The New York Times, May 24, 1880, p.2:|
AT RUSSIA'S FRONT DOOR.THE FROWNING FORTRESSES OF CRONSTADT.
THE CZAR STRENGTHENING HIS DEFENSIVE WORKS—
THE QUAINT CHARMS OF DENMARKS CAPITAL—
STREET SCENES AND FAMOUS PUBLIC BUILDINGS—
A COUNTRY RICH IN HISTORY AND LEGEND.
OFF CRONSTADT, May 7.—Here we are at last before the front door of Russia—as Cronstadt Island may be fairly termed—and certainly no pains have been spared to bar it securely. Five more forts have been built across the South Channel since 1854, the smallest of which is as formidable in size and weight of metal as those which then confronted Sir Charles Napier.
The defenses of the North Channel have been increased by a powerful battery, planted on the long spit of land which juts out from the Finnish coast, just opposite Cronstadt, while the works along the front of the island itself, commanding the seaward approaches, have been strengthened with movable turrets and shields of iron-plating, at a cost of more than $600,000.
In addition to all these, St. Petersburg is protected by the extreme shallowness of the 17 miles of water that lie between it and Cronstadt. This is so great as to make the channel impassable save by vessels of the lightest draught, all freight steamers being obliged to go up to the capital in ballast, after discharging at Cronstadt; but the recent cutting of a canal through the Gulf itself—a scheme which I heard M. Putiloff advocate in a very able speech, as long ago as 1872—will considerably facilitate their approach.
Such precautions tell their own story. Russia has not forgotten the days when Napier's men-of-war lay like great castles upon these bright, peaceful waters, with their grinning broadsides ready to blaze into death-dealing thunder at any moment, a sight of ever-present terror to the eyes which peeped timidly forth at it day after day from the dark woods of Oranienbaum on the opposite shore.
And what has happened once may happen again. Germany has a fleet in the Baltic which, if inferior to that of Russia in actual number of ships, is superior both in men and metal. Moreover, the planting of such sentinels as Kiel and Wilhelmshaven at the entrance of the "Russian lake" must needs be distasteful to an Empire which has been lavishing her blood and treasure for nearly two centuries in gigantic efforts to break the shackles of the Sound on one side and the Bosphorus on the other.
Not without reason has the Golos, the ablest and most far-sighted of Russian daily papers, again and again advocated the establishment of a second naval station at Helsingfors [Helsinki], (the capital and chief port of Finland,) so as to place any hostile fleet between two fires. But in Russia, as in other and more civilized countries, talking of a thing seems to be the recognized substitue for doing it.
I must not forget my promised description of Copenhagen, which, however dwarfed by the mighty magnificence of Paris, Vienna, or St. Petersburg, has a quiet beauty of its own far beyond their oppressive splendor.
To right and left extend the curving shores of Zealand, with their rocky islets and white villas and rustling woods, framed in a broad band of purple sea. In front stand the dark-red batteries of Amak Island, which once held their own for four hours against the best of Nelson's "hearts of oak," and drew from the great sailor the comment that "the officer who commanded them ought to be made an Admiral."
In the innermost hollow of the blue sunlit bay nestles the beautiful city itself, above whose clustering trees rise the tall square tower of the Fru-Kirke, the twisted spire of the Exchange, and the broad, flat, grayish-white summit of the famous "Round Tower."
Were one disposed to be critical, one might note in the Danish capital the same fault which mars the imperial city of Peter the Great, and from which Stockholm is so magnificently exempt, viz., an utter want of elevation. But once within the town itself, the enchantment is complete. Nowhere save in Iceland or the Faroe Isles have I seen the peculiar charm of Denmark's simple old-world life at all paralleled.
In Russia there is an air of uncomfortable civilization, suggestive of Robinson Crusoe's "man Friday" trying on European clothes for the first time. In France and Germany everything has a savor of drill and pipe-clay, as if national progress itself could only advance in time to a military march. But the Danes display their simple habits as unaffectedly as the ancient buildings of Copenhagen display the date of their foundation.
From the homely, comfortable-looking palace of Christian IX., smaller than many a railway hotel, down to the red-tiled cottages of the Zealand peasants, with their clean, white floors and flower-decked windows, the same air of pastoral simplicity and quiet, unpretending neatness meets you at every turn. As you saunter past the gray, many-gabled Exchange, (founded by Christian IV. in 1624,) or look up at the vigorous old age of the Nicholas Church, with its hale brick-red complexion unmarred by the storms of three centuries, or watch the red-capped fishermen spreading their nets on the shore as in the time of Olger Danske, you feel ready for any marvel of the Old World. You would hardly wonder to see Andersen's storks protesting against the libelous ditty caroled in their dishonor by the naughty boys of the Nytory, (New Market,) or the Snow Queen flashing past in that glittering ice-chariot, "whose horses are the four winds of heaven," or rosy Hjalmar floating seaward in his toy boat, and crunching gleefully the ever-renewed candy of Fairyland...
Little need be said about the principal "lions" of the city, viz.: The Royal Picture Gallery, the far-famed Tivoli Garden, the turreted lozenge-windowed Exchange, with its fantastic spire of intertwined serpents; the sturdy, unadroned homliness of the Round Tower, and the Thorwaldsen Museum, where the great sculptor sleeps amid his noblest works. Like everything worth seeing, they have often been described and never done justice to. Indeed, most of those who see them do so amid the screeching of those birds of prey who for "tree shilling de day" will hurry you round the town against time, in the hottest hours of noon; take you with scrupulous accuracy over all the sights which you do not want to see, with just enough time over each to tire without enlightening you; volunteer confused explanations, couched in English, to make them doubly unintelligible, till you fully sympathize with the poor French Professor who, after a severe course of "splendid views," said meekly: "Aimez vous les beautes de lat nature? Pour moi, je les abhorre!"
But the real "sight" of Copenhagen is not the Museum, not the Picture Gallery, not, in fact, any of the long catalogue of curiosities so industriously pieced together by Mr. Murray's Koran in red binding; it is Copenhagen itself.
One half hour in the Oestergade (East-street) on a fine Summer afternoon is worth a whole day of so called "sight-seeing." Picturesque groups, indeed, are here—rosy-cheeked school-boys on a bird's-nesting crusade, in all the boundless enjoyment of a "whole half-holiday;" stalwart laborers, whose muscular development might have satisfied the most critical Viking of old time; spruce, handsome soldiers in dark blue, looking pleased with themselves and the world in general, ruddy, shock-headed apprentices; making the air ring with broad jests and responsive peals of laughter; sallow, white-capped Russian sailors, staring about them as eagerly as children at a show, elegantly-dressed ladies eyeing the new fashions in the surrounding windows with true scientific appreciation, and perhaps a few travelers from the far West, looking reverently at the tall corner-house from whose door (till death came and knocked at it in 1875) used to issue, observed of all observers, the long, gaunt figure and bright dreamy eyes of dear old Hans Christian Andersen.
All are thorough specimens of that quaint, shrewd, daring, indomitable Danish race, which nine stormy centuries have left unchanged since the days when Ragnar Lodbrog chanted his death-song amid the gnawing vipers, and Hubbo of Odinsee hewed Ella in pieces before the gates of York.
In such company one may well echo the words of that rough, manly song which you hear in every street of Copenhagen, and which is to Denmark what Old John Brown is to America:
And we must do our best, you know, for if we slink away,|
The Germans will come in on us, and for us make our hay;
And so with all my might,
Like a soldier brave I'll fight,
Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!
Of the environs of Copenhagen it is impossible to speak too highly. On the east, you pass at one stride from among the quaint old nine-storied houses, which stare at you from their arched windows as from uplifted eyebrows, to the green, open country, rich in stately trees and blossoming hedgerows, in busy windmills, perched on grassy knolls, and clear, smooth streams, alive with darting fish. On the west, the breezy promenade along the sea-wall, in full view of the harbor, leads to a high rampart of turf, from which you survey as lovely a panorama of field and forest, sunny hillsides and shadowy dells, winding shores and blue, sparkling waters, as ever gladdened the eye of an artist.
No wonder the roads are thronged, all the Summer through, with many seated cars and substantial omnibuses, freighted with shouting children, well-filled lunch-baskets, and the most jovial holiday-makers in all Europe.
Fredensborg, the Central Park of Copenhagen, is probably the most frequented of its suburban resorts, and certainly not without reason. Lying within easy reach of the city, it offers a choice of attractions sufficiently varied to meet all tastes. Those who are fond of solitude may find secluded nooks and shady paths which Spenser himself would have commended.
See also: Norway News - Finland News - Sweden News - Germany News|
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Once the seat of Viking raiders and later a major north European power, Denmark has evolved into a modern, prosperous nation that is participating in the general political and economic integration of Europe. It joined NATO in 1949 and the EEC (now the EU) in 1973.
However, the country has opted out of certain elements of the European Union's Maastricht Treaty, including the European Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) and issues concerning certain justice and home affairs.
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