Adams Papers

From John Quincy Adams to Thomas Boylston Adams, 23 August 1800

No: 13.

Glatz. 23. August. 1800. Saturday

Yesterday morning early we left Schweidnitz, & came seven german miles, through the towns of Reichenbach, Frankenstein & Wertha, to this place—Reichenbach is chiefly remarkable for being the place where the last treaty between Austria & Prussia was concluded, and for a new Lutheran church, the architecture of which is at once the most simple & elegant of any similar building that I ever saw—The church itself is an oblong square, & internally are three oval galleries, one above <the above> the other, & all supported by pillars of the doric & ionic orders, the size of which is duly graduated in proportion to their height—The oval of the lowest gallery, is compleat, but an opening is left in the two upper ones, at one [end] of the church, for the organ; The alter is enclosed within a semicircle formed by six ionic pillars, supporting a canopy, & between which are four emblematical statues. The pulpit is just over the alter, a little backwards; & not as is usual in most European churches, on one side of the house. The building is stone, plaistered white, & within the church there are no paintings. It was erected in the year 1795.

At Frankenstein we saw the walls of an old castle, which have been more than a century & a half in a ruinous state. In general there is scarcely a town in all lower Silesia, but bears to this day some marks of desolation from the thirty years, & the seven year’s wars.

Wertha is situated in a deep valley between two ranges of steep & lofty mountains; with the river Weisswinding round between them. Its position is so beautiful, that several of the painters of Silesian views, have chosen this spot for one of them. It is a very small town, distinguished only for a cloister of the cistertian order, in which there are now not more than four, or five monks. The church belonging to the cloister is large, & celebrated for the fine proportions of its architecture, as well as for the finest organ in Silesia, excepting that of Grüssau. It contains no paintings of value, but I remarked a great number of ex voto pictures dedicated to the holy virgin, principally by persons recovered from sickness. In one corner of the church I saw an ugly picture of a face done upon silk & a small silver point of a spear, each of them under a frame of a glass; with certificates that they had been touched by certain holy relics at Rome & Ancona; such as the real face of christ, & the spear, which perced his side. It should seem that according to the romish system, these real relics have a certain magnetic power, & that any thing touched by them becomes as efficacious as themselves. While I was looking at the unseemly mask, a woman after kneeling for some time before the great alter, came & devoutly kissed the glass that covered the face, & then tripped away as lightly as if she were sure all her sins were forgiven.

By stopping a day at Schweidnitz, we had hoped the queen would get such a start of us upon her tour, that we should no longer find a difficulty in getting lodgings, or horses on the road, owing to her presence, but upon arriving here last night, we found she had been from this place to Landeck in the morning, & was expected to return and lodge here again, which she really did. The town was of course much crouded, & we were obliged to content ourselves with worse than usual accomodations. This morning at 6. the queen took her departure for Breslau.

Glatz. again. 25. August. Monday.

The governor of the town being absent with the king, who was holding a review at Weyss, I sent my compliments on Saturday morning to the commandant, with a request to see the fortress, which had been mentioned as the only think worthy of remark that we should find in this town; but he took so much time to deliberate whether in the absence of the Governor he could give us the permission, that I concluded that day to go to Landeck, which we did in one of the common carriages of the country. Landeck is a small town, three german miles distant, with baths & mineral waters, which are much frequented by company in search of health or amusement during the months of July & August—Now, there is scarcely any body there, but our landlord at the inn told us there had been much company before the king & queen came into Silesia, & expressed a hope & belief, that after the review at Breslau, many of them would again find leisure enough to be sick, & come to bBath and drink a little moreThe bath waters are about milk warm; those they drink are cold & clear as crystal; but so much impregnated with sulphia, that they taste like bilge water. Whatever their efficacy may be, I have never seen any bathing place the situation of which had an appearance more calculated to restore, or preserve health than Landeck. It is in a valley surrounded by hills more, or less elevated, some of which are still covered with forests of stately trees, which others present the aspects of cultivation to their very summitts. On the side of One of these hills are the two baths, the church, a large & elegant house built by the governor of Glatz, another less spacious built by Count Hoym, the directing minister of Silesia, for his son in law Count Maltzahn, the Salloon, or hall on which a table d’hote is kept, & a few apartments for the accomodation of the bathers, & various other buildings. Upon another hill about half a mile distant from the baths, is a sort of temple, built likewise by Count Hoym, which occasionally serves for a dining room, as it did on friday to the queen when she was at Landeck. All the wood is left upon this hill, which is only laid out in walks, with here & there a square, or circular open plot, with stone benches upon which the weary saunterer may repose. About the centre, there is a pyramid erected upon an high basis of cemented stones, dedicated to the protecting deity of the grove. In the valley at the foot of these hills, the river Biele rolls rapidly along it’s penurious stream, which like all the other rivers in this country, would in America scarcely be dignified with the name of a brook. Near the baths are several glass shops, & workmen, who grind and cut glass; the article itself is made at Friedrichsgrund, three miles beyond Glatz. It is much better than that of Warmbrünn, and about equal to that of Bohemian glass at Neue welt, though nearly double its price.

That pleasing and continual interchange of hill and dale, of wild rocky mountains, and green meadowy vailies, of thick, tall, gloomy forests, and ha[r]vest laden fields, which has given us so much pleasure since the moment of our departure from Bünzlau, has been as striking on the road to Landeck, as in any part of our journey. But there, the roads practicable for our carriage, and all the pleasantest part of Silesia ends. We have already discovered, by the increasing wretchedness of the inhabitants, by the gradual degeneracy of the inns, & by the growing proportions of the catholics, that we were fast approaching the borders of upper Silesia and of Poland. Beyond Landeck, we had been assured before [we] left Berlin, that we should find very little for instruction, and nothing for pleasure. We had therefore fixed that for the bound of our outward excursion, & having on Saturday evening & yesterday morning satisfied our curiosity with a view of what was remarkable in the place; between eleven o’clock & noon sat out upon our return. But we doubled at least the distance of the way, & more than tribled it in the badness of the roads by going to see the water fall at Wölfelsgründe. If you have ever stood at the edge of a precipice two hundred feet steep, with your arm round a tree about as big as itself, shooting out from the side of the abrupt to hang over, & look down upon a sheet of water that pours in a beautiful arch from a rock, eighty feet downwards, and dashes in snowing foam upon another rock—or if you have ever stood at the bottom, in the narrow cleft between two high mountains, which look as if they had been split asunder at one stroke of an almighty hand, and there in the thrilling coolness of a spot, which never beheld the radiance of the Sun, with the silvery spray, sprinkling your face with dew, look’d up to the massive fragments of rock, over which hang the steep declivities of the mountains, clad with dark, lofty majestic trees rising in rows behind each other, like an amphitheatre. If you have seen, and felt all that a scene like this inspires, but which would disdain to be conveyed by descriptive powers infinitely superior to mine, then, my dear brother, I am not afraid of your enquiring whether I had not had enough of water falls. That of Wölfelsgründe is about of the same height as the Locherfall, but has a much greater effect than either of the three we had seen before, being much better supplied with water.

We had not been fully aware of the distance, and badness of the roads we had to travel, & made it later before we left Landech, than we should have done to return at night to Glatz. It was eleven at night before we reached the gates, and found they had been shut at ten; after which they never admit any body into the town. We were therefore obliged to take up our quarters at an inn, without the walls, and came into the city this morning. Upon our return we passed through the ruins of what one week ago was the town of Habelsword; last monday it was burnt to ashes, and we found nothing but the walls of the houses, more, or less in ruin. A few houses without the walls, & a church have been spared, amidst the general devastation. Before the doors of these houses were numbers of men, women & children apparantly robbed of their habitations, & only housed by the charity of their neighbours. Here & there, in the streets, amidst the heaps of rubbish, or within the shells of the houses, a solitary sorrowing form seemed lingering on the spot of its former residence. Before the crucifix at the gate, a child of twelve, or thirteen years of age was kneeling, probably to implore a shelter of that being, whose dreadful visitation had taken away the roof from over her head. The gloom of this dismal scene was hightened by the dusk of evening, as we passed through these relics of calamity, and made it altogether one of the most melancholy sights I ever beheld.

Wünscelberg. 25. August. Monday evening

The fatigue of our yesterday’s ride was so great that my wife concluded to stay a day, or two to rest, at Glatz. And since her atchievement to ascend the Riesenkoppe, she has not much taste for climbing mountains. There is one however in this part of the country, called the Heuscheuer, or barn, from its resemblance at a distance, to a German barn, which is visited by most curious travellers, & which of course I could by no means neglect to see. I therefore took a chaise & postilion, & came alone this afternoon, three german miles from Glatz, to this little town, which lies at the foot of the mountain—Here I am to stay till about two in the morning, & then, if the weather is fair proceed upon my pilgrimage. I have before mentioned the inconvenience to which all travellers here are subjected in their unavoidable dependance upon the weather. We have been in this particular remarkably favoured hitherto, but the present aspect of the sky is not promising for the success of my expedition. Poor Whitcomb, has had rather a severe attack of his annual fever & ague, so that we were obliged to leave him at Glatz, when we went upon our excursion to Landeck—He is better today, but I would not expose him to the fatigue of climbing the Heuscheuer with me; nor of being jolted in a kind of cart over bad roads to come here.

I reached this little town, which contains only eighty six houses, just in time to hear the nine o’clock bell ring; a custom unusual in this part of the world, and which brought my own country, & particularly Haverhill, to mind. There is another custom of a similar kind, which prevails in most of the oldest towns of Silesia. A trumpeter blows his trumpet for a minute or two, from the tower of the town house, immediately after the clock has struck every hour. This practice has its inconvenience, & it would be difficult at this day to say what its use is. It probably originated at a time when clocks were not in use upon public buildings, and might then serve to proclaim the hour. It is now continued, merely because it is established, and like many other usages has long outlived the purpose, which it was intended to answer.

One small but very teazing inconvenience, to which you know how much travellers in most parts of Germany are subjected, they are relieved from in most of the Silesian towns—It is, that of being accosted at the entrance of every town, by a man with his gun & bayonet in the hand, that hardly civil question of who you are? in the mouth, at the head of a string of others, which compel you to give an account of your life and adventures to a man, whom you might naturally take for a legionary in the days of Plautus, who affirms that it is not in the power of the gods themselves to make a polite soldier. Of these tedious & disgusting examinations you are altogether exempt in the mountain towns, because they have no garrisons. But when you come to the fortresses, you have to run through a whole gauntlet of them, as if the soldiers meant to take there a full indemnity for all the opportunities of vexation, which have been denied them. At Schweidnitz, I was obliged five times to go through the process, of detailing my name & character with suitable explanations to make the enquirer understand how it was possible I should not be a Count, or at least that my name should not begin with a von, before I could get within the walls. Yours.

MHi: Adams Family Papers, Letterbooks.

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