Title


[437]

CHAPTER XIII.

WINTER JOURNEY ACROSS THE PUSZTA.

Return to Pest. -- A Poet. -- Travelling comforts. -- The Carriers -- Gross Wardein. -- Prince Hohenlohe. -- The Italian. -- Paprika Hendel. -- Great Cumania----The Cumaniana and Jazygers. -- The worst Road in Hungary.

ON the 24th of January, we bade adieu to Klausenburg and took the road to Pest. It was Friday, and many were the evil predictions of our kind friends; but a bright morning, and the thermometer as high as 18° below freezing of Fahrenheit, were not to be neglected. While changing horses at Nagy Kapus, the first post, we were saluted in Italian by an important-looking personage, who informed us that he was a poet, and who inquired in return if we were not the Englishmen who, he heard, were wandering about the country. We were but too proud to acknowledge the identity, when he assured us he had already informed his literary society of the strangers' visit to these distant lands, and begged our names and titles, that he might make no error in any future mention of us! It appears that he had served in the Austrian army during the wars of Napoleon, and was [438] received a member of some learned society at Milan, since which period he has been continually writing poetry, which no one reads.

In spite of an invitation to stay the night at Bánffy Hunyad, we determined to push on for Gross Wardein as quickly as possible. We had a bright moon, and its rays falling on the snow with which everything was covered, left us nothing to desire as far as light was concerned. The cold we did not fear, for we had taken very effectual means to guard against that. It is only in really cold countries that man knows how to keep himself warm. Our heads were well protected by a kalpak, or high fur cap, the whole body enveloped in a bunda or fur cloak, the hands in fox-skin gloves, and the feet and legs in a sack of thick cloth lined with sheep-skin, decidedly one of the happiest efforts of human genius, Bless that sack! for during four days and a night in the mitlst of snow, travelling among wooded mountains, and over extensive plains, our happy toes rejoiced in an uninterrupted state of a most felicitous insensibility to cold.

From Hunyad to Nagy Barod, the road, equal to a good English turnpike-road, follows the valley of the Sebes Körös, one of the prettiest in Transylvania, terminating in a fine pass, beyond which from the height above Nagy Barod, the whole plain of Hungary lay before ua. While waiting here till the post-mistress had run over the scattered [439] village to make up the number of horses, -- for we were now in Hungary, and the post was no longer so good as in Transylvania -- we went into the little inn in hopes of obtaining some apology for supper. The only room was fully occupied; in one corner lay the landlord, and in a box, suspiciously near, his handmaid Julie; on the floor wore scattered, apparently, heaps of sheep-skins and boots, but in fact, a number of carriers on their way from Klausenburg to Pest, and all so fast asleep, that walking amongst them failed to disturb their slumbers. These, however, were the master carriers; their waggons, horses, and drivers, were filling the snow-covered yard through which we had passed. I class the horses, men, and waggons together, as they all reposed quietly in the snow together, and seemed all equally insensible to its cold. In winter, when the Theiss and Maroa are frozen, these carriers form the only means of commercial intercourse between Hungary and Transylvania. They have generally a train of light waggons, each with eight or ten small horses, and carrying perhaps 40 to 50 centners per waggon. The whole distance from Pest to Klausenburg requires, in summer, from ten to twelve days, and fourteen in bad weather, and the charge is from four to five shillings per centner, according to the state of the roads, for the whole journey. The carriers themselves are most trustworthy, nor is there any danger from robbery. [440] These men go up to Vienna when the goods from the Leipsic fair arrive there, and carry them directly to Klausenburg; in fact, all the commerce of the country passes through their hands. A person, twenty years engaged in this trade, assured us he had never known a robbery of his waggons.

A little thin soup, and a well-garlicked sausage again fortified us for the road, and we reached Gross Wardein by eleven the next morning, -- more than eighty miles in the four-and-twenty hours.

Gross Wardein is really one of the prettiest little towns I have seen for a long time. Its wide, well-built streets of one-storied houses, and extensive market-places, are quite to the taste of the Magyar, who loves not the narrow lanes and high houses of his German neighbours. But the glory of Gross Wardein is in its gilded steeples, its episcopal palace, its convents, and its churches; and although of the latter, the seventy which it formerly boasted arc reduced to twenty-two, they are quite sufficient for the eighteen thousand inhabitants it contains. Prince Hohenlohe, of miracle-working memory, is now the occupant of this see. His elevation to the bishopric, has, however, completely extinguished the light of miracle: some say that the old Emperor gave his reverend highness a strong hint that such exhibitions were but little to his taste, and begged that Gross Wardein might not be made the scene of his pious humbugs. Only a few months since, a gouty old Englishman, a man of education and [441] family, astonished the inhabitants of this little town, by informing them that ho had come all the way from England to be cured of his gout by the Prince. Some of those who told me of it, touched their foreheads, nodded significantly, and seemed to think the poor gentleman's malady was not confined to hia toes. On finding his errand bootless, he posted direct back as he had come, without troubling himself with looking at any object on the way.

Three hours were we obliged to wait at Gross Wardein for horses. As I was strolling alone through its wide streets, with that particularly kill-time lounge, common to all travellers detained against their will, a "Scuse, signore" introduced me to a pair of bright black eyes, which recalled me at once to the banks of the Arno or Tiber, and which belonged to a very pretty woman, whose appearance indicated that she belonged to that demicaste, half lady half not, the members of which are so often sacrificed to their own vanity and our egoism.

"Perhaps il Signore is going to Italy."

"Not at present."

"Che, disgrazia,! I had hoped you were going there, and would have taken me with you. I have been here for some months, and am so tired of hearing nothing but Hungarian, and seeing nothing but snow, that I would fain be once more back in dear Florence : I should never wish to travel again."

[442]

Of course, I regretted a thousand times that fate should have denied me the pleasure of restoring those bright eyes to their native sun, and could not help inquiring, what had led them so far away from their destined orbit?

"Le circonstanze signore," -- with a deep sigh : "but now I should like to go back." The deuce is in those "circonstanze;" -- I never yet saw a pretty woman in a difficulty who did not accuse " le circonstanze" of the whole affair.

Though it was one o'clock before we started, fortune favoured us with very good horses, and we made forty miles before nine, which brought us to Báránd. There was not an elevation of two yards the whole distance, and the road, except during the last stage, was excellent; nor did we miss it then, for we drove without fear over the frozen snow, sometimes following the track of former wheels, sometimes the fancy of the peasant or his horses, but always, at a capital pace. In no part of Hungary are the villages so large, the peasants so rich, and the horses, consequently, so fat and strong, as on the plains.

The fogado (inn) at Báránd, was none of the best; the rooms were cold, there was nothing for supper, and the landlady was ill in bed; nevertheless, we soon got the stove heated, a good dish of paprika hendel before us, and enjoyed a night of most luxurious sleep. I do not think I have yet enlightened the reader as to the mystery of a paprika [443] hendel; to forget it, would be a depth of ingratitude of which, I trust, I shall never be guilty. Well, then, reader, if ever you travel in Hungary, and want a dinner or supper quickly, never mind the variety of dishes your host names, but fix at once oil paprika hendel. Two minutes afterwards, you will hear signs of a revolution in the basse cour; the cocks and hens are in alarm; one or two of the largest, and probably oldest members of their unfortunate little community, are seized, their necks wrung, and, while yet fluttering, immersed in boiling water. Their coats and skins come off at once ; a few unmentionable preparatory operations are rapidly despatched -- probably under the traveller's immediate observation -- the wretches are cut into pieces, thrown into a pot, with water, butter, flour, cream, and an inordinate quantity of red pepper, or paprika, and very shortly after, a number of bits of fowl are seen swimming in a dish of hot greasy gravy, quite delightful to think of, I have not yet quite made up my mind, whether this or the gulyáshús -- another national dish, made of bits of beef stewed in red pepper -- is the best; and I therefore recommend all travellers to try them both. These hot dishes suit the Hungarian: red pepper, the growth of Hungary, he considers peculiarly national: and, excepting ourselves, I believe he is the only European sufficiently civilized to know the full value of that most indispensable article of culinary luxury.

Our first post next morning, still over the sea-like [444] snow-covered plain, brought us to Kardszag, a large and prosperous village of eleven thousand inhabitants. I call it a village, for though I believe it enjoys the privileges of a market town, its cottages built of mud, perhaps shaped into squares and dried in the sun, its roofs of reeds, its wide unpaved sandy roads rather than streets, and its respectable peasant-looking inhabitants, render it almost a perversion of language to call it a town.

It was Sunday, and church (for they are mostly Protestants on the plains) was just over; a number of men, among the best-built and most handsome of any part of Europe, were standing round the Townhouse after morning service, while several troops of children, each under their respective masters, were returning from school. It was pleasant to see the little fellows, so smart and comfortable did they look in their red Hessian boots, wide white trousers, and lambskin coats or cloaks, which quite enveloped them, and rendered them not unlike the little animals whose robbed fleeces they wore.

We were so struck with the easy look of the people, and the neatness and apparent comfort of the cottages, that we asked who was the owner of the place ? One of them, politely baring his fine head of long black hair, fastened up with a comb, told us, they served no one but their king: they were Cumanians. In different parts of Hungary there are certain districts, of considerable extent, enjoying immunities and privileges which place [445] them in a very different position from the rest of the country. Among these, the most important are Great Cumania, of which Kardszag is the principal place; Little Cumania; the land of the Jazygers; and the Haiduk towns; all forming portions of the great plain.

The inhabitants of the first three of these districts seem to have a common origin, though the dates of their settlement, -- those now called Jazygers, under Ladislans the First, in 1090; the Great and Little Cumanians, severally, under Stephan the Second, in 1122, and Bela the Fourth in 1138 -- are sufficiently distant. Hungarian historians are still in doubt as to the precise country formerly occupied by these people, and even as to their original language. There can scarcely, however, be a question that they have sprung from the same eastern stem from which the Magyars themselves branched off, and that their language was essentially the same. At the present day, in no part of Hungary arc the language, manners, and feelings of the people more truly Magyar than among the Cumanians.

In all these districts, the peasant is himself lord of the soil, and owns the land ; he is, therefore, free from the annoyances of personal service, and is in the enjoyment of the innumerable advantages of propriety. His deputies sit in the Diet. It is true, that in return for this, he bears more than an equal portion of the burthens of the state. With the [446] noble, he is bound to do military service when called on, and to contribute a part in the extraordinary subsidies occasionally granted by the Diet, while with the peasant, he pays an equal portion of the heavy Government taxes. Notwithstanding these severe drawbacks, he is undoubtedly the most prosperous and happy of the Hungarian peasants, a sure proof, -- and would that legislators knew it, -- that it is less the amount, than the manner of taxation, in which its real oppression consists.

From Szolnok, where we passed the third night, we had still a long day's journey, of at least sixty miles to perform. The first stage to Abany lias the reputation of being the very worst road in Hungary, and to those who know what Hungarian roads are, such a reputation is not without its terrors. A gentleman, whom I can well believe, assured me that he had occupied sixteen hours in travelling over these ten miles in a light carriage drawn by twelve oxen. The soil is a rich, black, boggy loam, and the road consists of about thirty yards' width of this substance, separated from the ploughed land, on each side, by deep ditches, to prevent the traveller driving over the furrows, which he would certainly prefer as the better road of the two. The inhabitants always urge as an apology, that there is no stone except at an immense distance, and this is true; yet I think in some other countries, and even here with more just laws, the basalt of Tokay would have found its way down the Theiss [447] to their assistance; but as long as the whole burthen of making roads rests on the shoulders of the unfortunate peasants, the proud noble must be content to stick in the mud. We were fortunately favoured by the frost, and got over it in four hours. We now approached the capital, and with the aid of six horses, a little extra bórra valo to the kis biro, to procure the horses quickly, and to the peasant to flog them unmercifully, we reached Pest by the evening.

Chapters 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 P.S.




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