SCHEMNITZ AND THE MINES OF HUNGARY.
Departure from Schemnitz.—Sunday Dregs of the Miners and their Wives.—Neusohl.—The Landlord's Room. —The Market. —The Sclavack Belt.—Dyctva Peasants.—Visit to a Country Gentleman. — Kind Reception. — Smelting-house. — Collection of Minerals.—Beetroot Sugar.—Manufactures in Hungary.— Castle of Lipcse.—Field Nursing.—Mysteries of the Castle.— Sliacs.—Bathing in Company.—Altsohl.—Mathias Corvinus. —Prisons and Prisoners. — Flogging. — Werbüczy. — Burnt Village.—The Veil.—Kremnitz.—Mines.—Mountain Fall.— Mint.—The Silberblick.
IT was about seven in the morning as we left
Sehemnitz; and, though in the middle of August,
bitterly cold. The traveller in Hungary should
never be without his fur cloak, summer or winter,
for, during the hottest days, the mornings and
evenings are often very severe. It was Sunday,
and the people, mostly Germans, were already flocking to the churches. The women wore their Peitznickel, or short sheep-skin coat, fastened in front
with a silver chain and clasp, and ornamented with
large silver filigree buttons, while the Hessian boots
with high heels, like those on the shoes of our great-grand-mothers, peeped from under their dark pet-
The first village we passed, as we pursued our way
to Neusohl, was Bela Minya, a part of the township of Schemnitz, and possessing mines and crushing-mills. The valley soon becomes exceedingly
pretty : the mountains are small, and the vales narrow ; but the former are well diversified with rocks
and woods, and the latter variegated with a bright
meadow or a narrow strip of yellow corn. Smiling
valleys, however, do not always make happy people ;
and the two half-starved hags, the only inhabitants
we could descry among the miserable huts which
constitute the village of Kozelnic, proclaimed anything but prosperity here. We passed, later in the
Neusohl is a wide-streeted, tolerably well-built
country town ; rather imposing in its appearance,
because all the houses appear to be in the Italian
style, with flat roofs, though I believe it is only
a high parapet carried up to hide the roof. In this
parapet false windows are generally painted ; and,
in one case, an artist, whose adherence to the truth
of nature was admirable, had painted the Venetian
Our first morning at Neusohl was fully occupied in observing the peasants at market. The night before, we had noticed some hundreds of the small light waggons of the country, each with four horses, filling the large market-place; their owners making their beds in, under, and around their waggons. Though only the ordinary weekly market, the concourse of people seemed to us very great; but in the neighbourhood of the mining towns more money is in circulation than elsewhere, and the markets are consequently better attended.
The different trades had each its separate quarter. Just under our windows were the sellers of
broad-brimmed hats ; and Bicknell and :Moore never
had Bond-street loungers more difficult to please
than the cunning Neusohler found his Sclavack
customers. This crown was too flat; that brim was
too narrow—not being more than eighteen inches
wide ! " Who would buy so ugly a hat as this?"
said one, as he stuck it jauntily on one side over his
greasy locks; or " Who, so thin a felt as that?" said
another, as he gave it a thump that would have
tried the strength of Mambrino's helmet itself.
Some pretty sheepskin jackets with the wool inside, highly ornamented with flowers sewed in coloured leather, of which I asked the price, were ten shillings each.
There were several different kinds of wheat and barley ; as well as, oats, rye, buck-wheat, white beans, peas, dried prunes, poppy seeds (used in making puddings), and a small round farinaceous seed called prein or gelbe krísa. The fruit-market was poor ; some unripe ill-looking water melons declared the mountain air agreed but sadly with them.
The dress of the peasants was excellent: the morning was cold, and many of them had their peltz röckels slung over their shoulders after a very Spanish and most picturesque fashion. It is here a short cloak with sleeves, generally of a dark colour, lined with fur and braided. As it hangs over the left shoulder, leaving the right arm free, often fastened in front with a silver band, and descending about halfway down the thigh, it gives considerable grace to the figure. The leg is encased in thick white pantaloons, finished by a rude sandal strapped round the ankle ; while the whole man reposes under the shadow of his hat, which is literally wider than any part of his body.
The women are generally worse clothed than the
men ; often with bare feet, and a very scanty portion
Old Stephan, after a good deal of difficulty, persuaded two very fine fellows to come into H___'s
room that he might sketch them. They were from
We had sent early in the day a letter of introduction to the family of Mr. R--, who resided near Neusohl, with our cards, and a request to know when we should find them at home ; for luckily we were aware that in Hungary, as I believe generally on the continent, etiquette requires that the stranger should make the first visit,—a knowledge, the want of which has sometimes excluded our countrymen from society. The answer was, that they dined at one, and a carriage would be sent for us a little before that time.
Accordingly, at the hour fixed, a smart hussar
came up to announce the carriage ; and in about half
an hour we found ourselves entering the gateway of
an old castle—one of those four-cornered buildings
We found a party of eight or ten persons already
assembled,—most of them, like ourselves, chance
visitors; a circumstance which makes little matter
where housekeeping is conducted on so plentiful
a scale as in Hungary. Nothing could exceed the
kindness of our reception ; and it was not long before our host, having first got out of us the plan of
our journey, and the possible length of our stay here,
observed, "Nell, I am sorry it is not longer; but
I can manage to show you something of the neighbourhood, even in the time you mention: for the
rest, rooms are ready for you here. By-the-bye, why
did you not come here yesterday? you would have
found it more comfortable than the inn. There are
horses to take you about, and my son will be happy
to show you what is at too great a distance for me ;
and, when you must leave us, I hope you will allow
me to give you some hints for your route, and letters of introduction to render it more easy." Now,
who in the world could feel himself a stranger when
We were now in the house of one of the higher
class of Hungarian country gentlemen; like their
prototypes in England in many respects, the best
specimens of their countrymen. But it should be remembered that we were also in the house of a highly
educated and very well-informed man, and it is of
such only I speak. Proud of their country, they are
not blind to its wants ; ready at any moment to draw
their sabres in defence of their constitution, they
are by no means ignorant of its defects; and it is
they who boldly stand forward in the support of
liberal opinions in the lower chamber. Mixing more
with the peasants than the absentee magnates, they
know what are their real wants, and they would fain
remedy them. Retaining a strong love for their
own language, they do not neglect the cultivation
of others, especially the German and French ; but
they are not the apes of every folly of foreign
growth, and they think it no disgrace to eat, drink,
speak, or dress as their fathers did before them. T
am not one of those who would maintain national
prejudice, for it is national ignorance ; nor who would
oppose the introduction of any foreign improvement,
for that were to oppose the progress of civilization ;
but I despise the man who can see nothing good
at home, and I hate him who is ashamed of a
During our sojourn with our hospitable friend, we had an opportunity of seeing most of the wonders of Neusohl and its neighbourhood.62 The smelting-house, in which six or seven huge furnaces are constantly at work, is the largest in Hungary. From the facility with which wood is obtained, most of the ore from Schemnitz is brought here to be smelted, as well as a considerable quantity of copper ore obtained in the immediate vicinity. The ore is for the most part very imperfectly separated from the matrix, as indeed might be anticipated from the bad state of the crushing and washing mills we have before alluded to. On its arrival here it first undergoes a process of roasting in the open air, by laying alternate layers of ore and charcoal one above the other, and so exposing it to a slow combustion, by which the sulphur and arsenic are sublimed and driven off. The slag which is supposed still to contain any quantity of metal undergoes the same process, and is again smelted. A large quantity of pure lead is used at Neusohl as a flux ; a great part of which is lost,—it is said, to the amount of twenty pounds for every mark of
62The mines of Herrengrund we did not see, partly for want of time, and partly from not knowing all the interest they possess. The produce is 1,500 cwts. of copper, with a small quantity of silver ; but the cementwasser, and the formation of ice-beds, are the objects which I most regret not having examined at Herrengrund.
The magazine of wood is such as might be expected where so many fires must be fed. The trees are floated down from the mountains during the floods singly as they are felled ; and are here, by a particular arrangement of canals, flood-gates, &c. brought to any point desired, collected and arranged, previously to being reduced to charcoal. I believe the charcoal is made here, as elsewhere, by piling immense heaps of wood in a circular form, leaving only a very small opening for air, and covering the whole with fine dust to prevent a too rapid combustion. The principal part of the wood so employed is fir and beech.
I must not forget to mention Professor Zipser's collection of minerals ; its own intrinsic value, as well as the politeness with which its learned owner shows it to strangers, are both deserving of notice.64
63The mark of silver is worth 24 florins, or 21. 8s. according to the report of the miners : authors state it at 25 florins, or 21. 10s. The mark of gold is 366 florins, or 361. 12s.
64It may be useful to English collectors to know that the mineralogists of Hungary are much in want of collections of English fossils, for which they would gladly exchange their rich minerals
Within this last year or two, a company has been formed at Neusohl for manufacturing sugar from beet-root. The sugar they produce is white and fine, but it is said to be inferior in flavour to that of the cane. The process of manufacture is simple : the beet is torn into very small portions which form a pulp ; this is reduced to a syrup by evaporation in a double cylinder, and the vegetable particles and colouring matter are removed by repeated refinings with milk or blood.
Tempted by the high duties imposed on our
sugars by Austria, and encouraged by the success of
the beet cultivators in France, they have commenced
a system which, if followed by others, would be
most injurious to Hungary. Our host was one of the
shareholders ; rather, as he said, to avoid the imputation of slackness when others thought the country
might be benefited, than from a persuasion of the
utility of the undertaking. "I should not regret,"
he observed, " losing the little I have ventured tomorrow, to have commerce placed on a more natural
footing. Would to God I might see the clay when
we should receive the sugars of England, and she
take our wine and corn in return ; how quickly would improvement march, how happy might Hungary still be !" Such are the opinions of an enlightened man : the generality of Hungarians,
however, are full of the idea that nothing but
manufactures can ever make them rich ; they do not
see why they should not prosper there as well as
Nor is success to be desired, unless indeed it is desired to buy dear and bad what might be bought elsewhere cheap and good ; and to remain isolated in barbarism, rather than mingle in intercourse with civilization. In a Diet which took place as far back as 1405, in a preamble probably to some foolish restrictive act, it is declared, " (Qum quodammoclo pars sit magna clementine, id quod de suo quisque habere potest ab aliis mutuare ;"65 and such is unfortunately the state of political economy at the present day in the beads of the greater part of Hungarian country gentlemen.
65Engel. Ueschichtc von Ungarn, Part ii. p. 243.
About ten miles above Neusohl, along the pleasant banks of the Gran, stands the village of Lipcse, and, on a rock above it, the old castle of the same name. Four large long-tailed horses of our host's own breeding, put to a light britschka which a pair of ponies would have sufficed for, soon brought us to the foot of the hill. In our drive up the valley we observed a new style of nursing, which necessity — ever fruitful mother—had taught the Sclavack women to have recourse to when engaged in the
As we were still admiring the dark arches of
the old gateway tower, two young ladies, sisters of
the Burg Herr, came down to welcome our companion as an old acquaintance, and to invite us into
the castle. As in many other strong places, the
entrance door to the castle itself is midway up the
wall, to be reached only by a temporary staircase of
wood, which in the present case conducted us to
the part inhabited by the family, where we found
all the comforts of a modern house inclosed within
walls of six feet thick. It formed so beautiful a
picture, that ancient chamber with its richly groined
ceiling, as the light of the setting sun fell through
the arched window on the figures of its fair habitants, that H-- sighed as he thought how little
time he could stay, and how fine a study it would
make. A door in this room communicates with a
secret staircase which has an opening in the outer
wall of the castle ; and by this means it is said
that Szécsi Maria carried on a secret intercourse
with her lover Wesselényi, then a young knight in
her father's service. I am rather inclined to doubt
Our pretty hostesses kindly volunteered to act as our guides to the mysteries of the castle. In one part was a chamber constructed below the floor of another room, and only to be entered by a secret trap-door, where three unfortunate knights were once held prisoners, and who, on the castle being suddenly stormed and taken, were forgotten in the haste of flight, and unknowingly starved to death by the conquerors. Here was the little Gothic chapel preserved unhurt by the lapse of years, or by the rude hand of man. There was the well cut in the solid rock, and I know not how many fathoms deep. They have a good plan of showing such things here, by throwing down a lighted bundle of straw, which the draught made by its passage causes to blaze up and illuminate the dark secrets of dungeon, mine, or well.
In an upper room we found one of the prisoners who had been engaged in the Schemnitz mining robbery : he was a locksmith, and was allowed the
66The Aurochs (Bos Urus), formerly a habitant of the great forests of Germany and Hungary, and of which this was undoubtedly a specimen, is now extinct in those countries, though still found in one forest of Poland.
Near the top of the castle were some originally very handsome apartments ; one room, with its large bow-window projecting from the corner of the castle, and looking on both sides far and wide over the beautiful valley of the Gran, stretched out as upon a map below, must have formed a delightful saloon. This was evidently the favourite bower of "some faire ladye" of former days ; for a small open hearth and chimney—rare luxuries in those days-were constructed in the bow itself. How easily can fancy recall the scenes of by-gone times in such a spot ! Youth and beauty occupied in working the arms of some favoured knight on the silken scarf; and ever and anon, as the sun cast his last rays over the valley, watching the windings of the road with hopes of his long-delayed return, or, at least, that some wayworn pilgrim would demand her hospitality, and wile away the weary hour with tales of war and love from foreign parts. It requires little imagination to draw such a picture in Hungary : travelling is difficult, and communication tardy ; in the country, where books are scarce, and society distant, ladies fill up their time with embroidery, and a stranger who can talk to them of distant lands is not unfrequently looked upon as a God-send in such remote places.
It would have been a disgrace to have left this neighbourhood without having visited Sliács, a favourite bathing-place only a few miles from Neusold, had not indeed an invitation to a large dinner given by some of the bathers to the rest of the company induced us to go. Sliács is not too well provided with the means of lodging those who seek its healing waters; but our friends had kindly bespoken rooms for us, and we found ourselves at once comfortable. Not that our apartments were magnificent; from some Englishmen the cold white-washed walls, bare floors, odd chair or two, rough table, and plain box-bedstead filled with clean straw, might scarcely extract that meaning adjective : but we were old travellers, and had fared worse ; besides, the rooms, such as they were, had just served during a much longer residence one of the most young and beautiful brides of Hungary. It is wonderful how contentedly an Hungarian lady quits the luxury of her own home, and submits to sleeping in her open carriage, or suffers all the inconveniences of. such wretched accommodations as those of Sliács, without a murmur.
Everybody comes to a bath with a full determination to enjoy himself, and to-day was especially
one of festivity. The dinner, long and ponderous,
with speeches and toasts in abundance, occupied
from one till nearly four. Toasts are not given, as
with us, after dinner; but between the courses, and
always in the presence of the ladies: the speeches
In the course of the day we visited the different
springs; some cold, and others tepid. They contain
an oxide of iron with carbonic acid, besides salts
of lime, magnesia, and soda. The cold springs are
considered highly tonic, and are recommended for
nervous complaints. The warm are alterative and
tonic. They have deposited here, and in the neighbourhood, a large quantity of magnesian lime-stone :
indeed, the upper layer of the strata, on which the
bathing-place stands, has been formed by its own
waters. The principal bath is about fifteen feet
long by nine wide, under cover of a large wooden
building, affording room for promenading and music.
I was astonished to hear that it was the fashion to
bathe here in public; but conceive my horror, precise reader, when some very pretty ladies quietly
informed me that they took their second bath in
the evening, and hoped I would join them ! Supposing that I had misunderstood the matter, I could
only bow, and look as an ingenuous youth should
look on such an occasion ; and it was not till
The quantity of gas emitted from the water is
so great, that a woman is constantly employed in
waving a flag over the heads of the bathers to produce a current of air, and so remove it. The gas
was still strong enough to give me a headach in a
few minutes, and the current of air starved our
The next morning we paid our visits and made our adieus to our friends in the bath, after which four miserable peasants' horses dragged us slowly back to R___ . We felt exceedingly sorry when the time arrived that we must quit our friends at R___. By our host and all his family we had been received and treated in a manner which, as passing strangers, we could scarcely understand; had we been acquaintances of years' standing, they could not have taken more interest in us, or behaved to us with more genuine kindness.
Our way now lay towards Kremnitz; but we deter-
Corvinus, placed on the throne by a succession of
fortunate incidents, rather than by right or merit,-
for the power usurped by his father, John Hunyad,
as governor of Hungary, during the minority of the
weak Ladislaus, could scarcely entitle him to the
former, while his extreme youth at the time of his
election precluded the possibility of his having,
then, proved the latter,—still knew so well how to
maintain and adorn his exalted position, that he
would seem one of those rare instances in the
history of the world, where fortune has awarded a
crown to one whom nature has formed to wear it.
In vain Austria and Bohemia pressed him on the
west ; in vain would Poland, on the north, drive him
from his throne; in vain did the warlike Mahomet,
with his infidel hordes, ravage the southern provinces of his kingdom; as vain were domestic con-
There are few instances in which great men have directly aided the progress of constitutional liberty —when, though governing others, they have known how to govern themselves ; and Mathias had this failing of great minds—he would fain have been despotic. The checks which a constitutional form of government often imposed on the execution of his plans, or the stern voice of reproof in which a representative assembly sometimes dared to address even this dreaded monarch, suited but ill with his determined disposition. Fortunately, however, Mathias was as politic as proud ; and, when pressed for men or money,—the budget has ever been the best bulwark of liberty,—no one knew better how to obtain them by timely concessions than the wise King of Hungary.
His encouragement of learning and the arts was
equal even to that of the Medici; he employed the
best artists from Italy ; he founded a university at
Presburg; he established the first printing-press at
Buda; and the library of MSS., containing fifty
thousand volumes, which he collected at an enormous expense, was a monument of his liberality of
which few princes can boast an equal. These MSS.,
the greater part transcribed in the most beautiful
It is probable that the castle of Altsohl was built
by John Hunyad in 1457, when, after the defeat of
Giskra and his Bohemians, he burnt the old castle,
of which some few remains are still visible. It has
been long neglected, and the necessary repairs it
has undergone have not been such as to improve
its appearance. It is melancholy to see how little
either the Government or people seem interested in
preserving these monuments of past times, so important to history and art. Altsohl is royal property,
and is used for the residence of some Government
officers as well as for a prison. The old gateway is
We were shown some villanously whitewashed rooms ; in one of which the ceiling is considered embellished by a series of terrible-looking figures, called Roman Emperors and Kings of Hungary. Our guide assured us the great Diet—meaning the celebrated assembly of Polish nobles under Louis I. to establish the order of succession in the two countries, in 1382,—was held in this room ; though, if I am not very wrong in my notion of the age of the castle, it was not then in existence. Below the floor, in another room, is a small secret chamber, where Bethlen Gábor is said to have concealed the sacred crown of St. Stephen. It is singular that, although twice chosen king, and in actual possession of the crown, this champion of Protestantism never placed it on his head, though it is highly probable that it might have secured him the throne.
The castle is now used only as a prison, and steward's house ; and its solid gateway is, as usual, hung with handcuffs, leg-irons, whips, and other notable instruments of torture,—one of which was new to us, and excited our curiosity. It was a flat
While on this subject, I may as well say something of the prisons of Hungary, and the treatment of prisoners.
Many of the buildings used for prisons are old castles now no longer inhabited ; or, in other cases, the lower part of county-houses, where the magistrates meet for the transaction of business. Several prisoners usually occupy one room, which generally does not appear deficient in size or light, though always unclean, and commonly ill-ventilated. There may be some still worse places than these,— travellers often talk of horrid dungeons; but I never happened to see such, and cannot therefore speak of them. Any very dangerous ruffian, whose escape is much feared, is put in irons, and secured in some strong place whence escape is impossible. In ordinary cases nothing would be easier than to get out of an Hungarian prison ; though, I believe, it is rarely attempted.
The common prisoners in the towns are made to
do the work of scavengers, and are also employed in
other ways, such as drawing water, carrying mortar
and stones for public buildings, and in performing
any other labour to which the county officers choose
to set them. In some places they are the only
labourers to be observed, and the clanking of their
chains follows you at every step : sometimes, they
may be seen threshing corn, at others driving cattle,
It must be remarked that I do not speak of the Austrian political prisons; one of which, Munkács, is situated in Hungary : of them I know nothing from personal observation ; nor is it probable I should have been allowed to visit them, had I applied.
The charge of intentional cruelty cannot be supported against the prison discipline of Hungary ; but it is sadly wanting in efficiency. The most galling restriction of the prison ought to consist in the deprivation of liberty, and in the observance of strict order and sobriety ; which are not only severe punishments to the disorderly, and much dreaded by them, but have likewise a beneficial effect on the future character of the culprits : here, on the contrary, the prisoners have a great deal of personal liberty, and feel the restraint of confinement almost as little as when free.
The morality of a prison is about the same in
one country as another ; but the pernicious effects
Although I have several times seen the flogging-block, and although every one assures me that it is very frequently and very publicly used, it so happened that, during the whole time I was in Hungary, I never saw a peasant flogged ; but I once accidentally saw a soldier under punishment, which I may describe, as the operation is performed in precisely the same manner.
When the prisoner is laid down and secured, the
Haiduk stands over him with a long hazel stick,
about the thickness of a finger, with which he gives
the blow with his full force, waiting a minute between each stroke. Considerable talent is required
to flog well, the object being to inflict the smartest
pain with the least bodily injury ; and, therefore, no
one is allowed to perform who has not perfected
himself in the art by practising on a stuffed sack.
All this is very disgusting and very savage, brutalizing to the lord, even more than the peasant ;
for the reader will scarcely believe that some of
these hardy fellows laugh at such a punishment,
and it is a point of honour among them to bear it,
But, if the noble can no longer indulge his spleen
in the sufferings of his inferiors, the officer enjoys
that right in its fullest extent : if a buckle is rusty,
a horse ill cleaned, the soldier a few minutes
late on parade, or any other slight infraction of
duty committed, the military officer can order
him to be laid down, stripped, and flogged before
the other men. The occasion on which I witnessed
it was as I was travelling, early in the morning,
over a plain where a regiment of dragoons had
been exercising: the greater part were wheeling
off, but one troop I observed remained on the
ground. As we drew nearer I could distinguish
the officer in front of his corps, and before him
a man in uniform stretched on the sand ; and I
could hear the whistling of the hazel stick through
the air, and the dead sound of it falling on living
The youngest subaltern may at any time, and for very trivial faults, flog the men under his command. A young lieutenant of hussars told me himself, that, having once been reprimanded by a superior officer for the bad condition of a detachment under his care, he told him that, if he did not object to his flogging a little more freely than common, he would have them in order in two months' time. Consent was readily given, and he kept his word ; but during that time he had not a moment's rest, nor had a day passed without several punishments, for, as he said, he had flogge'd them up to the highest pitch of discipline,—and he was praised !
As a town, Altsohl's best days are gone. A single, over-wide, unpaved street, with some broken walls and towers, are all that remain of its former importance. Its inhabitants were busied in spreading to dry the first drawing of the hemp, which is cultivated to a considerable extent in this neighbourhood ; and there was not a stagnant pool near but was filled with women up to their waists in its black waters.
While we stayed to devour something, which our
appetites induced us to suppose a dinner, we again
met our mountebanks from Sliács, who gave H___
a proof of their sleight of hand by conjuring away
his camp-stool. These people are always either
I was sorry to leave this neighbourhood without
seeing Dobronyiva, where there are said to be the
ruins of an old castle, the gift of King Ludwig to
Werböczy ; but I was told they were so inconsiderable as to be without interest,—an account I
have since had reason to doubt. Stephan Werböczy was entrusted by the Diet, in 1507, to draw
up a digest of the acts of the Diets and of the
customs of the country, that the laws might be
known and understood by all. In 1514, he presented his Tripartitum to the Diet, and from that
time to the present it has formed the chief part of
the Corpus juris of the Hungarian lawyers. The
weak character of the king, and the position of
Werboczy as a follower of Zapolya, who courted
the favour of the lesser nobles, contributed to render
this work extremely favourable to the interests of
this class, as well as to restrict the power of the
Crown and magnates ; but the time of its publication, just after the servile insurrection under
Dosa, stamped it with a character of cruelty and
injustice towards the peasantry, of which they have
One of the first objects which arrested our notice between Altsohl and Kremnitz was one of those melancholy pictures of desolation, only too common here, a burnt village. It was almost six months since this village had been burnt to the ground, and as yet not a house was rebuilt. Where the unfortunate inhabitants were lodged in the interval, heaven only knows. We saw a few women and children about the place with no covering save a short chemise, and just in the state one might suppose them to have escaped from their beds on the first alarm of fire. In many cases of this kind subscriptions are male to aid the sufferers in rebuilding their houses; in others, the landlord befriends his peasants ; or in some, as here, they are left alone in their misery. Wooden cottages with thatched roofs, surrounded with corn-stacks and stables, offer such tempting food to the devouring element, that a fire once lit can rarely be put out till it has consumed the whole village.
Instead of pursuing the most direct road to
Kremnitz, we made a considerable détour for the
sake of seeing the opening of the great Schemnitz
adit into the valley of the Gran. We found the
opening a little beyond Zsarnovia, in a country
abundantly supplied both with wood and water ; but,
We entered the smoky suburbs of Kremnitz over
a pavement almost as bad as that of Schemnitz;
one might really believe from the state of the
streets, that the inhabitants of these mining towns
had their thoughts and interests so deeply buried
in the bosom of the earth, as to have quite forgotten to make any arrangements for those who
are doomed to wander upon its surface. A fine
pair of blue eyes—I always loved blue eyes shaded
by black hair—invited us to take up our quarters
at the Krone. The best room was occupied ; but
then the aforesaid blue eyes made such a pretty
apology, and offered us so kindly the use of the
room they themselves illuminated, that it was impossible not to find any accommodation good. Our
letters of introduction at once laid open to us all
that was most worth seeing in Kremnitz. The old
Hungarian proverb, that " Kremnitz bath walls of
gold, Schemnitz of silver, and Neusohl of copper,"
had prepared us for greater riches than the mines
can now boast of. Though still worked for gold
and silver, the richest veins are in a great degree
67The process used for separating gold and silver from the matrix in which they are held is similar to that used for lead or copper. The metal is for the most part mixed up with the stony mass in such very small particles that it can only be separated perfectly by smelting ; but, to prepare it for this, it is first of all broken by the hammer to about the size of the pieces Macadam recommended for roads. It is then exposed to the stamping-mill, where it passes under huge blocks which fall alternately and reduce it to the consistence of mud; it is next made to pass with water over slanting frames, where the heavy metal-bearing particles rest, while the lighter run off. The smelting removes the remaining stony matter, and separates the gold or silver from the baser metals ; for it is comparatively rare that any metal occurs pure. In addition to this, it is sometimes roasted or exposed to combustion in the open air, to drive off the volatile metals—sulphur and arsenic.
At a short distance beyond Kremnitz we were
shown a curious phenomenon, a slide or falling
in of a mountain. The crown of the mountain,
about six hundred yards long and two hundred
wide, had fallen in so as to occasion a valley of
considerable depth. We could gain no information
as to the date of this occurrence, but to a certain
extent it tells its own tale ; for the perpendicular
face of the rock is covered with the open mouths
of old mining shafts and levels to which no passage
now conducts, and which, therefore, must have
existed before the catastrophe took place. It has
been conjectured that the interior of the mountain
had been so much hollowed out by the process of
burning the rocks, as noticed at Schemnitz, that, the
natural support being removed, some slight earthquake had shaken down the overhanging crust.
But T think it more probable that it has been
effected by an earthquake of considerable force,
which must have first thrown up the rocks, and
In Kremnitz all the gold and silver produced in Hungary is or ought to be coined, whether gained by private individuals or by the Government. The Hungarians always had, and have even to the present day, the greatest horror of their gold and silver leaving the country, and they firmly believe that they should all grow rich if they could but keep it at home; so that many laws have been made at different times with this object in view, and among others one which renders the coining at Kremnitz imperative on the Government. The amount annually coined at Kremnitz is about 250,000l. sterling (2,500,000 florins c. m.) ; but it is probable this is much less than the amount produced, for it is known that a large quantity finds its way to Vienna in
68I find from a note in Engel (Geschichte von Ungarn, pt. iii. p. 61), that, in 1443, a great earthquake occurred in Hungary, Poland, and Bohemia, and that the mines in Hungary were much injured by it; so that it is probable this may fix the date of the fall at Kremnitz.
69 It is not improbable (as suggested by Hene) that the noble metals, united in this way in different proportions, was called by the Greeks EAEKTPON; for, as far as we know, they were not acquainted with the method of separating them, and therefore could have used pure only what was found in a pure state.
On the morning we were about to leave Kremnitz, the gentleman to whose kindness I had been already indebted for much attention sent down to tell me I might see a Silber-Mick ; which, as it occurs but once a week, and rarely at a convenient time for travellers, was an opportunity not to be missed. I was just in time. Contained in a gigantic caldron was a molten mass of liquid metals, - gold, silver, lead, and copper,—over the surface of which a huge pair of bellows continually drove streams of flame.
The object of this process, which lasts four-and- twenty hours, is to separate the noble from the ignoble metals, which is effected by the oxidation of the latter. At the moment the oxidation is complete, a bright bluish-white metallic lustre spreads itself over the whole surface of the liquid metal, which is hailed with no slight joy by the workmen, as it proclaims that their long and painful task is finished.
The impure metals are then allowed to run off
a stream of warm water is passed over the gold
and silver to cool them, the solid mass is taken
out, cut up into bars, weighed and sent off to
the mint, where the gold and silver are separated,
as already described, and coined. The smelting-houses of Kremnitz are the best in Hungary: instead of the common bellows, they have the double-cylinder bellows worked by water, which maintains
a constant blast ; and the loss of lead, instead of
And here we shall rest for a little space from our travels, and dedicate a short chapter to an important part of the laws and institutions of Hungary, which, although frequently alluded to, has not yet been fully brought before the reader's notice.
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