World Travel - A Fairyland of Lovely Scenery
( Originally Published 1903 )
AFTER leaving Germany, my next objective point was Switzerland, the land of snow-capped mountains and lovely lakes. I would have liked to visit Leipsic, Dresden, and others of the great German towns, but my supply of money was rapidly diminishing as the days passed, and I thought it wise to continue on my way to Paris, where I felt sure there would be some money awaiting me from the American newspapers. My mail in Cologne had consisted of but two letters from home and one from the old lady at the London inn, and now I would have to wait until Paris was reached before I could hope for any more. I calculated that I could spend about a month in Switzerland, and then have sufficient money to enable me to reach the French capital. Once in Paris, I would surely find one or two checks, and, if not well, I didn't know what I would do then. I didn't worry over the prospect. So far I had been favored with good fortune in almost every place, and I had confidence that it would continue. Having progressed so far on my tour, I felt that I would surely be able to complete it.
Into the Land of the Alps
From Frankfort I returned to dear old Heidelberg, where I said farewell to my kind American friends, and then I started for the Swiss city of Basle, through which most tourists pass when on their way south from Germany. I traveled through the edge of the Black Forest region, which was picturesque and beautiful, and I remained over one night in the ancient town of Freiburg, where I enjoyed seeing the quaint headdress of the women in the market-place. Some of them wore great bows of cloth upon their heads which must have been four feet from tip to tip ; they were sometimes elaborately embroidered, and from a distance their wearers had the appearance of miniature windmills.
On my arrival in Basle, I was at first disappointed with the surroundings of the city. I had an idea that as soon as I crossed the Swiss border I would find myself among the high Alps, and when no mountains were visible I felt as if I had been somehow cheated or deceived. But I was told by a friendly Englishman that I. would find all the mountain scenery my heart could desire when I reached Lucerne, and I had to be content with that assurance.
At Basle I had my last view of the Rhine, which I had followed on foot for so many miles. In Switzerland it had a very different appearance than in Germany. It was a swift-flowing mountain stream, with cold, blue water, which was delicious for bathing. I was tired and warm after my day's journey, and I will long remember the pleasant experience of my swim in the Rhine at Basle. It was wonderfully invigorating, and I thought to myself that it was worth living in the town just to enjoy the river baths.
It was a chilly night that I spent in Basle, and I found the German feather beds very comfortable. I had become used to those peculiar institutions by this time, but the ones in Basle were so narrow and so lofty that I actually required a ladder to mount them. Once I had trusted myself to its sleek-looking surface, I felt myself sinking into fathomless depths of feathers, where I was warm and cosy for the night. Most American tourists find it impossible to sleep between two feather ticks, and many are their humorous experiences in trying to obtain blankets and quilts. Some of them, as a last resort, have been known to remove the covering from the ticks, and sleep under that, much to the disgust of the thrifty German hausfrauen.
More Beautiful than I Dreamed
I found Basle to be a pleasant city, with wide, well-paved streets, and substantial buildings. I was particularly pleased with the trolley-cars, which reminded me of Chicago; the sound of their gongs was the first thing I heard when I awoke in the morning, and it was enough to give me a home-sick feeling, which quickly departed when I started out sightseeing through the town. It required only a short time to visit the historic church and the little picture gallery, and when I had made the round I lost no time in starting for Lucerne.
The tramp from Basle to Lucerne, through a beautiful, hilly country, was like some lovely dream to me. With every mile the beauties of the scenery were more evident, and I was ever enthusiastic over the unfolding view. I was more surprised and delighted to find the Switzerland of reality was even more beautiful than the country of my dreams, for as a matter-of-fact I had never imagined that there could be such beautiful places in the world as I saw in the Bernese Oberland. When I was very young I was continually dreaming of traveling in some foreign country, and very often I visited Switzerland in my dreams. But I had never seen any such scenery as was now before my very eyes.
It was night when I reached Lucerne, and I set about to find a lodging, for I was tired after my day of admiration. I was so weary that I didn't spend much time in looking for a place, and when I saw a tumble-down building called the Hotel du Boeff, I at once engaged the cheapest room they had. I think " Hotel du Boeff " means " Hotel of Cow " in English, but I didn't stop to translate the name. My room looked as dilapidated within as the hotel did without, but I cheerfully brought out my coffee-pot and made myself some supper. Then I turned in for the night.
A Magnificent Panorama
When I awoke early the next morning I went to my window, and looked out upon a view which stunned me with its magnificence. I had seen nothing of the surrounding scenery the night before, so I was quite unprepared for what was now before me. Below me, at the head of a lovely lake, was stretched the ancient city, with its picturesque architecture and rambling streets. At the far end of the lake were the high Alps, in the glorious raiment of snow and ice, and their summits were rosy with the light of the rising sun. I looked and looked at the view, and I never felt so much like beginning my day with prayer. It was altogether an inspiring sight, and brought one nearer to God and heaven.
It was some time before I left the window and lighted the lamp to heat my coffee; and then I was no longer conscious of the miserable little room in which I had slept. I could see nothing but the glories of the Alps and the deep, blue lake, and I longed to be outdoors to see this city, which was a veritable scenic paradise. My coffee and rolls seemed a luxurious breakfast when eaten with that view before me, and I was again joyful that-I had come to Europe. This was far better than to be seated in that office in Chicago, wondering how I was to pass the time until noon.
My first visit in the town was to the water-front, where I looked upon the Lake of the Four Forest Cantons, or the " Vierwaldstadter See " at close range. This lake is said to be one of the most beautiful in all the world; but though I had read of it I was quite unprepared for its actual magnificence. Nothing could be more complete and satisfying than the grandeur of its mountain scenery, the quiet beauty of its banks, and the endless variety of its charms. It will remain with me always as the most beautiful sight of my tour.
When I left the waterfront, I went to look at the greatest curiosity of Lucerne, a magnificent work of art by Thorwaldsen, wrought out of a lofty, solid rock. It represents a dying lion, twenty-eight and one-half feet in length, transfixed by an arrow, and was designed to commemorate the Swiss Guards, who died in defending the royal family of France in 1792. In front of it is a beautiful lake, with a fountain playing, and from the rock beside it a mountain stream leaps down. I thought it the most impressive monument I had ever seen, and particularly appropriate for its purpose.
Up the Rigi on Foot
I had long desired an experience of mountain-climbing, and early in the morning of my first day in Lucerne, I inquired for the way to the Rigi, which is the most accessible mountain in the neighborhood. I was directed to Vitznau, which is the town from which the ascent is made, and purchasing a stout mountain-pole, I started out. It wasn't a long walk, but when I reached Vitznau I decided that it. was rather late to make the ascent, and postponed it until the next morning. I spent the night in the house of a kindly mountaineer, and before daylight I was started on the upward path. There is a railroad which runs up the mountain, but the fare was expensive, and I was glad to have the strength to climb. When I saw the railway I thought it the strangest I had ever looked upon. For every four feet of track it rises one foot, so that the locomotive is continually climbing the hill. The engine didn't look like the ordinary locomotives, the boiler being upright, and when standing at the station it had a decidedly queer appearance. The management takes every precaution for safety, and the accidents on the road are said to be few and far between. There was a toothed wheel which worked on the cogs between the rails, and a brake by which the cars could be held fast to the rack-rail, so there was no reason for fear. Many. tourists, however, would as soon think of " looping the loop " as of riding on a mountain railway.
On account of my early start, I was well up the side of the mountain before the sun began to drive away the mists in the valleys. The great forest trees, sturdy from long exposure to the mountain blasts, were all about me, and every-thing was quiet as the grave. As the mists disappeared by degrees, I could see the farmers' dwellings in the valleys, and gradually the coverlet of fog was lifted from the surface of the lake. Then the summits of the mountains were visible far above me, and I climbed with greater zeal, desirous to reach the Rigi-Kulm, to enjoy the wonderful panorama of which I had heard so much. There was splendid scenery all around me, but the summit was my aim, and I was impatient to reach it
Finally I came to the railway track, which I followed the remainder of the distance until I stood on the high plateau, nearly six thousand feet high. I found it green with grass, and cows, sheep and goats, were seen feeding in every direction. As I stood looking about me I held within my vision a circumference of some three hundred miles—about one hundred and fifty miles of continuous snow-capped Alps to the east and south, with the grand old Jungfrau in the distance. The names of the different mountains were given on a map which I held in my hand. Conspicuous in the view were the mountains of the Bernese Oberland, which presented a magnificent spectacle, with their mantles of eternal snow. Fourteen lakes were in full view. Far away I could see the towns of Lucerne, Zurich, and many villages hugging the mountains by the banks of the lakes, and numerous Swiss chalets dotting the mountain sides.
I desired to see the glorious scenes at sunset and at sunrise, so I arranged to remain overnight on the summit. I was well repaid for the unusual expense of a bed in a hotel. After waiting about an hour in the evening, I saw the ruddy rays of the setting sun on the distant snow-covered peaks, and then the clouds of the afternoon began to lift, and formed a dark, heavy bank. The immense ball of fire then dropped slowly down, throwing its rays all over the horizon, and a scene of indescribable beauty presented itself. I watched until the darkness had begun to envelop the view, and then I went to bed, as I expected to be out early in the morning for the sunrise.
The Glorious Sunrise
The Alpine horn was sounded about three-thirty o'clock, to rouse the slumberers for the view of the rising sun, and its echoes had scarcely ceased when a motley crowd was hurrying up the summit. A variety of strange costumes were in evidence; for men, women and children, fearful of missing the sunrise, had made hasty toilets before leaving their rooms. Some had only blankets about them, and others wore their hair loose down their backs. We had not long to wait for the appearance of the orb of day. The peaks of snow began to change their colors, indifferently white at first, then, yellowish, and at last turning to a lovely pink. One bright flash, and the first ray of the sun shot forth. For a moment all was silent, and then a shout went forth which made the welkin ring, as the full splendor of the vast panorama was displayed. A party of Americans began to sing the verses of " America " to welcome the sun, and a band of Swiss minstrels sang " Praise to the Alps." It was indeed a time long to be remembered.
I was soon on my way down the mountain side again, and when I reached my starting-point, I determined to pursue my way up the lake to Fluelen, which was about twenty-five miles distant. The fare on the steamer was very low, so I determined to allow myself the extravagance of a ride, for the road was very roundabout. Even in the impoverished condition of my purse, I felt that the ride was worth far more than it cost me The lake wound round among the mountains, and at every turn I was surprised with some entrancing vista. There could be nothing more charming and picturesque, and travelers say that the nearest approach to this lake in beauty and grandeur is our own American Lake George.
From Fluelen I decided to walk through the Furca and St. Gothard Passes, via the Glacier du Rhone, etc., to Interlaken. This took me through the region of William Tell, and numerous hotels in the district are named after the famous hero. At Burglen, his birthplace and home, I visited a chapel which was painted over with scenes from his life, and which was supposed to mark the site of his house. After crossing the Schachenbach, in the waters of which Tell perished while struggling to save a child, I began the ascent of the great St. Gothard. This was not an easy climb. The trail is not over a single peak or eminence, but over a mountainous group, presenting a wild and magnificent appearance, winding around among the mountains by the river Reuss, which dashes madly along, foaming and leaping over its rocky bed. There were numerous water-falls plunging down the declivities, and the walk was a grand one.
Walking Through the Mountains
I found it rather difficult, at first, to be continually climbing uphill, but I found that there were some down-grades, too, and I soon became accustomed to this new order of pedestrianism. The roads through Switzerland were all hard and smooth, even in the high altitudes. Some of them have existed for centuries, and the government has been careful to keep them in excellent condition. At Andermatt, which is the chief village of the valley, I encountered a snow-storm, which was an unusual experience for the time of year. It gave me a feeling that winter was at hand, and I longed to be further advanced on my way to Paris and London and home.
The glacier region was grand and impressive. I passed the Tiefer Glacier, in which was discovered some of the finest crystals in the world. A cave was found in its side, and some fifteen tons of topaz were removed from this hiding-place of nature in a single year. From the Furca Pass the descent was very abrupt to the Rhone Glacier, that great sea of ice extending for fifteen miles. It resembled what Niagara Falls might look like if frozen solid. I walked over this consolidated mass and entered a natural grotto of ice, winding under the glacier, about eight feet high, and from one to two hundred feet long. It was a great experience. I made the ascent of the Hanseck, over seven thousand feet in height, and passed the Todtensee. Here, in 1799, the French and Austrians closed in a deadly struggle, and the dead were buried in the lake. One would have supposed that such masses of mountains would have been a barrier to war.
There seemed to be no end to the varied beauties of the mountain scenery. It was indeed a fairy region through which I passed, and every new prospect had an interest of its own. Many of the places were historic, and others were famed because of some famous man who had lived in the neighborhood. At the Hanseck Falls, which are the finest in Switzerland, where the Aar leaps down two hundred and fifty feet at a bound, it was boasted by the natives that Agassiz had lived there for a time to study glacial action. As a result of his observations he proved that one of these glaciers moves at the rate of eight inches a day, or eighty-five yards a year.
One of the loveliest spots I visited was Meyringen, and after visiting the beauty spots of that neighborhood I went to Lake Brienz, where I boarded one of the steamers for Interlaken. This lake is nearly surrounded by mountains, and it was delightful to glide again over placid waters, quite in contrast with my recent experience of tramping over mountain roads. I reached Interlaken in time to spend Sunday in that beautiful town. From the window of my lodging I had a fine view of the Jungfrau, which was the most ideally beautiful peak I saw in Switzerland. When I looked on it that Sunday morning it was covered with snow, and the white, fleecy clouds, lower down, lay in folds as beautiful as those of a rich, white satin dress. It filled one with worshipful thoughts to see it.