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List Of Contents | Contents of Saunterings, by Charles Dudley Warner
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ALPINE NOTES

ENTERING SWITZERLAND BERNE ITS BEAUTIES AND BEARS

If you come to Bale, you should take rooms on the river, or stand on
the bridge at evening, and have a sunset of gold and crimson
streaming down upon the wide and strong Rhine, where it rushes
between the houses built plumb up to it, or you will not care much
for the city.  And yet it is pleasant on the high ground, where are
some stately buildings, and where new gardens are laid out, and where
the American consul on the Fourth of July flies our flag over the
balcony of a little cottage smothered in vines and gay with flowers.
I had the honor of saluting it that day, though I did not know at the
time that gold had risen two or three per cent. under its blessed
folds at home.  Not being a shipwrecked sailor, or a versatile and
accomplished but impoverished naturalized citizen, desirous of quick
transit to the land of the free, I did not call upon the consul, but
left him under the no doubt correct impression that he was doing a
good thing by unfolding the flag on the Fourth.

You have not journeyed far from Bale before you are aware that you
are in Switzerland.  It was showery the day we went down; but the
ride filled us with the most exciting expectations.  The country
recalled New England, or what New England might be, if it were
cultivated and adorned, and had good roads and no fences.  Here at
last, after the dusty German valleys, we entered among real hills,
round which and through which, by enormous tunnels, our train slowly
went: rocks looking out of foliage; sweet little valleys, green as in
early spring; the dark evergreens in contrast; snug cottages nestled
in the hillsides, showing little else than enormous brown roofs that
come nearly to the ground, giving the cottages the appearance of huge
toadstools; fine harvests of grain; thrifty apple-trees, and cherry-
trees purple with luscious fruit.  And this shifting panorama
continues until, towards evening, behold, on a hill, Berne, shining
through showers, the old feudal round tower and buildings overhanging
the Aar, and the tower of the cathedral over all.  From the balcony
of our rooms at the Bellevue, the long range of the Bernese Oberland
shows its white summits for a moment in the slant sunshine, and then
the clouds shut down, not to lift again for two days.  Yet it looks
warmer on the snow-peaks than in Berne, for summer sets in in
Switzerland with a New England chill and rigor.

The traveler finds no city with more flavor of the picturesque and
quaint than Berne; and I think it must have preserved the Swiss
characteristics better than any other of the large towns in Helvetia.
It stands upon a peninsula, round which the Aar, a hundred feet
below, rapidly flows; and one has on nearly every side very pretty
views of the green basin of hills which rise beyond the river.  It is
a most comfortable town on a rainy day; for all the principal streets
have their houses built on arcades, and one walks under the low
arches, with the shops on one side and the huge stone pillars on the
other.  These pillars so stand out toward the street as to give the
house-fronts a curved look.  Above are balconies, in which, upon red
cushions, sit the daughters of Berne, reading and sewing, and
watching their neighbors; and in nearly every window are quantities
of flowers of the most brilliant colors.  The gray stone of the
houses, which are piled up from the streets, harmonizes well with the
colors in the windows and balconies, and the scene is quite Oriental
as one looks down, especially if it be upon a market morning, when
the streets are as thronged as the Strand.  Several terraces, with
great trees, overlook the river, and command prospects of the Alps.
These are public places; for the city government has a queer notion
that trees are not hideous, and that a part of the use of living is
the enjoyment of the beautiful.  I saw an elegant bank building, with
carved figures on the front, and at each side of the entrance door a
large stand of flowers,--oleanders, geraniums, and fuchsias; while
the windows and balconies above bloomed with a like warmth of floral
color.  Would you put an American bank president in the Retreat who
should so decorate his banking-house?  We all admire the tasteful
display of flowers in foreign towns: we go home, and carry nothing
with us but a recollection.  But Berne has also fountains everywhere;
some of them grotesque, like the ogre that devours his own children,
but all a refreshment and delight.  And it has also its clock-tower,
with one of those ingenious pieces of mechanism, in which the sober
people of this region take pleasure.  At the hour, a procession of
little bears goes round, a jolly figure strikes the time, a cock
flaps his wings and crows, and a solemn Turk opens his mouth to
announce the flight of the hours.  It is more grotesque, but less
elaborate, than the equally childish toy in the cathedral at
Strasburg.

We went Sunday morning to the cathedral; and the excellent woman who
guards the portal--where in ancient stone the Last Judgment is
enacted, and the cheerful and conceited wise virgins stand over
against the foolish virgins, one of whom has been in the penitential
attitude of having a stone finger in her eye now for over three
hundred years--refused at first to admit us to the German Lutheran
service, which was just beginning.  It seems that doors are locked,
and no one is allowed to issue forth until after service.  There
seems to be an impression that strangers go only to hear the organ,
which is a sort of rival of that at Freiburg, and do not care much
for the well-prepared and protracted discourse in Swiss-German.  We
agreed to the terms of admission; but it did not speak well for
former travelers that the woman should think it necessary to say,
"You must sit still, and not talk." It is a barn-like interior.  The
women all sit on hard, high-backed benches in the center of the
church, and the men on hard, higher-backed benches about the sides,
inclosing and facing the women, who are more directly under the
droppings of the little pulpit, hung on one of the pillars,--a very
solemn and devout congregation, who sang very well, and paid strict
attention to the sermon.

I noticed that the names of the owners, and sometimes their coats-of-
arms, were carved or painted on the backs of the seats, as if the
pews were not put up at yearly auction.  One would not call it a
dressy congregation, though the homely women looked neat in black
waists and white puffed sleeves and broadbrimmed hats.

The only concession I have anywhere seen to women in Switzerland, as
the more delicate sex, was in this church: they sat during most of
the service, but the men stood all the time, except during the
delivery of the sermon.  The service began at nine o'clock, as it
ought to with us in summer.  The costume of the peasant women in and
about Berne comes nearer to being picturesque than in most other
parts of Switzerland, where it is simply ugly. You know the sort of
thing in pictures,--the broad hat, short skirt) black, pointed
stomacher, with white puffed sleeves, and from each breast a large
silver chain hanging, which passes under the arm and fastens on the
shoulder behind,--a very favorite ornament.  This costume would not
be unbecoming to a pretty face and figure: whether there are any such
native to Switzerland, I trust I may not be put upon the witness-
stand to declare.  Some of the peasant young men went without coats,
and with the shirt sleeves fluted; and others wore butternut-colored
suits, the coats of which I can recommend to those who like the
swallow-tailed variety.  I suppose one would take a man into the
opera in London, where he cannot go in anything but that sort.  The
buttons on the backs of these came high up between the shoulders, and
the tails did not reach below the waistband.  There is a kind of
rooster of similar appearance.  I saw some of these young men from
the country, with their sweethearts, leaning over the stone parapet,
and looking into the pit of the bear-garden, where the city bears
walk round, or sit on their hind legs for bits of bread thrown to
them, or douse themselves in the tanks, or climb the dead trees set
up for their gambols.  Years ago they ate up a British officer who
fell in; and they walk round now ceaselessly, as if looking for
another.  But one cannot expect good taste in a bear.

If you would see how charming a farming country can be, drive out on
the highway towards Thun.  For miles it is well shaded with giant
trees of enormous trunks, and a clean sidewalk runs by the fine road.
On either side, at little distances from the road, are picturesque
cottages and rambling old farmhouses peeping from the trees and vines
and flowers.  Everywhere flowers, before the house, in the windows,
at the railway stations.  But one cannot stay forever even in
delightful Berne, with its fountains and terraces, and girls on red
cushions in the windows, and noble trees and flowers, and its stately
federal Capitol, and its bears carved everywhere in stone and wood,
and its sunrises, when all the Bernese Alps lie like molten silver in
the early light, and the clouds drift over them, now hiding, now
disclosing, the enchanting heights.




HEARING THE FREIBURG ORGAN--FIRST SIGHT OF LAKE LEMAN

Freiburg, with its aerial suspension-bridges, is also on a peninsula,
formed by the Sarine; with its old walls, old watch-towers, its
piled-up old houses, and streets that go upstairs, and its delicious
cherries, which you can eat while you sit in the square by the famous
linden-tree, and wait for the time when the organ will be played in
the cathedral.  For all the world stops at Freiburg to hear and enjoy
the great organ,--all except the self-satisfied English clergyman,
who says he does n't care much for it, and would rather go about town
and see the old walls; and the young and boorish French couple, whose
refined amusement in the railway-carriage consisted in the young
man's catching his wife's foot in the window-strap, and hauling it up

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