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After weathering the promontory of Tanzenburg a spur or buttress descending from the Righi, the village of Weggis appears in sight at the foot of the mountain : it is the usual port of disembarkation for those who ascend the Righi from the water (see p. 66), and may be reached by rowing in two hours from Lucerne. The high precipices opposite Weggis belong to Canton Unterwalden, but the narrow ledge of meadow at their base is in Canton Lucerne.
Two rocky headlands projecting from the Righi on one side, and the Bürgenburg on the other-significantly called the Noses (Nasen)- now appear to close up the lake; but as the boat advances, a narrow strait, not more than 1 1/2 mile wide, is disclosed between them. Once through these parrows, the Noses seem to have overlapped cach other, and the traveller enters, as it were, a new lake, shut out by high mountains from that which he has traversed before. This oval basin is called the Gulf of Buochs, from the little village at the bottom of the bay on its S. shore, behind which rise two grand mountains, the Buochser and Stanzer-Horn.
On the opposite shore, at the foot of the Righi, nestles the little village Gersau—(Inn : Sonne, small, but clean ) which, with the small strip of cultivated and meadow land behind it, formed, for four centuries, an independent state, undoubtedly the smallest in civilised Europe.
Its entire territory consists of a slope leaning against the side of the mountain, produced probably by the earth and rubbish washed down from above, by two mountain-torrents breaking out of ravines behind it. The whole extent of land cannot measure more than three miles by two, which would make a very small parish in England : scarcely an acre of it is level ground, but it is covered with orchards, and supports a population of 1348 souls, dwelling in 174 houses, 82 of which form the village.
It is recorded that the people of Gersaj bought their freedom from a state of villenage in 1390, with a sum of 690 lbs. of pfennings, scraped together after 10 years' of hard toil, to satisfy the Lords of Moos, citizens of Lucerne, whose serfs they had previously been. They maintained their independence apart from any other canton, and governed by a landaminan and council, chosen from among themselves, until the French occupied Switzerland in 1798, since which they have been united with the Canton Schwytz. Though Gersau possessed a criminal jurisdiction of its own, together with a gallows still left standing, no instance of a capital execution occurred during the whole of its existence as a separate state.
There is something very pleasing in the aspect of Gersau on the margin of its quiet cove, shrouded in orchards and shut out from the rest of the world by the precipices of the
Righi, for although there is a path hence to Brunnen, and another to the top of the mountain, they are difficult and little used. Its picturesque, broad-brimmed cottages are scattered among the fields and chestnut woods nearly to the summit of the slopes; some perched on sloping lawns, so steep that they seem likely to slip into the lake.
Gersau may be reached in 3 1/2 hours from Lucerne. As soon as it is left behind, ihe singular bare peaks of the Mythen (Mitres) start up into view—at their foot the town of Schwyız is built, and in front of them stands the village of Brunnen(Inn : Goldener Adler; best, not very good)--the port of the Canton Schwytz, built at the mouth of the river Muota. Its position in reference to the surrounding scenery is one of the most fortunate on the lake, commanding a view along two of its finest reaches. It is the depôt for goods going to and from Italy, over the Saint Gotthard. The warehouse, called Sust, bears on its outer walls a rude painting of the three Confederates, to commemorate the first alliance which was formed on this spot between the Forest Cantons in 1315, after the battle of Morgarten. Aloys Reding here raised the standard of revolt against the French in 1798.
Those who intend to ascend the Righi from this, usually take a char to Goldau (charge, 60 batz); for pedestrians therc is a shorter footpath from Lowertz. It takes five hours to reach the top (see p. 62). Saddle-horses may be hired here.
Boats swarm upon the shore : the charges are somewhat exorbitant. A large boat to convey a carriage to Fluellen, costs 100 batz (= 14 f. Fr.) -a smaller one, 9f. Fr.; time required, 3 hours. Hence to Lucerne, by water, 4 hours. The steamer now touches here twice a-day.
Opposite Brunnen, the lake of the Four Cantons changes at once its direction and its character. Along the bay' of Uri, or of Flüelen, as it is sometimes called, it stretches nearly N. and S. Its borders are perpendicular, and almost uninterrupted precipices, the basements and buttresses of colossal mountains, higher than any of those which overlook the other branches of the lake, and their snowy summits peer down from above the clouds, or through the gullies in their sides, upon the dark gulf below. At the point of the promontory, opposite Brunnen, stands a small inn, called Treib, with a Jitile haven in front, in which boats often take shelter. When the violence of the Föhn wind renders the navigation of the lake to Flüelen impracticable, travellers sometimes follow a footpath from Treib over the mountains by Selisberg. Bauen, Isenthal, and Seedorf. There is a similar and equally difficult path from Schwyty by Morsebach, Sisikon, Tellenrüth, to Altorf, which was nevertheless traversed by the French General Lecourbe, with his army, in pursuit of Suwarrow,
in the night, by torch-light, in 1799. The want of boats to transport his forces across the lake compelled him to this daring exploit. On turning the corner of the promontory of Treib, a singular rock, called Wytenstein, rising like an obelisk out of the water, is passed, and the bay of Uri, in all its stupendous grandeur, bursts into view.
“ It is upon this that its superiority to all other lakes, or, as far as I know, scenes upon earth, depends. The vast mountains rising on every side and closing at the end, with their rich clothing of wood, the sweet soft spots of verdant pasture scattered at their feet, and sometimes on their breast, and the expanse of water, unbroken by islands, and almost undisturbed by any signs of living men, make an impression which it would be foolish to attempt to convey by words."
“ The only memorials which would not disgrace such a scene, are those of past ages, renowned for heroism and virtue, and no part of the world is more full of such venerable ones.” -Mackintosh.
After passing the Wytenstein about a mile, the precipices recede a little, leaving a small ledge, formed by earth, fallen from above, and sloping down to the water's edge. A few walnut and chestnut trees have here taken root, and the small space of level ground is occupied by a meadow conspicuous among the surrounding woods from the brightness of its verdure. This is Grütli, or Rütli, the spot pointed out by tradition as the rendezvous of the 3 founders of Swiss freedom, -Werner Stauffacher, of Steinen, in Schwytz; Erni (Arnold) an der Halden, of Melchthal, in Unterwalden; and Walter Fürst, of Allinghausen, in Uri. These “honest conspirators” met in secret in the dead of night, on this secluded spot, at the end of the year 1307, to form the plan for liberating their country from the oppression of their Austrian governors. They here“
swore to be faithful to each other, but to do no wrong to the Count of Habsburg, and not to maltreat his governors.
“ These poor mountaineers, in the 14th century, furnish, perhaps, the only example of insurgents, who, at the moment of revolt, bind themselves as sacredly to be just and merciful to their oppressors as to be faithful to each other,” The scheme thus concerted was carried into execution, on the following New-year's day; and such was the origin of the Swiss Confederation.
According to popular belief, which everywhere in Switzerland connects political events with religion, the oath of the Grütli was followed by a miracle, and 3 springs gushed forth from the spot upon which the 3 confederates had sto od. In token of this every stranger is conducted to a little hut built over the 3 sources of pure water, and is invited to drink out of
them to the memory of the 3 founders of Swiss freedom. It is doúbiful whether ihe 3 sources are not increly 1 split into3; but few would search to detect “ the pious fraud.
The view from Grütli is delightful. A small scar may be observed from hence on the face of the opposite precipice of the Frohnalpstock, formed by the fall of a piece of rock. “The fragment which has left such a triling blemish was, about 1200 feet wide : when it fell it raised such a wave on the lake as overwhelmed 5 houses of the village of Sissigen, distant 1 mile, and 11 of its inhabitants were drowned. The swell was felt at Lucerne, more than 20 miles off.”-Simond.
The shores of the bay of Uri are utterly pathless, since, for the most part, its sides are precipices, descending vertically into the water, without an inch of foreground between. Herc and there a small sloping ledge intervenes, as at Grütli, and on one or two other spots room has been found for a scanty group of houses, as at Sisikon, Bauen, Isleten, etc.
A little shell, or platform, at the foot of the Achsenburg, on the E. shore of the lake, called the Tellen-Platte, is occupied by TELL’s CHAPEL, and may be reached in 3/4 of an hour from Grütli. Here, according to the tradition; Tell sprung on shore out of the boat in which Gessler was carrying him a prisoner to the dungeon of Küssnacht (see p. 55), when, as is well known, the sudden storm on the lake compelled him to remove Tell's fetters, in order to avail himself of his skill as steersman; thus affording the captive an opportunity to escape. The chapel, an open arcade, lined with rúde and faded paintings, representing the events of the delivery of Switzerland, was erected by Canton Uri in 1388, only 31 years after Tell's death, and in the presence of 114 persons who had known him personally-a strong testimony to prove that the events of his life are not a mere romance. Once a year, on the first Friday after the Ascension, mass is said and a sermon preached in the chapel, which is attended by the inhabitants of the shores of the lake, who repair bither in boats, and form an àquatic procession.
The murder of Gessler by Tell notwithstanding the provocation, was a stain on the Swiss Revolution, marked as it was equally by the just necessity which led to it and the wise moderation which followed it, in preventing the shedding of blood, so that even the tyrannical bailiffs of the Emperor were conducted unharmed, beyond the limits of the confederacy, and there set free : an act of forbearance the more surprising considering that many of the Swiss leaders were starting under personal wrongs. inflicted by these Bailiffs or ZwingHerrn.
Tell, acting by the impulse of his individual wrongs, had vell nigh inarred the confederates by precipitating events before the plan was properly malured. Yet there is something so spiril-stirring in the history of the mountain Brutus,” that there is no doubt the mere narration of it contributed as much towards the success of the insurrection and the separation of Switzerland from Austria, by rousing the minds of a whole people, as the deep and well-concerted scheme of the 3 conspirators of Grütli.
The view from Tell's chapel is exceedingly fine. The following are the remarks of Sir James Mackintosh on this scene : “ The combination of what is grandest in nature, with whatever is pure and sublime in human conduct, affected me in this passage (along the lake), more powerfully than any scene which I had ever seen. Perhaps neither Greece nor Rome would have had such power over me. · They are dead. The present inhabitants are a new race, who regard, with little or no feeling, the memorials of former ages. This is, perhaps, the only place in our globe where deeds of pure virtue, ancient enough to be venerable, are consecrated by the religion of the people, and continue to command interest and reverence, No local superstition so beautiful and so moral anywhere exists. The inhabitants of Thermopylæ or Marathon know no more of these famous spots than that they are so many square feet of earth. England is too extensive a country to make Runnymede an object of national affection, In countries of industry and wealth the stream of events sweeps away these old remembrances. The solitude of the Alps is a sanctuary destined for the monuments of ancient virtue; Grütli and Tell's chapel are as much reverenced by the Alpine peasants as Mecca by a devout Musselman; and the deputies of the 3 ancient cantons met, so late as the year 1715, to renew their allegiance and their oalhs of eternal union."
The depth of the lake, opposite Tell's chapel, is 800 feet. After rounding the cape on which it stands, Flucllen appears in view. On the E. shore the valley of Isenthal opens out : the vista up it is terminated by the grand snowy peaks of the Pristenstock and Uri Rothstock.
Flüelen, the port of the Canton Uri, may be reached in half an hour from Tell's chapel. Here begins the new carriage road over the St. Gotthard (Route 34.)
THE PASS OF THE BRUNIG.-LUCERNE TO MEYRINGEN AND
BRIENZ, BY ALPNACH AND SARNEN. 10314 stunden=35 English miles.
The steam-boat runs daily (?) betwécn Lucerne and Slanzstad.