it, we ought to have been sure enough. My horse reminded me of the reply
of the Somersetshire farmer, who, when he was asked if his horse was
steady, answered, "He be so steady that if he were a bit steadier he
would not go at all." Notwithstanding that we moved like hay-stacks, and
the cavalcade seemed to be treading on one another's heels, yet,
ridiculous to say, we got separated from our baggage. Darkness set in,
and with it a cold drizzling rain - not an animated storm that braces
your nerves, but a quiet soaking rain, the sort of thing that takes the
starch out of one's moral nature.
All at once I was aroused from my apathy by a shout from the front
calling out to the cavalcade to halt. I must observe a fellow on foot
was leading the way in quality of guide. A pretty sort of a guide he
turned out to be. He had led us quite wrong, and in fact found all of a
sudden that he was on the verge of a precipice!
There was a good deal of unparliamentary language, expressed in tones
both loud and deep. It was an act of unwisdom, however, to stop there in
a heap on the grassy slope of a precipice, swearing in chorus at the
poor devil of a Wallack. I turned my horse up the incline, resolved to
try back, hoping to regain the lost track. It was next to impossible to
halt, for we had not even got our plaids with us - everything was with
the baggage-horses. Of course "some one had blundered." We all knew
that! The guide stuck to it to the last that "he had not exactly lost
his way." The fellow was incapable of a suggestion, and would have stood
there arguing till doomsday if we had not sent him off with a sharp
injunction to find some shepherds, and that quickly, who could take us
to the rendezvous. Being summer time, there would be many shepherds
about in different places on the Alpen, and the Wallack could hardly
fail to encounter some herdkeeper before long.
We waited, as agreed, on the same spot nearly an hour, and then we heard
a great shouting to the right of us. This was the guide, who I believe
must have been born utterly without the organ of locality. He had found
some shepherds, he told us subsequently, not long after he had left us,
but then the fool of a fellow could not find his way back to us, to the
spot where we agreed to wait for him. There was a great deal of shouting
before we could bring him to our bearings: the fog muffled the sound,
adding to the perplexity.
The shepherds now took us in tow. We had to go back some distance, and
then make a sharp descent to the right, which brought us to the
rendezvous, and we effected at last a junction with our lost luggage.
Arriving at the hut, which had been previously built for us, we were
delighted to find a meal already prepared; it was in fact a very
elaborate supper, but I think we were all too exhausted to appreciate
the details. I know I was very glad to wrap my plaid round me and
stretch myself on the floor.
The next morning we were up with the first streak of dawn. It was with
some curiosity that I looked round at our impromptu dwelling and its
surroundings, upon which we had descended in total obscurity the night
before. The position of our camping-place was not badly chosen; we were
just within the girdle of forest above which rises the grassy Alpen.
About forty yards to the left or north-east of us was a small stream,
the boundary, it seems, between the Banat and Transylvania. We were
provided with two necessaries of life, wood and water, close at hand.
The hut, however, was more picturesque than practical, as subsequent
events proved. The Wallacks had constructed it by driving two strong
posts into the ground about ten yards apart. A tree was placed across,
with a couple of smaller supports, and on this was made on a rough
framework a sloping roof to the windward side. The roofing consisted
entirely of leaves: it is called in German _laubhÃ¼tte_, but is in fact
more of a parasol than an umbrella. I should have preferred a hut made
of bark, such as I have seen used by shepherds and sportsmen in Styria.
The interior of the hut had a droll appearance. Bacon, sausages,
meal-bags, and various other things were hanging from pegs fastened into
the supports of the roof; and the gear belonging to ten sportsmen were
stowed away somehow. The place might have passed for the head-centre of
a band of brigands.
The mountain on which we were encamped forms part of the western side of
a long valley, at the bottom of which, quite 2000 feet below us, is a
magnificent trout-stream. The sides of this valley are clothed with
dense forests, with broken cliffs obtruding in places. The height of the
Carpathians in this part of the range must not be taken as a gauge of
the scenery, which quite equals in grandeur the higher Alps in many
parts of Switzerland and the Tyrol. Comparisons are dangerous, for the
lovers of Switzerland will silence me with glaciers and eternal snow;
these advantages I must concede, still contending, however, for the
extreme beauty and wildness of the Southern Carpathians. The
characteristics of the scenery are due to the broken forms of the
crystalline rocks, the singular occurrence of sharp limestone ridges,
and the deep forest-clad valleys, traversed by mountain torrents, which
everywhere diversify the scene.
[Footnote 11: The Ibis, vol. v., 1875. The Birds of Transylvania. By
Messrs. Danford and Brown.]
Chamois and bear hunting - First battue - Luxurious dinner 5000 feet
above the sea-level - Storm in the night - Discomforts - The bear's
supper - The eagle's breakfast - Second and third day's
shooting - Baking a friend as a cure for fever - Striking camp - View
We started for our first battue in capital time, taking with us a crowd
of Wallack beaters. Our places were appointed to us by the director of
the hunt, and some of us had a stiffish climb before reaching the spot
indicated. At a right angle to this valley there protrudes one of those
characteristic limestone ridges; it terminates in an abrupt precipice or
declivity above the stream. My place was some half-way up, a good
position; for while I could see the course of the stream, I could
command a fair range of ground above me.
It was impossible not to take note of the exquisite beauty of the whole
scene, particularly as it then appeared. The sun breaking through the
clouds, threw his sharply-defined rays of light into the depths of the
misty defile, playing upon the foam of the water, and giving life and
colour to the hanging woods. I hardly took it in at the time, but rather
remembered the details afterwards; for my thoughts were occupied in
trying to judge the distance up to which I might fire with any chance of
success - distances are always very deceptive on the mountains.
I must observe that we hoped to get a shot at some bears, but the
chamois were the legitimate object of the hunt. The late autumn or early
winter is the best time for bear-hunting.
I had not been long at my post when I heard two shots in quick
succession fired below me. I found a chamois had been shot.
For our next battue we turned right-about face, the beaters coming from
the other side; but we had bad luck. One of our party saw a bear at some
distance, fired, and - missed it. The fact of a bear having been sighted
encouraged us in keeping up our battues pretty late, but nothing more
was shot that day. It was very disappointing, because if the bear was
thereabouts our numerous staff of beaters ought to have turned him up
again. Some of the party were altogether sceptical about a bear having
been seen at all. Of course the man who had fired held to the bear as if
it was the first article in his creed. The dissentients remarked that
"believing is seeing," as some one cleverly said of spiritualism. I
don't know whether it was better to think you had missed your bear or
had no bear to miss.
When we returned to the hut in the evening we found that a couple of men
left in charge had made some great improvements. The Wallacks, who are
sharp ready-handed fellows, to do them justice, had in our absence cut
down some trees, split them with wooden pegs, and constructed out of the
rough timber a long table and a couple of benches. These were placed in
front of our hut; the supper was spread, the table being lighted with
some four lanterns, supplemented by torches of resinous pine-wood.
The weather had been fair, though sport had been bad, so with a feeling
not "altogether sorrow-like" we sat down to a hearty good meal. One of
the dishes was chamois-liver, which is considered a great delicacy. We
had, indeed, several capital dishes, well dressed and served hot - a most
successful feast at 5000 feet above the sea-level. A vote of thanks was
proposed for the cook, and carried unanimously. The wines were
excellent. We had golden Mediasch, one of the best wines grown in
Transylvania, RoszamÃ¡ber from Karlsburg and Bakatar. The peculiarity
about the first-named wine is that it produces an agreeable pricking on
the tongue, called in German _tschirpsen_.
Before turning in we had a smoke, accompanied by tea with rum, the
invariable substitute for milk in Hungary.
As there were four big fires burning in the clearing outside the hut,
the whole scene was very bright and cheerful. The wood crackled briskly,
the flames lit up the green foliage, and the moving figures of our
attendants gave animation to the picture. Amongst ourselves there were a
few snatches of song, and from up the hill where the Wallacks were
camped came a chorus of not unmusical voices. One after another of our
party dropped off, betaking himself to his natural rest. I was not the
last, and must have slept as soon as I pulled the plaid over my ears,
for I remembered nothing more.
I daresay I slept two or three hours; it may have been more or less, I
don't know, but the next moment of consciousness, or semi-consciousness,
was an uneasy feeling that a thief was trying to carry off a large tin
bath that belonged to me, in my dream. As he dragged it away it seemed
to me that he bumped it with all his might, making a horrible row.
Meanwhile, oppressed by nightmare, I could not budge an inch nor utter a
cry, though I would have given the world to stop the thief. I daresay
this nonsense of my dream occupied but an instant of time. I woke to the
consciousness of a loud peal of thunder. "We are in for a storm,"
thought I, turning drowsily on my other side, not yet much awake to the
There was no sleep for me, however. The rest of the party were, one and
all, up and moving about; and the noise of the storm also increased - the
flashes of lightning were blinding, and the crash of the thunder was
almost simultaneous. Through the open side of our hut I could see and
hear the rain descending in torrents; fortunately it did not beat in,
but it was not long before the wet penetrated the roof - that roof of
leaves that I had mentally condemned the day before. After the rain once
came through, the ground was soon soaking.
It was a dismal scene. I sat up with the others, "the lanterns dimly
burning," and occupied myself for some time contriving gurgoyles at
different angles of my body, but the wet would trickle down my neck.
We made a small fire inside the hut, essaying thereby to dry some of our
things. My socks were soaking; my boots, I found, had a considerable
storage of water; the only dry thing was my throat, made dry by
swallowing the wood-smoke. A more complete transformation scene could
hardly be imagined than our present woeful guise compared with the
merriment of the supper-table, where all was song and jollity.
A German, who was sitting on the same log with myself, looking the
picture of misery, had been one of the most jovial songsters of the
"Thousand devils!" said he, "you could wring me like a rag. This
abominable hut is a sponge - a mere reservoir of water."
"Oh, well, it is all part of the fun," said I, turning the water out of
my boots, and proceeding to toast my socks by the fire on the thorns of
a twig. "Suppose we sing a song. What shall it be? - 'The meeting of the
I had intended a mild joke, but the Teuton relapsed into grim silence.
The storm after a while appeared to be rolling off. The thunder-claps
were not so immediately over our heads, and the flashes of lightning
were less frequent; in fact a perfect lull existed for a short space of
time, marking the passage probably to an oppositely electrified zone of
the thunder-cloud. During this brief lull we were startled by hearing
all at once a frightful yelling from the quarter where the Wallacks were
camping, a little higher up than our hut.
Amidst the general hullabaloo of dogs barking and men shouting we at
last distinguished the cry of "Ursa, ursa!" which is Wallachian for
bear. Our camp became the scene of the most tremendous excitement;
everybody rushed out, but in the thick darkness it was impossible to
pursue the bear. The more experienced sportsmen were not so eager to
sally out after the bear, as they were anxious to prevent a stampede of
the horses. When the latter were secured as well as circumstances would
permit, a few guns were fired off to warn the bear, and then there was
nothing for it but to watch and wait. The dogs went on barking for more
than an hour, but otherwise the camp relapsed into stillness. I spent
the remainder of the night sitting on a log before the fire, smoking my
pipe with the bowl downwards, for the rain had never ceased, and clouds
of steam rose from our camp-fires. The fear was that the powder would
get wet. I must have dropped off my perch asleep, for I picked myself up
the next morning out of a pool of water. It was already dawn, and
looking eastward I saw a streak of light beneath a dark curtain of
cloud, like the gleam on the edge of a sword, so sharp and defined was
it. This was hopeful; it had ceased raining too, and a brisk wind came
up the valley.
There was plenty to be done, in drying our clothes and preparing
breakfast under difficulties. In the midst of this bustle a Wallack came
in to tell us that the bear had really got into the camp in the night,
and that he had killed and partly eaten one of the horses. This
confirmed the fact that the bear had been sighted by one of our party
the day before; though we missed him, he had had his supper, and we were
minus a horse.
I followed the Wallack a few steps up the hill, and there, not far off,
on a knoll to the left, lay the carcass of the horse. It was a strange
sight! Crowds of eagles, vultures, and carrion-crows were already
feasting on the remains. Every moment almost, fresh birds came swooping
down to their savage breakfast. Bears do not always eat flesh; but it
seems when once tasted, they have a liking for it, and cease to be
vegetarians. A simple-minded bear delights in maize, honey, wild apples
Our guns required a good deal of cleaning before we were ready to start
for the second day's sport.
The result of the battues were not satisfactory. A fine buck was shot,
and two or three chamois were bagged. We sighted no less than three
bears, but they all broke through the line, and got off into the lower
valleys. The provoking thing was that the bear or bears came again to
our camp the second night; but they were able to do no mischief this
time. The horses were kept better together, and the dogs scared the
intruders from close quarters I imagine. Fires certainly do not frighten
the bear in districts where they get accustomed to the shepherds'
The third day of our shooting the weather was good, but we had no sport
at all. I believe we should have done better with a different set of
beaters, and this opinion was shared by several of our party. The
_FÃ¶rstmeister_ had made a mistake in choosing men from the villages in
the plain, instead of getting some of the hill shepherds, who know the
mountains thoroughly well, and are not afraid of a bear when they see
one. Some of our beaters were funky, I believe, and gave the bear a wide
berth I feel sure, otherwise we must have had better sport.
During the evening of the third day F - - got a bad attack of fever, the
intermittent fever common in all the Danubian Provinces. After supper
the rain came on again, not violently, but enough to make everything
very damp. I felt that under the circumstances the hut was a very bad
place for him, so I cast about to see what I could do. As good-luck
would have it, not very far off I discovered a horizontal fissure in the
cliff, a sort of wide slit caused by one rock overhanging another ledge.
It was fortunately sheltered from the wind, and promised to suit my
purpose very well.
I collected a pile of sticks and firewood, thrust them blazing into the
cavity, and fed the fire till the rocks were fit to crack with the heat.
I remembered having seen cottagers heat their ovens in this way in
Somersetshire. I now raked out the fire and all the mortuary remains of
insects, and then laid down a plaid thrice doubled for softness. Having
done this, I seized upon my friend, weak and prostrate as he was, and
shoved him into his oven like a batch of bread. I had previously given
him a big dose of quinine (without which medicine I never travel in
these parts), and now I set to work rubbing him, for he was really very
bad indeed. In ten minutes or so F - - became warm as a toast. The
terrible shivering was stopped, so my plan of baking was succeeding
capitally. It is true he complained a little of one shoulder being
rather overdone, but that was nothing. The vigorous rubbing was of great
service also. I remembered the saying, "Whatever is worth doing at all
is worth doing well," so I rubbed my patient with a will. He objected
rather, but he was too weak to make any resistance, so I rubbed on. I
knew it would do him good in the end; so it did - I cured him. I think,
however, the cure was mainly due to the baking!
After I had satisfied myself that my friend was going on well, I
arranged our waterproofs in front of the opening like curtains; and then
I turned in myself, for there was room for me too in the oven. The rain
descended pretty heavily in the night, but we slept well; and my patient
presented a most creditable appearance in the morning.
On the fourth day some of our party bagged a few chamois, but the
incidents of the day were in no way remarkable. At night F - - and I
returned to our cave. The others had dubbed it the "HÃ´tel d'Angleterre."
Considering the capability we had of warming-up, our quarters were not
The succeeding morning it was settled that we should strike our camp and
move on to a fresh place. The beaters were sent back, for they were not
a bit of good. Some of the party also left, amongst them my German
friend. I do not think he will ever join a bear-hunt again, and his
departure did not surprise us. After leaving our late quarters we rode
for some hours along a singular ridge, so narrow at places as to leave
little more than the width of the sheep-track on the actual summit. This
ridge, more or less precipitous, rises above the zone of forest, and is
covered with short thick grass. We passed, I should think, thirty flocks
of sheep at different times, attended by the wild-looking Wallacks and
their fierce dogs.
We made a halt in the middle of the day, but the rain was coming down,
and we were glad to be soon off again.
In the afternoon we got over into the Roumanian side of the frontier.
The lofty limestone ridge of which I have spoken is in fact the
boundary-line at this part. We were at an elevation of about 6000 feet,
judging from the heights above us, when suddenly, or almost suddenly,
the clouds were lifted which hitherto had enveloped us. It was like
drawing up the curtain of a theatre. I never remember to have seen
anything so striking as this sudden revealing of the fair world at our
feet, bathed in glowing sunlight. We beheld the plains of Roumania far
away stretched as a map beneath us; there, though one cannot discern it,
the swift Aluta joins the Danube opposite Nicopolis; and there, within
range of the glass, are the white mosques of Widdin in Bulgaria. We
looked right down into Little Wallachia, where woods, rocks, and streams
are tumbled about pellmell in a picturesque but unsettled sort of way.
The very locality we were traversing is the part where the
salt-smugglers used to carry on their trade, and many a sharp encounter
has been fought here between them and the soldiers. This is now a thing
of the past, since Roumania has also introduced a salt monopoly.
We were treated to this glorious view for little more than half an hour;
the clouds then enveloped us again, and blotted out that fair world,
with all its brightness, as if it were not. A strong wind blew up from
the north, bringing with it a storm of rain and sleet which chilled us
to the bones. The horses went slower and slower. Including the noonday
halt, we had been ten hours in the saddle, and men and horses had had
pretty well enough. I never recollect a colder ride.
We encamped that night in the forest. I looked out for another rock
oven, and found one not otherwise unsuitable for shelter; but
unfortunately this time the opening was to the windward side, so it was
useless for our purpose. It was a good thing F - - did not have a return
of his fever here, for we had to pass the night very indifferently.
The next morning the weather continued so persistently bad in the
mountains that we voted the "hunt" at an end, and made the best of our
way towards Mehadia, from which place we were in fact not so very
distant. The descent was very rapid; at first through a thick forest,
then into the open valley, where the heat became intense. The change of
temperature was very striking.
Back at Mehadia - Troubles about a carriage - An unexpected night on
the road - Return to Karansebes - On horseback through the Iron Gate
Pass - Varhely, the ancient capital of Dacia - Roman remains - Beauty
of the Hatszeg Valley.
After a week of such weather as we had had in the mountains, a
water-tight roof over one's head was in itself a luxury; so we were not
inclined to quarrel with our quarters at the hotel at Mehadia, had they
been even less good than they were.
F - - and I wished the next day to get back to Karansebes; he had left
his carriage, and I my Servian horse. A Hungarian gentleman, one of the
late expedition, said he would arrange to have a _vorspann_, if we would
join him, as he also wanted to go there. This well-understood plan
insures to the traveller relays of horses, and we were only too glad to
acquiesce in the prospect of making the journey pleasantly and quickly.
The driver who was to take us the first stage came in and asked for a
florin to get some oats for his horses. Very foolishly I gave him the
money, nothing doubting; and off he went to spend it on _slivovitz_,
the result being that he was soon drunk and incapable. If we had
realised the fact at once it might have been better, but we waited and
waited, not knowing for a long time what had happened. This upset all
our _vorspann_ arrangements, and to our great disgust the best part of
the day was wasted in seeking another vehicle and horses to take us to
Karansebes. At last we succeeded in obtaining a lumbering sort of
covered conveyance, whose speed we doubted from the first; but the
owner, who was to drive us, declared he would get us to our journey's
end in an incredibly short space of time.
We took care to give no _pourboire_ in advance; but what with the
inevitable dilatoriness of the people down in these parts, it was after
seven o'clock before we left the Hercules-Bad, and we had fifty miles to
Not even the ten hours of undisturbed consecutive repose in the downy
bed at the Mehadia hotel had made up the deficiency of sleep during the
foregoing week, and drowsiness overcame us. I think we must have had a
couple of hours of monotonous jog-trot on the fairly level road when I
fell asleep, and I suppose my companions did the same.
I must have slept long and profoundly, for when I woke, pulling myself
together with some difficulty, having slept in the form of a doubled-up
zigzag, I found it was daylight. I was surprised that we were not
moving; I rubbed my eyes, and looked out at the back of the cart, and
there I saw a round tower on a slight eminence, encircled by a belt of
fir-wood, the very counterpart of a pretty bit of scenery I had noticed
in the twilight. I looked again, and sure enough it was just the tower