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Authors: Alan; Sillitoe

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All the same, our traveller must have read the following with something like exasperation: ‘All innkeepers are compelled to submit to the inspection of the police the daily arrivals and departures of their guests; and not merely the name, surname, and country, but frequently the age, condition, whether married or single, profession, religion, motives for travelling, and other particulars, are required. A book called Strangers' Book, ruled into columns, and methodically classed, is presented to the traveller for him to fill up.'

Another point made is that German hotelkeepers were of a ‘higher class' than their equivalents in England, and that they usually sat at the common table, ‘entering familiarly into conversation with their guests'. Travellers must have responded in various ways to this blatant intrusion into their privacy, from one of welcome at gaining some picture of local conditions, to that of wishing the hotelkeeper would eat in his own kitchen where he belonged. No doubt the silent Englishman's protection against having to answer probing questions was helped by his lack of knowing what the upstart was talking about.

Let us assume that our gentleman-traveller is not too much discouraged by this and makes for Cologne where, consulting his Murray, he would put up at the Hollandischer Hof. Delacroix stayed there in 1850, and ‘felt depressed by the strange jargon and the sight of foreign uniforms. The Rhine wine at dinner made me feel more reconciled to my situation, but unhappily I had the worst bed in the world, even though this is supposed to be one of the best hotels.'

From Cologne it would take our traveller fourteen and a half hours to reach Berlin by railway, ‘allowing time for refreshment at Minden'. We are told that the 455,000 inhabitants of the Prussian capital included 15,000 Roman Catholics, 15,000 Jews, 5300 descendants of the French Protestants driven out of France by the religious intolerance of Louis XIV, and 15,000 soldiers of the garrison. Murray says: ‘The city is situated in the midst of a dreary plain of sand, destitute of either beauty or fertility. The great number of soldiers gives to Berlin almost the air of a camp.' He evinces surprise that it had grown into the capital of a great empire. ‘Owing to the want of stone in the neighbourhood, the larger part even of the public buildings are of brick and plaster. The flatness of the ground and the sandy soil produce inconveniences which the stranger will not be long in detecting. There is so little declivity in the surface, that the water in the drains, instead of running off, stops and stagnates in the streets. In the Friedrichsstrasse, which is two miles long, there is not a foot of descent from one end to the other. In the summer season the heat of the sun reflected by the sand becomes intolerable, and the noxious odours in the streets are very unwholesome as well as unpleasant.' A complaint was also made about the pavements, which were so narrow that ‘two persons can scarcely walk abreast, and many are infamously paved with sharp stones, upon which it is excruciating pain to tread'.

A mere fortnight was needed to see Berlin, after which the traveller would find it tedious without the company of friends. ‘The society of the upper classes is on the whole not very accessible to strangers, nor is hospitality exercised to the same extent among them as in England, chiefly because their fortunes are limited.'

Murray admitted, however, that Berlin was one of the finest cities in Europe, but then comments on the number of statues erected in the streets, most being of military men. ‘A Corinthian pillar surmounted by an eagle, absurdly called National Krieger Denkmal, has been set up in the Invalids' Garden, as a monument to the 475 soldiers whose names are inscribed on the marble tablets around its base, who fell in defending the city and their sovereign from the brutal revolutionary rioters of 1848 and 1849.'

Our traveller, if an officer in the army, may be interested in the Grand Review of the garrison, which takes place in the neighbourhood of Berlin during the autumn: ‘20,000 troops are sometimes collected, and the manoeuvres last several days. To see the reviews to advantage a uniform is desirable, though not absolutely necessary. A good horse warranted to stand fire may be hired for a louis a day; with these you may ride on the ground and join the staff, which sometimes amounts to 500 officers of all nations. The field manoeuvres usually last several days, the regiments bivouacking at night. Ladies in carriages are enabled to see the whole by the good arrangement of the gendarmerie.'

So a fortnight of boredom will see our traveller on the train to Dresden, and accommodated in the new Hotel Victoria, or if by now looking after his pocket, at Eichler's Boarding House, ‘in the English quarter'. Dresden was known as ‘the German Florence', and Murray grudgingly agrees, telling us: ‘Few European capitals contain a greater number of objects calculated to gratify the curiosity of an intelligent traveller. The opera is good, and music is much cultivated; the climate is generally mild and agreeable, food and lodgings are not dear. It has been much resorted to since 1830 by the English for education and economy; and for those who are not alarmed by the recent revolutionary events in Germany, is eligible as a residence.'

Perhaps life was a little too regimented for the locals, because if any wanted to cross to the other side of the Elbe on foot they had always to ‘take the path on the right hand, “a rule of the road” which is enforced by the police, and prevents collision and confusion'.

Murray recommends a visit to nearby Saxon Switzerland, and especially to the fortress of Königstein, to which one is admitted on showing a passport and paying a small fee. ‘This fortress once served as a state prison: it was scaled for the first time in 1848 by a chimney-sweep, at mid-day; he reached the top half dead with fatigue.'

Between Dresden and Chemnitz lies the coal district of Saxony, where a somewhat sinister picture is given of local life. The miners, of a rather primitive class, ‘are enrolled in a sort of semi-military corps, of which the common workmen are the privates, and the superintendents and managers the officers. They are called out several times a year for inspection or parade, and in addition assemble in a body at certain stated times to attend miners' prayers in the church, at the funeral of a superior officer, during the visit of a royal personage, and on days of rejoicing for the discovery of a rich vein. On these occasions they appear in uniform, their leather aprons fastened on behind, leather pockets in the place of cartouche-boxes, and a large knife stuck in the girdle. The common miners march with their pickaxes shouldered, the carpenters with their axes, and the smiths with their hammers borne in the same fashion. These processions have a martial appearance, are headed by a band playing a miners' march, and accompanied by flying colours. The officers have similar uniforms, distinguished according to their rank.'

The inhabitants of the textile manufacturing town of Chemnitz receive good marks for knowing their place, with a certain sense of regret from Murray that such conditions could not exist at home: ‘The stocking-weavers for the most part are not congregated into manufactories, but live in cottages of their own, the fee-simple of which they have purchased by their own earnings. They cultivate in their own gardens the potatoes and other vegetables which form their usual food, and support from the same source the animals which provide them with the small quantity of meat they consume: they live commonly with great frugality on potatoes and coffee. When the demand for manufacture is slack, they employ themselves in the fields and garden; when it is active, they devote themselves to their frames and looms. The state provides them with gratuitous instruction, which has the happiest effect both on their industry and frugality.'

If our traveller is still snorting fire and smoke from the Berlin tattoo he will call at the
(battlefield) of Lützen, and learn – if he didn't already know – that at the first set-to in 1632, Gustavus Adolphus was killed, his body taken to nearby Weissenfels and embalmed ‘in a room of the Town-house, in the presence of Bernard of Saxe-Weimar. It is recorded that his heart weighed 1 lb. 2 oz.; that the body bore the marks of 8 wounds, i.e. 5 gunshots, 2 cuts, 1 stab. A part of the wall, which was stained with his blood, is still preserved from external contact. The heart was instantly conveyed to Stockholm; but the bowels are interred in the Kloster Kirche …'

Before setting off down the Rhine the traveller will no doubt have read his Byron but, if not, Murray (the poet's publisher) spread 137 lines in half a dozen parts of the text, such quotations describing certain sections of the river in a more poetic way than Murray can aspire to, though a little advice from
Don Juan
might have cut the wordage down a bit: ‘Plain truth, dear Murray, needs few flowers of speech.'

In 1827, when the first company of Rhine steamboats commenced operations, 18,000 passengers travelled between Cologne and Mainz, the number increasing to a million by the mid-1850s. Murray somewhat spoils the enthusiasm of the deck traveller by reminding him that ‘the views in many places, looking
upon the Rhine from its lofty banks, far surpass those from the river itself; and the small valleys, which pour their tributary streams on the right hand and left have beauties to unfold of which the steam-driven tourist has no conception, which are entirely lost to him'.

At Coblenz Murray can't resist a dig at his arch rival in the guidebook trade: ‘Baedeker, a very intelligent bookseller in the Rhein Strasse … keeps a good assortment of English, French, and German books, guide-books, prints, maps, etc. He has also published German Handbooks for Travellers, enriched by his own observations, and is personally acquainted with all parts of his own country.' It is related, though not in Murray, that when the original Karl Baedeker died in 1859, a solitary Englishman followed the cortege to the cemetery carrying one of the little red guidebooks as a token of his esteem.

Further upriver, at Oberwesel, we come across an infamous blood-libel story against the Jews, though Murray of course is not taken in: ‘In some period of the dark ages a boy named Werner is said to have been most impiously crucified and put to death by the Jews in this place. A similar story is told in many other parts of the world; even in England, at Gloucester and Lincoln (
Chaucer). It is probable that the whole was a fabrication, to serve as a pretext for persecuting the Jews and extorting money from them', which is perhaps as balanced an account as you could get in the nineteenth century. The Church of St Werner, erected to commemorate his canonization, gets an asterisk in Baedeker, the story being put down to tradition, as it is also in Thomas Cook's
Traveller's Handbook The Rhine and the Black Forest
(1912). In Ernest Benn's
Blue Guide
, 1933, it is said to have been a legend, but the calumny is rightly omitted altogether from the
Guide Bleu
, 1939.

Should our traveller get off the boat at Worms his Murray will tell him that the synagogue ‘is said to be more than 800 years old, and certainly displays in its structure the style of the 11th century … The Jews have been established in this spot from a very early period, and enjoyed privileges denied them in most other parts of Germany.' This is more or less true, though they were forced out by the Guilds in 1615, upon which the synagogue was destroyed and the cemetery laid waste; a year later an Imperial Decree ordered them to be readmitted. They also suffered three massacres during the times of the Crusades in the eleventh and twelfth centuries.

Frankfurt, we are told, is the cradle of the Rothschild family, and Murray goes on to say, ‘The Jews, who form no inconsiderable portion of the community here, have till very lately been treated with great illiberality by the Free Town. The gates of the quarter to which they were exclusively confined were closed upon them at an early hour every night, after which ingress and egress were alike denied. This arbitrary municipal regulation was enforced, until Marshal Jourdan, in bombarding the town (1796), knocked down the gate of the Jews' quarter, along with many houses near it, and they have not been replaced since. Another law, not repealed until 1834, restricted the number of marriages among the Hebrews in the town to 13 yearly. The Synagogue, an old and curious Gothic building, is situated in the Judengasse. The Jews are no longer compelled to live in this street, but may hire or purchase houses in other quarters.'

An excursion to Saarlouis would reveal the curious fact that its 7000 inhabitants ‘are partly descended from English prisoners placed here by Louis XIV'. The town was a frontier fortress of Prussia, ‘with a long stone bridge over the Saar, which flows half round the town, and sometimes during the winter lays part of it under water', a circumstance which may have made the English feel very much at home.

Between Frankfurt and Cassel lies the village of Butzbach, which prompts the story from Murray that ‘German vagrants, known in London as Bavarian
, come from this neighbourhood'. Several villages were said to have sent forth, for the last twenty years, ‘crowds of them annually. At first they were taken over by the broom-makers, ready to sell their brooms; but in a short time they discovered other and less moral modes of earning money. The speculators, perceiving this, enticed from their homes many young girls, under pretence of hiring them as servants. Some of these poor creatures have never been heard of by their parents; others have returned ruined and broken in constitution; and innumberable actions have been brought against the planners of this disgraceful traffic. The magistrates of these towns have at length interfered, and any person discovered taking away a child, or any female but a wife, is subject to heavy penalties.'

Towns along the Rhine led a precarious existence over the centuries due to the proximity of France. Speyer, one of the oldest cities of Germany, on the left bank of the river, had a particularly violent history. In the Middle Ages its citizens were ‘as well versed in the use of arms as in the arts of trade. At one time they were called upon to issue from their walls in order to chastise the lawless rapacity of some feudal baron, who had waylaid their merchants and pillaged their property, by having his castle burnt about his ears and levelled with the ground.'

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