Through Wurtemberg To Heidelberg
( Originally Published 1889 )
We left Munich in the morning train for Augsburg. Between the two cities extends a vast unbroken plain, exceedingly barren and monotonous. Here and there is a little scrubby wood-land, and sometimes we passed over a muddy stream which came down from the Alps. The land is not more than half-cultivated, and the villages are small and poor. We saw many of the peasants at their stations, in their gay Sunday dresses; the women wore short gowns with laced boddices, of gay colors, and little . caps on the top of their heads, with streamers of ribbons three feet long. After two hours' ride, we saw the tall towers of Augsburg, and alighted on the-outside of the wall. The deep moat which sur-rounds the city, is all grown over with velvet turf, the towers and bastions are empty and desolate, and we passed unchallenged under the gloomy archway. Immediately on entering the city, signs of its ancient splendor are apparent. The houses are old, many of them with quaint, elaborately carved ornaments, and often covered with fresco paintings. These generally rep resent some scene from the Bible history, encircled with arabesque borders, and pious maxims in illuminated scrolls. We went into the old Rathhaus, whose golden hall still speaks of the days of Augsburg's pride. I saw in the basement a bronze eagle, weighing sixteen tons, with an inscription on the pedestal stating that it was cast in 1606, and formerly stood on the top of an old public building, since torn down. In front of the Rathhaus is a fine bronze fountain, with a number of figures of angels and tritons.
The same afternoon, we left Augsburg for Ulm. Long, low ranges of hills, running from the Danube, stretched far across the country, and between them lay many rich, green valleys. We passed, occasionally, large villages, perhaps as old as the times of the crusaders, and looking quite pastoral and romantic from the outside; but we were always glad when we had, gone through them and into the clean country Again. The afternoon of the second day we came in sight of the fertile plain of the Danube; far, far to the right lay the field of Blenheim, where Marlborough and the Prince Eugene conquered the united French and Bavarian forces and decided the war of the Spanish succession.
We determined to reach Ulm the same evening, although a heavy storm was raging along the distant hills of Wurtemberg. The dark mass of the mighty Cathedral rose in the distance through the twilight, a perfect mountain in comparison with the little houses clustered around its base. We reached New Ulm, finally, and passed over the heavy wooden bridge into Wurtemberg, unchallenged for passport or baggage. I thought I could feel a difference in the atmosphere when I reached the other side-it breathed of the freer spirit that ruled through thé land. The Danube is here a little muddy stream, hardly as large as my native Brandywine, and a traveller who sees it at Ulm for the first time would most probably be disappointed. It is not until below Vienna, where it receives the Drave and Save, that it becomes a river of more than ordinary magnitude.
We entered Ulm, as I have already said. It was after nine o'clock, nearly dark, and beginning to rain ; we had walked thirty-three miles, and being of course tired, we entered the first inn we saw. But, to our consternation, it was impossible to get a place-the fair had just commenced; and the inn was full to the roof. We must needs hunt another, and then another, and yet another, with like fate at each. It grew quite dark, the rain increased, and we were unacquainted with the city. I grew desperate, and at last, when we had stopped at the eighth inn in vain, I told the people we must have lodgings, for it was impossible we should walk around in the rain all night. Some of the guests interfering in our favor, the hostess finally sent a servant with us to the first hotel in the city. I told him on the way we were Americans, strangers in Ulm, and not accustomed to sleeping in the streets. " Well," said he, "I will go before, and recommend you to the landlord of the Golden Wheel." I knew not what magic he used, but in half an hour our weary limbs were stretched in delightful repose and we thanked Heaven more gratefully than ever before, for the blessing of a good bed.
Next morning we ran about through the booths of the fair, and gazed up from all sides at the vast Cathedral. The style is the simplest and grandest Gothic; but the tower, which, to harmonize with the body of the church, should be 520 feet high, was left unfinished at the height of 234 feet. I could not enough admire the grandeur of proportion in the great building.
It seemed singular that the little race of animals who swarmed around its base, should have the power to conceive or execute such a gigantic work.
There is an immense fortification now in progress of erection behind Ulm. It leans on the side of the hill which rises from the Danube, and must be nearly a mile in length. Hundreds of laborers are at work, and from the appearance of the foundations, many years will be required to finish it. The lofty mountain-plain which we afterwards passed over, for eight or ten miles, divides the waters of the Danube from the Rhine. From the heights above Ulm, we bade adieu to the far, misty Alps, till we shall see them again in Switzerland. Late in the afternoon, we came to a lovely green valley sunk as it were in the earth. Around us, on all sides, stretched the bare, lofty plains; but the valley lay below, its steep sides covered with the richest forest. At the bottom flowed the Fils. Our road led directly down the side; the glen spread out broader as we advanced, and smiling villages stood be-side the stream. A short distance before reaching Esslingen, we came upon the banks of the Neckar, whom we hailed as an old acquaintance, although much smaller here in his mountain home than when he sweeps the walls of Heidelberg.
Delightful Wurtemberg! Shall I ever forget thy lovely green vales, watered by the classic current of the Neckar, or thy lofty hills covered with vineyards and waving forests, and crowned with heavy ruins, that tell many a tale of Barbarossa and Duke Ulric and Goetz with the Iron Hand! No-were even the Suabian hills less beautiful-were the Suabian people less faithful and kind and true, still I would love the land for the great spirits it has produced; still would the birth-place of Frederick Schiller, of Uhland and Hauff, be sacred. I do not wonder Wurtemberg can boast such glorious poets. Its lovely landscapes seem to have been made expressly for the cradle of genius ; amid no other scenes could his infant mind catch a more benign inspiration. Even the common people are deeply imbued with a poetic feeling. We saw it in their friendly greetings and open, expressive countenances; it is shown in their love for their beautful homes and the rapture and reverence with which they speak of their country's bards. No river in the world, equal to the Neckar in size, flows for its whole course through more delightful scenery, or among kinder and happier people.
After leaving Esslingen, we followed its banks for some time, at the foot of an amphitheatre of hills, covered to the very summit, as far as the eye could reach, with vineyards. The morning was cloudy, and white mist-wreaths hung along the sides. We took a road that led over the top of a range, and on arriving at the summit, saw all at once the city of Stuttgard, lying beneath our feet. It lay in a basin encircled by mountains, with a narrow valley opening to the south-east, and running off between the hills to the Neckar. The situation of the city is one of wonderful beauty, and even after seeing Salzburg, I could not but be charmed with it.
We descended the mountain and entered it. I inquired immediately for the monument of Schiller, for there was little else in the city I cared to see. We had become tired of running about cities, hunting this or that old church or palace, which perhaps was nothing when found. Stuttgard has neither galleries, ruins, nor splendid buildings, to interest the traveller; but it has Thorwaldsen's statue of Schiller, calling up at the same time its shame and its glory. For the poet in his youth was obliged to fly from this very same city-from home and friends, to escape the persecution of the government on account of the free sentiments expressed in his early works. We found the statue, without much difficulty. It stands in the Schloss Platz, at the southern end of the city, in an unfavorable situation, surrounded by dark old buildings. It should rather be planed aloft on a mountain summit, in the pure, free air of heaven, braving the storm and the tern= pest. The figure is fourteen feet high and stands on a pedestal of bronze, with bas-reliefs on the four sides. The head, crowned with a laurel wreath, is inclined as if in deep thought, and all the earnest soul is seen in the countenance. Thorwaldsen has copied so truly the expression of poetic reverie, that I waited, half-expecting he would raise his head and look around him.
As we passed out the eastern gate, the work-men were busy near the city, making an embankment for the new railroad to Heilbroun, and we were obliged to wade through half a mile of mud. Finally the road turned to the left over a mountain, and we walked on in the rain, regardless of the touching entreaties of an omnibus-driver, who felt a great concern for our health, especially as he had two empty seats. There is a peculiarly agreeable sensation in walking in a storm, when the winds sweep by and the rain-drops rattle through the trees and the dark clouds roll past just above one's head. It gives a dash of sublimity to the most common scene. If the rain did not finally soak through the boots, and if one did not lose every romantic feeling in wet garments, I would prefer storm to sunshine, for visiting some kinds of scenery. You remember, we saw the North Coast of Ireland and the Giant's Causeway in stormy weather, at the expense of being completely drenched, it is true; but our recollections of that wild day's journey are as vivid as any event of our lives-and the name of the Giant's Causeway calls up a series of pictures as terribly sublime as any we would wish to behold.
The rain at last did come down a little too hard for comfort, and we were quite willing to take shelter when we reached Ludwigsburg. This is here called a new city, having been laid out with broad streets and spacious squares, about a century ago, and is now about the size of our five-year old city of Milwaukee ! It is the chief military station of Wurtemberg, and has a splendid castle and gardens, belonging to the king. A few miles to the eastward is the little village where Schiller was born. It is said the house where his parents lived is still standing.
It was not the weather alone, which prevented our making a pilgrimage to it, nor was it alone a peculiar fondness for rain which induced us to persist in walking in the storm. Our feeble pockets, if they could have raised an audible jingle, would have told another tale. Our scanty allowance was dwindling rapidly away, in spite of a desperate system of economy. We left Ulm with a florin and a half apiece-about sixty cents-to walk to Heibelberg, a distance of 110 miles. It was the evening of the third day, and this was almost exhausted: As soon therefore as the rain slackened a little, we started again, although the roads were very bad. At Betigheim, where we passed the night, the people told us of a much nearer and more beautiful road, passing through the Zabergau, a region famed for its fertility and pastoral beauty. At the inn we were charged higher than usual for a bed, so that we. had but thirteen kreutzers to start with in the morning. Our fare that day was a little bread and water; we walked steadily on, but owing to the wet roads, made only thirty miles.
A more delightful region than the Zabergau I have seldom passed through. The fields were full of rich, heavy grain, and the trees had a luxuriance of foliage that reminded me of the vale of the Jed, in Scotland. Without a single hedge or fence, stood the long sweep of hills, covered with waving fields of grain, except where they were steep and rocky, and the vineyard terraces rose one above another. Sometimes a fine old forest grew along the summit, like a mane waving back from the curved neck of a steed, and white villages lay coiled in the valleys between. A line of blue mountains always closed the vista, on looking down one of these long valleys; occasionally a ruined castle with donjon tower, was seen on a, mountain at the side, making the picture complete. As we lay sometimes on the hillside and looked on one of those sweet vales, we were astonished at its Arcadian beauty. The meadows were as smooth as a mirror, and there seemed to be scarcely a grass-blade out of place. The streams wound through ("snaked themselves through," is the German expression,) with a subdued ripple, as if they feared to displace a pebble, and the great ash trees which stood here and there, had lined each of their leaves as carefully with silver and turned them as gracefully to the wind, as if they were making their toilets for the gala-day of nature.
That evening brought us into the dominions of Baden, within five hours' walk of Heidelberg. At the humblest inn in an humble village, we found a bed which we could barely pay for, leaving a kreutzer or two for breakfast. Soon after starting the next morning, the distant Kaiserstuhl suddenly emerged from the mist, with the high tower on its summit, where nearly ten months before, we sat and looked at the summits of the Vosges in France, with all the excitement one feels on entering a foreign land. Now, the scenery around that same Kaiserstuhl was nearly as familiar to us as that of our own homes. Entering the hills again, we knew by the blue mountains of the Odenwald, that we were approaching the Neckar. At length we reached the last height. The town of Neckargemünd lay before us on the steep hillside, and the mountains on either side were scarred with quarries of the rich red sandstone, so much used in building. The blocks are hewn out, high up on the mountain side, and then sent rolling and sliding. down to the river, where they are laden in boats and floated down with the current to the distant cities of the Rhine.
We were rejoiced on turning around the corner of a mountain, to see on the opposite side of the river, the road winding up through the forests, where last fall our Heidelberg friends accompanied us, as we set out to walk to Frank fort, through the Odenwald. Many causes combined to render it a glad scene to us. We were going to meet our comrade again, after a separation of months ; we were bringing an eventful journey to its close; and finally, we were weak and worn out from fasting and the labor of walking in the rain. A little further we saw Kloster Neuburg, formerly an old convent, and remembered how we used to look at it every day from the windows of our room on the Neckar ; but we shouted aloud, when we saw at last the well-known bridge spanning the river, and the glorious old castle lifting its shattered towers from the side ,of the mountain above us. I always felt a strong attachment to this matchless ruin, and as I beheld it again, with the warm sun-shine falling through each broken arch, the wild ivy draping its desolate chambers, it seemed to smile on me like the face of a friend, and I confessed I had seen many a grander scene, but few that would cling to the memory so familiarly.
While we were in Heidelberg, a student was buried by torchlight. This is done when particular honor is shown to the memory of the departed brother. They assembled at dark in the University Square, each with a blazing pine torch three feet long, and formed into a double line. Between the files walked at short distances an officer, who, with his sword, broad lace collar, and the black and white plumes in his cap, looked like a cavalier. of the olden time. Persons with torches walked on each side of the hearse, and the band played a lament so deeply mournful, that the scene, notwithstanding its singularity, was very sad and touching. The thick smoke from the torches filled the air, and a lurid, red light was cast over the hushed crowds in the streets and streamed into the dark 'alleys. The Hauptstrasse was filled with two lines of flame, as the procession passed down it ; when they reached the extremity of the city, the hearse went on, attended with torch-bearers, to the Cemetery, some distance further, and the students turned back, running and whirling their torches in mingled confusion. The music struck up a merry march, and in the smoke and red glare, they looked like a company of mad demons. The presence of death awed them to silence for awhile, but as soon as it had left them, they turned relieved to revel again and thought no more of the lesson. It gave me a painful feeling to see them rushing so wildly and disorderly back. They assembled again in the square, and tossing their torches up into the air cast them blazing into a pile while the flame and black smoke rose in a column into the air, they sang in solemn chorus, the song `,`Gaudeamüs igitur," with which they close all public assemblies.
I shall neglect telling how we left Heidelberg, and walked along the Bergstrasse again, for the sixth time; how we passed the old Melibochus
and through the quiet city of Darmstadt; how we watched the blue summits of the Taunus rising higher and higher over the plain, as a new land rises from the sea, and finally, how we reached at last the old watch-tower and looked down on the valley of the Main, clothed in the bloom and verdure of summer, with the houses and spires of Frankfort in the middle of the well-known panorama. We again took possession of our old rooms, and having to wait for a remittance from America, as well as a more suitable season for visiting Italy, we sat down to a month's rest and study.