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Youth And Education - Vienna

( Originally Published 1924 )



LATE in the summer of the year 1878 I returned to England on my way to Vienna. At that time and for many years after, until the war, Vienna was the Mecca of hundreds of medical students of all nationalities. The teaching was carried on in classes of thirty or by individual instruction. The hospital facilities were very great as at the General Hospital they had 3,000 beds and the attendance of patients at the outdoor clinics was immense. Moreover the professors and "docents" had not the least compunction as to what they did to the patients. The facilities for the study of anatomy both minute and gross were perfect. If one desired to study a certain organ or group of organs the material was forthcoming_ There was a galaxy of brilliant men in the professoriate. I devoted myself to the departments of eye, ear and throat and microscopy. In eye work we had Steil-way von Carion, Eduard von Jaeger, Mauthner, a wonderful teacher and an ophthalmic philosopher. Ernst Fuchs was a "docent" and chef' de clinique with whom I worked a great deal. In the ear we had Politzer, a worldwide celebrity, and Joseph Jaeger, who have both won a permanent place in medicine. Schroeder was the chief of the throat department.

While I was in Vienna I was attached for a time to a military base hospital as the occupation of Bosnia and Herzegovina was going on. By a coincidence 1 was again in Vienna in 1909 when the permanent occupation of these countries took place. It was this action by Austria which led to the tragedy of Serajeva and the Great War. It was well known at that time that Arch-Duke Franz Ferdinand was the head of the party of expansion and contemplated the annexation of Servia and other portions of the Balkan Peninsula, while the Emperor Franz Joseph was in favor of a conservative course. The Arch-Duke was therefore the leader of the war party and as such was the logical person to be put out of the way. He was personally unpopular and had moreover married Sophie Chotec (afterwards created Duchess of Hohenburg) who was not of royal blood and who entertained for her children hopes of succeeding to the throne. This added to the unpopularity of the pair and ended in their assassination. Even after their deaths the war party was too strong for poor Franz Joseph, so Austria, egged on by Berlin, was plunged into war with the disastrous results known to everybody.

To resume my story. The wounded were nearly all stabbed and scalded. for each house was a fortress and had to be taken by assault. While the men were defending the staircase the women poured boiling water down on the assailants from the fiat roofs. When a house was taken everybody in it was killed. The losses of some regiments were very heavy. In one case there were only 600 unwounded out of 3,000.

Vienna is a lovable place and the most beautiful city in Europe. The people were the most carefree, kindly, amiable people imaginable. In short everything which is embraced in the word "Gutmutig."

Alas, the war has played sad havoc with them, but they are better off than the Germans. The world has a friendly feeling for Austria. It is felt that she was the cat which was used by monkey Prussia to pull the chestnuts out of the fire and got her paws well burned in the operation. This " gutmutigkeit" has its unfortunate side, for it lead to lack of municipal enterprise and to want of public civic spirit. Hence we had a poor street car service. The streets were "cleaned" but not made clean. The greatest joke was the fire protection. It was amusing to watch the Grand Chief of the Fire Brigade arrive in a fine carriage—a gorgeous person who gave orders in a stentorian voice to the poor firemen, who had an antiquated fire engine and hose liable to burst at any moment. The great bore of Vienna was the " Hausmeister," or concierge, who fined you four cents if you arrived at your apartment one minute after ten p.m. He was really a police spy and pried into everyone's affairs. No one but the very rich lived in a separate house; flats were everywhere, and at that time rents were very cheap. I lived in the Schwartzspanier Strasse directly behind the Votiv Kirche, erected in gratitude for the escape of the Emperor Francis Joseph from assassination. My room had a fine outlook, and was quite close to the wonderful Ringstrasse, a wide circular street which was constructed on the site of the old ramparts. Facing it are magnificent buildings, the municipal theatre, museums and other splendid structures. Everywhere there are gardens and a great profusion of flowers. Of amusements there were plenty; music halls, restaurants, cafes, theatres abounded. One could hear the world's finest music at the Opera and the Musiksaal at little cost. One could laugh at the musical comedies of Suppe, or Johann Strauss, Junior. One went to dancing classes and danced with pretty girls. In winter there were plenty of rinks and skating. I do not know of any city where one could see so many pretty women; Chechs, Slovenes, Magyars, Bohemians, Italians, Serbs and Bosnians furnished the brunettes, and Austrians, Germans and Swiss, the blondes. Needless to say I left Vienna with great regret.

During the Christmas holidays I took advantage of excursion rates to make a brief journey in Italy. I went to Venice, Florence and Rome, but as this is a regular tourist route and as nothing unusual happened to me I will content myself with saying that it was an interesting, but very damp, trip. Those who expatiate on the beauties of the Italian sky forget the winter. I left the country with a firm determination to return under more favorable weather conditions, which ambition has not been realized as yet.

Heidelberg. I could now speak German with considerable fluency and as I was anxious to complete my knowledge of the microscopy of the eye I determined to go to Heidelberg. On the way I stopped off at Salzburg, a most picturesque town with a long history. The scenery of the neighborhood is lovely and the fine old castle, with its dungeons deep in which many unfortunates have languished in the old days, is of interest. But the most interesting spot is Mozart's house, or rather, flat. Up six stories one climbs a narrow and dirty staircase. In the three or four rooms are assembled relics of the great musician. His harpsichord, some sheets of music in his handwriting and various articles of furniture. What a great genius was born and lived in such humble quarters!

I stopped a few days in Munich. I found it a wearisome place with its miles of picture and sculpture galleries. But the Lion Brewery with its vast refreshment hall, its fine music and its wonderful " dunkel" lager beer, somewhat relieved the tedium of the town. What would not the thirsty ones of America give to-day to bury their noses in its foaming and savory brew! I was told that many habitues drank as much as two gallons a day. Is it any wonder that diseases of the kidney were common there?

At that time Heidelberg was a real old German university town. Factories and commercialism had not made their appearance. The university and the students were the industries on which the place lived. I found a boarding place with Frau Rath Nebel, a dear, motherly old lady who with her two daughters kept a tension for foreign students. My fellow-boarders were a commander in the British Navy, a Greek, and two Americans. We formed a happy family, after the Greek had departed. The German of that day was rather a dreamy, kindly person, content with his small earnings, his beer, his family, and his town. The rector of the university was the great man.

There were many American and British students in Heidelberg, so many that we had an Anglo-American club which met at a cafe, where it had private rooms. The club was quite friendly with the German students, but on one occasion, the members of the dub having come to the conclusion that the Germans were getting too " fresh, " determined to give them a lesson. They sallied out and beat up a number of Germans with their fists, who were not only well licked but very indignant. A swarm of challenges to duels followed which, needless to say, were not accepted. There was one instance of an American having shot a German dead.

The Germans were rather afraid of the Americans, who frequented the pistol gallery, and who could shoot well. They circulated stories of bloody duels as practised in the wild Western States which made the Germans' eyes pop out. I used to go occasionally to a "kneipe," a beer drinking- contest, in which the Anglo-American students were badly worsted. It was not uncommon for a German student to drink thirty glasses of beer in an evening. At these "kneipen" duels were arranged between students of the different corps. The men in these corps wore a uniform peculiar to the corps. A little round hat, a tunic of black, green or other color, white breeches and high black boots. Their chests were adorned with a sash composed of the corps colors. Some of these corps were confined to one university, others had chapters in several, like the Greek letter societies with us. The duels which were held in the Goldenes Hirsch, took the place of inter-collegiate and inter-class sports in Canada. The contestants having duly and in customary form "insulted" each other, were paired off to fight. Having been garbed in a thick leather and woolen corselet, which protected the body and neck, and furnished with heavy goggles to protect the eyes, they were given a sword called a schlager, blunt pointed, the last two inches being sharp, and told to go to it. From this description it will he seen that only the cheeks, nose and scalp were exposed to wounds. The swords clashed, sparks flew and sooner or later one of the contestants got a slash on the cheek. A doctor was always present to stitch up the wound, but it was of intention badly done as a large scar is a mark of honor. Some students continued to drink quantities of beer after a wound, with disastrous results; others took out the stitches when the hemorrhage had ceased, to enlarge the scar. The face being very vascular and the bleeding very free, the floor of the room looked like a Chicago slaughter pen after a dozen duels had been fought. Most of these duels are innocuous, being a form of German sport, but occasionally they are seriously fought with sabres or pistols with fatal results. From time to time other corps visited Heidelberg, when there was a grand procession, a "Fakelzug," or torchlight procession, a huge drinking bout and many duels.

How these men, who fuddled their brains and wasted their time, ever graduated, was always a mystery to the foreign students.

I occupied my time with microscopy under the direction of Professor Otto Becker and his assistant, Dr. Kuhnt. The latter, with German thoroughness, had spent five years in studying the microscopic anatomy of the eye. During my leisure hours I climbed the beautiful hills of the neighborhood and often dined at the Milkencur and other picturesque inns in company with Captain Dale, R.N. I also had an American friend called Gore, known from his short stature as "das Gorschen" of whom, unfortunately, I have lost sight in fate years. At the inns one could pick out the fish one wanted for lunch swimming about in a tank or fountain. It was promptly netted, killed and cooked. With a bottle of Rhein wine it made a very delicious meal. I made excursions on foot or by train to the neighboring cities and at Mannheim heard Wagner's " Ring des Nibelungen" magnificently given. The performance began at five o'clock in the afternoon and went on for days.

Heidelberg is a lovely spot, situated in the valley of the Neckar and on the slopes of the hills. It is dominated by an ancient ruined castle and a hill, the Konigsstuhl, from which there is a lovely view.

I might as well say here that I returned to Heidelberg thirty years later to find the whole atmosphere of the town changed. Business had invaded the sleepy old town. Huge factories had sprung up, a gigantic slaughter house had been built and the hospital enlarged to 3,000 beds. The two latter changes evidently were made by way of preparation for the Great War. Bloused workmen, instead of students, jostled one on the narrow sidewalks. The students were still there, but they were swamped in the crowd of newcomers and no longer ruled the town. I also found the new Pan-Germanic spirit to which I have already referred. The pension was still running in the same house managed by the elder daughter, the dear old Frau having been gathered to her fathers, and the other daughter had married a professor and was the mother of a numerous flock of tow-headed children. In the fall I returned to London and in January, 1880, I sailed for home on the Allan Line S.S. Sarmatian. On board was H.R.H. the Princess Louise, Marchioness of Lorne, wife of the Governor-General of Canada at that time. We had a very stormy passage and landed at Halifax in a snow-storm. I had been recommended to Her Royal Highness by Sir Andrew Clark, but my services were not required. Her Royal Highness was, however, very gracious and on subsequent occasions when we met, both she and the Governor-General were most kind.

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