Around the World on a Bicycle

In 1884, the 29 year old Thomas Stevens set out from San Fransisco on the 'modern mechanical invention' of the Penny Farthing to circumnavigate the globe on his 'big wheel'. His book - "Around the World on a Bicycle" - was published in 1888 and his writings are presented here in blog form. Read more in the archive.

Rosaries, crucifixes and other paraphernalia

Munich is visited heavily with rain during the night, and for several kilometres, next morning, the road is a horrible waste of loose flints and mud-filled ruts, along which it is all but impossible to ride; but after leaving the level bottom of the Isar River the road improves sufficiently to enable me to take an occasional, admiring glance at the Bavarian and Tyrolese Alps, towering cloudward on the southern horizon, their shadowy outlines scarcely distinguishable in the hazy distance from the fleecy clouds their peaks aspire to invade. While absentmindedly taking a more lingering look than is consistent with safety when picking one's way along the narrow edge of the roadway between the stone-strewn centre and the ditch, I run into the latter, and am rewarded with my first Cis-atlantic header, but fortunately both myself and the bicycle come up uninjured. Unlike the Swabish peasantry, the natives east of Munich appear as prosy and unpicturesque in dress as a Kansas homesteader.

Ere long there is noticeable a decided change in the character of the villages, they being no longer clusters of gabled cottages, but usually consist of some three or four huge, rambling bulldings, at one of which I call for a drink and observe that brewing and baking are going on as though they were expecting a whole regiment to be quartered on them. Among other things I mentally note this morning is that the men actually seem to be bearing the drudgery of the farm equally with the women; but the favorable impression becomes greatly imperilled upon meeting a woman harnessed to a small cart, heavily laboring along, while her husband - kind man - is walking along-side, holding on to a rope, upon which he considerately pulls to assist her along and lighten her task.

Nearing Haag, and thence eastward, the road becomes greatly improved, and along the Inn River Valley, from Muhldorf to Altötting, where I remain for the night, the late rain-storm has not reached, and the wheeling is superior to any I have yet had in Germany. Muhldorf is a curious and interesting old town. The sidewalks of Muhldorf are beneath long arcades from one end of the principal street to the other; not modern structures either, but massive archways that are doubtless centuries old, and that support the front rooms of the buildings that tower a couple of stories above them.

As toward dusk I ride into the market square of Altötting, it is noticeable that nearly all the stalls and shops remaining open display nothing but rosaries, crucifixes, and other paraphernalia of the prevailing religion. Through Eastern Bavaria the people seern pre-eminently devotional; church-spires dot the landscape at every point of the compass.

At my hotel in Altötting, crucifixes, holy water, and burning tapers are situated on the different stairway landings. I am sitting in my room, penning these lines to the music of several hundred voices chanting in the old stone church near by, and can look out of the window and see a number of peasant women taking turns in dragging themselves on their knees round and round a small religious edifice in the centre of the market square, carrying on their shoulders huge, heavy wooden crosses, the ends of which are trailing on the ground.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Wednesday 27th May 1885 (23:00 +0200) | Add a comment | Permalink

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