There is but one day in the year when the phenomenon of the midnight sun can be seen at the imaginary line which we designate as the Arctic Circle, a point in the watery waste or on the land, twenty-three degrees and twenty-eight minutes from the North Pole; but by sailing some three hundred miles further northward, to the North Cape, the projecting point of the extreme north of Norway, it may be observed under favorable circumstances—that is, when not obscured by clouds—for over two months, dating from the middle of May. Soon after entering the Arctic Circle, fourteen hundred and eight geographical miles from the North Pole, a singularly formed island is observed, called by the natives Hestmandoe, or Horseman's Island,—a rocky and mountainous formation of some two thousand feet in height, more or less. On approaching the island from the west, by aid of the imagination one can discern the colossal figure of a horseman wrapped in his cloak and mounted upon a charger. The island forms a well-known landmark for seamen navigating the coast. It is believed that the summit has never been reached by human feet.
We touch on our way at the little fishing-village of Bodoee. Louis Philippe lived here for a brief period when travelling as an exile under the name of Mueller, and visitors are shown the room which he occupied. It is the chief town of Nordland, and has fifteen hundred inhabitants. After leaving Bodoee the course of the steamer is directly across the Vestfjord to the group of the Lofoden Islands. Owing to the remarkable clearness of the atmosphere as seen from Bodoee, they appear to be about fifteen or twenty miles away on the edge of the horizon, though the real distance is about fifty. The play of light and shade is here so different from that of lower latitudes that distances are very deceptive.
A little to the westward of the steamer's course in coming from the mainland lies the famous whirlpool known as the Maelstroem, the subject of many a romantic and wild conjecture which lives in the memory of us all. At certain stages of the wind and tide a fierce eddy is formed here which is somewhat dangerous for small boats to cross, but the presumed risk to vessels of the size of the coasting-craft usually employed here, is an error. At some stages of the tide it is difficult to even detect the exact spot which is at other times so disturbed. Thus we find that another legend of the credulous past has but a very thin substratum of fact for its foundation. The tragedies recorded in connection with the Venetian Bridge of Sighs are proven to be without reliable foundation; the episode of Tell and the apple is not historical, but a poetical fabrication; and now we know that neither ships nor whales were ever drawn into the Norwegian Maelstroem to their destruction. There are several other similar rapids in and about these pinnacled islands, identical in their nature, though the one here referred to is the most restless and formidable.
On close examination the Lofodens are found to consist of a maze of irregular mountain-peaks and precipices, often between two and three thousand feet in height, the passage between them being very tortuous, winding amid straits interspersed with hundreds of rocky islets which are the home of large flocks of sea-birds. Dwarf-trees, small patches of green grass, and velvety moss grow near the water's edge, and carpet here and there a few acres of soil, but the high ridges are bleak and bare rock, covered in spots with never-melting snow. These islands are composed mainly of granite, and for wonderful peaks and oddly pointed shapes, deep and far-reaching gulches, are unequalled elsewhere. It seems marvellous that a steamer can be safely navigated through such narrow passages and among such myriads of sunken rocks. These elevations from beneath the sea vary from mere turtlebacks, as sailors call them, just visible above the water, to mountains with sky-kissing peaks. For a vessel to run upon one of these low hummocks would simply be destruction, as the water alongside of them is rarely less than two or three hundred fathoms in depth.
The total length of these remarkable islands is about a hundred and thirty miles, and the area is computed at fifteen hundred and sixty square miles. The population will not vary much from twenty thousand, and the entire occupation of the people is fishing, curing the fish, and shipping them southward.
The hardy fishermen work nearly all winter at their rough occupation, braving the tempestuous Northern Ocean in frail, undecked boats, which to an inexperienced eye seem to be utterly unfit for such exposed service. The harvest time to the cod-fishers here is from January to the middle of April. Casualties, of course, are more or less frequent, but do not exceed those encountered by our fishermen on the banks of Newfoundland. In the year 1848, a terrible hurricane visited the Lofodens, and in a few hours swept over five hundred fishermen into eternity. The men engaged in this service come from all parts of Norway, returning to their homes in summer and engaging in other occupations.
As we leave the group and steer towards the mainland, it is remembered that the coast of Norway extends three hundred miles north of the Arctic Circle, projecting itself boldly into the Polar Sea. Two hundred miles and more of this distance is north of the Lofoden Islands. Now and then portions of country are passed on the mainland, affording striking and beautiful landscape effects, where valleys open towards the sea, presenting views sometimes capped by glaciers high up towards the overhanging sky, where they form immense level fields of ice embracing hundreds of square miles.
The varied and ever present attractions of Norway to the artist are many, and in a great measure they are unique, especially in the immediate vicinity of the west coast. No two of the many abrupt elevations resemble each other. All are peculiar; some like Alpine cathedrals rear their fretted spires far heavenward, where they echo the hoarse anthems played by the winter's storms. One would think that Nature in a wayward mood had tried her hand sportively at architecture, sculpture, and castle-building, constructing now a high monumental column or a mounted warrior, and now a Gothic fane amid regions strange, lonely, and savage. There are grand mountains and glaciers in Switzerland and other countries, but they do not rise directly out of the water as they often do in Scandinavia; and as to the scenery afforded by the innumerable fjords winding inland amid forests, cliffs, and impetuous waterfalls, nowhere else can we find such remarkable scenes.
Like rivers, and yet so unlike them in width, depth, and placidity, with their broad mouths guarded by clustering islands, one can find nothing in nature more grand, solemn, and impressive than a Norwegian fjord. Now and again the shores are lined for short distances by the greenest of green pastures, dotted with little red houses and groups of domestic animals, forming charming bits of verdant foreground backed by dark and shadowy gorges. Down precipitous cliffs leap cascades which are fed by ice-fields hidden in the lofty mountains. These are not merely pretty spouts, like many a little Swiss device, but grand, plunging, restless torrents, conveying heavy volumes of foaming water.
As we advance northward, our experiences become more and more peculiar. It seems as if humanity, like nature, is possessed by a certain sleeplessness in these regions during the constant reign of daylight. People are wide awake and busy at their various occupations during all hours, while the drowsy god appears to have departed on a vacation to the southward. The apparent incongruity of starting upon a fresh enterprise at midnight is only realized on consulting one's watch.
All along the coast the birds are nearly as numerous as the fishes, and many islands are solely occupied by them as breeding-places. Their numbers are beyond calculation, consisting of petrels, swans, geese, pelicans, auks, gulls, and divers. These last are more particularly of the duck family, of which there are over thirty distinct species in and about this immediate region. Curlews, ptarmigans, cormorants, and ospreys are also seen in greater or less numbers.
The steamer lands us for a few hours at Tromsoee, a small island in latitude 69 deg. 38' north, a thriving place of six thousand inhabitants, a goodly number for a town within the Arctic Circle. It is the capital of Norwegian Lapland. Both to the north and south of the town snow-clad mountains shut off distant views. During the winter months there are only four hours of daylight here out of the twenty-four,—that is, from about ten o'clock A.M. until two o'clock P.M.,—but the long nights are made comparatively light by the glowing splendor of the Aurora Borealis. The birch-trees in and about Tromsoee are of a remarkably developed species, and form a marked feature of the place.
Just outside of the town a field is seen golden with buttercups, making it difficult to realize that we are in the Arctic regions. A pink-blooming heather also covers other fields, and we are surprised by a tiny cloud of butterflies, so abundant in the warm sunshine, and presenting such transparency of color as to suggest the idea that a rainbow has been shattered, and is floating in myriad particles in the air.
The short-lived summer perhaps makes flowers all the more carefully tended. In the rudest domestic quarters a few pet plants are seen whose arrangement and nurture show womanly care. Every window in the humble dwellings has its living screen of drooping, many-colored fuchsias, geraniums, forget-me-nots, and monthly roses. The ivy is especially prized here, and is picturesquely trained to hang about the window-frames. The fragrant sweet-pea, with its snow-white and peach-blossom hues, is often mingled prettily with the dark green of the ivy, the climbing propensities of each making them fitting mates. Surely there must be an innate sense of refinement among the people of these frost-imbued regions, whatever their seeming, when they are actuated by such delicate tastes.
One of the most interesting subjects of study to the traveller on the journey northward is to mark his progress by the products of the forest. The trees will prove, if intelligently observed, a means of fixing his position. From the region of the date and the palm we come to that of the fig and the olive; thence to the orange, the almond, and the myrtle. Succeeding these we find the walnut, the poplar, and the lime; and again there comes the region of the elm, the oak, and the sycamore. These will be succeeded by the larch, the fir, the pine, the birch, and their companions. After this point we look for no change of species, but a diminution in size of these last named. The variety of trees is the result of altitude as well as of latitude, since there are mountain regions of Southern Europe, as well as in America, where one may pass in a few hours from the region of the olive to that of the stunted fir.
From Tromsoee vessels are fitted for exploration towards the North Pole; some for the capture of seals and walruses among the ice-fields, and also on the coast of Spitzbergen. A small propeller is seen lying in the harbor fitted with a forecastle gun, whence to fire a lance at whales—a species of big fishing, so to speak, which is made profitable here. Little row-boats with high bows and sterns flit about the bay like sea-birds on the wing, and ride as lightly upon the water. These are often "manned" by a couple of sturdy women who row with great precision, their faces glowing with animation. These boats, of the same model as that ancient Viking ship at Christiania, sit very low in the water amidship, but are remarkable for buoyancy and the ease with which they are propelled.
The Lapps in their quaint and picturesque costumes of deer-skins surround the newly arrived steamer, in boats, offering furs, carved horn implements, moccasins, walrus-teeth, and the like for sale. These wares are of the rudest type, and of no possible use except as mementos of the traveller's visit to these far northern latitudes. This people are very shrewd in matters of trade, and are not without plenty of low cunning hidden behind their brown, withered, expressionless faces. They are small in stature, being generally under five feet in height, with prominent cheek bones, snub noses, oblique Mongolian eyes, big mouths, large, ill-formed heads, hair like meadow hay, and very scanty beards. Such is a pen portrait of a people who once ruled the whole of Scandinavia. A short trip inland brings us to the summer encampment of the Lapps, formed of a few rude huts, outside of which they live except in the winter months. A Lapp sleeps wherever fatigue overcomes him, preferring the ground, but often lying on the snow. They are a wandering race, their wealth consisting solely in their herds of reindeer, to procure sustenance for which necessitates frequent changes of locality. A Laplander is rich provided he owns enough of these animals to support himself and family. A herd that can afford thirty full-grown deer annually for slaughter, and say ten more to be sold or bartered, makes a family of a dozen persons comfortably well off. Some are destroyed every year by wolves and bears, notwithstanding all the precautions taken to prevent it, while in severe winters a large number are sure to die of starvation.
The herds live almost entirely on the so-called reindeer moss, but this failing them, they eat the young twigs of the trees. When the snow covers the ground to a depth of not more than three or four feet, these intelligent creatures dig holes in it so as to reach the moss, and guided by instinct they rarely fail to do so in just the right place. The Lapps themselves would be entirely at a loss for any indication as to where this food should be sought when covered by the deep snow. The reindeer will carry, lashed to its back, a hundred and thirty pounds, or drag upon the snow, when harnessed to a sledge, two hundred and fifty pounds, travelling ten miles an hour for several consecutive hours, without apparent fatigue. The country over which these people roam is included in Northern Norway and Sweden, with a portion of Northwestern Russia and Finland, extending over about seven thousand square miles, but the whole race will hardly number thirty thousand. Lapland, in general terms, may be said to be the region lying between the Polar Ocean and the Arctic Circle, the eastern and western boundaries being the Atlantic Ocean and the White Sea, two-thirds of which territory belongs to Russia, and one-third is about equally divided between Norway and Sweden.
In the winter season the Lapps retire far inland, where they build temporary huts of the branches of the trees, plastered with clay and banked up with snow, leaving a hole at the top as a chimney for the smoke, the fire being always built upon a broad, flat stone in the centre of the hut. In these rude, and, according to our estimate, comfortless cabins, they hibernate, rather than live the life of civilized human beings, for eight months of the year.
After leaving Tromsoee our course is north-northeast, crossing wild fjords and skirting the mainland. Along the shore at intervals little clusters of fishermen's huts are seen, with a small sprinkling of herbage and patches of bright verdure. As we glide along among the islands which line the shore, we are pretty sure to fall in with one of the little propellers, with a small swivel gun at the bow, in search of whales. The projectile which is used consists of a barbed harpoon, to which a short chain is affixed, and to that a strong line. This harpoon has barbs which expand as soon as they enter the body of the animal and he pulls upon the line, stopping at a certain angle, which renders the withdrawal of the weapon impossible. Besides this, an explosive shell is so attached that it quickly bursts within the monster, producing instant death. A cable is then fastened to the head, and the whale is towed into harbor to be cut up, and the blubber tried out on shore.
The objects which attract the eye are constantly changing. Large black geese, too heavy for lofty flying, rise awkwardly from the waves and skim across the fjords, just clearing the surface of the dark blue waters. Oyster-catchers, as they are familiarly called, decked with scarlet bills and legs, are abundant. Now and then that daring highwayman among birds, the skua, or robber-gull, is seen on the watch for a victim. He is quite dark in plumage, almost black, and gets a robber's living by attacking and causing other birds to drop what they have caught up from the sea, seizing which as it falls, he sails away to consume at leisure his stolen prize.
Long before we reach Hammerfest our watches seem to have become bewitched, for it must be remembered that here it is broad daylight throughout the twenty-four hours (in midsummer) which constitute day and night elsewhere. To sleep becomes a useless effort, and our eyes are unusually wide open.
The Gulf Stream, emerging from the tropics thousands of miles away, constantly laves the shores, and consequently ice is not seen. At first it seems a little strange that there are no icebergs here in latitude 70 deg. north, when we have them on the coast of America in certain seasons at 41 deg.. The entire west coast of Norway is warmer by at least twenty degrees than most other localities in the same latitude, owing to the presence of the Gulf Stream,—that heated, mysterious river in the midst of the ocean. It brings to these far-away regions quantities of floating material, such as the trunks of palm-trees, and other substances suitable for fuel, to which useful purpose they are put at the Lofoden Islands, and by the fishermen along the shore of the mainland. By the same agency West Indian seeds and woods are often found floating on the west coast of Scotland and Ireland.
Hammerfest, the capital of the province of Finmark, is situated in latitude 70 deg. 40' north, upon the island of Kvaloee, or "Whale Island." It is overshadowed by Tyvfjeld,—that is, "Thief Mountain,"—thus fancifully named because it robs the place of the little sunshine it might enjoy, were this high elevation not at all times intervening. It is the most northerly town in Europe, and is about sixty-five miles southwest of the North Cape. It is a town of about three thousand inhabitants, who appear to be industrious and intelligent. Even here, in this region of frost and darkness, we are glad to say, there are plenty of good schools and able teachers.
From Hammerfest we continue our voyage northward along the coast. The land is now seen to be useless for agricultural purposes; habitations first become rare, then cease altogether, bleakness reigning supreme, while we seem to be creeping higher and higher on the earth. In ascending mountains of the Himalayan range, we realize that there are heights still above us; but in approaching the North Cape, a feeling is experienced that we are gradually getting to the very apex of the globe. Everything seems to be beneath our feet; the broad, deep, unbounded ocean alone marks the horizon. Day and night cease to be relative terms.
The North Cape, which is finally reached, is an island projecting itself far into the Polar Sea, separated from the mainland by a narrow strait. The highest point which has ever been reached by the daring Arctic explorer, is 83 deg. 24' north latitude; this cape is in latitude 71 deg. 10' north. The island is named Mageroee, which signifies a barren place, and it is certainly well named, for a wilder, bleaker, or more desolate spot cannot be found on the face of the earth. Only a few hares, ermine, and sea-birds manage to subsist upon its sterile soil. The western and northern sides are absolutely inaccessible owing to their precipitous character. The Arctic Sea thunders hoarsely against the Cape as we approach the rough, weather-worn cliff in a small landing-boat. It is near the midnight hour, yet the warmth of the sun's direct rays envelops us. For half an hour we struggle upwards at an angle of nearly forty-five degrees, amid loose rocks and over uneven ground, until the summit is finally reached, and we stand a thousand feet above the level of the sea, literally upon the threshold of the unknown.
No difference is observed between the broad light of this Polar night and the noon of a sunny summer's day in other latitudes. The sky is all aglow, and the rays of the sun are warm and penetrating, though a certain chill in the atmosphere at this exposed elevation renders thick clothing indispensable. This is the objective point, to reach which we have voyaged thousands of miles from another hemisphere. We look about us in silent wonder and awe. To the northward is that unknown region to solve whose mystery so many gallant lives have been sacrificed. Far to the eastward is Asia; in the distant west lies America; and southward are Europe and Africa. Such an experience may occur once in a lifetime, but rarely can it be repeated. The surface of the cliff is quite level where we stand, and beneath our feet is a soft gray reindeer moss which yields to the tread like a carpet of velvet. There is no other vegetation, not even a spear of grass. Close at hand, in all directions, are frightful fissures and sheer precipices, except on the side where we have ascended. Presently the boom of a distant gun floats faintly upwards, the cautionary signal from the ship now seen floating far below us, a mere speck upon that Polar Sea.
The hands of the watch indicate that it is near the hour of twelve, midnight. The great luminary has sunk slowly amid a glory of light to within three or four degrees of the horizon, where it seems to hover for a single moment like some monster bird about to alight, then changing its mind slowly begins its upward movement. This is exactly at midnight, always a solemn hour; but amid the glare of sunlight and the glowing immensity of sea and sky, how strange and weird it is! Notwithstanding they are so closely mingled, the difference between the gorgeous coloring of the setting and the fresh hues of the rising sun seem to be clearly though delicately defined. True, the sun had not really set at all on the occasion we describe. It was constantly visible, so that the human eye could not rest upon it for one moment. It was the mingling of the golden haze of evening with the radiant, roseate flush of the blushing morn.
After returning to Christiania we take the cars of the railroad which crosses the peninsula by way of Charlottenborg, the frontier town of Sweden. Here there is a custom-house examination of our baggage; for although Norway and Sweden are under one crown, yet they have separate tariffs, import and export fees being enforced between them. In crossing the peninsula by rail one does not enjoy the picturesque scenery which is seen on the Gotha Canal route. The railroad journey takes us through a region of lake and forest, however, by no means devoid of interest, and which is rich in mines of iron and other ores. As we approach Lake Maelaren on the east coast, a more highly cultivated country is traversed, until Stockholm is finally reached; a noble capital, and in many respects exceptionally so. It is situated on the Baltic, at the outlet of Lake Maelaren, and is built on several islands, all of which are connected by substantial bridges. The city has a population of over a hundred and eighty thousand, covering an area of five square miles, and, taken as a whole, certainly forms one of the most cleanly and interesting capitals in Europe. It is a city of canals, public gardens, broad squares, and gay cafes, with two excellent harbors, one on the Baltic and one on Lake Maelaren.
Wars, conflagrations, and the steady progress of civilization have entirely changed the city from what it was in the days of Gustavus Vasa; that is, about the year 1496. It was he who founded the dynasty which has survived for three hundred years. The streets in the older sections of the town are often crooked and narrow, but in the modern-built parts there are fine straight avenues, with large and imposing public and private edifices.
Stockholm is the centre of the social and literary activity of Scandinavia, hardly second in this respect to Copenhagen. It has its full share of scientific, artistic, and benevolent institutions such as befit a great European capital. The stranger should as soon as convenient after arriving, ascend an elevation of the town called the Mosebacke, where has been erected a lofty iron framework and lookout, which is ascended by means of a steam elevator. From this structure an admirable view of the city is obtained, and its topography fixed clearly upon the mind. At a single glance, as it were, one takes in the charming marine view of the Baltic with its busy traffic, and in the opposite direction the many islands that dot Lake Maelaren form a widespread picture of varied beauty. The bird's-eye view obtained of the environs is unique, since in the immediate vicinity lies the primeval forest, undisturbed and unimproved for agricultural purposes.
Though Sweden, unlike Norway, has no heroic age, so to speak, connecting her earliest exploits with the fate of other countries, still no secondary European power has acted so brilliant a part in modern history as have those famous Swedish monarchs, Gustavus Vasa, Gustavus Adolphus, and Charles XII. The last-named monarch fought all Europe,—Danes, Russians, Poles, and Germans,—and gave away a kingdom before he was twenty years of age.
The Royal Palace of Stockholm is a very plain edifice externally, though it is quite large. Its present master, King Oscar II., is an accomplished artist, poet, musician, and linguist, nobly fulfilling the requirements of his responsible position. He has been called the ideal sovereign of our period. His court, while it is one of the least pretentious in Europe, is yet one of the most refined. The State departments of the palace are very elegant, and are freely shown to strangers at all suitable times. In the grand State Hall is the throne of silver originally occupied by Queen Christiana, while the Hall of Mirrors appears as though it might have come from Aladdin's palace. Amid all the varied attractions of art and historic associations which are here exhibited, one simple chamber seems most impressive. It is the bedroom of Charles XIV. (Marshal Bernadotte), which has remained unchanged and unused since the time of his death, his old campaign cloak of Swedish blue still lying upon the bed. The clock upon the mantel-piece significantly points to the hour and minute of his death. The life and remarkable career of the dead king flashes across the memory as we stand for a moment beside these suggestive tokens of personal wear. We recall how he began life as a common soldier in the French army, rising rapidly from the ranks by reason of his military genius to be a marshal of France, and finally to sit upon the throne of Sweden. Bernadotte, Prince of Ponte Corvo, is the only one of Napoleon's generals whose descendants still occupy a throne.
The shops on the principal streets are elegantly arrayed; there are none better in Paris or New York. A ceaseless activity reigns along the thoroughfares, among the little steamboats upon the many water-ways, and on the myriads of passenger steamers which ply upon the lake. The Royal Opera House is a plain substantial structure, built by Gustavus III. in 1775. The late Jenny Lind made her first appearance in public in this house, and so did Christine Nilsson, both of these renowned vocalists being Scandinavians. It was in this theatre, at a gay masquerade ball, on the morning of March 15, 1792, that Gustavus III. was fatally wounded by a shot from an assassin, who was one of the conspirators among the nobility.
Norway and Sweden are undoubtedly poor in worldly riches, but they expend larger sums of money for educational purposes, in proportion to the number of inhabitants, than any other country, except America. The result is manifest in a marked degree of intelligence diffused among all classes. One is naturally reminded in this Swedish capital of Linnaeus, and also of Swedenborg, both of whom were Swedes. The latter graduated at the famous University of Upsala; the former in the greater school of out-door nature. Upsala is the oldest town in the country, as well as the historical and educational centre of the kingdom. It is situated fifty miles from Stockholm. It was the royal capital of the county for more than a thousand years, and was the locality of the great temple of Thor, now replaced by a Christian cathedral, almost a duplicate of Notre Dame in Paris, and which was designed by the same architect.
Upsala has often been the scene of fierce and bloody conflicts. Saint Eric was slain here in 1161. It has its university and its historic associations, but it has neither trade nor commerce of any sort beyond that of a small inland town—its streets never being disturbed by business activity, though there is a population of at least fifteen thousand. The university, founded in 1477, and richly endowed by Gustavus Adolphus, is the just pride of the country, having to-day some fifteen hundred students and forty-eight professors attendant upon its daily sessions. No one can enter the profession of the law, medicine, or divinity in Sweden, who has not graduated at this institution or that at Lund. Its library contains nearly two hundred thousand volumes, and over seven thousand most valuable and rare manuscripts. Linnaeus, the great naturalist, was a professor of botany and zooelogy at this university for nearly forty years. This humble shoemaker, by force of his genius, rose to be a prince in the kingdom of science. Botany and zooelogy have never known a more eminent exponent than the lowly born Karl von Linne, whom the Swedes very properly denominate the King of Flowers. A certain degree of knowledge relative to plants and natural history, forms a part of all primary education in Sweden.
About three miles from the university is the village of Old Upsala, where there is an ancient church of small dimensions, built of rough stones, containing a monument erected to the memory of Anders Celsius, the Swedish astronomer. There are also exhibited to the visitor here some curious pagan idols in wood. What a venerable and miraculously preserved old pile it is!
We return to Stockholm,—bright, cheerful, sunny Stockholm,—where, during the brief summer months, everything wears a holiday aspect, where life is seen at its gayest in the many public gardens, cleanly streets, and open squares. Even the big white sea-gulls that swoop gracefully over the many water-ways of the town—rather queer visitors to a populous city—seem to be uttering cries of bird merriment.
In pursuing our course towards St. Petersburg, Russia, from Stockholm, we cross the Baltic,—that Mediterranean of the North, but which is in reality a remote branch of the Atlantic Ocean, with which it is connected by two gulfs, the Kattegat and the Skagger Rack. It reaches from the southern extremity of the Danish Archipelago up to the latitude of Stockholm, where it extends a right and left arm,—each of great size,—the former being the Gulf of Finland, and the latter the Gulf of Bothnia, the whole forming the most remarkable basin of navigable inland water in the world. The Finnish Gulf is two hundred miles long by an average width of sixty miles, and that of Bothnia is four hundred miles long, averaging a hundred in width.
The peninsula of Denmark, known under the name of Jutland, stands like a barrier between the two extremes of the western formation of the continent of Europe. We have called the Baltic the Mediterranean of the North, but it has no such depth as that classic inland sea, which finds its bed in a cleft of marvellous depression between Europe and Africa. One thousand fathoms of sounding-line off Gibraltar will not reach the bottom, and two thousand fathoms fail to find it a few miles east of Malta. The greatest depth of the Baltic, on the contrary, is only a hundred and fifty fathoms.
It is a curious, though not unfamiliar fact, that the Baltic, or rather the bottom of the basin in which it lies, is rich in amber, which the agitated waters cast upon the shores in large quantities annually,—a process which has been going on for three or four centuries. We all know that amber is a hardened fossil resin produced by an extinct species of pine; so that it is evident that where these waters now ebb and flow there were once flourishing forests of amber-producing pines. These were doubtless gradually submerged by the encroachment of the sea, or suddenly engulfed by some grand volcanic action of nature. Pieces of the bark and of the cones of the pine-trees are often found adhering to the amber, and insects of a kind unknown to our day are also found embedded in it. The largest piece of amber extant is preserved in the British Museum in London, and is about the size of a year-old infant's head.
It is known that the peninsula of Scandinavia is gradually becoming elevated above the surrounding waters at the north, and depressed in an equal ratio in the extreme south,—a fact of great interest to geologists. The total change in the level has been carefully observed and recorded by scientific commissions, the aggregate certified to being a trifle over three feet, brought about in a period of a hundred and eighteen years.
We take passage on a coasting steamer which plies between Stockholm and St. Petersburg by way of Abo and Helsingfors, a distance of about six hundred miles. By this route, after crossing the open sea we pass through an almost endless labyrinth of beautiful islands in the Gulf of Finland, including the archipelago, known as the Aland Islands, besides many isolated ones quite near the Finnish coast. This forms a delightful sail, the passage being almost always smooth, except during a few hours of exposure in the open Gulf. By and by we enter the fjord which leads up to Abo, which is also dotted here and there by charming garden-like islands, upon which are built many pretty cottages, forming the summer homes of the citizens of Finmark's former capital.
The town of Abo has a population of about twenty-five thousand, who are mostly of Swedish descent. It is thrifty, cleanly, and wears an aspect of quiet prosperity. The place is venerable in years, having a record reaching back for over seven centuries. Here the Russian flag—red, blue, and white—first begins to greet us from all appropriate points. The most prominent building to catch the stranger's eye on entering the harbor is the long barrack-like prison upon a hillside. In front of us looms up the famous old castle of Abo, awkward and irregular in its shape, and snow-white in texture. Here, in the olden time, Gustavus Vasa, Eric XIV. and John III. held royal court. The streets are few but very broad, causing the town to cover an area quite out of proportion to the number of its inhabitants.
Helsingfors is situated still further up the Gulf, facing the ancient town of Revel on the Esthonian coast, and is reached from Abo in about twelve hours' sail, also through a labyrinth of islands so numerous as to be quite confusing, but whose picturesque beauty will not easily be forgotten. This is the present capital of Finland, and it contains a little over fifty thousand inhabitants; it has been several times partially destroyed by plague, famine, and fire. It was founded by Gustavus Vasa of Sweden, in the sixteenth century. The university is represented to be of a high standard of excellence, and contains a library of about two hundred thousand volumes. The most striking feature of Helsingfors, as one approaches it from the sea, is the large Greek church, with its fifteen domes and minarets, each capped by a glittering cross and crescent, with pendant chains in gilt metal; and as it is built upon high ground, the whole is very effective. The Lutheran church is also picturesque and notable, with its five domes sparkling with gilded stars upon a dark green ground.
Though Finland is a dependency of Russia, still it is nearly as independent as is Norway of Sweden. It is ruled by a governor-general assisted by the Imperial Senate, over which a representative of the Emperor of Russia presides. The country pays no pecuniary tribute to Russia, but imposes its own taxes, and frames its own code of laws. When the country was joined to Russia, Alexander I. assured the people that the integrity of their constitution and religion should be protected, and this promise has thus far been honestly kept by the dominant power.
The port of Helsingfors is defended by the large and remarkable fortress of Sweaborg, which repelled the English and French fleets during the Crimean War. It was constructed by the Swedish General Ehrenswaerd, who was a poet as well as an excellent military engineer. This fort is considered to be one of the strongest ever built, and is situated upon seven islands, each being connected with the main fortress by tunnels under the water of the harbor, constructed at great labor and cost.
After leaving Helsingfors we next come to Cronstadt, being a series of low islands, about five miles long by one broad, all fortified, and forming the key to St. Petersburg, as well as being the chief naval station of the Empire. The two fortifications of Sweaborg and Cronstadt insure to Russia the possession of the Gulf of Finland, no matter what force is brought against them. The arsenals and docks are here very extensive and unsurpassed in completeness. The best machinists in the world find employment in them, and the latest inventions a sure and profitable market. In all facilities for marine armament Russia is fully abreast of, if it does not surpass, the rest of Europe.
The sail up the Neva, queen of northern rivers, affords the greatest pleasure. Passenger steamers are seen flitting about with well-filled decks, noisy tug-boats puff and whistle while towing heavily laden barges, naval cutters propelled by dozens of white-clad oarsmen and steered by officers in dazzling uniforms, small sailing-yachts containing merry parties of both sexes glance hither and thither, all giving animation to the scene. Here and there on the river's course long reaches of sandy shoals appear, covered by myriads of sea-gulls, scores of which occasionally rise, hover over our steamer, and settle in the water. As we approach nearer to St. Petersburg, hundreds of gilded domes and towers flashing in the warm sunlight come swiftly into view. Some of the spires are of such great height in proportion to their diameter as to appear needle-like. Among those reaching so far heavenward are the slender spire of the Cathedral of Peter and Paul, nearly four hundred feet in height, and the lofty pinnacle of the Admiralty Building. Notwithstanding its giddy towers and looming palaces rising above the level of the capital, the want of a little diversity in the grade of the low-lying city is keenly felt. Like Berlin and Havana, it is built upon a perfect level, which is the most trying of positions as to general aspect.
St. Petersburg is the grandest city of Northern Europe. By ascending the tower of the Admiralty, a superb and comprehensive view of the capital is obtained. The streets are broad, the open squares vast in size, the avenues interminable, the river wide and rapid; while the lines of grand architecture are seemingly endless. The view from this elevation is indeed superb, studded with azure domes decked with stars of silver and gilded minarets. A grand city of palaces and spacious boulevards lies spread out before the eye. The quays of the Neva above and below the bridges are seen to present as animated a prospect as the busy thoroughfares. A portion of this Admiralty Building is devoted to schoolrooms for the education of naval cadets. The rest is occupied by the offices of the civil department of this service, and a marine museum.
There are over two hundred churches and chapels in the city, most of which are crowned with four or five fantastic cupolas each, and whose interiors are rich in gold, silver, and precious stones, together with a large array of priestly vestments elaborately embroidered with gold and ornamented with a profusion of gems. It is, indeed, a city of churches and palaces. Peter the Great and Catharine II., who has been called the female Peter the Great, made this brilliant capital what it is. Everything that meets the eye is colossal. The superb Alexander Column, erected about fifty years ago, is a solid shaft of red granite, and the loftiest single-stone column in the world. On its pedestal is inscribed this simple line: "To Alexander I.—Grateful Russia." It is surmounted by an angelic figure, the whole structure being one hundred and fifty-four feet high, and the column itself fourteen feet in diameter at the base; but so large is the square in which it stands that the shaft loses much of its colossal effect. Opposite the Alexander Column, on the same wide area, are situated the Winter Palace, with the Hermitage on one side as a sort of annex, and on the other side in half-moon shape are the State buildings containing the bureaus of the several ministers, whose quarters are each a palace in itself. There is not one of the many spacious squares of the city which is not ornamented with bronze statues of more or less merit, embracing monuments to Peter the Great, Catharine, Nicholas, Alexander I., and others.
The Nevsky Prospect is the most fashionable thoroughfare, and the one devoted to the best shops. It is over a hundred feet in width, and extends for a distance of three miles in a nearly straight line to the Alexander Nevsky Monastery, forming a most magnificent avenue. On this street may be seen the churches of several sects of different faiths, such as Roman Catholics, Protestants, Armenians, and a Mahometan mosque. Here also are the Imperial Library, the Alexander Theatre, and the Foreign Office. The cosmopolitan character of the population of St. Petersburg is indicated by the fact that preaching occurs weekly in twelve different languages. The Nevsky Prospect is a street of alternating shops, palaces, and churches. Four canals cross but do not intercept this boulevard. These water-ways are lined their whole lengths by substantial granite quays, and are gay with the life imparted to them by pleasure and small freighting boats constantly furrowing their surface. Large barges are seen containing cut wood, piled fifteen feet high above their decks, delivering the winter's important supply of fuel all along the banks of the canals. Others, with their hulls quite hidden from sight, appear like great floating haystacks moving mysteriously to their destination with horse-fodder for the city stables. From one o'clock to five in the afternoon the Nevsky Prospect, with the tide of humanity pouring in either direction through its broad road-way, is like the Rue Rivoli, Paris, on a holiday.
The Imperial Library of St. Petersburg is justly entitled to more than a mere mention; for it is one of the richest collections of books in all Europe, both in quality and quantity. The bound volumes number a little over one million, while it is especially rich in most interesting and important manuscripts. In a room devoted to the purpose there is a collection of books printed previous to the year 1500, which is considered unique. The Alexander Theatre and the library both look down upon a broad square which contains a fine statue of Catharine II. in bronze. This composition seems to breathe the very spirit of the profligate and cruel original, whose ambitious plans were ever in conflict with her enslaving passions. History is compelled to admit her great ability, while it causes us to blush for her infamy.
St. Petersburg is the fifth city in point of population in Europe, but its very existence seems to be constantly threatened on account of its low situation between two vast bodies of water. A westerly gale and high tide in the Gulf of Finland occurring at the time of the annual breaking up of the ice in the Neva would surely submerge this beautiful capital, and cause an enormous loss of life. The Neva, which comes sweeping through the city with such resistless force, is fed by that large body of water, Lake Ladoga, which covers an area of over six thousand square miles at a level of about sixty feet above that of the sea. However, St. Petersburg has existed in security for nearly two centuries, and it may possibly exist as much longer, independent of possible floods. What the Gotha Canal is to Sweden, the Neva and its joining waters are to Russia. Through Lake Ladoga and its ramifications of connecting canals and rivers, it opens communication with an almost unlimited region of inland territory, while the mouth of this river receives through the gulf the commerce of the world.
As regards popular amusements, Sunday is the favorite day of the seven at the public gardens, on which occasion, day and evening, theatrical performances take place. The Greek churches, like the Roman Catholic, are always open through the entire week, so that the devoutly inclined can turn aside at any hour and bow before the altar, which to him typifies all that is holy. Sunday is therefore regarded here, as in Rome, Paris, or Seville, in the light of a holiday as well as a holy-day. After having attended early morning service, a member of either church unhesitatingly seeks his favorite amusement. The horse-races of Paris, the bull-fights of Madrid, and the grand military parades of St. Petersburg, all take place on Sunday. Few European communities find that repose and calmness in the day which best accords with American sentiment.
The one vehicle of Russian cities is the drosky, the most uncomfortable and inconvenient vehicle ever constructed for the use of man, but of which there are, nevertheless, over fifteen thousand in the streets of the imperial city. It has very low wheels, a heavy, awkward body, and is as noisy as a hard-running Concord coach. Some one describes it as being a cross between a cab and an instrument of torture. There is no rest for the occupant's back; and while the seat is more than large enough for one, it is not large enough for two persons. It is a sort of sledge on wheels. The noise made by these low-running conveyances as they are hurried over the uneven pavements is almost deafening.
The winter season, which sets in about the first of November, changes the aspect of everything in the Russian capital, and lasts until the end of April, when the ice generally breaks up. In the meantime the Neva freezes to a depth of six feet. But keen as is the winter cold, the Russians do not suffer much from it, being universally clad in furs. Even the peasant class necessarily wear warm sheep-skins with the fleece on, otherwise they would often freeze to death on a very brief exposure to the low temperature which prevails in winter. Doubtless there must be poverty and wretchedness existing here, but it certainly is not obvious to the stranger. There is no street-begging, and no half-clad, half-starved women or children obstruct the way as is so often the case in London or Naples.
The five islands of the city, separated by the Nevka and Neva, are called the "Garden Islands," and they form the pleasure-drive of the town, having quite a country aspect, forming a series of parks where fine roads wind through shady woods, cross green meadows, and skirt transparent lakes. Here every variety of villa is seen embowered in attractive verdure, and a highly rural effect is obtained within city limits.
St. Petersburg is the most spacious capital ever built by the hand of man, and one cannot but feel that many of its grand squares, presided over by some famous monument, are yet dismally empty. As we look upon it to-day, it probably bears little resemblance to the city left by the great Peter, its founder, except in its general plan, and yet it extends so little way into the past as to have comparatively no root in history. The magnificent granite quays, the gorgeous palaces, the costly churches and monuments do not date previous to the reign of Catharine II. The choice of the locality, and the building of the capital upon it, is naturally a wonder to those who have not thought carefully about it, since it seems to have been contrary to all reason, and to have been steadily pursued in the face of difficulties which would have discouraged and defeated most similar enterprises. Ten thousand lives and more were sacrificed among the laborers annually, while the work was going on, owing to its unhealthy nature, but still the autocratic designer held to his purpose, until finally a respectable but not unobjectionable foundation may be said to have been obtained upon this Finland marsh. Yet there are those who believe that all was foreseen by the energetic founder, that he had a grand and definite object in view of which he never lost sight, and moreover that the object which he aimed at has been fully consummated.
The Winter Palace is grand in every respect. Its size may be divined when we realize that it accommodates six thousand persons connected with the royal household. With the exception of the Vatican at Rome, and Versailles near Paris, it is the largest habitable palace in existence, and is made up of suits of splendid apartments, reception saloons, drawing-rooms, throne rooms, banqueting-halls, etc. The gem of them all is the Salle Blanche, or White Hall, so called because the fittings and decorations are all in white and gold, by means of which an aerial lightness and fascination of effect is produced which is difficult to describe. It is in this apartment that the court festivals take place, and there are probably no royal entertainments in Europe which quite equal in splendor those given in the Winter Palace. One becomes almost dazed by the glare of gilt and bronze, the number of polished columns of marble and porphyry, the gorgeous hangings, the mosaics, mirrors, and candelabra. Many of the painted ceilings are wonderfully perfect in design and execution, while choice works of art are so abundant on all sides as to lose effect. The famous banqueting-hall measures two hundred feet in length by one hundred in breadth. As we come forth from the palace through the grand entrance upon the square, it is natural to turn and scan the magnificent front as a whole, and to remember that from the gate of this palace Catharine II. went forth on horseback with a drawn sword in her hand, to put herself at the head of her army.
The Hermitage, of which the world has read so much, is a spacious building adjoining the Winter Palace, with which it is connected by a covered gallery, and is five hundred feet long where it fronts upon the square containing the Alexander Column. It is not, as its name might indicate, a solitude, but a grand and elaborate palace in itself, built by Catharine II. for a picture gallery, a museum, and a resort of pleasure. It contains to-day one of the largest as well as the most precious collections of paintings in the world, not forgetting those of Rome, Florence, Paris, and Madrid. The catalogue shows twenty original pictures by Murillo, six by Velasquez, sixty by Rubens, thirty-three by Vandyke, forty by Teniers, the same number by Rembrandt, six by Raphael, and many other invaluable examples by famous masters.
Here are also preserved the private libraries that once belonged to Zimmermann, Voltaire, and Diderot, besides those of several other remarkable men of letters. There is a royal theatre under the same roof, where plays used to be performed by amateurs from the court circles for the gratification of the empress, the text of the plays being sometimes written by herself. This royal lady indulged her fancy to the fullest extent. On the roof of the Hermitage was created a marvellous garden planted with choicest flowers, shrubs, and even trees of considerable size, all together forming a grand floral conservatory which was heated by subterranean fires in winter, and sheltered by a complete covering of glass.
The Palace of Peterhoff is situated about sixteen miles from St. Petersburg, on the shore of the Neva where the river expands to a width of eight or ten miles. This place has always been celebrated for the magnificent entertainments given here since the days when it was first built by Peter the Great. The main structure has no special merit in point of architecture, but the location and the surroundings are extremely beautiful. From the terrace of the great yellow palace built upon a natural elevation, one gets a fine though distant view of the coast of Finland,—a portion of the Tzar's dominion which alone exceeds in size Great Britain and Ireland, a wide-spread barren land of lakes and granite rocks, but peopled by over two millions of souls. The parks, gardens, fountains, hot-houses, groves, and embowered paths of Peterhoff are kept in the most perfect order by a small army of household attendants. The artificial water-works are after the style of those at St. Cloud, and are nearly equal to those of Versailles.
Here the famous Peter used to retire and stroll about the gardens with his humble favorite, a Polish girl, forgetting the cares of state. This lowly companion, besides great personal beauty, possessed much force of character, and exercised great influence over her melancholic and morose master. Long before her final elevation to the throne, many instances are related of her interference in behalf of mercy, which showed a kind and loving nature. Peterhoff is the favorite summer resort of the royal family.
The Tzar's dominion embraces every phase of religion and of civilization. Portions of the empire are as barbaric as Central Africa, others are semi-civilized, while a large share of the people inhabiting the cities assume the highest outward appearance of refinement and culture. This diversity of character spreads over a country extending from the Great Wall of China on one side to the borders of Germany on the other; from the Crimea in the south to the Polar Ocean in the far north.
The distance from St. Petersburg to Moscow is about four hundred miles; the cars upon this route take us directly towards the heart of Russia. Thirty years ago there were but about eight hundred miles of railroad in the country; to-day there are twenty thousand and more. On this trip one passes through scenery of the most monotonous and melancholy character, flat and featureless, made up of forests of fir-trees, interspersed with the white birch, and long reaches of wide, deserted plains.
The forest forms a very prominent feature of Russia north of the line of travel between the two great cities, covering in that region fully a third part of the country; the largest forest in Europe is that of Volskoniki, which commences near the source of the Volga. But to the south of Moscow the vast plains, or steppes, are quite free from wood, consisting merely of sandy deserts, unfit for habitation. No country is more thinly inhabited or more wearisomely tame. Now and again a few sheep are seen cropping the thin brown moss and straggling verdure, tended by a boy clad in a fur cap and skin jacket, forming a strong contrast to his bare legs and feet.
Though sparsely inhabited by fierce and active races for centuries, the appearance is that of primitiveness; the log-cabins seem to be only temporary expedients,—wooden tents, as it were. The men and women who are seen at the railroad stations are of the Tartar type, the ugliest of all humanity, with high cheekbones, flattened noses, dull gray eyes, copper-colored hair, and bronzed complexions. Their food is not of a character to develop much physical comeliness. The one vegetable which the Russian peasant cultivates is cabbage; this, mixed with dried mushrooms, and rarely anything else, makes a soup upon which he lives. Add to this soup a porridge made of meal, and we have about the entire substance of his regular food. If they produce some pork and corn, butter and cheese, they are seldom indulged in for their own subsistence, but are sold at the nearest market, as a certain amount of ready money must be had when the tax-gatherer makes his annual visit. We are speaking of the masses, but of course there are exceptions. Some thrifty peasants manage much better than this. No other country is richer in horses, mines of gold, silver, copper, and precious stones; or in the useful articles of iron, lead, and zinc. Though the Russians are famous for having large families, still the inhabitants average but fifteen to the square mile, while in Germany there are eighty, and in England over four hundred to the square mile.
Forests of such density as to be impenetrable to man frequently line the railroad for many miles together, but the loneliness of the way is relieved by occasional glimpses of wild-flowers scattered along the roadside in great variety, diffusing indescribable freshness. Among them now and again a tall scarlet poppy rears its gaudy head, nodding lazily in the currents of air and leading us to wonder how it came here in such company. A peculiar little blue flower is frequently observed with yellow petals, seeming to look up from the surrounding nakedness and desolation with the appealing expression of human eyes. Snow-white daisies and delicate little harebells come into view at intervals, struggling for a brief and lonely existence. The railroad stations are beautified by floral displays of no mean character. It seems that professional gardeners travel on the line, remaining long enough at each place to organize the skilful culture of garden-plants by the keeper's family during the few weeks of summer; but one shudders to think what must be the aspect of this region during the long frost-locked Russian winter.
On reaching the city of Tver, we cross, by a high iron bridge, the river Volga,—one of the greatest in the world,—the Mississippi of Russia. From this point the river is navigable for over two thousand miles to Astrakhan. In a country so extensive and which possesses so small a portion of seaboard, rivers have a great importance, and until the introduction of railroads they formed nearly the only available means of transportation. The canals, rivers, and lakes are no longer navigated by barges drawn by horse-power. Steam-tugs and small passenger steamers now tow great numbers of flat-boats of large capacity; and transportation by this mode of conveyance is very cheap. The Volga is the largest river in Europe. Measured through its entire windings it has a length of twenty-four hundred miles from its rise in the Valdai Hills, five hundred and fifty feet above sea-level, to its outlet into the Caspian Sea. Many cities and thriving towns are situated upon its banks. At Nijni-Novgorod it is joined by the Oka River. In addition to these water-ways there are also the Obi, the Yenisee, the Lena, the Don, and the Dnieper, all rivers of the first class, whose entire course from source to mouth is within the Russian territory, saying nothing of the several rivers tributary to these. Nor should we forget those frontier rivers, the Danube, the Amoor, and the Oxus, all of which are auxiliary to the great system of canals that connects the important rivers of the empire. The Volga by this system communicates with the White Sea, the Baltic, and the Euxine.
While we are narrating these interesting facts relating to the material greatness of Russia, we are also approaching its ancient capital. It stands upon a vast plain through which winds the Moskva River, from which the city derives its name. The villages naturally become more populous as we advance, and gilded domes and cupolas occasionally loom up above the tree-tops on either side of the road, indicating a Greek church here and there. As in approaching Cairo in Egypt, one sees first and while far away the pyramids of Ghizeh, and afterwards the graceful minarets and towers of the Oriental city gleaming through the golden haze; so as we gradually emerge from the thinly inhabited Russian plains and draw near the capital, first there comes into view the massive towers of the Kremlin and the Church of Our Saviour with its golden dome, followed by the hundreds of glittering steeples, belfries, towers, and star-gilded domes of this extremely interesting and ancient city.
Though some of these religious temples have simply a cupola in the shape of an inverted bowl, terminating in a gilded point capped by a cross and crescent, few of them have less than five or six, and some have sixteen superstructures of the most whimsical device, with gilded chains depending from each apex and affixed at the base. A bird's-eye view of Moscow is far more picturesque than that of St. Petersburg, the older city being located upon very uneven ground, is in some places quite hilly. St. Petersburg is European, while Moscow is Tartar. The latter has been three times nearly destroyed: first by the Tartars in the thirteenth century; next, by the Poles, in the seventeenth century; and again at the time of the French invasion under Napoleon, in 1812. Still it has sprung from its ashes each time as if by magic, and has never lost its original character, being now a more splendid and prosperous capital than ever before, rapidly increasing in population. The romantic character of its history, so mingled with protracted wars, civil conflicts, sieges, and conflagrations, makes it seem half fabulous. The population is not much, if any less than that of St. Petersburg,—eight hundred thousand,—while the territory which it covers measures over twenty miles in circumference.
Moscow is to the Russian what Mecca is to the pious Moslem, and he calls it by the endearing name of "mother." Like Kief and the Trortzkoi (sacred monastery), it is the object of pious pilgrimage to thousands annually, who come from long distances on foot.
The Kremlin, which crowns a hill, is the central point of the city, and is enclosed by high walls, battlement rising upon battlement, flanked by massive towers. The name is Tartar and signifies a fortress. As such it is unequalled for its vastness, its historical associations, and the wealth of its sanctuaries. It was founded five or six hundred years ago, and is an enclosure studded with cathedrals, and embracing broad streets and spacious squares,—a citadel and city within itself, being to Moscow what the Acropolis was to Athens. The various buildings are a strange conglomerate of architecture, including Tartar, Hindu, Chinese, and Gothic exhibited in noble cathedrals, chapels, towers, convents, and palaces. There are about twenty churches within the walls of the Kremlin. The Cathedral of the Assumption is perhaps the most noteworthy, teeming as it does with historic interest, and being filled with tombs and pictures from its dark agate floor to the base of the vast cupola. Here, from the time of Ivan the Great to that of the present Emperor, the Tzars have all been crowned, and here Peter placed the royal insignia upon the head of his second wife, the peasant-girl of Livonia.
The venerable walls of the Kremlin, which measure about two miles in circumference, are pierced by five gates of an imposing character, to each of which is attributed a religious or historical importance. Often have invading hosts battered at these gates, and sometimes gained an entrance; but, strange to say, they have always in the end been worsted by the faithful Muscovites. Over the Redeemer's Gate, so called, is affixed a wonder-working picture of the Saviour, which is an object of great veneration. No one, not even the Emperor, passes beneath it without removing his hat and bowing the head. A miracle is supposed to have been wrought in connection with this picture of the Redeemer at the time when the retreating French made a vain attempt to blow up the Kremlin, and hence the special reverence given to it.
The most strikingly fantastic structure in Moscow is the Cathedral of St. Basil, which is top-heavy with spires, domes, and minarets, ornamented in the most irregular and unprecedented manner. Yet, as a whole, the structure is not inharmonious with its unique surroundings,—the semi-Oriental, semi-barbaric atmosphere in which it stands. It is not within the walls of the Kremlin, but is just outside, near the Redeemer's Gate, from which point the best view of it may be enjoyed. No two of its towering projections are alike, either in height, shape, or ornamentation. The coloring throughout is as various as the shape, being in yellow, green, blue, red, gilt, and silver. Each spire and dome has its glittering cross; and when the sun shines upon the group, it is in effect like the bursting of a rocket at night, against a dark blue background.
In front of this many-domed cathedral is a circular stone whence the Tzars of old were accustomed to proclaim their edicts; and it is also known as "The Place of the Scull," because of the many executions which have taken place upon it. Ivan the Terrible rendered the spot infamous by the series of executions which he ordered to take place here, the victims being mostly innocent of any crimes. Here Prince Scheviref was impaled by order of this same tyrant, and here several other members of the royal family were ruthlessly put to death after being barbarously tortured.
The treasury of the Kremlin, erected so late as 1851, is a historical museum of crowns, thrones, state costumes, and regalia generally; including in the latter department the royal robes of Peter the Great as well as his crown, in which there are about nine hundred diamonds; and that of his widow Catharine I., which contains three thousand of these precious stones. One comes away from the labyrinth of palaces, churches, arsenals, museums, and the treasury, after viewing their accumulation of riches, quite dazed and surfeited. To examine the latter properly requires more than a single day. It is a marvel of accumulated riches, including the crowns of many now defunct kingdoms, such as those of Kazan, Georgia, Astrakhan, and Poland,—all heavy with precious stones. The crown jewels of England and Germany combined would not equal in value these treasures. The most venerable of the crowns is that of Monomachus, brought from Byzantium more than eight hundred years ago. This emblem is covered with jewels of the choicest character, among which are steel-white diamonds and rubies of pigeon's-blood hue, such as are rarely obtainable in our day.
While viewing the many attractions of Moscow one is apt to recall a page from history and remember the heroic, self-sacrificing means which the people of this Asiatic city adopted to repel the invading and victorious enemy. It was an act of sublime desperation to place the torch within the sanctuary of Russia and destroy all, sacred and profane, so that the enemy should also be destroyed. It was the grandest sacrifice ever made to national honor by any people. "Who would have thought that a nation would burn its own capital?" said Napoleon.
Strangers are hardly prepared to find Moscow so great a manufacturing centre, more than fifty thousand of the population being regularly employed in manufacturing establishments. There are over a hundred cotton mills within the limits of the city, between fifty and sixty woollen mills, over thirty silk mills, and other kindred establishments, though enterprise in this direction is mostly confined to textile fabrics. The city is fast becoming the centre of a great railroad system, affording the means of rapid and easy distribution for the several products of these mills.
The favorite seat of learning is the Moscow University, founded by Peter the Great in 1755, its four principal faculties being those of history, physics, jurisprudence, and medicine. It is a State institution, and has at this time some two thousand students. The terms of admission as regards cost to the pupils are merely nominal, the advantages being open to all youth above seventeen who can pass a satisfactory examination. Here, also, is another large and valuable library open at all times to the public, containing over two hundred thousand well-chosen volumes. This liberal multiplication of educational advantages in the very heart of Oriental Russia is an indisputable evidence of progressive civilization.
One is struck by the multitude of pigeons seen in and about the city. They are held in great reverence by the common people, and no Russian will harm them. Indeed, they are as sacred here as monkeys in Benares, or doves in Venice, being considered emblems of the Holy Ghost and under protection of the Church. They wheel about in large blue flocks through the air, so dense as to cast shadows, like swift-moving clouds, alighting fearlessly where they choose, to share the beggar's crumbs or the rich man's bounty. It is a notable fact that this bird was also considered sacred by the old Scandinavians, who believed that for a certain period after death the soul of the deceased assumed this form to visit and watch the behavior of the mourners.
Beggary is sadly prevalent in the streets of Moscow, the number of maimed and wretched-looking human beings recalling the same scenes in Spain and Italy, especially in the former country, where beggary seems to be the occupation of one-third of the people.
We must travel by railway three hundred miles further towards the centre of the empire and in a northerly direction, to reach Nijni Novgorod, that is, Lower Novgorod, being so called to distinguish it from the famous place of the same name located on the Volkhov, and known as Novgorod the Great. This journey is made in the night, and the cars, which are supposed to afford sleeping accommodations, are furnished with reclining chairs only. However, we get along very well, and fatigue is pretty sure to make one sleep soundly, notwithstanding the want of inviting conveniences. Having arrived at Nijni-Novgorod early in the morning, we find it to be a peculiar city. The residence of the governor of the district, the courts of law, and the citadel are within the Kremlin, where there is also a fine monument to the memory of Mininn and Pojarski, the two patriots who liberated the country from the Poles in 1612.
The Kremlin, like that at Moscow, is situated on an elevation overlooking the town and the broad valley of the Volga. As we view the scene, a vast alluvial plain is spread out before the eye, covered with fertile fields and thrifty woods, through which from northwest to southeast flows the river, like a silver thread upon a verdant ground, extending from horizon to horizon. On this river, the main artery of Central Russia, are seen scores of swift-moving steamers, while a forest of shipping is gathered about the wharves of the lower town, and also upon the Oka River, which here joins the Volga. From this outlook we count over two hundred steamers in sight at the same time, all side-wheelers and clipper-built, drawn hither by the exigencies of the local trade growing out of the great annual fair. The first of these steamboats was built in the United States and transported to Russian waters, since which it has served as a model to builders, who have furnished many hundreds for river service.
The flat-boats or barges, which have been towed hither by the steamers from various distances, having been unloaded, are anchored in a shallow bend of the river, where they cover an area of a mile square. On most of these barges entire families live, it being their only home; and wherever freight is to be transported, thither they go; whether it is towards the Ural Mountains or the Caspian Sea, it is all the same to them: the Arabs of the desert are not more roving than they.
The Volga has a course of twenty-four hundred, and the Oka of eight hundred and fifty miles. As the Missouri and the Mississippi rivers have together made St. Louis in this country, so these two rivers have made Nijni-Novgorod. This great mart lies at the very centre of the water communication which joins the Caspian and the Black seas to the Baltic and the White seas; besides which, it has direct railroad connection with Moscow, and thence with all Eastern Europe. The Volga and its tributaries pour into its lap the wealth of the Ural Mountains and that of the vast region of Siberia and Central Asia. It thus becomes very apparent why and how this ancient city is the point of business contact between European industry and Asiatic wealth.
The attraction which draws most travellers so far into the centre of Russia, lies in the novelty of the great annual fair held here for a period of about eight weeks, and which gathers together for the time being some two hundred thousand people, traders and spectators, merchants and rogues, who come from the most distant provinces and countries of Asia, as well as from immediate regions round about. The variety of merchandise brought hither is something to astonish one. Jewelry of such beauty and fashion as would grace the best stores of Paris is here offered for sale, beside the cheapest ornaments manufactured by the bushel-basketful at Birmingham, England. Choice old silverware is exposed along with iron sauce-pans, tin dippers, and cheap crockery—variety and incongruity, gold and tinsel, everywhere side by side. There is an abundance of iron and copper from the Urals, dried fish in tall piles from the Caspian, tea from China, cotton from India, silk and rugs from Persia, heavy furs and sables from Siberia, wool in the raw state from Cashmere, together with the varied products of the trans-Caucasian provinces, even including droves of wild horses. Fancy goods are here displayed from England as well as from Paris and Vienna, toys from Nuremberg, ornaments of jade and lapis-lazuli from Kashgar, precious stones from Ceylon, and gems from pearl-producing Penang. Variety, indeed! Then what a conglomerate of odors permeates everything,—boiled cabbage, coffee, tea, and tanned leather,—dominated by the all-pervading musk; but all this is quite in consonance with the queer surroundings which meet the eye, where everything presents itself through an Oriental haze.
If any business purpose actuates the visitor, let him keep his wits about him, and, above all, remain cool, for it requires an effort not to be confused by the ceaseless buzzing of such a crowded hive of human beings. Sharpers are not unrepresented here, but may be seen in full force seeking to take advantage of every opportunity for imposition, so that many who come hither thrive solely by dishonesty. It is a sort of thieves' paradise—and Asiatic thieves are marvellously expert. Most of these are itinerants, having no booths, tables, or fixtures, except a satchel or box hung about their necks, from which they offer trifling articles at low prices, a specious disguise under which to prosecute their real design.
The period of great differences in prices at localities wide apart has, generally speaking, passed away, and nearly everywhere the true value of things is known. Circumstances may favor sellers and buyers by turns, but intrinsic values are fixed all over the world. Nothing is found especially cheap at this great Russian-Asiatic fair except such articles as no one wants, though occasionally a dealer who is particularly anxious to get cash will offer his goods at a low price to effect the desired sale. The Tartar merchant from the central provinces of Asia knows the true worth of his goods, though in exchange he pays liberal prices for Parisian and English luxuries. Gems which are offered so abundantly here can only be bought at somewhat near to their just value in the markets of the world. All the tricks of trade are known and resorted to at these gatherings. The merchant begins by demanding a price ridiculously above the amount for which he is willing to sell. No dealer has a fixed price at Nijni-Novgorod. The Asiatic enjoys dickering—it is to him the very life of his occupation, and adds zest, if not profit, to his business transactions.
It is curious to watch the various features, the physical development, the dress, manners, customs, and languages of the throng. It would be impossible to convey an idea of the ceaseless Babel of noise which prevails;—the cries designating certain goods, the bartering going on in shrill voices, the laughter mingled with sportive exclamations, and the frequent disputes which fill the air. But there is no actual quarrelling; the Russian police are too vigilant, too much feared, too summary for that. Open violence is instantly suppressed, and woe betide the culprit!
Such is this unique fair, which presents one of the rude and ancient Eastern forms of trade—a form which was once also prevalent throughout Europe, but now rapidly disappearing by the introduction of railroads, even in the East. The glory of Nijni-Novgorod is already beginning to wane; but it would seem that the fair still represents all the gayest features of the olden time, having been held here annually since 1366, tradition pointing even to an earlier date.
The large and populous city formed here, though so temporary, is divided into long and broad streets lined with booths, shops, restaurants, tents, and even minor theatres, while the wharves of the rivers are crowded with bales of rags, grain, hides, skins, casks of wine, madder, and cotton. The total value of the goods disposed of at these annual fairs is estimated as high as eighty million dollars. It is the only notable gathering of the sort now to be seen in Russia. With the close of the day business is mostly laid aside, dancing-girls appear in the cafes, and rude musical instruments are brought forth, each nationality amusing itself after its own fashion. Strange and not inharmonious airs fall upon the ear, supplemented by songs, the words of which are utterly unintelligible, except to the circle of participants. The whole scene forms a strange picture, as parti-colored as Harlequin's costume, while the whole is watched by the ever-present Russian police.
A couple of days at the fair serves to acquaint us sufficiently with all of its peculiarities, and we return to the ancient capital of the empire by night train.
It is a long and rather dreary journey from Moscow to Warsaw, in Russian Poland, the distance being some seven hundred miles by rail, and the route very monotonous. The country through which we pass is heavily wooded, and affords some attractive sport to foreigners, who resort here especially for wolf-shooting. In the summer season these creatures are seldom dangerous to men, except when they go mad, which, in fact, they are rather liable to do. When in this condition, they rush through field and forest, heedless of hunters, dogs, or aught else, biting every creature they meet, and such victims are pretty sure to die of hydrophobia. The wolves are at all seasons more or less destructive to small domestic stock, and sometimes in the severity of a hard winter they will gather in large numbers and attack human beings, though as a rule they are timid and keep out of the way of men. There are also some desirable game-birds in these forests. The wild bison still exists here, though it is forbidden to shoot them, as they are considered to belong to the Crown. If they were not fed by man during the long winters, they would surely starve.
In the last portion of this journey the country puts on a more agreeable aspect. The beautiful lavender color of the flax-fields interspersed with the peach-bloom of broad, level acres of buckwheat, produces a pleasant and thrifty aspect. These fields are alternated by miles of intensely green oats, rye, and other cereals. No finer display of growing grain is to be found, except in Western America. The hay-makers, in picturesque groups, are busy along the line of the railroad as we pass, nine-tenths of them being women. The borders of Poland exhibit a scene of great fertility and successful agricultural enterprise. As we cross the frontier, a difference in the dress of the common people becomes noticeable. Men no longer wear red shirts outside of their pantaloons, and scarlet disappears from the dress of the women, giving place to more subdued hues. The stolid, square faces of the Russian peasantry are replaced by a more intelligent cast of features, while many representatives of the Jewish race begin to appear, especially about the railway stations, where they offer trifling articles for sale. The dwelling-houses which now come into view are of a superior class to those left behind in Russia proper. Log cabins disappear entirely, and thatched roofs are rarely seen; good, substantial frame houses appropriately painted become numerous. Small, trim flower-plats are seen fenced in, adjoining the dwellings. Lines of beehives find place near these cheerful homes, where the surroundings generally are suggestive of thrift and industry.
In passing through Poland the country presents almost one unbroken plain admirably adapted to agriculture, so much so that it has been called the granary of Europe. The Polish peasants are extremely ignorant, if possible even more so than the Russians proper of the same class; but they are a fine-looking race, strongly built, tall, active, and well formed. There are schools in the various districts, but the Polish language is forbidden to be taught in them: only the Russian tongue is permitted. The peasantry have pride enough to resist this arbitrary measure in the only way which is open to them; that is, by keeping their children out of the schools. Education not being compulsory here as it is in Norway and Sweden, little benefit is consequently derived from the schools. With a view to utterly obliterate the Polish language it is even made a penal offence by Russian law to use it in commercial transactions.
The Polish peasantry as a whole are by no means a prepossessing race. Naturally dull, they are furthermore demoralized and degraded by a love of spirituous liquors, these being unfortunately both cheap and potent. As regards the nationality of Poland, her fate is certainly decided for many years to come, if, indeed, it be not settled for all time. Dismembered as she is, every new generation must amalgamate her more and more completely with the three powers who have appropriated her territory and divided the control of her people among them. We continue to speak of Poland as a distinct country, though the name is all that remains of its ancient independence. The map of Europe has long since been reconstructed in this region,—Austria, Germany, and Russia coolly absorbing the six millions of Poles, Warsaw becoming thus the capital of Russian Poland.
We enter the city by the Praga suburb, crossing the lofty iron bridge which here stretches over the Vistula, nearly two thousand feet in length.
The city extends about six miles along the left bank of the Vistula, and upon very high ground. The river is navigable at most seasons of the year, extending the whole length of Poland from north to south, its source being the Carpathian Mountains, and its mouth at Dantzig. The city covers a great surface in proportion to the number of inhabitants, and is enclosed by ramparts pierced by ten gates, all being defended by a strong castle of modern construction. The fortifications are kept at all times up to a war standard, and are very complete in the department of modern artillery. The city has nearly half a million inhabitants, one-third of whom are Jews, who monopolize the main branches of trade.
From the top of the railway station in the Praga district one gets an admirable view. On the opposite side of the river is seen the citadel, the oldest portion of the town, with its narrow streets and lofty houses, the castle and its beautiful gardens, as well as the newer section of the city, including the public promenade and groves about the royal villa of Lazienki. Viewed from Praga, as it slopes upward, the effect of the city is very pleasing, and a closer examination of its churches, former palaces, and fine public buildings confirms the favorable impression. This view should be supplemented by one of a bird's-eye character to be obtained from the cupola of the Lutheran Church, which more clearly reveals the several large squares and main arteries, bordered by graceful lime-trees.
In spite of its misfortunes, Warsaw ranks to-day as the third city in importance as well as population in the Russian Empire. It was not made the capital of Poland until 1566, when it succeeded Cracow. It is now the residence of a viceroy representing the Emperor of Russia, and the place is strongly garrisoned by the soldiers of the Tzar. War and devastation have deprived it of many of its national and patriotic monuments, but its squares are still ornamented with numerous admirable statues, and with a grand array of fine public buildings. In the square of the royal castle there is a colossal bronze statue of Sigismund III.; in another quarter a bronze statue of Copernicus is found. It will be remembered that he was a Pole by birth and was educated at Cracow, his name being Latinized from Kopernik. There is a thirteenth century cathedral close by, whose pure Gothic contrasts strongly with the Tartar style which we have so lately left behind in Russia. This old church is very gray and crumbling, very dirty, and very offensive to the sense of smell, partly accounted for by obvious causes, since about the doors, inside and out, swarm a vile-smelling horde of ragged men, women, and children, sad and pitiful to behold.
Here we find the finest public buildings and most elegant residences strangely mingled with wooden hovels; magnificence and squalor side by side, inexorably jumbled together. No other city in all Europe has so many private palaces and elegant mansions as may be seen in an hour's stroll about Warsaw; but the architecture is often gaudy and in bad taste. Here for centuries there were but two classes or grades of society; namely, the noble, and the peasant. A Polish noble was by law a person who possessed a freehold estate, and who could prove his descent from ancestors formerly possessing a freehold, who followed no trade or commerce, and who was at liberty to choose his own habitation. This description, therefore, included all persons who were above the rank of tradesmen or peasants.
The "Avenues" is the popular drive and promenade of the citizens of Warsaw. It is bordered by long lines of trees, and surrounded by elegant private residences. Here also are inviting public gardens where popular entertainments are presented, and where cafes dispense ices, favorite drinks, and other refreshments. The Botanical Gardens are close at hand, forming a pleasant resort for the lovers of floral beauty. Just beyond these gardens is the Lazienki Park, containing the suburban palace built by King Stanislaus Poniatovski in the middle of the last century, and which is now the temporary residence of the Emperor of Russia when he visits Warsaw. These grounds are very spacious, affording complete seclusion and shady drives. Though it so closely adjoins the city, it has the effect of a wild forest of ancient trees. The royal villa stands in the midst of a stately grove, surrounded by graceful fountains, tiny lakes, and delightful flower-gardens. There are some fine groups of marble statuary picturesquely disposed among the tropical plants.
One is hardly prepared to see so much commercial prosperity and rapidity of growth as is evinced in Warsaw. In matters of current business and industrial affairs it appears to be in advance of St. Petersburg. The large number of distilleries and breweries are unpleasantly suggestive of the intemperate habits of the people. The political division of Poland, to which we have referred, was undoubtedly a great outrage on the part of the three powers who confiscated her territory, but it has certainly resulted in decided benefit as regards the interests of the common people. There are those who see in the fate of Poland that retributive justice which Heaven metes out to nations as well as to individuals. In past ages she was a country ever aggressive upon her neighbors, and it was not until she was sadly torn and weakened by internal dissensions that Catharine II. first invaded her territory. Nine-tenths of the populace were no better than slaves, in much the same condition as the Russian serfs before the late emancipation took place. They were acknowledged retainers, owing their service to, and holding their farms at the option of the upper class; namely, the so-called nobility of the country. This overmastering class prided itself on the fact of neither promoting nor being engaged in any kind of business; indeed, this uselessness was one condition attached to its patent of nobility. These autocratic rulers knew no other interest or occupation than that of the sword. War and devastation constituted their profession, while the common people for ages reaped the fruit of famine and slaughter. Even in what were called times of peace, the court and nobles were constantly engaged in intrigues and quarrels. However hard these reflections may seem, they are substantiated by historical facts, and are frankly admitted by the intelligent citizens of Warsaw to-day.
That there is shameful despotism exercised by the present ruling powers all must allow; but that peace, individual liberty, and great commercial prosperity now reign in Poland is equally obvious. In the days which are popularly denominated those of Polish independence the nobility were always divided into bitter factions. Revolutions were as frequent as they are to-day in South America or Mexico, and the strongest party disposed of the crown, ruling amid tumult and bloodshed.
From Warsaw we turn towards Munich, the capital of Bavaria, reaching the quaint old city by way of Vienna, a description of which we have given in a previous chapter. Munich has a population of about two hundred thousand, and it possesses many noble institutions devoted to charitable, literary, and art purposes. The accumulation of art treasures is of the choicest character, not exceeded in number or importance by any other city of Germany, if we except Dresden. Many of its churches, centuries in age, are of great interest. Nearly all of our modern bronze statues have been cast in the famous founderies of Munich. The university, in the University Platz, takes first rank among the educational institutions of the old world. The English Garden, so-called, is a beautiful and extensive park which was established just one century ago; it is about four miles long by half a mile in width. Here is seen an admirable statue of Count Rumford, the founder of the garden. In clear weather the distant Alps are visible from here.
The public library of Munich is remarkably comprehensive, and contains about nine hundred thousand volumes, besides twenty-four thousand valuable manuscripts. Few collections in the world are so important. The Bavarian national museum embraces a magnificent array of objects illustrating the progress of civilization and art. Munich is strongly marked in its general aspect, manners, and customs. A considerable share of the most menial as well as of the most trying physical labor devolves upon the women. It is very repulsive to an American to see them, as one does here, ascending high ladders with buckets of mortar or bricks for building purposes. The stranger is unpleasantly impressed with the fact that more beer is drunk in Munich than in any other community composed of the same number of people. The obvious trouble with those who consume so much malt liquor is that they keep half tipsy all of the time, and their muddled brains are never in possession of their full mental capacity. There is not much absolute drunkenness to be seen in the streets of this capital, but the bloated faces and bleared eyes of the masses show only too plainly their vulgar and unwholesome indulgence.
From Munich we proceed to Frankfort-on-the-Main, an ancient and important city of Germany, containing a population of one hundred and twenty thousand. The difference in large communities is remarkable. While some cities with three hundred thousand inhabitants seem drowsy and "slow," another, like this of Frankfort, with not half that population, presents the aspect of much more life, activity, and volume of business. Here we have fine, cleanly streets, and stores almost Parisian in elegance and richness of display. The older portions of the town have the usual narrow lanes and dark alleys of past centuries, with quaint, overhanging fronts to the houses. The city is surrounded on three sides by very beautiful public gardens. The venerable town hall is an object of universal interest. One visits also the house from which Luther addressed the multitude in the Dom Platz, or square: nor should another famous residence be forgotten; namely, that in which Goethe was born, in memory of whom a colossal bronze statue stands in the Goethe Platz. There is also a group here of three statues in honor of Gutenberg, Faust, and Schoeffer, inventors of printing. In the Schiller Platz is a bronze statue of Schiller. The public library has a hundred and thirty thousand volumes, and there is a museum of natural history, an art gallery of choice paintings, and all the usual philanthropic organizations appropriate to a populous Christian capital. Frankfort is a great money centre, and is the residence of many very rich bankers. In the grounds attached to the residence of one of these wealthy men is exhibited, in a suitable building, the famous marble statue of Ariadne, by Dannecker. There is also here a fine botanical garden with a collection of choice plants open to the public. Thus it will be seen that Frankfort, upon the whole, though comparatively small, is yet an extremely pleasing city, thriving, cleanly, and attractive.
Our next place to visit is Cologne, a city situated on the left bank of the Rhine. It was a famous and prosperous Roman colony fifteen hundred years ago, containing amphitheatres, temples, and aqueducts. The passage-ways in the ancient portions of the city are remarkably small, but there are some fine modern streets, arcades, and open squares, which present a busy aspect, with an active population of one hundred and sixty thousand. The Rhine is here crossed by a substantial iron bridge, as also by a bridge of boats. The one most prominent attraction of Cologne is its grand, and in some respects unequalled, cathedral, which was over six hundred years in process of building. It was not completed until so late as 1880, representing an enormous amount of elaborate masonry. The towers are over five hundred feet high. The effect of the interior, with its vast height, noble pillars, niches, chapels, and stained glass windows is most impressive, and by many travellers is thought to be unequalled elsewhere. The exterior, with its immense flying buttresses and myriads of pinnacles, is truly awe-inspiring. There are other old and interesting churches here. That of St. Gereon is said to contain the bones of the hundreds of martyrs of the Theban Legion who were slain by order of the Emperor Diocletian in the year 286. The Church of St. Peter's, where Rubens was baptized, contains his famous picture entitled the "Crucifixion of St. Peter," painted a short time before the artist's death. The stranger is shown the house at No. 10 Sternengasse, where Maria d' Medici died in 1642. Rubens lived in this same house when a boy of ten years. There is a choice and comprehensive gallery of paintings at Cologne.