Letters from Abroad to Kindred at Home/Place XIV
We passed the night at Coblentz. The Romans called it Conf!uentes, "modernized into Coblentz, from its situation at the confluence of the Mosel and the Rhine. It is the capital of the Rhenish provinces of Prussia, and its population, together with that of Ehrenbreitstein, including the garrison, is about 22,000." Thank our guide Murray for the above well-condensed paragraph, containing more information than half a dozen pages of my weaving.The younger members of our party, including myself, were enterprising enough to quit our luxurious and most comfortable apartments at the Bellevue at five o'clock, to go to the fortress of Ehrenbreitstein ("Honour's broad stone," is it not a noble name?).
We passed the Rhine on a bridge of boats, and followed a veteran Austrian soldier, who was our valet de place, to the fortified summit. It has been from the time of the Romans a celebrated military post. Byron saw and described it after it had been battered and dismantled by the French, and not as it now is, capable of resisting, on the word of Wellington, "all but golden bullets." It only yielded to famine when the French besieged it. The Prussians have made it stronger than ever, at an expense of five millions of dollars! So the men of toil pay for the engines that keep them mere men of toil.
The works struck me as appallingly strong, but, as I could not comprehend their details, after our guide had told me there were magazines capable of containing a ten years' supply of food for 8000 men, that there were cisterns that would hold a three years' supply of water, and, when that was exhausted, the Rhine itself could be drawn on by a well which is pierced through the solid rock; when I had got all available information, I turned to what much better suited me, the lovely view. Oh, for my magic mirror to show you how lovely looked, in this morning light, the scene below us; the blue Moselle coming down through its vine-covered bills, towns, ruins, villas, cottages, and the Rhine itself, "the charm of this enchanted ground!" I think I like it the better that it is frozen three months in the year. This seems to make it a blood-relation of our rivers. You cannot imagine how much the peasant girls in their pretty costumes embellish these surroundings. They do not wear bonnets, but, in their stead, an endless variety of headgear. Some wear a little muslin cap or one of gay-coloured embroidery, and others a sort of silver case that just encloses the long hair, which is always braided and neatly arranged.
Did you know that the prince of diplomatists and arch-enemy of liberty, Metternich, was born at Coblentz? We have just been to see a fountain, on which is an inscription commemorative of the French invasion of Russia. It was put there by the French prefect of the department, and a few months after, when the Russians passed through here in pursuit of the blattered army of Napoleon, their commander annexed the following happy sarcasm: "Vu et approuvé par nous commandant Russe," &c. (Seen and approved by us, the Russian commander.)