventeen feet thick. One exterior wall was covered with an ivy nearly three hundred years old. The castle has been called half fortress, half palace. Before we crossed the bridge to the courtyard we passed the Elizabeth gate erected by Frederic V in honor of his wife, Elizabeth, daughter of James I of England. The castle was begun in 1294 and was several times destroyed and restored.”

The old ivy which L. speaks of had an enormous trunk—or trunks, for there were really two—and many of its huge branches were without leaves. We gathered ivy leaves as souvenirs. On the ceiling of the two large banqueting halls. were still traces of frescoes. We sat in a small summer house on one of the terraces and looked down upon Heidelberg. It was a strange and interesting experience to be wandering about the old castle. A company of English and Germans was with us—mostly Germans. I have a postal which con-tains a picture of the monstrous wine cask and of the court jester and his clock, which contained only a squirrel’s tail.

L. says he “did not see the joke.” He says that “people here eat and drink the castle.” This is their one attraction. How I did long to walk about in the forest and listen to the singing of the birds, but it was raining and there was no time. Our dinner would be waiting for us. The castle was destroyed twice by war and the last time by a stroke of lightning. The kitchen, with its great open fireplace, large enough to roast an ox, and its enormous chimneys, was in-deed a curiosity. We were shown a-,tower of the castle which had been blown up by the French. There is a large and very deep well there, now unused. This great castle is situated in a beautiful forest on the slope of a high hill two hundred and eight-two feet above the river.

It rains hard this morning, but we will start for Kissingen notwithstanding. Strange to say, they were unwilling here to furnish us with lunch. It gave me a pang to see L. go out in the rain in search of food.