Germany – Goslar, The Harz And Nordhausen

GOSLAR was reached in time for lunch; entering the town we were at once attracted by the huge Paulsthurm, a survivor of the hundred and eighty-two towers of the ancient fortifications. It contained a restaurant and coffee garden where we should have liked to stop; but a hotel almost opposite provided better accommodation for an automobile and afforded a more agreeable view.

Founded in the tenth century, Goslar rapidly acquired prominence because of silver mines in the Rammelsberg close by, and became a favorite residence of both Saxon and Salic emperors who maintained here one of their most important palaces. The Salic line reached the height of its glory with Henry III, but with his son, Henry IV, its fall approached. Henry IV was impetuous and weak—a bad combination. Perhaps not his fault, for he, poor thing, was crowned king at the age of four and succeeded to the empire two years later; virtually kidnapped by the ambitious Archbishop Hanno of Cologne on the pretense of guardianship, he finally escaped and took refuge with his chosen guardian, Adalbert, archbishop of Bremen. The powerful princes whom his mother, as regent, failed to control, banished Adalbert from court and forced Henry to marry Bertha, daughter of the margrave of Turin, to whom his father had betrothed him; she proved a very worthy woman and soon won her husband’s esteem.

Poor Henry ! the sport of princes and shuttlecock of fate during the days of his youth, small wonder he continued to be a shuttlecock, for all the fierce, impetuous disposition he showed in manhood. The Saxons rebelled and drove him from Harzburg, though he finally defeated them. He quarreled with the pope and was promptly excommunicated ; whereupon, deserted by his princes and suspended from office by the Diet, he yielded and, with wife and child, crossed the Alps in midwinter to do penance at the feet of Hildebrand (Gregory VII), who is said to have kept Henry waiting barefoot and bareheaded in the snow, for three days. This is perhaps the most famous excommunication in history. And Gregory VII was one of the most famous popes—a great man, truly, who left his mark; there is little doubt of the sincerity of his purpose though one may question his methods. He countenanced, some say instigated, William the Conqueror’s invasion of England.

I fear this was almost a whole page of dry facts, but they show the age of Goslar and of its line of emperors, which was dying out when England’s Norman house was coming in. The traveler, you know, finds little in England antedating the Normans save stone-circles, mounds, and Roman roads. Henry, by the way, finding most of his imperial privileges withheld notwithstanding his remarkable penance, flared up in his old fashion and was again excommunicated. Some of the princes, siding with Gregory, set up an anti-kaiser in the person of Rudolph of Swabia ; but Henry was not to be caught twice at the same game, and this time he fought it out. He set up an anti-pope (Clement III), killed Rudolph in battle and carried the war into Italy, taking Rome and besieging Gregory in the castle of St. Angelo. Gregory, who escaped only with the aid of a duke whom he had also once excommunicated, died next year. Henry was crowned by Clement III, and the princes, tiring of war, acquiesced. Strife enough for one life, don’t you think? But this was not the end ; Henry’s own sons rebelled against him; he was taken prisoner, again excommunicated by a new pope, and forced to sign his abdication at Ingelheim. He died soon after and, pending the removal of the excommunication, his body lay four years in a stone coffin in an unconsecrated chapel at Spires. This last indignity no doubt troubled him little; one might expect it made him smile, even in his grave, considering how futile and foolish this one was compared with those heaped upon him during life. What the people thought of Henry—and they are often first to feel the vice or virtue of a ruler—may be inferred from the words once current, “God tolled the bells of Spires’ cathedral when Kaiser Heinrich died.” With his, son Henry V, the Salic line of emperors died out and the Hohenstaufens came in. They ruled without a break except for Lothar of Saxony, and Otto IV (son of Henry the Lion) whose brother had married the granddaughter of a Hohenstaufen emperor. Otto destroyed Goslar and its palaces in 1206.

There! now you are almost as highly favored as the little girl who picked a magic flower on the Peters-berg, and was thus brought face to face with all the old kaisers, in the bowels of this mountain; though I believe she got a silver dish as a keepsake, which you will hardly expect from me. Tradition ascribes the discovery of silver in the Rammelsberg to one of Emperor Otto’s huntsmen (named Ramm) whose horse, while tied to a tree, uncovered the vein with its stamping, scraping hoofs; the town is said to be named after Gosa, the huntsman’s wife. Enough timber was used in the mines, so the story goes, to build Goslar and Brunswick; but, nevertheless, when Otto I unjustly executed a prince on the summit of the Rammelsberg, the mine collapsed—burying scores of workmen—and lay idle many years.

The Domcapelle is the north porch of Henry III’s cathedral of St. Simon and St. Jude, once richer in relics of saints and apostles than a dozen cathedrals combined. Yet this church was the scene of great sacrilege; in the eleventh century Hezilio, bishop of Hildesheim, quarreled with the abbot of Fulda about a question of precedence and both sought to settle the matter by force of arms. No little blood was shed right in the church while the devil, who had poked a hole in the wall, looked on and held his sides for laughter. Much difficulty was experienced in filling lip this hole, for as soon as the last stone was inserted the others fell out; finally the duke of Brunswick’s master-mason came to the rescue by shutting in a black cat before he set the last stone, saying, “Stay, in the devil’s name.” This sufficed in a measure, though a slight crack remained until the demolition of the church in 1819.

The old Rathaus containing the “Biting Cat” for caging scolds or shrews, the Brusttuch house with grotesque carvings, Kaiserwörth, and the Baker’s Guild House are worth a visit—though dating from a later period, when Goslar, grown up again, had joined the Hanseatic League. The Kaiserhaus, famous as the oldest secular building in Germany, is a restoration of the ancient palace; having learned how extensive was this restoration of 1876, we skipped it and its pictures of Dornröschen-known to us as “Sleeping Beauty.”

We left Goslar by the eastern gate (the Breitetor, with its circular towers and conical roofs) and pushed on to Bad Harzburg, passing the Okerthal, a picturesque valley worth visiting afoot if you have time to spare. Bad* Harzburg is a fashionable watering-place; of Henry IV’s castle, which stood on the Burg-berg south of the present town, scarcely a vestige re-mains, so thoroughly was it leveled by the angry Saxons in 1073.

Here the road ascends, and after we whizzed by the Curhaus and Eichen park (where guests were congregating for the afternoon concert) and had passed the roaring Radau waterfall, the beautiful broad roadway led directly into the heart of the Harz mountains. On we rode, and on, into the solitude—and up, and up; great fir-clad heights above us, precipitous valleys on either hand ; not a house in sight, not a living soul ; not a sound to be heard save the chug of our motor and the splash and tinkle of ice-cold mountain streams. Who can fitly describe it? Coleridge says :

“Woods crowding upon woods, hills over hills, A surging scene, and only limited By the blue distance. * * * * * * * * * Downward, * * * * fir groves evermore, Where bright green moss heaves in sepulchral forms Speckled with sunshine; and, but seldom heard, The sweet bird’s song became an hollow sound; And the breeze, murmuring indivisibly, Preserved its solemn murmur most distinct From many a note of many a waterfall, And the brook’s chatter; ‘mid whose islet-stones The dingy kidling with its tinkling bell Leaped frolicsome” * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

And still we climbed; past Radauberg, past Abbenstein and Wolfswarte. Occasionally a cleft in the mountain cuts down into the forest at right angles, and we get a beautiful sunlit vista over hills and valleys, woods and fields and towns; then tall pines hedge us in again with cool, fragrant shadows.

Bobbie doesn’t like the endless climb. Do we think his beloved car is a traction-engine or a cog-railway? At a convenient spot he stops to see how she is acting. Aha ! the water is getting hot. “How much longer are we going up, Mr. Pater, and how much steeper? How much more of a run are we to make today? Running for miles on low speed consumes the juice pretty fast.”

As the stop offers a fine chance to stretch one’s legs, we all volunteer to find out. No living creature is in sight except `a cunning little lizard” sunning itself on a stone. Amid feminine shrieks the “lizard” turns out to be a young snake, and is chased into the tall grass by the Youth with warhoops and a shower of stones ; so our only local inhabitant is lost to view. The one Young Lady discovered a fine spring at which we quench our thirst, and Bobbie wonders whether the car had better have a drink, too. The proximity of snake and spring was an odd coincidence, and suggested the legend of the shepherd and the enchanted princess at the spring of Lichtenstein. She had been turned into a snake and could be released only after being kissed by a man ; many a knight had declined the invitation, but the shepherd screwed his courage to the sticking point and received the beautiful princess as his wife. Thus, you see, it is quite possible the Youth threw away, together with the stones, the greatest opportunity of a lifetime.

But see ! A forester comes down the road. Mater and Scoffy go to meet him. A dapper young fellow, in a natty green suit, rifle slung over his shoulder and an eagle’s feather in his alpine hat. Did those war-whoops bring him out on a tour of investigation? Who can tell? We interview this young “Robin Hood” as we erroneously dub him, and learn that we are “almost at the top of the grade ;” it is only a “quarter of a mile to the Gasthaus” (tavern). And we have been doing exceedingly well; “Ganz wunderbar,” in fact. Only yesterday a big six-cylinder car came up the mountain with but half the load we are carrying, “and it was spouting a fountain of steam and hot water.” He twists his incipient moustache quite fiercely, salutes and strides away resuming, at a respectful distance, his whistling of :

“Màdele, ruck, ruck, ruck an meine grüne Seite, I’ hab’ di’ gar so gern, I’ kann di’ leide’.”

So we plucked up courage and soon reached the Gasthaus, where all tumble out for a drink under the arbor; meanwhile Scoffy voices his conviction that the forester was whistling to keep up his spirits, because the sight of strange figures in dusters and goggles, picking up stones, “probably reminded him of his one-time predecessor, the forester of Scharzfels, who came upon the Three Venetians looking for gems and gold.”

We had been running uphill for over nine miles and, in less than that distance, had risen more than two thousand feet; considering there were some fairly level stretches, you may well imagine we mounted pretty steep grades.

After rounding Quitschenberg there loomed up, three miles to our left, the Brocken-pride of the Harz—the Blocksberg of Goethe’s Faust, the Mons Bructerus of the Romans. Had we made its more intimate acquaintance and enjoyed the splendid view, we should also have made acquaintance with the railroad that crawls up its venerable sides to discharge throngs of tourists on its summit. Its bald crown still rose sharply in full sunlight while the valleys and low hills were already fading into shadow; we could faintly distinguish the “devil’s pulpit,” but the flat space below the summit, where witches dance every year on St. Walpurgis’ night, was quite distinct ; and, in our mind’s eye, we could conjure up the terrifying Spectre of the Brocken whose fame has penetrated even to American schoolbooks. There is hardly a peak in the Harz, hardly a cave or stream or spring or waterfall but has its legend.

For a moment we perceived, below and at our right, a dazzling flash of water—doubtless Oder Lake lying in its mountain bed 2,300 or more feet above sea level. With Rehberg is associated the story of an enthusiastic hunter whom even the Sabbath did not restrain; many a Sunday, notwithstanding the priest’s remonstrance, did the hunt rush past a hillside chapel. On one such occasion this huntsman started a splendid white deer which he pursued till after nightfall. The deer sped to the Rehberg cliff with the hounds right at its heels; over the cliff leaped the spectral deer—and, alas! hounds and huntsman, too. Often, on a quiet Sunday night in October, you may hear the cry and clamor of the chase end in shrieks and groans that issue from the abyss where, far below the road, the Oder river murmurs. The mere thought of taking a turn too fast, at night, and going over the sheer drop into the Oder from this side is enough to make one feel creepy. Rehberg is also a haunt of the Berggeist—the good spirit of the mountains and unfailing friend of unfortunate miners—who always appears in the shape of a benevolent old man, dressed in master-miner’s apparel and bearing a miner’s lamp of silver.

We left the heights and began to descend sharply in the evening shadows. Not a dwelling in that great solitude; only an occasional sod hut for the succor of unwary travelers in winter. The magnificent road led round and round, and down and down, with all bad curves and dangerous spots marked by rows of white-washed stone posts; more than a thousand feet in four-and-a-half miles, down into the village of Braunlage.

Poor Scoff y, confused between one signboard marked Sorge and another marked Zorge, announced sadly that he thought we were lost. Not a pleasant prospect at this late hour, especially in case the Wild Huntsman, Hackelnberg, were abroad, for he would undoubtedly play nasty tricks with an auto. This fool-hardy soul bartered his place in. heaven for the privilege of hunting till Judgment Day; and many a night, for hundreds of years, the howl of his chase has re-sounded over the Harz and throughout Thuringia. His name will survive that of king and kaiser; the circumstantial stories of people who have encountered him would fill a volume, and I doubt there is man, woman, or child in all Germany who has not heard of the “Wilde Jaeger.” Several times, as our horn’s honking awoke the forest echoes, we seemed to hear his cry, “Hu, hu !” but it may have been only the cry of the Uhu (owl) that hunts with him. This is Tut-Osel, or tooting Ursula, a nun from a Thuringian con-vent who disturbed all services by her discordant voice and, after death, haunted the convent until her ghost was transformed into an owl by a monk from the Danube ; since when, she accompanies this other nocturnal hunter, Hans von Hackelnberg. Sir Walter Scott’s translation of Burger’s ballad will give you an-other version of “The Wild Huntsman.”

We escaped an eerie ride in avoiding Zorge, the highest village in the mountains, for near it lies the Tanzteich (dance-pond), site of an illfamed castle which the earth swallowed one night when dance and revelry were at their height. In the hollow thus formed lies this pond, from which weird music and heartrending cries occasionally emanate; as if to offset this culmination of tragedy, the other side of the Gaisberg overlooks St. Andreasberg, a village devoted to the culture of the famous Harz canaries.

Fortunately, all roads led to the main valley, and we finally came upon a delightful little hamlet with a picturesque half-timbered sawmill and, more to the point, a railroad station with a waiting train marked “Nordhausen.” “Bobbie,” exclaimed Pater, “stick to that railroad like grim death.” He did, and it took us to Nordhausen, though we went astray once more on account of a broken signpost, the only defective one we saw in Germany. This detour carried us past a mountain bearing the ruined castle Hohnstein where the custom of giving philopena presents originated. The plain German name Vielliebchen has, according to Mr. Webster and other lexicographers, been given the stilted Greek-Latin turn, philopena. We regarded Hohnstein as a consolation for having missed the Needle’s Eye near Ilfeld ; this odd stone, standing by the wayside near the one-time abbey of Ilfeld, is sup-posed to date from prehistoric days. Every novice at woodcutting in this locality, is initiated by being obliged to crawl through a hole in the stone, to the unpleasant accompaniment of lashes from the whips of his companions.

In Nordhausen two streets confronted us; one going invitingly downhill, the other sharply uphill. “Which way, Mr. Pater,” quoth our driver. “Now, Bobbie, haven’t I told you, when in doubt, always follow the trolley ?”

So up went the car, along the narrow, crooked, hilly street which took us to the Markt. Our hostelry was on the Market at the corner of this very street or alley; as the automobile reached it, a man in uniform jumped forward and motioned frantically. Most of us had gloomy forebodings of the police court, but Pater only grinned delightedly, and remarked, “That’s as rich as a play.” It seems our rooms had been engaged by telephone and the hotel porter, troubled by our tardiness, was on the watch.

Nordhausen is a sleepy little place, frequented mainly by drummers and buyers of schnapps from its famous distilleries down the hill. Automobile parties, evidently, rarely stop there. I shouldn’t have been sur-. prised had that devoted porter thrown himself bodily under the wheels rather than let us get away. Probably, had we been much later, the whole town constabulary, armed with lanterns, would have been scouring the roads for us.

I suspect the “mountain dew” of this vicinity was famous during untold generations ; at all events, drinking bouts were, and one in the town of Ellrich has become historic. An earl of Klettenberg—not the abbey builder—who bore off a golden chain as chief prize, was so elated that, despite his bibulous condition, he rode up and down the village street to exhibit his chain, finally spurring into the church of St. Nicholas and past the worshippers to the foot of the altar; the horse’s shoes flew off, and horse and rider sank to the ground. These four horseshoes, nailed to the church, remained as a warning to many generations and, after the church went to ruin, were kept in the parsonage. While they are not in evidence at the present day, you will find documentary proof of their existence in Ott-mar’s Volkssagen. Indeed, most of the legends I mention are a matter of record.

We arrived in Nordhausen at 8.30 p. M. after an actual day’s run of 114 miles largely through hilly country, more than forty miles of it through the heart of the Harz mountains. Bobbie said he would like to add a few miles to the total, to account for the distance we had traveled up and down. The direct map mile-age was 107 1/2 which, with our detour of 3 1/2 miles while lost, would make III.

The close of our second day’s run left us nothing but praise for Germany as a motoring country. The picturesque, diversified scenery, the interesting towns and villages, the fine roads, and the cordial attitude of the people, permitted no other verdict. The highroads were very good, and though they should be traversed with caution in villages, this is only occasionally due to poor paving; in the mountains, where one might expect bad roads, their surface was excellent. The ease with which one may find his way about is remark-able. In most towns the street leading to the next town of importance is named for this town, as is the highroad (chaussée) into which the street merges; for example, going from Harburg to Luneburg we asked in Harburg for Luneburger Strasse and, once upon this street, inquired for Luneburger Chaussée. Generally, signs so designated gave this information and saved inquiries. At Brunswick, we entered on Hamburger Strasse and left on Celler Strasse—Celle being the nearest large town—diverging later to the chaussée for Hildesheim. Hildesheim, we left on the Goslarsche Strasse. Of course there are exceptions, but so few as not to impair the usefulness of this nomenclature, which we found invaluable.

As these truly obliging Germans, even to little children, seem unusually familiar with local topography, there was little didculty in obtaining information.

The Römischer Kaiser, while it may be the best hotel in Nordhausen, is not a first-class hotel ; yet, to the unspoiled traveler, is not only quite a passable place but very odd and interesting, and was doubtless a fine place in its day—the day of coaching, perchance. We derived much solace for slow service and fair cooking in the unexpected way halls and stairs wind around, in floors that occasionally slope like the deck of a ship, and in curious, musty, best bedrooms. The Young Ladies occupied this type of room—a huge chamber with astonishing furniture, and with beds hidden away in a little alcove closed by gorgeous, heavy hangings. What matter if the electric light is subject to chronic disorders, so long as your sofa re-sembles a throne ! What matter though you need all the windows open to freshen your room, so long as these overlook the old Market where an iron Poseidon has listened to generations of gossiping Marktfrauen whose clacking tongues he is unable to quiet despite the imperative wave of his trident ! I wonder how he came there, anyway. Mayhap, some of the good councilmen took him for a Roman kaiser of the original Latin variety.

We who had less pretentious rooms, deplored the use of electric light where furnishings cried out for candles in old brass candlesticks with snuffers and extinguishers, and we wrestled gleefully with the old-fashioned German featherbed, a marvelous conception for bedclothes, and with bolsters and pillows piled so high one must be expected to sleep in a sitting posture. I have never yet mastered those old featherbeds ; cover your feet and your chest is exposed; cover your chest and your feet get cold. The most successful treatment I know, is to place it on the bed diagonally, covering your neck and disposing your legs in diamond pattern (feet together and knees far apart) like a frog swimming; in any case the cover, elusive as a drop of quick-silver, is likely to roll off the bed and you finally lose the courage to haul it back. This awkward old article has undergone great evolution and, in the modern German hotel, has been tamed down into a nice silk comfortable, buttoned, if you please! to the sheet beneath so that it can no longer escape.

The room Scoffy and the Youth occupied faced that same little alley through which we had arrived. Leaning from the window, they were almost tempted to see whether they could touch the overhanging story of the old timbered house opposite. Traffic in the alley afforded no end of entertainment. A couple of fellows went by, arm in arm, singing to the tune of the tarentella,

“From the old tavern door I’ve just come out;

Oh, you poor wabbly street, what are you about? Your right side’s turned left side, and all’s in a funk:

Street, I must really believe you are drunk.”

The Germans are, in the main, a simple folk for all their profound science and great erudition. A glass of wine or beer, a song, a joke or two, witty argument or pointed speech, another song—and you have them happy as can be. Should I, perhaps, add a few more glasses of beer? Well, no matter; they can stand a lot of it, and beer is not as deadly as whiskey.

A few steps from the hotel are the Dom (a charming, unpretentious little Gothic structure) and the old Rathaus; at one corner of the Rathaus, under a canopy, stands a heroic statue of Roland which dates from 1717, replacing one much older. Roland is symbolical of civic liberty, and he usually carries in his left hand a shield blazoned with the imperial eagle, and in his right, a drawn sword.

The Dom boasts a twelfth century Romanesque crypt, for Nordhausen, you know, is a very old place and witnessed many a meeting of great princes in the Middle Ages ; it was once a free imperial city. We refused to view the crypt, or be coaxed to the church of St. Blasius which contains two fine examples of the work of Lucas Cranach, for we had had enough of local antiquities for the nonce, and were eager to see more of the country.

At ten-thirty next morning, after strolling around town a bit, looking at old houses, old squares and narrow streets, we started for Leipsic by way of Eisleben and Halle.