CHAPTER VI. GERMANY, AUSTRIA, AND HUNGARY.
Notwithstanding Alsace was French territory only fourteen years ago (1871) there is a noticeable difference in the inhabitants, to me the most acceptable being their great linguistic superiority over the people on the French side of the border. I linger in Saarburg only about thirty minutes, yet am addressed twice by natives in my own tongue; and at Pfalzburg, a smaller town, where I remain over night, I find the same characteristic. Ere I penetrate thirty kilometres into German territory, however, I have to record what was never encountered in France; an insolent teamster, who, having his horses strung across a narrow road- way in the suburbs of Saarburg, refuses to turn his leaders' heads to enable me to ride past, thus compelling me to dismount. Soldiers drilling, soldiers at target practice, and soldiers in companies marching about in every direction, greet my eyes upon approaching Pfalzburg; and although there appears to be less beating of drums and blare of trumpets than in French garrison towns, one seldom turns a street corner without hearing the measured tramp of a military company receding or approaching. These German troops appear to march briskly and in a business-like manner in comparison with the French, who always seem to carry themselves with a tired and dejected deportment; but the over-ample and rather slouchy-looking pantaloons of the French are probably answerable, in part, for this impression. One cannot watch these sturdy-looking German soldiers without a conviction that for the stern purposes of war they are inferior only to the soldiers of our own country. At the little gasthaus at Pfalzburg the people appear to understand and anticipate an Englishman's gastronomic peculiarities, for the first time since leaving England I am confronted at the supper-table with excellent steak and tea.
It is raining next morning as I wheel over the rolling hills toward Saverne, a city nestling pleasantly in a little valley beyond those dark wooded heights ahead that form the eastern boundary of the valley of the Rhine. The road is good but hilly, and for several kilometres, before reaching Saverne, winds its way among the pine forests tortuously and steeply down from the elevated divide. The valley, dotted here and there with pleasant villages, is spread out like a marvellously beautiful picture, the ruins of several old castles on neighboring hill-tops adding a charm, as well as a dash of romance.
The rain pours down in torrents as I wheel into Saverne. I pause long enough to patronize a barber shop; also to procure an additional small wrench. Taking my nickelled monkey-wrench into a likely-looking hardware store, I ask the proprietor if he has anything similar. He examines it with lively interest, for, in comparison with the clumsy tools comprising his stock-in-trade, the wrench is as a watch-spring to an old horse-shoe. I purchase a rude tool that might have been fashioned on the anvil of a village blacksmith. From Saverne my road leads over another divide and down into the glorious valley of the Rhine, for a short distance through a narrow defile that reminds me somewhat of a canon in the Sierra Nevada foot-hills; but a fine, broad road, spread with a coating of surface-mud only by this morning's rain, prevents the comparison from assuming definite shape for a cycler. Extensive and beautifully terraced vineyards mark the eastern exit. The road-beds of this country are hard enough for anything; but a certain proportion of clay in their composition makes a slippery coating in rainy weather. I enter the village of Marienheim and observe the first stork's nest, built on top of a chimney, that I have yet seen in Europe, though I saw plenty of them afterward. The parent stork is perched solemnly over her youthful brood, which one would naturally think would get smoke-dried. A short distance from Marlenheim I descry in the hazy distance the famous spire of Strasburg cathedral looming conspicuously above everything else in all the broad valley; and at 1.30 P.M. I wheel through the massive arched gateway forming part of the city's fortifications, and down the broad but roughly paved streets, the most mud-be-spattered object in all Strasburg. The fortifications surrounding the city are evidently intended strictly for business, and not merely for outward display. The railway station is one of the finest in Europe, and among other conspicuous improvements one notices steam tram-cars. While trundling through the city I am imperatively ordered off the sidewalk by the policeman; and when stopping to inquire of a respectable-looking Strasburger for the Appeuweir road, up steps an individual with one eye and a cast off military cap three sizes too small. After querying, " Appenweir. Englander?" he wheels "about face" with military precision doubtless thus impelled by the magic influence of his headgear - and beckons me to follow. Not knowing what better course to pursue I obey, and after threading the mazes of a dozen streets, composed of buildings ranging in architecture from the much gabled and not unpicturesque structures of mediaeval times to the modern brown-stone front, he pilots me outside the fortifications again, points up the Appenweir road, and after the never neglected formality of touching his cap and extending his palm, returns city-ward.