H. C. (Hans Christian) Andersen.

A poet's bazaar : a picturesque tour in Germany, Italy, Greece, and the Orient online

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sat on a bough, and soon ascended to the next. From thence
I could look over the walls, and see an entire side of a moun-
tain, with wood and arable land, and between both was a little
cottage : it looked like a little paradise for there people
were free.

I could, from my green balcony, look down into a row of
neighboring yards. Philippovich had planted a Turkish horse-
tail before his door ; the brass button on it glittered in the
sun ; the long white and red horse-hair fluttered about the
variegated staff. Our leech-merchants washed and rinsed the
black leeches which they had in bags and sacks. Bulgarian



THE QUARANTINE. 297

women lay in o rcles on their carpets, surrounded by children,
and held large yellow umbrellas over themselves, to shade
them from the sun. They certainly told little stories, for the
children laughed, and the swallows flew about outside, and
twittered contemptuously, for the swallows here only trouble
themselves with every- day stories.

On the first days of our quarantine we had music, and fine
music ; two young Wallachian artists, a flute-player, and one
who played a glass harmonicon, gave a concert in their little
prison-house : it sounded over the whole garden. Fellow-
prisoners peeped out of all the windows, and at last they ap-
plauded, for it was artistically fine. The flute-player breathed
feeling and taste ; the tones refreshed us. One evening, how-
ever, he played very merrily, " Enjoy life ! " and it sounded
within these walls like mockery. But he might well play it,
for he was going out next day, and we had still seven days to
hold out here.

But we could make promenades round the buildings, be-
tween the high, white walls ; we could peep between the
trellises into every little yard read on every little black
slate, written with chalk, the day and hour that the new comer
was placed there, the day and hour persons were to go out, and
how many there were in ! It was a lecture for fancy and the
heart. Who was the stranger ? From whence came he ?
Where was he going ? Or perhaps it was a she ! Here was
occasion to feel our common suffering ! But I durst not quite
give myself up to fancy and the heart, on this promenade. I
was obliged to keep near my keeper, and be prudent, if I
would not be exposed to a fresh term of quarantine. Some-
times we met those who had come in afterward ; and then we
had to stand close to the wall, so as not to come in contact
with them. We had to look about us, and see that the wind
did not bring a little feather over the wall, that might fall on
our shoulders ; see that we did not tread on a thread that any
one had lost, for in that case the quarantine was lengthened.

I went this tour only, that my feet might not lose their
habit of walking. No one walked here for his pleasure ! It
was more than alarming ; it was almost terrible to meet a
load of goods here ; if we came in contact with it, then began



298 A POET'S BAZAAR,

forty days' quarantine anew. There was such a heat between
these walls, and in our little yard, that we were almost roasted.
In the day I dreamt that I was within the leaden chambers of
Venice, and at night, that I was in full life in hell. At that
time, I knew by letters that Heiberg in his new satire * had
spoken of the performance of two of my greater dramatic
works. It had not occurred to me, as long as I was in the
free, open face of nature ; but here, as I have said, in this
hell, I dreamt that I was just shut down in that of Heiberg's ;
and there, just as he has related, they only performed my two
pieces, and that was very agreeable to me ; nay, as a Chris-
tian, particularly pleasant to learn, as he has also told us,
that the condemned, after having seen my pieces, could lie
down with a good conscience. Even there, at least, I had
effected some good by my works. I heard, however, down
there, that, beside my two pieces in one evening, they had
also determined to give Heiberg's " Fata Morgana," as a con-
cluding piece ; but the lost spirits had protested against it ;
they also make their habitation too hot for one, and there
must be reason in everything ! The devil was then obliged
to be content with my two pieces ; but it is his determination
that they shall be replaced by the newest, real, detestable
comedies that Heiberg is to give us, with a prologue written
by his intimate friends, which shall put the public in the way
to understand and admire ; after which the usual apotheosis,
also by one of his intimate friends. See, this is how a man
dreams in quarantine 1

At last we were all sick, and the doctor prescribed a medi-
cine which appeared to me excellent for Wallachian horses,
but not for weak persons suffering from pains in the stomach.
We were first to drink a large glass of spirits, and then a cup
of strong coffee, without sugar or cream.

The least varied life has, however, its great events ; ours
had three in this place. One was a visit from the Pasha of
Orsova. The bare arbor in the garden served as the saloon
of conversation. Six soldiers, with bandoliers over their blue
jackets, and bayonets on their muskets, together with the

1 Pocnu : 1840. A book which I consider as the very best of Hciberg'i
works.



THE QUARANTINE. 2 99

interpreter, doctor, and servants, formed the suite. The next
great event was, that we each got an old washer-woman, who
was to wash our things ; and then the quarantine was over
with us ! We got the keeper's wife. The old married pair
slept in the passage on our table ; a rolled-up jacket served as
pillow, and a soldier's cloak was the coverlet, all in the en-
campment style ! The doctor was everything with them
awake and asleep ; they never mentioned his name without
assuming a look of pompous importance. The third event
was accompanied with music and declamation. The most
frightful shouting and screaming proceeded from a window
across the harbor, to a neighboring one, from some ragged
fellows, who, seven years before, had fled from Austria into
Wallachia, and had lived there, but had returned, of their own
accord, from a feeling of home-sickness. They had them-
selves reported their return to the authorities, and were now
obliged to perform their quarantine before they were delivered
up. Before the sun rose, and until it was dark in the evening,
they conversed or played on Bulgarian flutes ; but always the
same piece, of two or, at most, of three notes. It sounded as
when one blows in a tulip leaf, and, at the same time, treads
on a cat's tail.

At length our hour of freedom struck ; but the Pasha had a
dinner-party, or something of the kind. All of us, therefore,
were obliged to wait a whole hour beyond our term of impris
onment a whole hour, which seemed like a day, before we
could depart and then it was not with mirth, as when we
came. We were exhausted. We, who had pleased ourselves
so much with the thought of liberty, were out of practice, and
could scarcely lift our wings. Those who leave a vessel have
often a sensation of seasickness for some time afterward ; we
had, in the same manner, a feeling of the quarantine. It was
a long time before poetic images of memory mirrored them-
selves in my mind, and then they showed the view of that poor
little house I had seen from the tree, between fields and wood.
They brought the tones of the flute-player from Bucharest to
my ear. They let me feel again Sunday's devotion in our
orison, when Ainsworth sa* still and read his Bible, Pater
Adam sang mass with his Armenian boys, and I looked at the



3OO A POET'S BAZAAR.

green vine leaves by my trellis, where the bright sun shone so
warm that my thoughts flew out into nature and there we
are always near the Almighty 1



VII.

IT IS SUNDAY TO-DAY !

IT is Sunday in the almanac Sunday in God's nature !
Let us away into the mountains, to Mehadia, Hungary's most
beautifully situated bathing-place ! What myriads of flowers
in the high grass ! what sunshine on the mountain's wood-clad
sides ! The air is so blue, so transparent ! It is Sunday to-
day ! and therefore all the people we meet are in their holi-
day clothes.

The black, shining, plaited hair of the girls is adorned with
fresh flowers, a branch of laburnum, or a dark-red carnation j
the large sleeves of their chemises are embroidered with green
and red ; the skirt is long breadths of red, blue, and yellow.
Even the little old woman is dressed thus gayly, and has a
flower on her white linen. The lads and boys have roses in
their hats ; the smallest one looks splendid indeed ; his short
shirt hangs out over his trousers ; a branch of laburnum is
fastened round his large hat, which bends down half over his
eyes. Yes, it is Sunday to-day !

What solitude in these mountains ! Life and health gush
from these wells ! Music is heard from the large and hand-
some bathing saloon. The nightingale sings in the bright
sunlight, amongst the balmy trees, where the wild vines wind
their tendrils. Beautiful nature ! my best, my most holy
church ! here my heart tells me, " It is Sunday to-day ! "

We are again in Orsova. The brass ball on the church
tower shines in the sun ; the door stands ajar. How solitary
within ! The priest stands in his mass-robes, and raises his
voice; it is Pater Adam. Little Antonius kneels, and swings
the censer ; the elder boy, Jeronimus, takes his place in the
middle of the aisle, and represents the whole Armenian con-
gregation.



FROM ORSOVA TO DRENCOVA. 30 1

In the market-place, outside the church, where the linden-
trees are in flower, is a great dance of old and young ; the
musicians stand in the centre of the circle, the one plays the
bagpipe, the other scrapes the violin. The circle turns first to
the right, then to the left. They are all in their best, with
fringes, flowers, and bare legs ; it is Sunday to day !

Some little boys are running about with only a shirt on
their bodies, but they have a large man's hat on their heads,
and on the hat there is a flower ; dignified officials, gentlemen
and ladies, dressed quite in the Vienna mode, walk past and
look at the people, the dancing folks ! The red evening sun
shines on the white church tower, or the yellow-brown Dan-
ube, and on the wood-clad Servian mountains. Grant it may
shine on my song, when I sing about it. How beautiful and
lively, how fresh and characteristic ! Everything gives token
of a feast ; everything shows that it is Sunday to-day !



VIII.

A JOURNEY ALONG THE DANUBE FROM ORSOVA TO DREN-

COVA.

THE greater part of the voyage along the Danube between
Orsova and Drencova, is much more dangerous to navigate
than that through the " Iron Gate." The stream here has a
more angry power, the falls are greater and more frequent, the
eddies far more extended. It was on this passage that the
boat, which carried the steam-vessel's passengers, capsized
two years before, and every soul met a watery grave. It was,
as we were told, a gray, rainy day, somewhat stormy. The
captain stood at the rudder, and the boat was full of passen-
gers ; it was no easy maneuver to steer it between the pro-
jecting rocks in the river ; a troop of peasants strove upon the
shore, and drew it through the strong eddies, whilst the storm
lifted the foam many yards into the air. The captain shouted
to the peasants, bidding them drag the vessel more slowly :
they did not hear him ; the storm and current deafened his
shouts. He once more repeated the command ; they mis-



3O2 A POET'S BAZAAR.

understood him, and pulled more vigorously, and at the same
moment the boat ran against a piece of rock ; it upset, and all
attempts to save the crew and passengers were unavailing.
Some of the bodies were found far away from the place where
the accident happened, amongst others that of a young Eng-
lishman. His relatives have erected a mgnument close by
the river where his body was found, and where he lies in-
terred.

From the time that this misfortune happened, the steam
company have not allowed any of their passengers to make
the voyage here in boats ; they ride or drive. An excellent
carriage-road is now completed here under the direction of
Count Schechenyi's and Engineer Director Basarhety's in-
spection.

All the baggage, on the contrary, is sent the day before the
travellers depart, in boats drawn by horses.

Early in the morning of the twenty-fourth of May, the car-
riage stood before the hotel, and we rolled away.

It was the most charming summer weather ; everything round
about was green and fertile ; rocks with bushes and leaf-trees
rose on the Servian side ; whilst on our own, the Austrian side,
the whole seemed one large garden, with ever-varying scenes.
Sometimes the mountains were quite close to us, sometimes
they retreated, and inclosed wood-grown valleys. I had
never before seen so many butterflies as I did this morning :
they were all white, and thousands of trees were covered with
them, so that one might think they were blooming fruit-trees.
Here I might have said with Jean Paul, " Schmetterlingc sind
flifgende blumcn." The postilion cracked his whip right and
left, and the butterflies flew in the air like snow-flakes in winter.

Wallachian peasants live in this district of the military
boundary ; we passed through a few of their very picturesque
villages. The clay walls showed large cracks ; paper was
pasted over the hole that served as a window ; a sort of gate
bound fast to some posts with bark-rope, formed the entrance
to a kind of yard, which generally swarmed with a herd of
swine and an incredible number of almost naked children,
tumbling and rolling about together ; even girls of nine or ten
years of age ran about entirely without clothes. Round aboul



FROM ORSOVA TO DRENCOVA. 303

stood magnificent trees, especially large and odorous chestnuts.
The peasants we met now and then stood upright in their wag-
ons, and hurried away like the old Romans on the chariot
course.

The country became more and more of a romantic charac-
ter ; in beauty it far surpasses the shores of the Rhine. At
Plavisovicza, where the pass of Kazan is situated, the Danube
runs between perpendicular rocks ; the road here is cut through
the rock, and the masses of cliff hang like a polished ceiling
over the traveller's head. We find one large cavern by the
side of the other for a great extent ; one of these is of such a
length, that they say it takes an hour and a half to walk through
it ; at last we come out into a valley on the other side of the
mountain. The most famous one here is the so called Vetera-
nis' cavern. We halted outside it ; no entrance was to be seen.
The whole rock is grown over with bushes and creeping plants ;
a little path ran along between the hedges ; it was steep, with
many loose stones, but then we had the green branches to hold
by, and we climbed easily the few fathoms to an entrance
above the high-road, which was large and convenient enough
for a full grown man. A few paces within, we were obliged to
stoop a little, but the cavern soon expanded into a spacious,
but gloomy chamber ; from this we entered an immense cav-
ern where the light streamed down through a large opening,
the topmost edge of which was grown over with bushes and
long creeping plants, forming a flowery frame to the blue air
above ; the ceiling or roof had the appearance of petrified
clouds ; the floor was uneven and damp. Here and there lay
large fallen stones, and in a corner were some charcoal and
half burnt branches, left by the last herdsmen, or by gypsies,
who had had their meals here : a few drops of water fell with a
monotonous and dripping sound to the floor.

The cavern consists of an endless number of compartments.
We went to one of the nearest ; I was foremost, but was soon
stopped by the surprising sight before me. A large fire had
been kindled in the middle of the floor ; a caldron was boil-
ng over it. Round about lay or stood men and women in
white dresses, with mulatto-colored faces and long black hair.
Two young lads sprang toward me as quick as cats, stretched



304 A POETS BAZAAR.

out their hands in a begging manner and addressed me in a
language that was incomprehensible to me. It was a gypsy
family. The younger ones were so lively, so active, that the-
contrast was remarkable between them and two old ones who
sat by the fire. Their hair hung stiff and thickly down about
their horrid faces ; and their clothes, as well as the manner in
which they sat, made it a matter of difficulty to me to decide if
they were two men or two women. Our party gave each of
the young lads a trifle. One of the children got a little silver
coin of me ; when immediately an elder girl sprang toward me,
seized my hand, drew me toward the fire, looked in my hand,
then courtesied three times down to the ground, and predicted
or told my fortune. But I understood not a word of it.

From the translation which a young gentleman from Bucha-
rest afterward gave me of what the girl said, or rather of as
much as he understood, the augury seemed to have been more
applicable to a rich Englishman than a Danish poet. " Thy
silver shall become gold, and thy possessions increase year by
year," she had said.

On my asking if the girl had not predicted anything bad for
me, he told me that she had said I should have the least com-
fort in my daughters. And there she had certainly hit the
right nail on the head, as it regards the poet, for " Agnete " and
" The Moorish Girl " ' have brought me but little comfort. I
must, therefore, always strive to have boys.

The rest of our party had also their fortunes told ; but I
was, on the whole, the luckiest of them all.

On the Servian side, along the whole of this part 01 the
Danube, is found an antique road hewn in the rock, which
has existed since the time of the Romans' dominion. We
saw, on the opposite side of the stream, the so-called Trajan's
Slate. It consists of a smooth rock, with an inscription in
memory of Trajan's first expedition into Dacia.

In the forenoon we reached the village of Tisowiza, where
we were to enjoy our breakfast in a poor inn. The landlord
had not been informed that the steam- vessel's passengers
would arrive that day. We therefore came on him quite un-
expectedly ; and he had to make a hasty slaughter amongst al 1
1 Two comedies.



FROM ORSOVA TO DRENCOVA. 305

the chickens in the town. The lowest story of the house
consisted of two stone cellars ; above these hung a very fragile
wooden balcony, the whole length of the house, from whence
we entered a sort of passage where the chimney stood, and
where the food was prepared. On each side was a dingy and
uncomfortable chamber. We, therefore, all preferred to be in
the open air, and accordingly encamped under some tall shady
chestnuts. Most of us were still sick from the quarantine. 1,
in particular, felt myself suffering from it.

After a few hours' stay we again set off, still along the
banks of the Danube. We passed the ruins of three large tow-
ers of the time of the Romans ; they were built close to the
stream, and had been converted into guard-houses. A bridge
of wood led from the road out to them. Armed boundary
soldiers sat there and played cards, or sat astride on the wooden
balustrades. There is an avenue of handsome walnut-trees
almost the whole way. We tore off the scented leaves as we
drove along ; and with a branch, by way of fan, we screened
ourselves from the burning sun, when the large trees did not
afford us shade. How intensely hot it was ; we languished
with thirst ! The beaten road almost ceased ; it was so narrow
at length, that one wheel touched the rocks' sides, and the other
was only an inch or two from the slope down to the rushing
river. We drove at a foot-pace, but soon even this began to
appear too dangerous. We were obliged to descend ; but a
descent was only to be effected by creeping down from behind
the carriage, for there was no place on either side. Suddenly
the road entirely ceased ! A number of men were employed
in widening and leveling it, and in walling a sort of foundation.
Before us was a perpendicular declivity of about four feet.

The people said that no one had informed them there would
be any travellers that day, and that we must consequently
stop until they had made an inclined plane, for road it could
not be called. Poles and boughs of trees were laid down from
the top where we stood. The horses were taken from the car-
riages, and the carriages were slid down, but the pole of one
of them was broken.

A new misfortune, which might have produced unpleasant
results, awaited us. The hewn road in the rock on the Ser
20



306 A POET'S BAZAAR.

vian side is not as available as it was in the time of Trajan,
for it cannot be used in our times. The Servians must there-
fore drag their vessels along under military guard : to come
in contact in any way with these people, or with the long rope
with which they haul the vessel, has this result, the offender
is charged with a contumacious contempt of authority.

We saw before us about a hundred Servian peasants, who
dragged a very large river vessel up against the stream. They
raised one continued and monotonous howl ; the vessel made
slow way against the strong current. We had to drive foot by
foot, for the road was not broad enough in any one place to
pass them. All the plagues of the quarantine were still in our
blood ! I could not conceive at that moment any more fear-
ful command than that of " Return again to quarantine ! " We
drove foot by foot, then stopped ; drove again foot by foot to
stop again ! I had a feeling as though I were bound to go
round the world with leaden weights to my feet.

At length we arrived at a place where the road was a little
broader than before, and where the soldiers that guarded the
Servians thought that we could glide past. The tails of our
horses were bound up that they might not, untimely whisking
them, touch the rope. Our baggage, and even the leather cur-
tains of our carriages, were well drawn in toward us. The
poor Servian peasants placed themselves as close to the bank
of the river as they possibly could, and yet we were not more
than a foot from them. We now drove slowly and cautiously
past the whole of that long row of at least a hundred men :
if even the whip-lash had touched the skirt of one of their
coats, we should have had to return again to the quaran-
tine in Orsova.

O, how freely we breathed ! How the coachman drove his
horses when we had passed them ! We went at a gallop
through the wood, over small fords, and past bubbling wells ;
the green branches lashed our faces and shoulders. The
prospect toward the little town of Drencova, where the steam-
vessel Galatea awaited us, now opened through wood and
river.

Before the year 1836, Drencova was only a guard-house
but the steam navigation of the Danube will soon transform



FROM ORSOVA TO DRENCOVA.



307



it into an important town. There were, at this time, several
respectable buildings in the place ; one of them was an inn.
About a day's journey from hence grow the famous vines, from
which the wine called Schiller is made. I drank a cup of it
here, in honor of its name-giver ; the spiritual wine he has
given us will bear exportation to all the countries of the
world, for it can only inspire, not intoxicate.

It was with great joy that we entered that roomy and hand-
some steam-vessel which was to carry us to the capital of
Hungary ; and we gladdened ourselves with the thought of the
many comforts it offered ; " but no one knows his fate ! "
with this sage remark, we might aptly conclude our day's jour-
ney. A very large fair is held in Pesth four times a year, when
people from the most remote corners of the most distant lands
stream thither ; the steam-vessels are then in such request
that they are invariably overcrowded, and it so happened that
we should arrive in Pesth two days before the great St. Me-
dardus fair. 1 The landlord predicted a highly unpleasant and
troublesome voyage for us ; but we did not believe him, and
thought that he wanted to entice us to botanize here until the
next steam-vessel arrived, and meanwhile drink a toast to
Schiller, in schiller, every evening with him.

At sunset I strolled alone into the forest close by, where I
likewise met gypsies. They had made a fire, and sat around
it. When I emerged from the forest, a fine peasant boy, who
stood amongst the bushes, greeted me with a good-evening in
German. I asked him if it were his mother-tongue he spoke ;
he answered " No," and told me that he generally spoke Walla-
chian, but had learned German at school. He seemed by his



Online LibraryH. C. (Hans Christian) AndersenA poet's bazaar : a picturesque tour in Germany, Italy, Greece, and the Orient → online text (page 27 of 31)