Hume in Köln: as if it had lately escaped a pestilence or famine

Cologne, 23d March.

We came hither last night, and have travelled through an extreme pleasant country along the banks of the Rhine. Particularly Cleves, which belongs to the King of Prussia, is very agreeable, because of the beauty of the roads, which are avenues bordered with fine trees. The land in that province is not fertile, but is well cultivated. The bishoprick of Cologne is more fertile and adorned with fine woods as well as Cleves. The country is all very populous, the houses good, and the inhabitants well clothed and well fed. This is one of the largest cities in Europe, being near a league in diameter. The houses are all high; and there is no interval of gardens or fields. So that you would expect it must be very populous. But it is not so. It is extremely decayed, and is even falling to ruin. Nothing can strike one with more melancholy than its appearance, where there are marks of past opulence and grandeur, but such present waste and decay, as if it had lately escaped a pestilence or famine. We are told, that it was formerly the centre of all the trade of the Rhine, which has been since removed to Holland, Liege, Frankfort, &c. Here we see the Rhine in its natural state; being only a little higher (but no broader) on account of the melting of the snows. I think it is as broad as from the foot of your house to the opposite banks of the river.

(David Hume)


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