VALLEY OF THE WAAG.
A Specimen of Vorspann Driving.—The Jew of Tyerhova and Sir Walter Scott.—Diffusion of English Literature.—Valley of Wratna. — A Jewish Landlady. — Sheep and Cattle of Northern Hungary. — The Pupor. — Roads in Arva.— The Alas and the Juden Knipe. — County of Arva.— Castle of Arva. — Peter Varda. — George Thurzo.—Flogging Block.— Rosenberg. — Church of St. Marie.— Inn at St. Miklós. — Cavern of Demenfalva.—Ice Pillars.—Hradek.—Wood Cut- ting and Floating.
ON resuming our journey, we had rather a cu- rious specimen of Vorspann driving. As is very often the case, the horses belonged to two different peasants, and had not only never run together, but one had never before drawn at all. The harness consisted of one thin rope round the neck, and two others attached to the carriage in the form of traces. One of the peasants was upon the box, while the other mounted the near wheeler, seated on his great coat instead of a saddle, and drove the four horses by means of his long whip and the string round the neck of the near leader.
In stopping his horses, the gentlest wo !— by the
by, wo and gee! or something very like them, are
While we were waiting for fresh horses before
the little " Judea knipe,"—for by this contemptuous epithet, answering to " Jew's pot-house,"
Stephan always designated an inn kept by a .Jew,
—at the station next Tyerhova, one of the tribe of
Israel came up and asked us if we would like to see
some curious rocks, only a quarter of an hour from
the village. As we followed him to the spot, he
asked those questions, as to where we came from,
what we were doing, and whither we were going, so
common in most countries except our own, where
they are avoided, as though every one was doing
something of which he was ashamed, and which
he desired to conceal. On hearing that we were
English, he asked very earnestly if one Walter
Scott was yet living, and expressed the greatest
regret when he learnt his death. Surprised at
such a sentiment from such a man, and suspecting some mistake, I inquired what he knew of
It is astonishing to an Englishman who knows
how ignorant even well-informed persons of his own
country are of the literature and politics of a great
part of the Continent, to find the names of the
best authors of England familiar as household words
among nations of whose very existence the greater
part of that country is scarcely aware. In Hungary,
this fact struck me with more force even than in
Germany, though the taste for English literature is
there immeasurably more advanced than ii- France
or Italy. But the Hungarians, with very little
literature of their own, and generally possessing a
knowledge of several foreign languages, are not
only entirely thrown on the resources of others
for their mental food, but are thus eminently well
provided with the means of enjoying it. In many
cases I have found the originals in English, but in
general, they are read in excellent German translations. With what ecstatic pleasure have they told
me of the new light which English literature
opened to them ! with what admiration have they
The valley of Wratna, to which our guide led
us, is a very narrow pass, the opening of which is
closed by a mill and a pretty waterfall, formed by
a wild little mountain torrent, which, tumbling,
roaring, and gushing over broken rocks and down
steep precipices, has at last cut itself a way out,
while the mountains above are pinnacled in a more
As we returned to the inn, the Jewish landlady,
of whose really uncommon beauty we had obtained
a glance before, notwithstanding old Stephan's rebut%-for, as I said before, he hated pretty women now came to talk to us. Those large black eyes,
spite of their quiet coquetry — Jews, Turks, or
Christians, women are alike coquettes,—were not
come to waste their battery on us, however, without
some hope of turning it to profit; for, after a while,
their fair possessor expatiated on the bad accommodation we were likely to meet with further on, and
offered us, as consolation, some champagne, which
she assured us was excellent. It is very probable
old Stephan guessed the object of her parley,—and,
perhaps, suspected his master's weakness in favour
of black eyes,—at any rate, he looked most alarmingly cross when ordered to pay what he grumbled
As we slowly ascended the hill leading from Tyerhova, we picked up a fine salamander, marked with remarkably bright yellow blotches on a black ground.
The sheep in this part of the country are quite different from the merinos we observed in other parts. They are large-boned animals, with a particularly long and coarse wool, and with spiral horns, often turning directly upwards ; in fact, just what Bewick has figured under the name of Wallachian sheep.22 The cattle are of a poor, small, mixed breed, resembling our worst Irish, and very unlike the large white, or dun ox of the plains, which is equal, if not superior in beauty, to that of Rome.
We had now to cross the Pupor, a mountain connecting the two ridges of the Carpathians, between which we had been travelling all along the valley of the Waag, and which that river itself has cut through near Strecsno, and we were therefore provided with six horses and three drivers ; but, notwithstanding the shouting and flogging of the men, which seemed quite as hard work as the dragging of the horses, we progressed but very slowly, and, as we gained the summit, we had only light
22I believe this name is improperly given ; for I have never seen this sheep in Wallachia, nor indeed anywhere but in the northern part of Hungary.
For two hours we continued along this valley, with scarcely a sign of human habitation till we arrived at Parnicza, where we had determined to pass the night, almost sorry to have quitted a scene which the dim moon-light may perhaps have invested with an interest and romance it might want at another time.
Every country inn in Hungary is provided with
an á1sá, or huge barn-like building, which serves
as carriage-house and stable, and very often as bedroom too, for the peasants generally sleep in or
under their waggons when on a journey. Into this
alas the traveller is usually driven—if (luring the
day to protect him from heat or cold till the horses
arrive,—if at night that his carriage may be safely
locked up; and here it seemed probable that we
must pass the night, for Stephan declared it impossible to sleep in the inn. Knowing the old
hussar's horror of a Jew,—and this he had declared
was the most miserable Juden knipe in the world, I thought it best to look for myself, and a miserable
place I found it. The house consisted only of two
rooms, one in which the family lived and slept, and
where the peasants drank and smoked, and the
other a gast-zimmer or guest-room, which they
offered us. It had no floor but the hardened clay ;
no furniture but a table, a bench, and one or two
chairs, with two boxes about four feet long, meant
for beds. The whole, however, was not so dirty as
I had expected, and I thought it at any rate better
than the ú1ús. And now Stephan appeared in all
his glory, for as soon as he found my choice was
fixed he determined to make the best he could of
it; and stripping the carriage of its cushions, and
pressing into the service every convertible object,
by the aid of chairs, bench, and table, he constructed two beds, not only comfortable, but with all the
The next morning, before mid-day, we arrived
at Arva, a little town which gives its name to the
most northerly county of Hungary, in which the
roads are good and everything else is bad. The
greater part of this county once belonged to the
powerful family of Thurzo, whose last male heir
possessed out of the ninety-seven towns and villages, which the county contains, no less than
eighty-two, and these at his death he bequeathed
to his daughters and their descendants. Up to the
present day this property has never been divided.
The joint heirs now amount to upwards of sixty,
from whom one is chosen as director, who administers the estate for the common benefit of all.
The annual net revenue, when the expenses of administration are deducted, amounts to only 12,000l.
The castle, which crowns the summit of a conical rock, on the banks of the pretty river Arva, is composed of three stories, or rather distinct castles, built on three different heights directly over cacti other.
A steep ascent leads to the outer gateway, which
opens on a circular road, strongly defended by
pierced casemates, now used as prisons. The first
castle occupies a flat platform of rock, and contains the chapel and some other buildings still in
good repair, and inhabited. On the second part,
which is reached by a flight of broad steps, the
greatest care has been bestowed, and it still bears
In one part of the castle I was shown a recess,
not a yard wide, constructed in the thickness of
the wall, and so small that a person could only
just sit or stand in it, and with no other opening
than a hole through which food might be put ;
there, it is said, and I believe on good authority,
that Mathias Corvinus confined the archbishop of
On returning to the lower castle, one of the bailiffs opened the chapel for me, that I might see what he evidently considered as the chief pride of Arva,—the marble statue and monument of George Thurzo, Count of Arva and Palatine of Hungary. Among the Protestants of Hungary, the name of George Thurzo is held in the highest veneration ; for under his fostering protection the new religion held its synods, elected its superintendants, established its schools, and obtained a degree of power and respect to which it never afterwards reached. Like many other of the early opponents of Roman corruption, however, Thurzo was cruel and bigoted in the support of his own creed, and we find him refusing to others the liberty of conscience he demanded for himself.
A disgusting sight greeted us as we left the castle.
Under the gateway, which was as usual hung with
instruments of punishment, the flogging board, a
low table on which the sufferer is stretched out
and fastened down, was laid ready, apparently for
immediate use ; two or three Haiduks, in their
In our journey through the county of Arva, and indeed generally in the north of Hungary, we were struck with the number of Jews we met; iii fact, we began to think the Emperor of Austria had more right than we suspected to his title of " King of Jerusalem."
They are easily recognised, rather by their peculiarly cunning humility of aspect than by their
dress, though it is sufficiently remarkable that,
instead of imitating the peasants of the country
in which they live, they always make themselves
conspicuous by a shabby showy attempt at a more
civilized costume. It is melancholy to see the
degraded state to which this people are reduced ;
nothing can be more wretchedly humble than the
salutation of the Arva Jew, nothing can more eloquently proclaim how necessary freedom is to the
ennoblement of man. I know not why, but everywhere the mass of the Jews appear filthy and poor.
No one can deny their greedy desire for wealth,
their industry, and their temperance ; and yet we
find them abounding the most in poor countries,
In Hungary, the greater part of the trade is
carried on by means of Jews, who, from their
command of ready money in a country where that
commodity is scarce, enjoy peculiar facilities. The
Jew early in spring makes his tour round the
country, and bargains beforehand with the gentry
for their wool, their wine, their corn, or whatever
other produce they may have to dispose of. The
temptation of a part, or sometimes the whole, of the
cash down, to men who are ever ready to anticipate
their incomes, generally assures the Jew an advantageous bargain. It does occasionally happen that
the biter is bit, that the noble cheats the Jew—either
in refusing to hold to his bargain, or by fulfilling it
unfairly, both of which the peculiar state of the
Hungarian law allows him to do, with a great chance
The Jews are also employed by the nobles as men of business, as tenants or middlemen, as distillers and as publicans. From their ability, knowledge of business, and extensive connection, they are, when honest, invaluable in such situations ; but they sometimes deceive the confidence reposed in them, and make away with large sums of money, which are conveyed to some of the tribe in Poland, or other countries, where it is impossible for justice to extract a kreutzer, so close and secret is the connection they maintain amongst each other.
The Jew is no less active in profiting by the
vices and necessities of the peasant than by those of
the noble. As sure as he gains a settlement in a
village, the peasantry become poor. Whenever the
peasant is in want of money, whether from the occurrence of misfortune, or to make merry at his
marriage feast, or to render due honour to his patron
saint, the Jew is always ready to find it for him,
— of course at exorbitant interest. All the peasant has to repay with is the next year's crop, and
that he willingly pledges, trusting to chance or his
landlord's kindness to support hire during the winter. In this way the crop is often sold as soon as
The Jews enjoy the privilege of free worship in Hungary, on the payment of a yearly tax of 16,0001. — a disgrace to Hungary as a free and constitutional country, from which it is to be hoped she will soon clear herself. But it ill becomes an Englishman to reproach another land for bigotry in this respect, while he sees the Jews still deprived of political rights in his own country.
We cannot feel astonished at the sentiment of
hatred and contempt with which the Hungarian,
whether noble or peasant regards the Jew who
fawns on hint, submits to his insults, and panders
to his vices, that he may the more securely make
him his prey : but we cannot help feeling how richly
the Christian has deserved this at the Hebrew's
hands ; for, by depriving him of the right of citizenship, of the power of enjoying landed property, and
even of the feeling of personal security, he has prevented his taking an interest in the welfare of the
state he lives in, has obliged him to retain the fruits
of his industry in a portable and easily convertible
form, has forced him, in short, to be a money-lender
whose greatest profit springs from the misery of his
As we returned to the valley of the Waag we passed the little town of Kubin, behind which appears the imposing outline of the Kolpan mountain. Kubin, with its gable-ended houses, built like
Although the soil and climate of Arva are anything but genial, they seen to suit the cultivation
of flax and hemp. Of the former, in particular,
23I have heard with very great pleasure that a contract for the supply of the British dock-yards with hemp, is in future likely to be given to an enterprising Vienna merchant, and that the greater part of it will come from Hungary. I hail this as a favourable omen for the commencement of commercial relations between the two countries : and it is not unpleasant to think that our navy will no longer depend for its supplies on a nation which must sooner or later declare itself our enemy, but on one which circumstances and inclination alike induce to be our friend.
We required no map to tell us where the boundaries of Arva ceased, for the road seemed of a sudden to come to an end, and from the science of MacAdam, we found ourselves at once literally reduced to the resources of nature ; the road was for the most part a mere track : sometimes we dashed through the brooks which crossed our path, sometimes trusted ourselves to a few pine trunks, carelessly thrown across the stream, and called a bridge. I am not generally nervous in such matters, and yet I can assure the reader I never crossed one of these bridges, which in other parts of the country are only too common, without a very uncomfortable feeling ; nor will he be astonished at this when I tell him that they always tremble, and often crack under the weight of a carriage, and I have even seen holes in them through which a man and horse might easily disappear.
The ruins of Likawa gave additional interest to the wild valley along which we journeyed. This castle was formerly the property of John Corvinus, the natural son of King Mathias, who, though intended as his successor by the father, seems to have yielded, with little opposition, to the accession of Wladislaus ; and, like our own Richard Cromwell, to have contentedly resigned his claim to a throne for the privacy of the peaceful subject.
The first object worthy of notice which occurred, on regaining our favourite valley of the Waag, to which a few more hours of travelling conducted us, was the little church of Szent Maria, said to have been the first Christian temple erected in Hungary. Though prettily situated, recent alterations have destroyed much of the interest its interior might formerly have had for the antiquary or artist. It is surrounded by a strong wall with parapets and port-holes, probably not without their use when Christianity was struggling with Paganism for the mastery of the land.
On inquiring at the parsonage for admission, the priest came out ; and addressing us in Latin, brought us the keys and showed us the wonders of his little church. As the good man spoke no German, I was obliged to muster up the recollections of my college days, and was glad to find them fresh enough to enable me to make myself understood, and to comprehend at least a part of his answers in return. The body of the church is by far the oldest part ; few distinctive marks of antiquity have survived the many repairs it has been subject to, except three round arches supported on octagonal pillars, with grotesquely ornamented capitals, in a style which I think
The chancel, of a much later date, is in the pointed Gothic style, with a small niche of very rich workmanship. There is an old picture here of the History of Christ, in compartments, now much injured, but interesting from the circumstance of its being painted on a ground-work of silver foil, which appears through as well in the glories of the saints, as in other parts where the colour has fallen off. There are several inscriptions on the tombstones, which form the pavement of the church ; but they were so obscured by dirt, that it was impossible to decipher them. At St. Miklós, a few miles further on, we had determined to take up our quarters and to reconnoitre the country
The inn at St. Miklós, notwithstanding its size and promising appearance, was one of the worst we had yet met with. In addition to incivility, we had filth in its worst forms; and in answer to our request for dinner, we got only a sulky reply, that there was nothing in the house. But if the day was uncomfortable, how shall I describe the feverish horrors of the night? Driven from the bed,—for this once I had neglected my precautions,—I in vain sought to repose on chairs or table; and at last I fairly ran away, and wrapping myself in my cloak, slept in the carriage till morning. I make it a matter of conscience to recount these minor miseries, that those who undertake a journey in Hungary, may not feel disappointed if they meet some few disagreeables by the way, though, to say the truth, I am obliged constantly to refer to my note-book, or I should not remember one half of them. So happily is human nature constituted, that mere bodily pains, however they may annoy us at the time, are quickly forgotten ; it is this which makes the recollection of our travels often so much pleasanter than the travels themselves.
Having applied the evening before for permission
to visit the cavern of Demenfalva, to a gentleman
of the name of Kubin, on whose property it is
situated, and having been kindly promised by his
At last we came in sight of the cavern's mouth,
—a small hole at a considerable height on the
side of a limestone mountain, in a very wild and
beautiful valley. Here another guide awaited us,
both being as savage-looking fellows as I ever saw,
and unfortunately ignorant of any other language
than Sclavackish. The entrance, not more than
three feet high, opens into a high passage, which
descends rather suddenly for several hundred feet,
and leads into the first cavern, the roof and floor
of which are beset with stalactites and stalagmites,
though not of any great size. From thence, we
descended by a broken and very rotten ladder into
a larger cavern, out of which a low archway conducted us to the great curiosity of Demenfalva,
the ice grotto. In the centre of this grotto, which
It is the presence of the ice in this cavern, and
the various shapes it puts on, which imparts to
Demenfalva its peculiar interest and beauty. We
As far as I am aware, no satisfactory explanation has been given of this phenomenon. At Demenfalva there was no perceptible draught of air which our lights, if not our feelings, would have indicated; nor, as far as I could judge (my thermometer was broken), was it at all colder here than in Adelsberg or Aggtelek. The stratum, —a compact limestone,—is the same in all those caverns I have seen, and the quantity of moisture differs but little.
After sketching the second ice grotto, we passed onward into a long cavern with a Gothic arched roof, containing a number of stalactite pillars of beautiful forms. The floor was here no longer of stone or ice, but covered with a very fine dry lime dust. Two more caverns of great size, and so high, that the feeble light of our torches lost itself in seeking to define their limits, led us to a narrow passage where the bottom was covered with a soft white mud, common in such places, and called by the Germans, berg muck (mountain milk), and which soon became so deep that it was impossible to proceed further. We returned by the same road, which I should think was about a mile long, having occupied two hours in the cavern.
As for the bones which some travellers speak
of as being strewed over the floor of this cave, and
from which the peasants have given it the name of
the "Dragon's Dole," we could find no traces of
them ; and I am inclined to agree with those who
It so happened that while at St. Miklós, accident threw in our way the son of a gentleman at Hradek, Herr v. C , to whom we bad a letter of introduction, which, but for this circumstance, might, like so many others, have remained in my pocket-book and deprived me of the pleasure of a most agreeable acquaintance.
As it was, we were no sooner within sight of the village than a person who had been sent out to meet us, for fear we should have gone to the inn, directed the driver straight to the prefect's house; and no sooner were we there, than the servants were ordered to unpack the carriage and take the things into our rooms, and this almost before we had determined whether we should stay there or merely call and pass on. This point was, however, at once determined by the frank and hospitable manner of our host,—it is difficult to resist unaffected and sincere kindness of heart.
Our host, after allowing us time to rest ourselves,
offered to conduct us over the establishment of
Hradek, of which he is the chief director. Hradek
is a small village, important only as the centre of the
trade in wood belonging to the hammer (Exchequer), and entirely inhabited by officers and people
in its employment, who are all engaged in the management of the forests, the felling of the timber, and
The manner in which it is brought to this place is curious enough. The woodman who has been employed during the winter in felling, collects his lot of timber at the water's edge in spring, and, binding with bark or thin branches the end of three trees together, he jumps on to this slender raft and pushes off, leaving the other ends loose that they may the more easily accommodate themselves to the rocks and shallows they must pass over. When he comes to the flood-gates, he strikes his axe firmly into the wood ; and, maintaining his place with its aid, he rushes with his slender craft down the fall produced by the opening of the gates, and so pushing here, and guiding there, floats down to Hradek.
Here, to prevent robbery, the wood is examined,
authenticated, and marked ; then it is laid up till a
At Hradek, the wood is arranged according to its size, age, and quality, every piece being marked in such a manner, that the man who felled it could at once reclaim it. The whole of the wood from this neighbourhood is pine, and is chiefly used for building-timber. A considerable part is cut up into planks on the spot by very imperfect sawing-mills which we visited. These mills produce three hundred thousand planks per year, of five yards in length each. The quantity of timber felled annually in the forests belonging to Government in the district of Hradek, amounts to about fifty thousand trunks. The wood is generally fifty years old.
The most approved system of forest management in Hungary, where they have certainly the advantage of abundant experience, is that of laying out a wood in different portions—if large enough in fifty—and clearing the whole of one portion every year so as to leave the land fit for replanting the year after. They replant at regular distances from seedlings, Our system of thinning woods is quite unknown. Which plan is the more profitable I know not, but ours has certainly the advantage in beauty, and I suspect also in the formation of finer timber, for I have nowhere seen such magnificent trees as in Old England. The net revenue derived by the Exchequer from Hradek does not amount to more than 6,000l. per annum.
When the wood is sold, two floats of three trees each are united ; and receiving a load of planks above, they are navigated by two men each, with one large oar fixed at either extremity of the raft. In this way they pass as far down the Waag as Rosenberg, where the river becomes wide enough for two such rafts to be united. They now erect a little shelter of planks, and two of the raftmen returning, the other two conduct the double raft through the rapids of the Waag to the wide waters of the Danube, and so on to Pest, or even Semlin.24
As we returned from our walk, supper was already prepared. In Hungary, where people dine at one, supper is still the same cheerful meal it used to be with us, and it has always this advantage over the pompous dinner which now takes place nearly at the same hour, that it is free and unceremonious. As far as the composition of it is concerned, I never could distinguish any difference between supper and dinner ; it begins with soup, passes through the halfdozen courses considered indispensable, and ends with dessert and liqueur.
Many were the questions our host put to us about England. Bulwer's " England and the English " is known everywhere, and Pückler Muskaw has helped to spread an acquaintance with our manners. For
24Some of the English ship-builders employed at Pest, spoke of this wood as of a very good quality ; but declared, that from a want of a regular business-like method, they could get it cheaper from Vienna than liradek.
I cannot help comparing the state of things at
Hradek and elsewhere in 1836, with the account
Dr. Bright gives of his experience in 1814; premising, however, that we visited Hungary after
twenty years' peace had made the most distant
parts of Europe know and sympathise with each
other as inhabitants of the same country, while
he visited it after a twenty years' war had torn
We spent the greater part of the next day at Hradek, and a pretty little place it is, regularly built, with double rows of trees along the street, and a neat grass plat before every house ; nor (lid we leave our hospitable friends without sincere regret—their kindness and attention to us could not be exceeded.
And now, gentle reader, we must take leave of the Waag ; for a little above Hradek it is divided into two streams, called the White and Black Waag, both inconsiderable brooks, which take their rise in different parts of the Carpathians, and here unite to form the river we have so long followed. I know not whether I have infused into you any part of the affection I myself feel for this lovely valley, this wild and wilful stream, these blue mountains, and these legendary castles ; to me they offered scenes so fresh, so romantic, and so unexpected, that I hardly know now whether I judge soundly of what I saw. But when I turn to H —'s sketch-book, I cannot help flattering myself that he fully justifies my passion for the valley of the Waag. Reader, may you be of the same mind !
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