( Originally Published Early 1900's )
Frankfort is a genuine old German city. Founded by Charlemagne, afterward a rallying-point of the Crusaders, and for a long time the capital of the German Empire, it has no lack of interesting historical recollections, and, nothwithstanding it is fast becoming modernized, one is everywhere re-minded of the past. The cathedral, old as the days of Peter the Hermit, the grotesque street of the Jews, the many quaint, antiquated dwellings and the moldering watch-towers on the hills around, give it a more interesting character than any German city I have yet seen. The house we dwell in, on the Markt Platz, is more than two hundred years old; directly opposite is a great castellated building gloomy with the weight of six centuries, and a few steps to the left brings me to the square of the Romerberg, where the emperors were crowned, in a corner of which is a curiously ornamented house formerly the residence of Luther. There are legends innumerable connected with all these buildings, and even yet discoveries are frequently made in old houses of secret chambers and staircases. When you add to all this the German love of ghost-stories, and, indeed, their general belief in spirits, the lover of romance could not desire a more agreeable residence.
Within the walls the greater part of Frankfort is built in the old German style, the houses six or seven stories high and every story projecting out over the other; so that those living in the upper part can nearly shake hands out of the windows. At the corners figures of men are often seen holding up the story above on their shoulders and making horrible faces at the weight. When I state that in all these narrow streets, which constitute the greater part of the city, there are no sidewalks, the windows of the lower stories have iron gratings extending a foot or so into the street, which is only wide enough for one cart to pass along, you can have some idea of the facility of walking through them, to say nothing of the piles of wood and market-women with baskets of vegetables which one is continuously stumbling over. Even in the wider streets I have always to look before and behind to keep out of the way of the cabs; the people here get so accustomed to it that they leave barely room for them to pass, and the carriages go dashing y at a nearness which sometimes makes me shudder.
As I walked across the Main and looked down at the swift stream on its way from the distant Thuringian Forest to join the Rhine, I thought of the time when Schiller stood there in the days of his early struggles, an exile from his native land, and, looking over the bridge, said in the loneliness of his heart, "That water flows not so deep as my sufferings."
From the hills on the Darmstadt road I had a view of the country around; the fields were white and bare, and the dark Taunus, with the broad patches of snow on his sides, looked grim and shadowy through the dim atmosphere. It was Iike the landscape of a dream—dark, strange and silent.
I have seen the banker Rothschild several times driving about the city. This one—Anselmo, the most celebrated of the brothers—holds a mortgage on the city of Jerusalem. He rides about in style, with officers attending his carriage. He is a little baldheaded man with marked Jewish features, and is said not to deceive his looks. At any rate, his reputation is none of the best, either with Jews or Christians. A caricature was published some time ago in which he is represented as giving a beggar woman by the wayside a kreutzer—the smallest German coin. She is made to exclaim, "God reward you a thousand fold!" He immediately replies, after reckoning up in his head, "How much have I then ? Sixteen florins and forty kreutzers!"
The Eschernheim Tower, at the entrance of one of the city gates, is universally admired by strangers on account of its picturesque appearance, over-grown with ivy and terminated y the little pointed turrets which one sees so often in Germany on buildings three or four centuries old. There are five other watch-towers of similar form, which stand on different sides of the city at the distance of a mile or two, and generally upon an eminence over-looking the country. They were erected several centuries ago to discern from afar the approach of an enemy, and protect the caravans of merchants, which at that time traveled from city to city, from the attacks of robbers.
The Eschernheim Tower is interesting from an-other circumstance which, whether true or not, is universally believed. When Frankfort was under the sway of a prince, a Swiss hunter, for some civil offense, was condemned to die. He begged his life from the prince, who granted it only on condition that he should fire the figure nine with his rifle through the vane of this tower. He agreed, and did it; and at the present time one can distinguish a rude nine on the vane, as if cut with bullets, while two or three marks at the side appear to be from shots that failed.