Steamboat Francis-Joseph, On The Danube

DEAR WILLIAM, — This is the funniest yet. Here I am fairly on my way to the East. I am sitting in a little cabin, with a perfect Babel about me. Every language except English is in my ears, German, Italian, French, Hungarian, Greek, and I know not how many more besides. Outside it is raining guns. The old river is broad, shallow, and vilely muddy. The banks are low and gravelly, except where here and there the great Carpathian Mountains gather down about the stream and make a grand gorge where the river goes whirling and dashing through. We have just done breakfast, which is served at ten o’clock, with meats and poor Hungarian wines. Every now and then we pass a miserable little Turkish village, with its dirty, strange-dressed peasants. It is not much like Sunday morning, but I must make the best of it, and do not know how I can use it better than by writing home, so here goes.

You have kept the run of me, I hope, as far as Munich, the most beautiful of German cities. From there I took the train to Salzburg, where I spent two days. One of them was occupied in a long excursion to the Konigsee, a lake in the Styrian Alps, shut in by snowy-topped mountains, with glaciers all down their sides. The lake itself is lovely, with its deep green waters, and picturesque Tyrolese boatmen row you up to its head and back again. Then you stop and dine at a little Alpine cottage inn at the foot, and after dinner drive to Berchtesgaden, where the great salt mines are. Here you dress up in full miner’s rig, and walk a mile or two into the heart of a mountain, and then, sitting down on two parallel bars with a man in front to hold your legs, you slide like lightning down into the bowels of the earth and come to a great salt lake (lit up by hundreds of lamps) which you are rowed across by two subterranean beings who look like fiends ; then another walk and another slide bring you to a vast temple, no-body knows how far under ground, with a dome of infinite darkness, where some more fiends are drawing up the salt rock from unfathomable depths still below. All the way, as your lamp shines on the walls or ceilings, they sparkle all over with the precious crystals ; then some more avenues, till you reach the salt grotto where the choicest specimens have been collected, and there you sit down on a little railway car, which plunges along with you through the mountain till it whirls you at last out into daylight, and your visit to the great salt mines is over. It is one of the most unique and splendid things to do in Europe. I wouldn’t have missed its interest and beauty for anything. My second day in Salzburg was Sunday. I went to all the churches and heard their services and music, and saw the people in their holiday dress. Of course it is all Roman Catholic ; there is nothing Protestant in the town. In the afternoon I went up to the great castle and saw the view, which is one of the noblest on the Continent. Then I hunted up the grave of old Paracelsus, the middle-age magician, and his house, where I amazed an old German lady by insisting on seeing his room, which I succeeded in doing and in which I was much interested. Then to the houses where Mozart was born and where he lived, and wound up by following a funeral procession, which went chanting with banners and incense through the town, into an old graveyard behind one of the churches.

From Salzburg by Linz to Vienna. What shall I say about Vienna ? Here is another of the great picture galleries, with its Raphaels, Titians, Rembrandts, Rubenses, and countless others, whom one learns to know and admire in these splendid collections. Pictures and churches are the two great attractions of these old towns. Vienna has a grand old cathedral with the most beautiful of Gothic spires. I was there on All Saints’ Day and heard high mass, with an old cardinal officiating, and a full band and splendid choir of men and boys doing the music.

The next day was All Souls’, when the Romish Church commemorates the dead. All the churches were draped in mourning, masses were sung, the graveyards were full of people, and in one of the churches the vaults were thrown open and the coffins of the Austrian emperors from time immemorial were shown to hosts of people, who crawled down to see them, among whom was I. In Munich they do better still, and show you the very corpses of their emperors preserved in glass chests full of spirits. I did not see their majesties, but I saw an old saint, six hundred years old, kept in this way in one of the churches. Vienna is great in relics. A piece of the tablecloth of the Last Supper, a piece of John the Baptist’s robes, St. Anne’s arm-bone, nails from the Cross, a large piece of the Cross, and lots of others, — all these are used at the coronations of the emperors. I dined at Vienna with Mr. Motley of the ” Dutch Republic,” who is our minister there, and found him full of hospitality and very pleasant. I had a letter to him from Mr. Fay in Berlin. I stayed here three days, and bought my last outfits, thick boots, blankets, etc., for the East.

At Vienna I met Dr. Leeds of Philadelphia (formerly of Salem), who is also for the East, and we joined company for the present. It is almost necessary, and certainly a great deal cheaper, to have some company in Syria. We left Vienna on Friday, and concluded to go down the Danube to Constantinople, thence by steamer to Beyrout, thence through Syria to Jerusalem, getting to Bethlehem at Christmas, when there is a great service there ; then to Jaffa, and thence to Egypt ; then Greece, and so back to Italy. We took rail to Pesth and then to Baziasch on the river, where we took a steamer which carries us to Tchernavoda, whence we cross by rail to Kustenji on the Black Sea, where another steamer meets and takes us down to Constantinople. (Can you find these places on the map?) We have begun to find the delays and the irregularities of Eastern travel. Already we have changed our steamer three times as the river became shallower or deeper. Last night we reached Orsova at about dusk, and to our surprise found that the boats didn’t travel after dark, so we laid up there till morning. We shall probably reach Constantinople on Wednesday night instead of Tuesday morning, as we were told. I think it very probable that our course may be so slow that I shall give up Egypt and sail right from Jaffa to Greece, but I cannot tell. I don’t worry ahead. Italy is before me all the while, and I must get a great deal of time there. I do not care as much for Egypt. I certainly shall not go up the Nile, so tell mother she need not worry about the Pyramids.

My next letters from home will not reach me till I get to Alexandria or Athens, so I am shut off from communication with home till then, but you will hear from me. I received yours and father’s and mother’s letters in Vienna, and am glad to hear of all being so well. Keep on writing ; I shall get them some time or other. I believe none have missed me yet, and if you could see how glad I am to get them, you would not mind writing.

We crossed the Turkish line this morning, so we are in the Sultan’s dominions now. Our passports bear his stamp, and we feel already like Turks. How far off it seems ! I shall not have a chance to mail this till we get to Constantinople, and before you get it I shall be in the Holy Land. Think of me there, and be sure that I am thinking of you all.

I am perfectly well and ready for anything. Three months next Thursday since I sailed. What a three months they have been. Nine more like them, and then I will come back to work again. May God keep us all.