Travelling in Germany in earlier years

I eventually got round to reading Vanity Fair when I had watched the excellent TV adaptation last year – I did not realize the book was over 900 pages long. Previous attempts had failed after about 4 pages because I thought there were no interesting characters, so I missed its light treatment of society and politics and Waterloo.

There are some parts where the characters travel to the German principalities in the summer, as was apparently common. They went by boat from near the Tower. Here from Project Gutenberg

Am Rhein

The above everyday events had occurred, and a few weeks had passed, when on one fine morning, Parliament being over, the summer advanced, and all the good company in London about to quit that city for their annual tour in search of pleasure or health, the Batavier steamboat left the Tower-stairs laden with a goodly company of English fugitives. The quarter-deck awnings were up, and the benches and gangways crowded with scores of rosy children, bustling nursemaids; ladies in the prettiest pink bonnets and summer dresses; gentlemen in travelling caps and linen-jackets, whose mustachios had just begun to sprout for the ensuing tour; and stout trim old veterans with starched neckcloths and neat-brushed hats, such as have invaded Europe any time since the conclusion of the war, and carry the national Goddem into every city of the Continent. The congregation of hat-boxes, and Bramah desks, and dressing-cases was prodigious. There were jaunty young Cambridge-men travelling with their tutor, and going for a reading excursion to Nonnenwerth or Konigswinter; there were Irish gentlemen, with the most dashing whiskers and jewellery, talking about horses incessantly, and prodigiously polite to the young ladies on board, whom, on the contrary, the Cambridge lads and their pale-faced tutor avoided with maiden coyness; there were old Pall Mall loungers bound for Ems and Wiesbaden and a course of waters to clear off the dinners of the season, and a little roulette and trente-et-quarante to keep the excitement going; there was old Methuselah, who had married his young wife, with Captain Papillon of the Guards holding her parasol and guide-books; there was young May who was carrying off his bride on a pleasure tour (Mrs. Winter that was, and who had been at school with May’s grandmother); there was Sir John and my Lady with a dozen children, and corresponding nursemaids; and the great grandee Bareacres family that sat by themselves near the wheel, stared at everybody, and spoke to no one. Their carriages, emblazoned with coronets and heaped with shining imperials, were on the foredeck, locked in with a dozen more such vehicles: it was difficult to pass in and out amongst them; and the poor inmates of the fore-cabin had scarcely any space for locomotion. These consisted of a few magnificently attired gentlemen from Houndsditch, who brought their own provisions, and could have bought half the gay people in the grand saloon; a few honest fellows with mustachios and portfolios, who set to sketching before they had been half an hour on board; one or two French femmes de chambre who began to be dreadfully ill by the time the boat had passed Greenwich; a groom or two who lounged in the neighbourhood of the horse-boxes under their charge, or leaned over the side by the paddle-wheels, and talked about who was good for the Leger, and what they stood to win or lose for the Goodwood cup.


There is more.

I’ve also look ed at Travellers in the Third Reich. The rise of fascism through the eyes of everyday people, by Julia Boyd. This collects reports by British and American visitors to the new Germany in the 1930s. There is a wide variety of anecdotes (the US athletes from poor backgrounds who went to the Berlin Olympics were amazed by the amount of food they could eat on the boa – one marathon runner had to give up the race after one mile because he had put on so much weight during the voyage).

From the introduction:

Students form a particularly interesting group. It seems that even in the context of such an unpleasant regime, a dose of German culture was still considered an essential part of growing up. But it is hard to find an explanation for why so many British and American teenagers were sent off to Nazi Germany right up until the outbreak of war. Parents who despised the Nazis and derided their gross ‘culture’ showed no compunction in parcelling off their children to the Reich for a lengthy stay. For the young people in question, it was to prove an extraordinary experience, if not exactly the one originally proposed. Students certainly numbered among those who, on returning from Germany, tried to alert their families and friends to the lurking danger. But public indifference or sympathy with Nazi ‘achievements’, cheerful memories of beer gardens and dirndls, and, above all, the deep-seated fear of another war, meant that too often such warnings fell on deaf ears.

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