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NARRATIVE OF A VISIT TO THE COURTS OF VIENNA,
CONSTANTINOPLE, ATHENS, AND NAPLES.
BY THE MARCHIONESS OF LONDONDERRY.
Saturday, Aug. 22, 1840.--AMONG the various vexations of life (I mean not to include the real ills, but to speak of the numberless trifles that irritate and annoy one), few things are more disagreeable than the appearance of one's maid by one's bedside at four o'clock in the morning, with a candle in her hand. It was, however, my fate to suffer from such visitation on the abovementioned day, when after quickly completing our preparations, we hurried to the Tower-stairs, and embarked on board the Giraffe steamer, which was to start for Rotterdam precisely at seven.
Leaving England, however agreeable our prospects, however bright our anticipations may be, always gives rise to anxious and mournful thoughts; the mind tries to pierce the long impenetrable vista before it, and to divine what the coming months may have in store, of good or ill, and the uncertainty in which it remains after all its efforts, leaves a shade of fear and gloom.
I was roused from these reflections by an old foreigner coming on board, quarrelling with a waterman, who had tried to cheat him of a shilling. He was a respectable-looking man, and began a piteous complaint, of the impositions of English people in their dealings with strangers. I could not help observing, while commiserating this victim of cab-drivers and watermen, that foreigners have their revenge when English people wander abroad.
Two cabins and a saloon were on deck, and to one of the former I soon retreated, and succeeded in making myself tolerably comfortable. The advantage of not going below is so great that I am surprised this arrangement is not more universal. The enjoyment of light and fresh air greatly alleviates, if it does not altogether prevent, suffering:
The weather was lovely, and for the first seven hours we glided on without apparent motion. The night was hot, with frequent flashes of lightning, the sea became rough, and most of the passengers were ill. At two o'clock in the morning we stopped, as I was informed, for want of water-a singular deficiency in the middle of the sea! At seven o'clock however we proceeded, and having taken in a Dutch pilot, and been boarded by a custom-house officer, we reached Rotter. dam at twelve, and were received by the consul, Sir Alexander Ferrier, who conducted us to the Hôtel des Pays Bas.
Being Sunday, all the people were dressed in their gayest attire, and the promenade was full, and looked very gay; but after spending thirty hours in a steamer, we were more inclined to rest than to explore. Since I was at Rotterdam, four years ago, the navigation of the Rhine has greatly progressed; the boats are numerous, and, as we were told, are admirably managed, and, from the great competition, the fares are reduced very low.
Captain Chaplin (at whose military academy, near Namur, our son was placed) arrived, and decided us to go by Brussels to see him. Accordingly we hired the pavilion of a small steamer, that was to start for Antwerp that night, and perform her passage in twelve hours. I cannot say much for the cleanliness of this temporary habitation, but it would be unjust to deny its due; I never, during my whole existence, heard such a noise ; Bedlam seemed broke loose all night, and I was very glad when we arrived, soon after one o'clock, at Antwerp; and leaving the luggage to be examined at the custom-house, and conveyed to the railway, where we were to find it at four o'clock, we hastened to the cathedral.
The town was in a great bustle, this being the last of the fifteen days devoted to the fête of Reubens. All the vessels had their colours flying; the people wore their gayest dresses, and crowds were assembling to crown the statue of the great painter, of whom they are so justly proud. This ceremony only occurs once in a hundred years, and this is but the second time it has been celebrated. Fine triumphal arches had been erected; but I was told the finest sight of all was the illumination of the shipping with coloured lamps. This had cost the town 50001.
The cathedral is a beautiful Gothic building, with a lovely tower and spire: the second tower was never finished. Ruben's “ Descent from the Cross” is a magnificent picture, and very superior to its companion, “ the Ascent.” The Ascension is over the altar, and is also splendid, and as we stood, the rays of the sun fell on it, and showed it to the greatest advantage.
From hence we hurried to the Musée, where the Crucifixion, also by Rubens, claims the traveller's admiration. There are many others by the same master, and the collection is rich in Vandykes; but unfortunately we had not time to examine them, or to go to the church of St. Jaques, which contains some splendid paintings.
We paid a passing visit to Mr. Baillie, the great shawl-merchant, and bought some of the wondrous black silk for which Antwerp is famed. We then drove to the railway, where we found a scene of unequalled confusion. In consequence of the “ fête,” 10,000 people required accommodation. The directors put on more carriages, and preached patience. We had great difficulty in getting places, and only succeeded after a scuffle between Lord L. and some pert priest. The trains on this railway are not fast, and make four long stoppages between Brussels and Antwerp, a distance of thirty miles. The longest is at Mechlin, from whence all the railways branch. They are managed by the government, and said to be by no means so lucrative as when they were in the hands of the commercial and contracting parties. I was told that now they hardly pay themselves, whereas before the profits were immense.
The old tower at Mechlin is very picturesque, though quite unfinished. There are fine pictures in the church, but we could not remain long enough to see them.
To me there is a great charm in Brussels, owing to its cleanliness, brightness, and gaiety, and the clear atmosphere and blue sky. The smart shops, wide streets, and regular buildings, always remind me of Paris, without its drawbacks of noise and confusion. When here, four years ago, we visited the Prince of Orange's palace, and explored all the curiosities of the place, but our séjour this time was productive of little incident. I went over the lace-shops, and could not resist making some purchases. The cuisine of the hotel was so bad, that we had recourse to a restaurateur, where we, however, fared no better. The little carriages, or flys, called “ vigilantes" are particularly convenient.
After spending nearly a week at Brussels, we left it on Monday, the 31st, by the early train, which goes first tó Mechlin, and from thence by Tirlemont to Ans, a little distance from Liège. Here we were obliged to scramble into omnibuses of the worst description, that threatened dislocation to the bones and distraction to the head, by the noise and shaking, as we jumbled on to the best inn (the Pavillon Anglais). The railway travelling has the undoubted advantage of enabling one to move from place to place with great rapidity, but its drawbacks are innumerable; the noise, the smell, the jar, and above all, the being brought into contact with all kinds and conditions of people.
On this occasion there was a large collection of priests, and a lady of not very refined appearance, who confided to me a long story of her being too late for one train, and missing another, while she drank a glass of eau sucrée, and finally declared that she had found herself at Brussels, meaning to be at Liège, without her sac de nuit, which she assured me contained 1500 francs.
A picturesque-looking man, in a green costume, and Louis Quatorze boots, whose appearance was that of a half Spanish brigand, half player, also accompanied us. On getting into the omnibus the lady, with great glee, informed me,
“ J'ai tout retrouvé, jusqu'à mon ombrelle.”
We dined at Liège, and posted on to Aix-la-Chapelle, where we arrived late, having passed the Prussian frontier, where the customhouse officers were civil, and did not unpack or meddle with any thing we had except a ham, on which they enforced duty. The railroad is to be continued to Cologne, which will much facilitate travelling. We remained but one night at Aix, which was full of people. I took a bath, but cannot say that I liked the experiment. Napoleon's famous bath no longer exists.
On arriving at Cologne, after a hot, dusty drive, we immediately visited the cathedral, which has never been completed. There are numerous wild legends respecting this pile, one of which states, that the devil furnished the plan; but in consequence of the architect having failed in his part of the compact, his satanic majesty destroyed the design, and nobody else has been able to imitate it. The King of Prussia has sent lately to have an estimate of the expense of finishing it, and the valuation amounted to four millions of thalers-about a million sterling. It is a fine specimen of Gothic architecture, and contains many objects of interest, among which is the shrine of the three Kings of Cologne. The heart of Marie de Medicis is said to be buried within the walls of this church. The painted glass is beau
We were next day picked up by the steamer, which brought the rest of our family from Rotterdam. These boats are long, narrow, and adapted to carry a great number of passengers. There were two hundred on this occasion ; but as we occupied the pavilion, which is really a good sized private room, we were well accommodated, and enjoyed plenty of air and light, and were not molested by strangers. The steamer was to have sailed at six, but of that we were not aware, and were consequently nearly left behind. In fact, the vessel had left the place of embarkation, but on seeing us arrive, the captain very civilly put back.
We passed Bonn and the Drachenfels, both of which disappointed me, and at four o'clock we arrived at Coblentz, which is finely situated. A picturesque bridge of boats connects it with the citadel of Ehrenbreitstein, bristling with its embrasures and lines of artillery, on the opposite side of the river.
There are several fine large inns at Coblentz, looking towards the quay. We had nice rooms at l'Hôtel du Géant, where we were to pass the night, the steamer remaining till seven o'clock the next morning. We took a walk in the evening, and discovering an excellent bookseller's, purchased some books, and then crossed the bridge of boats. The effect of the scenery at night was very striking; "the wide and winding Rhine," smooth as a mirror, gave back the thousand lights from the old Gothic windows and gable ends of the numerous edifices. The weather was worthy of a southern clime, not a breath of wind, not a vestige of damp; and a clear full moon completed the charm of this lovely scene.
Next morning, September 4th, we continued our progress. The scenery after Coblentz becomes much more grand. We passed some old castles, and many picturesque crags and hills, feathered down to the water's edge with wild and luxuriant foliage. The prettiest seemed to me a possession of Prince Frederic of Prussia. This castle has been repaired and rendered habitable, and must be in summer a delightful residence. It is situated halfway up a rocky hill, and perched like an eagle's nest, in a most romantic situation, and commands no doubt a magnificent view.
We landed at four o'clock at Mayence, which appeared a dismal old fortified town, and after getting our letters, we crossed the bridge of boats, which is here thrown over the Rhine, and found ourselves at the railway-office. Here, as usual, there seemed much confusion, and we discovered, when too late, that our carriages ought to have been landed at Biberich, and that they must now post to Wiesbaden. After waiting an hour in the travellers' room, poisoned by thick smoke from the persevering Germans' cigars, and after nearly taking the wrong train, which would have deposited us at Frankfort, we were conveyed, during a tremendous thunderstorm and torrents of rain, to Wiesbaden, where we determined to rest a few days, and found tolerable rooms at the Hôtel de la Rose.
This town is larger than I expected, and remarkably clean and well built. It was very full, but we found no one of our acquaintance. The waters are hot, and are considered very efficacious for gout and rheumatism. I can imagine that to an invalid in search of health and repose, this place would be a most agreeable séjour ; but for persons who do not drink the waters, or take the baths, and who seek amusement in excitement, it certainly would not answer.
At six o'clock in the morning, the band begins to play, and all the people flock to the well, where they receive as many glasses of this nearly boiling water as they may think fit to swallow, walking ten minutes between each ; they then hurry to the baths, where they remain twenty minutes, and after their breakfast the day is spent in walking, lounging, and idling about. The walks at Wiesbaden are pretty, and there is a fine square, built of white stone, with a large room for play and réunion, and a range of shops on each side, under a colonnade. The shops appeared to be all of an inferior description, and more like stalls at a fair. The effect of the Bohemian glass is very beautiful; the variety of shapes, colours, and hues, gives the appearance of a garden of tulips.
We made an excursion to Biberich, the summer palace of the Duke of Nassau, who has lately succeeded his father. The gardens are beautifully laid out, in the English style, and consist of three hundred acres; the castle looks upon the Rhine, and has a fine broad Italian terrace, covered with magnificent orange-trees.
The views up and down the Rhine from hence are enchanting, and here we bid farewell to that noble river. The interior of the palace is in no way striking. The principal features are two galleries in white and gold, one on each side of a round room with a dome supported by marble columns. We were shown the private apartments, and some vases which had been presented by Napoleon and the Emperor Nicholas.
Sunday, 7.-We attended divine service in the fine old Lutheran chapel ; all the resident English were there, but I did not recognise any one. The weather bad entirely changed since the thunderstorm, and now became so cold, that we almost longed for fires.
On Wednesday, 10th, to my great joy, we took our leave of Wiesbaden, and our britska having been ingeniously manufactured into a carriage, with four inside places, and the same number outside, the junior branches of the family were packed therein. The method of arranging these little open carriages in Germany, that they may close for four persons when necessary, has great merit, and does not require above ten minutes to effect the metamorphosis. Having no travelling waggon or fourgon, our beds, canteens, and every thing not sent on by diligence, was packed on the carriages, and our great coach was tolerably well loaded.
We passed through the fine free town of Frankfort, but having spent a week there four years ago, we did not delay above half an hour, while I drove to the brilliant and spacious shop of Monsieur Stiegewald, glittering with Bohemian glass of every form and hue. Frankfort is finely situated on the Maine; it is built of white stone, has wide streets, and good hotels.
We crossed the bridge and proceeded to Aschaffenburg, where we were to pass the night. The approach to it is romantic; a fine old red-brick castle, with towers and turrets, stands on a height. We set out at nine o'clock the following morning, and passed a large forest