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

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 ADVERTISEMENT TO THE FIRST EDITION The success which attended the publication in this Series of Illustrated Works of
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  • 1852
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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 text.

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 summit.

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 defence.

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 weather.

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 officer!

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 observers.

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 behind.

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 Hamburgh.

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 transactions.

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 Exchange.

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 Rendsburg.

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 figures.

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 master.

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 other.

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 public.

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 dwellings.

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 Copenhagen.

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 island.

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 friendship!

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 selfishness.

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 bishop.

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 field-flowers.

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