A Visit to Iceland and the Scandinavian North Translated from German
Madame Ida Pfeiffer

Part 1 out of 5

This etext was prepared by David Price, email ccx074@coventry.ac.uk,
from the 1853 Ingram, Cooke, and Co. edition. Second proofread by
Mike Ruffell.

A Visit to Iceland and the Scandinavian North
Translated from German

by Madame Ida Pfeiffer


The success which attended the publication in this Series of
Illustrated Works of A Woman's Journey round the World, has induced
the publication of the present volume on a country so little known
as Iceland, and about which so little recent information exists.

The translation has been carefully made, expressly for this Series,
from the original work published at Vienna; and the Editor has added
a great many notes, wherever they seemed necessary to elucidate the

In addition to the matter which appeared in the original work, the
present volume contains a translation of a valuable Essay on
Icelandic poetry, by M. Bergmann; a translation of an Icelandic
poem, the 'Voluspa;' a brief sketch of Icelandic History; and a
translation of Schiller's ballad, 'The Diver,' which is prominently
alluded to by Madame Pfeiffer in her description of the Geysers. {1}

The Illustrations have been printed in tints, so as to make the work
uniform with the Journey round the World.

London, August 1, 1852.


"Another journey--a journey, moreover, in regions which every one
would rather avoid than seek. This woman only undertakes these
journeys to attract attention."

"The first journey, for a woman ALONE, was certainly rather a bold
proceeding. Yet in that instance she might still have been excused.
Religious motives may perhaps have actuated her; and when this is
the case, people often go through incredible things. At present,
however, we can see no just reason which could excuse an undertaking
of this description."

Thus, and perhaps more harshly still, will the majority judge me.
And yet they will do me a grievous wrong. I am surely simple and
harmless enough, and should have fancied any thing in the world
rather than that it would ever be my fate to draw upon myself in any
degree the notice of the public. I will merely indicate, as briefly
as may be, my character and circumstances, and then I have no doubt
my conduct will lose its appearance of eccentricity, and seem
perfectly natural.

When I was but a little child, I had already a strong desire to see
the world. Whenever I met a travelling-carriage, I would stop
involuntarily, and gaze after it until it had disappeared; I used
even to envy the postilion, for I thought he also must have
accomplished the whole long journey.

As I grew to the age of from ten to twelve years, nothing gave me so
much pleasure as the perusal of voyages and travels. I ceased,
indeed, to envy the postilions, but envied the more every navigator
and naturalist.

Frequently my eyes would fill with tears when, having ascended a
mountain, I saw others towering before me, and could not gain the

I made several journeys with my parents, and, after my marriage,
with my husband; and only settled down when it became necessary that
my two boys should visit particular schools. My husband's affairs
demanded his entire attention, partly in Lemberg, partly in Vienna.
He therefore confided the education and culture of the two boys
entirely to my care; for he knew my firmness and perseverance in all
I undertook, and doubted not that I would be both father and mother
to his children.

When my sons' education had been completed, and I was living in
peaceful retirement, the dreams and aspirations of my youth
gradually awoke once more. I thought of strange manners and
customs, of distant regions, where a new sky would be above me, and
new ground beneath my feet. I pictured to myself the supreme
happiness of treading the land once hallowed by the presence of our
Saviour, and at length made up my mind to travel thither.

As dangers and difficulties rose before my mind, I endeavoured to
wean myself from the idea I had formed--but in vain. For privation
I cared but little; my health was good and my frame hardy: I did
not fear death. And moreover, as I was born in the last century, I
could travel ALONE. Thus every objection was overcome; every thing
had been duly weighed and considered. I commenced my journey to
Palestine with a feeling of perfect rapture; and behold, I returned
in safety. I now feel persuaded that I am neither tempting
Providence, nor justly incurring the imputation of wishing to be
talked about, in following the bent of my inclinations, and looking
still further about me in the world I chose Iceland for my
destination, because I hoped there to find Nature in a garb such as
she wears nowhere else. I feel so completely happy, so brought into
communion with my Maker, when I contemplate sublime natural
phenomena, that in my eyes no degree of toil or difficulty is too
great a price at which to purchase such perfect enjoyment.

And should death overtake me sooner or later during my wanderings, I
shall await his approach in all resignation, and be deeply grateful
to the Almighty for the hours of holy beauty in which I have lived
and gazed upon His wonders.

And now, dear reader, I would beg thee not to be angry with me for
speaking so much of myself; it is only because this love of
travelling does not, according to established notions, seem proper
for one of my sex, that I have allowed my feelings to speak in my

Judge me, therefore, not too harshly; but rather grant me the
enjoyment of a pleasure which hurts no one, while it makes me happy.




In the year 1845 I undertook another journey; {2} a journey,
moreover, to the far North. Iceland was one of those regions
towards which, from the earliest period of my consciousness, I had
felt myself impelled. In this country, stamped as it is by Nature
with features so peculiar, as probably to have no counterpart on the
face of the globe, I hoped to see things which should fill me with
new and inexpressible astonishment. How deeply grateful do I feel
to Thee, O Thou that hast vouchsafed to me to behold the fulfilment
of these my cherished dreams!

The parting from all my dear ones had this time far less bitterness;
I had found by experience, that a woman of an energetic mind can
find her way through the world as well as a man, and that good
people are to be met with every where. To this was added the
reflection, that the hardships of my present voyage would be of
short duration, and that five or six months might see me restored to
my family.

I left Vienna at five o'clock on the morning of the tenth of April.
As the Danube had lately caused some devastations, on which occasion
the railroad had not entirely escaped, we rode for the first four
miles, as far as Florisdorf, in an omnibus--not the most agreeable
mode of travelling. Our omnibuses are so small and narrow, that one
would suppose they were built for the exclusive accommodation of
consumptive subjects, and not for healthy, and in some cases portly
individuals, whose bulk is further increased by a goodly assemblage
of cloaks, furs, and overcoats.

At the barriers a new difficulty arose. We delivered up our pass-
warrants (passirscheine) in turn, with the exception of one young
man, who was quite astounded at the demand. He had provided nothing
but his passport and testimonials, being totally unaware that a
pass-warrant is more indispensable than all the rest. In vain did
he hasten into the bureau to expostulate with the officials,--we
were forced to continue our journey without him.

We were informed that he was a student, who, at the conclusion of
term, was about to make holiday for a few weeks at his parents'
house near Prague. Alas, poor youth! he had studied so much, and
yet knew so little. He had not even an idea of the overwhelming
importance of the document in question. For this trifling omission
he forfeited the fare to Prague, which had been paid in advance.

But to proceed with my journey.

At Florisdorf a joyful surprise awaited me. I met my brother and my
son, who had, it appears, preceded me. We entered the train to
proceed in company to Stockerau, a place between twelve and thirteen
miles off; but were obliged to alight halfway, and walk a short
distance. The Embankment had given way. Luckily the weather was
favourable, inasmuch as we had only a violent storm of wind. Had it
rained, we should have been wetted to the skin, besides being
compelled to wade ankle-deep in mud. We were next obliged to remain
in the open air, awaiting the arrival of the train from Stockerau,
which unloaded its freight, and received us in exchange.

At Stockerau I once more took leave of my companions, and was soon
securely packed in the post-carriage for transmission.

In travelling this short distance, I had thus entered four
carriages; a thing sufficiently disagreeable to an unencumbered
person, but infinitely more so to one who has luggage to watch over.
The only advantage I could discover in all this was, that we had
saved half an hour in coming these seventeen miles. For this,
instead of 9 fl. 26 kr. from Vienna to Prague, we paid 10 fl. 10 kr.
from Stockerau to Prague, without reckoning expense of omnibus and
railway. It was certainly a dearly-bought half-hour. {3}

The little town of Znaim, with its neighbouring convent, is situated
on a large plain, extending from Vienna to Budwitz, seventeen miles
beyond Znaim; the monotony of the view is only broken here and there
by low hills.

Near Schelletau the scenery begins to improve. On the left the view
is bounded by a range of high hills, with a ruined castle,
suggestive of tragical tales of centuries gone by. Fir and pine
forests skirt the road, and lie scattered in picturesque groups over
hill and dale.

April 11th.

Yesterday the weather had already begun to be ungracious to us. At
Znaim we found the valleys still partly covered with snow, and the
fog was at times so thick, that we could not see a hundred paces in
advance; but to-day it was incomparably worse. The mist resolved
itself into a mild rain, which, however, lost so much of its
mildness as we passed from station to station, that every thing
around us was soon under water. But not only did we ride through
water, we were obliged to sit in it also. The roof of our carriage
threatened to become a perfect sieve, and the rain poured steadily
in. Had there been room for such a proceeding, we should all have
unfurled our umbrellas.

On occasions like these, I always silently admire the patience of my
worthy countrymen, who take every thing so good-humouredly. Were I
a man, I should pursue a different plan, and should certainly not
fail to complain of such carelessness. But as a woman, I must hold
my peace; people would only rail at my sex, and call it ill-
humoured. Besides, I thanked my guardian-angel for these
discomforts, looking upon them as a preparation for what was to
befall me in the far North.

Passing several small towns and villages, we at length entered the
Bohemian territory, close behind Iglau. The first town which we saw
was Czaslau, with its large open square, and a few neat houses; the
latter provided with so-called arbours (or verandahs), which enable
one to pass round the square dry-footed, even in the most rainy

Journeying onwards, we noticed the fine cathedral and town of
Kuttenberg, once famous for its gold and silver mines. {4} Next
comes the great tobacco-manufactory of Sedlitz, near which we first
see the Elbe, but only for a short time, as it soon takes another
direction. Passing the small town of Collin, we are whirled close
by the battle-field where, in the year 1757, the great King
Frederick paid his score to the Austrians. An obelisk, erected a
few years since to the memory of General Daun, occupies a small
eminence on the right. On the left is the plain of Klephorcz, where
the Austrian army was drawn up. {5}

At eleven o'clock on the same night we reached


As it was my intention to pursue my journey after two days, my first
walk on the following morning was to the police-office, to procure a
passport and the all-important pass-warrant; my next to the custom-
house, to take possession of a small chest, which I had delivered up
five days before my departure, and which, as the expeditor affirmed,
I should find ready for me on my arrival at Prague. {6} Ah, Mr.
Expeditor! my chest was not there. After Saturday comes Sunday; but
on Sunday the custom-house is closed. So here was a day lost, a day
in which I might have gone to Dresden, and even visited the opera.

On Monday morning I once more hastened to the office in anxious
expectation; the box was not yet there. An array of loaded wagons
had, however, arrived, and in one of these it might be. Ah, how I
longed to see my darling little box, in order that I might--NOT
press it to my heart, but unpack it in presence of the excise

I took merely a cursory glance at Prague, as I had thoroughly
examined every thing there some years before. The beautiful
"Graben" and Horse-market once more excited my admiration. It was
with a peculiar feeling that I trod the old bridge, from which St.
John of Nepomuk was cast into the Moldau for refusing to publish the
confession of King Wenceslaus' consort. {7} On the opposite bank I
mounted the Hradschin, and paid a visit to the cathedral, in which a
large sarcophagus, surrounded and borne by angels, and surmounted by
a canopy of crimson damask, is dedicated to the memory of the saint.
The monument is of silver, and the worth of the metal alone is
estimated at 80,000 florins. The church itself is not spacious, but
is built in the noble Gothic style; the lesser altars, however, with
their innumerable gilded wooden figures, look by contrast extremely
puny. In the chapel are many sarcophagi, on which repose bishops
and knights hewn in stone, but so much damaged, that many are
without hands and feet, while some lack heads. To the right, at the
entrance of the church, is the celebrated chapel of St. Wenceslaus,
with its walls ornamented with frescoes, of which the colours and
designs are now almost obliterated. It is further enriched with
costly stones.

Not far from the cathedral is situated the palace of Count Czernin,
a building particularly favoured with windows, of which it has one
for every day in the year. I was there in an ordinary year, and saw
365; how they manage in leap-year I do not know. The view from the
belvedere of this palace well repays the observer. It takes in the
old and new town, the noble river with its two bridges (the ancient
venerable-looking stone structure, and the graceful suspension-
bridge, six hundred paces long), and the hills round about, clothed
with gardens, among which appear neat country-houses.

The streets of the "Kleinseite" are not particularly attractive,
being mostly tortuous, steep, and narrow. They contain, however,
several remarkable palaces, among which that of Wallenstein Duke of
Friedland stands pre-eminent. {8}

After visiting St. Nicholas' Church, remarkable for the height of
its spire and its beautifully arched cupola, I betook myself to
Wimmer's gardens, and thence to the "Bastei," a place of public
resort with the citizens of Prague.

I could now observe the devastation caused by the rising of the
water shortly before my arrival. The Moldau had overstepped its
banks in so turbulent a manner, as to carry along with it several
small houses, and even a little village not far from Prague, besides
damaging all the dwellings upon its banks. The water had indeed
already fallen, but the walls of the houses were soaked through and
through; the doors had been carried away, and from the broken
windows no faces looked out upon the passers-by. The water had
risen two feet more than in 1784, in which year the Moldau had also
attained an unusual height.

From the same tower of observation, I looked down upon the great
open space bought a few years ago, and intended to be occupied by
the termini of the Vienna and Dresden railroads. Although several
houses were only just being pulled down, and the foundations of but
few buildings were laid, I was assured that within six months every
thing would be completed.

I have still to mention a circumstance which struck me during my
morning peregrinations, namely, the curious method in which milk,
vegetables, and other provisions are here brought to town. I could
have fancied myself transported to Lapland or Greenland, on meeting
every where carts to which two, three, or four dogs were harnessed.
One pair of dogs will drag three hundredweight on level ground; but
when they encounter a hill, the driver must lend a helping hand.
These dogs are, besides, careful guardians; and I would not advise
any one to approach a car of this kind, as it stands before the inn-
door, while the proprietor is quenching his thirst within, on the
money he has just earned.

At five o'clock on the morning of the 15th of April I left Prague,
and rode for fourteen miles in the mail-carriage, as far as Obristwy
on the Elbe, at which place I embarked for Dresden, on board the
steamer Bohemia, of fifty-horse power, a miserable old craft,
apparently a stranger to beauty and comfort from her youth up. The
price charged for this short passage of eight or nine hours is
enormously dear. The travellers will, however, soon have their
revenge on the extortionate proprietors; a railroad is constructing,
by means of which this distance will be traversed in a much shorter
time, and at a great saving of expense.

But at any rate the journey by water is the more agreeable; the way
lies through very picturesque scenery, and at length through "Saxon
Switzerland" itself. The commencement of the journey is, however,
far from pleasing. On the right are naked hills, and on the left
large plains, over which, last spring, the swollen stream rolled,
partly covering the trees and the roofs of the cottages. Here I
could for the first time see the whole extent of the calamity. Many
houses had been completely torn down, and the crops, and even the
loose alluvial earth swept away; as we glided by each dreary scene
of devastation, another yet more dismal would appear in its place.

This continued till we reached Melnick, where the trees become
higher, and groups of houses peer forth from among the innumerable
vineyards. Opposite this little town the Moldau falls into the
Elbe. On the left, in the far distance, the traveller can descry
St. George's Mount, from which, as the story goes, Czech took
possession of all Bohemia.

Below the little town of Raudnitz the hills gave place to mountains,
and as many enthusiasts can only find those regions romantic where
the mountains are crowned with half-ruined castles and strongholds,
good old Time has taken care to plant there two fine ruins,
Hafenberg and Skalt, for the delectation of such sentimental

Near Leitmeritz, a small town with a handsome castle, and a church
and convent, the Eger flows into the Elbe, and a high-arched wooden
bridge connects the two banks. Here our poor sailors had difficult
work to lower the mast and the funnel.

The rather pretty village of Gross-Czernoseck is remarkable for its
gigantic cellars, hewn out of the rock. A post-carriage could
easily turn round in one of these. The vats are of course
proportioned to the cellars, particularly the barrels called the
"twelve apostles," each of which holds between three and four
thousand gallons. It would be no more than fair to stop here
awhile, to give every hero of the bottle an opportunity to enjoy a
sight of these palace-cellars, and to offer a libation to the twelve
apostles; but the steamer passed on, and we were obliged to make the
most of the descriptions furnished by those who were more at home in
these parts, and had no doubt frequently emerged in an inspired
state from the depths of the cellars in question.

The view now becomes more and more charming: the mountains appear
to draw closer together, and shut in the bed of the stream; romantic
groups of rocks, with summits crowned by rains yet more romantic,
tower between. The ancient but well-preserved castle of
Schreckenstein, built on a rock rising boldly out of the Elbe, is
particularly striking; the approaches to it are by serpentine walks
hewn out of the rock.

Near the small town of Aussig we find the most considerable coal-
mines in Bohemia. In their neighbourhood is situated the little
mountain estate Paschkal, which produces a kind of wine said to
resemble champagne.

The mountains now become higher and higher, but above them all
towers the gigantic Jungfernsprung (Maiden's Leap). The beauty of
this region is only surpassed by the situation of the town and
castle of Tetschen. The castle stands on a rock, between twenty and
thirty feet high, which seems to rise out of the Elbe; it is
surrounded by hot-houses and charming gardens, shelving downwards as
far as the town, which lies in a blooming valley, near a little
harbour. The valley itself, encompassed by a chain of lofty
mountains, seems quite shut out from the rest of the world.

The left bank of the river is here so crowded with masses and walls
of rock, that there is only room at intervals for an isolated farm
or hut. Suddenly the tops of masts appear between the high rocks, a
phenomenon which is soon explained; a large gap in one of the rocky
walls forms a beautiful basin.

And now we come to Schandau, a place consisting only of a few
houses; it is a frontier town of the Saxon dominions. Custom-house
officers, a race of beings ever associated with frontier towns, here
boarded our vessel, and rummaged every thing. My daguerreotype
apparatus, which I had locked up in a small box, was looked upon
with an eye of suspicion; but upon my assertion that it was
exclusively intended for my own use, I and my apparatus were
graciously dismissed.

In our onward journey we frequently observed rocks of peculiar
shapes, which have appropriate names, such as the "Zirkelstein,"
"Lilienstein," &c. The Konigstein is a collection of jagged masses
of rock, on which is built the fortress of the same name, used at
present as a prison for great criminals. At the foot of the rocks
lies the little town of Konigstein. Not far off, on the right bank,
a huge rock, resting on others, bears a striking resemblance to a
human head. The more distant groups of rocks are called those of
"Rathen," but are considered as belonging to Saxon Switzerland. The
"Basteien" (Bastions) of this Switzerland, close by which we now
pass, are most wonderful superpositions of lofty and fantastically
shaped rocks. Unfortunately, the steamer whirled us so rapidly on
our way, that whilst we contemplated one bank, the beauteous scenes
on the opposite side had already glided from our view. In much too
short a time we had passed the town of Pirna, situate at the
commencement of this range of mountains. The very ancient gate of
this town towers far above all the other buildings.

Lastly we see the great castle Sonnenstein, built on a rock, and now
used as an asylum for lunatics.

All the beautiful and picturesque portion of our passage is now
past, and the royal villa of Pillnitz, with its many Chinese gables,
looks insignificant enough, after the grand scenes of nature. A
chain of hills, covered with the country-houses of citizens, adjoins
it; and on the right extends a large plain, at the far end of which
we can dimly descry the Saxon metropolis. But what is that in the
distance? We have hardly time to arrange our luggage, when the
anchor is let go near the fine old Dresden Bridge.

This bridge had not escaped unscathed by the furious river. One of
the centre arches had given way, and the cross and watchbox which
surmounted it were precipitated into the flood. At first, carriages
still passed over the bridge; it was not until some time afterwards
that the full extent of the damage was ascertained, and the passage
of carriages over the bridge discontinued for many months.

As I had seen the town of Dresden several years before, and the only
building new to me was the splendid theatre, I took advantage of the
few evening hours of my stay to visit this structure.

Standing in the midst of the beautiful Cathedral-square, its noble
rotunda-like form at once rivets the attention. The inner theatre
is surrounded by a superb broad and lofty corridor, with fine bow-
windows and straight broad staircases, leading in different
directions towards the galleries. The interior of the theatre is
not so spacious as, judging from the exterior, one would imagine it
to be, but the architecture and decorations are truly gorgeous and
striking. The boxes are all open, being separated from each other
merely by a low partition; the walls and chairs are covered with
heavy silken draperies, and the seats of the third and fourth
galleries with a mixture of silk and cotton. One single
circumstance was disagreeable to me in an acoustic point of view--I
could hear the slightest whisper of the prompter as distinctly as
though some one had been behind me reading the play. The curtain
had scarcely fallen before the whole house was empty, and yet there
was no crowding to get out. This first drew my attention to the
numerous and excellently contrived doors.

April 16th.

The Dresden omnibuses may be cited as models of comfort; one is
certain of plenty of room, and there is no occasion to dread either
the corpulent persons or the furs and cloaks of fellow-passengers.
A bell-pull is fixed in the interior of the carriage, so that each
individual can give the coachman a signal when he or she wishes to
alight. These omnibuses call at the principal inns, and wait for a
moment; but the traveller who is not ready in advance is left

At half-past five in the morning it called at our hotel. I was
ready and waiting, and drove off comfortably to the railway. The
distance from Dresden to Leipzig is reckoned at fifty-six miles, and
the journey occupied three hours.

The first fourteen miles are very agreeable; gardens, fields, and
meadows, pine-forests in the plain and on the hills, and between
these, villages, farms, country-houses, and solitary chapels,
combine to form a very pretty landscape. But the scene soon
changes, and the town of Meissen (famous for its porcelain
manufactory), on the right hand, seems to shut out from our view all
that is picturesque and beautiful.

From here to Leipzig we travel through a wearisome monotonous plain,
enlivened at long intervals by villages and scattered farms. There
is nothing to see but a great tunnel, and the river Pleisse--the
latter, or rather the Elster, is rendered famous by the death of
Prince Poniatowski. {9}

The town of Leipzig, celebrated far and wide for its fairs, and more
for its immense publishing trade, presents an appearance of noise
and bustle proportionate to its commercial importance. I found
streets, squares, and inns alike crowded. {10}

Perhaps there does not exist a town with its houses, and
consequently its streets, so disfigured with announcements, in all
sizes and shapes, covering its walls, and sometimes projecting
several feet, as Leipzig.

Among the public buildings, those which pleased me most were the
Augusteum and the Burgerschule. The Bucherhalle (book-hall) I
should suppose indebted for its celebrity rather to its literary
contents than to its architectural beauty or its exterior. The hall
itself is indeed large, and occupies the whole length of the
building, while the lower story consists of several rooms. The
hall, the chambers, and the exterior are all plain, and without
particular decoration. The Tuchhalle (cloth-hall) is simply a large
house, with spacious chambers, containing supplies of cloth. The
Theatre stands on a very large square, and does not present a very
splendid appearance, whether viewed from within or from without.
The plan of having stalls in front of the boxes in the second and
third galleries was a novelty to me. The orchestra I could only
hear, but could not discover its whereabouts; most probably it was
posted behind the scenes. On inquiry, I was told that this was only
done on extraordinary occasions, when the seats in the orchestra
were converted into stalls, as was the case on the night of my
visit. The play given was "the original Tartuffe," a popular piece
by Gutzkow. It was capitally performed.

In the Leipzig theatre I had a second opportunity of observing, that
as regards the love of eating our good Saxons are not a whit behind
the much-censured Viennese. In the Dresden theatre I had admired a
couple of ladies who sat next me. They came provided with a neat
bag, containing a very sufficient supply of confectionery, to which
they perseveringly applied themselves between the acts. But at
Leipzig I found a delicate-looking mother and her son, a lad of
fifteen or sixteen years, regaling themselves with more solid
provisions--white bread and small sausages. I could not believe my
eyes, and had made up my mind that the sausages were artificially
formed out of some kind of confectionery--but alas! my nose came
forward but too soon, as a potent witness, to corroborate what I was
so unwilling to believe!

Neither did these two episodes take place in the loftiest regions of
Thalia's temple, but in the stalls of the second tier.

Beautiful alleys are planted round Leipzig. I took a walk into the
Rosenthal (Valley of Roses), which also consists of splendid avenues
and lawns. A pretty coffee-house, with a very handsome alcove,
built in a semicircular form, invites the weary traveller to rest
and refreshment, while a band of agreeable music diffuses mirth and
good humour around.

The rest of the scenery around Leipzig presents the appearance of a
vast and monotonous plain.

April 17th.

I had intended to continue my journey to Hamburgh via Berlin, but
the weather was so cold and stormy, and the rain poured down so
heavily, that I preferred the shorter way, and proceeded by rail to
Magdeburg. Flying through the dismal plain past Halle, Kothen, and
other towns, of which I could only discern groups of houses, we
hurriedly recognised the Saale and the Elbe; and towards 10 o'clock
in the morning arrived at Magdeburg, having travelled seventy miles
in three hours and a quarter.

As the steamer for Hamburgh was not to start until 3 o'clock, I had
ample time to look at the town.

Magdeburg is a mixed pattern of houses of ancient, mediaeval, and
modern dates. Particularly remarkable in this respect is the
principal street, the "Broadway," which runs through the whole of
the town. Here we can see houses dating their origin from the most
ancient times; houses that have stood proof against sieges and
sackings; houses of all colours and forms; some sporting peaked
gables, on which stone figures may still be seen; others covered
from roof to basement with arabesques; and in one instance I could
even detect the remains of frescoes. In the very midst of these
relics of antiquity would appear a house built in the newest style.
I do not remember ever having seen a street which produced so
remarkable an impression on me. The finest building is
unquestionably the venerable cathedral. In Italy I had already seen
numbers of the most beautiful churches; yet I remained standing in
mute admiration before this masterpiece of Gothic architecture.

The monument with the twelve Apostles in this church is a worthy
memorial of the celebrated sculptor Vischer. In order to view it,
it is necessary to obtain the special permission of the commandant.

The cathedral square is large, symmetrical, and decorated with two
alleys of trees; it is also used as a drilling-ground for the
soldiers' minor manoeuvres. I was particularly struck with the
number of military men to be seen here. Go where I would, I was
sure to meet soldiers and officers, frequently in large companies;
in time of war it could scarcely have been worse. This was an
unmistakeable token that I was on Prussian territory.

The open canals, which come from all the houses, and meander through
the streets, are a great disfigurement to the town.

Half-past three o'clock came only too quickly, and I betook myself
on board the steamer Magdeburg, of sixty-horse power, to proceed to
Hamburgh. Of the passage itself I can say nothing, except that a
journey on a river through execrable scenery is one of the most
miserable things that can well be imagined. When, in addition to
this, the weather is bad, the ship dirty, and one is obliged to pass
a night on board, the discomfort is increased. It was my lot to
endure all this: the weather was bad, the ship was dirty, the
distance more than 100 miles, so that we had the pleasant prospect
of a delightful night on board the ship. There were, moreover, so
many passengers, that we were forced to sit crowded together; so
there we sat with exemplary patience, stared at each other, and
sighed bitterly. Order was entirely out of the question; no one had
time to think of such a thing. Smoking and card-playing were
perseveringly carried on all day and all night; it can easily be
imagined that things did not go so quietly as at an English whist-
party. The incessant rain rendered it impossible to leave the cabin
even for a short time. The only consolation I had was, that I made
the acquaintance of the amiable composer Lorzing, a circumstance
which delighted me the more, as I had always been an admirer of his
beautiful original music.


Morning dawned at length, and in a short time afterwards we reached
the great commercial city, which, half destroyed by the dreadful
conflagration of 1842, had risen grander and more majestic from its
ashes. {11} I took up my quarters with a cousin, who is married to
the Wurtemburg consul, the merchant Schmidt, in whose house I spent
a most agreeable and happy week. My cousin-in-law was polite enough
to escort me every where himself, and to shew me the lions of

First of all we visited the Exchange between the hours of one and
two, when it is at the fullest, and therefore best calculated to
impress a stranger with an idea of the extent and importance of the
business transacted there. The building contains a hall of great
size, with arcades and galleries, besides many large rooms, which
are partly used for consultations, partly for the sale of
refreshments. The most interesting thing of all is, however, to sit
in the gallery, and looking downwards, to observe the continually
increasing crowd passing and repassing each other in the immense
hall and through the galleries and chambers, and to listen to the
hubbub and noise of the thousands of eager voices talking at once.
At half-past one o'clock the hall is at its fullest, and the noise
becomes absolutely deafening; for now they are marking up the rates
of exchange, by which the merchants regulate their monetary

Leaving the Exchange, we bent our steps towards the great harbour,
and entering a small boat, cruised in and about it in all
directions. I had resolved to count only the three-masted ships;
but soon gave it up, for their number seemed overwhelming, even
without reckoning the splendid steamers, brigs, sloops, and craft.
In short, I could only gaze and wonder, for at least 900 ships lay
before me.

Let any one fancy an excursion amidst 900 ships, great and small,
which lined both shores of the Elbe in tiers of three deep or more;
the passing to and fro of countless boats busily employed in loading
or unloading these vessels; these things, together with the shouting
and singing of the sailors, the rattling of anchors which are being
weighed, and the rush and swell of passing steamers, combine to
constitute a picture not to be surpassed in any city except in that
metropolis of the world, London. {12}

The reason of this unusual activity in the harbour lay in the
severity of the past winter. Such a winter had not been experienced
for seventy years: the Elbe and the Baltic lay for months in icy
chains, and not a ship could traverse the frozen river, not an
anchor could be weighed or lowered. It was only a short time before
my arrival that the passage had once more become free.

In the neighbourhood of the harbour are situated the greater number
of the so-called "yards." I had read concerning them that, viewed
from the exterior, they look like common houses; but that they
constitute separate communities, and contain alleys and streets,
serving as the domicile of innumerable families. I visited several
of these places, and can assure the reader that I saw nothing
extraordinary in them. Houses with two large wings, forming an
alley of from eighty to a hundred paces in length, are to be met
with in every large town; and that a number of families should
inhabit such a house is not remarkable, considering that they are
all poor, and that each only possesses a single small apartment.

The favourite walk in the town is the "Jungfernstieg" (Maiden's
Walk), a broad alley, extending round a spacious and beautiful basin
of the Alster. On one side are splendid hotels, with which Hamburgh
is richly provided; on the other, a number of private residences of
equal pretensions. Other walks are, the "Wall," surrounding the
town, and the "Botanical Garden," which resembles a fine park. The
noblest building, distinguished alike as regards luxury, skill,
tastefulness of design, and stability, is the Bazaar. It is truly a
gigantic undertaking, and the more to be admired from the fact that
it is not built upon shares, but at the expense of a single
individual, Herr Carl Sillem; the architect's name is Overdick. The
building itself is constructed entirely of stone, and the walls of
the great room and of the hall are inlaid with marble. A lofty
cupola and an immense glazed dome cover both the great room and the
hall; the upper staircases are ornamented with beautiful statues.
When in the evening it is brilliantly lighted with gas, and further
ornamented by a tasteful display of the richest wares, the spectator
can almost fancy himself transported to a fairy palace.

Altogether the shops in Hamburgh are very luxurious. The wares lie
displayed in the most tasteful manner behind huge windows of plate-
glass, which are often from five to six feet broad, and eight or ten
feet high; a single sheet frequently costs 600 florins. This plate-
glass luxury is not confined to shops, but extends to windows
generally, not only in Hamburgh, but also in Altona, and is also
seen in the handsomest country-houses of the Hamburghers. Many a
pane costs eight or ten florins; and the glass is insured in case of
breakage, like houses in case of fire.

This display of glass is equalled by the costliness of the
furniture, which is almost universally of mahogany; a wood which is
here in such common use, that in some of the most elegant houses the
very stair-banisters are constructed of it. Even the pilots have
often mahogany furniture.

The handsomest and most frequented street is the "Neue Wall" (New
Wall). I was particularly struck with the number of shops and
dwellings underground, to which one descends by a flight of six or
eight stairs; an iron railing is generally placed before the
entrance, to prevent the passers-by from falling down.

A very practical institution is the great slaughterhouse, in which
all cattle are killed on certain days of the week.

Concerning the town of Altona, I have only to observe that it
appeared to me a continuation of Hamburgh; from which town, indeed,
it is only separated by a wooden door. A very broad, handsome
street, or, more properly speaking, an elongated square, planted
with a double row of large trees, is the most remarkable thing about
Altona, which belongs to the Danish Government, and is considered,
after Copenhagen, the most important place in the kingdom.

It is a delicious ride to the village of Blankenese, distant nine
miles from Hamburgh; the road lies among beautiful country-houses
and large park-like gardens. Blankenese itself consists of
cottages, grouped in a picturesque manner round the Sulberg, a hill
from which the traveller enjoys a very extended view over the great
plain, in which it is the only elevated point. The course of the
Elbe, as it winds at moderate speed towards the sea, is here to be
traced almost to its embouchure at Cuxhaven.

The breadth of the Elbe at Blankenese exceeds two miles.

Another interesting excursion is to the "New Mills," a little
village on the Elbe, not more than half a mile from Altona, and
inhabited only by fishermen and pilots. Whoever wishes to form an
idea of Dutch prettiness and cleanliness should come here.

The houses are mostly one story high, neatly and tastefully built;
the brightest of brass handles adorn the street-doors; the windows
are kept scrupulously clean, and furnished with white curtains.

In Saxony I had found many dwellings of the peasantry tidy and neat
enough, displaying at any rate more opulence than we are accustomed
to find with this class of people; but I had seen none to compete
with this pretty village.

Among the peasants' costumes, I only liked that worn by the women
from the "Vierlanden." They wear short full skirts of black stuff,
fine white chemisettes with long sleeves, and coloured bodices,
lightly fastened in front with silk cords or silver buckles. Their
straw hats have a most comical appearance; the brim of the hat is
turned up in such a manner that the crown appears to have completely
sunk in. Many pretty young girls dressed in this manner come to
Hamburgh to sell flowers, and take up their position in front of the

The 26th of April, the day appointed for my departure, arrived only
too speedily. To part is the unavoidable fate of the traveller; but
sometimes we part gladly, sometimes with regret. I need not write
many pages to describe my feelings at the parting in Hamburgh. I
was leaving behind me my last relations, my last friends. Now I was
going into the wide world, and among strangers.

At eight o'clock in the morning I left Altona, and proceeded by
railway to Kiel.

I noticed with pleasure that on this railway even the third-class
carriages were securely covered in, and furnished with glass
windows. In fact, they only differed from those of the first and
second class in being painted a different colour, and having the
seats uncushioned.

The whole distance of seventy miles was passed in three hours; a
rapid journey, but agreeable merely by its rapidity, for the whole
neighbourhood presents only widely-extended plains, turf-bogs and
moorlands, sandy places and heaths, interspersed with a little
meadow or arable land. From the nature of the soil, the water in
the ditches and fields looked black as ink.

Near Binneburg we notice a few stunted plantations of trees. From
Eisholm a branch-line leads to Gluckstadt, and another from
Neumunster, a large place with important cloth-factories, to

From here there is nothing to be seen but a convent, in which many
Dukes of Holstein lie buried, and several unimportant lakes; for
instance, those of Bernsholm, Einfeld, and Schulhof. The little
river Eider would have passed unnoticed by me, had not some of my
fellow-passengers made a great feature of it. In the finest
countries I have found the natives far less enthusiastic about what
was really grand and beautiful, than they were here in praise of
what was neither the one nor the other. My neighbour, a very
agreeable lady, was untiring in laudation of her beautiful native
land. In her eyes the crippled wood was a splendid park, the waste
moorland an inexhaustible field for contemplation, and every trifle
a matter of real importance. In my heart I wished her joy of her
fervid imagination; but unfortunately my colder nature would not
catch the infection.

Towards Kiel the plain becomes a region of low hills. Kiel itself
is prettily situated on the Baltic, which, viewed from thence, has
the appearance of a lake of middling size. The harbour is said to
be good; but there were not many ships there. {13} Among these was
the steamer destined to carry me to Copenhagen. Little did I
anticipate the good reason I should have to remember this vessel.

Thanks to the affectionate forethought of my cousin Schmidt, I found
one of his relations, Herr Brauer, waiting for me at the railway. I
was immediately introduced to his family, and passed the few hours
of my stay very agreeably in their company.

Evening approached, and with it the hour of embarkation. My kind
friends the Brauers accompanied me to the steamer, and I took a
grateful leave of them.

I soon discovered the steamer Christian VIII., of 180-horse power,
to be a vessel dirtier and more uncomfortable than any with which I
had become acquainted in my maritime excursions. Scrubbing and
sweeping seemed things unknown here. The approach to the cabin was
by a flight of stairs so steep, that great care was requisite to
avoid descending in an expeditious but disagreeable manner, by a
fall from top to bottom. In the fore-cabin there was no attempt at
separate quarters for ladies and gentlemen. In short, the
arrangements seemed all to have been made with a view of impressing
the ship vividly on the recollection of every traveller.

At nine o'clock we left Kiel. The day and the twilight are here
already longer than in the lands lying to the south and the west.
There was light enough to enable me to see, looming out of the
surrounding darkness, the fortress "Friedrichsort," which we passed
at about ten o'clock.

April 27th.

To-day I still rose with the sun; but that will soon be a difficult
matter to accomplish; for in the north the goddess of light makes
amends in spring and summer for her shortcomings during the winter.
I went on deck, and looked on the broad expanse of ocean. No land
was to be seen; but soon a coast appeared, then disappeared, and
then a new and more distant one rose out of the sea. Towards noon
we reached the island of Moen, which lies about forty {14} miles
distant from Copenhagen. It forms a beautiful group of rocks,
rising boldly from the sea. They are white as chalk, and have a
smooth and shining appearance. The highest of these walls of rock
towers 400 feet above the level of the surrounding ocean. Soon we
saw the coast of Sweden, then the island of Malmo; and at last
Copenhagen itself, where we landed at four o'clock in the afternoon.
The distance from Kiel to Copenhagen is 136 sea-miles.

I remained seven days at Copenhagen, and should have had ample time
to see every thing, had the weather been more favourable. But it
blew and rained so violently, that I was obliged to give up all
thoughts of visiting the surrounding parks, and was fain to content
myself with seeing a few of the nearest walks, which I accomplished
with some difficulty.

The first street in Copenhagen which I traversed on coming from the
harbour generally produces a great impression. It is called the
"Broad Street," and leads from the harbour through the greater part
of the town. In addition to its breadth it is very long and
regular, and the splendid palaces and houses on either side give it
a remarkably grand appearance.

It is a peculiar sight, when, in the midst of this fine quarter, we
come suddenly upon a ruin, a giant building resting on huge pillars,
but half completed, and partly covered with moss and lichens. It
was intended for a splendid church, and is built entirely of marble;
but the soft ground would not bear the immense weight. The half-
finished building began to sink, and the completion of the
undertaking became for ever impossible.

Many other streets rival the "Broad Street" in size and
magnificence. Foremost among them comes the Amalienstrasse. The
most bustling, but by far not the finest, are the Oster and
Gotherstrasse. To walk in these is at first quite a difficult
undertaking for a stranger. On one side of the pavement, which is
raised about a foot above the carriage-way, he comes continually in
contact with stairs, leading sometimes to warehouses above, at
others to subterranean warehouses below the level of the street.
The approaches to the latter are not guarded by railings as in
Hamburgh. The other side of the pavement is bounded by a little
unostentatious rivulet, called by unpoetical people "canal," into
which tributaries equally sweet pour from all the neighbouring
houses. It is therefore necessary to take great care, lest you
should fall into the traitorous depths on the one side, or stumble
over the projecting steps on the other. The pavement itself is
covered with a row of stone slabs, a foot and a half wide, on which
one walks comfortably enough. But then every body contends for the
possession of these, to avoid the uneven and pointed stones at the
side. This, added to the dreadful crowding, renders the street one
which would scarcely be chosen for a walk, the less so as the shops
do not contain any thing handsome, the houses are neither palace-
like nor even tastefully built, and the street itself is neither of
the broadest nor of the cleanest.

The squares are all large and regularly built. The finest is the
Kongensnytorf (King's New Market). Some fine mansions, the chief
guard-house, the theatre, the chief coffee-houses and inns, the
academy of the fine arts, and the building belonging to the
botanical garden, the two last commonly known by the name of
"Charlottenburg," are among the ornaments of this magnificent
square, in the midst of which stands a beautiful monument,
representing Christian V. on horseback, and surrounded by several

Smaller, but more beautiful in its perfect symmetry, is the
"Amalienplatz," containing four royal palaces, built exactly alike,
and intersected by four broad streets in the form of a cross. This
square also is decorated by a monument standing in the midst, and
representing Frederick V. In another fine square, the "Nytorf" (New
Market), there is a fountain. Its little statue sends forth very
meagre jets of water, and the fountain is merely noticeable as being
the only one I could find at Copenhagen.

The traveller can hardly fail of being surprised by the number and
magnificence of the palaces, at sight of which he could fancy
himself in the metropolis of one of the largest kingdoms. The
"Christianensburg" is truly imperial; it was completely destroyed by
fire in the year 1794, but has since been rebuilt with increased
splendour. The chapel of this palace is very remarkable. The
interior has the appearance rather of a concert-room than of a
building devoted to purposes of worship. Tastefully decorated
boxes, among which we notice that of the king, together with
galleries, occupy the upper part of the chapel; the lower is filled
with benches covered with red velvet and silk. The pulpit and altar
are so entirely without decoration, that, on first entering, they
wholly escape notice.

In the "Christianensburg" is also the "Northern Museum," peculiarly
rich in specimens of the ornaments, weapons, musical instruments,
and other mementoes of northern nations.

The Winter Riding-school, in which concerts are frequently given, is
large and symmetrical. I admired the stalls, and yet more the grey
horses which occupied them--descendants of the pure Arabian and wild
Norwegian breeds--creatures with long manes and tails of fine silky
hair. Every one who sees these horses, whether he be a connoisseur
or one of the uninitiated, must admire them.

Adjoining the "Christianensburg" is Thorwaldsen's Museum, a square
building with fine saloons, lighted from above. When I saw it, it
was not completed; the walls were being painted in fresco by some of
the first native artists. The sculptured treasures were there, but
unfortunately yet unpacked.

In the midst of the courtyard Thorwaldsen's mausoleum is being
erected. There his ashes will rest, with his exquisitely finished
lion as a gravestone above them. {15}

The largest among the churches is the "Woman's Church." The
building has no architectural beauty; the pillars, galleries, and
cupola are all of wood, covered with a mixture of sand and plaster.
But whatever may be wanting in outward splendour is compensated by
its contents, for this church contains the masterpieces of
Thorwaldsen. At the high altar stands his glorious figure of our
Saviour, in the niches of the wall his colossal twelve apostles.

In the contemplation of these works we forget the plainness of the
building which contains them. May the fates be prosperous, and no
conflagration reach this church, built as it is half of wood!

The Catholic Church is small, but tasteful beyond expression. The
late emperor of Austria presented to it a good full-toned organ, and
two oil-paintings, one by Kuppelweiser, the other by a pupil of this

In the "Museum of Arts" I was most interested in the ancient chair,
used in days of yore by Tycho de Brahe. {16}

The Exchange is a curious ancient building. It is very long and
narrow, and surmounted by nine peaks, from the centre of which
protrudes a remarkable pointed tower, formed of four crocodiles'
tails intertwined.

The hall itself is small, low, and dark; it contains a full-length
portrait in oil of Tycho de Brahe. Nearly all the upper part of the
building is converted into a kind of bazaar, and the lower portion
contains a number of small and dingy booths.

Several canals, having an outlet into the sea, give a peculiar charm
to the town. They are, in fact, so many markets; for the craft
lying in them are laden with provisions of all kinds, which are here
offered for sale.

The Sailors' Town, adjoining Copenhagen, and situated near the
harbour, is singularly neat and pretty. It consists of three long,
broad, straight streets, built of houses looking so exactly alike,
that on a foggy night an accurate knowledge of the locality is
requisite to know one from the other. It looks as though, on each
side of the way, there were only one long house of a single floor,
with a building one story high in the middle. In the latter dwell
the commandant and overseers.

The lighting of the streets is managed in Copenhagen in the same way
as in our smaller German towns. When "moonlight" is announced in
the calendar, not a lamp is lighted. If the lady moon chooses to
hide behind dark clouds, that is her fault. It would be insolent to
attempt to supply the place of her radiance with miserable lamps--a
wise arrangement! (?)

Of the near walks, the garden of the "Rosenburg," within the town,
pleased me much; as did also the "Long Line," an alley of beautiful
trees extending parallel with the sea, and in which one can either
walk or ride. A coffee-house, in front of which there is music in
fine weather, attracts many of the loungers. The most beautiful
place of all is the "Kastell," above the "Long Line," from whence
one can enjoy a beautiful view. The town lies displayed below in
all its magnificence: the harbour, with its many ships; the
sparkling blue Sound, which spreads its broad expanse between the
coasts of Denmark and Sweden, and washes many a beautiful group of
islands belonging to one or the other of these countries. The
background of the picture alone is uninteresting, as there is no
chain of mountains to form a horizon, and the eye wanders over the
boundless flats of Denmark.

Among the vessels lying at anchor in the harbour I saw but few
three-masters, and still fewer steamers. The ships of the fleet
presented a curious appearance; at the first view they look like
great houses with flag-staves, for every ship is provided with a
roof, out of which the masts rise into the air; they are besides
very high out of the water, so that all the port-holes and the
windows of the cabins appear in two or three stories, one above the

A somewhat more distant excursion, which can be very conveniently
made in a capital omnibus, takes you to the royal chateau
"Friedrichsberg," lying before the water-gate, two miles distant
from the town. Splendid avenues lead to this place, where are to be
found all the delights that can combine to draw a citizen into the
country. There are a tivoli, a railway, cabinets, and booths with
wax-figures, and countless other sights, besides coffee-houses,
beer-rooms, and music. The gardens are planted at the sides with a
number of small arbours, each containing a table and chairs, and
all open in front, so as to shew at one view all the visitors of
these pretty natural huts. On Sundays, when the gardens are
crowded, this is a very animated sight.

On the way to this "Prater" of Copenhagen, we pass many handsome
villas, each standing in a fine garden.

The royal palace is situated on the summit of a hill, at the end of
the avenue, and is surrounded by a beautiful park; it commands a
view of a great portion of the town, with the surrounding country
and the sea; still I far prefer the prospect from the "Kastell."
The Park contains a considerable island, which, during some part of
the year, stands in the midst of an extensive lake. This island is
appropriated to the Court, but the rest of the park is open to the

Immediately outside the water-gate stands an obelisk, remarkable
neither for its beauty nor for the skill displayed in its erection,
for it consists of various stones, and is not high, but interesting
from the circumstance to which it owes its origin. It was erected
by his grateful subjects in memory of the late king Christian VII.,
to commemorate the abolition of feudal service. Surely no feeling
person can contemplate without joyful emotion a monument like this.

I have here given a faithful account of what I saw during my short
stay at Copenhagen. It only remains for me to describe a few
peculiar customs of the people, and so I will begin as it were at
the end, with the burial of the dead. In Denmark, as in fact in the
whole of Scandinavia, not excepting Iceland, it is customary not to
bury the dead until eight or ten days have elapsed. In winter-time
this is not of so much consequence, but in summer it is far from
healthy for those under the same roof with the corpse. I was
present at Copenhagen at the funeral of Dr. Brandis, physician to
the king. Two of the king's carriages and a number of private
equipages attended. Nearly all these were empty, and the servants
walked beside them. Among the mourners I did not notice a single
woman; I supposed that this was only the case at the funerals of
gentlemen, but on inquiry I found that the same rule is observed at
the burial of women. This consideration for the weaker sex is
carried so far, that on the day of the funeral no woman may be seen
in the house of mourning. The mourners assemble in the house of the
deceased, and partake of cold refreshments. At the conclusion of
the ceremony they are again regaled. What particularly pleased me
in Copenhagen was, that I never on any occasion saw beggars, or even
such miserably clad people as are found only too frequently in our
great cities. Here there are no doubt poor people, as there are
such every where else in the world, but one does not see them beg.
I cannot help mentioning an arrangement which certainly deserves to
be universally carried out;--I mean, the setting apart of many large
houses, partly belonging to the royal family, partly to rich private
people or to companies, for the reception of poor people, who are
here lodged at a much cheaper rate than is possible in ordinary

The costumes of the peasants did not particularly please me. The
women wear dresses of green or black woollen stuff, reaching to the
ankle, and trimmed at the skirt with broad coloured woollen borders.
The seams of the spenser, and the arm-holes, are also trimmed with
smaller coloured borders. On their heads they wear a handkerchief,
and over this a kind of shade, like a bonnet. On Sundays I saw many
of them in small, pretty caps, worked with silk, with a border of
lace of more than a hand's breadth, plaited very stiffly; at the
back they have large bows of fine riband, the ends of which reach
half down to their feet. I found nothing very remarkable in the
dress of the peasants. As far as strength and beauty were
concerned, I thought these peasants were neither more nor less
gifted than those of Austria. As regards the beauty of the fair
sex, I should certainly give the preference to the Austrians. Fair
hair and blue eyes predominate.

I saw but few soldiers; their uniforms, particularly those worn by
the king's life-guards, are very handsome.

I especially noticed the drummers; they were all little lads of ten
or twelve years old. One could almost have exclaimed, "Drum,
whither art thou carrying that boy?" To march, and to join in
fatiguing manoeuvres, carrying such a drum, and beating it bravely
at the same time, is rather cruel work for such young lads. Many a
ruined constitution may be ascribed to this custom.

During my stay in Copenhagen I spent many very delightful hours with
Professor Mariboe and his amiable family, and with the kind
clergyman of the embassy, Herr Zimmermann. They received me with
true politeness and hospitality, and drew me into their circle,
where I soon felt myself quite at ease. I shall never forget their
friendship, and shall make use of every opportunity to shew them my
appreciation of it. Herr Edouard Gottschalk and Herr Knudson have
also my best thanks. I applied to the first of these gentlemen to
procure me a passage to Iceland, and he was kind enough to use his
interest with Herr Knudson on my behalf.

Herr Knudson is one of the first general dealers in Copenhagen, and
carries on a larger and more extended commerce with Iceland than any
other house trading thither. He is already beginning to retire, as
the continual journeys are becoming irksome to him; but he still
owns a number of great and small vessels, which are partly employed
in the fisheries, and partly in bringing all kinds of articles of
consumption and luxury to the different harbours of Iceland.

He himself goes in one of his ships every year, and stays a few
months in Iceland to settle his affairs there. On the
recommendation of Herr Gottschalk, Herr Knudson was kind enough to
give me a passage in the ship in which he made the journey himself;
a favour which I knew how to value. It is certainly no small
kindness to take a lady passenger on such a journey. Herr Knudson
knew neither my fortitude nor my perseverance; he did not know
whether I should be able to endure the hardships of a journey to the
north, whether I would bear sea-sickness philosophically, or even if
I had courage enough, in case of storms or bad weather, to abstain
from annoying the captain by my fears or complaints at a time when
he would only have too much to harass him. The kind man allowed no
such considerations to influence him. He believed me when I
promised to behave courageously come what might, and took me with
him. Indeed his kindness went so far that it is to him I owe every
comfort I enjoyed in Iceland, and every assistance in furthering the
attainment of my journey's object. I could certainly not have
commenced a voyage under better auspices.

All ships visiting Iceland leave Copenhagen at the end of April, or
at the latest in the middle of May. After this time only one ship
is despatched, to carry the mails of the Danish government. This
vessel leaves Copenhagen in October, remains in Iceland during the
winter months, and returns in March. The gain or loss of this
expedition is distributed in shares among the merchants of

Besides this, a French frigate comes to Iceland every spring, and
cruises among the different harbours until the middle of August.
She superintends the fishing vessels, which, attracted by the large
profits of the fisheries, visit these seas in great numbers during
the summer. {17}

Opportunities of returning from Iceland occur during the summer
until the end of September, by means of the merchant-ships, which
carry freights from the island to Denmark, England, and Spain.

At length, on Sunday the 4th of May, a favourable wind sprung up.
Herr Knudson sent me word to be ready to embark at noon on board the
fine brig John.

I immediately proceeded on board. The anchor was weighed, and the
sails, unfolding themselves like giant wings, wafted us gently out
of the harbour of Copenhagen. No parting from children, relations,
or old-cherished friends embittered this hour. With a glad heart I
bade adieu to the city, in the joyful hope soon to see the
fulfilment of my long-expected journey.

The bright sky smiled above us, and a most favourable wind filled
our sails. I sat on deck and revelled in the contemplation of
scenes so new to me. Behind us lay spread the majestic town; before
us the Sound, an immense natural basin, which I could almost compare
to a great Swiss lake; on the right and left were the coasts of
Sweden and Denmark, which here approach each other so closely that
they seem to oppose a barrier to the further progress of the
adventurous voyager.

Soon we passed the little Swedish town of Carlscrona, and the
desolate island Hveen, on which Tycho de Brahe passed the greater
portion of his life, occupied with stellar observations and
calculations. Now came a somewhat dangerous part, and one which
called into action all the careful seamanship of the captain to
bring us safely through the confined sea and the strong current,--
the entrance of the Sound into the Cattegat.

The two coasts here approach to within a mile of each other. On the
Swedish side lies the pretty little town of Helsingborg, on the
Danish side that of Helsingor, and at the extremity of a projecting
neck of land the fortress Kronburg, which demands a toll of every
passing ship, and shews a large row of threatening cannon in case of
non-compliance. Our toll had already been paid before leaving
Copenhagen; we had been accurately signalled, and sailed fearlessly
by. {18}

The entrance once passed, we entered the Cattegat, which already
looked more like the great ocean: the coasts retired on each side,
and most of the shifts and barques, which till now had hovered
around us on all sides, bade us "farewell." Some bent their course
towards the east, others towards the west; and we alone, on the
broad desert ocean, set sail for the icy north. Twilight did not
set in until 9 o'clock at night; and on the coasts the flaming
beacons flashed up, to warn the benighted mariner of the proximity
of dangerous rocks.

I now offered up my thanksgiving to Heaven for the protection
hitherto vouchsafed me, with a humble prayer for its continuance.
Then I descended to the cabin, where I found a convenient bunk (a
kind of crib fixed to the side of the ship); I laid myself down, and
was soon in a deep and refreshing sleep.

I awoke full of health and spirits, which, however, I enjoyed but
for a short time. During the night we had left behind us the
"Cattegat" and the "Skagerrack," and were driving through the stormy
German Ocean. A high wind, which increased almost to a gale,
tumbled our poor ship about in such a manner, that none but a good
dancer could hope to maintain an upright position. I had
unfortunately been from my youth no votary of Terpsichore, and what
was I to do? The naiads of this stormy region seized me, and
bandied me to and fro, until they threw me into the arms of what
was, according to my experience, if not exactly after Schiller's
interpretation, "the horrible of horrors,"--sea-sickness. At first
I took little heed of this, thinking that sea-sickness would soon be
overcome by a traveller like myself, who should be inured to every
thing. But in vain did I bear up; I became worse and worse, till I
was at length obliged to remain in my berth with but one consoling
thought, namely, that we were to-day on the open sea, where there
was nothing worthy of notice. But the following day the Norwegian
coast was in sight, and at all hazards I must see it; so I crawled
on deck more dead than alive, looked at a row of mountains of
moderate elevation, their tops at this early season still sparkling
with their snowy covering, and then hurried back, benumbed by the
piercing icy wind, to my good warm feather-bed. Those who have
never experienced it can have no conception of the biting,
penetrating coldness of a gale of wind in the northern seas. The
sun shone high in the heavens; the thermometer (I always calculate
according to Reaumur) stood 3 degrees above zero; I was dressed much
more warmly than I should have thought necessary when, in my
fatherland, the thermometer was 8 degrees or 10 degrees BELOW zero,
and yet I felt chilled to the heart, and could have fancied that I
had no clothes on at all.

On the fourth night we sailed safely past the Shetland Islands; and
on the evening of the fifth day we passed so near the majestic rocky
group of the Feroe Islands, that we were at one time apprehensive of
being cast upon the rocks by the unceasing gale. {19}

Already on the seventh day we descried the coast of Iceland. Our
passage had been unprecedentedly quick; the sailors declared that a
favourable gale was to be preferred even to steam, and that on our
present voyage we should certainly have left every steamer in our
wake. But I, wretched being that I was, would gladly have dispensed
with the services both of gale and steam for the sake of a few
hours' rest. My illness increased so much, that on the seventh day
I thought I must succumb. My limbs were bathed in a cold
perspiration; I was as weak as an infant, and my mouth felt parched
and dry. I saw that I must now either make a great effort or give
up entirely; so I roused myself, and with the assistance of the
cabin-boy gained a seat, and promised to take any and every remedy
which should be recommended. They gave me hot-water gruel with wine
and sugar; but it was not enough to be obliged to force this down, I
was further compelled to swallow small pieces of raw bacon highly
peppered, and even a mouthful of rum. I need not say what strong
determination was required to make me submit to such a regimen. I
had, however, but one choice, either to conquer my repugnance or
give myself up a victim to sea-sickness; so with all patience and
resignation I received the proffered gifts, and found, after a trial
of many hours, that I could manage to retain a small dose. This
physicking was continued for two long, long days, and then I began
slowly to recover.

I have here circumstantially described both my illness and its cure,
because so many people are unfortunately victims to the complaint,
and when under its influence cannot summon resolution to take
sustenance. I should advise all my friends not to hold out so long
as I did, but to take food at once, and continue to do so until the
system will receive it.

As I was now convalescent, I tried to recruit my wearied mind by a
diligent study of the mode of life and customs of the mariners of
the northern seas.

Our ship's company consisted of Herr Knudson, Herr Bruge (a merchant
whom we were to land at the Westmann Islands), the captain, the
mate, and six or seven sailors. Our mode of life in the cabin was
as follows: in the morning, at seven o'clock, we took coffee, but
whence this coffee came, heaven knows! I drank it for eleven days,
and could never discover any thing which might serve as a clue in my
attempt to discover the country of its growth. At ten o'clock we
had a meal consisting of bread and butter and cheese, with cold beef
or pork, all excellent dishes for those in health; the second course
of this morning meal was "tea-water." In Scandinavia, by the way,
they never say, "I drink TEA," the word "water" is always added: "I
drink TEA-WATER." Our "tea-water" was, if possible, worse than its
predecessor, the incomparable coffee. Thus I was beaten at all
points; the eatables were too strong for me, the drinkables too--
too--I can find no appropriate epithet--probably too artificial. I
consoled myself with the prospect of dinner; but, alas, too soon
this sweet vision faded into thin air! On the sixth day I made my
first appearance at the covered table, and could not help at once
remarking the cloth which had been spread over it. At the
commencement of our journey it might perhaps have been white; now it
was most certainly no longer of that snowy hue. The continual
pitching and rolling of the ship had caused each dish to set its
peculiar stamp upon the cloth. A sort of wooden network was now
laid upon it, in the interstices of which the plates and glasses
were set, and thus secured from falling. But before placing it on
the table, our worthy cabin-boy took each plate and glass
separately, and polished it on a towel which hung near, and in
colour certainly rather resembling the dingy floor of the cabin than
the bight-hued rainbow. This could still have been endured, but the
article in question really did duty AS A TOWEL in the morning,
before extending its salutary influence over plates and glasses for
the remainder of the day.

On making discoveries such as these, I would merely turn away my
eyes, and try to think that perhaps MY GLASS and MY PLATE would be
more delicately manipulated, or probably escape altogether; and then
I would turn my whole attention to the expected dishes.

First came soup; but instead of gravy-soup, it was water-soup, with
rice and dried plums. This, when mingled with red wine and sugar,
formed a most exquisite dish for Danish appetites, but it certainly
did not suit mine. The second and concluding course consisted of a
large piece of beef, with which I had no fault to find, except that
it was too heavy for one in my weak state of health. At supper we
had the same dishes as at dinner, and each meal was followed by
"tea-water." At first I could not fancy this bill of fare at all;
but within a few days after my convalesence, I had accustomed myself
to it, and could bear the sea-diet very well. {20}

As the rich owner of the vessel was on board, there was no lack of
the best wines, and few evenings passed on which a bowl of punch was
not emptied. There was, however, a reason found why every bottle of
wine or bowl of punch should be drunk: for instance, at our
embarkation, to drink the health of the friends we were leaving, and
to hope for a quick and prosperous voyage; then, when the wind was
favourable, its health was drunk, with the request that it would
remain so; when it was contrary, with the request that it would
change; when we saw land, we saluted it with a glass of wine, or
perhaps with several, but I was too ill to count; when we lost sight
of it, we drank a farewell glass to its health: so that every day
brought with it three or four distinct and separate occasions for
drinking wine. {21}

The sailors drank tea-water without sugar every morning and evening,
with the addition of a glass of brandy; for dinner they had pease,
beans, barley, or potatoes, with salted cod, bacon, "or junk;" good
sea-biscuit they could get whenever they chose.

The diet is not the worst part of these poor people's hardships.
Their life may be called a continual fight against the elements; for
it is precisely during the most dreadful storms, with rain and
piercing cold, that they have to be continually upon deck. I could
not sufficiently admire the coolness, or rather the cheerfulness and
alacrity with which they fulfilled their onerous duties. And what
reward have they? Scanty pay, for food the diet I have just
described, and for their sleeping-place the smallest and most
inconvenient part of the ship, a dark place frequently infested with
vermin, and smelling offensively from being likewise used as a
receptacle for oil-colours, varnish, tar, salt-fish, &c. &c.

To be cheerful in the midst of all this requires a very quiet and
contented mind. That the Danish sailors are contented, I had many
opportunities of observing during the voyage of which I am speaking,
and on several other occasions.

But after all this long description, it is high time that I should
return to the journey itself.

The favourable gale which had thus wafted us to the coast of Iceland
within seven days, now unfortunately changed its direction, and
drove us back. We drifted about in the storm-tost ocean, and many a
Spanish wave {22} broke completely over our ship. Twice we
attempted to approach the Westmann Islands {23} (a group belonging
to Iceland) to watch an opportunity of casting anchor, and setting
ashore our fellow-traveller Herr Bruge; but it was in vain, we were
driven back each time. At length, at the close of the eleventh day,
we reached Havenfiord, a very good harbour, distant nine miles from
Reikjavik, the capital of Iceland.

In spite of the very inopportune change in the direction of the
wind, we had had an unprecedentedly quick passage. The distance
from Copenhagen to Iceland, in a straight line, is reckoned at 1200
geographical miles; for a sailing vessel, which must tack now and
then, and must go as much with the wind as possible, 1500 to 1600
miles. Had the strong wind, which was at first so favourable,
instead of changing on the seventh day, held on for thirty or forty
hours longer, we should have landed in Iceland on the eighth or
ninth day--even the steamer could not have accomplished the passage
so quickly.

The shores of Iceland appeared to me quite different from what I had
supposed them to be from the descriptions I had read. I had fancied
them naked, without tree or shrub, dreary and desert; but now I saw
green hills, shrubs, and even what appeared to be groups of stunted
trees. As we came nearer, however, I was enabled to distinguish
objects more clearly, and the green hills became human dwellings
with small doors and windows, while the supposed groups of trees
proved in reality to be heaps of lava, some ten or twelve feet high,
thickly covered with moss and grass. Every thing was new and
striking to me; I waited in great impatience till we could land.

At length the anchor descended; but it was not till next morning
that the hour of disembarkation and deliverance came.

But one more night, and then, every difficulty overcome, I should
tread the shores of Iceland, the longed-for, and bask as it were in
the wonders of this island, so poor in the creations of art, so rich
in the phenomena of Nature.

Before I land in Iceland, I must trouble the reader with a few
preliminary observations regarding this island. They are drawn from
Mackenzie's Description of Iceland, a book the sterling value of
which is appreciated every where. {24}

The discovery of Iceland, about the year of our Lord 860, is
attributed to the spirit of enterprise of some Swedish and Norwegian
pirates, who were drifted thither on a voyage to the Feroe Isles.
It was not till the year 874 that the island was peopled by a number
of voluntary emigrants, who, feeling unhappy under the dominion of
Harold Harfraga (fine hair), arrived at the island under the
direction of Ingold. {25} As the newcomers are said to have found
no traces of dwellings, they are presumed to be the first who took
possession of the island.

At this time Iceland was still so completely covered with underwood,
that at some points it was necessary to cut a passage. Bringing
with them their language, religion, customs, and historical
monuments, the Norwegians introduced a kind of feudal system, which,
about the year 928, gave place to a somewhat aristocratic
government, retaining, however, the name of a republic. The island
was divided into four provinces, over each of which was placed an
hereditary governor or judge.

The General Assembly of Iceland (called Allthing) was held annually
on the shores of the Lake Thingvalla. The people possessed an
excellent code of laws, in which provision had been made for every
case which could occur.

This state of things lasted for more than 300 years, a period which
may be called the golden age of Iceland. Education, literature, and
even refined poetry flourished among the inhabitants, who took part
in commerce and in the sea-voyages which the Norwegians undertook
for purposes of discovery.

The "Sagas," or histories of this country, contain many tales of
personal bravery. Its bards and historians visited other climes,
became the favourites of monarchs, and returned to their island
covered with honour and loaded with presents. The Edda, by Samund,
is one of the most valued poems of the ancient days of Iceland. The
second portion of the Edda, called Skalda, dates from a later
period, and is ascribed by many to the celebrated Snorri Sturluson.
Isleif, first Bishop of Skalholt, was the earliest Icelandic
historian; after him came the noted Snorri Sturluson, born in 1178,
who became the richest and mightiest man in Iceland.

Snorri Sturluson was frequently followed to the General Assembly of
Iceland by a splendid retinue of 800 armed men. He was a great
historian and poet, and possessed an accurate knowledge of the Greek
and Latin tongues, besides being a powerful orator. He was also the
author of the Heims-kringla.

The first school was founded at Skalholt, about the middle of the
eleventh century, under Isleif, first Bishop of Iceland; four other
schools and several convents soon followed. Poetry and music seem
to have formed a staple branch of education.

The climate of Iceland appears to have been less inclement than is
now the case; corn is said to have grown, and trees and shrubs were
larger and thicker than we find them at present. The population of
Iceland was also much more numerous than it is now, although there
were neither towns nor villages. The people lived scattered
throughout the island; and the General Assembly was held at
Thingvalla, in the open air.

Fishing constituted the chief employment of the Icelanders. Their
clothing was woven from the wool of their sheep. Commerce with
neighbouring countries opened to them another field of occupation.

The doctrines of Christianity were first introduced into Iceland, in
the year 981, by Friederich, a Saxon bishop. Many churches were
built, and tithes established for the maintenance of the clergy.
Isleif, first Bishop of Skalholt, was ordained in the year 1057.
After the introduction of Christianity, all the Icelanders enjoyed
an unostentatious but undisturbed practice of their religion.

Greenland and the most northern part of America are said to have
been discovered by Icelanders.

In the middle of the thirteenth century Iceland came into the power
of the Norwegian kings. In the year 1380 Norway was united to the
crown of Denmark; and Iceland incorporated, without resistance, in
the Danish monarchy. Since the cession of the island to Norway, and
then to Denmark, peace and security took the place of the internal
commotions with which, before this time, Iceland had been frequently
disturbed; but this state of quiet brought forth indolence and
apathy. The voyages of discovery were interfered with by the new
government, and the commerce gradually passed into the hands of
other nations. The climate appears also to have changed; and the
lessened industry and want of perseverance in the inhabitants have
brought agriculture completely into decline.

In the year 1402 the plague broke out upon the island, and carried
off two-thirds of the population.

The first printing-press was established at Hoolum, about the year
1530, under the superintendence of the Bishop, John Areson.

The reformation in the Icelandic Church was not brought about
without disturbance. It was legally established in the year 1551.

During the fifteenth century the Icelanders suffered more from the
piratical incursions of foreigners. As late as the year 1616 the
French and English nations took part in these enormities. The most
melancholy occurrence of this kind took place in 1627, in which year
a great number of Algerine pirates made a descent upon the Icelandic
coast, murdered about fifty of the inhabitants, and carried off
nearly 400 others into captivity. {26}

The eighteenth century commenced with a dreadful mortality from the
smallpox; of which disease more than 16,000 of the inhabitants died.
In 1757 a famine swept away about 10,000 souls.

The year 1783 was distinguished by most dreadful volcanic outbreaks
in the interior of the island. Tremendous streams of lava carried
all before them; great rivers were checked in their course, and
formed lakes. For more than a year a thick cloud of smoke and
volcanic ashes covered the whole of Iceland, and nearly darkened the
sunlight. Horned cattle, sheep, and horses were destroyed; famine
came, with its accompanying illnesses; and once more appeared the
malignant small-pox. In a few years more than 11,000 persons had
died; more than one-fourth of the whole present population of the

Iceland lies in the Atlantic ocean; its greatest breadth is 240
geographical miles, and its extreme length from north to south 140
miles. The number of inhabitants is estimated at 48,000, and the
superficial extent of the island at 29,800 square miles.


On the morning of the 16th of May I landed in the harbour of
Havenfiord, and for the first time trod the shores of Iceland.
Although I was quite bewildered by sea-sickness, and still more by
the continual rocking of the ship, so that every object round me
seemed to dance, and I could scarcely make a firm step, still I
could not rest in the house of Herr Knudson, which he had obligingly
placed at my disposal. I must go out at once, to see and
investigate every thing. I found that Havenfiord consisted merely
of three wooden houses, a few magazines built of the same material,
and some peasants' cottages.

The wooden houses are inhabited by merchants or by their factors,
and consist only of a ground-floor, with a front of four or six
windows. Two or three steps lead up to the entrance, which is in
the centre of the building, and opens upon a hall from which doors
lead into the rooms to the right and left. At the back of the house
is situated the kitchen, which opens into several back rooms and
into the yard. A house of this description consists only of five or
six rooms on the ground-floor and a few small attic bedrooms.

The internal arrangements are quite European. The furniture--which
is often of mahogany,--the mirrors, the cast-iron stoves, every
thing, in short, come from Copenhagen. Beautiful carpets lie spread
before the sofas; neat curtains shade the windows; English prints
ornament the whitewashed walls; porcelain, plate, cut-glass, &c.,
are displayed on chests and on tables; and flower-pots with roses,
mignonnette, and pinks spread a delicious fragrance around. I even
found a grand pianoforte here. If any person could suddenly, and
without having made the journey, be transported into one of these
houses, he would certainly fancy himself in some continental town,
rather than in the distant and barren island of Iceland. And as in
Havenfiord, so I found the houses of the more opulent classes in
Reikjavik, and in all the places I visited.

From these handsome houses I betook myself to the cottages of the
peasants, which have a more indigenous, Icelandic appearance. Small
and low, built of lava, with the interstices filled with earth, and
the whole covered with large pieces of turf, they would present
rather the appearance of natural mounds of earth than of human
dwellings, were it not that the projecting wooden chimneys, the low-
browed entrances, and the almost imperceptible windows, cause the
spectator to conclude that they are inhabited. A dark narrow
passage, about four feet high, leads on one side into the common
room, and on the other to a few compartments, some of which are used
as storehouses for provisions, and the rest as winter stables for
the cows and sheep. At the end of this passage, which is purposely
built so low, as an additional defence against the cold, the
fireplace is generally situated. The rooms of the poorer class have
neither wooden walls nor floors, and are just large enough to admit
of the inhabitants sleeping, and perhaps turning round in them. The
whole interior accommodation is comprised in bedsteads with very
little covering, a small table, and a few drawers. Beds and chests
of drawers answer the purpose of benches and chairs. Above the beds
are fixed rods, from which depend clothes, shoes, stockings, &c. A
small board, on which are arranged a few books, is generally to be
observed. Stoves are considered unnecessary; for as the space is
very confined, and the house densely populated, the atmosphere is
naturally warm.

Rods are also placed round the fireplace, and on these the wet
clothes and fishes are hung up in company to dry. The smoke
completely fills the room, and slowly finds its way through a few
breathing-holes into the open air.

Fire-wood there is none throughout the whole island. The rich
inhabitants have it brought from Norway or Denmark; the poor burn
turf, to which they frequently add bones and other offal of fish,
which naturally engender a most disagreeable smoke.

On entering one of these cottages, the visitor is at a loss to
determine which of the two is the more obnoxious--the suffocating
smoke in the passage or the poisoned air of the dwelling-room,
rendered almost insufferable by the crowding together of so many
persons. I could almost venture to assert, that the dreadful
eruption called Lepra, which is universal throughout Iceland, owes
its existence rather to the total want of cleanliness than to the
climate of the country or to the food.

Throughout my subsequent journeys into the interior, I found the
cottages of the peasants every where alike squalid and filthy. Of
course I speak of the majority, and not of the exceptions; for here
I found a few rich peasants, whose dwellings looked cleaner and more
habitable, in proportion to the superior wealth or sense of decency
of the owners. My idea is, that the traveller's estimate of a
country should be formed according to the habits and customs of the
generality of its inhabitants, and not according to the doings of a
few individuals, as is often the case. Alas, how seldom did I meet
with these creditable exceptions!

The neighbourhood of Havenfiord is formed by a most beautiful and
picturesque field of lava, at first rising in hills, then sinking
into hollows, and at length terminating in a great plain which
extends to the base of the neighbouring mountains. Masses of the
most varied forms, often black and naked, rise to the height of ten
or fifteen feet, forming walls, ruined pillars, small grottoes, and
hollow spaces. Over these latter large slabs often extend, and form
bridges. Every thing around consists of suddenly cooled heaped-up
masses of lava, in some instances covered to their summits with
grass and moss; this circumstance gives them, as already stated, the
appearance of groups of stunted trees. Horses, sheep, and cows were
clambering about, diligently seeking out every green place. I also
clambered about diligently; I could not tire of gazing and wondering
at this terribly beautiful picture of destruction.

After a few hours I had so completely forgotten the hardships of my
passage, and felt myself so much strengthened, that I began my
journey to Reikjavik at five o'clock on the evening of the same day.
Herr Knudson seemed much concerned for me; he warned me that the
roads were bad, and particularly emphasised the dangerous abysses I
should be compelled to pass. I comforted him with the assurance
that I was a good horsewoman, and could hardly have to encounter
worse roads than those with which I had had the honour to become
acquainted in Syria. I therefore took leave of the kind gentleman,
who intended to stay a week or ten days in Havenfiord, and mounting
a small horse, set out in company of a female guide.

In my guide I made the acquaintance of a remarkable antiquity of
Iceland, who is well worthy that I should devote a few words to her
description. She is above seventy years of age, but looks scarcely
fifty; her head is surrounded by tresses of rich fair hair. She is
dressed like a man; undertakes, in the capacity of messenger, the
longest and most fatiguing journeys; rows a boat as skilfully as the
most practised fisherman; and fulfils all her missions quicker and
more exactly than a man, for she does not keep up so good an
understanding with the brandy-bottle. She marched on so sturdily
before me, that I was obliged to incite my little horse to greater
speed with my riding-whip.

At first the road lay between masses of lava, where it certainly was
not easy to ride; then over flats and small acclivities, from whence
we could descry the immense plain in which are situated Havenfiord,
Bassastadt, Reikjavik, and other places. Bassastadt, a town built
on a promontory jutting out into the sea, contains one of the
principal schools, a church built of masonry, and a few cottages.
The town of Reikjavik cannot be seen, as it is hidden behind a hill.
The other places consist chiefly of a few cottages, and only meet
the eye of the traveller when he approaches them nearly. Several
chains of mountains, towering one above the other, and sundry
"Jokuls," or glaciers, which lay still sparkling in their wintry
garb, surround this interminable plain, which is only open at one
end, towards the sea. Some of the plains and hills shone with
tender green, and I fancied I beheld beautiful meadows. On a nearer
inspection, however, they proved to be swampy places, and hundreds
upon hundreds of little acclivities, sometimes resembling mole-
hills, at others small graves, and covered with grass and moss.

I could see over an area of at least thirty or forty miles, and yet
could not descry a tree or a shrub, a bit of meadow-land or a
friendly village. Every thing seemed dead. A few cottages lay
scattered here and there; at long intervals a bird would hover in
the air, and still more seldom I heard the kindly greeting of a
passing inhabitant. Heaps of lava, swamps, and turf-bogs surrounded
me on all sides; in all the vast expanse not a spot was to be seen
through which a plough could be driven.

After riding more than four miles, I reached a hill, from which I
could see Reikjavik, the chief harbour, and, in fact, the only town
on the island. But I was deceived in my expectations; the place
before me was a mere village.

The distance from Havenfiord to Reikjavik is scarcely nine miles;
but as I was unwilling to tire my good old guide, I took three hours
to accomplish it. The road was, generally speaking, very good,
excepting in some places, where it lay over heaps of lava. Of the
much-dreaded dizzy abysses I saw nothing; the startling term must
have been used to designate some unimportant declivities, along the
brow of which I rode, in sight of the sea; or perhaps the "abysses"
were on the lava-fields, where I sometimes noticed small chasms of
fifteen or sixteen feet in depth at the most.

Shortly after eight o'clock in the evening I was fortunate enough to
reach Reikjavik safe and well. Through the kind forethought of Herr
Knudson, a neat little room had been prepared for me in one of his
houses occupied by the family of the worthy baker Bernhoft, and
truly I could not have been better received any where.

During my protracted stay the whole family of the Bernhofts shewed
me more kindness and cordiality than it has been my lot frequently
to find. Many an hour has Herr Bernhoft sacrificed to me, in order
to accompany me in my little excursions. He assisted me most
diligently in my search for flowers, insects, and shells, and was
much rejoiced when he could find me a new specimen. His kind wife
and dear children rivalled him in willingness to oblige. I can only
say, may Heaven requite them a thousand-fold for their kindness and

I had even an opportunity of hearing my native language spoken by
Herr Bernhoft, who was a Holsteiner by birth, and had not quite
forgotten our dear German tongue, though he had lived for many years
partly in Denmark, partly in Iceland.

So behold me now in the only town in Iceland, {27} the seat of the
so-called cultivated classes, whose customs and mode of life I will
now lay before my honoured readers.

Nothing was more disagreeable to me than a certain air of dignity
assumed by the ladies here; an air which, except when it is natural,
or has become so from long habit, is apt to degenerate into
stiffness and incivility. On meeting an acquaintance, the ladies of
Reikjavik would bend their heads with so stately and yet so careless
an air as we should scarcely assume towards the humblest stranger.
At the conclusion of a visit, the lady of the house only accompanies
the guest as far as the chamber-door. If the husband be present,
this civility is carried a little further; but when this does not
happen to be the case, a stranger who does not know exactly through
which door he can make his exit, may chance to feel not a little
embarrassed. Excepting in the house of the "Stiftsamtmann" (the
principal official on the island), one does not find a footman who
can shew the way. In Hamburgh I had already noticed the beginnings
of this dignified coldness; it increased as I journeyed further
north, and at length reached its climax in Iceland.

Good letters of recommendation often fail to render the northern
grandees polite towards strangers. As an instance of this fact, I
relate the following trait:

Among other kind letters of recommendation, I had received one
addressed to Herr von H-, the "Stiftsamtmann" of Iceland. On my
arrival at Copenhagen, I heard that Herr von H- happened to be
there. I therefore betook myself to his residence, and was shewn
into a room where I found two young ladies and three children. I
delivered my letter, and remained quietly standing for some time.
Finding at length that no one invited me to be seated, I sat down
unasked on the nearest chair, never supposing for an instant that
the lady of the house could be present, and neglect the commonest
forms of politeness which should be observed towards every stranger.
After I had waited for some time, Herr von H- graciously made his
appearance, and expressed his regret that he should have very little
time to spare for me, as he intended setting sail for Iceland with
his family in a short time, and in the interim had a number of
weighty affairs to settle at Copenhagen; in conclusion, he gave me
the friendly advice to abandon my intention of visiting Iceland, as
the fatigues of travelling in that country were very great; finding,
however, that I persevered in my intention, he promised, in case I
set sail for Reikjavik earlier than himself, to give me a letter of
recommendation. All this was concluded in great haste, and we stood
during the interview. I took my leave, and at first determined not
to call again for the letter. On reflection, however, I changed my
mind, ascribed my unfriendly reception to important and perhaps
disagreeable business, and called again two days afterwards. Then
the letter was handed to me by a servant; the high people, whom I
could hear conversing in the adjoining apartment, probably
considered it too much trouble to deliver it to me personally.

On paying my respects to this amiable family in Reikjavik, I was not
a little surprised to recognise in Frau von H- one of those ladies
who in Copenhagen had not had the civility to ask me to be seated.
Five or six days afterwards, Herr von H- returned my call, and
invited me to an excursion to Vatne. I accepted the invitation with
much pleasure, and mentally asked pardon of him for having formed
too hasty an opinion. Frau von H-, however, did not find her way to
me until the fourth week of my stay in Reikjavik; she did not even
invite me to visit her again, so of course I did not go, and our
acquaintance terminated there. As in duty bound, the remaining
dignitaries of this little town took their tone from their chief.
My visits were unreturned, and I received no invitations, though I
heard much during my stay of parties of pleasure, dinners, and
evening parties. Had I not fortunately been able to employ myself,
I should have been very badly off. Not one of the ladies had
kindness and delicacy enough to consider that I was alone here, and
that the society of educated people might be necessary for my
comfort. I was less annoyed at the want of politeness in the
gentlemen; for I am no longer young, and that accounts for every
thing. When the women were wanting in kindliness, I had no right to
expect consideration from the gentlemen.

I tried to discover the reason of this treatment, and soon found
that it lay in a national characteristic of these people--their

It appears I had scarcely arrived at Reikjavik before diligent
inquiries were set on foot as to whether I was RICH, and should see
much company at my house, and, in fact, whether much could be got
out of me.

To be well received here it is necessary either to be rich, or else
to travel as a naturalist. Persons of the latter class are
generally sent by the European courts to investigate the remarkable
productions of the country. They make large collections of
minerals, birds, &c.; they bring with them numerous presents,
sometimes of considerable value, which they distribute among the
dignitaries; they are, moreover, the projectors of many an
entertainment, and even of many a little ball, &c.; they buy up
every thing they can procure for their cabinets, and they always
travel in company; they have much baggage with them, and
consequently require many horses, which cannot be hired in Iceland,
but must be bought. On such occasions every one here is a dealer:
offers of horses and cabinets pour in on all sides.

The most welcome arrival of all is that of the French frigate, which
visits Iceland every year; for sometimes there are dejeuners a la
fourchette on board, sometimes little evening parties and balls.
There is at least something to be got besides the rich presents; the
"Stiftsamtmann" even receives 600 florins per annum from the French
government to defray the expense of a few return balls which he
gives to the naval officers.

With me this was not the case: I gave no parties--I brought no
presents--they had nothing to expect from me; and therefore they
left me to myself. {28}

For this reason I affirm that he only can judge of the character of
a people who comes among them without claim to their attention, and
from whom they have nothing to expect. To such a person only do
they appear in their true colours, because they do not find it worth
while to dissemble and wear a mask in his presence. In these cases
the traveller is certainly apt to make painful discoveries; but
when, on the other hand, he meets with good people, he may be
certain of their sincerity; and so I must beg my honoured readers to
bear with me, when I mention the names of all those who heartily
welcomed the undistinguished foreigner; it is the only way in which
I can express my gratitude towards them.

As I said before, I had intercourse with very few people, so that
ample time remained for solitary walks, during which I minutely
noticed every thing around me.

The little town of Reikjavik consists of a single broad street, with
houses and cottages scattered around. The number of inhabitants
does not amount to 500.

The houses of the wealthier inhabitants are of wood-work, and
contain merely a ground-floor, with the exception of a single
building of one story, to which the high school, now held at
Bassastadt, will be transferred next year. The house of the
"Stiftsamtmann" is built of stone. It was originally intended for a
prison; but as criminals are rarely to be met with in Iceland, the
building was many years ago transformed into the residence of the
royal officer. A second stone building, discernible from Reikjavik,
is situated at Langarnes, half a mile from the town. It lies near
the sea, in the midst of meadows, and is the residence of the

The church is capable of holding only at the most from 100 to 150
persons; it is built of stone, with a wooden roof. In the chambers
of this roof the library, consisting of several thousand volumes, is
deposited. The church contains a treasure which many a larger and
costlier edifice might envy,--a baptismal font by Thorwaldsen, whose
parents were of Icelandic extraction. The great sculptor himself
was born in Denmark, and probably wished, by this present, to do
honour to the birth-place of his ancestors.

To some of the houses in Reikjavik pieces of garden are attached.
These gardens are small plots of ground where, with great trouble
and expense, salad, spinach, parsley, potatoes, and a few varieties
of edible roots, are cultivated. The beds are separated from each
other by strips of turf a foot broad, seldom boasting even a few

The inhabitants of Iceland are generally of middle stature, and
strongly built, with light hair, frequently inclining to red, and
blue eyes. The men are for the most part ugly; the women are better
favoured, and among the girls I noticed some very sweet faces. To
attain the age of seventy or eighty years is here considered an
extraordinary circumstance. {29} The peasants have many children,
and yet few; many are born, but few survive the first year. The
mothers do not nurse them, and rear them on very bad food. Those
who get over the first year look healthy enough; but they have
strangely red cheeks, almost as though they had an eruption.
Whether this appearance is to be ascribed to the sharp air, to which
the delicate skin is not yet accustomed, or to the food, I know not.

In some places on the coast, when the violent storms prevent the
poor fishermen for whole weeks from launching their boats, they live
almost entirely on dried fishes' heads. {30} The fishes themselves
have been salted down and sold, partly to pay the fishermen's taxes,
and partly to liquidate debts for the necessaries of the past
season, among which brandy and snuff unfortunately play far too
prominent a part.

Another reason why the population does not increase is to be found
in the numerous catastrophes attending the fisheries during the
stormy season of the year. The fishermen leave the shore with songs
and mirth, for a bright sky and a calm sea promise them good


Back to Full Books