“ GASTUNA tantum una,” — “Only one Gastein,” — said the old Archbishops of Salzburg, hundreds of years ago. “ Only one Gastein,” echoes to-day on lips and in hearts of all who are so fortunate as to find their way into its enchanted valley.
“ From Salzburg to Bad Gastein, by Hallein and Werfen, 70 ġ English miles, a journey of ten hours with posthorses ” ; “ Route two hundred,” in Murray’s Guide-Book ; that is the skeleton of the story. Even at Murray’s best spinning, he only takes six pages to tell it, and probably there have been people who did the whole journey in ten hours. Bodies might ; but for souls what a horrible spiritual indigestion must follow quick on the taking at one ten-hours’ sitting the whole feast of this road !
We did better. People who do just as we did will begin by losing their temper at six o’clock in the morning with the cross chambermaid of the Goldener Schiff in Salzburg, eating a bad breakfast in its dirty dining-room, taking delighted leave of its inexperienced landlord, and galloping out of town at seven to the tune of one of Mozart’s old melodies rung on chime-bells. The great Salzburg plain is a goodly sight of a morning ; circling meadows for miles, walled at last by mountains which are so far and so green that it is not easy to believe them six and eight thousand feet high ; through the meadows the sluggish Salzach River ; in the middle ofthe meadows, and on the river, the shining Salzburg town ; in the middle of the town, high up on a rocky crag, the silent Salzburg castle, gray, turreted, and sure to last as long as the world. Those old Archbishops of Salzburg knew how to live. Wherever one comes upon traces of them, one is impressed with their worldly wisdom. The impregnable castle of Salzburg for a stronghold, with the Monchsberg for pleasure-grounds, a riding-school cut out of solid rock for exercise, Heilbrunn water-works for amusement, and the Baths of Gastein for health and long life, — what more could these jolly old King Coles ask, except the privilege to kill all who disagreed with them ? And that little privilege also they enjoyed for some years, enlarging it by every possible ingenuity of cruelty, as many stone dungeons with racks and oubliettes still bear witness.
Four hours steadily up, up. Franz does not urge his horses so much as he might. The nigh horse has no conscience, and shirks abominably on the hills. At last I venture to call Franz’s attention to the fact, by a few ill-spoken German substantives and adjectives, with never a verb or a particle to hold them together. “Ja,ja,” he says, with unruffled complacency ; but pointing to the poor off mare, who is straining every muscle in drawing three quarters of the load, “she is a good one ; she can pull,” touching her up smartly with the whip at the same time. We cross the Salzach, which grows muddy and rough, lighting bravely to bring down all the logs it can ; we leave the wonderful Durrenberg Mountain with its three-galleried salt-mine, and we march steadily out towards the Tannengebirge, which looks more and more threatening every minute. Clouds wheel round its top. We know, though we try not to believe, that storms are making ready : they never look, not they, to see who or what they may drown or hinder. Down the rain pours, and we dash dripping into the basement story of the inn at Golling. It was like an Italian inn ; carriages, and horses, and donkeys, and dogs, and cocks, and peasants, and hay, and grain, and dirt, and dampness, all crowded under and among damp arches of whitewashed stone, with only two ways of escape ; — the low, broad door through which we had driven in, and the rocky stairs up into the heart of the house. How pitilessly the rain fell ! Who of all the gods cared that we wanted that evening to see the waterfall of the Schwarzbach, the finest in all the German Alps, and that if we did not see it then we should never see it, because early the next day we must on to Gastein ? Still it rained. Why should one not see a waterfall in a rain ? They would not put one another out. This was clearly the thing to be done. Ah, how long the poor damp man, who took me in an einspanner to see that waterfall, will remember the smiling, merciless American, who sat silent, unterrified, and dry, behind the stout leather boot, and went over meadow, through gate, across stream, up gully, in the midst of thunder and lightning and whirling sheets of rain, and never once relented in her purpose of seeing the Schwarzbach ! Poor fellow ! he shifted from puddle to puddle on his low seat, looking furtively at me to see if I really meant to keep on ; at last, in a climax of despair, he stood up, emptied the cushion of water, coiled up the ends of the stout leather reins edgewise into a kind of circular gridiron, sat down doggedly on it, and never looked around again till we reached the end of the road. Here his triumph began; for was not he to stay warm and comfortable by a friend’s fire, while I went on foot the rest of the way to the waterfall ? This I had not understood before leaving the inn. “ Was it very far ? ”
“ O no, not far.”
I never saw a Tyrolese man or woman who would say that a place was far off. You might as well expect a goat or a chamois to know distances. “ O no, not far, only a little,” they say; and you toil and toil and toil, and sit down a dozen times to rest, before you are half-way there. However, if he had said it was ever so far, I should have kept on.
“ There was a path ? ”
“ O yes ” ; and here out skipped Undine to go and show it to me. I did not need her, for there wound the prophetic little brown path very plain among the trees ; but it was a delight to see her flitting along before me. Bare-footed, bare-legged, bare-headed, bare-necked, bare-armed, she did not lack so very much of being bare all over; and I do not suppose she would have minded it any more than a squirrel, if she had been. She looked back pityingly at me, seeing how much my civilized gear hindered me from keeping, up with her, as she sprang from tree-root to tree-root, and hopped from stone to stone in the water, — for in many places the path was already under water. On the right hand foamed the stream, not broad, but deep, and filled with great mossy boulders which twisted and turned it at every step ; on the right fir-trees and larches and still more mossy boulders. Every green thing glistened, and trickled, and dripped ; moss shone like silver ; and bluebells — ah, I think I alone know just how bluebells manage in wet weather ! Nobody else ever saw so many in one half-hour of glorious rain.
Soon I heard the voice of the fall ; a sudden turn in the path and I saw it ; but I looked for the first few seconds more at Undine. She stood, poised like a bird, on an old tree-stump, pointing to the fall, and gazing at me with an expression of calm superiority. The longer I looked the more inscrutable seemed the waterfall, and the wiser Undine, till I felt as I might in standing by the side of Belzoni before an Egyptian inscription. How well she understood it, this little wild thing as much of kin to it as the bluebells or the pine-trees ! But while I looked she was gone, darting up a steep path to the left, and calling me to follow. There was more, then ? Yes, more. O wonderful Schwarzbach Fall ! It will mean little to people who read, when I say that it shoots out of a cavern in two distinct streams ; they blend in one, which falls one hundred and sixty feet between craggy rocks, takes a cautious step or two, wading darkly under a natural bridge of giant rocks and pines, and then leaps off one hundred and seventy feet more in one wide torrent, with veils of silver threads on each side, and a never-ceasing smoke of spray.
Even destiny itself winces a little before a certain sort and amount of determination. Finding me actually face to face with the waterfall, and as thoroughly wet, the storm stayed itself a little, and rent the clouds here and there for me to look off into the grand distances. No sunny day could have given half such delight. This fall is supposed to be an overflow from the Lake Königsee, in Bavaria ; but nobody knows ; it hides its own secret.
Next morning we kept up a running fight with the rain through the Pass Lueg, past the great gorge Oefen, “ not to be missed,” said Murray. Neither did we miss it, clambering down and in under umbrellas. It is an uncanny place, where thousands of years ago the Salzach River cut a road for itself through mountains of rock, and never went back to see what it had left. Scooped out into arched and moulded hollows, piled up in bridge above bridge, damming up half the river at a time and then letting it fly, there stand the giant rocks to this day only half conquered. Yellow timbers from the mountains were being whirled through, now drawn under as if in a maelstrom, now shot swift as huge arrows over ledges of slippery dark stone.
In the Pass Lueg was just room for the river and us ; and if it had not been for shelves of plank here and there, the river would have had all the road. This pass is called the “ Gate of the Pongau.” A very hard gate to open it would be to an enemy, for the solid rocky sides of the mountains have been wrought into fortress walls full of embrasures, whose guns one would think must be worked by elf-men in the heart of the mountain, so little foothold seems there for human gunners.
At Werfen, just beyond the pass, we struck the track of the old Salzburg Archbishops again : the great castle of Hohenwerfen, three hundred and fifty feet up in the air, on a wooded crag overhanging the Salzach River, was another of their strongholds, and was used chiefly for a prison, being within easy reach of one of their favorite hunting-lodges, in the Blühnbachthal valley, only a few hours back ; so when they were tired of hunting chamois at Blühnbachthal they could ride down to Hohenwerfen and torture a few Protestants. Now, a company of Austrian sportsmen owns the lodge, and the castle of Hohenwerfen is used for barracks of Austrian soldiers.
At Werfen we contracted friendship with a shoemaker, who, with his wife, three children, and three apprentices, lives, sleeps, and sews in one stone chamber, up three flights of stone ladder, a few doors from the inn. I can recommend him as a good man who will put a new heel to an old boot and no questions asked.
Just beyond Werfen we passed a panorama of mill privilege never to be forgotten ; eight tiny brown wooden mills, one close above the other, on the side of a hill, and the white stream leaping patiently over wheel after wheel, all the way to the bottom of the hill, like a circus-rider through hoops. What could decide men bringing grain to be ground, whether to go to the top or the bottom mill ? It seemed that the eighth miller up, or down, must stand a poor chance of business.
From Werfen to our bedroom at Schwarzach we did not cease to exclaim at the beauty of the fields and roadsides. Everybody’s house looked comfortable ; everybody’s wife was out tying up wheat or pulling flax ; everybody else, was wearing a high hat and feather and a broad gay belt, and sitting in the sun smoking; though, to be just, we did see here and there an odd-looking man at work. Hollyhocks ruled the gardens, — superb stalking creatures, black and claret, and white, and rose - pink and canary - yellow, — and all as double as double could be. Crowded along the roadsides, the forever half-awake bluebells nodded and nodded on their wonderful necks, which are always just going to break, but never do. Fields of hemp we saw, and took it for a privileged weed until we were told better. Linseed we saw too, in great slippery dark-blue patches, and in the midst of all Franz suddenly reined up in front of the Schwarzach Inn.
Ah, that Schwarzach landlady ! She little dreamed how droll she looked as she stood pompously courtesying in her doorway, with her broad-brimmed black felt hat jammed down over her eyebrows like a thatch. Her figure was so square and puffy, it looked as if it had feathers inside, and was made to be sold at a fair, to stick pins in. At the crease of her waist a huge bunch of keys bobbed about incessantly, never finding any spot where they could lie still. Two tables full of Schwarzach men with beer and pipes, and two lattice-work cages of hens and cocks, we passed to go up to the first floor of the inn.
O, the pride of the pincushion landlady in her feather-beds, her linen, her blankets, her crockery ! She had come of the family of a Herr Somebody, though she did keep an inn and serve beer to peasants. Her family coat of arms hung in my bedroom, opposite a museum in a cupboard with glass doors. The contents of this museum were only to be explained on the supposition that they were the aggregate result of a century of Christmas-tree. Not an article in the protective tariff of the United States but had been wrought into some queer shape and put away in this Schwarzach cupboard; mysteries of wax, glass, china, worsted, paper, leather, bone. Most distinctly of all I remember a white wax face stuck on top of an egg-shell painted red, with a bit of green fringe for neck, and a bit of black wood for a leg. This impish thing grinned at me all night.
In this inn is a table round which the leaders of the Protestant peasants met in 1729 and took a solemn oath to leave the country rather than abandon their new faith. If the Schwarzach valley were as cold and dark then as it was at the sundown we saw it in, I can conceive of heavier sacrifices than to exchange it for any possible spot in Prussia, Würtemberg, or North America, to which, according to the GuideBook, the thirty thousand Protestants fled.
Next day sunshine and silver tent webs all along the road at eight o’clock in the morning.
A few more miles to the west, through Lend, a smutty little village where men have been melting gold and silver since the year 1538, and then we turned sharply to the south, to climb up through the wild “ Klamme ” to the valley of Gastein. At the turn we met a royal messenger, the shining river Ache, which said, “ Go up the road I have come. I left Gastein an hour ago.”
“ Less than an hour ago, we should think, O stream, by the rate at which you travel,” said we, as we entered the pass and began, to mount slowly up.
Four horses now, and Franz is glad if we all walk. What triumph for a road to keep foothold on these precipices ! “ Chiefly schistous limestone,” whatever that may be, Murray says that they are ; but they look like giant strata of petrified wood. Small bits of the stone lie in your hand like strips of old drift-wood, and crumble between your fingers almost as readily ; so that you glance uneasily at the walls of it, to right one thousand feet above your head, and to left one thousand feet more of walls of it, down, down to the boiling river. If some giant were to give a stout pinch to a ton or so of it while you pass, it would be bad.
“ Dreadful avalanches here in spring,” says Franz.
We are glad it is. August, and walk faster. The larches and bluebells and thyme rock away undisturbed, however, and keep the cliffs green and bright and spicy. Here is heath, too, the first we had seen, fairiest of lowly blossoms, with tiny pink bells in stifi thick rows fringed with green needlepoints of leaves : it crowds the thyme out and makes its purple look dull and coarse.
The Ache seemed to us a most riotous river, all through the Klamme. W e never dreamed that we were looking at its sober middle age, and that it had sown its wildest oats far up the Gastein valley.
That is probably one reason it looks so mischievous all through the pass. It knows that people believe it to be doing its best leaping, and it laughs as an old woman who had had mad triumphs in her youth might to hear herself called gay at fifty.
It was through this Klamme that the rich and haughty Dame Weitmoser was riding one day, when she refused to give alms to an old beggar-woman who stood by the roadside.
The beggar-woman cursed her to her face, saying, “ You shall yourself live to ask alms.”
“ Ha, that is impossible ; as impossible as that I shall ever see this ring again,” replied the wicked Frau Weitmoser, drawing from her finger a diamond ring and throwing it into the Ache. Then hitting the beggar-woman across the face with her riding-whip, she galloped off.
Three days later Herr Weitmoser, sitting at the head of his supper-table, surrounded by a party of friends, cut open a large trout and out flew his wife’s diamond ring and rolled across the table towards her. Very pale she turned, but no one knew the reason. From that day Herr Weitmoser’s goldmines began to yield less and less gold, and his riches melted away, until they were as poor as the poor beggar-woman who had been so cruelly treated in the pass. Legends differ as to the close of the story, some killing the haughty, hard-hearted woman off, in season for Herr Weitmoser to marry again and accumulate another fortune ; others making her live to repent in her bitter poverty, and, after she had become so kind and benevolent that she shared her little freely with her fellowpoor, giving back to them tenfold their original wealth. At any rate, the Herr Weitmoser is buried at Hof-Gastein ; for did we not see the stone effigy of him on a slab in the little church ? He lies flat on his back, in puffed sleeves and enormous boots, and two of his gold-miners stand guarding him, one at his head and one at his feet, with lifted hammers in their hands.
At the entrance of this pass, also, is the chapel of Ethelinda, scene of a still wilder story, and, better than all, one which is believed to be strictly true. In the Hof-Gastein church is a picture of its most startling incidents, and there is not a peasant within ten miles of the Klamm but will tell you that on windy nights can still be heard the words “ Ethelinda,” “ Ethelinda,” echoing around the chapel walls.
Ethelinda was the wife of another of the rich Weitmosers, who owned the gold-mines in the Radhausberg. Men are alike in all centuries. When Ethelinda died, Ethelinda’s husband shed fewer tears than did another of the Weitmosers, Christopher by name, who had loved Ethelinda long and hopelessly. This lover hid himself in the chapel while the funeral rites were being performed. At midnight he went down into the vault where Ethelinda’s body had been placed. A terrible thunder-storm made the fearful place still more fearful. By light of the sharp flashes he saw the face of the woman he loved. He bent over to kiss her. As he pressed his lips to hers she sighed, opened her eyes, and said, “ Where am I ? ” But before either of them could comprehend the terror and ecstasy of the moment, Ethelinda exclaimed, “ O fly, fly for help ! The pains of childbirth are upon me ! Hasten, or it will be too late ! ”
The lover forgets all danger to himself in his anguish of fear for her, and bursts breathless into the husband’s presence with the incredible news that his buried wife is alive, and lying in travail in her coffin, in the chapel. Weitmoser’s first impulse is to slay the man whose tale so plainly reveals him as lover of Ethelinda. But he thinks better of it, and, hand in hand, they hurry to the chapel. Angels have been before them, and succored the mother and child. They find Ethelinda kneeling on the altar steps, with her babe in her arms. History wisely forbore to encumber the narrative with any details of how embarrassing it was for them all to live in the same village after this ; but in the same little church of Hof-Gastein, where is the picture of Ethelinda in her graveclothes, kneeling on the altar steps holding up her child to the Virgin, are the gravestones of Christopher Weitmoser and his wife and children, from which we can understand that time had the same excellent knack then, as now, of curing that sort of wound.
The Gastein valley reveals itself cautiously by instalments, being in three plateaus. Coming out on the first, and seeing a little hamlet brooding over green meadows before us, we exclaimed, “Gastein, O Gastein!”
“ No, indeed,” said Franz, contemptuously, “only Dorf Gastein.”
We wondered and were silent. Miles farther on another sharp ascent and another valley. “ Surely this is Gastein ? ”
“No, no, only Hof-Gastein.” We wondered still more, but were glad, because Hof-Gastein is white and dusty and glaring. The houses elbow each other and are hideous, and the Ache takes a nap in the marshy meadows.
Steadily we climbed on : one mile, two miles, three miles, up hill. Snow mountains came into view. The Ache began to caper and tumble. Cold air blew in our faces : this was the noon weather of Gastein. Pink heath bordered the road ; bushes of it, mats of it ; it seemed a sin to scatter so much of anything so lovely'. Dark fir woods stretched and met over our heads ; gleams of houses came through.
“Yes, this is Gastein,” said Franz, with proud emphasis, which meant, “ Now you will see what it is to mistake any other place for Gastein.”
Sure enough, wise old proverb : “ There is but one Gastein.”
For, knows the world any other green and snow-circled village which holds a waterfall three hundred feet high in its centre? One hesitates at first whether to say the waterfall is in the town, or the town in the waterfall, so inextricably mixed up are they ; so noisy is the waterfall and so still is the town. Some of the houses hang over the waterfall ; some of the threads of the waterfall wriggle into the gardens. The longer you stay the more you feel that the waterfall is somehow at the bottom of everything. From one side to other of this valley an arrow might easily fly. Both walls are green almost to the very top with pastures and fir woods, and dotted with little brown houses, which look as if birds had taken to building walled nests on the ground and roofing them over. To the west the wall is an unbroken line. Behind it the sun drops early in the afternoon like a plummet. Sunset in Gastein is no affair of the almanac. Every point has its own calendar. Long after Gastein — or BadGastein, as we ought to begin to call it — is in shadow, Hof-Gastein, in the open meadow three miles below, is yellow with sun. To the east and south are more mountains and higher, but not in range with each other, — the Stühle, the Radhausberg, Ankogel, and Gamskarkogel, all between six and twelve thousand feet high. Thus the view from the west side of the valley has far more beauty and variety. There are now on this side only a few houses, but ultimately it must be Gastein’s West End.
The geologists, who know, say that where now are the valleys of Gastein and Böckstein were once two great lakes, which the earth in a spasm of thirst some day gulped down at a swallow ; all but the water of the perverse river Ache, which would not be swallowed. When the cold water went in, some of the pent-up hot water jumped at the chance of getting out: hence the famous hot springs, great marvel and blessing of Gastein.
There are eighteen of these hot springs, some trickling slowly from the rocks, some bubbling out in the very midst of the cold water of the cascade. They make the best of their loopholes of escape, coming into town at rate of one hundred and thirty-two thousand cubic feet every twenty-four hours. The water is perfectly colorless and tasteless ; yet the list of sulphates and chlorides, etc. of which it is made is a long one, numbering nine in all. The recipe is an old one, and probably good, though it sounds formidable.
The legend of its discovery is, that in the year 680 three hunters, following a wounded stag, found him bathing his wounds in one of these hot springs, whose vapor attracted their attention. A little later the Romans, seeking after gold and silver, penetrated to the valley and found living there two holy men named Primus and Felicianus. This was in the days of Rupert, the first of the Salzburg Archbishops. Primus and Felicianus were carried prisoners to Rome and thrown to the lions in the Coliseum. But they still live as the Patron Saints of Gastein. All good Catholics coming to be cured of disease —and most who come are good Catholics — invoke the prayers of Saints Primus and Felicianus, and, when they go away, leave grateful record in the chronicles of Gastein, beginning : “ To God and the Saints Primus and Felicianus be thanks.”
The Salzburg Archbishops kept possession of the valley until late in the seventeenth century. Then it went through half a century of political and religious warfares, passing from the Archbishops to other rulers, then to Bavaria, and finally to Austria, which still holds it. There is an Austrian commandant at St. Johann, an Austrian judge at HofGastein, and at Bad-Gastein an Austrian bath inspector and government commissioner.
But still the church holds sway. There is a Roman Catholic curate in every village, a magnificent Catholic church going up in the very centre of Bad-Gastein, and nobody can stay two days in the town without being visited by sweet-voiced Sisters of Charity in black, who ask, and are sure to get, alms for the poor in the name of Primus and Felicianus.
Life in Gastein begins bewilderingly for the newly arrived. How it began for us I would not dare to tell. It would be foolish to throw away one’s reputation for veracity on the single stake of an utterly incredible statement as to the number of beds one had slept in in forty-eight hours. But not the most experienced and cautious traveller in the world can be sure of escaping an experience like ours. He will have telegraphed beforehand for rooms, having read in his Murray that Wildbad-Gastein in August is so crowded with the nobility of Russia, Germany, and Austria that it is not safe to go there without this precaution. As he steps out of Ins carriage in front of Straubinger’s Hotel, Gustav, the pompous headwaiter, will wave him back, and explain with much flourish that there is not so much as one square inch of unoccupied room under Straubinger’s roof, but that he can have for one day a room in the great stone Schloss opposite. At end of that day Lord A — is coming to take the apartment for a month. By that time Count B — will have vacated another, Gustav does not remember exactly where, but he can have it for a few hours ; and then when the Prince, or Duke, or Herr, who has claims on that at a fixed minute, arrives, he can move to another which will be sure to be vacant ; or if it is not, he can go to sleep at Böckstein, four miles farther up the valley, or at Hof-Gastein, three miles farther down.
There can be nothing on earth like the problem of lodging at Bad-Gastein in August, except jumping for life from cake to cake of ice in the Polar Sea. It is very exciting and amusing for a time, if the cakes are not too far apart. In the mean time, you eat your breakfast on the cake where you have slept, your dinner on the road to the next one, and your tea when you get there. Very good are the breakfasts and teas in all these lodging-houses, served by smiling, white - aproned housekeepers, who kiss your hand in token of allegiance, and bring you roses and forgetme-nots on your name day, if they happen to find out what it is. Good butter, milk, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, figs, tomatoes, grapes, pears, plums, eggs, — all these you can have for the asking ; bread which is white and fine, and which they think delicious who have not communed with Liebig and learned to ask for the good, nutritious brans. But with the milk and the fruit and now and then a resolute pull at the native black bread, anise-seed and all, one can breakfast and tea happily. But when you ask for dinner, the face of nature changes. The thing called dinner you can eat at a table d' hôte in the hotels, or in a café, or you can have it sent to you at your lodgings, in a slippery tower of small white china tubs, which, when they are ranged round you on your table, make you think of a buttery washing-day. What may be in these tubs, Heaven forbid that I should try to describe. Who lives to dine had better not go to Gastein ; in fact, who cannot get along without dining had better stay away. He who is wise will fight clear of the hotels and cafés, make interest with his landlady to give him a sort of picnic lunch at noonday, and postpone ideas of a dinner till he returns to that paradise among hotels, the Europa at Salzburg. These hearty, strong, tireless Germans, who climb a mountain or two of a morning for summer pleasure, find it nowise unsatisfactory to stop anywhere on the road, and eat anything for dinner. They do it as naturally as goats nibble a living from one rock to-day and another to-morrow. They are better off than we in being so much less wedded to routine ; but it is a freedom not easy to acquire. For the average American to sleep in one house, breakfast in a second, dine in a third, tea in a fourth, and sleep again in a fifth, seems to turn life into a perpetual passover, not to be endured for many weeks at a time.
Having made sure of a breakfast, and that Lord A, B, or C will not require your apartment before noon, you go out to look Gastein in the face, hear the sound and feel the heat of its wonderful waters.
Water to right, water to left, cold water, warm water, hot water, water trickling from rocks, water running from spouts, water boiling out of sight and sending up steam, and in and around and above and beyond everything the great waterfall thundering down its three hundred feet, deafening you with noise however far you go, and drenching you with spray if you come near.
“ O, which water is for what disease ? ” we exclaim, curious to taste of all, afraid to taste of any, remembering Hahnemann, whom we revere.
“ Go to Dr. Pröll, ” says everybody. “ He is the man to tell you all about Gastein. He knows it thoroughly.”
Indeed he does. He may be said to have Gastein by heart.
Between nine and eleven in the mornings there is a chance of finding Dr. Pröll at his tiny, odd. three-roomed office, which is composed of equal parts of bare rock and vapor-bath. At all other hours of the day they who wish to see him must watch and waylay him as sportsmen do game. Each man you ask will have seen him just the minute before running rapidly up or down some hill, but you will be wise not to attempt overtaking him.
Dr. Pröll is a man whom it belongs to Victor Hugo to describe. Words less subtile than his cannot draw the lines of a nature at once so electric, so simple, so pure, so wise, so enthusiastic, so gentle, so childlike, so strong. Reverently I ask his pardon for saying, even at this distance, this much.
On the table in the room where Dr. Pröil receives his patients stands a dingy little apparatus, at sight of which one idly wonders, — a magnetic needle swinging by pink floss silk under a low oval clock-case of glass, a small electrical battery, and a red glass vessel half full of water. These are the silent but eloquent witnesses which tell the secret of the naiad of Gastein. The doctor’s blue eyes sparkle with eagerness as he immerses the battery in the water from the hot spring, and, connecting the wires with the electrometer, watches to see the needle move. He has done this perhaps thousands of times, but the thousandth time and the first are alike to all true lovers of science, — to all true lovers in the world, for that matter.
“ You see ? you see ? ” he exclaims.
Yes, we see that the needle swings fifty degrees. The temperature of the water was 14° Réaumur. Then he puts the battery into distilled water of the same temperature ; the needle swings but twenty degrees, into common well-water, same temperature, and it swings but fifteen.
“ Now I will to you show that the Gastein water is the only thing in this world over which time has no power,” says Dr. Pröll, filling the red glass vessel from another bottle. " This is hot spring water, one year old. It would be the same if it were one hundred years old. Look ! ”
Yes, the needle swings fifty degrees.
“ And now remains the most wonderful experiment of all. I will show you how a very little of this magical water can electrlfv other water, just as one electric soul can electrify hundreds of commoner natures.”
We smile at this. It is not possible in the first moment to be lifted quite to the heights of Dr. Pröll’s enthusiasm. But wait ! Here is the battery in common boiled water, temperature 26° Réaumur. The needle moves sluggishly, barely ten degrees.
“ You see ? you see ? we will repeat; all experiments should be twice.”
Yes, the needle moves barely ten degrees.
“ Now we will turn in an equal quantity of the hot spring water two years old, temperature the same. Look ! look !” exclaims the doctor, clasping his hands in the delight of the true experimenter.
Sure enough. The heavy boiled water is electrified into new life. The needle swings forty degrees !
“ And this is why I say that the water of Gastein is the water for souls,” continues the doctor, lifting out the battery with unconscious lovingness in his touch ; “ and this is why I say in my book on Gastein, that these baths are the baths of eternal youth ; and this is why an old physician, more than a hundred years ago, wrote a little poem, in which he makes the naiad of Gastein say to the invalids,
And cannot bring health to all,
That is common to me and God.
Where there lingers in the blood
The poison of sin and passion in the soul,
There can enter neither God nor I.”
One is a little sobered by all this. It is nearer to the air of miracles than we commonly come. Under the impressive silent pointing of this magnetic needle - finger, we listened with grave faith to the account of the effect of these waters on wilted flowers. This is a curious experiment, often tried. Flowers which are to all appearance dead, if they are left for three days in this warm water hold up their heads, regain shape, color, fragrance, and live for several days more. No wonder that old madman Paracelsus thought he had discovered in the Gastein waters the elixir of life. No wonder that to-day the sweet wild paths of Gastein are crowded with old men seeking to be made young, or, at least, to be saved from growing older.
“It is a strange thing, though,” says dear, true-hearted Dr. Pröll, — “it is a strange thing, but in all these twenty years never has one woman come to me to be made young. Every year come many men, praying that they may not grow old ; but never yetone woman.”
Ah, we thought, perhaps the women are less honest than the men, and do not tell their motives.
But there is not time to grow very superstitious over these tales of magic, for there is so much else to be seen. In the rear room of the office is the hot-vapor bath ; through a hole in the floor up comes the hot steam, heated no human being can tell how far down in the heart of the earth ; night and day the fires go ; for twelve hundred years the bath has been standing ready to steam people. Over the hole in the floor is a mysterious wooden structure, looking like a combination of pillory and threshing-machine. In five minutes, the doctor has shown, by a series of slippings and fittings and joinings, how, for every possible disease, every mentionable part of the body can be separately steamed, inch by inch, till one is cooked well. He wound up with imploring me to put my ear to the end of a long, narrow, wooden pipe which he screwed on the apparatus. “ This is sure cure for deafness,” he said.
I leaped. I should think it might be. In that second I had heard scouring through my brain all sorts of noises from spheres unknown. The eartrumpet, which Hood’s old woman bought, and “ the very next day, heard from her husband at Botany Bay,” was nothing to it. The doctor could not understand why I should shrink so from listening to this wild rush of scalding steam from the earth’s middle. He would have been shocked to know that, to my inexperience, it seemed nothing less than a speaking-tube from the infernal regions.
But we went nearer yet to the central fires. Up, up a winding path, shaded and made sweet like all Gastein’s paths by fir-trees, mosses and heath, and bluebells ; and there, sunk in the solid rock, was a polished iron gate. A peasant - woman keeps the key of this, and gets a little daily bread by opening it for strangers. She brought suits of stout twilled cloth for us to wear; but we declined them, having learned in the salt-mines of Hallein that, the inside of the earth being much cleaner than the outside, it is all nonsense to take such precautions about going in. A poor sick man who was painfully sitting still on a bench near the gate, seeing our preparations, came up and asked to join our party. I fancied that he had a desire to get a little nearer to the head-quarters of cure, and reassure himself by a sight of the miraculous spring. The peasant-woman went on before, carrying a small lantern, which twinkled like a very little good deed in the worst of worlds. The passage was very narrow and low. Overhead were stalactites of yellow and white ; the walls dripped ceaselessly ; the path was stony and wet. Hotter and hotter it grew as we went on. How much farther could we afford to go, at such geometrical ratio of beat ? we were just beginning to ask, when the woman turned and, setting down her lantern, pointed to the spring. It was a very small stream, running out of the rock above her head fast enough to fill a cup in a few seconds, and almost boiling hot. We all put our fingers solemnly in and solemnly put them to our lips ; the woman nodded and said, “ Good, good ” ; crossing herself, I suppose in the name of the good Saints Primus and Felicianus, she led the way out. I felt like crossing myself too. High - temperature underground places are singularly uncanny, and give one respect for the old mythology’s calculation of the meridian of Tartarus.
For rainy days — and those are, must we own it ? seventeen out of every thirty in Gastein — there is a most curious provision in the shape of a long glass gallery, four hundred and fifty feet long and twelve wide. Here the noble invalidism and untitled health and curiosity may walk, read, smoke, eat, trade, and sleep too, for aught I know. It is the oddest of places ; so many hundred feet of conservatory, with all sorts of human plants leaning against its sides, in tilted chairs ; I never grew weary of walking through it, or flattening my nose against its panes just behind the aristocratic shoulders of his Highness the Grand Chamberlain of — , as he sat reading some court journal or other. A little room at the end holds a piano and two tables covered with a species of literature which was new to me, but which all Gastein seemed to feed and subsist on, that is, the lists of all the visitors at all the baths and watering-places in Europe. Pamphlet after pamphlet, they arrived every few days, corrected and annotated with care, the silliest and most meaningless census which could be imagined. But eager women came early to secure first reading of them, and other women with eyes fixed on the fortunate possessor of the valuable news sat waiting for their turn to come. This room is exclusively for women ; opening out of it, in continuation of satire on their probable requirements, is a confectioner’s shop; next comes the general reading-room, where are all the Continental journals of importance ; next a long, empty room for promenading) where your only hindrance will be the appealing looks from venders of fancy wares, who have their glass cases in a row on one side; then comes the covered walk, also four fifths glass, on the bridge over the waterfall; and then comes the Stranbinger Platz, the smallest, busiest, noisiest, most pompous little Platz in the world ; one side hotel, three sides lodging-house, and all sides waterfall ; lodgers and loungers incessantly walking to and fro, or sitting on benches taking coffee, and staring listlessly at other lodgers and loungers ; booths of fruit; booths ot photographs ; booths of flowers ; booths of shoes; booths of inconceivable odds and ends, which nobody thought of wanting before they came in, but which everybody will buy before they go out, and will wish they had not when they come to pack ; here, every day, come bare - kneed hunters, bringing warm, dead chamois slung on their shoulders ; black and yellow Eilwagens drive up with postilions in salmon and blue, wearing big brass horns at their sides; Madame the Countess —, dressed with blue silk trimmed with point lace, sits under a white fringed sunshade, on a chair in front of Straubinger’s Hotel ; and Madame the Frau — sits, barefooted, bareheaded, opposite her, selling strawberries at eight kreutzers a tumblerful, and knitting away for dear life on a woollen stocking ; all this and much more in a little square which can be crossed in ten steps. It is like a play ; once seated, you sit on and on, unconsciously waiting for the curtain to fall : on your right hand is the orchestra, ten pieces, who play wild Tyrolese airs very well, and add much to the dramatic effects of things. Sunset is the curtain for this theatre, and dinner the only enter' acte. The instant the sun drops, the players scatter, the booths fold up ; Madame the Countess sweeps off into the hotel ; Madame the Frau rolls up her knitting, cautiously mixes together her fresh and her old strawberries, and starts off brave and strong to mount to her chamber in the air, miles up on some hill.
This play grows wearying to watch sooner than one would suppose. After a few days, one finds that all the climbing roads and paths lead to better things. There are the Schiller-Höhe, the Café Vergissmeinnicht, the Kaiser Friedrichs Laube (where the Emperor Frederick III. took baths four centuries ago) ; the Pyrker-Höhe, named after the patriarch of Erlau, the poet Pyrker, the Rudolfs-Höhe, the Windischgrätz-Höhe, and many more cafés or summer-houses on shining heights, all of which give new views of the wonderful Gastein valley, and at all of which whoever is German eats and drinks. The lure of a table, a chair, and a beermug seems a small reward to hold out, when for every additional mile that is walked a new world opens to the eye, but the Germans see better through smoke and beer-colored glasses.
Strong adventurous people, who can walk and climb without reckoning distances by aching muscles, have unending delights set before them for every day in Gastein.
In the Kölshachthal are four thousand chamois. Every summer come royal hunting parties to Höf-Gastein, and they who follow them may see chamois flying for their lives ; poor things, so helpless in spite of all their marvellous speed and spring.
Then there is the lofty plateau of Nassfeld, the old “ Wet Field ” mentioned in Roman history. From this can be seen a great amphitheatre of glaciers and the passage by the Malnitzer-Tauern into Carinthia : this dangerous pass has an ineffable charm, from the fact that it is one of the only two ways out of the smiling Gastein valley. Once in, should any chance destroy the road in that wild Klamme through which the fierce Ache goes and you came, you have no possible way of escape, except on foot or on horseback, by the Malnitzer-Tauern.
After the Nassfeld come the old goldmines in the Radhausberg, where the old Weitmosers made and lost their fortunes, and every stone has its legend : the Böckhardt Mountain, with a poisoned lake in which no fish can swim, near which no bird can fly and no flower can grow ; the valley Anlaufthal, on one side of which rises the royal hill Ankogel, eleven thousand feet high, and called the Eldorado of mineralogists ; and last, because greatest, the snow-topped mountain Gamskarkogel, the Righi of Austria, which looks down upon more than one hundred glaciers.
All this and more for well people. As for sick people their tale is soon told, either here or elsewhere. Hood’s definition of medicine was exhaustive. In Gastein, however, little is done with spoons ; people go into their medicine, instead of its going into them. Nobody takes but one bath a day ; the stronger invalids take it in the morning before breakfast, and are allowed to go their ways for the rest of the day. The weaker ones take it at ten o’clock in the forenoon, lie in bed for one hour after it, then eat dinner, then are commanded to dawdle gentlv about out of doors until one hour before sunset, after which they are, upon no excuse whatever, to leave the house. There are they who drink mineral waters from Böckstein, drink whey, drink goats’ milk, eat grapes, eat figs, all for cure. They all look tired of being ill; and they all give a semi-professional and inquisitive stare at each new-comer, as if they were thinking, “ Ha, he looks as if he had it worse than I ! ” Poor souls. It seems a considerable price to pay for the rush-candle, to keep it burning under such difficulties and restrictions.
In a little pamphlet written by Dr. Pröil upon Gastein are some explicit directions as to the proper course to be pursued by all invalids who hope to be cured by the Gastein waters. Reading them over, one smiles, quietly, wondering if careful following out of such directions would not be of itself sufficient cure for most ailments.
“ Before arriving at Gastein, visit all such places, cities, mountains, mines, as you would wish to see.
“Also close up all your most annoying or engrossing business affairs.”
Among the “leading conditions of success in the use of the baths,” he enumerates,
“ A cheerful, amiable and contented disposition,” and
“ Implicit obedience to the physi cian” ; and adds that, after the treat ment, there must be, during a period a from three to twelve weeks,
“ Mental tranquillity.
“ No business nor bodily fatigue.
“ No long walks nor climbings.
“ No remedials, internal nor exter nal ; a tepid bath once a week, but no other bath ! ”
But from the days of the Archbishops until now, it seems to have been held especially incumbent on all persons coming to these baths for help to come with quiet souls and pure consciences. The first volume of the “ Chronicles of Gastein ” is black and battered and yellow as an old monkish missal. More than half of the writing is entirely illegible ; but clear and distinct on its first page stands out the motto, written there in 1681, and copied, I believe, from the bath of some Roman Emperor, —
Ut morborum vacuum abire queas
Non enim curatur qui curat.”
Which good advice freely translated, would be somewhat like this, “ Whoever comes here to be cured must leave his cares at home ; for if he worries he will never get well.”
These “ Chronicles of Gastein ” are a never-failing source of amusement. There are fifteen volumes of them, written by the invalids themselves, from 1680 until now. The records are written in old Latin, old German, old French, all more or less illegible, so that there is endless interest in groping among them on the thousandth chance of finding something that can be deciphered. The books are carefully kept at the curé’s house, and the volume for 1869 is quite a grand affair, having a mysterious locked brass box in one of the covers. This is to receive the contributions of charitable people who are not sick, and of sick people who are superstitious and wish to propitiate the good Saints Primus and Felicianus.
The box has the following inscription : —
“ For the support of the school, and of the poor of both churches of the holy Primus and Felicianus, and the holy Nicholas church at
In order that the Almighty God may bless by the prayers of those holy patrons of the Bath, the noble gift of the health-giving spring to all the patients.”
There are many most curious entries in these chronicles, and no one can look through them without being impressed by the singular unanimity of testimony, during two hundred years, to the efficacy of the waters. Here and there, however, a discontented soul has written out his grumblings ; as, for instance, one Count Maximilian Joseph, Chamberlain of the King of Bavaria, who wrote on the 4th of July, 1747. in very cramped and crabbed old French : “ Reader, greeting ! May God preserve you from the four elements of this country which are all equally wonderful, even the ennui ” ; and an unknown grumbler of the English nation, one hundred and five years later, who was too courteous or too politic to sign his name to this couplet,—
God knows if I've been drenched in vain.”
In 1732 Ludovic Frierfund wrote : ‘The fourth of July I began to use these baths. Now I am so much better, I believe I shall regain my health.” 15th July.)
A few days later the grateful Baroness Anna Sophia, of Gera, writes : “ To God and the two patron saints Primus and Felicianus shall be the greatest thanks that I have used for the second time these blessed baths.”
In 1752 the Countess Anna Maria Barbara Christiana, of Rönigs, declared : “ I have finished this cure with the aid of God, and the Holy Mother, and the two saints Primus and Felicianus, and depart in full health on the 17th of July.”
In 1830 Babette Brandhuber, may her soul rest in peace ! left on one of the pages of the chronicle a little German verse, of which this is almost a literal translation : —
I came here full of pain !
My full heart writes this grateful tale,
I leave thee well again.”
I am sorry to say that there have been in Gastein two or three Americans and English less poetically gifted than Babette, who have filled several pages of this volume with rhymes for which one blushes.
The two best things I found were a little record of one “ Ruf, a moneychanger of Munich.” who, probably in a half-defiant display of his unpoetical calling, left only that signature to this couplet: —
“TO THE NAIAD OF GASTEIN.
I kissed thee and am well.”
And the following French verses. The author’s name seems to have been purposely written so that no human being can decipher it, though the date is so recent. But the handwriting is evidently that of a woman : —
Ou vous baignez pleins d’espérance ?
Mes chers amis, j'en suis certain
C’est la fontaine de jouvence.
Rose depuis long temps flétrie ;
Bientôt fraiclicur, partum, couleur
A la rose rendront la vie.
De quoi prolonger l’existence ;
Amis, venez souvent baigner
A la fontaine de jouvence.”
(20th July, 1820.)
Half a century ago ! Youth and hope are over for her by this time ; though perhaps youth and hope are just beginning for her, by this time, the true youth, the immortal hope ; but whether she be to-day old on earth or young in heaven, I fancy her all the same, cherishing in her heart the memory of the rare, beautiful, blessed, dear Gastein valley.
Gastuna tantum una !