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List Of Contents | Contents of Saunterings, by Charles Dudley Warner
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across his forehead, who showed us the church, gave us much useful
information about bones, teeth, and the remains of the garments that
the virgins wore; and I could not tell from his face how much he
expected us to believe.  I asked the little fussy old guide of an
English party who had joined us, how much he believed of the story.
He was a Protestant, and replied, still anxious to keep up the credit
of his city, "Tousands is too many; some hundreds maybe; tousands is
too many."




A GLIMPSE OF THE RHINE

You have seen the Rhine in pictures; you have read its legends.  You
know, in imagination at least, how it winds among craggy hills of
splendid form, turning so abruptly as to leave you often shut in with
no visible outlet from the wall of rock and forest; how the castles,
some in ruins so as to be as unsightly as any old pile of rubbish,
others with feudal towers and battlements, still perfect, hang on the
crags, or stand sharp against the sky, or nestle by the stream or on
some lonely island.  You know that the Rhine has been to Germans what
the Nile was to the Egyptians,--a delight, and the theme of song and
story.  Here the Roman eagles were planted; here were the camps of
Drusus; here Caesar bridged and crossed the Rhine; here, at every
turn, a feudal baron, from his high castle, levied toll on the
passers; and here the French found a momentary halt to their invasion
of Germany at different times.  You can imagine how, in a misty
morning, as you leave Bonn, the Seven Mountains rise up in their
veiled might, and how the Drachenfels stands in new and changing
beauty as you pass it and sail away.  You have been told that the
Hudson is like the Rhine.  Believe me, there is no resemblance; nor
would there be if the Hudson were lined with castles, and Julius
Caesar had crossed it every half mile.  The Rhine satisfies you, and
you do not recall any other river.  It only disappoints you as to its
"vine-clad hills." You miss trees and a covering vegetation, and are
not enamoured of the patches of green vines on wall-supported
terraces, looking from the river like hills of beans or potatoes.
And, if you try the Rhine wine on the steamers, you will wholly lose
your faith in the vintage.  We decided that the wine on our boat was
manufactured in the boiler.

There is a mercenary atmosphere about hotels and steamers on the
Rhine, a watering-place, show sort of feeling, that detracts very
much from one's enjoyment.  The old habit of the robber barons of
levying toll on all who sail up and down has not been lost. It is not
that one actually pays so much for sightseeing, but the charm of
anything vanishes when it is made merchandise.  One is almost as
reluctant to buy his "views" as he is to sell his opinions.  But one
ought to be weeks on the Rhine before attempting to say anything
about it.

One morning, at Bingen,--I assure you it was not six o'clock,--we
took a big little rowboat, and dropped down the stream, past the
Mouse Tower, where the cruel Bishop Hatto was eaten up by rats, under
the shattered Castle of Ehrenfels, round the bend to the little
village of Assmannshausen, on the hills back of which is grown the
famous red wine of that name.  On the bank walked in line a dozen
peasants, men and women, in picturesque dress, towing, by a line
passed from shoulder to shoulder, a boat filled with marketing for
Rudesheim.  We were bound up the Niederwald, the mountain opposite
Bingen, whose noble crown of forest attracted us.  At the landing,
donkeys awaited us; and we began the ascent, a stout, good-natured
German girl acting as guide and driver.  Behind us, on the opposite
shore, set round about with a wealth of foliage, was the Castle of
Rheinstein, a fortress more pleasing in its proportions and situation
than any other.  Our way was through the little town which is jammed
into the gorge; and as we clattered up the pavement, past the church,
its heavy bell began to ring loudly for matins, the sound
reverberating in the narrow way, and following us with its
benediction when we were far up the hill, breathing the fresh,
inspiring morning air.  The top of the Niederwald is a splendid
forest of trees, which no impious Frenchman has been allowed to trim,
and cut into allees of arches, taking one in thought across the water
to the free Adirondacks.  We walked for a long time under the welcome
shade, approaching the brow of the hill now and then, where some
tower or hermitage is erected, for a view of the Rhine and the Nahe,
the villages below, and the hills around; and then crossed the
mountain, down through cherry orchards, and vine yards, walled up,
with images of Christ on the cross on the angles of the walls, down
through a hot road where wild flowers grew in great variety, to the
quaint village of Rudesheim, with its queer streets and ancient
ruins.  Is it
possible that we can have too many ruins?  "Oh dear!" exclaimed the
jung-frau as we sailed along the last day, "if there is n't another
castle!"




HEIDELBERG

If you come to Heidelberg, you will never want to go away.  To arrive
here is to come into a peaceful state of rest and content.  The great
hills out of which the Neckar flows, infold the town in a sweet
security; and yet there is no sense of imprisonment, for the view is
always wide open to the great plains where the Neckar goes to join
the Rhine, and where the Rhine runs for many a league through a rich
and smiling land.  One could settle down here to study, without a
desire to go farther, nor any wish to change the dingy, shabby old
buildings of the university for anything newer and smarter.  What the
students can find to fight their little duels about I cannot see; but
fight they do, as many a scarred cheek attests.  The students give
life to the town.  They go about in little caps of red, green, and
blue, many of them embroidered in gold, and stuck so far on the
forehead that they require an elastic, like that worn by ladies,
under the back hair, to keep them on; and they are also distinguished
by colored ribbons across the breast. The majority of them are
well-behaved young gentlemen, who carry switch-canes, and try to keep
near the fashions, like students at home.  Some like to swagger about
in their little skull-caps, and now and then one is attended by a
bull-dog.

I write in a room which opens out upon a balcony.  Below it is a
garden, below that foliage, and farther down the town with its old
speckled roofs, spires, and queer little squares.  Beyond is the
Neckar, with the bridge, and white statues on it, and an old city
gate at this end, with pointed towers.  Beyond that is a white road
with a wall on one side, along which I see peasant women walking with
large baskets balanced on their heads.  The road runs down the river
to Neuenheim.  Above it on the steep hillside are vineyards; and a
winding path goes up to the Philosopher's Walk, which runs along for
a mile or more, giving delightful views of the castle and the
glorious woods and hills back of it.  Above it is the mountain of
Heiligenberg, from the other side of which one looks off toward
Darmstadt and the famous road, the Bergstrasse.  If I look down the
stream, I see the narrow town, and the Neckar flowing out of it into
the vast level plain, rich with grain and trees and grass, with many
spires and villages; Mannheim to the northward, shining when the sun
is low; the Rhine gleaming here and there near the horizon; and the
Vosges Mountains, purple in the last distance: on my right, and so
near that I could throw a stone into them, the ruined tower and
battlements of the northwest corner of the castle, half hidden in
foliage, with statues framed in ivy, and the garden terrace, built
for Elizabeth Stuart when she came here the bride of the Elector
Frederick, where giant trees grow.  Under the walls a steep path goes
down into the town, along which little houses cling to the hillside.
High above the castle rises the noble Konigstuhl, whence the whole of
this part of Germany is visible, and, in a clear day, Strasburg
Minster, ninety miles away.

I have only to go a few steps up a narrow, steep street, lined with
the queerest houses, where is an ever-running pipe of good water, to
which all the neighborhood resorts, and I am within the grounds of
the castle.  I scarcely know where to take you; for I never know
where to go myself, and seldom do go where I intend when I set forth.
We have been here several days; and I have not yet seen the Great
Tun, nor the inside of the show-rooms, nor scarcely anything that is
set down as a "sight." I do not know whether to wander on through the
extensive grounds, with splendid trees, bits of old ruin, overgrown,
cozy nooks, and seats where, through the foliage, distant prospects
open into quiet retreats that lead to winding walks up the terraced
hill, round to the open terrace overlooking the Neckar, and giving
the best general view of the great mass of ruins.  If we do, we shall
be likely to sit in some delicious place, listening to the band
playing in the "Restauration," and to the nightingales, till the moon
comes up.  Or shall we turn into the garden through the lovely Arch
of the Princess Elizabeth, with its stone columns cut to resemble
tree-trunks twined with ivy?  Or go rather through the great archway,
and under the teeth of the portcullis, into the irregular quadrangle,
whose buildings mark the changing style and fortune of successive
centuries, from 1300 down to the seventeenth century?  There is
probably no richer quadrangle in Europe: there is certainly no other
ruin so vast, so impressive, so ornamented with carving, except the
Alhambra.  And from here we pass out upon the broad terrace of
masonry, with a splendid flanking octagon tower, its base hidden in
trees, a rich facade for a background, and below the town the river,
and beyond,the plain and floods of golden sunlight.  What shall we
do?  Sit and dream in the Rent Tower under the lindens that grow in
its top?  The day passes while one is deciding how to spend it, and
the sun over Heiligenberg goes down on his purpose.

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