Germany – Nordhausen To Leipsic Via Halle

DRIVING out of Nordhausen the invaluable trolley-tracks again carne into play. “Follow the tracks till they branch,” said mine host, “then take the broad street to the left.” Soon, a street-sign proved we were on the right road—Hallesche Strasse—which passes the Judenthurm, a remnant of the medieval fortifications. Why Judenthurm ( Jews’ Tower) I do not know, but it sounds unpleasantly suggestive of persecution; however, this sinister impression was effaced by the appearance of children from an adjoining school, dismissed for their morning recess. To and from school, small children always carry their belongings in knapsacks. Occasionally we also saw journeymen of the old type with knapsacks on their backs—bearing a staff cut from the woods and wearing a sprig of green in their hats; many carried their shoes, for who would wear uncomfortable foot-gear when he might walk barefoot along a sunny country road in summer? Several times, we met a schoolmaster afield with his class in botany; the youngsters were equipped with the inevitable green, tin canister for specimens, and each boy wore the cap of his school-a sight to carry many a graybeard back to boyhood days.

Our road led via Biehlen and Görsbach to Rossla, where we passed about two miles north of Kyffhäuser mountain at the foot of which lies Sittendorf—the home of Rip Van Winkle’s prototype, Peter Klaus. Every day, he drove his goats up the mountainside to graze; on the fateful occasion, he bowled with a party of jolly knights and had recourse once too often to their inexhaustible tankard. He slept twenty years, awoke to find his beard reaching to his waist, met his daughter and her children on the village street—all after the best manner of Washington Irving and of Joe Jefferson of beloved memory. The mountain is crowned by the Kyffhäuser Denkmal, one of the gigantic monuments so frequent in Germany. We saw four on this trip alone : Bismarck in Hamburg ; the Kyffhäuser; the Germania opposite Bingen-on-the-Rhine; and the giant Emperor William I at Coblenz.

The Kyffhäuser monument stands like a sturdy, ornate, four-sided lighthouse, commanding the country for miles around. Starting from a series of elaborate masonry terraces which, with their great stairways, spring in turn from a huge semicircular plaza built upon the mountain top, its total height is over two hundred feet, and in a niche in the front of the tower is an equestrian statue (thirty-one feet high) of Emperor William I. A lower niche contains a statue of Emperor Frederick Barbarossa who, greater than Charlemagne in some ways, might have been greater in all ways had not Henry the Lion’s defection crippled his power. Poor Redbeard—when quite an old man he joined the Third Crusade and never returned ! No one knows where he died, or how, though of recent years it has been asserted he was swept away while crossing a river in Asia Minor and was, presumably, drowned. German folklore has it that he never died at all, but sits sleeping in the bowels of the Kyffhâuser directly under the ruins of the Hohenstaufen castle behind the monument, and that in the hour of Germany’s direst need he will reappear in all his old-time power and glory.

No idle fancy this, but a fact actually vouched for by a peasant who, in the depths of the great cavern in the south side of the mountain, came upon the kaiser sleeping there in a magnificent chamber; he was seated in an ivory chair, back of a marble table, and his red beard had grown right through the table. Unfortunately the peasant uttered an exclamation, where-upon, with a sound like thunder, the inner cavern closed; thus, succeeding generations have been denied this interesting sight. Of these marvels, many other legends are current ; that of the piper who, knowing Kaiser Friedrich’s love of music, rendered a song for him and was called into the mountain to be rewarded with a capful of gold; that of the musicians who played for him and were rewarded with poplar branches—disdainfully tossed away on their walk home, by all but one, who soon found it turning into solid gold. The concensus of these tales indicates that a mortal was admitted to Barbarossa’s presence about once a century, and that the kaiser asked three questions—”Are the ravens still flying over the mountain? Are the dead trees still overhanging the cliff ? Has the old woman awakened ?” Being answered “Yes,” “Yes,” and “No,” he remarks : “Then I shall have to sleep another hundred years.”

The ravens were perhaps wont to follow him to many a hard-fought field, so their unvaried presence was indicative of no great change ; the dead trees will blossom when he comes forth ; and the “old woman” is presumably the giant druidess who confronted Dru-sus and prophesied disaster to the Romans, and who, too old to follow Wittekind’s retreat, was buried by him under a pile of stones, with the significant remark, “She will come back.”

Many have quoted the statement that Barbarossa sleeps in the Unter-or Wunder-berg at Salzburg. But this is a mistake : it is really Charlemagne who rests in the Unterberg; why he should have moved away from his tomb at Aachen (Aix) is a mystery—unless he was annoyed that, during the 350 years he occupied this throne, he was twice disturbed. Emperor Otto III (called “wonder of the world” because of his learning) opened the tomb at Aachen in 1001, nearly two hundred years after Charlemagne’s death, and found the body, splendidly preserved, seated on its throne in full regalia—the sceptre still firmly grasped and the gospels lying open on its knees. In 1165, Frederick I (Barbarossa) likewise opened the tomb. Charlemagne became king of the Franks in 771 ; so we may add to his remarkable history the unique record of a monarch known to have occupied a throne nearly four centuries. The marble throne (still in Aachen cathedral) forming his resting place for three and a half centuries, was used at the coronation of German emperors till 1558, after which the ceremony took place in Frankfort.

Barbarossa, as you know, was a Hohenstaufen—hence his reputed resting place under the ruins of this Hohenstaufen castle. While this line of emperors was dying out (about the middle of the thirteenth century), foreigners took a hand; William of Holland, Richard (son of John Lackland) of England, Alfonso of Castile; but none of them could get firm hold of the German throne, so Rudolph of Hapsburg was elected. The Hapsburgers lasted (barring a period during which they alternated with four Luxemburgers and several others) continuously until 1740, by which time the (Holy Roman Empire had become decidedly weak and curtailed ; even then they did not definitely resign the title, but clung to it till Napoleon’s time (18o6). After he had mercifully deprived them of this empty honor, they became mere emperors of Austria. The house of Hapsburg, in the person of old Emperor Franz Josef, reigns over Austro-Hungary to this very day. Thus ended the old lines of German emperors.

The present line of German emperors is the Hohenzollern, one of whom, Friedrich—then burgrave of Nuremberg—helped Kaiser Rudolph to the throne long ago; the first of this new line was William I (1871-88), whose statue stands so proudly on the Kyffhäuser, above the so-called resting place of good old Barbarossa. This William was not “Emperor of Germany” at all, nor “Emperor of the Germans” either—to point a distinction on which Bavarians, Saxons, Wurtembergers and others are jealously insistent—but merely “German Emperor” ; in other words, he was, as his grandson is today, merely “president” of the united German states (twenty-five in number), comprising four kingdoms, six grand duchies, five duchies, seven principalities, three free cities, and the imperial—i. e. government—territory of Alsace-Lorraine.

The “presidency” of this federation of German states is hereditary with the crown of Prussia, and the “president” is accorded the title “German Emperor.” His executive capacity, especially in foreign affairs, is limited by the Bundesrath, composed of delegates from all the states, and his policy is conformable in a degree, to the action of the Reichstag, composed of delegates elected from the people by the people. Such matters as railroads, postal service, military service and foreign affairs are handled by the federal government, but to each state is left the management of its internal affairs, much as it is with us.

“Heavens and earth !” you exclaim, “more history? Bobbie, please put on a little more speed and get out of this.”

But putting on speed is not an easy matter today for, sad to say, we have at last come upon a poor road in Germany. Not the roadmaker’s fault, nor the roadmender’s—simply the fault of heavy traffic which keeps the road worn out. Perhaps we were spoiled, for this was a broad highway and rather good in stretches, but from Eisleben to Halle and from Halle to Leipsic we did considerable grumbling. Though the rolling country lasted nearly to Leipsic, Pater glared with disgust at the many mining and manufacturing towns, and hummed, sadly, snatches of that fine song,

“Von meinem Bergli muss i scheiden,” etc.

The town of Wallhausen, soon passed, contributes an interesting story concerning the origin of the noted counts von Mansfeld, one of whom was a Spanish governor in the Netherlands ; another, a Protestant general in the Thirty Years’ War. It seems, while one of the kaisers lay encamped here, a favorite knight asked the gift of as much land in this “golden valley” as he could sow with a bushel of barley; he sowed a line that enclosed the later county of Mansfeld, north of Eisleben. Envious knights cried “fraud,” but the kaiser said, “A promise is a promise. That is the man’s field” (des Mannes Feld).

Yankee ingenuity would be strained to keep pace with the shrewdness practiced in ancient Germany. The Saxons, though pledged to respect the borders, cast envious glances at Thuringia. One day, a Saxon warrior appeared in a Thuringian camp and boasted he had so much gold he didn’t care what he spent it for. A Thuringian—thinking to have a laugh at the Saxon’s expense-sold him a mantle-ful of earth, for the gold. The Saxon scattered this earth, in fine dust, over a large area of Thuringian land; then he summoned his whole tribe to defend his “property,” which they did with complete success.

Emperor Louis the Pious fell into a snare of this kind, at the time when he was using every opportunity to enlarge his roll of sworn retainers. His brother-in-law (Henry of Altdorf and Ravensprung), a very proud man, long resisted Louis’ efforts to deprive him of his freeholds. Finally, for his sister’s sake, Henry agreed to surrender his holdings to the crown and to receive them back as a fief—excepting only so much land as he could encircle with a golden plow in one morning. The emperor agreed, and crafty Henry—ordering relays of swift horses, and concealing a small gold plow in his clothes—leaped upon his favorite steed at daybreak and encircled a goodly portion of Bavaria before the time was up. Henry was one of the Welfs so closely connected, later on, with Saxony.

Even the poor Britons suffered at the hands of the Saxons they invited to their shores. One Saxon tribe demanded, for each warrior, as much land as a hide would measure ; consent received, the hides were cut into threadlike strips and laid so as to include a large area, within which the Oxenburg was built.

Eisleben is rather picturesque. We had not counted on seeing many of its historical buildings but our unfailing friend, the trolley-track, guided us between the Andreas Kirche where Luther preached, and the house opposite, in which he died. A few steps further, was the Markt with the Luther monument. At the next square the tracks were being repaired, and a Dienstmann (public porter) frantically waved to us and shouted that the street was “gesperrt”; accordingly Bobbie veered south to gain the nearest parallel street, and drove past the house where Luther was born, in 1483. The side streets, here, became alleys. We drove into one blind alley and, several times trespassed on private courtyards, ere we regained our Hallesche Strasse and went our way rejoicing.

Just beyond Eisleben there is a pretty prospect where the road climbs the heights overlooking Susse See, a lake some three miles long. At the end of the lake lies Seeburg, with a castle clinging to the side of a hill, and directly facing our road which had made a sharp turn to the north ; apparently the castle was so located in order to command the road, which turned eastward again just below. Had it been in Luther’s day, we would have proceeded in fear and trembling, with much loosening of swords and adjusting of shields by our escort—assuming we could afford one—lest a robber baron swoop down to despoil us.

Halle is an old town on the river Saale. Here Karl V (Charles V) brought his victorious army after having vanquished another rebellious duke of Saxony and his allies ; brought, also, his exalted prisoners and made them do homage, after which (by some juggling of manuscripts, it is claimed) he denied them the privileges he had promised in return. A Catholic kaiser, still, but pretty much of a Protestant Saxony, which enlists your sympathy for the latter. And yet, I may be wrong in this disposition of your sympathies, especially if you have read “Barbara Blomberg,” an interesting novel by George Ebers, which tells of Emperor Charles V and of his illustrious son, Don Juan of Austria, “hero of Lepanto”—Spain’s illstarred fourth governor in the Netherlands. I shall have more to say anon, about this same Kaiser Karl V, and I think you will be interested.

In Halle, fronting on a branch (the Muhlgraben) of the river, are the well-preserved remains of the Moritzburg, a castle of the fifteenth century. Further up the main river are the ruins of castle Giebichenstein where Ludwig, landgrave of Thuringia and builder of the Wartburg, was imprisoned; it is said he escaped by a daring leap into the river below, and so he has been known as “Ludwig der Springer.”

Upon entering Halle, we followed the wrong tracks where the trolley-lines diverged. Just as Scoffy began to crow at having found the way back across town, the street suddenly turned into a huge flight of steps; much as Bobbie bragged of “his” car he did not care to attempt these, and so he had to turn around and drive to the Markt by a circuitous route.

The Markt is rather interesting. To the west is the Marien Kirche which has four towers, the two facing the market being connected, high in the air, by a flying bridge or buttress ; almost opposite stands the old Rathaus—partly Gothic, partly Renaissance. In the middle of the square rises the Rothe Thurm (a clock tower 267 feet high) and near it a statue of friend Roland. There is also a statue of the composer Händel, the St. Cecilia depicted on its base being a portrait of Jennie Lind. An intermittent spring on the south side of the Rothe Thurm was dubbed “hunger spring” by the peasants, who judged by its flow whether fat or lean years were to be expected.

Halle’s Markt has often been visited by nixies from the Saale, shopping for supplies. On such occasions these beautiful water-maidens dressed like the average young women of the town, and were never detected unless some one noticed that the edge of their skirts was damp. Consequently, many a youth indulged in lovemaking that caused his tragic death. Numerous legends attest the fact that nearly every lake and stream has its nix or nixie. A nix, ashore, is generally a fine-looking chap; for the benefit of ingenuous maidens, I add that he always wears a green hat and may be positively identified by his green teeth.

South of the Markt is the twelfth century St. Moritz Kirche—near the saltworks, famous for centuries; this church is attended by the Halloren (the saltworkers) who, up to recent years, displayed so many striking characteristics as to be regarded as a distinct race.

The cathedral, not of very ancient foundation, and the old residence of the archbishops of Madgeburg lie on the Mühlgraben, a bit south of the Moritzburg. Halle has a seventeenth century university, whose schools of medicine and agriculture are popular today.

Owing to poor roads it required fully three hours to reach Halle, a pretty low average speed for fifty-two miles. Luncheon was taken at the Hotel Stadt Hamburg, where we saw some of the art nouveau interior decoration for which Germany is celebrated.

Fortunately Halle was an old story, for a report that the road to Leipsic was badly worn occasioned our early departure. We did not even visit the sixteenth century cemetery, unique in Germany for its enclosure of Renaissance arcades.

Shortly before five p. m., Bobbie headed down Leipziger Strasse and drove via Bruckdorf, Gröbers, Schkeuditz, Lützschena and Möckern to Leipsic. Though the run is only about twenty-two miles from market place to market place, it was quarter past six when we arrived ; but it must be remembered that we met heavy traffic all the way, to say nothing of time lost entering this great commercial center of Germany, the second city in Saxony. A police trap in the suburbs provided some amusement. A temporary shelter from which a telephone wire was stretched, formed the starting point of measured distance, and it would have escaped notice under ordinary circumstances. Our lack of a front number caused one operator to betray himself; for he stepped out to the roadside and strained his eyes so hard and so noticeably, in his effort to find the number which wasn’t there, that our suspicions were aroused. Though not going very fast, we took the hint and slowed down—not knowing the local speed limit ; when, about a kilometer further on, a policeman sauntered out from a garden and scanned us, he looked so disappointed we couldn’t help laughing.

Halle is in the province of Saxony which belongs to Prussia. Between Modelwitz and Hänichen we crossed the border, and entered the kingdom of Saxony; this kingdom, the Saxony of today, is only 5787 square miles in extent as against the 134,463 of Prussia. Smallest of the four German kingdoms, it covers little more than an eighth the area of the state of New York and is a mere fragment of that great Saxony which, known as a tribe about the fourth century A. D., grew and spread westward till it harassed the shores of Britain; and which became so powerful (toward the close of the eighth century) that Charlemagne spent thirty-two years subduing it. Strictly speaking, the present Saxony is not part of the older one—merely a portion of Slavonic conquests made by the Saxons when they enlarged their holdings toward the east. Of that greater Saxony, dismembered at the time of the humiliation of Henry the Lion, the east-ern portion (Thuringia and the Slavonic conquests) became the duchy and electorate of Saxony, going first to the house of Ascania and in course of time to the Markgraf (margrave) of Meissen. Joint heirs of the Meissen line divided it, Thuringia and the electorate going to one, Meissen and the eastern part to the other. In 1547 the electoral vote and some territory was given to the Meissen branch, which prospered, in-creased its territory, and finally founded the present kingdom of Saxony. Thuringia, on the contrary, soon split into the petty states of Weimar, Gotha, Altenburg, Meiningen, etc., which gives rise to that con-fusing array of Saxon duchies : Saxe-Altenburg, Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Saxe-Meiningen, and the grand duchy of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach. Besides these “dukeries” there are the principalities of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt (which contains the Kyffhäuser),Schwarzburg-Sondershausen, Reuss-Greiz, and Reuss-Gera-Schleiz.

Not undivided states—oh, dear no !—for seven of them have exclaves mixed up among the others; and a fine Joseph’s coat they make of the map, I warrant you. Each is a state of the German empire, and a nice mess they make of our geography and of our attempts to read the foreign columns in the newspaper. However, it is some satisfaction to know where they are, how they got there, and that they lie all in one group. We drove straight through them on the way back from Dresden, and they looked very pretty and quite in-offensive. East of them lies the kingdom of Saxony; south of them, the kingdom of Bavaria—once that duchy of Bavaria Henry the Lion tried to retain, but that was taken from him and handed to the Wittelsbachs, in which dynasty it remains today. North and west of these “dukeries” lies Prussia; great, over-grown Prussia which, in Henry the Lion’s day, consisted merely of Brandenburg (then newly wrested from the Wends and barely tenable) and of the original Prussia—east of the Oder river—peopled by the Preussen (Prussians), a race of the fiercest, most untamable heathen. Henry’s own Brunswick-

Limeburg, and Westphalia were later added to this nucleus.