You are the first American,” said the hostess of the inn, beaming coincident hospitality, curiosity, and surprise; “you are the first American to enter this principality!”
And that was really the beginning of it; the incitement, the stimulus, the cause. For there comes a thrill, in the very heart of the old and traveled Europe, in learning that you are the very first of your own people to find out something new; something important and interesting and new. It made me realize the charm of it, and I felt that this should but be the beginning of seeking out interesting and unvisited places.
And next day the feeling was conclusively confirmed, for the Governor called upon me and said, with a dignity which carried his full impression of the distinction of the fact: “You are the first American to enter the limits of Liechtenstein! We know of America, and letters come from America, for to your land some few of our people have gone, but never before has any one from America entered this principality.”
Yet it is an autonomous, independent principality, nooked among mountains, between Switzerland and Austria. It gave me a new idea of the possibilities that lie before the traveler who wishes to find the unknown or little known, yet would like to find it in connection with the usual tourist journeyings, but has neither time nor money and perhaps not even the inclination to travel far from the usual paths. And the very fact that an unvisited place is near the beaten track gives a tang and a zest.
In Liechtenstein there came a keener pleasure, a finer savor of discovery, in the knowledge that the old white castle, perched precipitously upon its cliff of white rock, is every year seen from car windows by hundreds of Americans going past Liechtenstein on the other side of the valley.
There are two Europes. There is the Europe visited of Americans and the Europe unvisited; the Europe known and the Europe unknown; the Europe of the well-traveled routes and the Europe so much away from them that, so far as the mass of tourists are concerned, it might just as well be nonexistent.
And unless one visits the unvisited it is impossible to have a just understanding of what Europe really is; unless one goes where few or none, among travelers, have been before him, he misses the most subtile of traveler’s pleasures. For the sake, therefore, of really knowing Europe, and for the sake of one’s own enjoyment, satisfaction, gratification, both the unfamiliar Europe and the familiar Europe should be seen.
For Europe is more than the tourist hotels, the famous cathedrals, the dimly glorious Old Masters, the great cities; it is all these, and very properly these, but it is also life and customs that have remained unspoiled by thronging visitors, castles that have never known the footsteps of the traveler from across the sea, regions where one finds all the fascination of discovery.
And there is another and delightfully unexpected side. It is, that if one learns the charm of seeking out the unvisited or little visited, it adds so vividly to his experiences that ever afterward he seeks for the unknown even in the best-known places. Yield to the fascination of the long and lonely roads of the Forest of Arden, and you will seek for the unusual in the very heart of Paris; follow the ancient line of travel into ancient Venice, and you will look with confidence for the unexpected along Fleet Street and the Strand.
But acquiring a love for half-hidden corners ought not in the least to cause one to lose his sense of proportion and belittle the places that are commonly seen. Because you come to know and appreciate the charm of Vaduz as one of the independent capitals of Europe, you should not underrate the value of such capitals as Vienna or Rome. It is the man who knows Germany best who will most appreciate Moresnet, the man who knows England best who will : most appreciate the Scillys.
The charm of seeking out the little known is infinitely enhanced by the fact that it may so easily be done. For there is a vast deal of the unvisited that is readily reachable, lying as it does in an accessible seclusion, off the usual routes, but delightfully near. Yet the mistake should not be made of going to places that have remained unvisited because they are not particularly worth visiting; it is better to go to places that are of essential significance and charm. Fortunately there are many such places, and each discovery is an incentive to the search for more.
Throughout, in Liechtenstein, the first of my un visited places of old Europe, I felt like a Columpeasant bread baked by the village baker from homegrown village-milled wheat-bread that made fragrant half the capital when the oven was drawnthere were vegetables that had been grown in the inn’s own garden and stored in its great cellars. And there was the daughter of the hostess, the pretty maid of the inn, she of the black hair and lips of dewy red, and frock and apron in a harmony of brown and black, and a manner of shy curiosity as to the explorer who had ventured into Liechtenstein. It was charming to hear her prettily talk long-syllabled German, and still more charming to hear her chirp a pretty French, which she, like the other children of the principality, could freely learn at the liberal schools of the liberal ruler. In all, I felt as if living a traveler’s tale of old, for all was so different from the usual impersonal service of these modern times.
With the coming of the second day I had to relinquish the delight of dining in the paneled room, and must sit in state in a stiff and formal apartment on the second floor, while the hot dishes, devotedly cooked for me alone, cooled as they were carried through cold corridors and up the stairs-a room, however, which gloried in shelves of fine old pewter. And I yielded to the change, for I saw that it was due alike to the dignity of the house and of myself; it was because of the call of the Governor, beyond which there could not be bus. For a discoverer needs not to find an uninhabited region; it need only be new to his own people. Columbus discovered America, but the native American was there before him; Livingstone explored Africa, yet none the less there were Africans there before his explorations; and so any of us may truly discover a region, so far as we ourselves are concerned, even though we find the native Europeans there. The fact that I found Liechten-steiners in Liechtenstein did not at all affect the point of view of those Liechtensteiners that I was a discoverer, nor did it affect my own.
The old inn was delightful, with its floors of stone or of waxed and polished wood, and for the first day I ate in a delightful old room with walls of paneled wood that had long since mellowed to a soft nut-brown. The tables were hand-hewn and bare, and the chairs were products of peasant handicraft, not without sturdy distinction of outline. The hostess was eager to please the stranger, and I was given the best of the inn’s few rooms, a room low-ceilinged, immaculately clean, with an ancient smell of wood-fires and beeswax, the beeswax being on the floor, and the wood-fire (for it was in winter) being within a great cube of stone, at the side of the room; an ancient stone stove, stoked only from the hall-the stoking being frequent and generous, with much dull and deadened noise of stirring poker and hurtled logs. There was vin de Vaduz; there was greater local honor, for the Prince himself lives in Vienna.
When I add that the name of the Governor is Carl von In der Maur, auf Strelburg und zu Freifeld (I quote his card), that to his title of Cabinetsrat he adds that of Landesverweser im soiweranen Furstentume Liechtenstein (Governor of the sovereign Principality of Liechtenstein), and that he is the trusted personal representative of hs absent Prince, it will not seem surprising that the innfolk and townspeople stood properly in awe, not only of him, but of any to whom he unbent.
I returned his call, and the day following that he came again to the inn, this time to cice rone me to the ancient Liechtenstein castle that stands in perched ruin far above.
To do proper honor to Liechtenstein and to America, we were to go in the Governor’s carriage (the only carriage in the principality, so far as I remember), in full form, with coachman and footman in brilliant liveries, and it was amic the respectful awe of a group of gathered onloolkers that we made our triumphal start.
But the road shortly became steep, and then steeper; it had really been made for a per: od antedating carriages, when men rode only on horses and trained their horses to climb like goats. Unobtrusively, the footman dropped off and fell in close behind, thus becoming a footman in fact as well as in name. Up and up, higher and higher, steeper and steeper, the road mounted, and soon the horses were laboring so hard that the coachman was fain also to take the ground and coax and lead his panting pair of roans. It was evident that seldom before, if ever, had the horses been set to clamber up this mountain road.
Meanwhile, with fine detachment, the Landesverweser im souveranen Furstentume Liechtenstein spoke, charmingly conversational, of this thing and that, of world-politics, of the splendid scenery, of my own journeyings and of America.
But the time came when he could no longer remain oblivious. “I am about to get out and walk,” he said, “but I beg of you-”
But, of course, then I also walked, and thus, through groves of noble beech trees, we attained the splendid cliff and drew up in front of the castled ruin; yes, “drew up,” for the horses were still with us, and liveried coachman and liveried footman were still with us, dignity demanding that there be no such weak giving up as would have been involved in halting twelve legs of the party on the mountain side and sending them back crestfallen to the capital; we drew up, I say, upon the noble cliff, beside the noble old ruin, and looked off at the noble view.
That was the beginning of it. Once tasting the fine flavor of untrodden ways, I determined not to be content with a single success, but to find other unknown or little known places quite as important and quite as interesting. And from time to time, since then, I have sought such places out, without ever departing widely from the paths followed by those who go to London, to Paris, to Venice, to Berlin.
And in this book I write of some of the places I visited, reaching them by train, by diligence, by wagon, by little boat, by sledge; a number of localities that make an easy zigzag from Land’s End to the Adriatic; localities that can be visited as a series or which can readily be explored on little trips just off the customary routes. And I found a neverfailing joy in thus journeying about old Europe.