From Berlin to Budapest in 1892 (chapter XX)

Chapter XX

The road grew worse in the afternoon. It was full of ruts, which brought me several times—the Pole oftener—to the ground and I believe Joseph, when he was out of sight, indulged in a private tumble on his own account. And so, when the sun set, we were kilometres away from Salzburg. But the Pole insisted that the Keller would make up for everything, and on we pushed. In the twilight we crossed a bridge: at one end the blue-and- white Bavarian pole and the inevitable German soldier with his rifle, who wished us good evening; at the other, the Austrian orange-and-black and Customs officers, who let us pass without a word. We were again in the home of the gulden. Salzburg may be very picturesque as you ride towards it from Bavaria. But only its lights at intervals we saw, as, in single file, Joseph leading and the Pole bringing up the rear, we hurried through the darkness—first in the open road, then between high white walls, and at last under a gateway that promised, and proved the next morning, to be fine by daylight. Here the Pole thought it would be wiser for him to lead, since he knew his Salzburg. So well did he know it that twice we followed him over the same bridge, twice up and down the same streets, and then twice we watched him bargain at the hotel where the landlord, in confusion, talked English to him, French to us. But never once did he lose his temper—not even when there seemed no escape from that extra half-gulden for a candle. Long after Joseph’s patience and mine had flown. He was amiability itself. He understood, if we did not, that, as somebody says, the wisdom of daily life enjoins politeness. Like the Bohemians, he seemed bent on showing us that the dreamy Slav is all a humbug, that the real Slav is the most practical of mankind. He would not let us off from that visit to the Weinkeller, which half-a-dozen stray citizens and a couple of policemen politely helped him to find. It was no more a genuine cellar than Wagner’s in Baireuth. There were a few rooms indoors, but it was mainly a large, open court, shut in on one side with the rough rock of the overshadowing mountain. If it was as crowded in proportion as the brewery of Munich, currents of fresh air from over the hills and continual showers kept it fresh and clean. So long as the rain gave us a chance, we sat in the large square with sky for roof, eating Wiener Schnitzel and drinking Hungarian wine out of compliment to the country, while we looked at the people, so much jauntier in dress and bearing than the Bavarians, the men wearing their theatrical soft hats with feather at one side, or big paintbrush (Joseph’s name for it) at the back, with a grace which the uncompromising top hat could never borrow. But it was not until morning that we had our first impressions of Salzburg as we saw it from our windows, a place of narrow, rain-driven streets, where dogs, harnessed to milk-carts, sat under umbrellas in the gutters; as we saw it in the sham Tyrolese room that served for hotel cafe, a haunt of tourists, English, American, French, but chiefly German and Austrian. Between showers we went out, but just as we began to learn how well the town stands on both sides the Salzach—like Budapest on the Danube—and how effective is the castle on its hilltop, down came the rain again and drove us into a very bad picture,-show of native painters, where the only good things were German or American. It cleared towards noon. We could not afford to waste the sunshine, and so we made a new start after breakfast. The road out of Salzburg was first a wide river; then it ran up hill in a perpendicular line. Naturally we walked. It might have been some help if that marvellous outlook over the valley of the Salzach, with Salzburg coming up so finely in the centre of the picture it made, had been in front and not behind us. Except when we turned for a minute, we saw nothing but the steep mountain we had to climb. Peasants, with empty carts, were climbing too, and the Pole, equal to the occasion, tried to bargain with them to carry our machines. But one laughed idiotically for an answer, another said half a kilometre would bring as to the top, a third wanted half a gulden for each. There was a stupid passiveness about all the peasant in the Salzkammergut. A laugh, as a rule, was the only answer we could force from them. Perhaps they did not understand us: but the hideous goitres, the more hideous dwarfs, we saw suggested another reason for their dullness. Not till the very end of the afternoon was our climbing over, though we had an occasional coast down to a lake, as brilliantly and impossibly blue as the sky in the painted shrines and memorial tablets by the way. It was here we saw the true art of the country rather than in the gallery of Salzburg-an art

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