Journey On Foot From Frankfort To Cassel
( Originally Published 1889 )
The day for leaving Frankfort came at last, and I bade adieu to the gloomy, antique, but. still quaint and pleasant city. I felt like leaving a second home, so much had the memories of many delightful hours spent there attached me to it : I' shall long retain the recollection of it dark old streets, its massive, devil-haunted bridge and the ponderous cathedral, telling of the times of the Crusaders. I toiled up the long hill on the road to Friedberg, and from the tower at the top took a last look at the distant city, with a heart heavier than the knapsack whose unaccustomed weight rested uneasily on my shoulders. Being alone-starting out into the wide world, where as yet I knew no one,-I felt much deeper what it was to find friends in a strange land. But such is the wanderer's lot.
We had determined on making the complete tour of Germany on foot, and in order to vary it somewhat, my friend and I proposed taking different routes from Frankfort to Leipsic. He chose a circuitous course, by way of Nuremberg and the Thuringian forests; while I, whose fancy had been running wild with Goethe's witches, preferred looking on the gloom and grandeur of the rugged Hartz. We both left Frankfort on the 23d of April, each bearing a letter of introduction to the same person in Leipsic, where we agreed to meet in fourteen days. As we were obliged to travel as cheaply as possible, I started with but seventy-nine florins, (a florin is forty cents American) well knowing that if I took more, I should, in all probability, spend proportionably more also. Thus, armed with my passport, properly vised, a knapsack weighing fifteen pounds and a cane from the Kentucky Mammoth Cave, I began my lonely walk through Northern Germany.
The warm weather of the week before had brought out the foliage of the willows and other early trees-violets and cowslips were springing up in the meadows. Keeping along the foot of the Taunus, I passed over great broad hills, which were brown with the spring ploughing, and by sunset reached Friedberg-a large city, on the summit of a hill. The next morning, after sketching its old, baronial castle, I crossed the meadows to Nauheim, to see the salt springs there. They are fifteen in number ; the water, which is very warm, rushes up with such force as to leap several feet above the earth. The buildings made for evaporation are nearly two miles in length ; a walk along the top gives a delightful view of the surrounding valleys. After reaching the chaussée again, I was hailed by a wandering journeyman, or handwerker, as they are called, who wanted company. As I had concluded to accept all offers of this kind, we trudged along together very pleasantly. He was from Holstein, on the borders of Denmark and was just returning home, after an absence of six years, having escaped from Switzerland after the late battle of Luzerne, which he had witnessed. He had his knapsack and tools fastened on two wheels, which he drew after him quite conveniently. I could not help laughing at the adroit manner in which he begged his way along, through every village. He would ask me to go on and wait for him at the other end ; after a few minutes he followed, with a handful of small copper money, which he said he had fought for, -the handwerker's term for begged.
We passed over long ranges of hills, with an occasional view of the Vogelsgebirge, or Bird's Mountains, far to the east. I knew at length, by the pointed summits of the hills, that we were approaching Giessen and the valleys of the Lahn. Finally, two sharp peaks appeared in the distance, each crowned with a picturesque fortress, while the spires of Giessen rose from the valley below. Parting from my companion, I passed through the city without stopping, for it was the time of the university vacation, and Dr. Liebeg, the world-renowned chemist, whom I desired to see, was absent.
Crossing a hill. or two, I came down into the valley of the Lahn, which flows through meadows of the brightest green, with red-roofed cottages nestled among gardens and orchards upon its banks. The women here wear a remarkable costume, consisting of red boddice with white sleeves, and a dozen skirts, one above another, reaching only to the knees. I slept again at a little village among the hills, and started early for Marburg. The meadows were of the purest emerald, through which the stream wound its way, with even borders, covered to the water's edge with grass so smooth and velvety, that a fairy might have danced along on it for miles without stumbling over an uneven tuft. This valley is one of the finest districts in Ger-many. I thought, as I saw the peaceful inhabit-ants at work in their fields, I had most probably, on the battle-field of Brandywine, walked over the bones of some of their ancestors, whom a despotic prince had torn from their happy homes, to die in a distant land, fighting against the cause of freedom.
I now entered directly into the heart of Hesse Cassel. The country resembled a collection of hills thrown together in confusion-sometimes a wide plain left between them, sometimes a cluster of wooded peaks, and here and there a single pointed summit rising above the rest. The vallies were green as ever, the hill-sides freshly ploughed and the forests beginning to be colored by the tender foliage of the larch and birch. I walked two or three hours at a " stretch," and then when I could find a dry, shady bank, I would rest for half an hour and finish some hastily-sketched landscape, or lay at full length, with my head on my knapsack, and peruse the countenance of those passing by. The observation which every traveller excites, soon ceases to be embarrassing. ( It was at first extremely unpleasant; but I am now so hardened, that the strange, magnetic influence of the human eye, which we cannot avoid feeling, passes by me as harmlessly as if turned aside by invisible mail.
During the day several showers came by, but as none of them penetrated ' further than my blouse, I kept on, and reached about sunset a little village in the valley. I chose a small inn, which had an air of neatness about it, and you going in, the tidy landlady's "be you welcome," as she brought a pair of slippers for my swollen feet, made me feel quite at home. After being furnished with eggs, milk, butter and bread, for supper, which I ate while listening to an animated discussion between the village schoolmaster and some farmers, I was ushered into a clean, sanded bedroom, and soon forgot all fatigue. For this, with breakfast in the morning, the hill was six and a half groschen-about sixteen cents ! The air was freshened by the rain and I journeyed over the hills at a rapid rate. Stopping for dinner at the village of Wabern, a boy at the inn asked me if I was going to America? I said no, I came from there. He then asked me many silly questions, after which he ran out and told the people of the village. When I set out again, the children pointed at me and cried: " See there! he is from America!" and the men took off their hats and bowed !
The sky was stormy, which added to the gloom of the hills around, though some of the distant ranges lay in mingled light and shade--the softest alternation of purple and brown. There were many isolated, rocky hills, two of which interested me, through their attendant legends. One is said to have been the scene of a battle between the Romans and Germans, where, after a long conflict the rock opened. and swallowed up the former. The other, which is crowned with a rocky wall, so like a ruined fortress, as at a distance to be universally mistaken for one, tradition says is the death! place of Charlemagne, who still walks around its summit every night, clad in complete armor. On ascending a hill late in the afternoon, I saw at a great distance the statue of Hercules, which stands on the Wilhelmshohe, near Cassel. Night set in with a dreary rain, and I stopped at an inn about five miles short of the city. While tea was preparing a company of students came and asked for a separate room. Seeing I was alone, they invited me up with them. They seemed much interested in America, and leaving the table gradually, formed a ring around me, where I had enough to do to talk with them all at once. When the omnibus came along the most of them went with it to Cassel; but five remained and persuaded me to set out with them on foot. They insisted on carrying my knapsack the whole way, through the rain and darkness, and when I had passed the city gate with them, un challenged, conducted me to the comfortable hotel, "Zur Krone."
It is a pleasant thing to wake up in the morning in a strange city. Every thing is new; you walk around it for the first time in the full enjoyment of the novelty, or the not less agreeable feeling of surprise, if it is different from your anticipations. Two of my friends of the previous night called for me in the morning, to show me around the city, and the first impression,
made in such agreeable company, prepossessed me very favorably. I shall not, however, take up time in describing its many sights, particularly the Frederick's Platz, where the statue of Frederick the Second, who sold ten thousand of his subjects to England, has been re-erected, after having lain for years in a stable where it was thrown by the French.
I was much interested in young Carl K-, one of my new acquaintances. His generous and unceasing kindness first won my esteem, and I found on nearer acquaintance, the qualities of his mind equal those of his heart. I saw many beautiful poems of his which were of remarkable merit, considering his youth, and thought I could read in his dark, dreamy eye, the unconscious presentiment of a power he does not yet possess. He seemed as one I had known for years.
He, with a brother student, accompanied me in the afternoon, to Wilhelmshohe, the summer residence of the Prince, on the side of a range of mountains three miles west of the city. The road leads in a direct line to the summit of the mountain, which is thirteen hundred feet in height, surmounted by a great structure, called the Giant's Castle, on the summit of which is a pyramid ninety-six feet high, supporting a statue of Hercules, copied after the Farnese, and thirty-one feet in height. By a gradual ascent through beautiful woods, we reached the princely residence, a magnificent mansion standing on a natural terrace of the mountain. Near it is a little theatre built by Jerome Buonaparte, in which he himself used to play. We looked into the green house in passing, where the floral splendor of every zone was combined. There were lofty halls, with glass roofs, where the orange grew to a great tree, and one could sit in myrtle bowers, with the brilliant bloom of the tropics around him. It was the only thing there I was guilty of coveting..
The greatest curiosity is the water-works, which are perhaps unequalled in the world. The Giant's Castle on the summit contains an immense tank in which water is kept for the purpose; but unfortunately, at the time I was there, the pipes, which had been frozen through the winter, were not in condition to play. From the summit an inclined plane of masonry descends the mountain nine hundred feet, broken every one hundred and fifty 'feet by perpendicular descents. These are the Cascades, down which the water first rushes from the tank. After being again collected in a great basin at the bottom, it passes into an aqueduct, built like a Roman ruin, and goes over beautiful arches through the forest, where it falls into one sheet down a deep precipice. When it has descended several other beautiful falls, made in exact imitation of nature, it is finally collected and forms the great fountain, which rises twelve inches in diameter from the middle of a lake to the height of one hundred and ninety feet! Wedescended by lovely walks through the forest to the Lowenburg, built as the ruin of a knightly castle, and fitted out in every respect to correspond with descriptions of a fortress in the olden time, with moat, drawbridge, chapel and garden of pyramidal trees. Farther below, are a few small houses, inhabited by the descendants of the Hessians who fell in America, supported here at the Prince's expense !