DANUBE FROM PRESBURG TO PEST.
Departure from Presburg.—The Danube.—Regulation of its Course.—Mills.—The Islands Great and Little Schutt.—Raab. —Komorn.—Neszmély and its Wine.—Gran.—Crusaders and Turks.—The Dinner.—Contrast with a Voyage on the Danube before the Introduction of Steam.—Miserable Boats.— Company.—Journey.—Spitz.—Sleeping Accommodations. — The Toilette.—Wissegrúd, and Wissegrbdi Clara.—Beautiful Scenery.—Waitzen.—Approach to Pest.
LONG before the sun had well warmed this lower
earth, we were summoned from our beds, to prepare
for the Danube (or Duna, as it is called in Hungarian) steam-boat, which started from Presburg precisely at five o'clock. A sunrise may be a very
delightful thing, and I have almost enjoyed it when
stern necessity obliged me to be moving at such a
time ; but I do most solemnly protest against the
imputation of ever having risen voluntarily at so
unseemly an hour for so absurd a purpose. To a
sunset commend me if you will ; there you have
glorious colours, and feelings congenial to them,—
all the brilliancy of golden lights and purple shadows, all the poetry of warmth, the luxury of shade,
Not so apparently the Kaiserliche-Königliche-Oestreichische - privilegirte - Donau - Dampfschiffarht Gesellschaft (Imperial Royal Austrian privileged Danube Steam-boat Conveyance Company),—I wish they had a more euphonious name !—and, in obedience to their strict rules and regulations, we were before five o'clock, opposite the Konigsberg, and descending the little moveable pier into the steam-boat. In spite of the early hour, a crowd was collected to watch its departure,—friends anxious to say the last kind words to those about to leave them. Nor were we, strangers though we were, without some hearty shakes of the hand from men we had never seen before we entered that place, but of whom we shall retain a most kindly recollection for years to come.
The cries of the captain in foreign English, " Back
her!" " Ease her !" " Let her go !" warned us
that we were already off; and, almost before we
could look round, we were in the middle of the
Danube:—another moment, and Presburg was running away from us :—yet another, and nothing but
We passed some well-constructed embankments, erected at a great expense, a little below Presburg; one of the largest cost 8,000l. By this means the force of the current is turned in a particular direction, and made to act on a fixed point with such power, that in a wonderfully short time it cuts out passages, brings down banks, straightens the course, and silts up whole arms, which would otherwise
33Baron Button is the commissioner for this part of the Danube; and, next to Count Széchenyi, he is the person to whom Hungary is most indebted for the success of team navigation.
In the first few miles we passed, I think, some hundred water-mills. They are but rude structures, though they seem to answer tolerably well the purposes for which they are intended. They are composed of two-decked boats, containing the millworks, with a clumsy wheel between them, which is moved by the force of the current. They are generally in rows of eight or ten fastened together at a short distance from the bank. In winter they are drawn up high and dry ashore.
The islands, Great and Little Schutt, formed by
two arms of the Danube to the north and south of
Just above Ginryö, the southern arm forming the Little Schutt rejoins the Danube ; and at some distance off may be observed the spires of Raab, standing forth from the sandy plain so fatal to the arms of Hungary. It was before this place that the undisciplined squadrons composed of the nobles of Hungary were dispersed, almost without an effort, by the well-trained legions of Napoleon; and, with them, the last hopes of Austria to resist the imperious commands of France.
The first place of any importance on the banks
of the Danube, between Presburg and Pest, is
Komorn, situated at the junction of the Danube
and Waag, or rather the Danube and its northern
branch which receives the Waag. Defended on
two sides by the Danube and the Waag, and enclosed by strong walls, Komorn boasts the honour
of being a virgin fortress, in testimony of which it
bears a small statue of a maiden on its walls. Soon
The bill of Gran, opposite the embouchure of the river of the same name, now comes in sight ; on which is situated the half-finished cathedral and residence of Archbishop Rudnay. This church was begun in 1821 ; and after an expenditure of an immense sum of money, still remains unfinished for want of funds. It is difficult to form any opinion from so passing a view as that we could obtain from the steam-boat, but I doubt if it will equal the expectations the Hungarians have formed of it.
Gran, the birth-place of St. Stephen, the patron saint of Hungary, is the seat of the Prince-primate, and perhaps the richest see in Europe ; its revenues place those of Durham and Canterbury, even in their best days, completely in the shade.34 It is difficult to ascertain their exact amount, but coin-
34The Catholic priesthood in general are wealthy, at least in comparison with their Protestant brethren, though not exorbitantly so, and probably not more so than their habits of charity and hospitality require. The whole body of Catholic clergy, according to Schwartner, amounts to 9027 ; of Catholic souls, to nearly 5,000,000 ; so that there is about one priest to every five hundred souls. The lowest payment of a priest is 300 f. c. m. or 301., and is generally much more : besides which, he enjoys fees for sacraments, and a certain measure of corn from every married pair. He has also thirty or forty acres of land, a house, and the right to a certain quantity of firewood, cut and carried free of expense. This salary is chiefly derived from tithe ; but in some cases I believe it is paid by the landlord, and in others by Government. The greater part of the priesthood is derived from among the lesser citizens and peasants.
Gran is memorable in the history of the crusades as having witnessed the friendly meeting of Frederick Barbarossa and Bela King of Hungary. The German Emperor was received with all due honours by his brother monarch : whole magazines and stores were presented to him, to aid his expedition ; and Bela even accompanied him to the mouth of the Save, to protect him from attacks on the part of his subjects.
When the power of the Moslems had extended into Europe, Gran was for a long time an advanced post of their armies in Hungary; and its fall before Sobiesky was justly looked upon as the first step towards their total expulsion from this country. It was in the subsequent campaign, in which Waitzen, Wissegrád, and Buda were taken by the nuke of Loraine, that Eugene, then a volunteer in the army, first learned those lessons in war which afterwards enabled hint to humble two of the mightiest powers in Europe—Turkey and France.
A few minutes sufficed to put on shore some
It was but three years before this time that I
found myself at Linz, on the upper Danube, with a
firm determination not to proceed to Vienna by any
other means than the river. It required nothing
less than such a determination to enable me to persevere, against the advice of every one I consulted
on the subject. There were no regular boats even
for the conveyance of goods, still less of passengers,
between Linz and Vienna, at that time ; and I was
told I must wait till some of the Bavarian boats
came down, in which, as they generally stopped
an hour or two at Linz, I might be enabled to
take my passage. The second morning, a boat was
announced at the quay, and in half an hour the
landlord of the inn had packed me up a basket of
provisions for two days, and a good store of wine,
for he assured me I should get nothing but Bava-
As soon as I had time to look about me, I found myself in as old a specimen of naval architecture,- as singular a malformation of planks and poles as ever was put together: a Norfolk coaster would have taken it for a floating sheep-pen : or, if we may believe popular illustrations of Scripture history, such was the ark which Noah constructed for himself and his family in the days of the Flood. This Kehlhammer,—as this kind of boat is called, from Kehl, where they are built,—is a narrow flat-bottomed vessel of about one hundred and twenty feet long, and bearing more than one hundred tons' burthen. On the sides of the vessel are raised walls of planks about six feet high, covered in with a slanting roof, forming a long house, which, with the exception of a few yards at the bows and stern, occupies the whole boat.
The élite of the passengers were collected on
the few yards at the head, and under a small
portion of the roof spared for their accommodation,
the rest of the covered part being filled up with
goods; while the roof was occupied by the ignobile
vulgus,—some score Handwerksburschen who had
received a free passage on condition of helping to
row the boat. From the head as well as from the
stern protruded an oar of at least thirty feet long, to
serve both the one and the other, as a rudder,—for
it is quite immaterial which end goes first,—and
In less time than I have taken to recount it, the stream had borne us into the middle of the thick white waters of the Danube ; the Handwerksburschen sung as they plashed the long heavy oars into the water ; and, in a few minutes, the green hills and white towers of Linz were passing from our view.
Sometimes urged on by the united efforts of
the rowers, sometimes floating listlessly down the
stream, we passed the whole of that day ; and night-
The night, however, had no such charms to make
up for its inconveniences. As we came to anchor at
the miserable little town of Spitz, the boat emptied
the whole of its remaining crew into the one poor
public-house of the place. The Handwerksburschen
and boatmen secured the large drinking-room, where
they rolled themselves on some straw, and sung,
drank, and smoked till morning. After some hours'
waiting we obtained an apology for a supper, which
was washed down by the Spitz wine, notorious
only for the excellent vinegar it makes,—and, to
judge from its sourness, very little making it would
require. My Austrian friends had kindly bespoken
a bed for me, so that all care on that subject was
off my shoulders; but, when the time arrived, I was
a little astonished to find that they and the Bavarian
If our dormitory arrangements had been rather
questionable, those for the toilette were to me quite
incomprehensible. One pint decanter of water, a
glass, and a pie-dish-looking basin, with a long narrow shred of cloth meant for a towel, were the only
preparations visible for the ablutions of four persons.
I modestly waited to see how the others would proceed: one of my friends of the double-headed eagle
commenced. He poured out a glass of water, of
which he took a large draught; and after using it as
After leaving Gran the scene undergoes a delightful change : instead of the flat plain to which the
eye had been accustomed, fine mountains rise on
either side, green and precipitous, from the water's
No spot in Hungary has witnessed more of the tragedies of history than Wissegrád. The prison of two of Hungary's kings, and the death-place of several others, — now selected from its strength to the dangerous honour of the guardianship of the sacred crown, now a prey to the destroying ravages of the Ottoman, — there is still a story of poetic horrors located here, so far exceeding all the others as to have acquired for its heroine the popular appellation of Wissegrildi Clára.
It was in the first years of the fourteenth century
that Carl Robert, King of Naples, was placed on
the Hungarian throne by the intrigues of Pope
Boniface the Eighth, who, on the failure of the race
of 'Arpád, declared the kingdom a fief of Rome,
and arrogated to himself the right of nomination
to the crown. Exhausted by civil war, the Hungarians unwillingly yielded so far as to choose the
Italian king for their monarch ; but they paid
dearly for their weakness. Carl Robert delighted
to introduce into his new kingdom the shows and
entertainments common to the more refined courts
of Europe. We read at this period of frequent tilts
and tournaments within the walls of Wissegrád, and
of royal entertainments in which four thousand
loaves of bread and two thousand bottles of wine
were consumed every day for a fortnight. But
with this pomp and luxury came a looseness of
morals,—the common fruit of a meretricious civilization engrafted on barbarism,—of which the rude
Following the licentious example of Carl Robert, his brother-in-law Casimir, King of Poland, then on a visit at Wissegrád, forced from Clára Felizian, a lady of the court of surpassing beauty, and virtuous as she was beautiful, favours denied to his prayers. In this infamy he is said to have been aided by the queen, whom jealousy of her husband's admiration of the maid had probably driven to this crime. The moment Clara could escape from her enemies, she hastened to demand the protection of her father Felizian von Zach, an old and attached officer of the king. No sooner did the poor old man receive the piteous complaints of his darling child, than, maddened with rage at the shame put upon his family, he sped to Wissegrád, and, unannounced, gained entrance to the castle. The king and queen were seated at table with their two children, when, sabre in hand, the injured father rushed upon them, and striking at everything in his way, he wounded the king and cut off four fingers from the queen's hand before the attendants could destroy him.
If the revenge was bloody and unjust in its object, what can be said for the horrid cruelties by
which Carl Robert satiated his rage? The innocent
cause of this tragedy was seized, and suffered the
mutilation of her bands, nose, and lips ; and in this
After a few more miles of beautiful mountain scenery, the country becomes more open, the domes and towers of Waitzen come into view, and the Danube, changing its course, makes a sudden turn to the south, and hastens on to the capital of Hungary. On the west the mountains, though at some distance from the river, now run parallel with it, and form a beautiful feature in the landscape ; while to the east extends that vast plain which occupies so great a part of this country.
It was a fine summer's evening as we approached
the end of our journey, and I shall never forget my
astonishment at the picture I then saw. The mountains, which had receded from the river, seemed
again to approach its very edge ; for some distance
they were covered with vineyards almost to the top,
but, as we approached Buda, these yielded to buildings which appeared to us a succession of magnificent palaces. As we drew still nearer, the beau-
A salute from the steamer, returned from the shore soon announced to all expectant friends and empty fiacres that it was time to hasten to the packet-pier; and, before we came alongside, the bank was covered with a crowd of persons interested in the steam-boat or her occupants.
Among some half-dozen persons who seemed
privileged to come on board without waiting the
conclusion of the preliminary arrangements, our attention was immediately directed towards one in
particular by the deference paid to him both by the
passengers and crew, and the respect with which
every one seemed to regard him. He was a short
and rather dark-complexioned man, with a singularly bright eye, and dressed in a style so completely English, that, but for the moustache, I
It was the Count Széchenyi, who had come to inquire of the captain how he had got over the sand-banks, and what was the actual state of the navigation. But we must give him a new chapter.
Text Archive Home | Book Details | Table of Contents