G. G. (George Gordon) Coulton.

Father Rhine online

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SAN DIEGO



FATHER RHINE



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{To
H. V. E. S.

TO WHOM BOOK AND AUTHOR OWE SO MUCH



PREFACE

The following pages are intended to show
how much can be done and seen in three
weeks for twelve pounds. We started
from London on the night of August l,
and were due back in England on the
morning of the 20th ; but within this short
space we were able to get to the very
source of the Rhine and back, mostly by
boat and bicycle. Nor did our economy
compel us, as a pessimistic friend sug-
gested, to live on sausage and sauerkraut,
and sleep one night at the " Hotel Norfolk
Howard,'' and the next at the " Grosser
Floh " or the " Bacillus von Deutschland."
Our quarters, however modest, were always
clean, and generally very roomy : our food
was plentiful and good.

Here and there I have altered names and
incidents for discretion's sake, and here and
there the reader's own judgment may sug-
gest a pinch of salt ; but I have kept faith-
fully all through to my main purpose of
giving a just impression of a Bohemian tour
on the Rhine — its charms and varied chances,
the beauty of the river, and the good nature



viii PREFACE

of the people. I have passed quickly over
such well-known places as Cologne and
Heidelberg, to describe more fully other
spots which are still less known than they
deserve.

There will be found in the Appendix a
fairly complete list of distances and ex-
penses, with a few other practical hints for
the journey.



FATHER RHINE



CHAPTER I

" Nil ego praetulerim jucundo sanus amico."
— Horace,

On the night of the 1st of August 1898,
two cloaked horsemen might have been
seen on the platform of the Parkeston
Quay Station, speaking in commanding
tones to the knaves and varlets who
pressed obsequiously round them, and
exhorting these rapscallions, under peril
of their ears, to see the iron steeds safe
on board the boat for Rotterdam. The
taller of the two, who twists half a dozen
links from the heavy gold chain round his
neck, and casts them among the rabble —
forgive me, dear reader ; this strain is
above me : I took them out of my right-
hand pocket, and they were only coppers ;
but the porters, if not slavishly deferential,
were at least civil and handy, and our
machines were soon on board. Let me
introduce you now to my travelling com«
panion and old college friend.

A *



2 FATHER RHINE

Henry Schultz has nothing German
about him but his name (and on this
occasion, I must add, his straw hat). An
accompUshed mathematician, he is also
familiar with the noblest poets, orators,
and historians of antiquity, and more
especially with such portions of them as
are commonly set for a Pass Degree at
either university. French he will talk you
classically, if not fluently ; but he never
could bend his tongue to the rough Teutonic
idiom, any more than Mrs Battle could
condescend to the ignoble phraseology of
cribbage. A cricketer of fame (was not I
myself present some ten years ago, when
a public-school boy at the Cologne table
d'hote asked him whether he was the
Schultz, and quite forgot the rest of his
ice pudding on receiving an affirmative
ansver !) ; a golfer of almost equal profi-
ciency ; a painfully energetic cyclist, as in
due time you shall see — these are but a
few of his superficial accomplishments, for
I make no attempt here to catalogue his
genuine virtues. You will understand now
why I chose this motto for my first chap-
ter ; for you doubtless remember, dear
reader, that it is with reference to his own
little tour with Virgil and Maecenas that
Horace tells us he knows nothing like an
old friend — a sentiment which will be
heartily echoed by all who have tried



FATHER RHINE 3

travelling in the same way — uncondition-
ally by the single, and by the married with
all proper marital reservations.

Our plan this time is ambitious — no less
than to trace and retrace the whole course
of the Rhine within the only eighteen clear
days we have at our disposal. We knew
it must needs be a great rush, but the idea
had fascinated us ; we felt that even this
dizzy succession of changing scenes would
have a charm of its own, and that thus, in
some ways, we should learn more of the
characteristics and contrasts of land and
people by a plan which enabled us to see
it all, as it were, at one sweeping glance.
Nearly all of the route we had already seen
in detail at other times ; the rest we knew
by books ; and in these eighteen days we
hoped rapidly to skim the cream of it all.
That in this we succeeded to our own
complete satisfaction, is my best excuse
for publishing an account of our tour as a
guide for future tourists. We ourselves
spent eighteen days of bliss, only so far
alloyed as to give it the necessary human
consistency. Yet, among one's later
memories of even the happiest holiday,
few things stand out in brighter colours
than those first moments of anticipation ;
and few men ever started with more con-
fident hopes of enjoyment than we, as the
ship ploughed her way through the tran-



4 FATHER RHINE

quil starlit sea ; and we sat recalling
memories of former holidays until prudence
warned us to go below and snatch that some-
what unquiet sleep, which is the most that
mortals dare hope for, even on the most
unruffled passage.



CHAPTER II

" Now the world is all before us,"

Aug. 2, 1898.
The Hook of Holland : six o'clock on a
brilliant morning : a calm passage behind
us, and the whole Continent before us !
Not even twenty years ago, when we first
travelled together in our undergraduate
days, did the world seem fresher to us,
or fuller of pleasant surprises. Here is
the well-ordered little station, with every-
thing as trim and as Dutch as can be, built
and arranged for our exclusive use who
have come over in the Great Eastern boat:
here are the two trains snorting with im-
patience, ready to hurry us off to Hanover
or Cologne at our choice — nay, even to
Switzerland, if w^e care to make our way
into the through carriage for Bale : but we
don't care, for we are going to " do" the
Rhine by boat. However, for the moment
we must desert the river, for our time is
limited, and this morning we must catch
the Netherlands Steamship Co. boat which
starts from Rotterdam at seven. So we
creep rather reluctantly into the train ; and
I, for my part, cannot help looking wist-

5



6 FATHER RHINE

fully at the broad waters that come down
from Rotterdam, and thinking of the lazy
voyages I have made on their bosom in
days gone by, after all the perils of the
deep. And I see again that first cross-
ing, nineteen years ago — how we passed
a steamer that had been cast on the stone
bank, and how the big waves raced along
her sides, and swept her deck, and lifted
her and banged her down again on the
stones ; and how our own captain hove-to
outside the bar, and for ten mortal minutes
debated whether he dare risk to cross it,
or whether we must put back again and
pitch for a few hours more on the pitiless
sea that had tossed our souls out all that
night ; and how at last he risked it, and
we were soon in calm water, and gradually
the souls came back to our bodies ; and
presently three pale and haggard brothers
staggered ashore upon a heaving quay, and
crept wide-legged, sailor-fashion, along the
heaving pavement of the Hoogstraat, and
even partook with some appetite, at the
Hotel St Lucas, of veal chops which
bobbed up and down so erratically be-
fore our eyes that it seemed almost a
miracle when we picked a bit up on our
forks. How often since, in peril of the
deep, have I thought of that first crossing
in 1879, ^"*^ ^^^^ ^^ myself, " o passi
graviora — "



FATHER RHINE 7

And then the last of all, on New Year's
morning, 1891, when the whole broad river
was a mass of floating ice, and the sun rose
like blood through hard lines of mist that
looked like a prison grating, until he
gradually burst the bars and flamed up
over the whole sky, and the thin threads
of clear water made a wonderful arabesque
of crimson and orange in and out of the
colder grey of the great ice-floes. And up
we pushed among it all, and jostled and
charged and splintered through the heavy
masses ; and at last, a mile or two from
Rotterdam, behold one huge floe that
stretched almost across the river ! Yet we
charged through it merrily enough at first,
but gradually the engines laboured more
and more heavily, and it seemed as though
the panting ship could hardly wag, and the
trees all but stood still on the bank ; and
then suddenly a great rending crack, and
the last hundred yards of the mass split in
front of our bows, and the engines galloped
on again, and I was able to catch my train
and skate all day in the sunshine among
the holiday-makers at Gouda, and reached
Emmerich at night, to find the river frost-
bound at last into a solid mass.

But that was in the old days, when there
was no cause for hurry ; to-day we must
press on to catch the Rhine boat. So we
get in, and take our morning coflee cold



S FATHER RHINE

in the train, with chunks of real English
holiday-cake, prepared by the same pro-
vident maternal hands that have stocked
so many school hampers in the old days.
We press a slice upon a youth in the
opposite corner, who had produced a small
dry bun from its paper bag ; he accepts
it coyly, but eats it with the appetite of
sixteen years. Upon my word, I have
the appetite of sixteen too ; give me
another chunk, and let me have another
pannikin of coffee with plenty of milk,
and I'll drink to the health of those who
provided us with both ! A German, our
other fellow-passenger, declines the cake,
but will not be outdone in politeness : he
offers us his one remaining peach out of
a basket of three. I declined, prudent
even in holiday time for my stomach's
sake and mine often infirmities ; but
Schultz accepted with frank alacrity, and
the German tried not to watch the juice
dripping out of the corners of his mouth,
as Sir P. Sidney must have turned his eyes
away from the cold water he had sacrificed.
Poor beggar, he was going to Cologne !

Meanwhile we had hurried over the flat,
fresh, dewy fields ; past Schiedam, girt
with its great ring of windmills that stand
and swing their arms on the ancient ram-
parts ; and now we come to Rotterdam,
and run for a few minutes level with the



FATHER RHINE 9

second stories of the houses, and see the
inmates as busy in their rooms as any
colony of working ants at the Crystal
Palace ; and then the market-place heaped
with cool green garden - produce, and
thronged with figures in the cleanest white
and blue linen : and here is the station,
and we must get out. A brief but bitter
struggle with the porters, who know just
enough English to be a nuisance to us ; and
now at last we are allowed to carry our
own modest luggage in peace to the boat.
In ten minutes we are there ; our luggage
is stowed in the cosy little cabin we had
written to engage ; and we are free to
stroll about the deck and take stock of our
fellow-passengers before the boat starts.
A double Dutch family — by which I mean
a grandmother with two daughters and two
sets of grandchildren — with English books
and magazines to read, and a healthy, pleas-
ant, English look about them all, (for we
are both insular enough to find no word of
greater praise in all our vocabulary) — a
honeymooning couple — a clergyman in
mufti with his wife — half a dozen second-
class passengers — ^just enough, in fact, to
give life to the boat, but with plenty of
elbow-room for us all.

Presently we cast loose from the quay,
and steamed out of Rotterdam in the same
steady sunshine 5 and the ship turned her



to FATHER RHINE

head south-eastward, and pounded up
stream, straight in the eye of the sun,
while we found a deHcious shady nook
for ourselves just in the stern, " with
seats for two but not for three," and a
little round table all to ourselves, and the
Netherland flag flapping lazily over our
heads, and the Rhine water swirhng away
almost at our feet. We brought out grapes,
packed up for us by kind sisterly fore-
thought ; we brought out cameras and
sketch-books and diaries ; the fragrant
pipe of morn was kindled, and a misan-
thropic-looking waiter brought us coffee
— how it must stir his bile to see our
childish enjoyment of the journey ! Men
came round our way, and looked, and de-
parted in envy of us : girls tripped round,
and looked, and tripped off again : the
honey-mooning couple mooned stealthily
round our corner, scenting out a nest for
themselves, and turned away quickly like the
rest, envying us in our little nook of Eden.
It is very pleasant to settle oneself into a
corner like this, when there is none other
so snug on board the whole ship ! We
were conscious that this quiet retreat had
been predestined for us from all eternity ;
it was for us, and us alone, that the good
ship was ploughing her way straight to-
wards the sun and the Alps, and the water
was dancing so merrily away from under



FATHER RHINE il

our feet, and the sparkling waves faded
into a thin white streak of foam that
seemed like the clue we were drawing
from England behind us. Dort with its
square-topped tower came and went, as
sleepy-looking as its name seems to imply ;
and the ship turned due east for a while
now ; but we lolled still in the shade,
thinking of that old sketch of John Leech's,
and heartily pitying " those pore nobs in
their kerridges, this 'ot weather." Those
whom we had left in the train at Rotter-
dam — where were they now ? That pros-
perous fat man, with several pounds of
gold chains and seals ; the whole flock
of liberated schoolmasters whom I had
watched into the Bale carriage, thinking
with momentary envy that they had seven
clear weeks of Switzerland before them —
where were they ? In what stifling heat !
what jar, what rattle, what dust, what em-
anations ! what shifts to get away from the
sun that yet beats pitilessly through the thin
curtain, and to make the most of the draught
that is so hot and dry at the best ! Our
own compassionate German of the juicy
peach, what would he give at this moment
for a drop of Pilsener to wet the tip of his
tongue .'' And we ? one word — one nod —
to the misanthropic waiter, and he would
bring us gallons ! But we don't even want
it J here are our grapes, our coflTee, our cool



12 FATHER RHINE

breeze down the broad Rhine ; and this is
the first day of our holiday, and everything
is as bright and new as a shilling straight
from the Bank. The Dutch family looks so
fresh home from the wash, as if it had
been laid up in lavender to be brought out
as an ornament for to-day. Bright flags
on all the masts, and from cottage win-
dows ; and it was almost with a sense of
disappointment that we learned this was in
honour of the Queen Regent's birthday,
and not merely to grace the river for our
journey.

Dort is far behind now, and we have
passed the waste of reedy waters, flecked
with white sails, that leads into Holland
Diep, and Haringvliet, and the vast mouths
of the greater Rhine. We no longer coast
under the lee of long islands, where our
swell careers in miniature breakers over
the tiny beach, or swishes among the
reeds, making them bow, and jerk up
again, and bow once more, as if they
enjoyed the fun. It is all one broad
channel now, and we are in the midst of
rural Holland. Little villages glide past
us on either hand, each with its little quay
on its own little creek, where the reeds
and purple loose-strife die away for a
moment, and leave a narrow inlet of
smooth water. The cottages all look
clean and well-to-do, mostly with white-



FATHER RHINE 13

washed walls and green shutters, and rich
red-tiled roofs. Here and there a better
house, shaded by verandahs of rose or
clematis, with a tiny lawn like a billiard-
table, and masses of geraniums, seen by
glimpses through the spick and span rail-
ings, and a tiny summer-house, like a
little thatched stable-lantern at the very
water's edge. And then neat little cot-
tages again, and blue and white linen hung
out to dry, with long-drawn reflections on
the oily stream ; girls that come down to
dip their pails into our Rhine ; one sturdy,
middle-aged woman striding down the
street with a bucket in each hand, and a
muslin cap on her head ; we pass almost
near enough to see the gold corkscrew
horns at her ears. Here again a ship-
wright's yard, with heavy old-world boats
on the stocks, and the air all alive with the
busy tapping of the caulkers' mallets ; a
foreman who has leisure to shout greetings
to the passing boats. And here, on the
river, are little steam-tugs that race us for
fun when they have no other work to do ;
crowds of sailing barges with their great
tanned sails; heavy lighters that have
brought down hewn stone from the Upper
Rhine, and are being towed back now with
Dutch goods on board; hay-boats big
enough to carry a whole stack like those
we see along the bank, under their queer



14 FATHER RHINE

movable bed-testers of thatch ; for by this
time the little village is growing small in
the distance, and we have flat green fields
full of lazy cows, almost as many wind-
mills as trees, and distant church towers
all round the horizon. But now another
creek, another village ; white and blue
linen again, and a formal Httle summer-
house, and masses of scarlet geraniums,
and the pleasant music of the caulkers'
mallets. Nay, even the same sturdy woman
with her two pails and her muslin cap — or
are we dreaming it all again ? for dreamily
it all passes through the blue wreaths from
our pipes, and time is only marked by the
ding-dong of our ship's bell, and the an-
swering bell over the water, that announce
at wide intervals the approach of some
landing-place. We bring out our chart to
convince ourselves of the reality of it all,
and pore over the queer old-world names :
Zaltbommel, with its strange group of
towers ; Lbvestein, whence Grotius was
smuggled out of prison in a chest by his
wife ; Gorcum facing Worcum across the
river ; Heukelum and Geliicum, just away
to the right ; and here some familiar string
is touched, and Schultz begins to hum, in
memory of college days : —

From Heukelum to (Jellicum is nineteen miles,
From Geliicum to Heukelum is nineteen miles, etc. etc.



i6 FATHER RHINE

and we feel to know now at last why the
absurd old refrain about Wimbledon and
Wombledon used always to be chosen for
a Dutch chorus in those convivial days
when Plancus was consul.



CHAPTER III

" This hill is dangerous : the cyclist is requested to
use all possible precautions."

Royal Netherlandish Cyclists" Union.

Lunch came in due time, and, after lunch,
Nymegen ; and as by this time it was three
o'clock, and we were sated with lotus-
eating, we made up our minds to leave the
boat for a while and ride through Cleve to
Emmerich. We photographed Nymegen
with all its towers as we came up to the
quay, and sighed to think of all the
colour that the camera would fail to
record — the rich crimsons and purples of
wall and roof, and the forest of gay
flags, and the fresh green woods that
clothe the hill behind the town. "We
found the old church in its rich late-
gothic brick courtyard, with elaborate
gateway of the same date : and then
we rode up through the town, and on by
a gradual ascent, through cool suburbs
and woods ; wondering at the neat villas
and chateaux whose gardens lay practically
open to the road •, pelted with so-called
confetti by a party of girls and men in a
char-a-bancs, who painfully resembled a



I8 FATHER RHINE

crew of English beanfeasters. A halt to
drink "spuitwater" at a wayside cottage
among the trees (it was plain unalcoholic
seltzer, and cost but one halfpenny a
bottle) : presently the crest of the hill,
with a large hotel in the wood by the
roadside, and crowds of gaily-dressed
patriots celebrating the Queen Regent's
birthday with other than spuitwater, and
the trees hung thick with paper lanterns
for the evening's dance ; and then the
road began to slope gently downwards,
still through cool woods. Presently the
trees thinned away, and we approached
the brow of something like a real hill ;
and here, to our surprise, we found this
startling red-and-yellow caution-board. I
interpreted this to Schultz, not a little
pleased in my heart to think how much
Dutch I knew, and how useful it might
be in an emergency. He needed no warn-
ing, for he rides a "Whippet" with a free
wheel and rim brakes, and can therefore
coast anywhere with his feet on the pedals;
but I was sufficiently impressed by the red-
and-yellow board to go on gingerly for the
next half mile, after which I realized how
matters stood, and rattled off half a dozen
Dutch place-names to relieve my feelings,
and put my feet up, and soon caught sight
of Schultz again at the bottom of a delicious
slope some mile and a half long. I have



FATHER RHINE 19

read since that Nymegen is the only place
in Holland (barring church towers) whence
a view is to be obtained ; so, as patriotism
no doubt dictates that there should be one
danger-board in Holland, that is plainly the
right place for it.

I, who belonged to no cycling associa-
tion, had my misgivings about the German
frontier, which we knew we were to cross
at a place called Wilde ; but, in fact, we
crossed it unawares, and were still looking
out for Wilde when we found ourselves at
Cranenburg, in undeniable German terri-
tory. Here we found a fine Gothic church
of brick and grey stone. On again over
level country, planted mainly with unripe
rye, and with oats that compared very un-
favourably with those I had seen between
Newmarket and Bury, enormous bushes of
wild chicory, with its hard, blue flowers,
among the roadside grass ; in front, a long
sandy ridge covered with fir-woods, at the
end of which we could already see the towers
of Cleve. Beyond, a distant fringe of trees
marked the course of the Rhine ; and the
two fine churches of Elten and Eltenburg
stood out behind, on the side and the summit
of a really respectable hill. Presently the
road ran for two or three miles through an
avenue of limes, still faintly fragrant with
the relics of their midsummer blossoms ;
and here we felt justified in stopping a



20 FATHER RHINE

few minutes for tea at a wayside garden-
restaurant, under the sign of *' All Heii ! "
— the German cyclist's password. Hence
we rode on, through delightful woods
again, to fashionable Cleve. At Cleve
we paused only to admire the so-called
Lohengrin's tower, and to photograph that
view of its reflection in the water which
looks so fascinating to the traveller by
night from Cologne to Rotterdam, And
then we started again, in the slanting
evening sunshine, for the Rhine ferry,
since we were anxious to get within sight
of Emmerich while there was still light for
the camera. The storks were already
flapping homewards for the night ; one
fine fellow got up almost at our feet,
dragging his legs lazily between us and
the great lazy sun ; but we could not get
our cameras out in time. Presently we
came among a network of old dykes,
marking the successive stages by which
the backwaters of the Rhine had been re-
claimed century by century ; then the
last bank of all, and half a mile of rolling
waters, and Emmerich, with its two fine
churches and its line of purple-brown
brick houses, on the other side. The
steam-ferry soon brought us across, and
landed us where the river almost washes
the buttresses of the minster, whose bell
had been calling to us all this while over



FATHER RHINE 21

,the waters, and bidding us make all speed
if we wished to see anything of the in-
terior. So we hurried under the old town
walls, now all overbuilt with houses, and
through the nearest river-gate ; then up
we tramped among a network of streets,
and across the ill-paved, tree-planted old
square, to the minster porch. But the
sleepy old town seemed as busy this even-
ing as Heine's phantom city, " alterthlimlich
niederlandisch," in the depths of the North
Sea. Here were the same ancient streets
of sober brick, and the square with its
formal trees, and the crowd of worship-
pers in faded old-world dress, hurrying to
the sound of the bells — a picture whose
low tones were relieved by the profusion
of snowy caps and collars, and the sunlight
that struck over the housetops and gilded
just one edge of the spire. We dared not


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