Travel: Homeward And Backward

Upon reaching Switzerland, old-time friends were ready with hearty greetings, which gave me the first realization that the homeward stretch had now been begun. Lucerne was the first stopping-place, but my stay here was short, for the hospitable firesides of former associates awaited me in Basle. Beyond this were also the even stronger attractions of home, and the urgent call of duties awaiting me there. Switzerland was robed in winter garments. There was nearly one foot of snow, an unusual condition for that country, so that there was not the best opportunity to view the famous beauty of the mountain scenery. Consequently, after a brief visit with friends, the journey was resumed. It was left for the following summer to complete the European tour, when circumstances would be more favorable. We shall therefore pass rapidly over the trip to the United States, and return, taking up the account at a later time where we now leave it off.

A brief trip to the Jura Mountains afforded a good idea of what Swiss winter scenery is like. A friend accompanied me to near the French line, where he saw me on board the train for Paris.

That day in France was one of the most trying of the entire trip. The cars had no stoves, the day was bitterly cold, and the snow blew fiercely, and blocked our way so that the trains were several hours late. It is true that tin flasks of hot water were supplied for our feet, but these soon cooled off, and to make matters worse the French language was altogether out of my range. After several ludicrous episodes and much worry Paris was reached and passed with just time enough to drive rapidly from one station to another. On our way to the coast our train was snowbound for some hours, but the little steamer for the English shores was waiting for us, and early next day London was reached and other kind friends were found. A brief stop was made here, and then came the trip across the Atlantic.

There were among the passengers two brothers, who after many years of faithful work were now taking their first holiday trip. They had leave of absence for three weeks, and chose to take three fourths of the time in crossing and recrossing the Atlantic in February. It is said that ” there is no accounting for tastes, ” but of all the strange freaks in the way of choosing diversion, this seemed about the strangest. They were different from another passenger who came on board at Liverpool. He moved into his stateroom. but the lively gale blowing up the Mersey was too much for his courage, and though forfeiting his fare, he ordered his things removed to the tender, declaring that he was just as near New York as he wanted to be. The most of us honored his judgment before we got across.

The absence of five years made the privilege of greeting old friends especially dear. But in July tickets were bought for London again, though on this trip the loneliness of travel was broken by the companionship of a company of friends.

If the world has but one point of magnetic attraction, that point is London. If one were required to indicate that spot where the most of this world, past and present, can be seen in the smallest space, he would always say, London. If the world were to be asked, What city exerts the widest influence in the commercial world ? the universal answer would be, London, and if the query were extended to the political world, the answer in most cases would be the same.

But the ground has been tramped over and over again by travelers, and it is not our purpose to take time to describe that which is perfectly familiar to the average reader, hence with a few views of some of its principal features, we shall pass on. There is London Bridge, the most celebrated viaduct in the world, London Tower, stored with historical relics, and the scene of many tales of cruelty and heroism. There is Westminster Abbey, and hard by the House of Parliament, the British Museum, and places of similar though perhaps lesser interest, almost without number.

After a brief stay in the English capital, our journey was resumed into Holland. This country has been stolen from the sea. At least much of it is below the surface of the ocean, and strong dykes are required to keep the ocean from reclaiming its lost territory. There are few sights in the world more strange than the very common one in Holland of great ships sailing along streams and canals whose surfaces are six or eight feet above the land. Riding by train or carriage, one is surprised to look up and see ocean steamers stalking along above him. The land thus situated is very fertile but is too moist for many of the common crops, so that much of it is devoted to grazing. Fine herds of Holstein cattle cover the meadows and furnish produce for the London market.

Rotterdam is a strange old town. The unstable character of the soil causes the heavy buildings gradually to careen one way or another, giving to the city a rather crazy appearance. In this city, as well as in others of Holland, they utilize their canals for local traffic, consequently their streets are not cumbered with the noisy freight-carting that forms so disagreeable a feature of ordinary city life. The engraving shows one of these water highways. On land, dogs are harnessed to handcarts with which those who deal in vegetables, fruit, and milk, travel about. The dogs furnish the motive power for these vehicles while the proprietor acts as steersman.

A notable peculiarity of the country is the head-dress of some of the aristocratic dames who wear a cap of brass or perhaps gold-plated metal in the form of As we retire from the coast, the land rises, and before we reach the German border, it becomes sandy and barren. About fourteen hours from Amsterdam took us to Hamburg, the great seaport of Germany, though three hours of the time was spent waiting for the train. With its suburbs Hamburg contains over seven hundred thousand inhabitants. Recently, or since the great cholera plague, much pains and money have been expended in beautifying the city and rendering it cleanly, healthful, and in every way attractive. The efforts have been very successful in each respect. Hamburg is situated on the Elbe River, seventy-five miles from its mouth. The largest ocean steamers do not ascend the river to Hamburg, but are reached by rail. But the river and a splendid, commodious harbor are crowded with shipping from all the world. Hamburg contains a free port costing thirty million dollars. Into its warehouses goods may be shipped without paying duties until they are removed and carried into Gerrnany. If reshipped to other countries, goods are not liable to duties. Hamburg is a free state, and its government is republican, though as a member of the German federation, it is subject to the imperial authority.

Hamburg is a thoroughly German city. The people are attached to their beer and other pleasures, but are orderly among themselves and polite to the stranger.

From Hamburg our route took us to the strongly fortified port of Kiel, on the Baltic Sea, in whose harbor lay a large num-ber of German men-of-war. From there we took boat to the island of Sjaelland (Zealand), Denmark, on which the beautiful city of Kjobenhavn (Copenhagen) is located. This city has many attractions, and is justly celebrated for its cleanliness. It contains many relics of historical value, the Rosenberg Castle being richly stored with -mementoes which convey to the visitor by a grand object lesson a long story of Danish history.

Returning to Hamburg, or if one prefers, sailing to Stettin and thence by rail, we next make for Berlin, the great German capital. Our party chose the former route. Between the two great German cities much of the land, is of a sandy character, poorly adapted to the support of the great population it bears. This same low, sandy valley extends from the western shores of the continent eastward through Germany and Russia to Siberia. Berlin is a magnificent city, because it has been made the worthy capital of a great nation, rather than from any beauty that it possesses from its situation. Its galleries and public buildings are noble, and ” Unten den Linden ” is one of the most celebrated streets in the world.

Leaving Berlin with its famous and familiar attractions, we hasten on to the more unassuming but not less interesting town of Wittenburg, the scene of Luther’s struggles for liberty of conscience and the faith of Jesus. Here is the church in which he preached, on the doors of which he nailed the theses, and in which he, with the mild-tempered Melancthon, lies buried. Here is the monastery and school where the rays of light broke into his soul, and where he lived with his “lord Catherine ,” and taught the truth he loved. A spreading oak covers the spot where Luther is said to have burned the pope’s bull. In the center of the city stands the ancient ” Stadt Kirche,” and by its side a little chapel said to be six hundred years old.

Pursuing our journey toward the Rhine, we come to Eisenach, another place made f amous by the life of the great Reformer. This neat but quaint old village stands at the foot of a mountain one thousand three hundred feet high that rises out of the plain. This mountain is called the Wartburg, from the celebrated old castle that crowns its summit. It was in this castle that Luther was held in friendly confinement by the Elector Frederick, to save him from the wrath of his enemies. One of the engravings shows the castle as it appears from the south. The other shows the room in which Luther lived for ten months, and in which he translated the Scriptures. The tall stove stands in the corner, the canopied bed is in the foreground. There stand his table, his chair, and his footstool. The latter is a section of the vertebra of a whale. The patch in the wall is pointed out as the spot where the ink-bottle struck when thrown by Luther at the devil. Tourists have dug away the plaster and timber, but the practice is now stopped, for the building would soon be wrecked if it were allowed to go on.

A large portion of Germany consists of level country with high places rising abruptly, on the tops of which are the romantic remains of old castles. These are relics of the feudal times when chieftains gathered a following with which they plundered the surrounding country, and for protection took refuge in these impregnable fastnesses. From their heights they could overlook the -whole region and watch the approach of the enemy.

Offenburg, Heidelberg, Frankfort, and other celebrated towns must be passed without remark, though on account of its peculiar beauty and celebrated institutions of learning, Heidelberg is worthy of special attention.

From Offenburg we enter the noted ” Schwarzwald,” or ” Black Forest.” The railway to Singen climbs to an altitude of two thousand six hundred feet over a line that is remarkable for its beauty, and on the south side slopes down into the Rhine valley by an easy grade. At Schaffhausen are the beautiful Rhine Falls, the largest waterfalls in Europe, a fine view of which is given in the picture.

Zurich, Switzerland, was our stopping place for a short time. Here we visited the scenes with which the name and memory of Zwingle are closely associated. In the arsenal we were shown the armor in which he went to the battle field, the helmet of which bears the gash through which he received his death wound. Gross Munster is the name of Zwingle’s old church. The edifice has a history that reaches back to the early part of the dispensation, though additions have been made to it in more modern times.

The city is picturesquely situated on Lake Zurich, where the river Limmat emerges from the lake and receives the rushing Sihl, and is a town of considerable thrift and importance.

Having entered Switzerland, and set the pen to the task of describing this wonderland of natural beauty, we find it to be a work of altogether greater magnitude than can be com pleted in the little that is left of the space devoted to this volume. It is a work that would claim a volume of its own. Many such volumes have been written, and but little could be said that has not been told by numerous enthusiastic admirers of the beauties of nature in their grandest aspects. Switzerland stands unrivaled for natural scenery. But in passing from Zurich westward through Berne to Neuchatel, one traverses the broad valley between the Alps and the Rhine, and that between the Juras and the Alps. From the midst of this valley the snow-white tops of the mountains are barely visible. The level plain, occupying nearly all the northern half of Switzerland, gives little intimation of the wild scenes which lie just beyond its southern borders.

The roadways of Switzerland deserve the high reputation they have gained. They are constructed with great expense and labor. Railways connect all important towns, and are being used in many instances to scale the lofty heights. Of these perhaps the most famous is that which ascends the Rigi near Lake Lucerne. There are several similar ones in operation or projection. One is at Territet, at the east end of Lake Geneva., and ascends seven thousand feet to the height of Naye. The first thousand feet, to the village of Glion, is in cars drawn by a cable to each end of which a car is attached. One descends as the other ascends, and the cable power is supplied by a mountain stream. At Glion, a steam locomotive with cog rail takes passengers the remainder of the distance. It is a peculiar sensation that one experiences when he first feels himself thus drawn rapidly from earth toward the upper world. Speculations as to his probable fate should the machinery give out, will assert themselves.

From the narrow peak of the mountain we look almost perpendicularly down into the lake below. As our train was passing along a narrow ridge near the top, we could see the lake lying thousands of feet below us on one side, and on the other side at an almost equal depth, smiled a beautiful Swiss valley. On the return, a passing cloud came up from the lake at this point, and rested against the railway, so that out of one window we looked into an impenetrable bank of fog, and out of the other into a lovely valley filled with sunshine. A few minutes walk from Territet is the Castle of Chillon, rendered famous by Byron’s poem.

Temperance people in touring through Switzerland should always provide themselves with drinking cups. Gushing fountains of the purest cold water are everywhere seen, but the many venders of wine and beer, whose shops are much more plentiful than the fountains, have taken the precaution to see that no cups lie about, and that the waters, though so near, are out of the reach of thirsty lips. Geneva T Lake or Lac Leman, as it is more generally called, is a gem of beauty. Besides the cities of Lausanne and Geneva, that are located upon its banks, it is almost encircled by smaller towns. Everywhere the hillsides are covered with vines and fruit-trees. The Swiss are an industrious and frugal people, and have ever been compelled to make the utmost out of their limited resources. They have enjoyed their remarkable scenery, their rugged mountains and pure atmosphere produce an air of freedom and independence. But even the thrifty Swiss peasantry never learned the secret of living off their fine scenery and rare air until American tourists taught them how. Now thousands of Americans and Englishmen pour into the little republic to exchange gold for the privilege of gazing at the Schwitzer’s scenery and drinking his wine and goat’s milk while he grows fat on what was once his poverty.

Any one visiting Central Europe should by all means plan to take one part of the trip by steamer on the Rhine. For the outward journey he may take a boat early in the morning at Mayence, and before the day is done, he will have landed at Cologne, below which the river flows through a level country. Between those cities there is a constant procession of pleasant surprises on every hand. A busy railway follows each bank of the stream, so that if time is pressing, there are opportunities to leave the boat for faster travel, but most people will prefer the entire trip by water. Except at a few points the rocky banks do not present a wild appearance. One of these exceptions is at the Lorelei, so widely celebrated in song and superstitious tradition as the place where sailors were in ancient times lured to destruction on the rocks by the siren song of a lovely maiden. For most of the distance, the steep sides of the narrow valley are terraced and covered with vineyards. Here and there, on some bold point of rocks, stand the ruins of old-time castles, the builders of which plundered the adjacent country, and levied toll upon passing boats. In a few instances these have been preserved or restored so as to be still inhabited, and are surrounded by beautiful grounds. Various towns are passed during the day, at which the steamer pauses for a moment. The most famous of these is Coblentz, at the junction of the Moselle River with the Rhine. At this point a pontoon bridge has been thrown across the Rhine, and upon the opposite shore stands a rocky promontory crowned with a celebrated fortress called Ehrenbreitstein, of which a fine view is given in the engraving.

A few miles below Mayence is the widely known ” Bingen on the Rhine.” Opposite the town, on the north bank of the river, stands the colossal monument erected by the German government to celebrate the victory over the French. The French despise the statue as heartily as the Germans admire it.

Cologne is a fine city, containing a noble cathedral, which for beauty rivals that of Milan, though of different architecture. These buildings are grand monuments of the skill and devotion of men. They represent a vast outlay of money and labor, but they are no fit memorials of the religion of the meek and lowly Jesus. It is so natural to pervert the talents which are given us for the glory of God to our own glory. Those gloomy halls and cloisters, the flying buttresses and lofty spires, speak the praise of men, but God is better glorified in that which really blesses mankind in its lost and helpless condition.

Leaving the Rhine at this point, a pleasant day’s ride across the country brings us once more to Hamburg. A few days in this beautiful city among kind friends was heartily enjoyed. The city abounds in beautiful parks. A fine lake lies in the midst of the city. The harbor is not only full of great ships, but dodging here and there are little pleasure boats which make a business of transporting people about the harbor. Extensive and interesting zoological gardens art also among the attractions.

At this point we bade adieu to the friends in the Old World, and took train for Cuxhaven, where we found one of the Hamburg-American steamers waiting to receive us and to bear us safely and comfortably over the broad ocean. Passing through the English channel, we touched at Southampton, and in due time were once more at home.

Under the influences of the powerful forces of progress now so actively at work, the various sections of the earth are being brought much nearer together relatively if not geo graphically. And as the distances which have for ages separated c,hem as almost impassable barriers are dispelled, so strangeness, national antipathies, and prejudices are disappearing. The differences between races are those of education and environment rather than of nature. Distinctions of color are at most but ” skin deep.” Every human being bears in his human frame the image of his Maker, and in his soul the impress of the divine attributes. True it is that the enemy has debased the human and almost effaced the divine, but in no human heart is the smoking flax entirely quenched. One nation has no occasion to glory over another. None possess any powers or qualities that they have not received. Our talents are ours only as a trust, and as freely as we have received, so freely let us give. Every man is equally a child of God by creation. Every man is included in the price paid for the redemption of the race. In that world to come there will be “no more sea” to separate men, there will be one ” pure language, ” there will be ” one fold and one Shepherd.” The nearer men and nations approach one another in sympathy and universal love, the more of heaven there will be in this world. The more we are brought in contact with others and the better we understand their troubles, their struggles with adversity, and their aspirations for a better life, the more active our sympathies become. Thus are we better enabled to perceive that all men are members of one family, children of a universal Father.