Theodore Child.

Summer holidays, travelling notes in Europe online

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Down the Danube to Constantinople . i

Constantinople 24

Impressions of Holland ' • 71

A Trip to Naples no

Art Notes in Milan 138

Verona ^55

Venice 168

Bologna and Ravenna i74

Florence ^So

Frankfort 1S6

Cassel 195

Brunswick i99

Munich 203

Limoges 219

Reims 231

Aix-les-Bains 244

A Visit to the Grande Chartreuse . . 255
A Holiday on French Rivers 273

With a few exceptions the sketches and notes
composing this volume appeared originally in va-
rious American and English periodical publica-
tions, The Atlantic Monthly, The Cornhill Magazine,
The Gentleman's Magazitie, Lippincotfs Magazine,
etc. These various essays have no continuity nor
any connection of subject ; they are simply souve-
nirs of summer holidays which the author has ven-
tured to reprint in the hope that they may find favor
in the eyes of the travelling public, and also of the
public that is content to travel in an arm-chair by
the fireside.




At Buda-Pesth, having for the moment had
enough of swift travelling, I abandoned the dusty
Orient Express, and, after resting a few days in
the delightful Hungarian capital, I proceeded on
my way to Constantinople on board one of the
Danube steamers, the Ferdinand Max. It was in
the month of August of i886, the weather was
brilliant, the moon was full, and so we started one
Saturday at midnight, and steamed along all night,
stopping from time to time at villages on either
bank of the river to take in fresh passengers.
The next morning I was on deck betimes to in-
spect the landscape, and the boat, and the passen-
gers. We were in the midst of a very broad
stream of dirty yellow water, flowing with a swift
rippling movement between banks of brown, clayey


earth, eaten away by the wash and crumbling vis-
ibly into the river. On either side, here and there,
were piles of wood cut and stacked symmetrically,
and thickets of willows, and, beyond, forests of
pale green poplars stretching away and away over
the endless plains and beneath the cold, pale blue
sky, sprinkled with white, flakey clouds. After con-
tinuing for some time between these sad, green, and
silent expanses of willow forests, we came at length
to a low sandy island, and then to a group of float-
ing water mills, anchored diagonally across the
stream, so that each wheel might receive the full
and unimpaired impulse of the current. The float-
ing mill is composed of two flat boats, or pontoons,
on the larger of which is the mill and the house
where the miller and his wife and children live,
while the smaller one serves simply to support one
end of the shaft on which the water-wheel is sus-
pended. All down the Danube the presence of a
group of these mills is a sign that you are near a
village. First of all you see ten to twenty float-
ing mills dotting the stream, then you see a break
in the willows, a muddy shore covered with lit-
ter and pigs, two or three broken-down victorias
drawn by lean horses, a landing-stage, a dirty and
picturesque crowd, and then you may know that
you have arrived at a station. The first station
we touch at this morning is Baja. An old Turk
comes on board with various bundles of nonde-
script baggage.


The landscape continues unchanged until we
near the next station, Szekcso, a village which
climbs up the side of a yellow hill running steep-
ly down to the water's edge. This village is a
harmony in yellow and white : the hillside is yel-
low, the cottages are yellow and white, each with
a loggia in front and a thatched roof. There are
two churches with quaint rococo bulging spires,
one painted bright red and the other flaring blue.
The bank of the river in front of the villasfe — the
marina as we may call it — is a typical confusion
of mud, straw, and miscellaneous litter, on which
you see flocks of geese and ducks, herds of black
swine, ox-carts, oxen, washerwomen, and idle peas-
ant boys, dressed in white short skirts and sleeve-
less jackets, like true Magyars that they are.

Leaving Szekcso we find ourselves once more
between banks of mud eaten away by the wash,
and between monotonous forests of willows. In
the brilliant sunshine the smoke from our boilers
casts a deep brown shadow on the dirty yellow
water, and so we glide along — through plain, sand
slopes, and willow forests, and low hills dotted
here and there with villages and vineyards, the
churches standing out in vivid white silhouette, and
the river winding and ever winding beneath the
immense expanse of sky. The flatness of the sur-
rounding country, the vastness of the river — whose
banks rise scarcely a foot above the level of the
yellow water — the paleness of the green wilder-


nesses of willow-trees which stretch away on either
side as far as the eye can reach, the rareness of
villages, the absence of signs of life or of indus-
try, the absence even of birds, all tend to make
this part of the Danube very monotonous. The
aspect of nature is novel, certainly, but when these
same dominating tones of pale green and dirty yel-
low continue to prevail day after day one grows
a little tired of them. The ardor of sight-seeing
diminishes, and one begins to look around one
for distraction.

The Ferdinaftd Max is a good river boat, with
six private deck cabins over the paddle-boxes.
The saloons and general accommodation are fairly
convenient, the cooking is passable, the officers
polite and amiable. The passengers on the first-
class deck are all Hungarians or Austrians. The
ubiquitous Englishman is represented by the
writer of these lines alone. On the second and
third class decks the passengers become more
mixed at each landing-place — there are Turks in
turbans, Magyars in white petticoats, and shep-
herds clad in sheepskins who wear artificial flow-
ers in their hats.

After dinner I had a long talk with a Magyar,
who, being a professor at the University of Buda,
was able to tell me much that was interesting
about Hungarian history and heroism. With the
aid of innumerable cigarettes he rearranged the
map of Europe to our mutual satisfaction. His


plan was based on an alliance of England, Ger-
many, and Austria against Russia. The allies
were to take Russian Poland, divide its territory
between the two German powers, drive Russia
once for all out of Europe, and leave her to devel-
op purely as an Asiatic power. This excellent
patriot ended by pressing me to induce some of
my countrymen to establish themselves in Hun-
gary. " We have no industries," he said ; " our
people are all agriculturists, and, consequently, we
have to import all our manufactured goods ; we
do not even make needles and thread in Hungary.
There are great openings in all minor industries,
but what we need especially are roads and bridges.
Remember that there is only one single bridge
over the Danube all the way between Pesth and
Petrawardein. Our government even offers a
premium to native production ; anybody, of what-
ever nationality, who establishes a manufactory
in Hungary enjoys exemption from all taxation
for a space of twenty years. There is a great fut-
ure for our country ; in fertility it is a perfect gar-
den, but, as you see, it is not half populated ; these
forests along the Danube swarm with wild boars
and wolves."

By this time other Hungarians and some Ser-
vians of the upper classes, who had been educated
at Paris and spoke French, joined our gossiping
party, and as the Hungarians are vivacious and
cultivated people, very advanced in the amenities


of life, we had a pleasant time and discoursed of
many things.

After passing Vucovar the scenery became less
monotonous, and soon we entered a smiling, hilly
country, fertile and beautiful as a vast park. Here
and there, along the banks, we see open huts of
simple thatch, supported on rough timber poles.
During the summer the peasants and their fami-
lies live in these huts, under arms, and watch to
protect their crops from the thieves. The regu-
lar villages, it appears, are just over the hills on
the opposite slope, " Are those Servians ?" I
asked my professor friend, pointing to some brown-
skinned, long -booted, second-class passengers,
who were smoking long pipes and playing cards.
" Servians ? No ; the Servians wear shoes. Long
boots are for Magyars." I laid the information
to heart. How could I have asked such a ques-
tion ? Of course, the long boot is the appanage,
the glory, the distinctive sign of the Magyar !

Towards sunset on Sunday afternoon we came
in sight of the famous fortress of Petrawardein, a
huge, brown, fortified rock, with barracks on the
top, and opposite is the town of Neusatz, the first
important town since Pesth, Here the Danube
is crossed by a railway bridge and a bridge of
boats. There is much animation and shouting,
and we take on board many passengers in ex-
change for those whom we land. The view is
certainly fine, and Petrawardein doubtless evokes


many souvenirs in the minds of those who are
well-read in history. For my part, being ignorant,
I felt vaguely impressed by the prestige of the
name and by the sight of the casemates and can-
non which, from the heights of this towering rock,
command the river and the surrounding country
in all directions. But, after all, I was still more
impressed with the aspect of the sky when the
sun had sunk below the horizon, and left it all
rent and torn into sheets, and crags, and wedges
of red, golden, and pale green light. And the
broad Danube resembled an immense lake, whose
surface, quivering with minute, regular ripples,
seemed as it were to have a fine grain, and sug-
gested the comparison of an immense skin of sil-
ver-colored morocco leather.

The next morning we arrived early at Belgrade,
having cast anchor during the night at an inter-
mediate station, the moon not deigning to shine
sufficiently to permit nocturnal navigation. The
name of Belgrade is written in strange semi-Greek,
semi-Russian characters. We are now beyond
the confines of Hungary, at least on one side of
the river, which is Servia. At Belgrade we hear
that Prince Alexander of Bulgaria has been driven
out of his dominions ; and, thereupon, we all pro-
ceed to rearrange the map of Europe once more
and to indulge in the wildest conjectures, which
scarcely allow us to remark the scenery of hills
and vineyards, varied with willow forests, which


accompanies us through Kubin and Pancsova as
far as Drenkova. Since Belgrade I notice the first-
class passengers have become more mixed and
noisy. There is a group of Servians who are
drinking and talking politics with fury, shouting
and stamping like maniacs. Another Servian, re-
clining full length in the saloon, where the table
is laid from morning until night, and where some-
body is always eating or drinking, calls ferociously
for a cigar. The waiter brings a " Virginianer,"
and, pulling the stra'v out half-way, he presents it
thus to the young pasha, who takes it lazily, and
lights it without a Avord of thanks to the slave.
An hour after noon on Monday we arrived at
Drenkova, where we left the Ferdinand Max and
went on board a small steamer, the river being
too shallow and the navigation too difficult for
the large boats. Here the fine scenery of the
Danube really begins, and if I were to make this
journey again simply for the Danubian scenery,
instead of taking the boat at Buda-Pesth I should
continue through Hungary by train to Bazias, and
proceed thence by boat only as far as Turn-Sev-
erin, or Lom Palanca, where one finds raihvay
communication. It must be remembered, how-
ever, that travelling in Eastern Europe is by no
means luxurious or rapid, and that, after all, the
slow Danube boat, and the often monotonous
Danubian landscape, are far preferable to the fare
one meets with when misfortune or defective


couplings strand one in a verminous Bulgarian

After leaving Drenkova the Danube enters the
mountains, and winds along, forming, as it were, a
series of vast hill-bound lakes. On either side
the thickly wooded hills slope down to the water's
edge, and we steam on and on, but there is no
exit visible. On the contrary, the hills are clos-
ing in upon us and becoming precipitous. We
shall certainly strike against the frowning rocks.
No ; the steamer makes a rapid turn, passes
through a narrow gorge, and we enter another
vast lake surrounded by hills, which in their turn
fade away into a deep blue indigo mist as we ad-
vance through the rocky, wooded solitude, enliv-
ened only rarely by two or three fishermen plying
their nets from primitive boats. After traversing a
series of these seeming mountain lakes, we pass the
Trajan's Tafel — an inscription on the rock about
which the guide-books are eloquent, and which
marks the site of a vanished Roman bridge — and
here we are at the famous "Iron Gates," most
overrated of curiosities. In this part of the Dan-
ube there are rapids and a quantity of small and
sunken rocks scattered across the stream, which
cause the water to eddy and bubble, and thus en-
able the impressionable to figure to themselves
the " Iron Gates " as a terrible rock-bound boil-
ing gorge. The " Iron Gates " are a delusion and
a snare. I am glad the sight of them did not


figure even as an item on my Danube programme.
Indeed, they left me quite as indifferent as they
did that turbaned old Turk who came on board
at Baja, and who, while we were passing the " Iron
Gates " and straining our eyes to gaze at nothing,
was gravely performing his ablutions at the ship's
pump according to the Moslem ritual — washing
his hands, arms, face, the top of his head, the
parts behind his ears, and his big toes, but the
latter only figuratively by smearing his wet fingers
over his inner shoes. After this lustral ceremony
he wiped himself on a large cotton handkerchief
adorned with light green and white chrysanthe-
mums on a cafe-au-lait ground, and, having ad-
justed his turban, he spread out his carpet and
prayed — for he was a pious Turk, and five times
a day he observed carefully the hours reserved
for prayer, and sought "the favor of God and his
satisfaction," as the Prophet bade him.

At Kalobo the fine scenery, the mountains, and
the lakes came to an end, and the Danube con-
tinued to flow broadly between low hills and vast
plains. Before sunset we reached Turn-Severin,
where we remained all night, having once more
changed boats, and having abandoned the little
steamer for a roomy river boat called the Orient,
bound for all the Danubian ports as far as Galatz
on the Black Sea. At 5 a. m. on Tuesday morn-
ing the Orient cast loose her moorings, and we
steamed along through soft, velvety landscape be-


tween low, crumbling banks of brownish earth.
The water was still dirty yellow in color and heavi-
ly charged with earthly matter. The " blue Dan-
ube " is evidently a myth. I observe that the in-
scriptions and notices on our boat are written in
four languages — Servian, Roumanian, Turkish,
and French. The names of the landing-places
become more and more illegible, and the appear-
ance of men and things more and more novel,
dirty, neglected, and, in a word, Oriental. At Brza
Palanka we admired the beautiful undulating
country and the rich vineyards on the slopes. On
the shore, amidst the usual swarm of geese, pigs,
children, and oxen, the peasants stood lazily
watching us. Their costume consisted of short
white trousers, white blouse, broad waistbands, a
jacket of untanned sheepskin with the wool in-
side, and a conical astrakan cap. Their feet were
generally bare, though some wore gaiters and
shoes made in fragments and tied on with string
and leather thongs. Some of these peasants wore
red fezzes. Along the shore and up into the coun-
try stretched a long procession of four-wheeled
ox-carts with basket sides, laden with Indian corn,
which was being transferred into Black Sea boats.
As I so down to breakfast in the saloon I notice
among the new passengers a fat woman wearing
a red dress of Occidental cut, enormous earrings,
and a sort of gold-bound turban. Accompanied
by her husband, her sister, and half a dozen grown-


up children, this huge old woman is smoking cig-
arettes and playing cards. She calls out for the
" kafedjieh," a gentleman who, in return for his
services as interpreter and check-taker for the
third-class passengers, enjoys the privilege of sell-
ing Turkish coffee and " rake' " on board. The
"kafedjieh" is a recognized and necessary insti-
tution on board all passenger ships plyingin Turk-
ish waters and in the immediately adjacent parts.
Generally he is a very bad character, but the sight
of him and of his little Turkish coffee-pans and
tiny cups is welcon.e to the Occidental in quest
of new sensations. So I, too, cried out " Kafed-
jieh !" and requested a cup of coffee d la Turquc.
And soon the servile little scamp arrived, like
Agag, treading delicately, carrying the shining
brass pan with the handle protruding at right
angles, and, balanced on the pan, a square brass
tray, and, in the middle of the tray, a tiny porcelain
cup and saucer decorated with insipid blue and
pink ornaments. In the twinkling of an eye this
dainty combination is undone, the brass tray and
the cup is on the table before you, and the coffee
poured into the cup has lost none of its aroma
during the passage from the kitchen to the cabin.
I promise myself to indulge frequently in this
savory coffee during the rest of the journey.

After breakfast I learn from the captain that
the news of the expulsion of Prince Alexander is
exact. It appears that there is a revolution in


Bulgaria. The captain hopes that we shall be
allowed to continue our journey, but fears that in
any case we shall find communications interrupted
at Rustchuk. I light a cigarette and console and
amuse myself by watching the huge old woman,
who is squatting on deck and holding in her lap
a watermelon, which she is excavating with a
bowie-knife and distributing in segments to the
various rhembers of her family. There is a great
consumption of watermelons on board ; the shag-
gy, ragged, brown-skinned third-class passengers
seem to live on the cool rose-colored flesh of the

At Kalafat we are informed that the river is still
open, and that we need not fear to go on to Wid-
din, which is the first station in Bulgarian terri-
tory. The scenery is still without interest. Wid-
din comes within view with its white, low houses,
its minarets and its ruined forts, which were dis-
mantled at the conclusion of the last provisional
settlement of the Eastern question. The town
looks rather ruined and miserable, but the wharf
is the scene of great animation and excitement,
all about nothing. Several Turkish families come
on board with all their household goods and chat-
tels — men, women, and children, all laden with
watermelons and grapes and coarse pottery, and
flying at the first rumor of political troubles.
Some soldiers in white uniforms with exaggerated
epaulets, and a miscellaneous crowd of Armenians,


Greeks, and Bulgarians join our boat. And so
through the blazing sun we steamed on to Rak-
hova, a town prettily situated on a hillside ter-
raced with gardens and cottages. But as a rule
the scenery continued to be without interest, and
the company on board had become very mixed and
very noisy. In the evening a lot of Bulgarians
began talking politics, and from nine o'clock until
two in the morning they howled and bellowed, and
finally drew knives. Two champions had a brief
engagement at close quarters, and cut each other's
clothes, and one received a gash in the forearm
before they could be separated. Finally, the rev-
olutionaries calmed down and retired to rest ; and
when I ventured at last to go to my berth, I found
it occupied by one of these hirsute brigands, who
was lying on his back, stark naked, and snoring
like a threshing-machine. Naturally I did not
venture to disturb him or even to appeal to the
steward. The circumstances were too delicate.

The next morning (Wednesday) we arrived at
Rustchuk at 7 a. m., and found everybody in a
state of great alarm. Had we any news ? Where
was the Prince ? What had happened ? Tele-
graphic communication, it appeared, was interrupt-
ed; the wires were in the hands of the revolution-
aries. Would the train run to Varna that day ?
" Yes," replied the station-master, " but it is prob-
ably the last we shall make up, and when you get
to Varna I cannot guarantee that you will be al-


lowed to proceed. I believe the frontiers are
closed." This was a pleasing prospect, the more
so as we knew we were destined to undergo five
days' quarantine before being allowed to enter
Constantinople. However, we were soon joined
by a few passengers from the Orient Express, and
at 9 A. i\i. we started in the train for Varna, where
we arrived after a six hours' uninteresting jour-
ney under a broiling sun. No one was allowed
to enter the town of Varna. The orders were to
get us on board the Austrian Lloyd steamer at
once ; and so we adventured ourselves in small
boats on the choppy Black Sea, scrambled as best
we could up the swaying companion-ladder of the
Cei-es, and at five o'clock the next morning (Thurs-
day) we woke up at Kavak in the Bosphorus.


Five days' quarantine at Kavak ! Such was the
good pleasure of the Sultan ; and however anxious
we might be to admire his famous capital, there
was no means of escaping the application of this
decree. And so, with her quarantine flag at the
mast-head, and with quarantine officers in red
fezzes to guard her gangways, the Austrian Lloyd
steamer Ceres took up her anchorage snugly just off
the village of Kavak, at the entrance of the Bos-
phorus, but far enough in to be sheltered from the
winds and the waves of the Black Sea. The situ-
ation was charming and interesting. From deck


we had a view of the prettiest part of the Bos-
phorus, towards Buyukdere and Therapia, where
we could distinguish the summer villas of the am-
bassadors of the different great powers; astern
was the fort of Kavak, built on a sheltering bluff ;
to the right and the left on each side of the Bos-
phorus, the villages of Anatoli-Kavak and Roum-
eli-Kavak, with the remains of old Genoese for-
tifications and round towers, climbing up the
hillside. We might have imagined ourselves
anchored in a beautiful mountain lake, for the
hills rose all around us, and in the distance seemed
to close the winding Bosphorus at each end.

Five days' imprisonment on board this ship !
It seemed a long time. Could we not go ashore ?
Yes, there was a lazaretto ; but experienced trav-
ellers warned us that the accommodation was of
Turkish simplicity. It was better to remain on
board and pay the fixed tariff of 15 francs a day.
So we all remained on the ship except a fat Turk
and his secretary, who were supposed to go to the
lazaretto ; but, knowing him to be a pacha, we all
felt perfectly convinced that, when once ashore
and out of sight of the Ceres, he simply took a
carriage and rode across country, and so, indirect-
ly, to Constantinople. In Turkey you can fare
very well if you are a Turk. This pacha was one
of the fattest and roundest men I have ever seen.
Among his baggage he had a low table, hollowed
out in a semicircle, and into this crescent-shaped


aperture he slid his majestic abdomen when he
took his meals. He could not sit at an ordinary
table ; and, on the other hand, when he sat cross-
legged in the orthodox Turkish fashion, his dig-
nity spread around him in such voluminous con-
centric ripples that, had it not been for the ingen-
ious contrivance of the adjustable table, it would
have been impossible to place anything within
arm's reach of his obese excellency, who would
consequently have died of starvation. We regret-
ted the departure of this rotund personage, as
much because we felt sure that he was unfairly
escaping quarantine as because his presence

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