ROUND ABOUT THE CARPATHIANS
ANDREW F. CROSSE
FELLOW OF THE CHEMICAL SOCIETY
WILLIAM BLACKWOOD AND SONS EDINBURGH AND LONDON MDCCCLXXVIII
The Right of translation is reserved
MUIR AND PATERSON, PRINTERS, EDINBURGH.
Down the Danube from Buda-Pest—Amusements on board the steamer—Basiash—Drive to Oravicza by Weisskirchen—Ladies of Oravicza—Gipsy music—Finding an old school-fellow—The czardas. 1
Consequences of trying to buy a horse—An expedition into Servia—Fine scenery—The peasants of New Moldova—Szechenyi road—Geology of the defile of Kasan—Crossing the Danube—Milanovacz—Drive to Maidenpek—Fearful storm in the mountains—Miserable quarters for the night—Extent of this storm—The disastrous effects of the same storm at Buda-Pest—Great loss of life. 15
Maidenpek—Well-to-do condition of Servians—Lady Mary Wortley Montague's journey through Servia—Troubles in Bulgaria—Communists at Negotin—Copper mines—Forest ride—Robbers on the road—Kucainia—Belo-breska—Across the Danube—Detention at customhouse—Weisskirchen—Sleeping Wallacks. 33
Variety of races in Hungary—Wallacks or Roumains—Statistics—Savage outbreak of the Wallacks in former years—Panslavic ideas—Roumanians and their origin—Priests of the Greek Church—Destruction of forests—Spirit of Communism—Incendiary fires. 46
Paraffine-works in Oravicza—Gold mine—Coal mines at Auima-Steirdorf—Geology—States Railway Company's mines—Bribery 54
Mineral wealth of the Banat—Wild ride to Dognacska—Equipment for a riding tour—An afternoon nap and its consequences—Copper mines—Self-help—Rare insects—Moravicza—Rare minerals—Deutsch Bogsan—Reschitza 58
Election at Oravicza—Officialism—Reforms—Society—Ride to Szaszka—Fine views—Drenkova—Character of the Serbs—Svenica—Rough night walk through the forest 70
Hospitable welcome at Uibanya—Excursion to the Servian side of the Danube—Ascent of the Stierberg—Bivouac in the woods—Magnificent views towards the Balkans—Fourteen eagles disturbed—Wallack dance 83
A hunting expedition proposed—Drive from Uibanya to Orsova—Oriental aspect of the market-place—Cserna Valley—Hercules-Bad, Mehadia—Post-office mistakes—Drive to Karansebes—Rough customers en route—Lawlessness—Fair at Karansebes—Podolian cattle—Ferocious dogs 90
Post-office at Karansebes—Good headquarters for a sportsman—Preparations for a week in the mountains—The party starting for the hunt—Adventures by the way—Fine trees—Game—Hut in the forest—Beauty of the scenery in the Southern Carpathians 104
Chamois and bear hunting—First battue—Luxurious dinner 5000 feet above the sea-level—Storm in the night—Discomforts—The bear's supper—The eagle's breakfast—Second and third day's shooting—Baking a friend as a cure for fever—Striking camp—View into Roumania 118
Back at Mehadia—Troubles about a carriage—An unexpected night on the road—Return to Karansebes—On horseback through the Iron Gate Pass—Varhely, the ancient capital of Dacia—Roman remains—Beauty of the Hatszeg Valley 131
Hungarian hospitality—Wallack laziness—Fishing—"Settled gipsies"—Anecdote—Old regime—Fire—Old Roman bath—The avifauna of Transylvania—Fly-fishing 140
On horseback to Petroseny—A new town—Valuable coal-fields—Killing fish with dynamite and poison—Singular manner of repairing roads—Hungarian patriotism—Story of Hunyadi Janos—Intrusion of the Moslems into Europe 152
Hunting for a guide—School statistics—Old times—Over the mountains to Herrmannstadt—Night in the open—Nearly setting the forest on fire—Orlat 160
Herrmannstadt—Saxon immigrants—Museum—Places of interest in the neighbourhood—The fortress-churches—Heltau—The Rothen Thurm Pass—Turkish incursions 173
Magyar intolerance of the German—Patriotic revival of the Magyar language—Ride from Herrmannstadt to Kronstadt—The village of Zeiden—Curious scene in church—Reformation in Transylvania—Political bitterness between Saxons and Magyars in 1848 184
Political difficulties—Impatient criticism of foreigners—Hungary has everything to do—Tenant-farmers wanted—Wages 195
Want of progress amongst the Saxons—The Burzenland—Kronstadt—Mixed character of its inhabitants—Szeklers—General Bem's campaign 199
The Tomoescher Pass—Projected railway from Kronstadt to Bucharest—Visit to the cavalry barracks at Rosenau—Terzburg Pass—Dr Daubeny on the extinct volcanoes of Hungary—Professor Judd on mineral deposits 209
A ride through Szeklerland—Warnings about robbers—Bueksad—A look at the sulphur deposits on Mount Buedos—A lonely lake—An invitation to Tusnad 219
The baths of Tusnad—The state of affairs before 1848—Inequality of taxation—Reform—The existing land laws—Communal property—Complete registration of titles to estates—Question of entail 232
Fine scenery in Szeklerland—Csik Szent Marton—Absence of inns—The Szekler's love of lawsuits—Csik Szereda—Hospitality along the road—Wallack atrocities in 1848—The Wallacks not Panslavists 243
Ride to Szent Domokos—Difficulty about quarters—Interesting host—Jewish question in Hungary—Taxation—Financial matters 252
Copper mine of Balanbanya—Miners in the wine-shop—Ride to St Miklos—Visit to an Armenian family—Capture of a robber—Cold ride to the baths of Borsek 260
Moldavian frontier—Toelgyes—Excitement about robbers—Attempt at extortion—A ride over the mountains—Return to St Miklos 275
Toplicza—Armenian hospitality—A bear-hunt—A ride over to the frontier of Bukovina—Destruction of timber—Maladministration of State property—An unpleasant night on the mountain—Snowstorm 282
Visits at Transylvanian chateaux—Society—Dogs—Amusements at Klausenburg—Magyar poets—Count Istvan Szechenyi—Baron Eoetvos—'The Village Notary'—Hungarian self-criticism—Literary taste 291
A visit at Schloss B———National characteristics—Robber stories—Origin of the "poor lads"—Audacity of the robbers—Anecdote of Deak and the housebreaker—Romantic story of a robber chief 302
Return to Buda-Pest—All-Souls' Day—The cemetery—Secret burial of Count Louis Batthyanyi—High rate of mortality at Buda-Pest 315
Skating—Death and funeral of Deak—Deak's policy—Uneasiness about the rise of the Danube—Great excitement about inundations—The capital in danger—Night scene on the embankment—Firing the danger-signal—The great calamity averted 321
Results of the Danube inundations—State of things at Baja—Terrible condition of New Pest—Injuries sustained by the island garden of St. Marguerite—Charity organisation 335
Expedition to the Marmaros Mountains—Railways in Hungary—The train stopping for a rest—The Alfoeld—Shepherds of the plain—Wild appearance of the Rusniacks—Slavs of Northern Hungary—Marmaros Szigeth—Difficulty in slinging a hammock—The Jews of Karasconfalu—Soda manufactory at Boeska—Romantic scenery—Salt mines—Subterranean lake 339
The Tokay district—Visit at Schloss G———Wild-boar hunting—Incidents of the chase 355
Tokay vineyards—The vine-grower's difficulties—Geology of the Hegyalia—The Pope's compliment to the wine of Tallya—Towns of the Hegyalia—Farming—System of wages at harvest—The different sorts of Tokay wine 364
Map of the Banat and Transylvania with Mr Crosse's route.
ROUND ABOUT THE CARPATHIANS.
Down the Danube from Buda-Pest—Amusements on board the steamer—Basiash—Drive to Oravicza by Weisskirchen—Ladies of Oravicza—Gipsy music—Finding an old schoolfellow—The czardas.
One glorious morning in June 1875, I, with the true holiday feeling at heart, for the world was all before me, stepped on board the Rustchuk steamer at Buda-Pest, intending to go down the Danube as far as Basiash.
Your express traveller, whose aim it is to get to the other end of everywhere in the shortest possible time, will take the train instead of the boat to Basiash, and there catch up the steamer, saving fully twelve hours on the way. This time the man in a hurry is not so far wrong; the Danube between Buda-Pest and the defile of Kasan is almost devoid of what the regular tourist would call respectable scenery. There are few objects of interest, except the mighty river itself.
Now the steamer has its advantages over the train, for surely nowhere in this locomotive world can a man more thoroughly enjoy "sweetly doing nothing" than on board one of these river-boats. You are wafted swiftly onward through pure air and sunshine; you have an armchair under the awning; of course an amusing French novel; besides, truth to say, there is plenty to amuse you on board. Once past Vienna, your moorings are cut from the old familiar West; the costumes, the faces, the architecture, and even the way of not doing things, have all a flavour of the East.
What a hotch-potch of races, so to speak, all in one boat, but ready to do anything rather than pull together; even here, between stem and stern of our Danube steamer, are Magyars, Germans, Servians, Croats, Roumanians, Jews, and gipsies. They are all unsatisfied people with aspirations; no two are agreed—everybody wants something else down here, and how Heaven is to grant all the prayers of those who have the grace to pray, or how otherwise to settle the Eastern Question, I will not pretend to say.
Meanwhile the world amuses itself—I mean the microcosm on board the steamer: people, ladies not excepted, play cards, drink coffee, and smoke. There is a good opportunity of studying the latest Parisian fashions, as worn by Roumanian belles; they know how to dress, do those handsome girls from Bucharest.
When steam navigation was first established on the Danube, as long ago as 1830, Prince Demidoff remarked, that "in making the Danube one of the great commercial highways of the world, steam had united the East with the West." It was a smart saying, but it was not a thing accomplished when the Prince wrote his Travels, nor is it now; for though the "Danube Steam Navigation Company" have been running their boats for nearly half a century, they are in difficulties, "chiefly," says Mr Revy, "from the neglect of all river improvements between Vienna and Buda-Pest, and between Basiash and Turn-Severin." He goes on to say that the dearest interests of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy are involved in the rectification of the course of the Danube, recommending a Royal Commission to be appointed. Those who follow the course of the river may see for themselves how little has been done, and how much remains to be done before it can be safely reckoned one of the great commercial highways of the world.
We had started from Buda-Pest on Monday morning at seven o'clock, and arrived at Basiash at nine the following morning. We were fortunate in not having been detained anywhere by shallow water, so often the cause of delay by this route.
Up to the present time Basiash is the terminus of the railway; it is a depot for coal brought from the interior, and though not out of its teens, is a place fast growing into importance.
As my object was to get to Oravicza in the Banat, I had done with the steamboat, and intended taking the rail to my destination; but, in the "general cussedness" of things, there turned out to be no train till the evening. I did not at all enjoy the prospect of knocking about the whole day amongst coal-sheds and unfinished houses, with the alternative refuge of the inn, which was swarming with flies and redolent of many evil smells; so I thought I would find some conveyance and drive over, for the distance was not great. If there is anything I hate, it is waiting the livelong day for a railway train.
There chanced to be an intelligent native close by who divined my thoughts, for I had certainly not uttered them; he came up, touched me on the arm, and pointed round the corner. Notwithstanding the intense heat of the day, the Wallack, for such he was, wore an enormous sheepskin cloak with the wool outside, as though ready for an Arctic winter. I followed him a few steps to see what he wanted me to look at; the movement was quite enough, he regarded it evidently in the light of ready assent, and in the twinkling of an eye he possessed himself of my portmanteau and other belongings, motioned me to follow him, which I did, and then found that my Heaven-sent friend had a machine for hire.
I call it a machine, because it was not like anything on wheels I had seen before: later on I became familiar enough with the carts of the country; they are long-bodied, rough constructions, wonderfully adapted to the uneven roads. In this case there were four horses abreast, which sounds imposing, as any four-in-hand must always do.
I now asked the Wallack in German if he could drive me to Oravicza, for I saw he had made up his mind to drive me somewhere. To my relief I found he could speak German, at all events a few words. He replied he could drive the "high and nobly born Excellency" there in four hours. The time was one thing, but the charge was quite another affair. His demand was so outrageous that I supposed it was an implied compliment to my exalted rank: certainly it had no adequate reference to the services offered. The fellow asked enough to buy the whole concern outright—cart and four horses! They were the smallest horses I almost ever saw, and were further reduced by the nearest shave of being absolute skeletons; the narrow line between sustaining life and actual starvation must have been nicely calculated.
We now entered upon the bargaining phase, a process which threatened to last some time; all the stragglers in the place assisted at the conference, taking a patriotic interest in their own countryman. The matter was finally adjusted by the Wallack agreeing to take a sixth part of the original sum.
Seated on a bundle of hay, with my things around me, I was now quite ready for the start, but the driver had a great many last words with the public, which the interest in our proceedings had gathered about us. Presently with an air of triumph he took his seat, gave a loud crack or two with his whip, and off we started at a good swinging trot, just to show what his team could accomplish.
We took the road to Weisskirchen, leaving the Danube in the rear. The country was fairly pretty, but nothing remarkable; fine scenery under the circumstances would have been quite superfluous, for the dust was two feet deep in the road, and the heels of four horses scampering along raised such a cloud of it that we could see next to nothing.
We had not proceeded far when the speed sensibly relaxed; I fancy the horses went slower that they might listen to what the driver had to say, he talked to them the whole time. He was not communicative to me; his knowledge of German seemed limited to the bargaining process, a lesson often repeated, I suspect. As time wore on the heat became almost tropical; as for the dust, I felt as if I had swallowed a sandbank, and was joyful at the near prospect of quenching my thirst at Weisskirchen, now visible in the distance.
Hungarian towns look like overgrown villages that have never made up their minds seriously to become towns. The houses are mostly of one story, standing each one alone, with the gable-end, blank and windowless, towards the road. This is probably a relic of Orientalism.
Getting up full speed as we approached the town, we clattered noisily over the crown of the causeway, and suddenly making a sharp turn, found ourselves in the courtyard of the inn.
I inquired how long we were to remain here; "A small half-hour," was the driver's answer. This was my first experience of a Wallack's idea of time, if indeed they have any ideas on the subject beyond the rising and the setting of the sun.
I strolled about the place, but there was not much to be done in the time, and I got very tired of waiting: the "half-hour" was anything but "small;" however, one must be somewhere, and in Hungary waiting comes a good deal into the day's work. I was rather afraid my Wallack was indulging too freely in slivovitz—otherwise plum-brandy—a special weakness of theirs; but after an intolerable delay we got off at last.
Soon after leaving the town we came upon an encampment of gipsies; their tents looked picturesque enough in the distance, but on nearer approach the illusion was entirely dispelled. In appearance they were little better than savages; children even of ten years of age, lean, mop-headed creatures, were to be seen running about absolutely naked. As Mark Twain said, "they wore nothing but a smile," but the smile was a grimace to try to extract coppers from the traveller. Two miles farther on we came upon fourteen carts of gipsies, as wild a crew as one could meet all the world over. Some of the men struck me as handsome, but with a single exception the women were terribly unkempt-looking creatures.
It was fully six o'clock before we reached Oravicza; the drive of twenty-five miles had taken eight hours instead of four, as the Wallack had profanely promised.
We entered the town with a feeble attempt at a trot, but the poor brutes of horses were dead beat, and neither the pressure of public opinion nor the suggestive cracking of the driver's whip could arouse them, to becoming activity.
Oravicza is very prettily situated on rising ground, and the long winding street, extending more than two miles, turns with the valley. Crawling along against collar the whole way, I thought the street would never end. There are very few Magyar inhabitants in this place, which is pretty equally divided between Germans and Wallacks; the lower part of the town belongs to the latter, and is known as Roman Oravicza, in distinction to Deutsch Oravicza. The population is altogether about seven thousand.
I fancy not many strangers pass this way, for never was a shy Englishman so stared at as this dust-begrimmed traveller. I became painfully self-conscious of the generally disreputable appearance of my cart and horses, the driver and myself, when two remarkably pretty girls tripped by, casting upon me well-bred but amused glances. All the womenkind of Oravicza must have turned out at this particular hour, for I had hardly passed the sisters with the arched eyebrows, when I came upon another group of young ladies, who were laughing and talking together. I think they grew merrier as I approached, and I am quite sure I was hotter than I had been all day. "Confound the fellow! can't he turn into an innyard—anywhere out of the main street?" thought I, giving my driver a poke. He knew perfectly well where he was about to take me, and no significant gestures of mine hastened him forward in the very least. Presently, without any warning, we did turn into a side opening, but so suddenly that the whole vehicle had a wrench, and the two hind wheels jolted over a high kerbstone. Meanwhile the group of damsels were still in close confab, and I could see took note that the stranger had descended at the Krone. We were all in a heap in the courtyard, but we had to extricate ourselves as best we could, for not a soul was to be seen, though we had made noise enough certainly to announce our arrival.
I pulled repeatedly at the bell before I could rouse the hausknecht, and induce him to make an appearance. At length he deigned to emerge from the recesses of the dirty interior. Having discharged the Wallack in a satisfied frame of mind (he had the best of the bargain after all), I was at leisure to follow mine host to inspect the accommodation he had to offer me. A sanitary commissioner would have condemned it, but en voyage comme en voyage. With some difficulty and delay I procured water enough to fill the pie-dish that did duty for the washing apparatus. I had an old relative of extremely Low Church proclivities who was always repeating—for my edification, I suppose—that "man is but dust;" the dear old lady would have said so in very truth if she had seen me on this occasion.
After supper I strolled into the summer theatre, a simple erection, consisting of a stage at the end of a pretty, shady garden. Seats and tables were placed under the lime-trees, and here the happy people of Oravicza enjoy their amusements in the fresh air, drinking coffee and eating ices. Think of the luxury of fresh air, O ye frequenters of London theatres!
The evening was already advanced, the tables were well filled; groups gathered here and there, sauntering under the greenery, gay with lanterns; and many a blue-eyed maiden was there, with looks coquettish yet demure, as German maidens are wont to appear.
A concert was going on, and I for the first time heard a gipsy band. Music is an instinct with these Hungarian gipsies. They play by ear, and with a marvellous precision, not surpassed by musicians who have been subject to the most careful training. Their principal instruments are the violin, the violoncello, and a sort of zither. The airs they play are most frequently compositions of their own, and are in character quite peculiar, though favourite pieces from Wagner and other composers are also given by them with great effect. I heard on this occasion one of the gipsy airs which made an indelible impression on my mind; it seemed to me the thrilling utterance of a people's history. There was the low wail of sorrow, of troubled passionate grief, stirring the heart to restlessness, then the sense of turmoil and defeat; but upon this breaks suddenly a wild burst of exultation, of rapturous joy—a triumph achieved, which hurries you along with it in resistless sympathy. The excitable Hungarians can literally become intoxicated with this music—and no wonder. You cannot reason upon it, or explain it, but its strains compel you to sensations of despair and joy, of exultation and excitement, as though under the influence of some potent charm.
I strolled leisurely back to the inn, beneath the starlit heavens. The outline of the mountains was clearly marked in the distance, and in the foreground quaint gable-ends mixed themselves up with the shadows and the trees—a pretty picture, prettier than anything one can see by the light of "common day."
The following morning I set about making inquiries respecting the mines which I knew existed in the neighbourhood of Oravicza. I found that an English gentleman owned a gold mine in the immediate vicinity, and that he was then living in the town. This induced me to go off at once to call upon him, and I was immediately received in a very friendly manner. This accidental meeting was rather curious, for on comparing notes we found that we had been schoolfellows together at Westminster. H—— being my senior, we had not known each other well; but meeting here in the wilds, we were as old familiar friends. H—— kindly insisted on my leaving the inn and taking up my quarters with him in his bachelor residence, which was in fact big enough to accommodate a whole form of Westminster boys. I was not at all sorry to avoid a second night at the Krone, and gladly fell into my friend's hospitable arrangements.
I was in great luck altogether, for that very evening a dance was to come off at Oravicza, and my friend invited me to accompany him. Dancing is one of the sins I compound for; moreover, I had a lively recollection of the bright eyes I had encountered yesterday.
Oravicza is a central place, in a way the chief town of the Banat. It has a pleasant little society, composed of the families of the officials, and of the military stationed there; they are mostly German by origin. Amongst the belles of the evening I soon discovered my merry critics of yesterday. I was duly presented, and we laughed together over my "first appearance." It was one of the pleasantest evenings I ever remember. I hate long invitations to anything agreeable; this party, for instance, had the charm of unexpectedness. If unfortunately I should prove not quite good enough to go to heaven, I think it would be very pleasant to stop at Oravicza—supposing, of course, that my friends all stopped there as well.
Here I first danced the czardas; it is an epoch in a man's life, but you must see it, feel it, dance it, and, above all, hear the gipsy music that inspires it. This is the national dance of the Hungarians, favoured by prince and peasant alike. The figures are very varied, and represent the progress of a courtship where the lady is coy, and now retreats and now advances; her partner manifests his despair, she yields her hand, and then the couple whirl off together to the most entrancing tones of wild music, such as St. Anthony himself could not have resisted.
[Footnote 1: The Danube at Buda-Pest. Report addressed to Count Andrassy by J.J. Revy, C.E. 1876.]
Consequences of trying to buy a horse—An expedition into Servia—Fine scenery—The peasants of New Moldova—Szechenyi road—Geology of the defile of Kasan—Crossing the Danube—Milanovacz-Drive to Maidenpek—Fearful storm in the mountains—Miserable quarters for the night—Extent of this storm—The disastrous effects of the same storm at Buda-Pest—Great loss of life.
My friend H—— is the very impersonation of sound practical sense. The next morning he coolly broke in upon my raptures over the beauty of the Oravicza ladies by saying, "You want to buy a horse, don't you?"
Of course I did, but my thoughts were elsewhere at the moment, and with some reluctance I took my hat and followed my friend to interview a Wallack who had heard that I was a likely purchaser, and brought an animal to show me. It would not do at all, arid we dismissed him.
A little later we went out into the town, and I thought there was a horse-fair; I should think we met a dozen people at least who came up to accost me on the subject of buying a horse. And such a collection of animals!—wild colts from the Pustza that had never been ridden at all, and other ancient specimens from I know not where, which could never be ridden again—old, worn-out roadsters. There were two or three good horses, but they were only fit for harness. I was so bothered every time I put my nose out of doors by applications from persons anxious to part with their property in horse-flesh, that I wished I had kept my intentions locked in my own breast. I was pestered for days about this business. There was an old Jew who came regularly to the house three times a-day to tell me of some other paragon that he had found. When he saw that it was really of no use, he then complained loudly that I had wasted his precious time, that he had given up every other occupation for the sake of finding me a horse. I dismissed this Jew, telling him pretty sharply to go about his own business for once, adding that nothing should induce me to buy a horse in Oravicza.
One day H—— informed me that he was going over to Servia on a matter of business, and if I liked to accompany him, I should see something of the country, and perhaps I might find there a horse to suit me. The Servian horses are said to be a useful breed, strong though small, and very enduring for a long march.
I was very ready for the expedition, so we hired a leiterwagen, which is in fact a long cart with sides like a ladder, peculiarly suitable for rough work. I was much surprised to find the Hungarians far less often in the saddle than I expected; it is true, nobody walks, not even the poorest peasant, but they drive, as a rule.
We started one fine July morning in our machine for Moldova on the Danube. The first place we came to was Szaszka, a mining village. Close by are copper mines and smelting-works belonging to the States Railway Company. I was told that they do not pay as well as formerly, owing to the fact that the ore now being worked is poorer than before; it yields only two per cent. of copper, a very low average. Nothing could well exceed the dirt of Szaszka; we merely stopped long enough to feed the horses, and were glad to get off again.
On leaving this place the road immediately begins to ascend the mountain, and may be described as a sort of pass over a spur of the Carpathians. It was a very beautiful drive, favoured as we were, too, with fine weather. The road on the northern side is even well made, ascending in regular zigzags. After gaining the summit, we left the post-road that we had hitherto traversed, and took our way to the right, descending through a forest. The varied foliage was very lovely, and the shade afforded us most grateful. It was an original notion driving through such a place, for, according to my ideas, there was no road at all; but H——, more accustomed to the country, declared it was not so bad, at least he averred that there were other roads much worse. The jolting we got over the ruts and stones exceeded anything in my previous experience. How the cart kept itself together was a marvel to me, but it accommodated itself by a kind of snakelike movement, not characteristic of wheeled vehicles in general. Except for the honour and glory of driving, I would as lief have walked, and I think have done the journey nearly as soon; but my friend observed, "It was no good giving into bad roads down in this part of the world."
At one of the worst turnings we met several bullock-carts filled with iron pyrites from the copper-smelting. The custom of the drivers of these carts is to stop at the bottom of a steep bit of hill, and then put five or six pairs of oxen to draw up one cart. The process is a slow one, but is better for the oxen. We had great difficulty in passing in safety, for unluckily at the spot we met them the trees were so thick that they literally walled up the road, and on the other side there chanced to be a very uninviting precipice, and of course we had the place of honour.
Soon after this little excitement was over we came upon a fine view of the Danube, with a long stretch of Servian forests beyond. On we jolted, till at length New Moldova was reached: this place has smelting-furnaces, and in the neighbourhood are extensive copper mines. The district is known as the Banat of Temesvar, an extensive area of the most fertile land in Europe; rich black soil, capable of growing any number of crops in succession without dressing. This part of Hungary supplies the finest white flour, so much esteemed by the Vienna bakers, and now sought after by the pastrycooks in England.
There was a fair going on at New Moldova, which afforded me an opportunity of seeing the peasants in their gala dresses. The place is renowned for its pretty Wallack girls, and I certainly can bear witness that I saw not a few handsome faces. But what struck me most was the graceful movements of these damsels: their manner of walking was the very poetry of motion. I daresay it was the more striking to me because I had recently come from England, where fashion condemns the wearers of high-heeled shoes to a rickety waddle! Even here, in these wilds, fashion maintains a despotic rule. I understand black hair is the thing at present, so every Wallack maiden dyes her hair to the regulation colour, though Nature, who never makes a mistake, may have matched her complexion with auburn locks.
The costume is very pretty and peculiar; it consists of a loose chemise, a short skirt of homespun, with a double apron front and back, formed of a very deep thick fringe of various colours. This peculiar garment is called an obreska; I think it has no counterpart in female fashions elsewhere. When the under-garment is white and fresh the effect is very good; but in the case of the very poor, if there are but scanty rags beneath, then, to speak mildly, the fringe is an inefficient covering. But to-day every damsel is in her best; and how jauntily she wears the coloured scarf twisted round her head, which falls in graceful folds! The Wallacks generally have their bare feet covered, not with boots, but with thongs of leather, something in the form of a sandal. The Servian women dress quite differently, wear tight-fitting garments, richly embroidered when their means permit. The men also figure largely in embroidery.
In the evening the peasants had a dance on the open space in front of the czarda, or village inn. Of course we were there to look on. I should observe that we had arranged to stay the night at Moldova, for the afternoon had been taken up in visiting a large manufactory for sulphuric acid in the neighbourhood. The dance which wound up the day's amusements can be easily described. "Many a youth and many a maid" form a wide circle with arms interlaced, they move round and round in a marzurka step to the sound of music. It appeared to me rather slow and monotonous. I do not know whether the figure breaks up, leaving each couple more to their own devices; but we left them still revolving in a circle.
The following morning we were off on our travels again. A short drive took us to Old Moldova, a village within the Military Frontier, regularly constructed, with guardhouse and other Government buildings, facing the Danube. At this point begins the splendid road by the side of the river, made by the Hungarian Government in 1840. It reaches as far as Orsova, taking the left bank of the Danube. It would have been easier to have followed Trajan's lead, and have made the road on the right bank; but there were political reasons for deciding otherwise. The Hungarian Government, as a matter of course, would only construct this great work within their own territory: the other side of the river is Servian. The engineering difficulties in making this road were very great, but they have been everywhere overcome, and the result is a splendid piece of work.
Arriving at the Danube, we took a steamboat that would land us in Milanovacz in Servia. The scenery here is magnificent; we were now in the defile of Kasan. The waters of the mighty river are contracted within a narrow gorge, which in fact cleaves asunder the Carpathian range for a space of more than fifty miles. The limestone rock forms a precipitous wall on either side, rising in some places to an altitude of more than two thousand feet sheer from the water's edge. The scenery of this wonderful pass is very varied; the bare rock with its vertical precipice gives place to a disturbed broken mass of cliff and scaur, flung about in every sort of fantastic form, or towering aloft like the ruined ramparts of some Titan's castle. Over all this a luxuriant vegetation has thrown a veil of exceeding beauty.
The fact of the Danube forcing its way through the Carpathian chain in this remarkable manner is a very interesting problem to the geologists, and deserves more careful investigation at their hands than perhaps it has yet received. They seem pretty well agreed in saying that there must have been a time when the waters were bayed back, and when the vast Hungarian plain was an inland sea or great lake.
Professor Hull, in a recent paper on the subject, states the fact of the plains of Hungary being "overspread by sands, gravels, and a kind of mud called loess, or by alluvial deposits underlaid by fresh-water limestones, which may be considered as having been formed beneath an inland lake, during different periods of repletion or partial exhaustion, dating downwards from the Miocene period."
The Professor goes on to say that "at intervals along the skirts of the Carpathians, and in more central detached situations, volcanoes seem to have been in active operation, vomiting forth masses of trachytic and basaltic lava, which were sometimes mingled with the deposits forming under the waters of the lakes. The connection of these great sheets of water with these active volcanic eruptions in Hungary has been pointed out by the late Dr. Daubeny. The gorge of Kasan, and the ridge about 700 feet above the present surface of the stream, appear to have once barred the passage of the river. At this time the waters must have been pent up several hundred feet above the present surface, and thus have been thrown back on the plains of Hungary. It was only necessary that the barrier should be cut through in order to lay dry these plains by draining the lakes. This was probably effected by the ordinary process of river excavation, and partly by the formation of underground channels scooped out amongst the limestone rocks of the gorge. These two modes of excavation acting together may have hastened the lowering of the channel and the drainage of the plains above considerably; nevertheless the time required for such a work must have been extended, and it would appear that while the great inland lakes were being drained, the volcanic fires were languishing, and ultimately became extinct. Hungary thus presents us with phenomena analogous to those which are to be found in the volcanic district of Central France." It is a significant fact that even at the present day the waters of the Platten See and other lakes and swamps are diminishing, showing that the draining process is still going on.
The extent of the great lake of prehistoric times is forcibly brought before us by the fact that the Alfoeld, or great plain of Hungary, comprises an area of 37,400 square miles! Here is found the Tiefland, or deep land, so wonderfully fertile that the cultivator need only scratch the soil to prepare it for his crop.
As it only took us four hours by steamer to go from Alt Moldova to Milanovacz, we calculated that we might reach Maidenpek, our destination in Servia, the same day by borrowing a few hours from the night, as an Irishman would say. However, it turned out that there was so much bargaining and dawdling about at Milanovacz before we could settle on a conveyance that we did not get away till six o'clock—too late a great deal, considering the rough drive we had before us. Immediately after starting we began to wind our way up the mountain. The views were splendid. The Danube at this part again spreads out, having the appearance of a lake something like the Rhine near Bingen. We looked right over into Transylvania and Roumania from the commanding position afforded by the terraced road up which we slowly toiled.
We had hardly gained the highest point when we remarked that the sky was becoming rapidly overcast by clouds from the west. Our Servian driver swore it would not rain; he knew the signs of the weather, he said, but as he applied the whip and galloped his horses at every available opportunity, it was clear he had an inner consciousness of coming trouble. The road now led through a forest. Here and there a gap in the thick foliage gave us a glimpse of the distant landscape, and of the curious atmospheric effects produced by the coming storm. The clouds rolled up behind us in dense masses, throwing the near mountains into deep shadow, while the plain far beneath was flooded with bright sunshine.
The effect, however, was transitory, for the dark shadow soon engulfed the distant plain, blurring the fair scene even while we looked upon it. The change was something marvellous, so sudden and so complete. Up to this time the air had been still, and very hot; but suddenly a fierce wind came upon us with a hoarse roar—almost like the waves of the sea—up the valley and over the hill-top it came, right down upon us, tearing at the forest-trees. The branches, in all the full foliage of leafy June, swayed to and fro as the wind went roaring and shrieking down the hillside; the next moment the earth shook with the clap of a terrific burst of thunder.
The horses stood still and shuddered in their harness, and it was with difficulty they were made to go on. It was evident the storm was right over us, for now succeeded flash upon flash of forked lightning, with thunder-claps that were instantaneous and unceasing.
At the same time the windows of heaven were opened upon us, or rather the sluices of heaven it seemed to me; for the rain descended in sheets, not streams, of water. Without any adventitious difficulties, the road was as objectionable as a road could be; deep ruts alternated with now a bare bit of rock strewn with treacherous loose stones, and now a sharp curve with an ugly slant towards the precipice.
About half an hour after the storm first broke upon us it had become night, indeed it was so dark that we could hardly see a pace in advance. The repeated flashes of lightning helped us to make out our position from time to time, and we trusted to the horses mainly to get us along in the safe middle course. At moments when the heavens were lit up, I could see the swaying branches of the fir-trees high above us battling with the wind, for we were still in the forest. The sound of many waters around on every side forcibly impressed us with the notion that we must be washed away—a result not by any means improbable, for the road we traversed was little better than a watercourse.
I have experienced storms in Norway, and in the Swiss and Austrian Alps, but I never remember anything to equal this outburst of the elements.
To stop still or to go forward was almost equally difficult, but we struggled on somehow at the rate, I should think, of a mile and a half in the hour. The horses were thoroughly demoralised, as one says of defeated troops, and stumbled recklessly at every obstacle. The driver was a stupid fellow, without an ounce of pluck in his composition, and declared more than once that he would not go on, preferring to stop under such shelter as the trees afforded. We were of another mind, and insisted on his pushing on. One of us walked at the horses' heads, and thus we splashed and blundered on for three mortal hours, wishing all the time that we had slept at Milanovacz. The route became so much worse that I declared we must have missed the track. We were apparently in a deep gully, traversed by a mountain torrent hardly a foot below the level of our road; but the Servian said he knew we were "all right," and that we should come directly to a house where we could get shelter.
He had hardly spoken when H—— descried some lights not very far ahead, and in less than ten minutes we came alongside a good-sized hut, which turned out to be the welcome wine-shop the driver had promised us. Here was a roof anyhow, so we entered, hoping for supper and beds in the wayside inn. All our host could produce was a very good bottle of Servian "black" wine and some coarse bread of the country, so stale that we could hardly break it. This wine, which is almost as black as ink, comes from Negotin, lower down the Danube, and is rather a celebrated vintage I was informed.
It was only in my untravelled mind that the idea of "beds" existed at all. H—— knew better than to expect anything of the kind. All we could do was to examine the place we were in with reference to passing the night. The floor of the room consisted of hard stamped clay, which from the drippings of our garments had become damp and slightly adhesive to the tread. The furniture consisted of a few rough stools and three tables. There was no question of any other apartment, there being only a dark hole in the rear sacred to the family, into which every sense we possessed forbade us to intrude. In peering about with the candles we found that the floor was perfectly alive with insects—such strange forms, awful in their strangeness—interesting, I daresay, to the entomologist, but simply disgusting to one not given to collecting specimens.
If I were dying I could not have laid myself down on that floor, so we dragged the three tables together. They were provokingly uneven, but with the aid of a sheepskin bunda, and our carpet-bags for pillows, we contrived something upon which to rest our tired limbs. I should observe we had partially dried ourselves by a miserable fire fed with wet wood; in fact, everything was wet—our plaids were soaked, and were useless as coverlets.
We had agreed to keep one candle burning, with the further precaution that we should sleep and tie through the night; for it was a cut-throat-looking place, and the countenance of the ordinary Servian is not reassuring. It fell to my lot to have the first watch, and I lay awake staring at the roof, no great height above us. Its dirt-stained rafters were lit up by the candle, and I soon became aware that the mainbody of the insects was performing a strategic movement highly creditable to the attacking party—they dropped down upon us from the beams! I will not pursue the subject farther, but as long as the candle burned I did not sleep a wink. I suppose I must have dozed off towards morning, for H—— roused me from a state of semi-unconsciousness, and "up we got and shook our lugs."
The first thing I saw on pushing open the door was the steaming carcass of a sheep hung just outside, with a pool of blood on the very threshold! In many places in Eastern Europe they have the disgusting habit of slaughtering the animals in the middle of the street.
As soon as we had swallowed a cup of hot coffee, which is always good in this part of the world, we lost no time in clearing out of the wretched hovel where we had passed the night. On every side there were traces of last night's tempest—trees uprooted and lying across the road, walls blown down, and watercourses overflowing. It came to my knowledge later that we got part of the same storm that had fallen with such devastating fury on Buda-Pest just twenty-four hours earlier.
It is a fact worth noting that this storm affected a large area of Europe, travelling north-west to south-east. A friend writing from the neighbourhood of Dresden made mention of a severe storm on the 24th of June; it broke upon Buda on the 26th, reaching us down in Servia on the 27th.
[Footnote 2: Hungary and the Lower Danube, by Professor Hull, F.R.S., in Dublin University Magazine, March 1874.]
[Footnote 3: Extract of a private letter, dated Buda-Pest, June 28th, from Mr Landor Crosse, which appeared in the 'Daily News,' July 6, 1875: "We have had one of the most dreadful storms that has happened here in the memory of man. I must tell you that on Saturday evening I was taking my coffee and cigar in the beautiful gardens of the Isle St Marguerite, opposite Buda-Pest, when a little after six o'clock a fearful hurricane arose very suddenly, sweeping over us with terrific force. Branches of trees were carried along like feathers. After this came a dreadful thunderstorm, accompanied by rain and hail, the hail breaking windows right and left, even those that were made of plate-glass. The hailstones were on an average the size of walnuts, and some very much larger. Two trees were struck by lightning within thirty yards of me. I had a narrow escape, for these large trees were shattered, and the fragments dispersed by the hurricane; it was an awful moment, and I shall never forget it as long as I live.
"Yesterday I went over to the Buda side, where twenty houses have been entirely washed away. Nearly the whole of the town is flooded, and every street converted into a river five or six feet in depth. It is estimated that more than two hundred people have been drowned.... On Sunday morning I saw the Danube bearing swiftly away the terrible wreckage of the storm. There were large articles of furniture, the bodies of men, women, and children, together with horses and cows, all floating on the whirling waters.... It rained a waterspout for nearly five hours, and in consequence the small valleys leading down from the mountain were in some places thirty feet deep, for a time, in rushing water.... The tramways in some places are destroyed; the mountain railway wrecked; the vineyards on the hillside simply ruined.... You will scarcely credit me when I tell you that a house situated at the bottom of the valley and near the railway station was literally battered in by a drift of hailstones. The doors and windows were burst in before the inmates could escape, and they were actually buried alive in ice. When I saw the house twenty-two hours afterwards it was still four feet deep in hailstones, though they had been clearing them away with spades. Just as I got there they recovered the body of a poor woman who had perished. From this spot, and for about a mile up the valley, no less than fifty-seven bodies were found."]
Maidenpek—Well-to-do condition of Servians—Lady Mary Wortley Montague's journey through Servia—Troubles in Bulgaria—Communists at Negotin—Copper mines—Forest ride—Robbers on the road—Kucainia—Belo-breska—Across the Danube—Detention at customhouse—Weisskirchen—Sleeping Wallacks.
We reached Maidenpek without further mishap, and here I began to make inquiries again about a horse. I was informed that in some of the villages farther up I should be sure to find the sort of horse I wanted, and not sorry for an excuse for exploring the country, I agreed to go, at the same time getting my friend to join me.
We hired some horses for the expedition, and set off, a party of four: three Englishmen (for we had picked up a friend at Maidenpek) and a Serb attendant, who was to act as our guide. He rode a small plucky horse, being armed with a long Turkish gun slung over his shoulder, while his belt was stuck full of strange-looking weapons, worthy of an old-curiosity shop. We were mounted on serviceable little nags, and had also our revolvers.
The ride was truly enjoyable. We soon left the road, and took our way along a forest path in Indian file, our picturesque guide leading the way. The path came to an end before long, and we then followed the course of a little stream; but as it wound about in a most tortuous manner we were obliged to be continually crossing and recrossing. Sometimes we rode through a jungle of reeds, at least eight feet high; then we had to scramble up a sandy bank. The horses were like cats, and did their scrambling well; and at rare intervals we found ourselves on a fair stretch of open lawn which fringes the dense forest. There were bits here and there which reminded one of Devonshire, where the luxuriant ferns dipped their waving plumes into the cool waters of the rocky stream. In the forest, too, there were exquisite fairy-spots, where, as Spenser says, is found "beauty enregistered in every nook."
After a time the way grew more wild in the character of the scenery, and at length the route we took was so rough that we had to dismount and lead our horses up the side of a steep hill. It was tiresome work, for the heat was intense; but gaining the top, we were rewarded by a grand view of the Balkan Mountains rising directly south. We ought to have made out Widdin and a stretch of the Danube at Palanka; but the middle of the day is the worst time for the details of a distant view.
Shortly after this we arrived at a small uncivilised-looking village. The men were powerfully built in point of figure, and the women rather handsome. Both sexes wear picturesque garments. This village, like many others of the same kind, we found encircled by plum-orchards. Thousands of barrels of dried plums are sent from Servia every year, not only to Western Europe, but to America. Besides the consumption of the fruit in its innocent form of prunes, it is made into the spirit called slivovitz, the curse of Hungary and Roumania.
We made a halt at this village, and sent out a man to look up some horses. He brought in several, but none of them were strong enough for my purpose. It was then proposed that we should ride on to the next village. Here we got dinner but no horses. The meal was very simple but not unpalatable, finishing up with excellent Turkish coffee.
I am writing now of the status quo ante bellum, and I must say I was struck with the well-to-do aspect of the peasants in Servia. By peasants I mean the class answering to the German bauer. It is true they lack many things that Western civilisation regards as necessaries; but have they not had the Turks for their masters far into this century? Turning over Lady Mary Wortley Montague's Letters, there occurs the following paragraph in her account of a journey through Servia in 1717:—
"We crossed the deserts of Servia, almost quite overgrown with wood, through a country naturally fertile. The inhabitants are industrious; but the oppression of the peasants is so great, they are forced to abandon their houses, and neglect their tillage, all they have being a prey to janissaries whenever they please to seize upon it. We had a guard of five hundred of them, and I was almost in fears every day to see their insolencies in the poor villages through which we passed.... I was assured that the quantity of wine last vintage was so prodigious that they were forced to dig holes in the earth to put it in. The happiness of this plenty is scarcely perceived by the oppressed people. I saw here [Nissa] a new occasion for my compassion. The wretches that had provided twenty waggons for our baggage from Belgrade hither for a certain hire being all sent back without payment, some of their horses lamed, and others killed, without any satisfaction made for them. The poor fellows came round the house weeping and tearing their hair and beards in a most pitiable manner, without getting anything but drubs from the insolent soldiers. I would have paid them the money out of my own pocket with all my heart, but it would only have been giving so much to the aga, who would have taken it from them without any remorse.... The villagers are so poor that only force would extort from them necessary provisions. Indeed the janissaries had no mercy on their poverty, killing all the poultry and sheep they could find, without asking to whom they belonged, while the wretched owners durst not put in their claim for fear of being beaten. When the pashas travel it is yet worse. These oppressors are not content with eating all that is to be eaten belonging to the peasants; after they have crammed themselves and their numerous retinue, they have the impudence to exact what they call teeth-money, a contribution for the use of their teeth, worn with doing them the honour of devouring their meat."
This is a lively picture of Turkish rule a century and a half ago; it helps us to understand the saying, "Where the Turk treads, no grass grows."
The insurrection in Bulgaria had just broken out when I was in Servia: I cannot say I heard it much talked of; we, none of us, knew then the significance of the movement. But great uneasiness was felt in reference to the wide spread of certain communistic doctrines. A disturbance was stated to have taken place a few days before at Negotin. The foreign owners of property expressed themselves very seriously alarmed about the communistic propagandists who were going round the country. No one seemed certain as to the course events would take.
However—to resume my own simple narrative—after dining in the little village aforesaid, we set our faces again towards Maidenpek, returning by another route, which afforded us some very romantic scenery. I finished the difficulty about the horse by purchasing the one I had ridden that day. He was smaller than I liked, but he had proved himself strong and sure footed. I cannot say he was a beauty, but what can one expect for seventeen ducats—about eight pounds English?
The second day of our stay at Maidenpek was principally devoted to inspecting some copper mines belonging to an English company. They appeared to be doing pretty well. We next arranged to ride over to Kucainia, a place some twenty-five miles off. It was settled that we were to start at seven o'clock in the morning, but a dense white fog obliterated the outer world—we might have been on the verge of Nowhere. It was more than two hours before the fog lifted sufficiently to enable us to proceed. We went on our way some three miles when a drenching shower came on, and we took shelter in the cavernous interior of an enormous, half-ruined oak-tree. Natural decay and the pickaxes of the woodman seeking fuel for his camp-fire had hollowed out a comfortable retreat from the storm. Surrounding the tree was a bed of wild strawberries, which helped to beguile the time. When at length the clouds cleared away, we resumed our saddles with dry jackets. But, as it turned out, the half-hour we spent under the tree lost us the chance of some fun.
I must remark that our road lay the whole way through a majestic forest. We were actually on the highroad to Belgrade, yet in many places it was nothing more than a grass-drive with trees on either side. Looking some way ahead when we found ourselves on a track of this kind, we observed in the distance two men on horseback standing their horses in the middle of the road, apparently waiting for some one to pass. One of the fellows, armed with the usual long Turkish gun, seeing our approach, came forward as if to meet us. We instinctively looked to our revolvers, but as he came up we saw that the stranger on the black horse (he must have been once a splendid roadster) had no sinister intentions upon us. It turned out that he was the pope from a neighbouring village. He was in a great state of excitement, but shook hands with us all round before uttering a word. He then told us that the diligence from Belgrade had been stopped only half an hour ago by five brigands at the bottom of the very hill we had just passed. The booty was by no means insignificant. The robbers had made off with 7000 florins in gold; but what seemed rather significant was the statement that though the driver and the conductor of the diligence were both well armed, they had offered but little or no resistance. They declared they were overpowered by numbers. If there had been a shot fired we certainly must have heard it.
Later we ascertained that the money belonged to the copper-mining company at Maidenpek; the loss was not theirs, however, as the Government would have to reimburse it. It was just like our ill-luck to wait out of the shower; but for that delay we should have come in for the affray. I have my doubts as to whether our assistance would have been particularly welcome to the driver of the diligence. Robbery on the highroad is a capital offence in Servia.
Arriving at the next village, we found the whole place in a hubbub and commotion. The men were arming and collecting horses. We went straight to the post-office to hear the rights of the story; the facts were mainly as I have related them. The excitement appeared to increase as the crowd flocked in from the fields. Horses were being saddled, powder served out, and arrangements made for a systematic battue of the robbers. After amusing ourselves by watching the warlike preparations, we rode on to Kucainia.
We were hospitably received by a fellow-countryman who is working the mines there. We did justice to his capital dinner, and told our robber story, which our host capped with the rumours of a communistic rising down south.
After a short stay at Kucainia, we made arrangements for returning over the Danube; but this time we proposed to strike the river at Belo-breska, higher up than Milanovacz. We had dropped our other friend, so H—— and I hired a light cart for the thirty miles to Belo-breska, my new horse meanwhile being tied on behind, and so we jogged along. The road was good, but, like the good people in Thackeray's novels, totally uninteresting. We drove continually through fields of maize—I say through the fields, for there was no hedge or fence anywhere. The soil appeared to be splendidly fertile and well cultivated.
Arrived at Belo-breska, our object was to get across the Danube, and luckily we found a large flat-bottomed boat used for cattle. The owner demanded a ducat (about nine shillings) for taking us across. I thought it a monstrous charge, but the fellow had us in his power. I do not think the Servians are much liked by those who have to do business with them. From all I heard, Canning's lines about the sharp practice of some nearer neighbours would apply very well to the Servians:—
"In matters of commerce the fault of the Dutch Is giving too little, and asking too much."
No sooner had we landed on the Hungarian side of the river than up came a customhouse official, who informed me that I must pay duty for my horse. Of course, as a law-respecting Briton, I was ready enough to comply; but the fellow could not tell me what the charge was, saying his chief was absent, and might not be back for some hours.
This was exasperating to the last degree; the more so that it seemed so stupid that the man left in charge could not consult a tariff of taxes, or elicit from the villagers some information. He was stolidly obstinate, and refused to let my horse go at any price, though I offered him what H—— and I both thought a reasonable number of florins for the horse-duty. In less than ten minutes I had worked myself into a rage—a foolish thing to do with the thermometer at 96 deg. in the shade; but H—— was provokingly calm, which irritated me still more. There is an old French verse which, rendered into English, says—
"Some of your griefs you have cured, And the sharpest you still have survived; But what torments of pain you endured From evils that never arrived!"
Now, a little patience would have saved me a useless ebullition of temper. While I was still at white-heat up came the head official; removing the cigar from his lips with Oriental dignity and deliberation, he calmly answered my question, and having paid the money we went our way.
Our design was now to get to Weisskirchen, and sleep there, that place being the only decent quarters within reach. Our road was over the mountains—a lonely pass of ill repute. Several persons had been stopped and robbed in these parts quite recently. The Government had formerly a small guardhouse at the top of the pass; but it has been deserted since 1867, when the district ceased to be maintained as the Military Frontier. Since that time crime has been very much on the increase all along the border-country. The lawlessness that is rampant at the extremities of the kingdom shows a weakness in the Central Government which is very reprehensible. But for this laxity on the borders, the recent Szeckler conspiracy for making a raid on the Russian railway could never have been projected.
We arrived all right at Weisskirchen, which was good-luck considering the chances of an upset in the darkness, for night had overtaken us long before our drive was half over. Thoroughly tired, we were glad enough to draw up in the innyard, the same I had visited some weeks before; but great was our disgust at being told that there was not a bed to be had—every room was taken. We drove on to inn No. 2, where they had beds but no supper. We were nearly starving, for we had had nothing to eat since the morning, so back we had to go to No. 1 to procure supper. When this important meal was finished, we had to make the return journey once more. The streets were perfectly dark, and it was an affair of no small difficulty to find our way. It happened to me that I stepped into something soft and bumpy. I could not conceive what it was. I made a long step forward, thinking to clear the obstacle, but I only stumbled into another soft and bumpy thing. Was it a flock of sheep lying packed together? The skins of the sheep were there, it is true, but as covering for the forms of prostrate Wallacks. A lot of these fellows, wrapped in their cloaks, were sleeping huddled together at the side of the street. I found afterwards that this is a common practice with these people. The wonderful bunda is a cloak by day and a house by night.
[Footnote 4: Letters and Works, edited by Lord Wharncliffe, 1837, p. 351, 359.]
[Footnote 5: The robbers were subsequently taken and executed.]
Variety of races in Hungary—Wallacks or Roumains—Statistics—Savage outbreak of the Wallacks in former years—Panslavic ideas—Roumanians and their origin—Priests of the Greek Church—Destruction of forests—Spirit of Communism—Incendiary fires.
The mixture of races in Hungary is a puzzle to any outsider. There is the original substratum of Slavs, overlaid by Szeklers, Magyars, German immigrants, Wallacks, Rusniacks, Jews, and gipsies. An old German writer has quaintly described the characteristics of these various peoples in the following manner:—
"To the great national kitchen the Magyar contributes bread, meat, and wine; the Rusniack and Wallack, salt from the salt pits of Marmaros; the Slavonian, bacon, for Slavonia furnishes the greatest number of fattened pigs; the German gives potatoes and vegetables; the Italian, rice; the Slovack, milk, cheese, and butter, besides table-linen, kitchen utensils, and crockery ware; the Jew supplies the Hungarian with money; and the gipsy furnishes the entertainment with music."
Coming to hard facts, the latest statistics of M. Keleti give 15,417,327 as the total population of Hungary. Of these 2,470,000 are Wallacks, who since the nationality fever has set in desire to be called Roumains; and if you say Roman at once, they will be still better pleased. They were in old time the overflow of Wallachia, now forming part of the Roumanian Principality. The first historical irruption of the Wallacks was about the end of the fourteenth century, when they became a terrible pest to the German settlers in Transylvania, dreaded by them as much as Turk or Tartar. They burned and pillaged the lands and villages of the peaceful dwellers in the Saxon settlement; but at length they had become so numerous that the law took cognisance of their existence and reduced them to a state of serfdom, from which they were not relieved till 1848.
A subject race has always its wrongs, and there is no doubt the haughty Magyar nobles treated the Wallacks with great harshness and indignity. It was the old story—good masters were kind to their serfs, but those less fortunate had a bad time of it, what with forced labour and other burdens. "A lord is a lord even in hell" is the saying of the peasants.
Mr Paget tells the story of an old countess he met in Transylvania, who used to lament that "times were sadly changed, peasants were no longer so respectful as they used to be; she could remember walking to church on the backs of the peasants, who knelt down in the mud to allow her to pass over them without soiling her shoes. She could also remember, though less partial to the recollection, a rising of the peasantry, when nothing but the kindness with which her mother had generally treated them saved her from the cruel death which many of her neighbours met with."
The rising here mentioned took place in 1784, when two Wallacks named Hora and Kloska were the leaders of a terrible onslaught upon the Magyar nobles. The Vienna Government was accused on this occasion of being very tardy in sending troops to quell the insurrection. It was the time when the unpopular reforms of Joseph II. were so ill received by the Magyars, and no good feeling subsisted between Hungary and the Central Government.
But the most frightful outbreak of the Wallacks was, as we all know, within living memory. You can hear from the lips of witnesses descriptions of horrors committed not thirty years ago in Transylvania. Entire villages were destroyed, whole families slaughtered, down to the new-born infant.
The arms of the Wallacks were supplied by Austria, for whom they were acting as a sort of militia at the time of Hungary's war of independence. The Vienna Government has been very fond of playing off the Wallacks and the Slavs against the Magyars: they have kept the pot always simmering; if some fine day it boils over, they will have the fat in the fire.
Of course in Southern Hungary one hears enough about the Panslavic movement, and Panslavic ideas. "The idea of Panslavism had a purely literary origin," observes Sir Gardiner Wilkinson in his book on Dalmatia. "It was started by Kolla, a Protestant clergyman of the Slavonic congregation at Pesth, who wished to establish a national literature by circulating all works written in the various Slavonic dialects.... The idea of an intellectual union of all these nations naturally led to that of a political one; and the Slavonians seeing that their numbers amounted to about one-third of the whole population of Europe, and occupied more than half its territory, began to be sensible that they might claim for themselves a position to which they had not hitherto aspired."
But the Wallacks, or, as we will now call them, Roumains, are not Slavs at all; they are utterly distinct in race, though they are co-religionists with the Southern Slavs. "The Roumanians," says Mr Freeman, "speak neither Greek nor Turkish, neither Slave nor Skipetar, but a dialect of Latin, a tongue akin not to any of their neighbours, but to the tongues of Gaul, Italy, and Spain." He is inclined to think these so-called Dacians are the surviving representatives of the great Thracian race.
Who they were is, after all, not so important a question as what they are, these two millions and a half of Roumains in Hungary. To put the statistical figures in another way, Mr. Boner, writing in 1865, calculates that the Roumains, naturalised in Southern Hungary, number 596 out of every 1000 souls in Transylvania. The fecundity of the race is remarkable, they threaten to overwhelm the Saxons, whose numbers, on the other hand, are seriously on the decrease. They are also supplanting the Magyars in Southern Hungary.
I have myself seen villages which I was told had been exclusively Magyar, but which are now as exclusively Roumain. It is even possible to find churches where the service conducted in the Magyar tongue has ceased to be understood by the congregation.
To meet a Roumain possessed even of the first rudiments of education is an exception to the rule: even their priests are deplorably ignorant; but when we find them in receipt of such a miserable stipend as 100 florins, indeed in some cases 30 florins a-year, it speaks for itself that they belong to the poorest class. The Wallacks lead their lives outside the pale of civilisation; they are without the wants and desires of a settled life. Very naturally the manumission of the serfs in 1848 found them utterly unprepared for their political freedom. Neither by nature or by tradition are they law-respecting; in fact, they are very much the reverse.
The Roumain is a Communist pure and simple; the uneducated among them know no other political creed. It is not that of the advanced school of Communism, which deals with social theories, but a simple consistent belief that, as they themselves express it, "what God makes grow belongs to one and all alike." In this spirit he helps himself to the fruit in his neighbour's garden when too lazy to cultivate the ground for himself.
This child of nature is by instinct a nomadic shepherd and herdsman; he hates forests, and will ruthlessly burn down the finest trees to make a clearing for sheep-pastures. It is impossible to travel twenty miles in the Southern Carpathians without encountering the terrible ravages committed by these people in the beautiful woods that adorn the sides of the mountains.
"The Wallacks find it too much trouble to fell the trees," says Mr Boner. "They destroy systematically: one year the bark is stripped off, the wood dries, and the year after it is fired.... In 1862, near Toplitza, 23,000 joch of forest were burned by the peasantry."
Judging from what I saw during my travels in Hungary in 1875-76, I should say the evil described by Mr Boner ten years before has in no way abated. The Wallacks pursue their ruthless destruction of the forests, and the law seems powerless to arrest the mischief. At present there is wood and enough, but the time will come when the country at large must suffer from this reckless waste. There are about twenty-three million acres of forest in Hungary, including almost the only oak-woods left in Europe. The great proportion of the forest-land belongs to the State, hence the supervision is less keen, and the depredations more readily winked at. Riding one day with a Hungarian friend, I asked what would be the probable cost of a wooden house then building on the verge of the forest. My friend replied, laughing, "That depends on whether the builder stole the wood himself, or only bought it of some one else who had stolen it; he might possibly have purchased the wood from the real owner, but that is not very probable. So you see I really cannot tell you what the house will cost."
Incendiary fires are very common in Hungary. Here, again, the Wallacks do their share of mischief. If they have a grudge against an active magistrate or a thriving neighbour, his farmstead is set on fire, not once, but many times probably. Added to this, the Wallack takes an actual pleasure in wanton destruction. As an instance, an English company who are working coal mines in the neighbourhood of Orsova have been obliged within the last two years to relay their railway from the mines to the Danube no less than three times, in consequence of the Wallacks persistently destroying the permanent way and stealing the rails.
Notwithstanding all this the Wallacks are not without their good points. They become capital workmen under certain circumstances, and they possess an amount of natural intelligence which promises better things as the result of education. "Barring his weakness for tobacco and spirits, the much-abused Wallack is a useful fellow to the sportsman and the traveller," said a sporting friend of mine who visits Transylvania nearly every autumn.
[Footnote 6: Hungary and Transylvania, 1839.]
[Footnote 7: 'Geographical Aspect of the Eastern Question,' Fortnightly Review, January 1877.]
[Footnote 8: Transylvania: its Products and People.]
Paraffine-works in Oravicza—Gold mine—Coal mines at Auima-Steirdorf—Geology—States Railway Company's mines—Bribery.
The old copper and silver mines of Oravicza are now abandoned, but the industrial activity of the place is kept up by the working of coal mines, which have their depot here. The States Railway Company are the great owners of mines in this district. They confine their attention to iron and coal. There are extensive paraffine-works in Oravicza; the crude oil is distilled from the black shale of the Steirdorf coal, yielding five per cent of petroleum. At Moldova, where we were recently, the same company have large sulphuric acid works, employing as material the iron pyrites of the old mines. Moldova had formerly the reputation of producing the best copper in Europe, but the mines fell out of work, I believe, in 1848.
An English gentleman is working a gold mine near Oravicza with some success. Subsequent to my visit his people came upon what I think the miners call a "pocket" of free gold. Bismuth is also raised, though not in large quantities.
Wishing to see the coal mines at Steirdorf, I rode over the hills in about four hours. As I left Oravicza in the early morning the view appeared very striking. Looking back, I could see the little town straggling along in the shadow of the deeply-cleft valley, while beyond stretched the sunlit plain, level as a sea, rich with fields of ripe corn. The mists still lingered around me in the mountains, rolling about in the form of soft white masses of vapour, with here and there a fringed edge of iridescence. The cool freshness of the morning and the beauty of the varied scenery made the ride most enjoyable.
Arriving at Steirdorf, I spent some hours in visiting the ironworks, blast-furnaces, coke-ovens, &c. The coal produced here is said to be the best in Hungary. The output, I am told, is 150,000 tons; but only one-third of this is sold, the rest being used by the States Railway Company for their own ironworks, and for the locomotive engines of their line.
Professor Ansted, who made a professional visit to this part of the country in 1862, remarks that "the iron is mined by horizontal drifts or kennels into the side of the hills. The coal is mined by vertical shafts. The ironstone is of the kind common to some parts of Scotland, and known as blackband. There are as many as eight principal seams."
I had sent a man in advance from Oravicza to take my horse back, as I intended returning by rail. This mountain railway between Oravicza and Auima-Steirdorf is a remarkable piece of engineering work. In a distance of about twenty miles it ascends 1100 feet, in some parts as much as one foot in five. They have very powerful engines and a cogwheel arrangement, the line making a zigzag up the mountain-side. The effect is very curious in descending to see another train below you creeping uphill, now at one angle, now at another.
Considering the expensive nature of the works, and the paucity of passengers, I almost wonder that the States Railway Company did more than construct a narrow gauge for the mineral traffic. This company, I believe, is of Austrian origin, assisted by French capital—in fact, its head office is in Paris. It obtained large concessions in the Banat during the Austrian rule in Hungary, acquiring a considerable amount of property at very much below its real value; in consequence the company is looked upon with some degree of jealousy by the Hungarians. Of forest-land alone it owns about 360 square miles. It has a large staff of officials, mostly Germans, who manage the woods and forests on a very complicated system, which pays well, but would probably pay better if simplified. It has also a monopoly of certain things in its own district, such as salt, &c.
The prevalence of bribery is one of the causes seriously retarding progress in Hungary. There is as yet no wholesome feeling against this corruption, even amongst those who ought to show an example to the community. They have also a droll way of cooking accounts down in these parts, but there is a vast deal of human nature everywhere, so "let no more be said."
[Footnote 9: A Short Trip in Hungary and Transylvania.]
Mineral wealth of the Banat—Wild ride to Dognacska—Equipment for a riding tour—An afternoon nap and its consequences—Copper mines—Self-help—Bare insects—Moravicza—Rare minerals—Deutsch Bogsan—Reschitza.
The neighbourhood of Oravicza is well worth exploring, especially by those who like knocking about with a geological hammer. The mines in the Banat were perhaps worked earlier than any other in this part of Europe. The minerals of the district present a very remarkable variety. Von Cotta, I imagine, is the best authority upon the Banat ore deposits.
I had heard a good deal of the silver and copper mines of Dognacska, and wishing to visit them, I induced my friend H—— to accompany me. We arranged to go on horseback. I was very glad to escape the "carts of the country," which, notwithstanding the atrocious roads, are the usual mode of conveyance. It had always been my intention to ride about the country, and with this view I brought my saddle and travelling apparatus from London—English-made articles bear knocking about so much better than similar things purchased on the Continent.
I had an ordinary pigskin saddle, furnished with plenty of metal rings. I had four saddle-bags in all, made of a material known as waterproof flax cloth. It has some advantages over leather, but is too apt to wear into holes. It is of importance to have the straps of your saddle-bags very strongly attached. It is not enough that they are sewn an inch into the bag, they should extend down the sides; for want of this I had to repair mine several times. Attached to my bridle I had a very convenient arrangement for picketing my horse. It consisted of a rope about twelve feet long, neatly rolled round itself; this was kept strapped on the left side of the horse's head.
The chief pride of my outfit was a cooking-apparatus, the last thing out, which merits a few words of description. It consisted of a round tin box, eight inches in diameter, capable of boiling three pints of water in two minutes and a half; of its own self-consciousness, the sauce-pan could evolve into a frying-pan, besides other adaptations, including space for a Russian lamp—a vessel holding spirit—with cellular cavities for salt, pepper, matches, not forgetting cup, spoon, and plate. The Russian lamp is a very useful contrivance, in case of open-air cooking; it gives a flame six or seven inches long, which is not easily affected by wind or draught.
Amongst the stores I took out from England was some "compressed tea," which is very portable. In riding, all powdery substances should be avoided; I had on one occasion practical experience of this. I had procured some horse-medicine, and giving my animal one dose, I packed the rest very carefully, as I thought; on opening my saddle-bag after a ride of twenty miles, I found, to my disgust, that this wretched white powder had mixed itself up with everything. I wished I had made the horse his own medicine-chest, and given him his three doses at once.
Let the weather be ever so warm in Hungary, it is not wise to take even a day's ride without a good warm plaid; the changes of temperature are often very sudden, and herein is the danger of fever. The peasant says, "In summer take thy bunda (fur cloak)."
To complete the catalogue of my travelling appendages, I may mention a revolver, a bowie-knife, a compass, good maps of the country, and a flask. My flask held exactly a bottle of wine; it was covered with thick felt, which on being soaked in water has the effect of keeping the wine quite cool for an incredibly long time, even in the hottest weather. I have been told that the Arabs in the desert have long been up to this dodge with respect to their water-bottles, which are suffered to leak a little to keep up the evaporation. The food I carried was of course renewed from time to time, according to circumstances. Naturally I economised the lamp spirit whenever I could obtain sticks for boiling the water, as the spirit could not always be procured in the Hungarian villages.
In starting for Dognacska and Reschitza, we had before us a ride of more than thirty miles through a very rough country, and with uncertain prospects of accommodation, so I took with me all my travelling "contraptions," as they say in the west of England. The weather was excessively hot the morning H—— and I started on our expedition. About noon, after we had ridden some two hours, the sun's rays beat down upon us with such force that we made an unintentional halt on coming to a well by the wayside. It was one of those picturesque wells so familiar in Eastern landscape—a beam balanced on a lofty pole, with a rod hanging from one end, to which is attached the bucket for drawing water.
Not far from the well was one of those curious tree hay-stacks to be seen in some parts of Hungary. It is the practice to clear away a certain number of the middle branches of a tree, then a wooden platform is constructed, on which a quantity of hay is placed in store for winter use. This mushroom-shaped hay-rick receives a cover of thatch, out of the centre of which comes the tree-top.
The shade afforded by this wigwam on stilts looked most inviting just then, and we yielded to the seduction. We got off, and throwing ourselves at full length on the grass, allowed our horses to graze close to us, without taking the trouble to picket them.
The heat of the noonday was perfectly overpowering. The momentary shade was an intense relief, for we had been in the unmitigated glare of the sun the whole morning. Of course we quickly had out our cigar-cases, and puffing the grateful weed, we were soon in full enjoyment of dignified ease. We were in that idle mood when, one says with the lotus-eaters, "taking no care"—
"There is no joy but calm! Why should we only toil, the roof and crown of things."
"Why, indeed, should we toil?" I repeated languidly, at the same time gently and slowly breaking off the end of my cigar-ash.
"Why, indeed?" echoed my friend in a sleepy tone; and, unlike his usual wont, he was quite disinclined to argue the point, being too lazy for anything.
In another moment we had both sprung to our feet, most thoroughly roused from our apathy; the fact was, a big brute of a sheep-dog suddenly jumped in upon us, barking loud and fiercely. We very soon found means to rid ourselves of the dog, but that was the least part of the incident. It appeared that the noise and suddenness of the outburst had so frightened our horses that they took to their heels and galloped off as hard as they could tear. Of course we were after them like a shot, but they had gone all manner of ways. I spotted my little Servian nag breasting the hill to our right in grand style; the saddle-bags were beating his flanks. A pretty race we had after those brutes of horses! We had to jump ditches, and struggle up sandbanks, tear through undercover, and finally H—— got "stogged" in a treacherous green marsh. Was there ever anything so exasperating and ridiculous?
After running more or less for three-quarters of an hour in a sweltering heat, we came upon the horses in an open glade in the wood, where they were calmly regaling in green pastures, like lotus-eaters themselves. Never from that day forward have I forgotten the necessary duty of picketing my horse.
It was well on in the afternoon before we got to Dognacska, a mere mining village, but prettily situated in a narrow valley. On approaching, we found it to be a more uncivilised place than we had expected, and we had not expected much. The children ran away screaming at the sight of two horsemen, so travellers, I expect, are unknown in these parts. We found out a little inn, indicated by a wisp of straw hanging above the door, and here we asked to be accommodated; they were profuse in promises, but as there was no one to look after the horses, we had to attend to them ourselves. The woman of the house said the men were all out, but would be back presently. We only took a little bread and cheese, but ordered a substantial supper to be ready for us on our return later in the evening. The fact was, we were in a hurry to be off to look at the works. Lead, silver, iron, and copper are found at Dognacska, but the working at present is a dead-alive operation. The blast-furnaces for making pig-iron are of recent construction, but the smelting-furnaces were very antiquated.
It was the same answer everywhere, "All belongs to the Marquis of Carrabas;" in other words, the States Railway Company owns both mines and forests in all directions throughout the Banat, though at the same time I was told that they do not undertake metallic mining.
From what I gathered it would seem that the mines round here are not really very rich. You cannot depend on the working as in Cornwall, for they are without regular lodes. A rich "pocket" occurs here and there, but then is lost, the deposit not holding on to any depth.
We made a considerable round, and returned with appetites very sharp set, and counted on the chicken with paprika that we had ordered to be ready for us. On arriving at the little inn, great was our disgust to find it utterly silent and deserted; neither man, woman, nor child was to be found in or about the place. With some difficulty we caught some children, who were peering at us behind the wall of a neighbour's house, and from these blubbering little animals, who I believe thought we were going to make mince meat of them, we at length extracted the fact that the people of the inn were gone off haymaking. This was really too bad, for if they had only told us, we could have made our arrangements accordingly, but here we were starving and not the remotest prospect of supper. There was no use wasting unparliamentary language, so I began foraging in all directions, while H—— busied himself in cutting up wood to make a fire, a process not too easy with an uncommonly blunt axe. My researches into the interior of the dwelling were not encouraging; the fowl was not there, neither was the paprika. At length I discovered some eggs and a chunk of stale bread stowed away in a corner; there were a great many things in that corner, but "they were not of my search"—ignorance is bliss.
H—— had done his duty by the fire; he had even persuaded the water to boil, which I looked upon as the beginning of soup. Happily for us I had my co-operative stores with me. From the depths of one of my saddle-bags I drew out a small jar of Liebig's meat—a spoonful or two of this gave quality to the soup. I added ten eggs and some small squares of bread, flavouring the whole mess with a pinch of dried herbs, salt, and pepper—all from "the stores." The result was a capital compound: in fact I never tasted a better soup of its kind; we enjoyed it immensely. We had barely finished when in came the woman of the house; she looked very much surprised, grumbled at our making such a large fire, and made no apology for her absence.
No one came in to clean and feed our horses, and though I offered a liberal trinkgeld to any man or boy who would attend to them, not a soul could I get, they all slunk away. I believe they are afraid of horses at Dognacska. Self-help was the order of the day, and we just had to look after the poor brutes ourselves.
We slept in the inn. My bed was made up in the place where I had found the eggs and bread. I imagine it was the "guest-corner." I do not wish to be sensational, and I am no entomologist, therefore I will not narrate my experiences that night; but I thought of the Irishman who said, "if the fleas had all been of one mind, they could have pulled him out of bed." Fortunately the summer nights are short; we were up with the early birds, and started before the heat of the day for Moravicza, another mining village.
It was a pretty ride. We went for some way alongside a mineral tramway, which followed the bend of a charming valley. Then we came upon a new piece of road, made entirely of the whitest marble; it looked almost like snow. Afterwards our track lay through a dense forest of majestic trees. We could not have found our way unassisted, but one of the mine inspectors from Dognacska had been sent with us. It was a delicious ride, the air still cool and fresh. Sometimes we were in the forest, and later, skirting a rocky ravine, we followed for a while a mountain stream. It was rough work for the horses, and once, when leading my horse over a narrow foot-bridge, he slipped off and rolled right over in the bed of the stream. Luckily he was none the worse for the accident: these small Servian horses bear a great deal of knocking about. It was surprising that the baggage did not suffer, but except getting a little wet, there was no harm done.
This district is famous, I believe, for several kinds of rare beetles and butterflies. I saw some beautiful butterflies myself during our ride.
Before reaching Moravicza we passed some large iron mines, but they were not in full swing. In the last century the copper mines of this district yielded extraordinary returns. Baron Born, in his "Travels in the Banat," mentions a deposit of copper ore reaching to the amazing depth of 240 feet. Some very fine syenite occurs in large blocks close to Moravicza, which might be very valuable if made more accessible. The village is half hidden in a narrow valley. Here we were most hospitably received by Herr W——. In his collection of minerals he has many rare specimens from this locality, which is peculiarly rich in regard to variety. This gentleman kindly gave me some good specimens of magnetite, greenockite (sulphate of cadmium), aurichalcite, Ludwigite, and garnet. Leaving Moravicza, we rode on to Deutsch Bogsan, then to Reschitza, where we arrived in the evening. Here we found a tolerable inn, for it is a place of some size. We remained two days here; it is a flourishing little place, the centre of the States Railway Works. They make a large quantity of steel rails, any number of which will be wanted if half of the projected lines are carried out, which are only waiting the settlement of the Eastern Question.
In Reschitza there are large blast-furnaces and Bessemer converters. Enormous quantities of charcoal are produced; in short, on all sides there is evidence of mining activity. Narrow-gauge lines run in every direction, serving the coal mines; there is besides a railway for the public from Reschitza to Deutsch Bogsan, and from the latter place a branch communicates with the main line between Buda-Pest and Basiash.
The country round Reschitza is rather pretty, but more tame than what we had seen in other parts. We returned to Oravicza by a shorter route, riding the whole distance in one day, which we did easily, for the roads were not so bad, and it was not much over thirty miles. In Hungary it is frequently more a question of roads than of actual distance.
Election at Oravicza—Officialism—Reforms—Society—Ride to Szaszka—Fine views—Drenkova—Character of the Serbs—Svenica—Rough night walk through the forest.
We got back to Oravicza just in time to witness an election, which had been a good deal talked about as likely to result in a row. There were two candidates in the field: one a representative of the Wallachian party; the other a director of the States Railway Company. In consequence of a serious disturbance which took place some years ago, the elections are now always held outside the town. The voting was in a warehouse adjoining the railway station. A detachment of troops was there to keep order, in fact the two parties were divided from each other by a line of soldiers with fixed bayonets. It was extremely ridiculous. The whole affair was as tame as possible; no more show of fighting than at a Quakers' meeting. Of course the States Railway representative had it all his own way, the officials, whose name is legion, voting for him to a man. A trainful of Wallacks arrived from some distant place, but their ardour for their own candidate was drowned in the unlimited beer provided for them by their opponents.
From what I heard about politics, or rather about the Parliament, it seems to me that their House of Commons, like our own, suffers from too many talkers. The Hungarian is at all times a great talker, and when politics open the sluices of his mind, his speech is a perfect avalanche of words. His conversation is never of that kind that puts you in a state of antagonism, as a North German has so eminently the power of doing; on the contrary, the listener sympathises whether he will or no, but on calmer reflection one's judgment is apt to veer round again.
The members of the House of Commons number 441, and of these 39 are Croats, who are allowed to use their own language by special privilege. The members are paid five florins a-day when the House is sitting, and a grant of four hundred florins a-year is made for lodgings. There is this peculiarity about the Hungarian Parliament: hereditary members of the Upper House can if they choose offer themselves for election in the Lower House. Many of the hereditary peers do so, meanwhile resigning as a matter of course their seat in the Upper Chamber.
The reform of 1848 extended the franchise so far that in point of fact it only stops short of manhood suffrage. The property qualification of a voter is in some cases as low as a hundred florins yearly income. Religious and political liberty was granted to all denominations. The disabilities of the Jews were suffered to remain a few years later; but in 1867 they were entirely removed, and at the present moment several of the most active members of Parliament are of the Jewish persuasion. Elections are triennial, an arrangement not approved by many true patriots, who complain that members think more of what will be popular with the constituents, whom they must so soon meet again, than of the effect of their votes on measures that concern the larger interests of the State.
Oravicza was so seductive—with its pleasant society; its "land parties," as they call picnics; its evening dances, enlivened by gipsy music—that I remained on and on from want of moral courage to tear myself away. I had thoughts of changing my plans altogether, and of devoting myself to a serious study of the minerals of the Banat, making gay little Oravicza my head-centre. Looking back after the lapse of sober time, I doubt if science would have gained much. Well, well, I made up my mind to go. "The world was all before me," but I—left my paradise alone. I had no fair Eve "hand in hand" to help my wandering steps.
I do think that packing one's portmanteau is the most prosaic thing in life. Shirts and coats must be folded, and one's possessions have a way of increasing which makes packing a progressive difficulty. However, at last I did persuade my portmanteau to shut, and forthwith despatched it, with some other heavy things, to Hatszeg, a small town in Transylvania, where I intended to be in the course of ten days.