Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

and on its beach the cordless masts and hull of a wreck, high and dry; on the other, the lake which had borne us thus far, and before and behind a line of mountains of sand, many of them I should suppose to be a hundred feet high, over whose sparkling surface the eye cannot wander for two minutes together without experiencing the sáme sensations of pain as are felt upon contemplating snow: below, in a bladeless valley, stood two wretched horses, almost skeletons, scarcely making any shadow in the sun: the natives of this sandy desert, we were afterwards informed by respectable authority, eat live eels dipped in salt, which they devour as they writhe with anguish round their hands. The whole of this hideous waste looked like the region of famine.

A shift of wind springing up, we ventured once more upon the lake; and after a little fair sailing, we were driven, in our little open boat, where there was scarcely room for the helmsman to steer, nearly out of sight of land ; the wind freshened to a gale, and the rain fell heavily : at last, when we had renounced all sanguine expectations of ever touching land again, a favourable breeze sprung up, and about ten o'clock at night we reached the quay of the post-house called Nidden, and after supping, were shewn into a large gloomy room to our cribs, where we were surrounded by at least fourteen sleeping damsels, lying with their cloaths on, in filth and coarseness, fit to be the inamoratas of the coal-heavers of London. The next morning, as we were preparing to start, we were presented with an enormous bill, which made us feel like the clown in “As You Like It," when he exclaims, “ It strikes a man more dead than a great reckon« ing in a little room.” This imposition, after much altercation, we successfully resisted.

As we approached Koningberg the country assumed a more agreeable aspect; at the inns we found better accommodations, and met with what to us was a great treat, excellent potatoes, a vegetable which has only been introduced into the north within these twenty years. It is scarcely possible to conceive the dreadful state of the roads during the last stage from Mulsen: it was a succession of pits. On the tenth of October we saw the spires of Koningberg, and after passing the place of execution, where three posts were standing, surmounted with wheels, upon which malefactors are exposed, we entered the ancient capital of Prussia Proper. As we were proceeding to the Ditchen Hause, a noble hotel, we passed a vast antique and gloomy pile of red brick; one of my companions pronounced it to be either the jail or the palace; it proved to be the latter, and to be inhabited by the governor: in the church adjoining, Frederic the Great was crowned. The city was first founded in 1255 ; is extensive, having fourteen parishes: the streets are narrow, terribly paved, and have no foot-path; almost every woman I saw was handsome, and wore great thick boots, and a black riband tied in a bow in the front of their caps. We were obliged to stay here two days, on account of the wheels of the little Swede having presented a strong disposition to renounce a circle for a square. The parade exhibited three fine regiments : previous to their forming the line we were again shocked with several instances of the severity of Prussian drilling. The king of Prussia scarcely ever visits this city. The trade is very considerable: one thousand vessels sailed last year into its ports. The river Pregel, which is here rather shallow, was crowded with market-boats, filled with fish, butter, bread, plums, and Bergamot pears. I was present at a marriage ceremony in one of the reformed Catholic churches, which was very simple: the priest joined the hands of the couple, and addressed them extemporaneously with considerable eloquence, as it was explained to me, invoking them to constancy, to love and cherish each other. The young bride and bridegroom seemed much affected, and shed many tears.

Upon my return to the inn, where it was again my fate, in common with the rest of the party, to sleep in the ball-room, I found a little gentleman with a neat bob-wig, and a narrow rim of a beard, just sufficient with his features to denote that he was a member of the synagogue ; the object of his visit was to change our money for a new currency, as under:

Twenty-four groschen, or ninety kleine, or three gulder, or thirty ditchen, are equal to

one dollar. Three dollars and four groschen

one ducat. The price of posting is ten groschen per horse, per one German

mile, or four English miles and a half.

A courier having arrived to secure about a hundred post-horses for the new married couple, the grand duchess of Russia and the prince of Saxe Weimar and suite, who were on their route from Russia to Weimar, we ost not a minute to put ourselves in inotion ;

Oo

and the little Swede, who'began now to be much despised, being completely repaired, we reached Frawemborg the next evening, where we stopped the carriage at the foot of an almost perpendicular hill, crowned with a vast extensive edifice of red brick, including a monastery and a Catholic church : it was dusk as I ascended this height, from which there was a fine view of the luxuriant country through which we had passed, and immediately below us a wide-spreading beach and the sea. One of the monks conducted us to the church, which is very large, and the awfulness of the scene was increased by the mysterious gloom which pervaded every part of this massy pile: we had only time to see the tomb of Copernicus, whose remains, we were assured, repose under a plain stone slab which was shown to us upon the pavement. At the last stage, to my regret, a majority of the party resolved upon seeing Dantzig.

It is impossible for an Englishman who has never left his own country, to form any notion of the Prussian roads in general, particularly of that which lay before us to Elbing: I cannot say that we moved by land or by water, but in a skilful mixture of both, through which we waded, axletree deep, over trees laid across each other at unequal distances. To complain would be useless; moreover, the most terrible of joltings, every minute threatening a general dislocation, would hazard the repining tongue being severed by the teeth.

We reached Elbing to breakfast: a very neat town, not unlike a swallow's nest, which is within very comfortable, and without nothing but sticks and mud. Considerable commerce is carried on, and the appearance of the people is respectable, prosperous, and happy. The fruit and vegetable sellers carry their articles in little pails, suspended at the ends of a curved stick, like the milk-women of London. The houses are very singular; but, as they resemble those of Dantzig, one description will be sufficient.

The post from Elbing to Marienbourg is nineteen English miles, a tremendous long stage; indeed, an autumnal days' journey upon such roads, which were precisely the same as those we had already passed, except that we had the variety of an endless row of shabby sombre willow pollards. Our poor horses halted several times, when they had a copious libation of water, but nothing else. The German postilions seem to think with Dr. Sangrado, that nothing is so nourishing as water; and, what is more surprising, the horses seem to think so too. I have seen a German horse drink three large pails full, as fast as his driver could supply him.

To cheer our postilions, we gave them occasionally some snaps, or glasses of excellent brandy, that we had with us, which the fellows drank, and, with a smile, seemed ready with Caliban to exclaim:

“ That's a brave god, and bears celestial liquor."

In the evening we reached Marienbourg, a small town, once celebrated for being the principal residence of the knights of the Teutonic Order, as I have before mentioned, who raised a castle, and several other structures, in a style of unrivalled Gothic magnificence, in the twelfth century. To these hallowed remains, so treasurable to the reflecting mind, Frederick the Great, although a professed admirer of antiquities and of art, paid no veneration. The hoary pile has been beaten down, to furnish materials for building Prussian barracks, hospitals, and magazines, and scarcely any vestige is left of this pride of ages but the chapel, in the window of which is a colossal wooden virgin, but little defaced; and, by her size and shape, entitled to associate with Gog and Magog, in the Guildhall of London.

We were thirteen hours in reaching Dantzig from Marienbourg, a distance of thirty English miles, through a country abounding with corn-fields, in one of which we counted nine bustards, each of them larger than a turkey. After passing several monasteries, beautifully embosómed in trees, and the suburbs of Dantzig, extending nearly two English miles, we reached the drawbridge, and entered the capital of Pomerania in the evening; and, at the Hotel du Lion Blanc, which was very crowded at the time of our arrival, we were very glad to resume our old quarters, to which we appeared to have a travelling prescriptive right, a vast ball and card room.

Nothing can exceed the fantastic appearance of the houses, which are very lofty, and have vast sloping roofs, the fronts of which are surmounted with lions, angels, suns, griffins, &c. The windows are very large and square; and the outsides of these edifices are generally painted with brown or green colours, with great softness and variety: in the streets, which are wretchedly paved, and narrow, and if the atmosphere be damp, covered ankle-deep with mud, are several noble chesnut and walnut trees. The Rathhaus, or Hotel de Ville, is an elegant spiral structure of stone, with a variety of elaborate decorations. The prison is well arranged: on one side are felons; and,

[ocr errors]

on the other, the house of correction, where the women are separated from the men. The female prisoners, many of whom were servants, sent by their masters or mistresses for misbehaviour, to receive the discipline of the house, were employed in carding and spinning, and are obliged to produce, at the end of the week, a certain quantity of work, or, in default, receive a whipping: the prisoners looked healthy and clean.

The Lutheran church is a noble structure: in one of the towers is a gloomy well, into which certain offenders agaizıst the catholic faith, many years since, used to be let down, and left to perish: the stirrups and chains by which they descended were shown to us. The Bourse is most whimsically decorated with a marble statue of Augustus III, king of Poland, models of ships, heavy carvings in wood, and great dingy pictures. The Vistula, the largest and longest river in Poland, after springing from mount Crapach, on the confines of Silesia, and crossing Poland and Prussia, washes the walls of Dantzig, and falls into the Baltic. Upon this river a stranger cannot fail being struck with the singular appearance of the Polish grain-boats, in shape resembling a canoe, many of which are eighty feet long, by fourteen broad, without any deck, and have a single elastic mast, 'tapering to the top, fifty, and even sixty, feet high, upon which they fasten a small light sail that is capable of being raised, or depressed, so as to catch the wind, above the undulating heights of the shores of the Vistula. We saw several store-houses of salt: the only salt merchant in the Prussian dominions is the king, who has the monopoly. The exportations of corn from this city are amazing; and it may justly be considered as the grain depot of Europe. The exportation of grain, for the preceding year, amounted to thirty-four thousand one hundred and forty-nine lasts; a last being equal to eighty-four Winchester bushels: that of the year before to fifty-two thousand four hundred and sixteen. The people appear to be at length reconciled to the loss of their hanseatic sovereignty, and, having no remedy, submit themselves without repining to the Prussian sceptre. Mirabeau, one of the most brilliant orators of his " that the Dantzickers, who, according to appearances, supposed “ kings were liobgoblins, were so enraptured to meet with one who 6 did not eat their children, that, in the excess of their enthusiasm, “ they were willing to put themselves, without restraint, under the « Prussian government."

age, said,

« AnteriorContinuar »