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Following the plan pursued in our journey to Paris, we make a few notes of the principal places of interest in our long railway ride to Basle; and we shall do the same when we bid farewell to Switzerland on our return journey to Paris (see p. 187).
PARIS TO BASLE.
We have before us a run of 325 miles, and it would be wearisome to describe all the stations we shall pass, as in all probability we shall be asleep half the time.
Troyes (buffet) once had 60,000 inhabitants, but it has since degenerated. It is a curious town, especially for those who delight in architecture; it has an interesting military history, and everybody is familiar with it, who is familiar with the exploits of the Great Napoleon. Every schoolboy knows at least thus much of Troyes, that the standard of this town was the origin of troy weight.
Chaumont, on the banks of the Marne.
Langres (a population of 8000). Louis Philippe built a citadel here. It is the head-quarters of the cutlery trade of France, and is, in fact, its Sheffield.
Vésoul is an unimportant town, but situated pleasantly in fertile country.
Belfort is a town and fortress commanding the entrance into France from Switzerland. Its fortifications were built by Vauban, under Louis XIV. “ On the rock above them is the castle which was built in 1228, and held by the Austrians until given up to France by the treaty of Munster." But Belfort is memorable to us by its later history; for who can forget the siege by the Germans, which lasted from the 3rd November, 1870, to 16th February, 1871? Here it was that Von Werder defeated Bourbaki in his attempts to raise
the siege. Belfort capitulated, by order of the French Government; but by the peace of 1871 it was restored to France. The town is pleasantly situated between the Vosges and Jura mountains.
Mulhausen, or Mülhouse, a very important manufacturing town, with a population of 52,000 inhabitants. Printed silks, cottons, chemicals, paper, machinery, and a host of other things are manufactured here.
There are some fine buildings in the town, but not of sufficient importance to detain the tourist, unless he has some special end to answer.
A run of nineteen miles brings us to
BÂLE, BASLE, OR BASEL.
(Hotel Trois Rois (Three Kings). -A very fine hotel, with a long history attaching to it; situated on the Rhine, commanding a good view of the river and opposite bank.)
Basle is a quaint, interesting town. Its name is said to have been derived from Basileia, or Basilis—a queen—perhaps on account of its wealth and importance and splendid situation on the Rhine.
As you leave the railway station, notice the clocks outside it. There are two, and they differ by twenty-two minutes. One shows the Paris time, the other the time of Basle. Much interest attaches to the time in Basle, as the following will show :
“Everybody knows how, until the end of the last century, it was a part of the religion of the people of Basle to keep their clocks an hour in advance of those of the rest of the world. It is somewhat remarkable, however, that the origin of so singular a practice should not be more clearly traced. One theory accounts for it, by the supposition that the people of Basle were an hour lazier than other people, and required this notable device in order to keep them up to the mark. Another is, that the town-clock having been struck by lightning, and the hand forced an hour forward, the superstition of the people prevented them from interfering with what they considered to be the act of heaven. A third is, that the attempt of an enemy to surprise the town at a certain appointed hour was defeated by the town clock, which was to have given the signal, striking an hour in advance, and thus deceiving them into the belief that they were too late; in grateful commemoration of which this tribute of respect was paid to bad clock-making-like that of the Romans to the geese, which saved the Capitol. A fourth theory—and that which finds favour in the eyes of the respectable traveller, Coxe—is, that it is owing to the fact of the choir of the cathedral being built at a little deviation from the due east, which consequently produced a corresponding variation upon the sun-dial which was affixed to it. Whatever the origin of the practice might be, it was considered by the people of Basle as an integral part of their constitution; and every proposition made in the council to alter it, met with a signal defeat. Unsuccessful in the open field, the reformers made an attempt to put the clock right by stealth. They shifted the hands half a minute each day; and had already succeeded in putting it back three-quarters of an hour, when, by some means, the people found out that their time was being tampered with, and terrible was the commotion. I can fancy the speeches made on the occasion
“ Fellow-citizens and countrymen of the immortal Tell ! An insidious attempt has just been made on one of our cherished and time-honoured institutions! That which has
so long bid defiance to the utmost efforts of their open violence, your enemies have been conspiring in the guilty darkness of secrecy to undermine,' etc., etc.
“And then they would go in a body, with shouts and patriotic songs, and-put the clock wrong again! But the day came at last, for all that. The clocks have gone right for years, and now there is railway time at Basle."*
We walk or ride, as the case may be, at once to the “Three Kings,” noticing the irregular streets, the “high roofs of rich-brown weather-tinted tiles,” the large houses filat as pancakes, and the generally foreign look of the place.
The “Three Kings” is a wonderful hotel, “and requires a map and pocket compass to find your way in it.” Its present name is derived from the fact that three Kings, Conrad II., Henry III. of Germany, and Rodolphus III. of Burgundy, met here to sign some important document touching the interests of the town; and as it was then an inn, we are justified in saying it is an old inn with a history attaching to it.
A neat little Guide to Basle, prepared by the proprietor of the hotel, gives a concise account of the history of the inn, the town, and its principal sights.
In an old book (referred to in the work I have just quoted) by Maxmilian Misson, who visited Basle in 1690, the author says, in his “Instructions to Travellers,” At Basel, lodge at the ‘Three Kings,' where you will be well entertained.” We accept the challenge thrown out across the centuries, and are charmed with the choice we have made. We look out of the windows, and have our first view of the Rhine.
* Robert Ferguson, “Swiss Men and Swiss Mountains."
Exulting and abounding river !
Could man but leave the bright creation so."
It is a fine sight, that broad river rushing along at a mad speed! To those who have not seen it before, what a flood of memories is recalled by it !
Walk out on to the wooden bridge (280 yards long) which spans it, and indulge them.
Then amuse yourself by watching the rafts of timber coming down the river, and note the dexterity with which the men on them shoot the heavy craft through the piers of the bridge. No boat can force its way against the mighty current here save one, and that is ingeniously contrived to propel itself by the current. It is a curious affair, and is worth the investment of an old copper, just to cross and
There are not many sights of thrilling moment in Basle to visit, but what there are we will do, taking them in whatever order may please our fancy.
The Minster, once the cathedral, is sure to be one of the first places to visit. It is built of deep-red sandstone, and has two very conspicuous towers.
It contains many objects of interest, but a general air of neglect pervades the building, which was originally built in the eleventh, but having been destroyed by an earthquake. was rebuilt at the beginning of the fifteenth century. The choir contains some remarkable monuments, and next to it is the Council Chamber, where the Council of Basle was held about the year 1440; and has remained untouched since that period, with the exception of some repairs done to the roof.
It is now merely a museum, containing nothing of interest