( Originally Published Mid 1800's )
Monday Evening, October 9, 1865.
MY DEAR WILLIAM, — Just before I left Frankfort-on-the-Main today, I went to the bankers' and found there your good letter of September 22. It was my company on a lovely ride up the country to this queer old German town, whence I answer it from the dining-room of the Romlicher Kaiser hotel. A thousand thanks for it. I shall not write so good a one, but I will try to tell you what I have been doing in a very busy week since I wrote to mother last Monday night from Bonn. I left there by the Rhine boat and landed first at Kaiserwinter, on the right bank at the foot of the Drachenfels ; climbed that hill and saw one of the loveliest views in the world from the old castle at its top. We went up through vineyards and looked down on the Rhine winding past the Seven Mountains ever so far towards the sea. Kaiserwinter is a charming little German village, and on my return from the hill I heard the bells chiming, and stopped to ask what it meant. I was told it was a " Fest " or village feast, and so roamed into the village to see it. It was the most perfect German picture. The young men of the village were firing at a mark in a little wine garden, and all the hamlet were gathered to drink the new wine and look at them. By and by the bird was shot down, and the man who shot it down was thereby king of the Feast. He had the privilege of choosing the prettiest girl in town for the queen, and then, with a rustic band of music, the procession, headed by the king and queen, marched through the old streets and called on all the gentry, who treated them and gave them contributions for a feast, to which they all returned in the garden. Here they made merry through the afternoon, and closed all with a dance. It was just like a German story book.
Juch-he, juch-he, juch-heise, heise, he, So ging der fiedelbogen.
Think of being at a dance of German peasants on the Rhine ! From here I took the boat again, and sailing down past vine-covered hills topped with ruined castles, I came at last to Coblentz. Here I stopped again and climbed to the Castle of Ehrenbreitstein, where was another view of the Rhine and the Moselle, which flows into it just here. Then the boat again, past the great Castle of Stolzenfels and countless others, one on almost every height, till we came to St. Goar, the most delightful little village on the left bank. Here another stop, and then on through the region of the choicest vineyards to Mayence, the quaintest of old fortified towns. You have no idea of the beauty of this river from Bonn to Mayence. I think we have rivers whose scenery by nature is as fine, but the castles and ruins have grown to be a part of the nature, and are not separable from it, and the soft October air and sunlight of those days showed everything at its utmost beauty. The trees were gorgeous in color with not a leaf fallen, and the vineyards climbing the hills, and perching on every inch of ground that faced the southern sun, were very interesting.
From Mayence I went to Worms, where Luther dared the Diet; then to Mannheim, and so to Heidelberg. Of all beautiful places this is the most perfect.
It lies along the Neckar, and is overlooked everywhere by the noblest of old ruined castles. Here is one of the great universities which I went to see. The boys looked pretty much like Cambridge juniors, except where here and there you see one with his face all slashed up from a duel. Let us be thankful Cambridge has not got to that.
From here I went up to Wiesbaden, one of the great watering and gambling places, a splendid German Saratoga. It was in full blast, and I saw the roulette and rouge-et-noir tables in the gorgeous saloons crowded day and night. At night, a great free concert by a splendid band, and illumination of the beautiful grounds. It was a strange sight. Then to Frankfort, where I spent Sunday at the Hotel de Russie. It is a fine town, part of it very old and quaint, part very new and fine ; there are some good pictures, some good statuary, and an old cathedral, where I went and heard a German sermon and some splendid German music. Goethe was born here, and his house still stands. To-day, I came from Frankfort here, through one of the richest historic regions of all Germany. This is another of those old towns to which I am getting very used, and which delight me more and more. I like the Germans immensely. They are frank, kind, sociable, and hearty. They give you an idea of a people with ever so much yet to do in the world, capable of much fresh thought and action. Their language is like them, noble, vigorous, and simple. I am getting hold of it very well. They think for themselves and unselfishly, and they believe in America. Their peasants are poor, but seem intelligent, and their better classes have the most charming civility. I have seen more pretty women than I saw in all England, and I have not seen the best of Germany. I am impatient to get to Hanover, and Berlin, and Dresden, where one sees the finest specimens.
Here, then, you have another week's biography. Is it not full enough ? My next will be from Dresden. I shall spend all this month in Germany, and about the first of November leave Vienna for the East. I am splendidly well and happy all the time, but very often, to-night, for instance, I would like to look in upon you all at home, and tell and hear a thousand things that will not go on paper. As to money, you will get two drafts, one in London and one in Cologne. These currencies with their perpetual changes are great nuisances. First, in Belgium, it was francs and centimes ; then, in Holland, thalers and groschen ; then, in Prussia, florins and kreutzers ; and now back to thalers and groschen again.
I received a weekly " Herald " today ; many thanks. Send one once in a while, say once a month, for the only paper on the Continent that pretends to give American news is the London " Times."
It is two months to-day since I sailed. How they have gone ! And to me they have been the fullest months of my life. Not a day without something that I have longed all my life to see. So it will go on till I see the sight that I shall be most glad of all to see, you and father waiting on the wharf to see me land, as you came down before to see me sail.
Good-by ; love in lots to father and mother, and Arthur and John and Trip, and Fred when you write. God bless you all.