Travel Letters: Arona, Lago Maggiore (1866)

DEAR WILLIAM, — Last week I wrote from the borders of the lake of Brienz. To-day you see I am on an Italian lake, in a different atmosphere and among a very different people. The traveler over these Swiss passes is constantly changing back and forth between two nations and climates, as different as any to be conceived of. It was very striking, the other day, as we came over the St. Gotthard. At two o’clock we were in the midst of snow fields and icy streams, bleak mountain tops and cold, bitter winds ; then, as we began to descend, we came to sun, fruits, and flowers, and at five o’clock were reveling in the softest air and sunniest sky, the roads were hemmed in by endless vineyards, the girls were offering peaches and apricots at the diligence window, and soft Italian words had taken the place in the lazy-looking people’s mouths of the harsher German.

Since last Sunday I have crossed the lake of Brienz, passed through the Brunig Pass to Lucerne, sailed over its lake, the most picturesque in Switzerland, climbed the Rigi, and spent the inevitable night there among its swarming tourists ( the sunset was glorious, but the sun rose nobody knew when, for the dense cloud). We then drove to Andermatt, where we stopped to climb the Furea Pass and see the great Glacier of the Rhone, over the St. Gotthard, and down this noble lake to its southern point, whence I write to you. There is a feeble band playing outside the hotel, a young woman is walking across a rope over the street, and all the ceremonies of a Sunday circus are in full blast, to the great enjoyment of the population, priests and all.

We shall spend a few days here among the lakes, and then strike northward again. Our plans will be regulated somewhat by the possibility which the very unsettled state of affairs allows of our visiting more or less of the Tyrol, but we hope to come out any way at Munich, and get a day or two there before I return to Paris to sail. Today’s newspaper brings the news that the armistice is signed at last and peace must follow soon. Mr. L. Napoleon, it seems, is cutting in about those Rhine provinces, and will probably get what he wants ; it is a way he has.

I received a letter from you at Andermatt, and a good one, too. Is Fred still with you? I hope soon to hear something about his plans. Isn’t it funny, to think that this is the last letter you will have any chance to answer ? Good-night, no end of love to all.