Travel Letters: Tyroler Hof, Innsbruck (1883)

DEAR WILLIAM, — . . . We ordered letters sent to Bad Gastein, but when we reached Innsbruck (you remember Innsbruck) we found there was to be today a Passion Play at Brixlegg, a little village only an hour from here, and we determined to stop over. We have spent the whole Sunday there, and it has been a wonderfully interesting day. Thirteen years ago I started for Ober-Ammergau, and the Franco-Prussian war stopped the play before I reached there. This Brixlegg play is Ober-Ammergau on a small scale and in rather a more primitive fashion. The whole story of Christ’s Passion, from the Entry into Jerusalem to the Resurrection, is acted by the peasants in the most devout fashion, and with a power and feeling that are very wonderful. It occupies about five hours, with an intermission of an hour and a half in the midst. It is given in a rude barn-like building, set up for the purpose, with curious quaint scenery, and most effective tableaux. It is a good thing to see once, for it is a rare remnant of what was common in the Middle Ages, and furnishes a remarkable study of the character of the people to whom such a thing is a possibility.

I will tell you all about this when I get home, if you want to hear. Innsbruck looks just as it did when you and I drove out of it five years ago on the way to the Stelvio. The big mountain still throws its shadow down the Theresien Strasse, and the wonderful bronze people stand around Maximilian’s tomb in the Hof Kirche. But only think. The railway runs all the way to Imst, and the steam whistle has vulgarized the lovely valley. Are you not glad we went there first ? Perhaps it has improved the Imst Hotel !

This last week I thought of you at the first sight of the Inn Valley, but up to that time we were in the Dolomites, where the associations were rather with Arthur, who traveled there with me in the early days, before you and I were fellow-travelers.

Tomorrow we are off for Bad Gastein, and then come Ischl, Salzburg, and next Sunday, Munich; then, Paris and London. Two weeks from next Wednesday we set sail. So I shall send you only one more letter. But I shall hear from you, and I will thank you ever so much if you telegraph me just one word to the Cephalonia at Queenstown upon the 12th. Four weeks from tonight, perhaps we shall be smoking together in the rectory.

INNSBRUCK, August 26, 1883.

DEAR GERTlE, — How I envy the little Tyrolese girls their health and strength today ! I wanted to steal half of it, and send it home in a box to you. They never would have missed it, for they have a great deal more health than they know what to do with. Their cheeks are as red as the sunset, and they look as if they never heard of such a thing as rheumatism ! But never mind, I am coming home soon now, and you will forget all about this ugly winter.

I have been seeing the people in a little village to-day act a part of the New Testament story. A lot of the children took part in it, and I send you a photo-graph of one of them, a little girl who walked in the procession which came with Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. She was a cunning little thing, and carried her palm branch as you see, and cried, ” Ho-sauna ! ” as she walked along. I wish you had been there to see her.

Was it not funny that I should hear about you on the street at Innsbruck? You see how famous you are and how people know about you all over the world. The person who knew about you here was Miss Wales, who came out of a shop last Friday afternoon just as we were going in. She looked just like a slice out of old Boston, and she had some letters from home about your visit to Sharon, or perhaps she saw it in the papers !

I wonder if you will be back when I get home, and I wonder if you will be glad to see me ! I got you an-other present the other day, but you couldn’t guess what that is either. Good-by ! Get well ! And give my love to Agnes and Tood. I think of you a great deal. Your affectionate uncle, P.