The New York Times, September 21, 1884, p.6:|
MAGYARS AND THE DANUBE.
SZOLNOK, Western Hungary, Aug. 27.--We have descended the Danube to Vienna, and have come on here by rail via Pressburg [Bratislava] and Pesth...
But before saying anything further about our Hungarian travels I must turn back to finish our voyage down the Danube, of which we took leave at Ofen [German for Buda, the western side of Budapest], to see him no more till we catch a passing glimpse of him creeping feebly in the last days of his dotage through the dreary swamps of Roumania.
The afternoon train from Munich reaches Passau at midnight, and thence you start down the river toward Linz and Vienna at 3 on the following afternoon. The meeting of the Inn and the Danube, which rush together just beyond the tongue of land upon which the town of Passau is built, is perhaps a little too like a stream of water gruel rushing into a river of mutton broth to awaken any very artistic emotions.
As to the Danube steamers themselves, they are like the poet's definition of hope: "Man never is but always to be" comfortable. Moreover, they contain a terrible trap for the unwary in the form of a tempting offer of separate staterooms, at a most exorbitant rate, for the benefit of those who may object to sleeping "heads and tails" in the general cabin.
But woe to him who accepts the insidious proposal, for when evening comes he suddenly discovers that the boat stays all night at Linz, and that he might just as well have gone ashore there and slept much more comfortably at a hotel for half the money.
But the scenery of the famous river between Passau [Germany] and Linz [Austria] might well atone for much severer trials of patience. The great dark hills, wooded to the very summits, hanging steeply over the broad, shining curves of the rushing Danube, carry one back to the Hudson at the very first glance. One almost expects to see West Point or Newburg emerge from the clustering trees, and to hear the familiar "All aboard" waking the mountain echoes. But every here and there, where the landslip or the pickaxe has scarred the green hillside, a huge gray rock starts out in hideous barrenness, as if threatening to come crashing down upon the smooth, white post road that winds along the bank below, with a tilt-covered wagon creeping slowly around its nearest bend and a heated pedestrian lying snugly in the shade of a spreading beech, with his knapsack beside him.
Here and there, too, on the summit of some vast overhanging cliff, a gray crumbling tower, sole remnant of some once famous feudal stronghold, scowls down from amid its trees at the passing steamer. But these stray memorials of the gloomy past only heighten the picturesque effect of unnumbered tokens of the brisk and bustling present.
Trim little hamlets cluster along every projecting headland or peer coyly through the treess of some dark, rocky gorge, from the shadowy depths of which a bright little stream comes dancing and sparkling to welcome Father Danube. Every halting place is a photograph of German village life, and might serve as a frontspiece for Goethe's Hermann und Dorothea.
We see the portly host standing in the doorway of his snug little white-fronted inn, the jolly beer drinkers laughing and chatting in their shady bower, the tailor and the shoemaker working at their open windows, the soldier lounging past, with a self-satisfied glance at his jaunty blue uniform; the black-coated village parson exchanging a cheery "Guten morgen" with a burly farmer who is jogging along the road on is sober gray nag, the stout market woman, with her well-filled basket, and the pretty, blue-eyed Mädchen looking wistfully toward the approaching steamer, which may be bringing to her some fair-haired Karl or Wilhelm whom she has expected for many a day past.
Linz itself is an intensely modern town adapted from the French, and chiefly remarkable for the fine bridge that crosses the Danube just in front of it. Below the town the banks are low, flat, and covered with bushes, while muddy islets crop up every now and then amid the thick, gray water.
But we are soon among the hills again, and our Captain--a tall, good-looking fellow, with a mustache like a dragoon, who has brought back a very fair knowledge of English from his travels in Britain and America--points out with unmistakable pride the big factory-like palaces overhead, where those truly great men the Dukes of Coburg Gotha were graciously pleased to hunt all day and drink all night for the good of their people.
But the landscape has something better to show us than the haunts of these royal gamekeepers. We plunge all at once between two vast wood-crowned ridges, piled up terrace above terrace into the very sky, with a few tiny white cottages clinging to their skirts as if to save themselves from tumbling bodily down into the river. Then appears the pretty little village of Grein or Kreuz, nestling snugly in the hollow of the dark hillside.
And now the river narrows suddenly, and rushes headlong round a sharp curve, roaring and boiling like a waterfall. The Captain springs forward, shouting hasty orders to the two stout helmsmen who are making the wheel fly round like a firework. Then the water itself seems to slip away from beneath us, and the steamer appears to be dashing down the hill at full speed, and we know that we are in the grasp of the famous Strudel Rapid.
Here it was that, about 400 years ago, according to the old German chroniclers, a very curious thing happened. There was a certain Bishop Bruno in these parts who was wont to entertain the Emperor whenever the latter passed up or down the Danube, and had one evening prepared for his reception as usual. That night the Bishop could not sleep, and when he fell into an uneasy doze, toward morning, it was only to dream that he had rung at the palace gate, and that the bell sounded like a passing knell. Waking in terror, he fell asleep again, and dreamed that he came up to the gate once more, and that the porter who opened it to him was Death.
Then the Bishop thought it was high time to get up and dress. But daylight chased away his fears, and he gave the Emperor such a welcome that the latter insisted upon taking him down the river and entertaining him in turn.
Just as they reached the Strudel Rapid, however, a voice came suddenly out of the empty air, "Ho, ho, Bishop Bruno, wither goest thou? Travel where thou mayest, thou shalt be mine ere sunset."
This little incident somewhat dampened the spirits of the company, and more especially those of the Bishop himself, although he still revived a little when evening came, and still all went well with him.
But the weird menace was not spoken in vain, for, as the chronicler tells us, "even as he sat at meat with the Kaiser and the sun was already nigh unto his going down, on a sudden there fell upon him a great beam out of the roof and smote him so that he died.
To describe Vienna over again would be almost as bad as trying to say something new about Paris. Indeed, any accurate description of the capital of Austria might be transferred without much alteration to that of France. In strolling along the Prater or the Ringstrasse you are always haunted by a vague, puzzling sense of having somehow got back to the Boulevard Sebastopol or the Rue St. Honoré.
It is quite a relief to turn from this spruce toy shop of smartness to the dark, narrow street in which the historical Church of St. Stephen is bricked up like poor Constance De Beverly in the monastery wall, or to watch the shadows of night come down over the dim, antique square, above which rises the monument that marks the spot whence the beseiged Viennese saw in 1683 the first gleam of the Polish lances coming to the rescue.
What a day that must have been for the beleaguered citizens as they looked down from their walls upon the countless thousands of the Turkish host, and the little handful of gallant men who had dared to face it. Even brave John Sobieski shrinks from confronting such odds without some preparation, and the sun beginks to sink without a blow having been struck on either side.
But the haughty Vizier of Turkey, Karo Moostapha [Kara Mustafa], as if bent upon rushing on his doom, cooly seats himself in front of his tent, and proceeds to sip coffee in contempt of his despised enemy. At the sight of this deliberate insult King John's bold blood kindles into fire.
"Let God arise, and let his enemies be scattered!" he shouts, at the full pitch of his mighty voice. "Forward!"
Down come the lances of Poland, sweeping away that great host like morning mist chased by a whirlwind. The spell of Turkish conquest is broken at once and forever, and every heart in Europe echoes the words uttered by Pope Innocent when the new reached Rome: "There was a man sent from God whose name was John."
As the night train glides onward through the darkness from Vienna to Pesth, you are roused from your first sleep by a shrill call of "Wagram." It is strange to think that this quiet little place should have become a household word throughout the civilized world--a symbol of pride and glory to one great nation and of undying shame and bitterness to another. But once past it you may resume your slumbers with a clear conscience, for even the splendor of the full moon can do little to relieve the flatness of the country.
A sudden halt and a shout of "Buda-Pesth" finally tell you that you have reached the capital of Hungary...
D. K. [DAVID KER]
The remainder of the above article, dealing with Budapest and other places in Hungary, is located at Hungary News & Links
The New York Times, December 19, 1897, p.19:|
VIENNA AND ITS 500 CAFESThey Are the Centres of the Social Life
of the Imperial City of the Hapsburgs.
WHERE ALL AUSTRIA GOSSIPS
A Queer Story as to Their Origin--
Characteristics of Some of the More Noted of
a Famous Lot of Eating and Drinking Places.
VIENNA, Dec. 7.--The American who visits Vienna for the first time is struck by the number of cafés to be seen everywhere, giving one the impression of an Oriental tour. They number upward of 500. As Vienna was the first European city to introduce the modern café, it has, perhaps, a better right than other towns to have such an extraordinary number of these resorts.
At Vienna, moreover, every one goes to the café--men, women, priests, and children. The café is the centre of social life. It is there that the Government's policy is discussed, business transacted, and the latest play criticized.
At 4 o'clock in the afternoon it is with difficulty that a seat can be had in one of these popular meeting places. At that hour every Viennese partakes of his afternoon coffee, which fills the place of the Englishman's 5 o'clock tea.
These cafés are regular reading rooms; many of them take as many as 500 different newpapers, and often fifteen copies of the same paper (some popular Austrian or foreign sheet) are on file. Whenever a foreigner enters a café the experienced waiter recognizes his nationality. If he be an American, a New York daily is brought to him; if a Frenchman, a Paris boulevard paper is set before him, and so on. If a Russian enters, a box of cigarettes is at once forthcoming.
Characteristics of the Cafés.
The afternoon coffee is of two kinds--either a "mixture" served with cream, like the French café au lait, or a capucin, served without milk. Whether it be a mixture or capucin, the Viennese coffee is by far the best to be had on the Continent, and justly famed.
Each Vienna café has its own typical clientele, characteristics, and history. At the Café de l'Europe may be seen the prominent foreigners passing through Vienna. The Austrian noblemen go to the magnificent cafés on the Graben and the Ring.
The café of the National Hotel is the favorite rendezvous of pleasure seekers. There congregate the Vienna jeunesse dorée, actors, actresses, journalists, and cocettes.
The Café Daum, closed a few years ago, was the most famous café in the annals of Vienna. There famous politicians, military aristocrats, statesmen, and courtiers, some of the best-known names in latter-day Austrian history, were to be met. The history of the Daum Café was, in fact, the history of Austria itself from 1848 down to the present decade.
Regulars and Transients.
Cafés are for the Viennese like a second house, and they all have two kinds of clients, the stammgäste, or habitués, and the laufende, or transients. The habitués, commonly called wirthausbrüder, (café brothers,) have tables reserved for them, and woe betide the man who ventures to take possession of this sacred property. There are many Viennese who, in the past thirty or forty years, have sat at the same table in the same corner, day after day, drinking the same brew of beer or brand of wine, and smoking the same sort of tobacco in the same old pipes.
A stammgäste generally spends from three to four hours every day at his café, the natural result being a great loss of time and money. But the Viennese are not miserly. The maxim they follow is found in the German proverb, which seems to have been written on purpose for them: Leben und leben lassen-- "Live and let live."
Cosmopolitan Eating Cellars.
Besides these cafés, there are a number of "restaurant cellars" in Vienna, similar to the cellars at Leipsic, Hamburg, and Bremen, where people go to drink wine and partake of delicatessen, pâtés, oysterse, caviar, smoked fish, Westphalian sausages, and other eatables of the same general sort.
There are certain cellars, like the old Felsenkeller, which are arranged like grottoes. The Felsenkeller has been visited by many European celebrities, and on its walls are scratched the autographs of Victor Hugo, Meyerbeer, Wagner, Brahms, Alexandre Dumas, father and son, and many others.
The most picturesque of these cellars is the Esterhazy Keller, open every day from 11 A. M. until 1:30 the following morning. In this subterranean resort there are no tables, chairs, or gas lights. A few old benches against the walls and some wretched candles are the only furnishings.
The demi-monde, the petit monde, and the quart de monde frequent this cellar to a great extent. A perfect Babel of languages prevails--German, Polish, Czech, Russian, French, Hungarian, Slavonian, Italian, Servian, Bulgarian, Roumanian, and Greek may all be heard spoken in the space of a few minutes, giving a splendid idea of Vienna's cosmopolitan nature, and a striking proof that the imperial capital of the Hapsburgs is not a German city, but a town which is neither European nor Oriental, and possessing a cachet of its own, which partake both of the East and West.
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