From Berlin to Budapest in 1892 (chapter XVIII)

Chapter XVIII

We raced over plains and hills, despite the mud that packed itself into my leather dress-guard and acted so successfully as a brake that once Joseph had to stop and turn my machine upside down and scoop it out with a stick. But the road ran up the wooded hills and then down into the valley, where, on the river-bank, stands Eichstadt, a big ecclesiastical town, full of churches, and overlooked by the Bishop’s palace far above on a neighbouring height. And we had not left Eichstadt long, before we were looking from another hilltop across the valley of the Danube, and then riding through the picturesque gateway and past the beautiful cathedral of Ingolstadt. It was at Ingolstadt we first crossed the Danube, and, Chapter  Therefore, the route of our three friends who were making the journey down stream, from the river’s source to its mouth. I suppose the very memory of this should fill us with shame; for have we not since read in the advertisements of Harper’s, where the story of their journey is appearing, that they travelled for the express purpose of investigating the conditions of South-Eastern Europe, now that the air hens in the ‘Vest of .Europe is thick, with the rumours of war? And we, what, were we iinvestigating? Nothing, absolutely nothing; not even the condition of the people, or the soil, or the weather, or the roads—though of the latter we, by chance, have qualified ourselves to speak with authority. We were travelling solely and entirely to amuse ourselves and to rake in the shekels from a beneficent publisher. And why not? Why must all men and women to-day have a mission and find serious reasons for every action however light, for every undertaking however flippant? Is there to be no more pleasure for pleasure’s sake in this sad world of ours? Of this generation Mr Robert Louis Stevenson alone understands that the chief duty of the man who travels is to enjoy himself, and this is the beginning and end of the lesson taught, if lesson it can be called, by his “Inland Voyage” and his“ Wanderings in the Cevennes” but, really I am commencing to preach myself! Our chief pleasure for the rest of the afternoon—most truth be told—was in our halts, while we let the showers pass—halts mode in the friendly little inns by the way. They were very much alike, all those “Bavarian inns: our big guest-room with plain wooden chairs and tables, pictures of Bavarian princes and princesses on the walls—seldom, if ever, of the Kaiser—a sociable landlord or landlady, always a baby, and as often or not a cat or a dog. As a rule. It served as family living room as well, and at times a tailor was sitting crosslegged by the window, a girl was ironing the family linen, or an old woman was doing the family mending. But it strikes me that these characteristic features, now I .have written them out, are peculiar, not to the Bavarian, but to the universal inn. More essentially German was the strong domestic element which we found in the tiniest village inn as the swellest Munich cafe. In such an atmosphere we had to fall into conversation with anyone mid everyone, whether we wanted to or not; and I can recall our surprise and amusement that same afternoon when a rough carter, mud from head to foot, who had slopped for beer in the inn where we went, told us that his brother was a monk in the Benedictine Monastery near Pittsburg. The world is a very small place, after all. The “C.T.U. road book” warned us that the road from Pfaffenhofen, where we spent the night, to Munich was bad, and that we had better take the train, but for a wonder, there was no tain, and we kept bravely to our cycles, it is useless to dwell on what is unredeemably disagreeable. At first the way was fair, and we gaily raced and beat a carriage and a coach going in the same direction. But soon we were deep in mud again—liquid mud, solid mud, stony mud, all sorts and conditions of mud, fathoms of mud, kilometres of mud. The mended road was only a shade less unridable than the road being repaired by rude workmen who put down their spades and pickaxes to grin offensively as I passed. Thiers were true town manners when they crowded, pell-mell, into an inn where we had taken shelter from a shower—for, of course, it rained before the morning was well begun. Our carter and peasant friends were often as muddy and always as thirsty, and yet they never were rude or vulgar. After the mud came a worn-out macadam road, where even the footpath was bumpy. On either side, stretched pine-woods and desolate uncultivated fields. There was nothing to suggest, that we were nearing a big town, the capital of the country. When we reached the paved road, when: we wheeled with comparative case, there were grinning soldiers instead of workmen. It would be hard to say where, during the mornings run, was the pleasure for people who journeyed professedly for no other object. Our first moment of comfort was when, machines and all a mass of dried mud, we proudly wheeled along the broad boulevards-now almost deserted, for it was the dinner-hour of Munich—to the Hotel Achatz. I wonder whether any other woman in the world in her senses would have taken such a ride for amusement!

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