From Berlin to Budapest in 1892 (chapter V)

Chapter V

Gottingen is not far from Munden, but many hills lie between. It was delightful for the first time to put my feet on the foot rests and really enjoy letting the machine carry me downhilll There has been little enough enjoyment in my first coasts on a safety. All sense of security had left me when I lifted my feet from the pedals: I felt as safe as if I had tried to fly through the air on a broomstick. But now I honestly liked the sensation, and was pleased as a child when, on one of the down-grades. I saw two men watching me with open-eyed astonishment. At this very moment my dress caught in the back wheel. I have not said anything about it. but it has a way of catching, and more than once had brought me with the machine to the ground. Now I cautiously put my feet down and clutched at my skirts to pull them out. The next thing I knew I was lying in the street of the village at the. foot of the hill, the back of my head on the stone paving. My first thought was that I was going to be stunned, my next, that, in case I was not, I must make myself presentable. for my hat was on the other side of the street and my hair hung over my shoulders. By the time Joseph, who was ahead, missed me and came back I was quite myself again. But it is a woman’s privilege to have nerves, and I find by my notes that “I was a bit shaky the rest of the way.” However, the human head is stronger than one sometimes thinks, and my tumble served its purpose, since it was an excellent excuse to spend the rest of the day in Gottingen. Germany has produced nothing so amusing as the German student. There is the naive bravado of more chivalric days in the sabre cuts on the fresh, beardless faces; and the little caps, red, blue, and green, are as comic as the illustrations in Fliegende Blatter, to which they seem by right to belong. You have to go to Germany to appreciate the immensely clever realism of that paper. All through our journey it seemed to us that the officers and students and Jews we met were not real people, but stray creations of Schlittgen and Reinecke, of Wagner and Harburger. On the whole, what we liked best in Gottingen was the student His University did not please us half so much, though, after we got beyond an interminable line of villas, there was a pleasant, suggestion of picturesqueness about the town itself. But the University buildings are strikingly uninteresting, and I am sure would seem so even if one did not make the inevitable comparison between them and the colleges of Oxford, or Cambridge, or harvard. They either present the sham classical facade of the last century or the characterless brand-newness of modern Germany, and they are too scattered to give a proper impression of their collective importance. There are no gardens or“ backs.’’ though there is a beautiful walk under the limes around the old ramparts, where, however, we saw, not a student, but, instead, a party of Americans, to remind us that we were again in the tourist world, which we had left behind at Cologne. I suppose in a University town it is sacrilege to mention the commercial traveller, but in Gottingen he divided our attention with the student We found him in the hotel (which, by-the-way,) understood the art of charging University prices quite as well as its English rivals, where he was eating his late supper. We never could get used to the German midday dinner. There is something barbarous in eating the principal meal of the day before working hours are over. But the German supper has its virtues. These are an indefinable friendliness and an almost domestic sociability which even the domestic German could not give to dinner. So far, on our ride, we had spent the night in small village inns, so that it was at Gottingen we first shared the pleasantness of this late meal with one or two officers and several commercial travellers, who did not court the strict seclusion peculiar to the English bagman, but were seated in informal little groups about the two large tables. And when they had finished their cold meats and salads, they did not hurry away at once to a cafe, as a Frenchman would from the table-d’hote, but sat on to smoke over their glass—the long slim glass—of Rhine wine, for it is against all laws of polite society to drink beer in a German commercial hotel. It is rarer to see a German commercial traveller drinking ordinary wine, or the drink of his country, than it is to hear a Frenchman of the same profession order anything else. Whether the German is paid more, I do not know, but, as we saw him, he is a much more extravagant variety of the species. It was at Gottingen, too.that we first met the small boy waiter, borrowing a dignity beyond his years with his dress- coat. In London, probably, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children would want to make him the subject of a Special Commission. I do not doubt that he has his black days, when he breaks things or mixes up the orders. But he always looked to me as if he were making a game of waiting, just as I did of keeping house or selling groceries in my youthful years. The students were determined that our last impressions of Gottingen should he scholastic, not commercial. At a very late, or rather very early, hour a party of them came and sang college songs in front of the hotel, but I cannot flatter myself in my special honour. It was a bright moonlight night, and I got up and looked out of our open window. There were five: their little caps were stuck on their heads at a sadly rakish angle, and they were so unsteady as they stood there that I dreaded to see them walk. But though they sang on for an hour or more, and though they made such a noise that I wondered where the police could be, not once did I hear a laugh. Why has it never been said that Germans take their pleasure sadly? If I had my “Reisebilder” by me, I might give an appropriate quotation from Heine for our start the next morning from Gottingen, even if our route was not exactly the same as his. In our geographical ignorance—it is only by travelling that one learns geography—when we had planned to set out on our journey at Cologne we had not known that the road to Berlin lay through the Harz. But our discovery of the fact had delighted me, less because of Goethe and the Brocken than of Heine. To be honest, however, when we walked out of Gottingen my thoughts were not with him. but with my tumble of the day before. And, while I grumbled a great deal, I was genuinely glad that we had to climb, and not to coast, the big hill that begins just as you leave the town. For a while we were forced to do almost as much walking as Heine. The road was deep in mud, and the wind against us. But both improved as we went on over the low hills, covered with a patchwork of little fields and an occasional stretch of woodland. They were very modest hills at first, not much higher or more mountain-like than the Downs of Kent or Sussex, and there was never a suggestion of valley and gorge, cliffs and waterfalls, or the other stock elements of mountain scenery, lint gradually a faint bine shadow on the horizon began to take more substantial form, to fill us with hopes of the Harz, as Ruskin would say.

From Berlin to Budapest in 1892 (chapter IV)

Chapter IV

When we arrived three men in blouses were in possession: one short and fat and red, another tall and thin, with a curious far-away likeness to the historian of Morals and Rationalism, and the third with no positive character whatever. Their fatherly interest in our bacon, beer, and bread we at first attributed to the fact that they had brothers or sisters or half their family connections in the United States. This was nothing uncommon—all Germany has sisters and brothers America. Indeed, after four days in the country, I was quite sure that if we were to meet the Emperor he would begin the conversation by telling us of his aunt or uncle or cousin— oh, no! I forgot: it is of Mr. Poultney Bigelow he would tell us. It did not take long to discover that the friendliness of the men of Geisinar was in a large measure due to Schnapps, which they were eager for us to drink with them and out of the same glass. They became quite unbearable as they got drunk, and their leers warned us that their jokes would not have met the approval of Mr. McDougall. It was in this humble inn of the people that we were cheated for the first and only time in Germany. The fat man presided when we paid our bill, so that it is likely he shared the profits; and we had not left the village a kilometre behind when Joseph discovered that his map was gone. He rode back for it, however, though it was only after he had sworn with much earnestness in French that the tall man, who was still drinking, reluctantly drew it from his pocket. I wonder if Zola’s picture of the people is so over-coloured after all. It is easy in the quiet of Hammersmith or Shepherd’s Bush to idealise the Sons of Labour, but put Mr. Morris or Mr. Crane into the midst of his heroes at their innocent revels, and what then? There was no sign of the proletariat in the new part of Wildungen, as genteel as the guests who come to it for the waters. A beautiful wood, with, the road gently descending for the pleasure of cyclists, leads to its villas and hotels, into which, in our shabbiness, we were refused admission. But we fared well enough in a modest restaurant, where men in blouses sat at the red-cloth covered tables on one side of the leafy porch, and leading citizens in black coats on the other; and as we left the town we found there is an old Wildungen, with pretty old houses, and lamps strung across the street, as in so many Swiss villages. I think that we ought to be grateful to the landlords of the Wildungen hotels for not taking us in, or else we would not have spent the night at Fritzlar, or have cycled across the plain between the two hills in the late afternoon, the perfect hour for riding, racing the train and beating it, to the interest of stokers, guards, and passengers. It was funny to see how the few travellers in the first-class carriages leaned back, but made no pretence of not looking, how the far greater number in the second stood at the windows, while in the third crowds hung out and shouted. At one station the guard invited us to get in, but Joseph politely offered him a lift on his bicycle. But after the next the train took a short cut across country, which was not fair, and ran right away from us. In all our travels in Germany we came to nothing prettier than Fritzlar as we saw it on its hillside, with walls and towers and spires rising against the evening sky. Nor did it disappoint us after we had climbed the hill into the town itseIf. Even the plague of children with which we were afflicted- as, indeed, we were in every village and city—could not destroy its charm. It is a little mediaeval town, as perfect in its way as Rocamadour, in France, or Assisi, in Italy ; though the tourist, who would not miss his Nuremberg, probably has never heard its name. There is hardly a house that is not a model of what domestic architecture ought to be; the women still draw water at a fountain old as the houses which line the four sides of the market-square; and roses, with a luxuriance which I always supposed to be essentially English but which I now know to be quite as German, grow close to the old town walls and turrets. There is a cathedral worthy of the town, with its striking mixture of Romanesque and Gothic, its three terraces of altars, its rare ironwork and many banners, and its cloisters, which the brand – new painting in the worst modem German taste cannot make quite ugly. And the treasures — the gold and silver plate, the jewel-encrusted crosses, the old embroideries and missals—which the sacristan showed us in a little airy chamber projecting from the side of the choir, would make a very respectable nucleus for a new South Kensington. Not the least attraction of Fritzlar is that it provides as successfully for one’s creature comforts us for one’s aesthetic entertainment. With such an excellent hotel to stay in, the wonder would be that all Wildungen does not migrate to Fritzlar, were it not that the average drinker of waters has something more important to think of than quiet beauty. Our landlord had no relations in America, but he had been there himself; he had cooked iu many a New York hotel; and he was unaffectedly glad to see us. It is a curious comment 011 our civilisation that all the American he remembered was “O Jesus Christ!” But of this he made the most, beginning and ending every German sentence with it—out of compliment to us, I suppose. If Fritzlar showed us what the German ideal of architecture once was, the next morning in Cassel we had a good specimen of what it is to-day. The only incident of our ride there was the taking off and putting on of our macintoshes, for the rain kept up with cheerful intermittency. I remember little else, except that we passed through long” characterless villages, one with a ruin on a hilltop, another decked out in greenery for a coming feast, and that somewhere in the distance was Wilhelmshohe, which we vaguely felt we ought to visit for history’s sake, but to which we did not go. The well laid-out streets and squares of Cassel, the showy and pretentious buildings, the trams, the modem improvements, would fill the soul of the lover of nineteenth-century progress with joy. It is to this pattern that all Europe is being gradually l-educed; perhaps we might not complain if occasionally we did not come to a little Fritzlar to remind us of the world’s loss. Our friend the cook of New York was waiting for us at the hotel, where, in his company, we ate a breakfast which was by far the best thing Cassel had to offer. I say this, even though we dutifully went to its picture gallery and braved the staring of the whole town. I never could get used to the absurdity of men in hats and coats which in Broadway or Regent Street would be guyed by every small boy, or of nurses with their skirts up to their knees showing the ribbon bow that fastened their stockings, staring us out of countenance simply because Joseph had on knee-breeches and my dress was a trifle shorter than the ordinary length—Mrs. Hancock would have thought it too long for London streets. Though the walls of the gallery were well covered, we might have spared ourselves the visit but for a charming little Gainsborough landscape which found its way there, who knows how? So rare is it to see good English work in Continental galleries. As we walked from the town we had glimpses of one or two narrow old streets, but we were too eager to be out of a place which had in no way appealed to us to stop for a second look. Matters, however, grew worse when we left the streets. There was such a hill to climb! and the three o’clock sun was so hot. Joseph found compensation in looking down through the long glades in the hilly woodland to the valley and Cassel far below, but for me even the loveliness of the outlook could not make up for the misery of that endless climb. And then, as always happens in cycling, just as I wanted to throw my machine away and never see it again, the perfect hour came, and my misery was forgotten. One of the happiest memories of our journey will always be of the long ride down through the cool wood to M tin den, as we first saw it—a group of red roofs in among trees, with the river flowing quietly past. Why was it that, while in Wildungen we had been turned away, in the big hotel of Munden we were received with rapture? The entire household turned out to greet us, a palatial room on the first floor was given us, and it took just four men and one chambermaid to carry up our two knapsacks, two macintoshes, and one Rendell and Underwood bag. To see the very swell waiter solemnly leading the procession with a macintosh held out at arm’s length to keep the mud off his by no means spotless broadcloth was as good as a Palais Royal farce. He probably, had been in England, and had the proper respect for sport. Munden, we learned in the early morning; is another of the pretty old towns in which this part of the country abounds. It also has an old cathedral, houses with gables and overhanging storeys, a castle on the river bank, and an inexhaustible supply of wrinkles for the architect.

From Berlin to Budapest in 1892 (chapter III)

Chapter III

Ifelchenbach, which we readied early in the morning of the third day in time for a good shower, was quite the prettiest little town we had as yet come to, with its long street of white and black timbered houses, some with carving, others with inscriptions for ornament, and all with fine big roofs. There were just enough trees in front, just enough flowers in the windows, to give the necessary touch of colour, and the wicker carts and the white cows driven by peasants in blouses, supplied, as the well-trained art critic would say, the human interest to the picture. The whole story of that third day out is told when I say that it was spent in climbing hills and trying to dodge showers. but only the cyclist, I think, really knows what an intense pleasure is to be had in a hilly country which more than repays the toil and tediousness of pushing one’s machine over the long up-grades. We had now in good earnest come to the mountains our Cologne friend had feelingly warned us against, and all day we were looking off from high places over near hillsides of clover and wheat to far misty heights, like blue shadows on the horizon ; and if it rained, it only helped us to see more of the people we were beginning to like so well. For one downpour sent us into a country hotel, where large, blonde gentlemen were disporting themselves in those strange double-breasted light green coats with darker green trimmings, a cross between a military uniform and a smoking jacket, which the Englishman or American would never have sufficient childlike simplicity to wear; and a second drove us into a tiny village inn, where the black bread and beer seemed the most delicious meal I had ever eaten, and where the landlady mending stockings, and a neighbour with a baby, and a stray carter sat and talked with us and told us about their many friends and relations in America. Only the last rain of all I resented; after we left the little inn and our friends there, we were speedily caught in another storm. Hut then the sun came out and dried us off comfortably, and I emptied the puddles out of my macintosh and put it away. The hill country, with its great stretches of rich woodland, was getting more beautiful every kilometre; there was an effective rainbow, and the whole land was golden in the late afternoon light, when a turn in the road, now running between orchards, showed us Battenberg, picturesquely set upon a hilltop of its own. If Joseph had not stopped to make a sketch, perhaps things might still have gone well with us; as it was, just as we reached the first houses facing its hilly street the heavens opened and emptied themselves upon us. It was a short walk to the hotel, but by the time we reached it we were drenched to the skin. It would be more discreet not to describe the costumes in which, in our own bed-room and by the light of a most pretentious lamp, we ate our beefsteak and the poached egg which the German thinks as indispensable an accompaniment to it as in the English mind green peas are to duck. I do not know why it should be thought petty-minded to talk about the dinners and breakfasts eaten on a journey and the prices paid for them. What could be more instructive to the traveller than the comparative study of dinners and bills? Does not the fact that in France you can eat and drink better for less money than in any other civilised land explain the Frenchman’s whole theory of life? I would not, therefore, do justice to the little town of Battenberg if I did not say that in the morning we paid just six marks—that is six shillings—for our room, the best in the best hotel in the place—and if pigs grunted vigorously below our window it was the neighbours’ fault, not the proprietor’s—for our two excellent suppers eaten by the light of that pretentious lamp, and for our morning’s coffee, to which a considerate landlady had added jam. Besides, our clothes had been carefully dried and brushed, and even mended. If this was what the German from Manchester called cheating the foreigner, why, then, even we could afford to be cheated! It was raining when we got up; the little maid said, with resignation, that it always rained in Battonberg, and we had no reason to doubt her word. However, the sun came out in time to give us a chance to walk, dry and clean, through the town, which looks like a page out of a German picture-book, with its big gabled toy-houses running up and down a straggling street. It is seen at its finest from the river winding through the broad pasture-land below, for on this side its hill, well wooded, rises quite abruptly, and Battenberg is perched on the very summit. One of the good points of cycling is that it seems more delightful the longer one rides. Since it is the fashion nowadays to take the public into one’s confidence about the most personal trifles, I will confess that I am never quite in the humour for it when I start on a long cycling journey. The worst of civilisation is that it fills one with civilised prejudices—against living in one’s knapsack, for example. But once on the road, the old love of wandering and adventure asserts itself; the old love of motion, of going over a fair road under the open sky, comes back with full force. And now with every day I was feeling more and more at home on my bicycle, which was fast overcoming its unprincipled waywardness. But the pleasure I took in my riding was absolutely nothing to the pleasure it gave to others. A circus parade, a Lord Mayor’s Show, was never a greater success as a spectacle. That familiar loud laugh, rude and boisterous as the London rough’s, followed me wherever I went. When, while Joseph rode easily and gaily yards ahead, I was bent double working on a slight up-grade, or when the rain was flowing in little streams from my hat, and the mud was spurting in little geysers over my skirts, then it irritated me beyond words. But when I was conscious of riding my best, and the road was good, and my heart light, I could afford to laugh in my turn. Indeed, it made me feel somehow as if I were the very incarnation of altruism, and had brought my bicycle to Germany for no other reason than to please the peasants and children. I thought of applying to Mr. Walter Besant and Mr. Barnett, and taking out a patent as a perambulating Palace of Delight; for, if amusement is what is needed to lighten the people’s life of toil, then certainly I was of far more use to them than St. Jude’s School-house, or even the big palace in the Mile-End Road. As my capacity for enjoyment increased, there seemed to be more by the way to enjoy. Now in the villages there was a touch of costume in the bodices of the women, while the towns through which we passed were as picturesque and full of character as the German cities of our imagination. We were less enthusiastic about Battenberg when we came in an hour or so to Frankenberg. It, too, had its hill; but here the top, an Alpine-like path leading to it, was crowned by a lovely old church and chapel, with proportions as graceful and perfect as the modem decorations of the interior were hideous, and filled with delightful old statues of queer-looking saints and angels. And then there was a great square surrounded by gables and overhanging storeys and enormous roofs, here and there a turret, and, on one side, the townhall, with unusually fine ironwork over the windows. Though we wandered up and down many streets, we did not come to one new house, and of the old houses no two were alike. Between Frankenberg and Wildungen we had our one unpleasant experience of the day. It was in the inn of the little village of Geisinar, where we would not have stopped but for the rain—as usual.

From Berlin to Budapest on a Bicycle in 1892 (chapter II)

Chapter II

I have been so often reproved for referring to rain in the stories of our travels that I am almost afraid to say that the rest of the day’s ride left behind it confused memories of rain and mud, of wet little timbered villages and stretches of watery road running through drenched woods, of peasants who roared with delight when they saw me in my macintosh, and of many cyclists, who always overtook us just when I was ignominiously walking. My misery reached its height when, late in the afternoon, unexpectedly my safety lay down in the middle of the road and I sat on top of it. The result was something dreadful the matter with the pedal; followed by Joseph’s assurance that my riding was all over and I might as well go back to Cologue at once. I hated him; I hated myself; I hated Germany: above all, I hated the wretched thing which played me such a trick, when, thanks to it, I was already so stiff and bruised that all I wanted was to creep off into a comer by myself and lie down there and die ; and yet, it did seem a little soon to take the train again, a little soon to exchange the sweet smells of the country for the old town mustiness. But my cup of sorrow was filled to overflowing when we reached Engelkirchen, a small village, where we were obliged to spend the night, since it was too late to go farther with a broken machine. I think every child in that odious village turned out to greet us. Tired, cross, wet as we were, to be besieged on all sides by screaming, dancing, yelping boys and girls was more than human nature could stand. I can still see Joseph swinging his macintosh as if it were a scythe and mowing them all down. And oh! the first gloomy impressions of the best inn in the place, with its dark, close entrance hall, where we fell over more dirty children and yelping dogs at every comer. But upstairs we found a large, clean, airy room, with three windows, soft bed, though with the vile overgrown pillows that Germans think can answer the purpose of Christian sheets and blankets, and the coldest water it has ever been my pleasure to sponge off with. A good supper completed our mental transformation, and, while two ladies from the village strummed on the piano in the dining-room, Joseph, by the light of a candle, overhauled my machine and found matters were not so desperate after all. I never knew anything to improve so ou acquaintance as a German village inn. At a glance it may seem out of the question. But usually it has one or two comfortable bed-rooms, and there is always someone about who can cook, not a French dinner, of course, but, at least, a Schnitzel. The sun was shining in the morning, the children were all in school, and my machine ran as well as ever, save for a grinding noise it made with every turn of the injured pedal. The road, muddy at first where trees closely overshadowed it, was hard and dry where it wound in open sunshine between wide, fields. It was a disappointment those first two days to find the peasants without costume, the villages with but little picturesqueness of architecture, and the landscape with no marked character. It is one of the great charms of England that it is so English, of France that it is so French. But the country we were now riding through might have been anywhere—it was quite as American as it was German. A still greater surprise was the friendliness of the people. Perhaps the German cannot stand transportation, but certainly in America one is apt to think of him as a surly, awkward creature, indifferent to everything but his beer and pipe. Now we kept meeting people who were so decent you might have fancied they knew beforehand what we thought and were determined to show us our mistake. About eleven we stopped at a roadside inn for a sandwich and beer, and I can never forget the willingness of the man there to understand my pantomime and his seeming delight when he was able to bring me a needle and thread to mend my dress, which I was in a constant state of mending from that time until I got to Berlin. In the village where we dined a native cyclist led us in triumph to the house of an old lady, who gave us a cheery Willkommen, and fed us as if we had been prodigals, all because she had a sister in South America. I am afraid it was basely ungrateful on our part to be so thankful that when we started off again the cyclist did not reappear to carry out his threat of riding to Helchenbach in our company. On the road, only a Chinese mandarin or a Mohammedan at his studies could have nodded an answer to every greeting religiously given by every man, woman, and child. In all the fields, in all the houses, as we passed by, people stopped in their work to see us—or, I flatter myself, to see me—ride, and if it was still another disappointment to hear them express their interest and approval with the loud guffaw of the London costermonger, it could do us no harm. To such a matter-of-course incident as the rain I might not refer, perhaps, if it had not driven us that same afternoon into a wayside Gaethaus, where we had our first experience of the German peasant in his cups. Several were youthful conscripts, who had evidently been making a day of it, which with them meant the wearing of enormous crowns of artificial flowers and feathers with gay ribbons streaming in the back, and the drinking of far more Schnapps than was good for them. They were in the singing stage when we arrived, and were not iu the least put out, as Englishmen of the same class would have been, by our arrival. Between their songs they amiably drank from each other’s glasses, according to the most elegant German etiquette. There were on the other side of the room a few more sober citizens—a postman among their number—who devoted themselves to the study of our map, and talked to us as if we understood. For their benefit I got off my first German joke, of which I was not a little proud. “Wir fahren besser als wir sprechen,” I said; and I think I enjoyed it more than they did. The daughter of the house hovered about us; she had studied English in school, and longed, but was afraid, to air it. Altogether, they were so friendly and sociable that, instead of going on to Helchenbach, as we had intended, we put up there for the night. I do not think I ever did know the name of the village, but I do know that we provided an evening’s amusement for the girl who could speak English and her brother, who shared her accomplishment. I do not believe they ever had had such a chance for fine practice before, and, the ice once broken, they did not neglect it.

From Berlin to Budapest in 1892

The following is the story of a bicycle trip made by Elizabeth Robins-Pennell and her, probable, husband Joseph in 1892 from Berlin to Budapest. Being quite lengthy, I shall tweet the story in a number of different instalments, or chapters

Chapter 1

When, one July morning, I started from London with my fine new nickel-plated Marriott and Cooper’s ‘Ladies’ Safety’ in the luggage van, I had been on a single bicycle only twice, and then down in an asphalt-paved cellar in Holborn Viaduct, with a leather-strap around my waist and a strong man clinging to it and to me. I had ridden a tandem tricycle often enough; but that is another matter. On it I could sit as securely, if not quite as comfortably, as on the average chair, while someone else did all the steering and braking for me. My only work was to push the pedals round. Now, in addition to this, I had to balance and steer a machine that cannot stand by itself, and that has very decided and unprincipled notions of its own as to the proper direction for its rider to take. My first practical experience was just outside of Calais on a by-road, with an audience of three small frightened French boys in aprons, perched up on a fence out of harm’s way. But I managed that same morning, after taking several ditches, sometimes sitting down by the wayside with the machine in my lap, getting hopelessly wound up in the wheels once or twice, and learning that a safety is as obstinate and self-willed a creature as never drew the breath of life, to reach Gravelines, about twenty-two kilometres from Calais, in time for breakfast. Indeed, the next day I crossed the frontier into Belgium, the land of wide distances, of windmills and canals, breakfasted at Fournes, and rode through Nieuport and other of the charming little Belgian towns; and the day after pushed my bicycle through the sands to Ostend, and then through mud and deep ruts to Bruges; and, the day after that, first tried to drown myself in a canal and then finished up by riding into Cologne. It is true that on the third day we took the train, but, then, as most record-breakers know, this is a mere detail. The difficulty of riding a bicycle is a trifle compared to that of speaking German, when all your knowledge is in a phrase-book stowed away at the bottom of your knapsack. At the Cologne Station it took a good deal of gesticulating to covince the porter and two or three officials in gold braid and butons, who had come up to help, that we were not cycle importers, and that our third receipt was for a trunk. But I must give them the credit of having been very polite about it, far more polite than the men and boys we met on our way to the hotel (it was Sunday afternoon), who laughed and said things which sounded very offensive, though probably, had we understood, they would have proved no worse than the personalities of the Loudon omnibus-driver when you attempt to drive through the streets of the City. The proprietors of the Dom Hotel, however, poured balm upon my wounded spirits. They were cyclists themselves, and before I had time to show how completely I was in the power of my safety, even when merely walking with it, one of them had steered it through the doorway into the hall. We had been there barely ten minutes before we heard what a brave rider he was and what records he had made, for he spoke excellent English. He was discreet enough to ask no questions about my performances. In Cologne there is plenty of what cyclists in the old days used to call the Freemasonry of the wheel. The next morning, in a tobacco-shop (I ought to explain that Joseph went to it for some tobacco, and I, not having more German than he, to translate for him), we found another fellow-cyclist, a member of the Radfahrer Union, who presented us with a map, urged us in English a shade better than our German not to cross the mountains between Cologue and Berlin, but to follow the Rhine, and shook hands with great heartiness. He kept turning up and shaking hands at intervals all the morning, for between the rain and the cathedral there was no getting off early. It was quite half-past eleven when we strapped our bags to the two machines, to the admiration of a German from Manchester, who cheerfully warned us that, as foreigners, we might expect to pay double for every morsel we ate and every drop we drank on our journey. I am the more ready here to record his prophecy because after-experiences proved it so wholly and entirely wrong. It is not until you come down to the proletariat that the native German knows how to cheat. There are few tourists who have not looked from the Rhine, as we did from the bridge, back to Cologne, with the cathedral towering high above its houses. But I fancy there are still fewer who have ever seen or heard of the long suburb of Falk, on the other side of the river. I remember it well, for we walked through it, Joseph, with the memory of my last effort to plunge into a canal still fresh, being unwilling to trust me to the devices of the safety in a street full of trams and wagons and workmen in delightfully funny little blue skirts, who were putting down new paving. It was humiliating, and some vulgar little boys made matters worse by jeering and pointing their fingers at me. But I forgot my troubles ouside of Falk, where the road, though slightly sticky from the rain, was still good enough, and my machine was in capital form. It has just occurred to me that I have forgotten to write anything about the great and glorious city of Cologne. Our Baedeker for North Germany said “ See Baedeker’s Rhine,” but we did not see the advantage of paying six marks for a book we could use only a couple of hours. However, I do not doubt that anyone who wants a description can find it there. Hitherto in my trial trips on French and Belgian roads I had been too preoccupied with the necessity of keeping my balance and not giving way to the machine’s vagaries to think much of anything else. But now I could begin to “take notice.” There was nothing that enchanted me so much on that first morning of real riding as the smells, the delicious country smells. It is worth while to have lived for months in London, with its all-pervading smoke and fog, just to enjoy the first keen sense of the clean fragrance of the outdoor world. There was nothing that disgusted me so entirely as my attempt to climb my first hill leading up to Bensberg. In France and Belgium the road had been abslutely flat. Now at the second revolution of the wheel the machine stood still, and I went over sideways, to the delight of a whole school of flaxen-haired boys, who walked with me condolingly to the top. There was a Gasthaus — Auglice, “pub”—of the proverbial type, “embowered in trees and shrubbery,” as Baedeker romantically puts it. Our first efforts to ask in German for something to eat frightened the girl in waiting out of her life—I do not know why—and she fled precipitately. But presently an old woman and a young man came, and were very kind and patient. I might as well say here that what most struck us everywhere during this, our first, trip in Germany was the amiability of the people in making the best of the foreigner’s atrocious German. The Englishman, under similar circumstances, would be quite positive that he could not understand, and there would be an end of it; the Frenchman would be as certain that it was too much of a bore to try; but the German does his best to help you, and if he catches one word only is as pleased as if he had drawn a prize in a lottery. “ Wie viel Zeit will es nehmen ? ” I asked the young man. There was a pleasing vagueness in my question, and still more in my pronunciation, but he was nowise daunted. “Time is money,’ says the Englishman,”was his answer in English he had learned in his German school. More satisfactory and to the purpose than our talk was the dinner, which was excellent, and we ate it on a pretty vine- grown porch. “It is always the Germans,” Mr. Leland says somewhere, “ who wants to take tea in the arbour, breakfast on the balcony, dine at fresco, and lunch by waterfalls in lonely forests.” And the German innkeeper, understanding his countrymen, provides arbour and balcony, even when he cannot manage forest and waterfall, and profits by this romantic tendency. I am sure that on Sundays the little inn of Bensberg is crowded with excursionists from Cologne, who smoke their long pipes and drink their beer as they look down over the wide plain to the cathedral spires on the horizon, even as the Blessed Damosel looked down from the gold bar of Heaven. On reading this over, I question the propriety of my simile; still, it is not so bad, for, if Sydney Smith’s idea of heaven was eating pate de foie gras to the sound of trumpets, the German’s must be drinking beer to the braying of a brass band. If not, why are there so many beer drinkers, so many brass bands, so many summer gardens in Germany? On Monday we had the place to ourselves, until suddenly the rain again fell in torrents, and into our paradise there intruded a German mother and two daughters with sadly draggled skirts, who settled themselves for a quiet hour’s knitting and tea-drinking. This went to my heart, for I thought I had left the land of tea for many a long day to come.

Velocipede Schools (1869)

Velocipede Schools

The nightly scene at Burnham’s and Witty’s schools in Brooklyn constitute quite an interesting entertainment. The expert riders of Brooklyn are multiplying rapidly and at both the above velocipede areanas the displays of skill and daring are numerous. The funny side of the picture is also exhibited nightly in the form of the collisions, falls, narrow escapes and the wabbling movements of the tyros in the art. Yhe attendance of spectators each night  is such as to crowd botyh halls, the gallery at Burnham’s being specially devoted to the use of ladies and those of the other sex accompanying them, while at Witty’s hall the ladies have the front seats. Mr Burnham has introduced velocipede riding as a feature of the exercises of his lady classes and Mrs Burnham already rides with a degree of modest ease and skill surprising to those who imagine that ladies cannot ride a two-wheeled velocipede without objectionable exposea. The exercise is especially adapted for ladies and it is simply as an exercise that Mr Burnham has introduced. None but ladies are admitted to the hall during the ladies’ class exercise and those who have seen Mrs Burnham ride are in a fever to learn the art themselves. The ordinary dress used by ladies in these calisthenic exercises is just suited for use in riding the bicycle, not half as much expose of the nether limbs being made as in the ordinary walking attire. Never before in the history of manufactures in this country has their arisen such a demand for an article as now exists in relation to velocipedes. They are manufactured now at the rate of 1,000 a week and that is about the tenth part of the number of orders received for them. One contract was made this week for the manufacture of 5,000 boys’ bicycles. – New York Times.

The Times, Mar 10, 1869; p 5

Mania attacks young England (1869)


How long before the velocipedestrian mania attacks young England? Franco revived the obsolete machine and gave interest and excitement to its use by altering its form from the four-wheel species, safe as a three-legged stool, to the graceful two-wheeler that demands skill and dexterity from the trundler. From our neighbours across the channel the furore migrated to our brethren across the Atlantic, passing over us. The go-ahead vehicle is exactly suited to American ideas. Walking, say the New York wags, is on its last legs. Schools with the imposing name of “Velocinaeiums,” for teaching the young idea how to gyrate, are being established; races are being rolled; men and boys are whizzing here, there and everywhere at the speed of twelve miles an hour. Inventors are improving the machines and manufacturers are making them wholesale the supply at present falling short of the demand. Our turn may come yet.. Or have we had it? There was a considerable rage for velocipedes in England some 30 years ago. There may be those living who can recollect seeing no less a man than Michael Faraday spinning one up Hampstead Hill; he was very fond of the exercise, and, we may infer, saw good in it. Did he originate his own machine? The velocipede appears to have had several inventors. Nicephore Niepce, one of the fathers of photography, has been set down as the first. But he was not. An old Paris newspaper, bearing date July 27th 1779, tells of some novel feats of locomotion performed by MM. Blanchard and Masurier with a machine whereof the description exactly represents the old form of velocipede, only it was ornamented with a figure-head in the shape of an eagle, whose outspread wings served as tillers to the steering wheel. But this may not have been the earliest of pedal locomotors. It is natural to suppose that the idea would suggest itself to the first man who turned alternate into circular motion – to the inventor of the crank.

Gentleman’s Magazine.

The Times, Feb 01, 1869; pg. 4

Velocipedes, an ugly machine (1849)

Many things are got up for sale cleverly enough, but turn out of little use; it would therefore be premature to pronounce on the benefit which the purchasers are likely to derive from their freeholds. Mr Cobden will probably have an eye to this point, as he would rather not deluge the country with unserviceable articles. We remember when velocipedes first came out and everybody who had a guinea to spare bought an ugly machine, on which, with five times the labour of walking, he could move nearly as fast as on his natural locomotives. It was soon found that the contrivance gave more trouble than it was worth and for the next year or two every back passage, coach-hose or lumber room contained a decayed velocipede.

The Times (London, England), Wednesday, Nov 28, 1849; pg. 4


Self- Propelling Machines (1844)

Self- Propelling Machines. – We read in the Bath Gazette that some persons have lately been “astonishing the natives” of Bath, by traversing the streets at no very moderate pace, mounted on three-wheeled machines, that are a great improvement on the velocipede. Some of these vehicles are propelled by the rider rising up and down, by a motion similar to a horse exercise; from which they have obtained the name of “ups-and-downs.” An improvement has been made by a workman in Bath. His machine has three wheels, placed like those of a bath chair. The small front wheel is only used for guiding and it is turned by a handle that passes to the rider A pair of treadles are affixed to the axle-tree of the two larger wheels: by pressing down the treadles a few inches with each foot alternately, the machine is propelled. The rider is seated between the two larger wheels and proceeds with ease at the rate of six miles an hour, and, with exertion, will perform eight miles; it will also ascend slight hills. The inventor lately went on it from Bristol to Bath in an hour and a half. Its motive power is of much simplicity. When the velocipede was in use he invented some important improvements in it.

The Magazine of science, Volume 5, 1844, p.168

A silly sort of anomalous vehicle (1869)

The velocipede is running the course it ran some fifty years ago and is gradually fading from public regard. A curious note of Mr G V Cox, in his recent Recollections of Oxford, might almost do to describe the machine of 1869. He says: “In the spring of 1819 appeared a silly sort of anomalous vehicle, called a velocipede, in which the motion was half riding and half walking: it had a run, but turned out to be no go. The only gentleman I ever saw venturing to use one (and that around ‘the parks’) was a fellow and tutor of New College; his name, curiously enough, was Walker! When he dismounted, he exclaimed (like the Irishman who took a ride in a bottomless sedan chair), “Well, if it were not for the fashion, I would as lieve walk.”

Lippincott’s magazine of literature, science and education, Volume 4, 1869, p.459

The Velocipede (1837)

The Velocipede

Sir, – I  should feel much obliged if yourself or one of your talented correspondents would explain, why the numerous and ingenious attempts made to effect locomotion by the velocipede, have hitherto proved abortive: what is the rationale of a velocipede? Does it diminish friction, or has it hitherto only transferred it in a disadvantageous manner and what is the desideratum? Can a man employ his muscular power to effect a greater velocity than walking or running, by mechanical interventions, without a proportionate exhaustion; or has nature placed a limit that no ingenuity can pass? There is a wide difference between the actions of walking and that of rolling; is not the latter a positive mechanical advantage? In point of fact, is the velocipede a toy or a machine? There seems some analogy between skating and velocipeding and I know from experience that I can attain a velocity of eight or ten miles an hour by the former, with the same exertion that I could obtain four or five by walking or running; what is the rationale of this? If the efficiency or non-efficiency of the machine were calculated and proved, it would, doubtless. The waste of much ingenuity and labour. I have read your notices of Mr Adams’s work on “Pleasure Carriages,” with much pleasure, but, in reference to his invention or plan for keeping the wheels equal, by enabling the vehicle to lock without the usual bearing on the front wheels, I cannot help doubting whether a great disadvantage would not arise, to the direct progression of the carriage. In the ordinary construction, the connection of the motion of the four wheels is well maintained, the weight bearing equally on them all, but, if the connection between the wheels were broken, as it would be by Mr Adams’s central joint, the weight  upon either pair of wheels, being divided, would,, I conceive, create a tendency to a vacillating motion in the direct progress of the carriage; the wheels being constantly liable to be thrown out the same line.

Your obedient servant,

A constant reader

August 14 1837

The mechanic’s magazine, Vol. 27, 1837, pp.340-341

Velocipede Improved (1819)

Velocipede Improved

The velocipedes have something so ridiculous in their appearance, as well as difficult in their management, that the modest and the idle will be equally deterred from the use of them; but there is so much ingenuity in the principle of their construction, that one would lament to see them wholly abandoned. We learn that a vehicle has been constructed, which has more of the ingenuity and usefulness, without any of the disadvantages of this mechanical invention. It is calculated to accommodate three persons; the front compartment is constructed in the same manner as the common velocipede; the center consists of a convenient seat, fitted up like the seat of a gig; and the third portion is behind the center, in the shape of a dicky. It is worked by the person in front, and the one behind, the person in the middle sitting perfectly easy The man in front has work of the same kind to do as the rider of a common velocipede; the one behind sits in the dicky, with his foot supported by a foot board and the exertion he has to make is to turn with each hand the wheels beside him: for this purpose a handle is fixed to the axis of each wheel and which is turned round in the same manner as a common hand-mill. The machine combines ingenuity with use, and most produce admiration. It is particularly available in private roads, and gentlemen’s parks. It was exhibited last week at the Duke and Duchess of Kent, who both expressed the highest satisfaction at so ingenious a contrivance. A velocipede, on a new construction, is said to be building by an artist at Hereford. It is to have beams or bodies on wheels and four wheels, which will ensure its safety. It is to quarter on the roads like other carriages, and, with four impellers, it is supposed that it will proceed with astonishing rapidity; but its peculiar recommendations is to be, the conveyance of two ladies and two impellers, at the rate of six miles an hour.

The Atheneum, or, Spirit of the English magazines, Volume 5, 1819, p.445


The Construction of Velocipedes (1848)

Sir, – observing that some of your readers an interest in the construction of velocipedes, I beg to offer a few hints on the subject. I have no doubt, my ideas will require some qualification, but believing  that a simple and inexpensive velocipede might be turned to better account than as a mere hobby horse, I submit them to be tested by such of your readers as have leisure and opportunity for the job.                                                   Pedestrian

It has been doubted by many persons whether a better method of locomotion can be devised than that with which nature has provided us, but we know from experience that, in many cases, a load can be carried by a man with greater ease on wheels, than on his back and the reason may be, that when the load is supported, it leaves the man at liberty to use his strength to best advantage. Can then the weight of the body be carried, with greater ease on wheels, (ie.) does it require more exertion to overcome the friction of the load of the body on the road, than to lift the body a certain height at every step, as it does in walking? Supposing the power required to be the same in both cases, some other advantage must be shown in favour of the velocipede to give it the preference and this advantage, I think, is as follows. I have found from experience that it is easier to walk down the gentle descents and up the steep ones, than vice versa, if the height to be surmounted be the same in both cases and particularly when carrying any weight. The reason I take to be this. – At every step down the steep descent,the body suffers a shock, which has an injurious effect on the breathing, and the long ascents, though slight, seem endless; whereas the rest which is gained in walking down the gentle descent gives one wind and strength to go vigorously up the steep incline. Now the advantage of a velocipede would be in the speed and ease with which one could go down hills of all inclinations and which I think would more than compensate for lifting the weight of the velocipedes up the hills. If this view of the case be correct, it is evident that we must have a velocipede, as light as possible and free from all complications; to meet this want, suppose the following arrangement. A pair of large light wheels, say six feet diameter, running loose, on an axle, from which hangs the seat. (This axle would probably require to be bent.) This seat must be placed in such a position that the traveller can either touch the ground with his feet and push himself along thereby, or allow his weight to be carried entirely by the wheels. To ensure safety and steadiness within certain limits, the axle must be provided with two levers, fore and aft, with small wheels at their extremities; these wheels would only touch the ground to prevent the seat from overbalancing in either direction. With such a velocipede, the power would be applied, intermittingly, in proportion to the nature of the road and this kind of motion is probably better suited to the body, than “the infernal grind,” which our friend Mr Mantilini so much deplored, but which is perpetuated in some of the modern velocipedes. The wheel being disconnected, corners might be turned with great difficulty and a small break on the boss of each wheel would serve to guide the velocipede from side to side, the whole weight of the body being thrown on, to check it promptly, in case of danger in going down hill. Small boxes might be attached to the levers above mentioned to carry luggage and by altering their relative position the velocipede might be fairly balanced. It is imagined that a machine of this description would fully satisfy the requirements necessary in practice.

The Artizan, Volume 6, by Artizan Club, 1848, p.230-231