« AnteriorContinuar »
tice are some of the avenues leading up to these passes ; in many instances mere cracks, or fissures, cleaving the mountains to the depth of several thousand feet.
None of these defiles at all approach the Ravine of the Via Mala, one of the most sublime and terrific scenes anywhere among the Alps—unless, perhaps, it be equalled by another magnificent but little-visited gorge on the way to the Monte Moro. The gorge of the Schallenen, on the St. Gotthard ; that of Gondo, on the Simplon; and that extraordinary glen, in whose depths the Baths of Pfeffers are sunk -one of the most wonderful scenes in Switzerland - also deserve mention.
The most beautiful Swiss Valleys are those of Hasli, near Meyringen; the Simmenthal; the Vale of Sarnen; the Kanderthal ; and the Emmenthalall distinguished for their quiet pastoral character, and the softness and luxuriance of their verdure. And here it may be remarked that the traveller in Switzerland must not suppose that beauty of scenery is confined to the High Alps : the Jura, and the intermediate undulating country, which, though still greatly elevated above the sea, may be called the Lowlands, in reference to the Highlands of Switzerland, abound in peculiar and nnobtrusive beauties — hills tufted with woods, among which picturesque masses of bare rock project at intervals, slopes bursting with rills, and meadows which, by the aid of copious irrigation, yield three crops of grass a-year, presenting at all seasons a carpet of the liveliest verdure, and of a texture like velvet, equal to that of the best-kept English lawns;-such are the beauties of these lowland scenes.
The frequent hedgerows, the gardens before the cottages, and ihe neatness of the dwellings—the irregular, winding
roads, free from the straight monotony and everlasting avenues of France and Germany - remind one frequently of England. There are, besides, among the Jura, many scenes of great grandeur ; such, especially, is presented by the Val Moutiers, or Münster Thal, between Basle and Bienne; the pass of Klus, at the foot of the Ober-Hauenstein, etc.
With regard to the natural beauties of Switzerland, there can be but one sentiment of admiration. On the subject of the moral condition of the Swiss, and of their character as a nation, there is much greater variety of opinion, though the larger portion of impartial witnesses will concur in a low and unfavourable estimate of them.
The favourable anticipations awakened by historical associations in the mind of the traveller,
as he approaches the land of Tell and Winkelried, are wofully falsified, for the most part, on arriva ing upon the spot. If he take the trouble to inquire into the political state of the country, he will find a Government almost powerless, a confederacy without unity, split into parties by dissentient religions and opposing interests, and nearly every canton either torn by contending factions, or actually split into two, and as much dissevered as though it consisted of two separate states. Patriots are scarce in the land of Tell; and that combination of petty republics which, while firmly united, not only withstood the shocks of foreign invasion, secure in its mountain-fastnesses, but shattered and annihilated the apparently overwhelming armaments of Austria and Burgundy, not in one battle, but on almost every occasion when opposed to them, must now submit to be propped up by its neighbours, and, as a necessary conse
quence, must endure and stomach the diplomatic insults which are constantly heaped upon it.
The poverty of the land, its slighi capabilities for improvements, its deficiency of resources in proportion to the extent of its population, have given rise to that venality of character which has passed into a proverb; a reproach by no means removed, even in the present day. Notwithstanding their long enjoyment of liberty and free institutions, in spite of the glorious examples of their history, we do not find the nation actuated by that independence and nobleness of sentiment which might be expected. On the contrary, a spirit of time-serving and a love of money appear the influencing motives in the national character, and the people who have enjoyed freedom longer than any other in Europe, are principally distinguished for fighting the battles of any master, however tyrannical, who will buy their services; for sending forth the most obsequious and drudging of valets; for extortionate innkeepers, and among the lower class of Swiss for almost universal mendicity; for to beg appears to be regarded as ne degradation, and is taught by parents to their children less from necessity than as a sort of speculation. The Tyrolese, the neighbours of the Swiss, and their partners in the same cold climale and unproductive Alpine region, exhibit a remarkable contrast to them in this and other respects.
It is more pleasing to dwell on another result of Swiss poverty, viz., the impulse it has given to commercial industry and manufactures. The natural disadvantages of an inland country, into which the raw material must be conveyed almost exclusively on the axle over snowy passes, and by long journeys, have been overcome, and in the excellence of her manufactured articles Swiszer
land competes with England, while she often şura passes her in cheapness.
The demoralizing effect produced upon the Swiss by the great influx of travellers into their country, is explained in the following temperate and judicious remarks from Latrobe's 'Alpenstock' :
“It cannot be denied that the character of the majority of the Swiss peasantry, whose habitations are unfortunately in the neighbourhood of the main routes of travellers, or of the particular points of interest to which they lead, is most contemptible ; that in such parts it is not only vain to expect to find those simple and guileless manners which in time past were associated with the name of the inhabitants of these mountains, but that even common morality is out of the question. There is a disposition in the majority of those who have been at all exposed to temptation to take advantage of the ignorance of travellers, 10 make the most exorbitant demands, and to go to the greatest possible length in the system of extortion and deception. Even in those parts of the country where the open profligacy of the cases brought before them has excited the attention and provoked the surveillance of the magistrates, and where, in consequence, a kind of just price has been set upon various articles, opportunities are always greedily seized upon to turn a dishonest penny, when it can be done without serious risk.
“This the writer knows to be unquestionably the fact; yet he must candidly add, what he also knows from observation, that the absurd conduct and unreasonable folly of travellers have strengthened the spring of this dishonest propensity in a very great degree : and while many a just complaint has been made against the extortion of those with whom the traveller must come in contact, many an unreasonable accusation has also been preferred under circumstances which would not allow the plaintiff to make his case good. An individual who is satisfied, while travelling in a country like this, lo identify himself as much as possible with the people among whom he is thrown who is contented with the general style of living, with the produce of the country, and, more especially, with the customary hours of eating and sleeping, has certainly reason to complain, if the mere circumstance of his being a stranger is deemed a sufficient apology for making him the object of unprincipled spoliation and imposition.
• But if the travellers be of another mind and order-if they pass through the country, as hundreds do, with their eyes shut to the style and manners of the people and difference of tñeir habits from our own, and intent upon keeping up their usual style of corporeal indulgence as much as possible such bave not the same reason in their complaints; which is a lesson many have had to learn, by the refusal of the magistrate to interfere in the quarrel, or by having a verdict given against them.
“I have seen a party of English arrive at a mountain cabaret at nightfall, when the host and his family would, in the usual course of things, have been thinking of their beds; they order dinner, and insist upon having flesh, fish, or fowl, foreign wines and liqueurs, just as though they were at 'the Star and Garter åt Richmond, abuse the master and the domestics, dine at eight or nine, and sit over their cheer till past midnight. Mine host can put up with a good deal of extra trouble, with no small quantity of abuse, and will stay up all night with considerable temper,