Page images

stronger brine fit for the salt-pans without undergoing any intermediate process.

Many beautiful minerals are obtained from the salt-mines of Bex-such as very clear crystals of selenite, muriacite, anhydrite, etc.

There is a short but difficult path (Route 58) from Bex to Sion by the Bergfall of Les Diablerets. A guide would be required for this journey.

A little way above Bex a curious discovery was made, a few years ago, of a warm sulphureous spring in the very bed of the Rhone. It has been enclosed, and employed in supplying medicinal baths, the healing properties of which are attributed to the quantity of azote gas contained in the water.

'Journeying upward by the Rhone,

That there came down a torrent from the Alps,
I enter'd where a key unlocks a kingdom:
The mountains closing, and the road, the river
Filling the narrow space."-Rogers.

Such is the scene presented to the traveller at the Bridge of St. Maurice, which spans the rapid river with one bold arch, 70 ft. wide, leaning for support (appuyé) on the rt. side upon the Dent de Morcles and on the 1. upon the Dent de Midi, whose bases are pushed so far forward as barely to leave room for the river.

The bridge, erroneously attributed to the Romans, is not older than the 15th century, but may possibly rest on Roman foundations. It unites the canton Vaud with the canton Vallais; and a gate at one end, now removed, formerly served to close the passage up and down a circumstance alluded to in the lines of Rogers. A small fort was erected by the Swiss in 1832, above the road, to defend the pass. Here our route is joined by the road from Geneva along the S. shore of the lake, through St. Gingolph. (Route 57.)

No one can cross the bridge of St. Maurice without being struck with the change in the condition of the inhabitants of the two cantons. The neatness and industry of the Vaudois are exchanged within the space of a few hundred yards for filth and beggary, equally apparent in the persons and habitations of the Vallaisans. Their physical condition is lamentable; no part of Switzerland is afflicted to a greater extent with the maladies_of_goître and cretinism ($19), and the victims of them shock the traveller's sight at every step.

Immediately beyond the bridge, squeezed in between the mountain and the I. bank of the Rhone, stands

3/ St. Maurice-(Inn: L'Union, tolerably good) — a

town of 1050 inhabitants, occupying the site of the Roman Agaunum. It owes its present name to the tradition that the Theban Legion, under the command of St. Maurice, suf→ fered martyrdom here by order of Maximian, A.D. 302, because they refused to abjure Christianity.

The Abbey, founded in honour of St. Maurice by Sigismond King of Burgundy, contains in its Treasury a museum of ancient art. Here are preserved a vase of Saracenic workmanship, presented by Charlemagne; a crozier of gold, in the shape of a spire, the niches of it filled with figures an inch high, most elaborately worked; a chalice of agate, presented by Charlemagne; another, given by Bertha Queen of Burgundy, and several besides, of a very early date.

"The Church was much damaged by fire in the 17th century, but the tower is unaltered, and several Roman inscriptions are built into its walls."-P.

On quitting the town we perceive on the right, upon a projecting platform of rock considerably above the road, the Hermitage of Nôtre Dame des Sex. Lower down on the road is the chapel of Veriolez, raised on the precise spot of the Theban massacre (!), and covered with rude frescoes. In the autunm of 1835 a torrent of mud descended from the summit of the Dent de Midi into the Vallais near Evionaz. It covered the high road for a length of 900 ft., and overwhelmed many fields, and orchards, and some few houses; but no lives were lost, as the slow progress of the current allowed every one time to remove out of its way. It is conjectured to have been caused by a glacier bursting and sweeping along with it the debris of the Moraine, which it converted into mud. Blocks of stone, many tons in weight, were carried down with it, and floated like corks on the surface.

This part of the valley has a dreary and barren aspect from the quantity of bare gravel and broken rock strewed over it. About 6 1/2 miles from St. Maurice, 4 from Martigny, is the famous Waterfall of the Sallenche, which here descends into the valley of the Rhone out of a narrow ravine, apparently excavated by its waters. The perpendicular descent of the stream is about 280 feet, but the final leap of the cascade not more than 120 feet. It is a fine object, both from its volume and height, visible from a considerable distance up and down. It is best seen in a sunny morning before 12 o'clock, when the iris, formed in the cloud of spray, hovers over it. The neighbouring village of Mieville sends forth an importunate crowd of beggars and self-appointed guides to conduct travellers from the road to the fall, a distance of a few hundred yards. Before reaching Martigny we cross another stream, the Trient, descending from the cele

brated pass of the Tête Noire. On the outskirts of Martigny, upon a commanding rock, rises the castle of La Batie, formerly a stronghold of the archbishops of Sion. The deep dungeon beneath its tall tower is only accessible by a trapdoor in the floor of the chamber above. The river Dranse passes out into the Rhone, between La Batie and 2 1/4 Martigny (Route 59).



14 3/4 posts = 68 English miles.

The greater part of this road lies through the Sardinian territory, but for the convenience of reference it is placed here.

After quitting Geneva by the Porte de Rive, a fine view opens out on the right; beyond the Saléve rises the Môle, and the vista of the valley of the Arve is terminated by the Buet, by Mont Blanc and its glaciers. The shore of the lake is dotted over with villas of the Genevese. One of these near the village of Cologny, the Campagna Diodati, is interesting as having been the residence of Lord Byron in 1816. He wrote here a great part of the 3rd canto of Childe Harold and the tragedy of Manfred.

Beyond the village of Corsier the Genevan territory is left, and we enter the kingdom of Sardinia and the ancient province of Chablais, which extends along the lake as far as St. Gingolph. A monotonous plain is traversed in order to reach

21/2 Douvaine *, the first Sardinian post-station, where passports and baggage are examined.

2 Thonon-(Inn: Les Balances, improved of late )—an ancient town of 3740 inhabitants, originally capital of the Chablais.

On quitting Thonon we pass on the left, between the road and the lake, Ripaille, anciently an Augustine convent, founded by Amadeus VIII. of Savoy, in which he ended his days, having assumed the cowl of an Augustine monk. He abdicated, in succession, the dukedom of Savoy, the Papacy (into which he had been installed with the title of Felix V.) and the bishop's see of Geneva. He resided here after his second abdication, passing his time, not in the austere penance of an anchorite, but in weaving political intrigues and laying

*Douvaines 3 1. Thonon 6 1. 1/8. Evian 8. Le Boveret 12. -Livre de poste.

enters the valley of the Rhone and the high road of the Simplon, within 2 1/2 miles of

6 2/3 Sion (Route 59).



36 1/2 posts 176 English miles.

This grand and excellent road is tolerably well supplied with post-horses, but travellers who require more than two to their carriage must bespeak them by avant-courier, if they wish to avoid delays. With post-horses the journey may barely be accomplished in 3, or easily in 3 1/2 days, resting 1st night at Brieg, 2d at Baveno, 3rd at Milan; or, 1st at Turtman, 2nd at Domo d'Ossola, 3rd at Arona. There is a tolerably comfortable inn at Simplon, near the summit of the


Diligences go 4 times a-week from Milan, making numerous halts, and performing the distance to Milan in not less than 3 days and nights..

The picturesque round tower of the castle of La Batie, rising on a rock, with a village at its foot, is seen some time before the town of Martigny is reached. It was destroyed by George Superax in 1518.

Martigny (German Martinach).—Inns: Post, good, the best; Cygne, tolerably good and moderate; daily 'table d'hôte, 3 fr., wine included.-La Tour.

Martigny (Octodurus of the Romans) consists of two parts-the one situated on the Simplon road, the other, Bourg de Martigny, more than a mile distant up the valley of the Dranse. Its position on the high road of the Simplon, at the termination of the char-road from the St. Bernard, and the mule-path from Chamouni, renders it the constant resort of travellers. It is a small town of no prepossessing appearance, 1480 Fr. ft. above the sea, placed near the spot where the Rhone receives the Dranse, a torrent by which Martigny itself and the village of Bourg de Martigny have been twice nearly destroyed, in 1545 and in 1818. Marks of the last inundation (described in Route 109) are still visible on the walls of many of the houses, and the massive construction of the lower walls of the post-house is designed to protect it from the effects of similar catastrophes. The monks of St. Bernard have their head-quarters in a Convent within the town, from which the members stationed on the Great St. Bernard are relieved at intervals. The Monastery of the Great St. Bernard is a journey of 10 hours from hence. (See Route 108.)

The valley of Chamouni may be reached in 5 hours by the

Pass of the Simplon-Sion. 219 passes of the Tête Noire (R 116), or Col de Balme (Route 117).

The Waterfall of the Sallenche is 4 miles from Martigny, lower down the valley. (See p. 214.)

At Martigny the Rhone makes an abrupt bend, forming nearly a right angle. For many miles above the town the bottom of the valley through which it flows is a flat swamp, rendered desolate and unwholesome by the overflowings of the Rhine and its tributaries, which, not being carried off by a sufficient declivity in their beds, stagnate, and exhale a most injurious malaria under the rays of a burning sun. From this cause and the absence of pure drinking-water, the valley is a hotbed of disease; its inhabitants are dreadfully afflicted with goître (19), cretinism, and agues; and the appearance of decrepitude, deformity, and misery, arrests the traveller's attention at every step. A tolerable wine, called Coquempin, is grown upon the hills; the low flats produce little except rushes, rank grass, and alders. The mountains which here bound the valley have a bare and desolate aspect.

2 1/4 Riddes. After crossing the Rhone the road passes the foot-path leading to the Diablerets (Route 58), and soon after the twin castles of Sion appear in sight.

2 1/4 Sión (German Sitten). Inns Poste; Croix Blanche, dirty. This town, anciently the capitalof the Seduni, is the see of a bishop, whose predecessors were at one time among the most powerful and wealthy seigneurs in Switzerland, and who still convoke and preside over the General Assemblies of this democratic canton. It is the chief town of the Vallais, and has 2450 inhabitants. It has no less than 3 extensive castles, which give the town a picturesque and feudal aspect from a distance. Tourbillon, the castle seen on the 1. in advancing from Martigny, built 1492, and long the bishop's residence, is now a complete ruin. That on the left, or S. peak, called Valeria, contains a very ancient church; and serves now as a Catholic seminary. Beneath there is a third castle, called Majoria, from the majors, or ancient governors of the Vallais, its first occupants; it was burnt in 1788 by a conflagration which destroyed the greater part of the town. The Jesuits have a Convent in the town; they have formed a collection of the natural history of the Vallais.

The Hospital, under the care of the Sœurs de la Charité, contains many victims of goitre and cretinism, the prevailing maladies of the district.

There is a mule-path from this over the mountains to Bex, passing the Diablerets (Route 58).

Above Sion German is the prevailing language of the Yallais.

« PreviousContinue »