Stelling — An Adventure — Birth-Day Festivities — The Anstossen — Evening Amusements — Eppendorf — Game of Bowls — Winterhude — Church of Eppendorf —Eimsbüttel

Lockstedt, 27th June 1820.
MY DEAR J****, THE morning of Saturday was ushered in by the arrival of several splendid presents, intended for the bride. I breakfasted at an early hour, and, as the weather was exceedingly fine, set out on a walk—having pre-determined to followthe windings of the road until I should arrive at some village. As I had reason to think that a little poetic squib would not be an unacceptable tribute, I amused myself on the way with scribbling — resolved if possible to compass an acrostic.

After sauntering about a mile I reached the outskirts of a village, which upon inquiry I found was named Stelling. At the entrance of it there is a mansion belonging to a physician retired from business, which has completely captivated me. The inhabitant of such a spot may indeed be said to have retired. The house, which is old, is. of a very picturesque appearance,—and stands in the centre of a fine flowergarden. The rear is protected by an extensive forest, that nearly incloses the village; and in front there is a road, lengthening into an almost interminable vista between two rows of lindens, which I am determined one day to explore.

I was here, for the first time, struck with the appearance of inscriptions carved over the doors of the cottages — recording their date, and the names of their founders. As this was quite a novel affair to me, I set about transcribing one of them while retracing my steps towards Lockstedt — Anno 1744, den 6 Juli hat Hans Juhrs und Ilsabe Ihrs dis Haus bauen lassen, No. 20 *). (It is rather singular, by the by, that the custom of numbering houses should have prevailed in the villages so long since, while in large towns, as I have been informed, it is of comparatively recent introduction.) While thus engaged, I observed some females peeping from a window of the cottage; and, shortly after, a man passing across inside with a gun in his hand. From their motions and whispering I conjectured that they took me for a spy, or some other sinister being: however, as the Bauer [“boor”] (which is here no term of reproach,) came out after a few moments, I addressed him in a friendly manner, explaining the nature of my occupation. During our parley, he stated that Juhrs and Ihrs were abbreviations of Ihrgensass. It is dangerous meddling with peasants’ houses. You may remember a friend of ours, who, while sketching a cabin on the river Dodder near Milltown, was menaced with a shot if he did not immediately desist.

*) “On the 6th of July 1744, Hans and Ilsabe [Jilsbeth, Elizabeth] Ihrgensass founded this house, No. 20.”

After this adventure, if it deserve the name, I pursued my way. Having deflected a little from the line of direction, I found myself at what I considered to be a new village, and was much surprised upon learning that I was once more at Lockstedt. It was a quarter which I had not visited before. Such mistakes are inevitable in this vicinity, because the cottages are not contiguous, but separated by gardens and grassplots (frequently of considerable extent), and sometimes embosomed in trees, which completely intercept the view. In fact this village — like most of those I have seen in the neighbourhood — consists rather of a group of detached habitations than of compact and united abodes; and is so embellished with shrubs, trees, and foliage of every description, that it is rather an assemblage of bowers than a village.

Upon returning to my friend’s house, I found the parlour decked with a profusion of flowers, wreaths, nosegays, and festoons, — tastefully disposed, or negligently scattered, in every direction. About twelve o’clock the guests from town began to flock in. After partaking of a collation, which is here termed “second breakfast,” or “fork breakfast” (because meats are introduced), we planned a stroll about the country. Our way led through a handsome demesne terminating at a village called Bostel, — where we rested in one of those large gardens which are always attached to rural houses of entertainment. Persons of either sex or any rank may enter these — as a promenade through them does not necessarily imply the partaking of refreshment; and the lighter beverages, such as coffee and tea, can at all events be procured, and are indeed more in demand than spirituous liquors.

To a participator in or aspirant after civic honours I should not omit to state, in the newspaper style — that „the dinner consisted of every delicacy which the season could produce,“ and that „the wines were excellent:“ but leaving these matters to your imagination, I shall take a more philosophical view of the subject. Flora displayed her treasures no less lavishly now than she had in the morning: roses, lilies, flowers of every description, were interspersed among the dishes, and stuck perpendicularly into the puddings and pasties; orange-trees in pots were likewise disposed at intervals, — the smell however of which, added to the savour of the viands, became so oppressive that they were quickly removed. Over the head of the bride was suspended a large Kranz, or canopy of flowers, at least a yard in diameter, and tapering upward to a point: this was a tribute of affection from the servants. The chief peculiarity of a German dinner is this, — that all the joints, as they are served up in succession, are carved by some one member of the family, after which the dishes are circulated — each individual helping himself and passing them to his neighbour. At large dinner-parties a servant performs the duty of transmission. Thus, when the viands are numerous, there is a sort of peristrephic panorama exhibited during the entire repast.

I remember to have been once stopped in perusing Schillers Wallenstein by the words „Sie stießen an“ [„They dashed on“], but on this occasion witnessed a practical translation of them. The convives, when proceeding to drink the several toasts, stood up, and touched with their glasses those of two or three of their nearest neighbours, with a circular motion of the hand,—after which the Anstossen became general, every person tingling his glass against those of all the other guests. On rising from table we shook hands, according to custom, repeating the words „GesegneteMahlzeit!“ [„Blessed meal-time!“] a genteel modification of — “Much good may it do you.“

Hard drinking (except of coffee,) does not seem to be in vogue here. The evening sun was shining in full splendor when we arose from table. The company dispersed in various groups, and rambled about until tea-time. Before separating for the night a game was introduced, in which one person having left the room the others chose some equivocal word, which the extern was on his re-admission bound to discover from a comparison of certain allusions made to it under its different acceptations, — and these, being often of a contradictory nature, served to exercise the skill of the investigator. On parting after supper, the formulary of salutation is — “Schlafen Sie wohl!“ [„Sleep well!“ or, „A good night’s rest to you!“]

On Sunday morning I walked over to Eppendorf, to visit some friends who reside at “The Mill” — a boarding-house for gentlemen. This village is the favourite resort of the Hamburg merchants, and others whose business requires their daily attendance in the city. Besides the advantage of a pretty good road, boats ply on the Alster, — and convey passengers to or from town (a distance of above three miles,) for the moderate fare of one penny. The roads which intersect Eppendorf are in many parts bordered with tall trees, chiefly linden; and the houses are in general neat and handsome; — but the effect of the whole is rather stiff and suburban. This is the scene of a notorious miracle of the fifteenth century. In the year 1482, there grew in one of the gardens at this village a head of cabbage; which, by the application of the consecrated wafer, assumed the form of a crucifix, — and was subsequently transferred to the imperial museum at Vienna, where it was preserved in one of the silver boxes destined to contain the host. An engraving of the sanctified vegetable was also struck off for the edification of the faithful. Every Saturday evening there are a ball and assembly held at one of the numerous lodging-houses of Eppendorf. Although it was the Sabbath-day, the bowls were in full activity. This is the favourite game of the northern Germans; — one never passes through any village without hearing the rolling of the ball inside of some hedge. At the entrance of the court — which is generally an uncovered avenue of a garden — a small apartment, or at least a shed, is built to protect the players from the weather. A slight shed is also erected at the opposite extremity, where the marker is stationed, — who returns the ball through a sloping wooden channel, elevated about a yard from the ground. Along the centre of the avenue a smooth board is inserted, to convey the ball from the hand of the player. The pins are not disposed by threes, but in one row opposite to the bowlers. The bystanders smoke; oramuse their ears with hearkening to the strains of some itinerant harper, or other musician, while their eyes pursue the motions of the ball.

After witnessing a game or two, we strolled to the next village — Winterhude — where I for the first time saw the interior of a peasant’s house. Figure to yourself my surprise when, upon entering, I found myself in a spacious unfioored apartment, large enough to admit a coach and four to drive round it; while at one corner I descried the heads of two horses engaged in discussing their matin allowance of oats, as the manger opened into the apartment. This vast room was called the Diele, or Landdiele, and had an entrance wide enough for a gateway. At the further extremity were the stairs leading to the upper chambers and lofts. Tables, chairs, and other pieces of old furniture, were disposed along the walls. From hence we returned to Eppendorf, and visited the church; which I had an opportunity of surveying minutely, as the service was over. It rather resembles a Roman Catholic chapel than a reformed place of worship. The front pannels of the pews in the gallery exhibit a succession of paintings from scriptural subjects, in tolerable preservation. Several other pictures also hang against the walls, among which is one of Luther, with the following inscription: —

          Dispulit errorum tenebras, priscumque reduxit
          Lütherus veri, te duce, Christe, jubar.

and one of Melancthon, bearing the following:—

          En magnum meritis divinaque arte Philippum,
          Cui vix invenient secula nostra parem.

The figure of an angel holding a golden wreath is suspended from the ceiling, within the rails of the communion-table. When the sacrament is administered in the German Lutheran churches, the communicant presents himself at the left of the altar, where he receives the bread, — and then walks round a passage behind it to the right, where he receives the wine.

I spent a good part of yesterday in the Exchange-Hall (where I met with some of the English periodical works), and in botanizing about the suburbs. The ample scroll you are perusing, most of which I penned in the forenoon, will testify that I have not spent this day in total idleness. I am just returned from an evening walk across the fields to Eimsbiittel, where there was an affair between the French and Russians in the last war. This event is commemorated by a musket-ball that is still to be seen in a window-sash of a house of entertainment, with the date of the transaction annexed — “d. 4 Jun. 1814.“ There is a demesne contiguous to the gardens of this house, all the trees of which were hewn down about that period, except one, — the preservation of which is recorded by the following inscription on a tablet affixed to it: —

          Auch dieser Eiche Haupt sollt sich dem Frevler beugen,
          Und gierig nagte schon sein Beil am innern Mark;

          Doch, späten Enkler noch den Frevler zu bezeugen,
          Steht unter Gottes Schutz sie kraftvoll da und stark*).
                              15 Juni, 1817.

Eimsbüttel, Eppendorf, and the other Alster villages, as they are termed, were purchased by the Hamburgers from the Count of Holstein, in the beginning of the fourteenth century.

I walked over to Altona this morning, but as I had leisure only for a hasty view, and intend to repeat my visit to-morrow, I shall keep in abeyance whatever observations I have to make.
Yours, &c. &c.

*) Literally: — “Also this oak’s head should bow itself to the delinquent, and eagerly his axe was already gnawing on the inner pith; but, to denounce the delinquent even to remote posterity, it stands there vigorous and sturdy under God’s protection.”