Due North: or, Glimpses of Scandinavia and Russia
Due North: or, Glimpses of Scandinavia and Russia
Ballou Maturin Murray
Due North or Glimpses of Scandinavia and Russia
About five years ago, the Author, having then just returned from circumnavigating the globe, was induced to record his experiences of the long journey, which were published in a volume entitled "Due West; or, Round the World in Ten Months." The public favor accorded to this work led, a couple of years later, to the issuing of a second volume of travels, upon the Author's return from the West Indies, entitled "Due South; or, Cuba, Past and Present." The popular success of both books and the flattering comments of the critics have caused the undersigned to believe that a certain portion of the public is pleased to see foreign lands and people through his eyes; and hence the publication of the volume now in hand. These pages describing the far North, from which the Author has just returned, – including Norway, Sweden, Russia, and Russian Poland, – seem naturally to suggest the title of "Due North." Without permitting prejudice to circumscribe judgment in treating of Russia, the effort has been to represent the condition of that country and its Polish province truthfully, and to draw only reasonable deductions. This special reference is made to the pages relating to the Tzar's government, as it will be found that the Author does not accord with the popularly expressed opinion upon this subject.
M. M. B.
Boston, March, 1887.
Copenhagen. – First Stroll in a Strange City. – Danish Children. – Antiquity of Copenhagen. – English Arrogance. – The Baltic Sea. – Danish Possessions. – Descendants of the Vikings. – Covetous Germany. – The Denmark of To-day. – Thorwaldsen's Remarkable Museum. – The Ethnological Museum. – Educational Matters. – Eminent Natives. – Charitable Institutions. – Antique Churches. – Royal Palaces. – Historical Memories. – City Architecture. – Zoölogical Gardens
Having resolved upon a journey due north, twenty days of travel over familiar routes carried the author across the Atlantic and, by the way of Liverpool, London, Paris, and Hamburg, landed him in Copenhagen, the pleasant and thrifty capital of Denmark. As the following pages will be devoted to Scandinavia, Russia, and Russian Poland, this metropolis seems to be a proper locality at which to begin the northern journey with the reader.
It was already nearly midnight when the Hôtel D'Angleterre, fronting upon the Kongens Nytorv, was reached. So long a period of uninterrupted travel, night and day, rendered a few hours of quiet sleep something to be gratefully appreciated. Early the next morning the consciousness of being in a strange city, always so stimulating to the observant traveller, sent us forth with curious eyes upon the thoroughfares of the Danish capital before the average citizen was awake. The importunities of couriers and local guides, who are always on the watch for visitors, were at first sedulously ignored; for it would be foolish to rob one's self of the great pleasure of a preliminary stroll alone amid scenes and localities of which one is blissfully ignorant. A cicerone will come into the programme later on, and is a prime necessity at the proper time; but at the outset there is a keen gratification and novelty in verifying or contradicting preconceived ideas, by threading unattended a labyrinth of mysterious streets and blind alleys, leading one knows not where, and suddenly coming out upon some broad square or boulevard full of unexpected palaces and grand public monuments.
It was thus that we wandered into the old Market Square where Dietrick Slagheck, Archbishop of Lund and minister of Christian II., was burned alive. A slight stretch of the imagination made the place still to smell of roasted bishop. "Is this also the land of wooden shoes?" we asked ourself, as the rapid clatter of human feet upon the pavements recalled the familiar street-echoes of Antwerp. How eagerly the eye receives and retains each new impression under such circumstances! How sharp it is to search out peculiarities of dress, manners, architecture, modes of conveyance, the attractive display of merchandise in shop-windows, and even the expression upon the faces of men, women, and children! Children! if any one says the Danish children are not pretty, you may with safety contradict him. Their delicately rounded, fresh young faces are lit up by such bright, turquoise-colored, forget-me-not blue eyes as appeal to the heart at once. What a wholesome appetite followed upon this pioneer excursion, when we entered at breakfast on a new series of observations while satisfying the vigorous calls of hunger, each course proving a novelty, and every dish a fresh voyage of gastronomic discovery!
Copenhagen was a large commercial port many centuries ago, and has several times been partially destroyed by war and conflagration. It has some two hundred and fifty thousand inhabitants, and is about six miles in circumference. The site of the city is so low as to render it necessary to protect it from the waters of the Baltic by artificial embankments. Like Amsterdam and Venice, it may be said to possess "remarkable water-privileges." We were told that the citizens were making earnest remonstrance as to the inefficient drainage of the city, which is believed to be the prime cause of a somewhat extraordinary percentage of mortality. In past times it has more than once been visited by the plague, which so late as 1711 caused the death of over twenty-eight thousand of its inhabitants. It is only some thirty years since, that over five thousand persons died here of cholera in one season. Fevers of a typhoid character prevail annually, which are no doubt with good reason attributed to want of proper drainage. Notwithstanding Copenhagen is situated so nearly at tide level, modern engineering could easily perfect a system of drainage which would render it independent of this circumstance. The safe and spacious harbor is formed by the channel between the islands of Zeeland and Amager, where there is ample depth and room to answer the demands of a far more extended commerce than the city is ever likely to maintain. The houses are mostly of brick, some of the better class being built of Norwegian granite, while the newer portion of the town presents many examples of fine modern architecture. The streets are of good width and laid out with an eye to regularity, besides which there are sixteen spacious public squares. Taken as a whole, the first impression of the place and its surroundings is remarkably pleasing and attractive. As one approaches the city, the scene is enlivened by the many windmills in the environs, whose wide-spread arms are generally in motion, appearing like the broad wings of enormous birds hovering over the land and just preparing to alight. One is hardly surprised that Don Quixote should mistake them for palpable enemies, and charge upon them full tilt. Perhaps the earliest associations in its modern history which the stranger is likely to remember, as he looks about him in Copenhagen, is that of the dastardly attack upon the city, and the shelling of it for three consecutive days, by the British fleet in 1807, during which uncalled for and reckless onslaught an immense destruction of human life and property was inflicted upon the place. Over three hundred important buildings were laid in ashes on that occasion, because Denmark refused permission for the domiciling of English troops upon her soil, and declined, as she had a most unquestionable right to do, to withdraw her connection with the neutral powers. It was one of the most outrageous examples of English arrogance on record, – one which even her own historians feel compelled to denounce emphatically. No wonder the gallant Nelson expressed his deep regret at being sent to the Baltic on such distasteful service. Copenhagen received the expressive name it bears (Merchant's Haven) on account of its excellent harbor and general commercial advantages. As in the Mediterranean so in the Baltic, tidal influence is felt only to a small degree, the difference in the rise and fall of the water at this point being scarcely more than one foot. It should be remembered, however, that the level of the waters of the Baltic are subject, like those of the Swiss lakes, to barometric variations. Owing to the comparatively fresh character of this sea, its ports are ice-bound for a third of each year, and in extreme seasons the whole expanse is frozen across from the Denmark to the Swedish coast. In 1658, Charles X. of Sweden marched his army across the Belts, dictating to the Danes a treaty of peace; and so late as 1809, a Russian army passed from Finland to Sweden across the Gulf of Bothnia.
The possessions of Denmark upon the main-land are in our day quite circumscribed, consisting of Jutland only; but she has besides several islands far and near, of which Zeeland is the most populous, and contains the capital. As a State, she may be said to occupy a much larger space in history than upon the map of Europe. The surface of the island of Zeeland is uniformly low, in this respect resembling Holland, the highest point reaching an elevation of but five hundred and fifty feet. To be precise in the matter of her dominions, the colonial possessions of Denmark may be thus enumerated: Greenland, Iceland, the Faroe group of islands, between the Shetlands and Iceland; adding St. Croix, St. Thomas, and St. John in the West Indies. Greenland is nearly as large as Germany and France combined; but its inhabitants do not quite reach an aggregate of ten thousand. Iceland is about the size of our New England States, and has a population of seventy-five thousand. The Faroes contain ten thousand inhabitants, and the three West Indian islands united have a population of a little over forty thousand.
A slight sense of disappointment was realized at not finding more visible evidences of antiquity while visiting the several sections of the capital, particularly as it was remembered that a short time since, in 1880, the Danish monarchy reached the thousandth anniversary of its foundation under Gorm the Old, whose reign bridges over the interval between mere legend and the dawn of recorded history. Gorm is supposed to have been a direct descendant of the famous Viking, Regnar Lodbrog, who was a daring and imperious ruler of the early Northmen. The common origin of the three Baltic nationalities which constitute Scandinavia is clearly apparent to the traveller who has visited Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, or to any one who has even an ordinary knowledge of their history. The race has been steadily modified, generation after generation, in its more vivid characteristics, by the progressive force of civilization. These Northmen are no longer the haughty and reckless warriors who revelled in wine drunk from the skulls of their enemies, and who deemed death only respectable when encountered upon the battle-field. Clearer intelligence and culture have substituted the duties of peaceful citizens for those of marauders, and the enterprises of civilized life for the exaggerated romance of chivalry. Reading and writing, which were looked upon among them as allied to the black art a few centuries ago, are now the universal accomplishment of all classes, and nowhere on the globe will the traveller find a people more cheerful, intelligent, frank, and hospitable than in the three kingdoms of the far North.
Though the Danes are physically rather small, resembling in this respect the Japanese, still they spring, as we have seen, from a brave and warlike race, and have never been subjugated by any other people. On the contrary, in the olden time they conquered England, dismembered France, and subjugated Norway and Sweden. The time has been when the Danes boasted the largest and most efficient navy in the world, and their realm still justly bears the title of "Queen of the Baltic." As to seamanship, they are universally acknowledged to be among the best sailors who navigate the ocean. That Germany covets Denmark is more than hinted at. The author heard a loud-talking naval gentleman, of German nationality, coolly express the opinion that Denmark as an independent kingdom had nearly reached the close of its existence. This was on board the German mail-steamer, while crossing a branch of the Baltic between the ports of Kiel and Korsoer. Whether this individual reflected the ambitious purposes of the present German government, or only echoed a popular sentiment of his nation, the reader is left to judge. Were Bismarck to attempt, upon any subterfuge, to absorb Denmark, it is reasonable to suppose that other European powers would have something to say upon the subject; but that the map of Europe, as now constructed, is destined to undergo radical changes in the near future cannot be doubted.
The Denmark of to-day, typified by Copenhagen its capital, is a great centre of science and of art, quite as much so as are Munich or Dresden. It is surprising that so few travellers, comparatively, resort thither. For the study of ethnological subjects, there is no country which affords greater facilities, or which is more interesting to scientists generally. The spirit of Thorwaldsen here permeates everything; and in making his native city his heir, he also bequeathed to her an appreciation of art, which her eminent scientists have ably supplemented in their several departments of knowledge. To visit the unique Thorwaldsen Museum alone would repay a journey to Copenhagen, and no visitor to this Venice of the North should fail thoroughly to explore its riches. It is in the very centre of the city, situated close to the Palace of Christiansborg, and was erected in 1845 from the great sculptor's own design, based on the Egyptian order of architecture. It is two stories in height, and quadrangular in form, – the lower story containing sculpture only; the upper, both statuary and pictures. The external aspect of the structure is certainly not pleasing, but within, "where the marble statues breathe in rows," may be seen collected together and appropriately arranged six hundred of the great master's works, exhibiting the splendid and it is believed, as regards this department of art, unequalled result of one man's genius and industry. With galleries and vestibules the Museum contains over forty apartments, ample space being afforded for the best display of each figure and each group. The ceilings are elaborately and very beautifully decorated with emblematical designs by the best Danish artists. This enduring monument to art is also Thorwaldsen's appropriate mausoleum, being fashioned externally after an Etruscan tomb, and decorated in fresco with scenes illustrative of the sculptor's life. These crude and unprotected frescos, however, have become quite dim, and are being gradually effaced by exposure to the elements. So far as any artistic effect is concerned, we are honestly forced to say that the sooner they disappear the better. The interior of the Museum is peculiar in its combined effect, – a little depressing, we thought, being painted and finished in the sombre Pompeian style. It contains only Thorwaldsen's works and a few pictures which he brought with him when he removed hither from Rome, where so many years of his artistic life were passed. We have here presented to us the busts, models, sketches, and forms in clay, plaster, or marble, which represent all his works. Thorwaldsen's favorite motto was: "The artist belongs to his work, not the work to the artist," – a conscientious devotion which seems to invest everything which came from his hand. His body lies buried in the centre of the open court about which the building is constructed, without any designating stone, the ground being slightly raised above the surrounding pavement, and appropriately covered with a bed of growing ivy. A sense of stillness and solemnity seems to permeate the atmosphere as one pauses beside this lowly but expressive mound.
Among the portrait-statues which linger in the memory are many historic and familiar characters, such as Copernicus, Byron, Goethe, Hans Andersen, Humboldt, Schiller, Horace Vernet, Christian IV., the favorite monarch of the Danes, and many more. We have said that the general effect of these artistic halls was a little depressing; still, this was not the influence of the great sculptor's creations, for they are full of the joyous, elevating, and noble characteristics of humanity. Thorwaldsen revelled in the representation of tenderness, of youth, beauty, and childhood. Nothing of the repulsive or terrible ever came from his hand. The sculptor's regal fancy found expression most fully, perhaps, in the relievi which are gathered here, illustrating the delightful legends of the Greek mythology. He gives us here in exquisite marble his original conceptions of what others have depicted with the pen and the brush. No one can wonder at the universal homage accorded by his countrymen to the memory of the greatest of modern sculptors. The bust of Luther is seen in the main hall in an unfinished condition, just as the sculptor left it, and upon which, indeed, he is said to have worked the day before his death. It depicts a rude, coarse face, but one full of energy and power. In the Hall of Christ, as it is called, is the celebrated group of our Lord and the Twelve Disciples, the original of which is in the Cathedral. The impressive effect of this remarkable group is universally conceded; no one can stand before it unaffected by its grand and solemn beauty. Thorwaldsen's household furniture, writing-desk, books, pictures, and relics are here disposed as they were found in his home on the day of his death, – among which a clock, made by him when he was but twelve years of age, will interest the visitor.
A large proportion of the many persons whom we met in the Museum were Danes, whose respectability and admirable behavior impressed us most favorably, – a conviction which was daily corroborated upon the public streets, where there was none of the grossness observable which is so glaring among the middle and lower classes of more southern cities. There are no mendicants upon the thoroughfares; order and cleanliness reign everywhere, reminding one of Holland and the Hague. The young trees and delicate flowers in the public gardens require no special protection, and one looks in vain for anything like rowdyism in the crowded thoroughfares. Though the Danes are free consumers of malt liquors, not a case of intoxication met the author's eye while he remained in Copenhagen.
The Ethnological Museum of the city, better known as the Museum of Northern Antiquities, is generally considered to be the most remarkable institution of its class in Europe. Students in this department of science come from all parts of the civilized world to seek knowledge from its countless treasures. One is here enabled to follow the progress of our race from its primitive stages to its highest civilization. The national government liberally aids all purposes akin to science and art; consequently this Museum is a favored object of the State, being also liberally endowed by private munificence. Each of the three distinctive periods of Stone, Bronze, and Iron forms an elaborate division in the spacious halls of the institution. In classifying the objects, care has been taken not only to divide the three great periods named, but also in each of these divisions those belonging to the beginning and the end of the period are chronologically placed, as fast as such nice distinctions can be wrought out by careful, scientific study and comparison. Here the visitor gazes with absorbing interest upon the tangible evidences of a race that inhabited this earth probably thousands of years before it was broken into islands and continents. Their one token, these rude, but expressive stone implements, are found equally distributed from the Arctic Circle to the Equator, from Canada to Brazil, from England to Japan. Scientists whose culture and intelligence entitle their opinion to respect, place the Stone Age as here illustrated at least twenty thousand years before the birth of Christ. How absorbing is the interest attaching to these relics which ages have consecrated! No matter what our preconceived notions may be, science only deals with irrefutable facts. The periods delineated may be thus expressed: first the Flint period, which comes down to fifteen hundred years before Christ; followed by the Bronze, which includes the next twelve or thirteen hundred years; then the Iron, which comes down far into the Christian era. What is termed the Mediæval brings us to 1536, since which time there is no occasion for classification. No wonder the antiquarian becomes so absorbed in the study of the past. "The earliest and the longest has still the mastery over us," says George Eliot. Progress is daily making in the correct reading of these comprehensive data, and those who may come after us will be born to a great wealth of antiquity. Other countries may learn much from the admirable management of this Museum in the matter of improving the educational advantages which it affords. Professors of eminence daily accompany the groups of visitors, clearly explaining the purport and the historical relations of the many interesting objects. These persons are not merely intelligent employees, but they are also trained scientists; and, above all, they are enthusiastic in freely imparting the knowledge which inspires them. Such impromptu lectures are both original and impressive. Indeed, to go through the Ethnological Museum of Copenhagen understandingly is a liberal education. It should be added that the zeal and affability of these able officials is as freely and cheerfully extended to the humblest citizen as to distinguished strangers. One returns again and again with a sort of fascination to these indisputable evidences of history relating to periods of which there is no written record. If they are partially defective in their consecutive teachings, they are most impressive in the actual knowledge which they convey. Without giving us a list of sovereigns or positive dates, they afford collectively a clearer knowledge of the religion, culture, and domestic life of the people of their several periods than a Gibbon or a Bancroft could depict with their glowing pages.
The Danes are a cultured people, much more so, indeed, than the average classes of the continental States. The large number of book-stores was a noticeable feature of the capital, as well as the excellent character of the books which were offered for sale. These were in German, French, and English, the literature of the latter being especially well represented. Copenhagen has more daily and weekly newspapers, magazines, and current news publications than Edinburgh or Dublin, or most of the provincial cities of Great Britain. It may be doubted if even in this country, outside of New England, we have many districts more liberally supplied with free library accommodations, or with educational facilities for youth, than are the populous portions of Zeeland and Jutland. Even small country villages have their book-clubs and dramatic clubs. A very general taste for the drama prevails. Indeed, Denmark has a national drama of its own, which exercises a notable influence upon its people. This Government was the first in Europe to furnish the means of education to the people at large on a liberal scale, to establish schoolhouses in every parish, and to provide suitable dwellings and incomes for the teachers. The incipient steps towards this object began as far back as the time of Christian II., more than three centuries ago, while most of the European States were grovelling in ignorance. Copenhagen has two public libraries, – the Royal, containing over six hundred thousand books; and the University, which has between two hundred and fifty and three hundred thousand volumes, not to speak in detail of a particularly choice collection of manuscripts. These under reasonable restrictions are free to all, citizen or foreigner. The National University is of the first class, and supports a well organized lecture-system, like that of the Sorbonne in Paris, and which is also free to all, women having the same facilities afforded them as those enjoyed by the sterner sex. This institution, we were assured, is conducted upon the most modern educational system. It was founded in 1478, and at the present writing has between twelve and fifteen hundred students, instructed by about fifty able professors.
Though Denmark is a small kingdom, containing scarcely three millions of people, yet it has produced many eminent men of science, of art, and of literature. The names of Hans Christian Andersen, of Rasmus Rask the philologist, of Oersted the discoverer of electro-magnetism, of Forchhammer the mineralogist, and Eschricht the physiologist, will occur to the reader's mind in this connection. It is a country of legend and romance, of historic and prehistoric monuments, besides being the very father-land of fairy tales. The Vikings of old have left their footprints all over the country in barrows and tumuli. It is not, therefore, surprising that the cultured portion of the community are stimulated to antiquarian research. The masses are clearly a pleasure-loving people, easily amused and contented, troubling themselves very little about religious matters; the arts, poetry, and the drama being much more reverenced than the church. The accepted and almost universal doctrine is that of Lutheranism. One meets comparatively few intelligent persons who cannot speak English, while many speak French and German also. The Danish language is a modified form of the old Gothic, which prevailed in the earliest historic ages.
Copenhagen is liberally supplied with free hospitals and charitable institutions, but except the Communal Hospital, the buildings devoted to these purposes have no architectural merit. A child's home was pointed out to us designed for the children of the poor, whose parents are unable to take care of them during their working hours. Before going out to a day's labor, a mother can place her child in this temporary home, where it will be properly cared for and fed until she returns for it. "Is any charge made for this service?" we asked. "Certainly," replied our informant, himself an official of importance; and he named a sum equal to about five cents of our money as the price per day for the care of each infant. "If it were entirely gratuitous," he added, "it would not be nearly so well appreciated, and would lead to imposition. The payment of this trifling sum enhances the estimate of the privilege far beyond its cost." The institution could not be sustained by such limited charges however; its real support is by the local government. Another institution was visited, designed for the sick and poor, where they can be properly nursed when temporarily ill, yet not sufficiently so to seek admission to a regular hospital. There have been as many as eight thousand patients admitted within a twelve-month to this establishment. There are also homes for old men and old women, intended for indigent persons who are too old to work. From the latter "home" there was observed driving upon the Lange Linie, beside the sea, a large open wagon full of dames who were enjoying a healthful outing. As the vehicle passed us, the driver was pointing out to his charges the distant view of Sweden, across the intervening Sound. The Royal Theatre or Opera House, situated on the King's Square, was to us a surprise, – it is so similar, at first sight, to the more elaborate and costly Opera House in the Place de l'Opéra in Paris, and as it antedates that elegant structure, it would certainly seem to have suggested some of its best lines. The Danish theatre will accommodate seventeen hundred persons, and is usually well filled, the royal box being seldom empty. The corridors are remarkable for spaciousness, and form a popular promenade for both sexes during the intervals between the acts. This furnishes an agreeable social break to the often long-protracted performances. On one side of the theatre facing the Square is a hideous bronze statue of Adam Oehlenschlaeger, the Danish lyric author; and on the opposite side is another representing Ludwig von Holberg, the Norwegian dramatist. This latter, in an artistic sense, is still more objectionable than the first named. The ballet as represented here is unique, being mostly designed to illustrate the early history of Scandinavia.
On one of the main thoroughfares leading from the Square already named, the triple domes of a Russian church dazzle the eye with their bright gilded surface and long hanging chains, depending from cross and crescent of the same metal, the whole reflecting the sun's rays with the force of a Venetian mirror. The interior, however, is plain, though rich in white marble, here and there carved in lattice pattern to form balustrades and dädos. Near by this church is the residence of the Russian Minister. On this same street, called the Bredgade, is the Frederick's Church, begun as long ago as 1749, after a grand design, and not yet finished. It is half surrounded to-day by a broad high staging, upon which groups of mechanics were seen busily at work, as has been the case for so many generations. This is known as the Marble Church, and is surmounted by a grand if not graceful dome of immense proportions. The English residents of the city are building an Episcopal church on the Esplanade, the local government having given the ground for this purpose. The corner-stone was laid by the Prince of Wales in 1885, with a grand ceremony, at which the Emperor and Empress of Russia assisted, with all the Danish royal family. It is the first English church erected in the country. On the Amaliegade, which runs parallel with the Bredgade and which is the next street to it, are four spacious palaces, which form a square, in the centre of which stands a bronze statue of Frederick V. These palaces are the town residence of the present royal family, one being also devoted to the business of the Foreign Office. The Amaliegade ends at the Lange Linie, where the Esplanade begins.
The spire of the large city Exchange is very curious, being formed of the twisted tails of three marvellous dragons, their bulging heads resting on the four corners of the tower, – altogether forming the most ridiculous attempt at architectural ornamentation we have yet chanced to behold. The building thus surmounted dates back to 1624, forming a memento of the reign of Christian IV. The Church of our Saviour has also a remarkable spire, with a winding staircase outside leading to the pinnacle. The bell which surmounts this lofty spire, and upon which stands a colossal figure of our Saviour, is said to be large enough to contain twelve persons at a time; but without climbing to the summit, the local guide's assurance that there were just three hundred and ninety three steps between base and top was unhesitatingly accredited. This church was consecrated in 1696. A peculiarity of its steeple is the fact that the spiral stairs wind upwards in the opposite direction from that which is usual. This was undoubtedly an accident on the part of the mechanics. Christian IV. detected the awkwardness and pointed it out to the architect, who, singular to say, had not before realized a circumstance which is now so obvious. His consequent chagrin was so great as nearly if not quite to render him insane. He ascended the spire on the day when the work was completed, and ended his life by throwing himself from the summit. Such was the entertaining legend rehearsed with great volubility to us by our local guide, who was evidently annoyed at our smile of incredulity.
In strolling about the town one comes now and then upon very quaint old sections, where low red-tiled roofs and houses, with gable ends towards the street, break the monotony. The new quarters of Copenhagen, however, are built up with fine blocks of houses, mostly in the Grecian style of architecture, – palatial residences, with façades perhaps a little too generally decorated by pilasters and floral wreaths, alternating with nymphs and cupids. The two-story horse-cars convey one in about fifteen minutes over a long, level, tree-shaded avenue from the centre of the city to in the environs. It is a palace erected by Frederick IV. as a summer residence for himself and court, but though capacious and finely located, it is void of all aspect of architectural grandeur. As a portion of the grounds commands a fine view of the city, the castle is generally visited by strangers. The spacious building is at present used for a military educational school. The park which surrounds is the great charm of the locality, being ornamented in all parts by immemorial trees, deep sylvan shades, purling streams, graceful lakes, and inviting greensward. It forms the daily resort of picnic parties from the close streets of the town near at hand, who come hither on summer afternoons in such numbers as to tax the full capacity of the tramway. At the entrance to the park stands a bronze statue of Frederick IV., which presents so strong a likeness to Lamartine, in form and feature, as instantly to recall the French orator and poet. Adjoining the extensive grounds of the castle is the Zoölogical Garden, which appears to occupy about ten acres of well-wooded and highly cultivated territory, ornamented with choice flower-beds, small lakes for aquatic birds, and a large brook running through the midst of the grounds. There is here an admirable collection of animals. The author's visit chanced upon a Saturday afternoon, when a bevy of primary-school children, composed of boys and girls under twelve years, was being conducted from section to section by their teachers, while the nature of each animal was lucidly explained to them. No advantage for educational purposes seems to be forgotten or neglected in Denmark.
Public Amusements in Copenhagen. – Danish Sovereigns. – The Fashionable Promenade. – Danish Women. – Palace of Rosenborg. – A Golconda of Gems. – A Poet's Monument. – A Famous Astronomer. – Our Lady's Church. – The King's Square. – The Curious Old Round Tower. – The Peasantry. – A Famous Deer Park. – Röskilde. – Elsinore. – Gypsies. – Kronborg Castle. – The Queen's Prison. – Hamlet and Ophelia's Grave. – A Danish Legend
Copenhagen is not without its ballets, theatres, Alhambras, Walhallas, and cafés chantants. The principal out-door resort of this character is the Tivoli Gardens, laid out in the Moorish style, where the citizens, representing all classes, – the cultured, the artisan, and the peasant, – assemble and mingle together in a free-and-easy way. Here they enjoy the long summer evenings, which indeed at this season of the year do not seem like evenings at all, since they are nearly as light as the day. Whatever may be said in advocacy of these public assemblies, enjoyed amid the trees, flowers, soft air, and artistic surroundings, there seems to a casual visitor to be too much freedom permitted between the sexes for entire respectability, and yet nothing actually repulsive was observable. In Berlin or Vienna these popular resorts would be designated as beer gardens; here they are called tea-gardens. The Tivoli has a fine ballet troup among its attractions, and employs two orchestras of forty instrumental performers each, stationed in different parts of the spacious gardens. The price of admission to these illuminated grounds is merely nominal. Some of the wealthiest families as well as the humbler bring their children with them, as is the custom of those who frequent the beer gardens of Munich and Dresden. As a popular place of varied and attractive amusements the Tivoli of Copenhagen has hardly its equal in Europe.
Just across the harbor is the spacious and fertile island of Amager, some twenty square miles in extent, which serves as the kitchen or vegetable garden of the capital. It was first occupied by a colony of Flemings who were brought hither in 1516 by Charles II., for the purpose of teaching his subjects how to cultivate vegetables and flowers. The descendants of these foreigners still retain traces of their origin, remaining quite distinctive in their costume and personality. These peasants, or at least those who daily come to market, must be well off in a pecuniary sense, judging by their gold and silver ornaments and fanciful dresses.
Tramways render all parts of the city and environs accessible, the double-decked cars enabling them to carry a large number of passengers. Broad streets and convenient sidewalks invite the promenaders along the open squares, which are frequently lined with umbrageous trees and embellished with monuments. The fashionable drive and promenade is the Lange Linie (that is, the "Long Line"), bordering the Sound and forming a complete circle. It reminded one of the Chiaja of Naples, though there is no semi-tropical vegetation to carry out the similitude. It was pleasant to meet here the members of the royal family, including the Queen and Prince Royal. The two servants upon the box in scarlet livery were the only distinctive tokens of royalty observable, and there were no other attendants. Her Majesty and the Prince were both prompt to recognize and salute us as a stranger. The present king, Christian IX., it will be remembered, was crowned in 1863, and is now in his sixty-fifth year. Being in poor health, during our visit he was absent at Wiesbaden, partaking of its mineral waters. It must be admitted that the past sovereigns of Denmark have not always been so deserving of popular respect as have the people of the country generally. The late king was by no means a shining light of morality. He was married three times, divorcing his first queen; the second divorced him, and the royal roué ended by marrying his mistress, who was a fashionable milliner. He first created her a countess, but he could not make a lady of her, even in outward appearance, and she remained to the last a social monstrosity to the court. She was fat, vulgar-looking, snub-nosed, bourgeoise, and ruled the King in all things. She was totally ignored by decent society in the capital, and became so obnoxious that she nearly provoked open rebellion. However, the fortunate death of the King finally ended this condition of affairs; and as he left no children by any of his wives, the crown descended to his cousin the present King, who, it is pleasant to record, has not failed to dignify the throne.
The ladies walk or drive very generally in the afternoon upon the Lange Linie, and are certainly attractive with their fair complexions, light golden hair, and smiling blue eyes. They have both sunny faces and sunny hearts, emphasized by the merriest tones of ringing laughter that ever saluted the ear. They are lovable, but not beautiful, excelling in ordinary accomplishments, such as music and dancing; "but above all," said a resident American to us, "they are naturally of domestic habits, and care nothing for politics or so-called woman's rights, except the right to make home happy." The well-to-do portion of the community very generally live in "flats," after the French and modern American style. Some large and elegant buildings of this character were observed in course of construction at the extreme end of the Bredgade. There is no very poor or squalid district in the town, and one looks in vain for such wretched hovels as disfigure so many European cities.
The Palace of Rosenborg with its superb gardens, noble avenues of chestnut trees, and graceful shrubbery is situated near the present centre of the city. It was once a royal residence, having been built by Christian IV. as a dwelling-place, whither he might retire at will from the noise and interruptions of the capital. At the time of its erection in 1604 it was outside the walls, a radius which the modern city has long since outgrown. The room in which the King died in 1648 is shown to visitors, and recalled to us the small apartment in which Philip II. died at the Escurial, near Madrid. Among the few paintings upon the walls of this apartment is one representing the King upon his death-bed, as he lay in his last long sleep. The palace is now devoted to a chronological collection of the belongings of the Danish kings, spacious apartments being devoted to souvenirs of each, decorated in the style of the period and containing a portion of the original furniture from the several royal residences, as well as the family portraits, gala-costumes, jewelry, plate, and weapons. Altogether it is a collection of priceless value and of remarkable historic interest, covering a period of about four hundred and fifty years. One is forcibly reminded of the Green Vaults of Dresden while passing through the many sections of Rosenborg Castle. The extraordinary and valuable collection within its walls has, it is believed, no superior in point of interest in all Europe. The founder of this museum was Frederick III., the son and successor of Christian IV. Some of the cabinets and other articles of furniture in the various halls and rooms are marvellous works of art, inlaid with ivory and mother-of-pearl, representing birds, flowers, landscapes, and domestic scenes with all the finished effect of oil paintings by a master-hand. In the cabinets and tables secret drawers are exposed to view by the touching of hidden springs. While some tables are formed of solid silver, as are also other articles of domestic use, still others are composed of both gold and silver. Many of the royal regalias are profusely inlaid with diamonds, sapphires, emeralds, rubies, and other precious stones, – forming an aggregated value too large for us to venture an estimate. The toilet sets were numerous, and had belonged to the several queens, each embracing eight or ten finely wrought pieces made of solid gold, superbly inlaid with precious stones. Among these costly sets was observed the jewelled casket of Queen Sophia Amalie, wife of Frederick III., a relic of great interest, inlaid with scores of large diamonds. The costly and very beautiful bridal dresses of several royal personages are here exhibited, all being carefully and chronologically arranged, so that the intelligent visitor clearly reads veritable history amid this array of domestic treasures.
It is difficult to designate the order of architecture to which the Rosenborg Palace belongs, though it is clearly enough in the showy renaissance of the seventeenth century. It is attributed to the famous architect Inigo Jones. In the spacious grounds is a fine monument erected to the memory of Hans Christian Andersen, the Danish poet and author, whose popular tales are the delight not only of all Scandinavian children, but of those of larger growth, being full of acute observation and profound views under a simple and familiar guise. At the foot of this statue, as we passed by, there stood a group of young children, to whom one evidently their teacher was explaining its purport. A school of gardening is also established here, with extensive conservatories and hot-houses. These grounds are called the Kindergarten of the city, being so universally the resort of infancy and childhood during the long summer days, but are officially known as Kongen's Have (King's Garden).
Close to the Rosenborg Palace is the Astronomical Observatory, in the grounds of which is a monument to the astronomer Tycho Brahe, who died in 1610. This monument was unveiled on the 8th day of August, 1876, just three hundred years after the founding of Brahe's famous observatory on the Island of Hveen, where he discovered on the 1st of November, 1572, the Cassiopeia, which is best known as Tycho Brahe's star. "Only Venus at her brightest surpasses this new star," wrote the enthusiastic astronomer. Science, however, has since shown that it was no new star, but one that shines with great lustre for a few months once in a period of three hundred years. One sunny afternoon the author took a trip up the Sound to Hveen, familiarly known as Tycho Brahe's Island, and which was presented to Tycho by the King of Denmark. The foundation in ruins is all that remains of the famous castle which the somewhat vain astronomer built here, and to which he gave the name of Uraniborg ("Castle of the Heavens."). This man was a strange compound of science and superstition; he was a poet of no ordinary power, and was courted by many of the eminent men of his day. James VI. of Scotland was at times his guest at Hveen. He was well connected, but mortally offended his relatives by marrying an humble peasant girl of Amager.
The most interesting Christian temple in the capital is that of Our Lady's Church, being also the oldest and best endowed. It was founded early in the twelfth century, and is in the Greco-Roman style; but its greatest attraction is the possession of some of Thorwaldsen's finest sculpture. The sad-fated Caroline Matilda was married with great ceremony in this church, in 1766, to her cousin Christian VII. Outside of the church are two statues in bronze, – one of David by Jerichau, and one of Moses by Bissen. The King's Square already spoken of is situated very near the actual centre of the city, whence radiates a dozen more or less of the principal streets, of which the Bredgade (Broad Street) is one. In the middle of this area there is a statue of Christian V. surrounded by grotesque, allegorical figures. The material of the statue is lead, the whole forming a colossal caricature upon art, entirely unworthy of its present situation. There is a friendly collection of tall shrubbery clustered about the leaden statue, forming a partial screen. The spacious square, or circus as it would be called in London, or piazza in Rome, is bordered by several public buildings, mingled with tall narrow dwellings, characterized by fantastic gables and long sloping roofs full of little dormer windows. The Royal Theatre, the Academy of Arts, Count Moltke's picture gallery, and some hotels centre here.
The Round Tower of Copenhagen has been pronounced one of the most remarkable buildings in the world. It is certainly very peculiar, designed as a sort of annex to the Church of the Holy Trinity. Formerly it served as an astronomical observatory; and it is an observatory still, since it affords one of the best and most comprehensive views that can be had of the low-lying capital. The tower consists of two hollow cylinders, and between them a spiral, gradually-inclined foot-way leads from base to summit, somewhat similar to the grand Campanile in the piazza of St. Mark, Venice. It is quite safe for a horse and vehicle to ascend; indeed, this performance is said to have been achieved by the Empress Catherine, and it is also recorded that Peter the Great accomplished the same feat on horseback in 1707. From the top of the Round Tower the red-tiled roofs of the city lie spread out beneath the eye of the visitor, mingled with green parks, open squares, tall slim steeples, broad canals, public buildings, long boulevards, palaces, and gardens. To this aspect is added the multitude of shipping lying along the piers and grouped in the harbor, backed by a view of the open sea. The Swedish coast across the Baltic is represented by a low range of coast-line losing itself upon the distant horizon. Turning the eyes inland, there are seen thick groves of dark woods and richly cultivated fields, sprinkled here and there by the half-awkward but picturesque and wide-armed wind-mills in lazy motion. The bird's-eye view obtained of Copenhagen and surroundings from this eyrie is one to be long and vividly remembered.
There is what is called the Dyrehave, or Deer Park, a couple of miles beyond the Prince's château, where the people of Copenhagen annually enjoy a mid-summer revel lasting some weeks, perhaps a little too fast and free, if the truth be told, where even Nijnii-Novgorod is exceeded in lasciviousness. A fair of some days' continuance is held in the park, which reaches its climax on St. John's Eve, when its well-arranged precincts, groves, cafés, shooting galleries, flower-booths and verdant vistas make a rare picture of gayety and sportive life. A large herd of the picturesque animals after whom the park is named, roam at will over the more secluded portions. Among them two noble white stags were observed, the first we had ever chanced to see. The park is reached by a pleasant drive over an excellent road, or by steam tramway cars any hour in the day.
Twenty miles northwest of the city are situated the village and the royal palace of , one of the noblest of all the royal residences of the kings of Denmark. It stands about midway between the capital and Elsinore. The original building was begun under Frederick II., grandfather of Charles I. of England, and completed in 1608 by his son and successor Christian IV. The palace occupies three small islands in the middle of Lake Hilleröd, which is also the name of the neighboring market-town, the islands being connected therewith by a bridge. The building is four stories in height, composed of red sandstone, elaborately ornamented with sculpture, the whole surmounted by tall towers and a steeple containing a chime of bells. It has been pronounced a dream of architectural beauty, quite unequalled elsewhere in Denmark.
It is not the author's purpose to take the reader far away from Copenhagen, or at least from the shores of the Sound, as the plan of the present volume is so comprehensive in other directions as to circumscribe the space which can properly be devoted to Denmark.
On the peninsula, as well as in Zeeland, the land is generally undulating. There being as we have said no mountains or considerable elevations, consequently no waterfalls or rapids are to be met with; the rivers are smooth and the lakes mirror-like. The soil is sandy, often marshy, but produces good crops of grain and affords fine pasturage. The green fields were sprinkled far and near on the line of the railroad from Korsoer to Copenhagen with grazing cattle, sheep, and horses, forming a pleasing rural picture under a clear azure sky. The produce of the dairy is the great staple of Denmark. On this route one passes through the village of Leedoye, where there was once a grand Pagan temple and place of sacrifice, exceeded in importance in Scandinavia only by that at Upsala. Close at hand is Röskilde, so historically interesting, – though save its grand cathedral, dating from the twelfth or thirteenth century, it has little left to show that for five hundred years it was the capital of Denmark, even down to 1448. Here is to be seen the black marble sarcophagus of the renowned Queen Margaret of Scandinavia, surmounted by her recumbent effigy; also a mortuary chapel of Christian IV. and Frederick V. Other queens and monarchs are here interred, from the time of Harold to Frederick VII. The whole forms an exceedingly interesting monument of mediæval days.
Upon this line of road there are occasional districts so well wooded as to be called forests; but that word does not signify the same in Zeeland as it does in America. There are still to be seen occasional groups of gypsy vagrants in the inland districts, but are rarely to be found in the cities. Not many years ago they were here in great numbers, but are now gradually disappearing. One group was observed whose members presented all the peculiar characteristics of their Asiatic origin. They are dark-skinned, with raven-black hair and black piercing eyes, presenting a picture of indolence and sensuousness. The young women were mostly handsome, even in their dirt, rags, and cheap jewelry.
The ramparts and fortifications generally which formerly surrounded Copenhagen on the seaside have nearly all been demolished, the ground being now turned into fine garden-walks planted with umbrageous trees and bright-hued flowers, adding greatly to the beauty of the Danish capital. The last unimproved portion of these now defunct fortifications is being levelled and brought into ornamental condition. The former moats have assumed the shape of tiny lakes, upon which swans are seen at all hours; and where death-dealing cannon were planted, lindens, rose-bushes, peonies, heliotrope, and tall white lilies now bloom and flourish. The outer-island defences have in the mean time been greatly strengthened and the more modern weapons of warfare adopted, so that Copenhagen is even better prepared for self-defence than ever before.
"Lord keep me innocent: make others great."
One has only to study for a moment the serene and beautiful face of the Queen, as exhibited in Rosenborg Palace, to feel entire confidence in her innocence.
If you come to Elsinore the guide will show you what is called Hamlet's grave, located in a small grove of trees, where some cunning hands long ago erected a rude mound of stones. Shakspeare, who had a royal way of committing anachronisms, made Hamlet live in this place after the introduction of gunpowder, whereas, if any such person ever did exist, it was centuries earlier and hundreds of miles farther north upon the mainland, in what is now Jutland. However, that is unimportant. Do not leave Elsinore without visiting Ophelia's fatal brook! To be sure it is not large enough for a duck to swim in, but a little stretch of the imagination will overcome all local discrepancies.
Far back in Danish legendary story, a time when history fades into fable, it is said there was a Hamlet in northern Denmark, but it was long before the birth of Christ. His father was not a king, but a famous pirate chief who governed Jutland in conjunction with his brother. Hamlet's father married the daughter of a Danish king, the issue being Hamlet. His uncle, according to the ancient story, did murder Hamlet's father and afterwards married his mother; and this was the basis of Shakspeare's grand production.
The great, gloomy-looking castle of Kronborg, which has stood sentinel here for three centuries, would require two thousand men and more to defend it in time of war, but modern gunnery has rendered it, for all offensive purposes, of no account. The Sound, which at Copenhagen is about twenty miles wide, here narrows to two, the old fort of Helsingborg on the Swedish coast being in full view. Thus the passage here forms the natural gate to the Baltic. There are delightful drives in the environs of Elsinore presenting land and sea views of exquisite loveliness, the water-side bristling with reefs, rocks, and lighthouses, while that of the land is picturesque with villas, groves, and cultivated meads.
Gottenburg. – Ruins of Elfsborg. – Gustavus Adolphus. – A Wrecked Monument. – The Girdle-Duellists. – Emigration to America. – Public and Private Gardens. – A Kindly People. – The Götha Canal. – Falls of Trollhätta. – Dainty Wild-Flowers. – Water-ways. – Stockholm and Lake Maelaren. – Prehistoric Tokens. – Iron Mines of Sweden. – Pleasing Episode with Children. – The Liquor Traffic Systematized. – A Great Practical Charity. – A Domestic Habit