Eine heruntergekommene Stadt (2)

„(…) It was a city of priests, who spent there the riches of the country, but the days of ecclesiastical greatness are past. It possessed also monopolizing privileges in trade, which the good sense of modern times has abolished. Hence its decline. The people still speak with regret of the good times, when the canons spent their revenues there, like the princess of the Empire, and the neverending festivals and splendid processions at once brought wealth and entertainment to their city. (…)

No monk or nun was to be seen in the streets. Formerly black monks were ever to be seen crawling about, and annoying strangers for money.
A most numerous class of boatmen and porters at the quay along the Rhine, a more industrious, but here not a more useful class than the monks, no longer finds employment. By an iniquitous and absurd regulation, every ship which came down the Rhine, was obliged to stop, and unload her cargo at Cologne; as well as every ship that came up. A great delay was thus occasioned, an immense expense was incurred for no reason whatever, but to find employment for men, whose labour here was of no benefit to those who were compelled to employ them. In fact every thing seems to have been done by man, to counteract the bounty of nature. (…)

The first place I went to was the cathedral. It is a vast, but unfinished, Gothic building, of beauty, which connoisseurs say is unequalled. Several people were at their devotions, and the servants of the church were equally busy in shewing its rarities to strangers. The most remarkable are the splendid and costly monument, and the crowned skulls of the Three Kings. To what a pitch will not ignorance and superstition carry a besotted people! And what are the limits of imposition, when it is found to succeed! (…) A well-informed Catholic holds in equal contempt, the delusions of the mob in Cologne. (…)

The flying bridge on the Rhine is the scene of the most activity at Cologne. I went across the river by it, to see the country beyond, but as the roads were scarcely passable, and as no variety presented itself, the excursion was made very short. I shall here endeavour to describe the bridge, as we have got nothing of the kind in England.
The bridge consists of two very large barges, fastened together, and flooring of strong boards put over them, with a rail round the side to prevent accidents. This deck of the bridge is, they say, capacious enough to receive 1500 people; it certainly could accommodate 500 with great ease. An anchor is fixed in the river, far up above the bridge, a chain goes from the anchor to a boat, from that boat a chain goes to another boat, from that to a third, a forth, fifth and sixth; from this last boat it goes to the bridge. The bridge is kept fast to the side, till the passengers, horses, cattle, carriages, waggons, &c. are all got on board. A bell rings to announce its going off. When all is ready, the chain which fastens the bridge to the side is loosed, the helm is moved, so that the force of the current carries the bridge off from the side, and as the chain from the boats will no allow it to go down the stream, it is carried towards the other side. (…)

Such were the objects worthy of notice, which I saw at Cologne. As it is a great thoroughfare for Germany, I had the satisfaction of meeting with many of our countrymen. It was a high gratification to see the soft, and amiable pleasing countenances, and manners of British ladies, after being compelled so long to look on Dutch, or German women. It is no flattery, and any of our countrymen who have had the same experience, will say the same.

I am, &c. &c.”

(James Mitchell: A Tour Through Belgium, Holland, Along the Rhine, and Through the North of France, in the Summer of 1816: In which is Given an Account of the Civil and Ecclesiastical Polity, and of the System of Education of the Kingdom of the Netherlands; with Remarks on the Fine Arts, Commerce, and Manufactures, Chapter XIX, T. and J. Allman, 1819)


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