THE NORTHERN CARPATHIANS.
The Carpathians. — The Krivan. — The Lomnitzer Head. — Schmöcks, a Bathing-place.— Excursion to the Valleys of the Kahlbach, and Five Lakes.—A Country Gentleman of the Old School.—Hungarian Freedom compared with English.— A Chamois Hunt.—A Scene in the Mountains.—The Jagers, and their Story of the Bear and the Wood-ranger.—Kesmark and the Tökolys.—The Zipser Prostestants.—Caraffa's Persecutions.—Mysterious Adventure at Leutschau.
FROM Presburg, where the Danube enters Hungary, to Orsova, where it leaves it, one unbroken chain of mountains bounds the western, northern, and eastern limits of the kingdom. In this course, two great mountain offsets are formed : one between the north and west portion, extending on the east nearly to the Theiss ; the other comprising the whole of Transylvania. In the valley of the Waag we were constantly enclosed between branches of the western chain ; at Schemnitz we were in the midst of the western offset ; and we are now about to visit the highest part of the northern range, the Tatra.
On resuming the course of our travels after this
digression, I shall at once transport the reader, with-
Though the middle of August was scarcely past, we began to feel the cold mountain blasts most painfully ; nor could all our coverings keep us warm as we pushed on towards Lomnitz.
The highest of the Tatra range, the Lomuitzer Spitze (head), as the Germans call it, was now directly before us ; and we determined to penetrate some of its recesses, and to see something of its hidden, almost unknown beauties.
The lord of these bleak territories entertained us most hospitably, and put us in the way of accomplishing our wishes. About ten miles from Lomnitz, and just at the foot of the mountain, there is a little bathing-place, called Schmucks ; and here it was determined that we should take up our abode, and visit the neighbouring wonders at our leisure. Considerable doubts were expressed as to the possibility of our carriage arriving at its destination ; but, as they said others had preceded it, I ventured to try. Surely, never was a more uncouth road formed ; it was impossible to sit over it, and nothing less than Stephan's skill in hanging to the wheels could have kept the carriage up.
Just at the rise of the mountain, and in a thick forest of pines, of which it may be said to form a part, — for it is built of pine-trees, and roofed with shingles of the same material,—we found Schmucks, a pretty little settlement, which would not be out of place among the squatters of North America.
The pretensions of Schmucks to be called a
bathing-place rest on the possession of two or three
cold springs, said to contain carbonic acid gas, magnesia, and a little carbonate of iron ; and which,
among other excellent qualities, have the reputa-
Before supper was over, a second party came in from chamois hunting. One fine two-year old buck was all their bag contained ; but even that is considered good sport with such shy game.
Next morning, provided with a guide, and accompanied by a young artist who was murdering the
beauties of nature here, we started for an excursion
to the lesser Kahlbacher valley and the Fünf Seen
(Five Lakes), two points which all agreed in recommending as the best worth seeing. For the first
half-hour, we proceeded by a gentle ascent which
brought us to the top of a hill overlooking the great
Kahlbacher valley, into which we descended rapidly
by a broken foot-track to a small bridge which crosses
the Kahlbach, where it forms a pretty water-fall ; and
then following the valley lying between the Lomnitzer Spitze on one side, and the Königs Nase (King's
Nose) on the other, we arrived at the opening of the
lesser valley. A strange wild scene that valley presented ! The blasted pine, the huge masses of shapeless rock, and the angry fretful stream seemed the
sole denizens of its solitude. A little further on,
the elevation we had reached became evident from
the gradual diminution of vegetable growth ; nature
In this valley is the place where the night is usually passed previous to ascending the Spitze ; for which purpose accident has provided an excellent chamber, as a huge sheet of granite has fallen in such a manner as to afford a covering for half a dozen persons. Directly above this point towers the Lomnitzer Head, so clear to-day that it did not seem an hour's walk from us, though it requires at least six or seven to accomplish it.78
The road pointed out by our guide is nearly perpendicular, and lies in a watercourse filled with loose stones. The worst part of our walk ere we reached the Five Lakes was yet to come. Just before us lay a steep ascent covered with fragments of granite of
78I give the elevation of some of the points I mention, as I find them laid down in Schmidl : Schmöcks, 2065 feet; Valley of the Five Lakes, 6309 ; Lomnitzer Spitze, 8133.
As we turned our back on this desolate scene, the contrast was most striking : below us lay the Kahlbacher valley, through which we had just passed, and whose stunted vegetation seemed luxuriant by the contrast with what was before us ; and still further on was the rich plain scattered over with towns79 and villages, yellow with fresh-cut.
79The history of some of these towns is curious, and illustrative enough of the former state of Hungary. Sigmund, whose reign was marked by the loss of so many provinces previously attached to Hungary,—Bessarabia, Moldavia, Dalmatia, and Bosnia, and Halitsch and Wladimir in Gallicia,—when pressed for money to carry on a war against the Venetians, pledged thirteen towns and three estates, commonly called the Sechszelcn Zipser Stgdten,—and among which were some of those we were looking on,—to Wladislaus Jagjel, King of Poland, for the loan of 7,400 florins. Grating as this was to the national pride, and notwithstanding the frequent remonstrances of the Diet, no King of Hungary had found sufficient leisure, or had ever had a sufficient sum at his disposal, to redeem this royal pledge. In the reign of Leopold I., indeed, an Archbishop Széchenyi, had offered to do it at his own expense, on condition of enjoying the revenues for life, but his proposal was refused ; nor was it till 1772, when Russia and Prussia had determined on the dismemberment of Poland, that Maria Theresa laid claim, not only to the Zipser towns, but to Halitsch and Wladimir, lost for more than three centuries, as well as to 0swieczin and Tator, to which no claim but that of spoliation could possibly be laid. Of course they were readily granted ; Hungary recovered her towns, and Austria became the partner in a crime which she is as yet only beginning to repent.
In the whole of our walk we had observed no rock but granite ; indeed, we were told that the whole of the Tatra range is composed of granite. I n the Kahlbacher valley some efforts at mining had been made ; and it is said that a good vein of copper ore was found, which yielded abundantly, but it was abandoned from want of capital.
At supper we had but a small party : most of the
guests of the previous day had left, and their places
were scantily filled by an elderly gentleman and his
son and daughter-in-law ; the latter a pale and interesting person, who had come to make a short
trial of the effects of the mountain air, and invigorating waters of Schmucks on her declining health.
The conversation soon became general ; and the
old gentleman, who was of the true Magyar cast,
and did not like new-fangled ideas and foreign
fashions, but stuck to the good old dress and manners of his forefathers, soon began to intimate the
superiority of Hungary to England, and every other
'Felix ergo Hungaria,
I like these old-fashioned fellows ! They may have
a little more prejudice and pride than is absolutely
necessary, but there is always something manly and
honest about them ; they remind me of our own old
leather-breeched squires,--a fine hard-headed race,
whose places are often but poorly filled by their more
polished sons. When our old friend, however, would
persist in praising the freedom of the Hungarian,
in disparagement of what he called the thraldom
endured by the Englishman, my nationality fairly
got the better of my good manners, and I could not
resist the temptation to mystify him a little. Accordingly, I feigned to yield to his arguments ; and
we lamented together that people should be so foolish as to think themselves free in a country where
the gentry paid taxes,—" though to be sure," I
added, " they have a voice in the disposing of them ;"
where the noble could not pass along the public
roads without being stopped for toll,—" though
it could not be denied that the roads were pretty
good ;" where a police was suffered to parade openly
through the whole country,—" though it was certain it interfered only with rogues ; " where an
impertinent press could meddle with every body and
everything,—" though it might possibly be useful in
checking an abuse of power ; where, in short, no
man could get into debt without being made to
pay, or could flog his own peasant without being
Our landlord at Schmucks, who was a good-tempered merry fellow, and withal a keen sportsman, had told me such glorious tales of chamois and roc hunts, and had hinted so strongly the possibility of rousing a bear in the neighbouring woods, that I took fire, and begged he would, if possible, arrange a Jagd (hunt) for us the next day. Nothing could have suited his inclination better: and, though it was late at night, orders were forthwith issued in the kitchen for sundry fowls to be slaughtered, hams to be boiled, and wine and brandy to be safely stowed in strong bottles ; while messengers were sent off to all the villages within ten miles' distance, to collect the most renowned huntsmen—alias vagabonds—in the country to aid in the hunt. Accordingly, almost as soon as it was daylight, and long before we had slept off the fatigues of our mountain-walk, the sound of men and horses, with the snapping off of rifles under the windows, roused us from our slumbers.
The party consisted of ourselves and the landlord,
and some eight or ten Jagers. After due consultation, it was determined to beat the mountain bounding the Völker valley, a spot about two hours to the
The plan of action was laid down thus:—The landlord and ourselves were to ascend a distant part of
the mountain, at a point where it was particularly
steep and dangerous, and to which the chamois
would consequently go for safety. There perched
on some point where we could not be seen, and near
which the only pathway accessible even to the chamois passed, we were to sit till the game came near.
The jagers and treibers (drivers) in the mean time
were to make a cast round the other side of the
mountain, and, by means of shouting and firing
powder to drive the game in our direction ; which
would then pass within shot of us, as the rocks
are so perpendicular that it is only in a few
We were not, however, to be tried, at least today; for, as we were waiting till the last of the
jagers came up, and the final orders were given,
some flakes of snow fell from a dark cloud which
was hanging on the top of the Polnischer Grath,
and were soon followed by a heavy shower, which
at once put a stop to our proceedings,—for the
danger of climbing the rocks when slippery from
the recent snow, was more than even the hardy
jagers dared to undertake. It was the more provoking, as a Polish peasant who had crossed over the
mountain from Gallicia, for the sake of gathering
the gentian-root, which grows in great abundance
here, told us he had seen four head of chamois
Our landlord was not one of the despairing kind
however, and, as the mountains refused us a chamois,
he determined to beat the woods for a roe ; and accordingly one of the jagers was speedily despatched
for some hounds to help the sport. In the mean
time the snow-storm continued, and our first care
was to seek shelter. Luckily a favourite resort of
the goatherds was near at hand,—a huge block
of granite forming a natural cave, under which we all
crept without difficulty, and lay much at our ease.
The jagers in the mean time employed themselves
in lighting a fire, and preparing for their lunch. A
bit of schwamm, or German tinder, kindled by the
flint and steel with which every peasant is provided
for lighting his pipe, and placed in a handful of dry
moss, was soon fanned into a flame by being moved
quickly through the air ; and this having been
placed under a living tree, a dwarf pine, inflammable from its turpentine, and the dry spots on which
it grows, soon blew up into a goodly blaze. The
hatchet-headed walking-sticks were then put in
requisition ;—I do not know whether I have mentioned before, that all the peasants of the north of
Hungary carry sticks armed at the top with a small,
hatchet-head, which I had previously considered
only as an ornament, or to be used in defence,
but which were now more usefully employed ;—and
a dozen similar trees were soon felled and added to
The bottle of Sliwowitz was not forgotten, and,
as it passed from mouth to mouth, it seemed to
loosen the tongues of those who pressed it, and our
companions soon became talkative. They were
Germans from an adjoining village, — Lomnitz,
Schmi;cks, and many villages in this neighbourhood,
are peopled by German colonists,—and united two
professions which to us would appear rather incompatible,—they were fiddlers and huntsmen! They
had been engaged at a wedding feast in the service
of l'pollo all the previous night ; but, when Diana's
much-loved summons called them to the woods,
fiddles, clarionets, and all, were hastily cast aside,
the rusty rifle was thrown gaily over the shoulder,
and without sleep or rest they hastened to obey the
welcome invitation. Every one had now his tale to
tell and his joke to pass. This one had shot a
chamois at an unheard-of distance,—the other had
tracked a wounded roe I know not how far or
how long : but the tale which the jagers took
most delight in narrating, was of a wood-ranger
and a bear, the incidents of which had occurred
only a few weeks previously, and the scene of
which we had passed in the morning. As the
ranger was quietly pursuing his usual rounds, with
his gun unloaded and slung carelessly across his
back, he came upon one of those little green
glades in the forest—so still, so beautiful, they
must be the chosen temples of the sylvan deities!
—where a fine young bear stood just before him,
As the conversation became free, they asked us many questions about England, and were very anxious to know something of our peasants—how many days' robot they worked—how they lived—and what taxes they paid? I assured them that our peasants lived better than they did—for they had told me that potatoes and bread was their ordinary fare, and a bit of bacon a luxury ; but that they worked much harder to gain it.
" But English peasants don't labour so many clays for their lord as we do."
" Nor have they each a portion of land, as you have."
" What ! no land? How can they live, then ?"
It was no easy matter to make them understand
the system of landlord and tenant, workman and
employer, as existing with us ; so closely was the
idea of Dauer and Bauerngrund (peasant and pea-
But the hounds had arrived, and the old huntsman blew his huge cow-horn, and summoned us to
the field. The pack was composed of two couple
and a half of coarse harriers, which were intended
to aid in beating the wood, in giving notice of the
direction the game took, and in bringing it back to
the place from which it had first broke cover.
As for the hounds killing the game, that was
never dreamed of; the guns were intended to perform that office. The old huntsman with his
hounds started oft to the extremity of the wood,
while we were directed to take up our places at
certain points where the game would be most likely
to pass. I was directed to the highest point :—
"There, just where the dwarf wood commences, behind that rock you can conceal yourself; the roe will probably cross the mountain, pass this open brake as he descends, and come first within the range of your gun." At distances of about a quarter of a mile from each other, the rest took up their stations, and all were still with expectation. Full two hours, resting on my gun behind that said rock, had I amused myself with listening to every falling leaf, and fancying it the starting of a deer,—the diversion being every now and then varied by the pelting of a smart hailstorm, — when at length I thought I caught the sound of a distant horn. I was right enough, it was the huge cow-horn of our old huntsman I recognised : his clear shrill voice, too, as he cheered on the hounds, soon became audible, and then grew more and more distinct ; but, with the best will, not a cry could I distinguish from the hounds, they were mute as death ; and, in despair, I saw them one after another come quietly over the brow of the mountain, beating the thickets on either side,—but, alas ! in vain. The hunt was out, as the jagers said ; the roe must have left the wood : and as it was now evening, and we were wet through, we were glad enough to mount, and gallop as fast as our horses could carry us in the direction of Schmöcks.
A warm bath, a good dinner, a fair quantity of
Tokay, and a wood fire in our snug little wood
cottage, soon consoled us for the disappointments
Our route now lay through the county of Zips,
passing the towns Kesmark, Leutschau, and Eperies.
In Kesmark there is nothing remarkable, except
the ruins of an old castle which formerly belonged
to the family Tokoly, by whose restless ambition and
warlike talents Hungary was involved in a series
of civil wars, which, but for Sobiesky's timely aid,
would probably have ended in delivering the whole
country into the power of the Turks. A curious
illustration of the misery inflicted on the peaceable
inhabitants of towns, as well by friends as foes,
during this disturbed period, is preserved in a
journal kept by the judge of the little town of
Perhaps no part of Hungary has suffered more from persecutions of every kind than the county of Zips. Peopled in a great part by Germans whose settlement dates from a very early period, and who in every part of Hungary seem to have adopted with zeal the doctrines of the Reformation, and whose numbers were increased in the fifteenth century by the followers of Huss when proscribed in
80Klein, Geschichte von Ungarn.
Leutschau, which we reached a little before sunset, is an old-fashioned German-looking town, with
high walls, strong gates, and a fine market-place.
After changing horses, and just as we passed out
under the Gothic arched gateway, a pretty servantgirl of about eighteen, dressed in her Zipser costume, called to our coachman to stop ; and, coming
up to the carriage, asked in German if we were not
going to the Countess C —'s. We answered in
the affirmative ; when she handed up a large basket
of choice flowers, under which were two bottles of
Tokay and a letter. Supposing they were intended
After the first exclamations of surprise were over, we both dropped into a musing silence, in which I would not swear that soft dreams of conquest, fond visions of youth and beauty, may not perchance have floated across our minds ; for, though our fair correspondent had expressly said "she never had seen and probably never should see us," it is hard to cheek the course of a day-dream when vanity leads the way. But, lack-a-day! dreams will end in waking sadness. Spenser was assuredly right :
" lie is not fit for love,
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