« PreviousContinue »
From Alpnach (Stad) to Lungern the road is practicable for chars; thence over the mountain to Meyringen is only a bridle path. The traveller may either take a boat at once from Lucerne to Alpnach, or go in a char to Winkel (about an hour's drive), and there embark; by which he will save some distance. A boat to Alpnach, with 2 rowers, costs, from Lucerne, 20 batz; from Winkel 8 batz.
From Winkel, where the char road ceases, the traveller proceeds by water through a narrow straight between the village of Stanzstadt (R. 31), on the I., and a spire of the Pilatus, called Lopper, on the rt., into the beautiful and retired gulph of the lake of the 4 Cantons, called Lake of Alpnach. The castle of Rotzberg, on its E. shore, is remarkable as the first stronghold of the Austrians of which the Swiss confederates gained possession on New-year's day, 1308. One of the party, the accepted lover of a damsel within the castle, being, according to the practice of Swiss lovers even at the present time, admitted by a ladder of ropes to a midnight interview with his mistress, succeeded in introducing, in the same way, 20 of his companions, who found no difficulty ju surprising and overpowering the garrison. The loves of Jägeli and Anneli have, from that day forth, been celebrated in Swiss song. A series of simultaneous risings in other parts of the forest cantons proved equally successful, and in 24 hours the country was freed from the Austrian rule.
Gestad, at the S. end of the bay, 11/2 hour from Winkel (Inn-weisses Ross) is the port for all going to or from the Brunig. Chars may be hired here.
31/4 Behind it is seen the taper spire of Alpnach, or Alpnacht, about 1 1/2 mile distant from the water-side. It is a village of 1400 inhabitants, situated at the foot of the Pilatus (p. 54). The extensive forests which clothe the sides of that mountain belong, for the most part, to Alpnach, and would be a source of wealth to its inhabitants if they could be got at more easily. It was with a view of turning to account the fine timber growing on spots barely accessible by ordinary means, owing to their height and the ruggedness of the ground, that the celebrated Slide of Alpnach was constructed. This was a trongh of wood, formed of nearly 30,000 trees, fastened together lengthwise, 5 or 6 feet wide at the top, and 3 or 4 feet deep, extending from a height of 2500 feet down to the water's edge. It was planned and executed by a skilful engineer from Würtemberg, named Rupp. The course of this vast inclined plane was in some places circuitous: it was supported partly on uprights; and thus was carried over 3 deep ravines, and in two instances, passed under ground. Its average declivity did not exceed 1 foot in 17, yet this sufficed to discharge a tree 100 feet long and four feet in dia
meter, in the short space of 6 minutes, from the upper end of the trough, where it was launched, into the lake below, a distance exceeding 8 English miles. The trees were previously prepared by being stripped of their branches, barked, and rudely dressed with the axe. The bottom of the trough was kept constantly wet by allowing a rill of water to trickle down it, to diminish thereby the friction. Professor Playfair, who has written a most interesting account of the slide, says, that the trees shot downwards with a noise like the roar of thunder and with the rapidity of lightning, seeming to shake the trough as they passed. Though the utmost care was Laken to remove every obstacle, it sometimes happened that a tree stuck by the way, or, being arrested suddenly in its progress, leaped or bolted out of the trough with a force capable of cutting over the trees growing at the side, and which often dashed the log itself to atoms. To prevent accidents, watchmen were stationed at regular distances along the sides during the operation of discharging the wood, and a line of telegraphs, similar to those in use on modern railways, were established, showing, by a concerted signal, when anything went wrong. The timber when discharged was collected on the lake and floated down the Reuss into the Rhine, where it was formed into rafts, such as are commonly met with on that river, and sold in Holland for ship-building and other purposes. Napoleon had contracted for the greater part of the timber, to supply his dockyards; but the peace of 1815, by diminishing the demand rendered the speculation unprofitable, and the slide, having been long abandoned, was taken down in 1819. Similar slides, nearly as long, are common throughout the great forests of the Tyrol and Styria. (See Hand-book for S. Germany.) Since 1833 some French speculators have constructed a cart road up the Pilatus into the centre of its forests, and the timber squared or sawn into planks is now. brought down on the axle, drawn by 20 or 30 horses and oxen, without sustaining any injury in its descent.
The Church of Alpnach, a handsome modern edifice, was built with the timber brought down by the slide. A char may be hired at Alpnach to go to Lungern for 18 Fr. fr.
The Canton Unterwalden, which we are about traverse, is totally unprovided with milestones; for this reason, that, by an ancient and respected law, every inhabitant is bound to guide the stranger who questions him, on his way, without fee or charge. The road ascends the valley along the left bank of the Aa to
11/2 Sarnen.-(Inn : Schlüssel (key); not very good or clean). This village, of 1030 inhabitants, is the capital of the division of the canton called Obwalden, and the seat of the Government. It is pleasingly situated at the extremity of the
lake of Sarnen, at the foot of an eminence called Landenberg, a spot memorable in Swiss history as the residence of the cruel Austrian bailiff of that name who put out the eyes of the aged Henry An der Halden. This act of atrocity made a deep impression on the popular mind, contributing, with other events, to the out-break of the Swiss insurrection. On Newyear's morning, 1308, 20 peasants of Obwalden repaired to the castle with the customary presents of game, poultry, etc., for the seigneur, who had gone at that hour to mass. Admitted within the walls, they fixed to their staves the pikeheads which they had concealed beneath their dress, blew a blast as a signal to 30 confederates who lay in ambush, under the alders, outside of the gate, and, in conjunction, captured the stronghold almost without resistance. No vestige of the castle now remains the terrace which occupies its site, and commands a most beautiful view, has since 1616 served for the annual convocations of the citizens of the canton, who meet there to exercise the privilege of electing their magistrates. Adjoining it is the public shooting house, for the practice of rifle shooting.
The Rathhaus, a plain edifice, not unlike the court-house of an English county town, contains, in its "business-like council chambers," portraits of the landammen for several ages. "The artists have been particularly successful in delineating their beards." There is one picture, however, better than the rest, of Nicolas von der Flue, one of the worthies of Switzerland, more particularly respected in this canton, where effigies of him abound. He enjoys the rare reputation of a patriot, and, at the same time, a peace-maker, having spent his life in allaying the bitterness and dissentions between his countrymen, which, at one time, threatened the destruction of the Helvetian Republic. In the vigour of his years he retired from the world into the remote valley of Melchthal, where he passed his time as a hermit in a humble cell, in exercises of piety. His reputation, for wisdom as well as virtue, was so high that the counsellors of the confederacy flocked to him in his solitude to seek advice. His sudden appearance before the Diet at Stanz, and his conciliating counsels prevented the dissolution of the confederacy. After enjoying the respect of men during his lifetime, he was honoured after his death (1487) as à saint.
The Melchthal, mentioned above, opens out to the E. of Sarnen. At its mouth, close to the chapel of St. Niklausen, stands an isolated tower, one of the most ancient buildings in the canton, dating from the earliest Christian times, when it was erected, probably as a belfry. Melchthal was the native place of Arnold An der Halden, one of the conspirators, of Grütli (p. 76). While ploughing his field near Schild, he was
interrupted by a messenger sent from the bailiff Landenberg to seize his yoke of oxen. Enraged by the insolence of the servant, and the injustice of the demand, Arnold beat the man so as to break his finger; and fearing the tyrant's vengeance, fled over the mountains into Uri, little anticipating that his rash act would be visited by the tyrant upon his father, by depriving him of sight.
The valley of Sarnen, bounded by gently sloping hills, has nothing Alpine in its scenery; its character is quiet, and pastoral, and pleasing. The successful experiment of letting off the waters of the lake of Lungern has led to a similar project of reducing that of Sarnen, which will, probably, be carried into effect sooner or later.
The road skirting the E, shore of the lake traverses the pretty village of Sachslen. Within the Parish Church, Nicholas von der Flue, the hermit and saint, is interred. His bones lie, but do not répose, in a richly ornamented shrine, under the high altar; for at stated seasons they are raised in order to be exhibited to the crowds of pilgrims who repair bither to pay their vows to the saint. He is known to the peasants by the name of Bruder Klaus. The walls are lined, by devotees, with votive tablets offered to the shrine of St. Nicolas, recording miracles supposed to have been performed by him. The village Gyswyl, on the rt. of the road, was half swept away in 1629 by an inundation of the torrent Lauibach, which brought so much rubbish into the valley as to dam up the waters of the Aa. A lake, thus created, lasted for 130 years, when it was finally let off by an artificial canal into the lake of Sarnen.
The steep ascent of the Kaiserstuhl requires to be surmounted before the road reaches a higher platform in the valley occupied by the lake of Lungern.
This lake was formerly a beautiful sheet of water, embowered in woods sweeping down to its margin, and partly inclosed by steep banks. The dwellers on its shores, less influenced by admiration of its picturesqueness, than by the prospect of enriching themselves in the acquisition of 500 acres of good land, previously buried under water, have recently tapped it, lowering its surface by about 20 feet, and reducing its dimensions-and thereby its beauty-by nearly one half. The works designed to effect this object were commenced in 1788, but had been repeatedly interrupted by want of funds, and by political commotions. They owe their recent completion to a joint-stock company, consisting of the inhabitants of the district, aided by a skilful engineer, named Sulzberger. The earlier attempts had been limited to the boring of a tunnel through the ridge of the Kaiserstuhl, which, crossing the valley between the lakes of Sarnen and Lungern,
forms a natural dam to the waters of the latter. The tunnel begins near Burglen, and is carried in a sloping direction gradually upwards towards the lake. Before Sulzberger took the matter in hand it had made considerable progress; but still the most difficult part of the task remained, viz., to complete it, and break a passage into the lake without injury to the lower valley, or loss of life to those employed. Having with much labour driven the tunnel as near to the bed of the lake as the excavations could with safety be carried, it became necessary to guard against any sudden irruption. With this object in view, he at first proposed to bore a number of small holes with an auger through the intervening rock, and to close them with cocks to open and shut at pleasure. A boring-rod, 12 feet in length, driven through the rock, was followed by a discharge of mud and water, and a blow struck with a hammer by the miner from within was reverberated on the surface of the lake so as to be perceived by persons stationed in a boat above the spot-proving that the basin of the lake had been perforated.
The engineer now, however, discovered that the friable nature of the rock traversed by the rod, and the clay and sand above it, rendered the plan of draining the lake by a number of small perforations impracticable. He was thus compelled to have recourse to a mine, and for this purpose he enlarged the end of the tunnel by driving a shaft or chamber, about 6 ft. square, upwards, so as to reach within 6 ft. of the water. A cask, containing 950 lbs. of powder, was then conveyed to the end of the shaft, and finally hoisted into this vertical chamber, by propping it upon logs of wood; then, a match being attached to it, the end of the tunnel was ramined tight with sand many feet thick, to prevent the mine exploding backwards. Upwards of 500 men, relieving each other day and night, were employed to execute this part of the task, the difficulty of which consisted not merely in the weight to be transported along a passage not more than a foot wider than the cask on any side, but in the foulness of the air inhaled by so many labourers, which soon became so bad as to extinguish all the lights; while the constant influx of water, pouring in through the crannies of the gallery, threw further impediments in the way of the miner. As it was impossible to renew the air by artificial ventilation, it became necessary to withdraw the men for several hours at a time. In addition to all this a great part of the operations were necessarily performed in the dark.
The length of the tunnel was 1305 ft. Strong flood-gates had been erected at its lower extremity, to modify and restrain the issue of the flood. All things being thus prepared, on the morning of January 9, 1836, a cannon-shot, fired from