« PreviousContinue »
Summary of Expences.
we would pay for every extra day, besides the five, we might detain the carriage: the driver, on his part, covenanting to pay the Barriere of the Simplon, twelve francs, and all other Barrieres, bridges, &c. &c. and to provide two, three, or four, horses as necessary.
One reason of the great cost of travelling in Switzerland is the practice of paying the expenses of every vehicle back to the place from which it was hired.—Thus we pay for our carriage back again to Geneva.
In leaving Switzerland, I cannot testify to the supposed cheapness of that part of the country which I have seen; having found all charges equally high as at Paris, and accommodation certainly inferior. I ought perhaps to except Chamouni, where we had an excellent dinner, including a bottle of very good Vin Ordinaire, for three francs, with other matters in proportion, at the Hotel de Londres.
It was in the neighbourhood of Martigny and in the Haut, and Bas, Valais, that we found those pitiable objects termed Cretins. They are, for the most part, ideotic; sometimes deaf and dumb; and distinguished by the strange personal defect of a Goitre, or swelling in the throat. Though I have understood that this excrescence will sometimes reach to the chest, I saw nothing so extreme. But I observed that almost all the people hereabout
have a swollen throat, more, or less. Among other assigned causes is the excessive coldness of the water they drink, with the dampness of the situation.
SIMPLON AND ITS GRANDEURS-LAGO MAGGIORE-ISOLA MA◄ DRE-ISOLA BELLA, AND PALACES-BONAPARTE'S LAUREL TREE-ST. CARLO BORROMEO, AND HIS COLOSSAL STATUE— MILAN OBSERVATIONS TRIUMPHAL ARCH -FESTIVAL DELL' ANGELO CUSTODE-LA SCALA, OPERA, AND SIGNORA
PASSAGE of the Simplon.-Hitherto I have been traversing Alpine Heights, accessible as one would suppose only to goats-roads of rocks alonestaircases of stones-heaps of granites rudely tumbled up and down-torrents passed by slender planks, or limbs of trees-and paths where carriage wheels ne'er rolled. In all these difficulties, presupposing a little courage and presence of mind, so that one need not say—
Least my brain turn, and the deficient sight
the better rule, in my judgment, is to leave your mule at perfect liberty, with which is combined the advantage of seeing, in full freedom, all the surrounding landscape; impracticable in walking, our entire attention being engrossed by the care of placing our feet most cautiously.
But I have now to give a brief description of a
pass, which was formerly such as the others are, yet now is as easy as they are rough.
In the year 1801 Napoleon projected, and in 1805 finished, a complete military road into Italy over the hitherto inaccessible precipices of the Simplon. Soon after leaving Brigg, the road commences insensibly ascending you mount to the highest points of the pass; to the inn at an elevation of 3216 feet above the level of the Mediterranean; and to the village at 4548. Throughout this stupendous ascent, and thence downwards to Duomo d'Ossola, a length of thirty-five miles, one uniform breadth is maintained of twenty-five Paris feet.
Its direction is one continued winding way, the road always smooth, and its ascent, equally with its descent, so gradual, that at no point is it necessary to lock the carriage wheels.
This Chaussée has been considered as one of Bonaparte's most splendid achievements, and as one of the most astonishing triumphs of human ingenuity, and powers, over the barriers of nature, It is indeed stupendous thus to walk with perfect ease amid the highest precipices, and most inaccessible heights; to look upwards, and to see your path in the clouds; to look downwards, and to behold your winding way in the gulphs below!
There are more than thirty bridges thrown across the torrents, and the chasms of the rock; but, where the mighty mass of impenetrable granite
stretched its huge adamantine barriers athwart the path, and seemed to deny all further way; there, six long passages, or galleries, have either been hewn by manual labour through the imperishable granite; or effected by blasting it with gunpowder. On the Italian side 17,500 lb. were used for this purpose. The work was divided between French and Italian engineers, but the difficulties of perforation were far greater on the Italian side of territory than on the French. These arcades through the solid rock are of the length of from 80 paces to 202, or 1000 feet.
Such are some of the Herculean labours surmounted. The road is defended by palings, and short stone pillars at regular distances, and besides the walls below, which uphold the path, the rocks above are also fashioned into a smooth surface. At different stations there are six Refuges, which independently of the obvious meaning of the word are the residences appointed for the "cantonniers," or workmen employed to keep the roads in repair.
How can I attempt to describe the wild, and savage, yet sublime, scenery throughout! The stupendous mountains piled one above the other in the most fantastic forms, stretching to the skies, some capped with snows, some crowned with firs; the groves of larch and beech that line their precipitous sides, partly luxuriant with all the verdure of creation, and partly scathed, and blighted, by the piti