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[185] DEPARTURE FROM PRESBURG.

CHAPTER VII.

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, [186] DEPARTURE. and the still sweetness of reposing nature : but in the morning the poor sun itself looks no better than a huge Seville orange; and the raw air, and cold dead smell of night, together with the gray tints of surrounding objects, make one shiver at such mockery of life and heat. I would just as soon get up to see the housemaid make my study-fire, as worship the god of day till he has fairly warmed the air, and made it fit for mortal breathing.

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 [187] THE DANUBE. the castle could be seen, peering over the thick woods which come down to the water's edge on either side. For many miles no object of interest meets the traveller's expectant eye : the country all round is flat and sandy, sometimes wooded, sometimes spread out in rich meadows, looking everywhere as if it had at one period formed the bed of the river itself, which, even now, frequently changes its course. The immense arms, which the Danube in this part sends off at every half-mile or less, are many of them wider than the parent stream itself, if that term can be applied to any part of it; for it is often uncertain which course the steersman should prefer, the height of the water, and the appearance of the stream, guiding him in his choice. This, and a very undulating course, are the natural effects of the flatness of its bed ; and it is to remedy these defects that the commissioners for the regulation of the Danube direct their chief efforts.33

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.
[188] THE DANUBE. consume the water, and often lead to a change of the bed of the river itself. One of the greatest difficulties of the navigation at present, arises from the sharp turns the steersman is often obliged to make to avoid the sandbanks, which the force of the stream, diminished by the immense expanse over which the water spreads, is not sufficient to remove of itself. By means of these embankments, however, it is calculated that in a very few years, the course of the river will be straightened, its bed deepened, and the navigation rendered practicable at all seasons. At the period of our voyage the water was low; and we could perceive, by the constant attention and watchful looks of the captain, that he was by no means certain that he might not strike a sand-bank, where it was very possible we might have had to remain twelve hours without being able to get off again.

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 [189] RAAB.—KOMORN. the main stream, occupy either bank for more than fifty miles of its course. The stranger is surprised to hear that these islands form one of the most fruitful districts in the whole country,—they were formerly called " The Golden Gardens ;" for he scarcely sees a single village throughout the whole of the route. Nevertheless, they are well peopled ; but the sudden overflows to which the Danube is subject have driven the inhabitants to some distance from its banks, where they may be found congregated in large and flourishing villages.

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 [190] GRAN. after passing Komorn, the flat is agreeably broken by a low range of hills, following the north branch of the river for a considerable distance, and celebrated for the excellence of their wines. Neszmély, a small and insignificant village, grows the most esteemed. The Neszmuller is one of the highest-flavoured as well as most costly wines of Hungary.

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.
[191] THE CRUSADERS AND TURKS IN GRAN. mon rumour generally estimates them at 100,0001. per annum, though some reduce them to eighty or even sixty thousand.

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 [192] A VOYAGE ON THE DANUBE. passengers at Gran, for whom a rude boat rowed by still ruder boatmen was dispatched front the town on a signal being given from the steam-boat, and in a few minutes we were again under weigh. As I saw the long tables laid out along both sides of the deck, and a merry party of not less than a hundred persons sit down to a comfortable dinner, as well served as was possible on such an occasion, I could not help contrasting our present position, and its well-ordered society, with a voyage on the Danube before the introduction of steam-boats, and the strange incidents and odd companions to which it introduced the traveller.

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- [193] BEFORE THE INTRODUCTION OF STEAM. rian beer in the boat ; and without further inquiry T hastened down and got on board.

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 [194] THE KEHLHAMMMER AND ITS SOCIETY. from the sides four others of like dimensions, for the propulsion of the boat. These oars, which take four or five men to work each of them, were hulled by the Handwerksburschen, who laughed, sung, and begged with all the light-heartedness and impudence so peculiar to their order. We of the quarter-deck consisted of two Austrian civil officers, wearing a little silver image of the double-headed eagle in their caps, with short meerschaums peeping from their pockets, and embroidered tobacco-bags—the birth-day presents of some fair friends-- hanging from their buttons, and possessed of all the characteristic slowness and bonhomie of their country united to all the fancied dignity of office ; a young artist from Munich, returning with his dusty knapsack and worn-out shoes from a foot journey through the Tyrol ; a fat burger of the little town of Molk, with his gay and pretty niece; and one or two others, without sufficient interest to have fixed themselves on my memory.

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- [195] A NIGHT AT SPITZ. fall found us near the town of Spitz. We had no protection from a burning sun, and no seat even, save the rough planks of the rude deck. The day was however pleasantly occupied in admiring the noble scenery of the Danube, making love to the fat burger's pretty niece in bad German, and listening to the good-natured nonsense of the Austrian employés. The only variety was, when our united prog-baskets were emptied to form a very sorry dinner; when the Strudel and Wirbel,—the Scylla and Charybdis of the Upper Danube,—threatened our frail bark with ruin; or when a few minutes' delay beneath the proudly crowned heights of Milk restored to her walls the burger and his niece.

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 [196] THE TOILETTE. were to join me in the occupation of a small room with precisely space for four beds, the ends of which almost touched each other. The beds themselves were boxes filled with straw; over which were laid a mattress and one dirty sheet, and on this a heap of pillows and a down bed, in dark cotton covers. It was intended, untravelled reader, that we should lie on the sheet, but under the bed ; for here they use only one sheet, and employ the feather-bed as a substitute for coverlet and blankets. Some of our companions were even less fortunate. A lady and her nephew occupied a little room on one side, and four or five stout fellows a still less one on the other. Of course, undressing was out of the question; and though we did manage to get through the few hours remaining,—what with smoking our pipes, laughing at our difficulties, and listening to the songs of the Handwerksburscken below,—we were not sorry when they roused us at three to say the boat was ready to start.

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 [197] Á LA GARGANTUA. most men do, in washing their mouths, be deliberately squirted it into his joined hands, and so applied it to his face ! Several applications of the same kind, and a little dry-rubbing with a corner of the long shred, completed the washing of hands, face, and mouth. In mute astonishment I watched all these three nasty individuals go through their unclean ceremonies, ere I fully comprehended that they really thought they were washing themselves ! As for the rest of their doings, Rabelais has described them in the history of the great Gargantua : " Aprés se pignoyt du pigne Alemaing, cestoyt des quatre doigtz et he pouce : car ses precepteurs disoyent que soy aultrement pigner, lauer, et nettoyer, estoyt perdre temps en cc monde." Anxious as I was to conform myself to the habits of the country in which I was, and unwilling as I might be to incur the accusation of English superciliousness, I need scarcely say that even my powers of endurance were exhausted. Captain B. hall may object to a pump in the open air, but there are times when such a resource is invaluable ! Thanks to Count Sz6chenyi and the company with the long name, a man may now travel from one end of the Danube to the other, and wash himself almost like a gentleman every morning.

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 [198] CASTLE OF WISSEGRÁD. edge. The captain, who had never before for a moment quitted his station on the paddle-box, now sat at his ease as unconcerned as any of his passengers : a child might have steered the vessel, so deep and regular was the stream. As we were admiring the varied landscapes which the bends of the river successively brought in view, a new turn introduced us to the scattered ruins of Wissegrád. On the very summit of the hill are the remains of the stronghold of the race of Arpád, —the keep, as it were, of the fortress ; while

CASTLE OF WISSEGRAD
CASTLE OF WISSEGRAD

halfway down between this and the little village on the banks of the Danube are the more elegant towers of the castle which Mathias Corvinus converted into what was called in that day " an earthly paradise."

[199] WISSEGRADI CLARA.

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 [200] WISSRGRÁDI CLÁRA. but simple Hungarians had no previous idea ; the excesses of the new king and his court were a scandal to the whole land.

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 [201] APPROACH TO PEST. condition was led through different cities, to the cry of " So perish the enemies of the king !" Her body, and that of her young brother, were then bound to horses' tails, and filially thrown to the dogs. Even the most distant relations of this unhappy family, who could have taken no possible part in the affair, were seized and executed, "in order that the whole of the race of traitors might be extinguished." From this time, say historians, the arms of Carl Robert were no longer attended with their wonted success.

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- [202] ARRIVAL tiful Elizabeth Island, with its fresh groves and sloping banks, formed a lovely foreground ; while, beyond, were ranged on the one side the palace and fortifications of Buda, terminating in the bold and rocky Blocksberg, and on the other lay the splendid structures which line the quay of modern Pest. Whether it was surprise at the unexpected magnificence and extent of the capital, whether the light of the setting sun imparted some magic beauty to them, or whether it was our imaginations that fairly ran away with us, I know not ; but with one assent we declared we had never seen a more magnificent sight than that presented by our first view of Buda-Pest.

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 [203] AT PEST. should have supposed him a countryman. Every eye was on him, every one was anxious to greet him as he passed ; while his own composed features and compressed mouth told he was a man who knew that he was observed, and had to act a conspicuous part in the drama of life.

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.

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