European Letter from an MIT Grad, 1931 August 9
Prologue: When J. G. C. received his masters degree in Architecture from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1930 he was awarded a fellowship for a year of study and travel in Europe. He left in February, 1931 and remained there until June, 1932. These letters were written to his family in upstate New York. He became a successful architect in New York City, as well as an excellent painter.
The writer is my grand-uncle, and our family has enjoyed sharing these letters for generations. I think they're interesting because they are a window into the everyday life, travelling style, and speech patterns of a different era, and because in many you can see the effects of the Great Depression and hints of European preparation for World War II.
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August 9, 1931
From Rotterdam we drove along the canals headed for The Hague in a very round-about route. At Delft, which is a very picturesque town and famous for its pottery works, we found a very interesting boat house built in modern style. It had a very nice setting along one of the canals and was a swell spot among all the old canal boats that are exactly to-day as we used to see pictured in kids books on Holland. About the only things that have changed are the costumes that the people wear. A great majority of them wear the same type of clothes that we wear, but just the same you can see many of the peasants in the old costumes. And there are hundreds of the old canal boats, both large and small.
From Delft, we cut across a point of Holland that's probably never seen by tourists, at least by very few of them. We wove in and out along very small canals which had plenty of large and small boats in them, all ladened with produce and being pushed along with long sticks by big Dutchmen walking along the bank of the canal. It is through this section and north of The Hague that the famous tulips are grown, so that every cottage, no matter how small or poor, has many glass green-houses surrounding it. Throughout the entire country of Holland you will see no hill or rolling land, all perfectly flat. We spent one night on the highest point of Holland, which was 180 feet above sea level. Many parts of Holland are several feet below sea level. But this one section through which we drove was one of the most interesting places I've ever seen. The canals are small and go through every field. Canals in that section are as numerous as fences are in the United states on a farm. In fact, all through Holland they use small canals instead of fences to keep the cows in the right field. All of this section, and in fact most of Holland was seen in typical Dutch weather -- rain. But it is a country that should never be missed. For the average tourist, I should think that it holds more interest than any other one country.
We went through this section in order to get to Hook van Holland, a small seaside resort, and containing several very nice groups of houses done by one of Hollands best architects, J.J.P. Oud. They were very attractive with large round rooms in glass on the end of each group.
While we were at Delft getting some stuff to have for a lunch out on the road, (a thing that we did very often because of the high prices in Holland, almost as expensive as New York prices in many things), we saw something that I've waited a long time to see. A small boy, delivering for a grocery firm, was riding one of the several million bicycles which are owned in Holland, and which are always in your way. He came along by a canal right beside us, and started along the brick pavement running on the bank of the canal. He hit a bump, and over the side of the canal went the bicycle, big basket filled with vegetables, which was fastened on the front, and the boy; but he caught himself just in time and hung on the side with the help of a scraped knee and a lot of words. I felt for him. Anyway, there he was dangling and looking down into the water, where a carrot, or cabbage, or something else that was meant for a Dutchman for supper, would appear one by one. Bicycles don't seem to float for very long because that one disappeared like a submarine, with nothing left to mark the spot, not even an "X". The boy was quite brave about it all, seeing as how he'd had the thing taken away from him before he knew what was happening and that the vegetables of his old Dutch boss were reposing in the mud. He just walked around and looked in at the black water. It certainly stopped progress in that town for awhile. Evidently they don't have one of their citizens falling into their Main Street every day, so they declared a holiday and watched him fish for it with a long pole with a hook on the end. After some time he found the beast and started pulling it in. Even then none of the loyal townsfolks seemed to want to help him any, so Don H. and I grabbed ahold and started pulling, at which the kid let go and let us pull by ourselves. We pulled and pulled and soon something with horns appeared, the bicycle. Just about that time we pushed the other end of the pole through a good old Dutch window, not having taken into account the length of the pole or the nearness of the house. We jabbered away, or rather Don did with the boy, the woman of the house, and anyone else who wanted to talk. After awhile the woman went in to phone the grocery man to see if he'd pay for it. That was an excellent time to go see what the rest of Holland looked like, so we left. I hope the kid didn't have to pay for the vegetables. After all he hadn't lost them, for a thing is lost only when you don't know where it is, and he knew where those vegetables were all the time -- on the bottom.
While I'm still wandering around I might as well wander farther and back a ways, and tell about a few things that I failed to mention before. The first day out from Paris we stopped in a small town in France for lunch. There, is situated one of the finest old chateaus of France, in one of the most beautiful surrounding I've ever seen. The town is called Chantilly, and the buildings extend all over the place. They have a beautiful race track which is used about once a week for races. The stables belonging to the chateau are the most regal things that you ever saw, all done in that period of French architecture that have all the flourishes known to man and a couple extra. Anyway they are pretty darn nice looking buildings and any horse ought to be proud to have a place like that to call home. The chateau belonged to Duke or something or other Conde, one of the powerful Protestant nobles in France. There is some very interesting French history around this chateau, the family and the king, etc. with plenty of murders and crookedness to finally get Conde out of the way. I've heard it, but don't know it. Some day I intend to sit down and read up a few of these things that I've let slide, but probably like most things of that nature, if you don't get them while they're "hot" you never get them. However, it's an ambition. The last noble to own the place was the Duke d'Aumal who secured it from the king, that is, his family had years before, after it had been taken away from the former owners following that great massacre of the Protestants by the Catholics. Interesting if you like those things. I do. It is now owned by the state and used as a museum, having some very nice pictures, articles, etc. in its collection. It has a beautiful approach and a moat surrounding the entire estate. There is a fine little chapel built into the main house with a very nice spire coming out of the center of the whole group. The thing that really sticks in my mind though about the town is that we had lunch in a place recommended for students and got taken for a dollar for a couple of tomatoes and olives. Wow, it hurts!
The milk is still delivered the same old way in Belgium and in Holland, especially in the smaller places, by dog cart. Sometimes the dog is in front of the cart pulling as a horse would pull it and sometimes he is underneath the cart almost out of sight, but still pulling away. I've often wondered what the babies of the country would do for milk for the day if all of a sudden a swell cat showed up in front of the dog. Certainly in all these centuries a cat must have crossed the path of a dog sometime or other, so I suppose they've found out what happens. Maybe European cats and dogs don't hate each other like those claiming citizenship in America. They leave all that to the humans. On top of the carts are two of the swellest big shiny brass decorated kettles that you ever hope to lay eyes on. Big tall things like these old coffee urns that you see pictured sometimes. They're real decorative looking objects and they are a pretty sight travelling down the street, often several in sight at the same time. In the cities they pull the carts sometimes by bicycle, but even the cities have a goodly supply of dogs pulling carts. But you certainly can not get milk of the same quality in Europe that you can in the States. I've tried not to say "Oh, we have things in America that are much better than that", but for somethings, milk being one of them,you just cant get around it.
Brussels has what I think is one of the most unusual little public statues in the world. It has long been called the mascot of the city and has been decorated one way or another for years and years. It is a very small statue of a boy, a manikin, only about two feet high and stands in the corner on a street corner. It is a fountain, and the boy stands there above the people, oblivious to everything and everybody, with a big smile on his face and relieving himself in a manner that one can easily imagine, inasmuch as the entire thing is a fountain. The story goes that the son of a very wealthy man in Brussels was lost. His father offered a huge reward to the one who should find him, and said that he would erect a statue of the boy in whatever position he was found. The man who found him came upon him by a tree in the aforementioned position and true to his word the father had this statue cast of him. Of course European minds are much different on the subject than ours so it is considered a big joke. The statue has no clothes on of course, so different emperors, different organizations and armies have supplied him with suits, uniforms, decorations, commands, and positions of high rank. He has about twelve complete sets of suits, ranging from one given by the emperor of China or Japan, down to some given by a British regiment, one by the French Boy Scouts, and one as an auto chauffeur. He is simply swell, and they dress him up in these outfits on the different fete days, and there being about an average of a fete day a week he gets dressed plenty. Napolean gave him a very swell outfit, presented him with the keys to the city, and gave him a big decoration. He really is not a bit shocking, just funny, and everyone who sees him, gets a big kick out of him. One mustn't miss seeing him when one gets to Brussels. He is a great place for people to come and get family groups and pictures of couples etc. taken in front of.
Now I guess I I'll travel again and get back into Holland as far as this letter is concerned. Our next stop after Rotterdam, (what a name!), was The Hague, where Carneige's Peace Palace is, seemingly worth very little as far as keeping peace among the world is concerned. It was completed in 1914, I think, just in time to see the entire world war. It is a typical Andrew Carneige building, looking like a public library in a large city. It isn't half bad though, and has a very beautiful site, situated right at the beginning of a huge park and some beautiful drives. The Hague on the whole is a very fine city, with some very nice spots in it. It is the capital of Holland with its Royal palace, which to me was the most meagre looking thing that I've ever set eyes on. It looked like an old poor, run-down orphan asylum. The houses of Parliament would have done justice to house the council of a small town like Leroy, but somehow or other all this unpretentiouness about its Royal buildings was rather nice and very democratic in feeling, which is exactly the way the Queen wishes it, I think. The Hague is a great center for English tourists, or I suppose with England just around the corner from Holland, they are not considered as tourists, but just vacationists. Anyway there is a very fine beach at The Hague, and of course we took a swim in the North Sea. Boy! it was plenty cold too. The beach was great, but they seem to have the funniest system here. You have to buy two tickets if you want to lie on the sand in the sun. One ticket entitles you only to use a cabin, go immediately in the water, come out and dress, but not to lounge around the beach. You must buy two tickets for that. They charge plenty to begin with, so you don't feel very cordial to them when they get through draining you of gold. They are out for every cent they can get from the world, in Holland and don't make any excuses or "bones" about it. The life guards over here in Europe are the funniest creatures I've ever seen. They pick old men, dress them up in brilliant red and blue uniforms, give them a boat that it would require about eight men to even get moving in the water, and supply them with a horn that sounds like the one the old "fish" guys used to use.
The modern architecture in The Hague is quite good in a few instances of schools, a couple of churchs, a very nice garage that is just a spiral of ramps, doing all parking on the ramps, no floors as the entire floor is a ramp. It is a very interesting and good idea and we were taken all through it by the man in charge. Then there was a very interesting Christian Science Church, in very ultramodern style, something that would never for a minute get away in the line of a church in America. There, were some very nice housing groups of the more expensive class there along the parkways. Also, there were a few interesting department stores and commercial buildings. But it held more interest just being The Hague and a world famous place than it did as far as modern architecture was concerned.
We left The Hague for a trip up the west coast, across to the Zudder Sea, and down along it to Amsterdam, all of which is the most picturesque part of Holland. Near Velsen we stopped to see a crematorium by Dudok, so much of whose work we were to see later. It was very interesting as a new departure from the old cemetery architecture. While at Velsen we got our first ride on a municipal ferry, but we had to wait in line for about an hour. Seeing you get the thing free, the old ferry-boat captains don't give a darn how slowly they run the boats, but I sat out on the road and typed a letter to the bank while I was waiting, with the usual crowd of inquisitive foreigners hanging around. I've never seen such an inquisitive people as the Italians, Dutch, and now the Germans. One man the other day stopped and walked all around Mrs. H. looking her over.
Near Aalkmar we cut across the country and passed through a section just massed with windmills. At one time we could see about twenty. Here and there throughout Holland you can see one working, but they are gradually disappearing and for the most part they work no more. At Hoorn, the farthest north we got in Holland there were some very interesting old houses, and some of them were leaning well out over the street. It looked as if they would fall almost any time but nobody seems to worry about them and they give a swell old Dutch appearance to the place. Before this time we had also gone through Leyden, where the famous university is located. They have some very interesting groups of buildings and the town itself is very nice but not picturesque beyond a couple of buildings.
From Hoorn on down the west part of the Zudder Sea to Amsterdam we went through all the district which is famous for its dykes, for its stories, and for the material it furnishes for writing kids books on Holland. I asked about the story of "Hans Brinker and The Silver Skates" but so far I have yet to find a Dutchman who has ever heard the story. So then I inquired further and asked about the story of the boy who saved Holland when after discovering water leaking through held his finger in the dyke all night until help came to repair the hole. Here again it seemed that it was a story absolutely foreign to them. They said it evidently had been invented for the kids in America, about the country of the Dutch. After seeing the dykes I can't imagine how the story could be true. If you can picture a pile of rocks that slant up at a very gradual angle from the sea to a road running along the top, and then slant down very gradually again to the land below, there being about a hundred yards of rock, dirt and sod between the sea and where it could leak, you will then wonder how one little trickle of water would come through all that and could be successfully stopped by one dirty thumb. Anyway, that's the story and my version of it. Take it or leave it. One place I tried to buy me an old work shirt. You should have seen the creations that I called down upon myself. One blue one really was the size and length of a night shirt, and I looked perfectly swell in it, as you can imagine, but it would have been too expensive, because although the shirt cost only a dollar yet I would have had to buy a larger pair of trousers in order to put the excess shirt out of sight, and I really didn't want to run around with the tails flapping in the wind.
Then our next place was Edam, where the famous cheese comes from. It also is a very picturesque place. All the territory along this section is where the dykes are, and where they are gradually reclaiming the land from the sea. Their engineers have given hundreds of square miles to the country, and towns that formerly were real large fishing centers are now way in the interior of the country. The sea is about fifteen or more feet higher than the surrounding land, and it is a very peculiar sensation to walk down by the houses and over the dyke high above you see a ship passing by, or be along the sea, and look on the roofs of the houses built along the shore. But it is equally as fascinating, and something that you will never forget. We turned off the main road to go over to a little fishing settlement a few miles away, called Volendam. It is here that you can see Old Holland as it really was. Being that way it is, of course, over-run with tourists, but it's a place that shouldn't be missed. It is situated along where the land is about as low as any in Holland. All the inhabitants, from the smallest baby up to the oldest grandpa wear the old dress; the women have the big flappy hats, and high waists, striped dresses, big shiny pieces of brass sticking out like blinders up by their ears, and all, even the babies wear the old wooden shoes. The men have on the huge baggy black pants with the little vest and coat, and the small hat. Their faces leave nothing to be desired in the way of a typical old Dutch face, wrinkles, chin whiskers, and all. They all sit around on the top of the dykes, or out on their fishing boats waiting for some tourist to come along who wants to take their picture and then they expect and get a tip. The small kids surely are cute dressed up that way. But a fellow does look funny in that costume riding along on a bicycle.
While this place is well known to tourists yet it doesn't seemed spoiled by them, but we found another genuine Dutch fishing town which is so difficult to get to from any large center that probably it does not see more than a tourist or two a day. Our hotel keeper in Amsterdam told us about it, and we looked it up. The people there have a costume that is distinctly their own. The women wear big high shoulder pieces that make them look like football players. The costume is rather ugly on the whole. But here again the kids are the cutest things you've ever seen, and bashful, while in most places they've seen so many strangers that they've gotten pretty fresh. This place is called Sparkenburg and is on the southern part of the Zudder Sea. We seemed to be the attractions at that place rather than the other way around. They looked at us, we looked at them, and everyone was satisfied. I took quite a few pictures here, and they all wanted to get in them, and without a thought of asking for a tip. For a real genuine Dutch place I think it had it all over Volendam, but that was a trifle more colorful. Near Volendam is a small island called Marken which we didn't get around to get to. It is a lot like Volendam, but here again they have their own costumes, and likewise, being near Amsterdam it is overrun with tourists. The girls all wear their hair down their backs in long braids, and until a boy is eight or nine they are all dressed like the girls. It would have been interesting to have seen it, but we were making a sketeh of the Volendam harbor which contained hundreds of these small Dutch fishing boats, flags flying, nets stretched up on the masts, and sails of many bright colors, and we missed the boat. All these boats with their many bright colors make a perfect setting for the old boys to go strutting along the dykes. You cant imagine the sight with so many masts massed together, and ropes dangling all over. They know it is good and expect that you are going to pay for seeing it.
Amsterdam is a very very large city, and a very busy one with its huge harbor and network of canals. A map of the city is quite a pretty thing to look at with its canals in a very systematic plan radiating around the shipping section. It is likewise a very pretty city, and has some new sections, all done in modern style that give a marvellous effect, because the section has been planned as a whole and all at the same time, rather than piece by piece as we know most communities. There is one section around the stadium that was built for the 1928 Olympics. The stadium is very nice, and the section around it is perfectly swell, with all the huge new apartment houses, individual houses, bridges, schools, churches, etc. each adding their share to the beauty. There is a very nice garage and show room that has been built beside the Stadium which is the best
looking thing that you've ever seen. We spent four days there in that city and were busy every minute, there being so much modern stuff to see. They have a very fine museum in the city, also, with some fine paintings of the old masters, and some very fine things of the present day. I enjoyed it very much and wished that I had had more time to have given to it. One place we wished very much to see was a modern synagoge, and especially the interior. We found it one evening about seven o'clock. There was a small Jewish man outside and when we started to look inside he told us that there were services going on and that besides we had to have a hat to go inside. He told us to wait a while and that we could probably go in. After the services were over he asked the man in charge of the synagoge. We were taken inside, told to wait and we were well rewarded for the wait, for he brought us two of the blackest and smallest hats imaginable. I don't see how any guy had a head that my hat would fit. There I was dressed in old clothes, needing a hair cut, red hair sticking out from under the brim, the best Irish face that never came from Ireland, and this small Jewish hat on, hands in my pockets, head shoved back to see all the sights in the place, and trying not to laugh when I looked over at Don who was just as funny. Mrs. H. had two to look at and to try and keep from laughing at, while we only had each other. It was pathetic that we couldn't let loose, because we were so funny the fellow himself had to laugh. He tried to suppress it but he didn't succeed. There we were dressed funnier by chance and seriously than if we'd planned to dress and try and be funny, poking around in all the corners, talking very seriously, and looking just the opposite. I'd have given almost anything to have had a picture of it. We held in until we got about a block away, then stopped the car and let go. We laughed until the tears came and all because we wanted to see the inside of a synagoge. But it was well worth it, both for the funny side and the wonderful interior. I've never seen anything so dramatic along church lines before as the interior. They'd used black polished marble in a big parabola in the center section, right where the interest should be focused. Then with spots of gold, and the lighting effects that had been included in the whole design the result was perectly marvellous. Something that is one of the best things I've seen in Europe.
While we were in Amsterdam we all went to a typical German Beer garden, where they have a couple of orchestras, the old German men in it dressed up in leather shoes, fancy socks, green or embroidered suspenders and wearing the Bavarian felt hat with a feather in it. The whole town goes there on a Saturday night and they are the best and most genial crowd I've ever seen. We've found it that way throughout Europe, that when you go in a place where a gang of people are enjoying themselves, they'll always take you in as one of their own people. But this place in Amsterdam was marvellous with the girls dressed in the same costume of Bavaria, and running around with about six steins of beer in each hand. The men in the orchestra, as most of those sitting in the place, are small and fat and laughing all the time. The orchestra leader will get up on a chair to lead the orchestra, waving a baton in one hand and playing a short old German cornet in the other. Swell! Then every now and then the orchestras will get out on the floor and march all around through the tables playing for all they are worth, with all the girls waiting on table, following them, dancing along behind and still with their hands full of stein. The people in the place will stand up on their chairs, or on the tables and sing and cheer, everyone having a perfectly swell time. It is a typical German place and such are found all through Germany, but especially down in Munich. We found another one like that in Frankfort, Germany,and got to be quite an old pal of the proprietor. He gave us the place and showed us everything of unusual interest there. He was a great friend of Max Schmeling the Prize fighter, champion of the world, and he had a picture taken with Max which he was very proud of and showed to very few people in the place, but he got it out of his locked quarters and showed it to us. Then he showed us some decorations he'd painted on the wall with some caricatures of Max and himself. He went around the world with the Graf Zeppelin and had a big model of it there hanging from the ceiling. It had lights in it and electric motors which he put on and started up, again just for us. He let business slide, leaving it to his wife to look after, just to come and spend most of the time talking with us. Don speaks just a little bit of German, I absolutely none at all, although I'm beginning to get so I can understand just a very, very little when something very simple is said or I know the subject. It is a very difficult language and one that I'm sure I never could understand or be able to talk even the slightest.
From Amsterdam we hit it for Hilversum, the architect Dudok's home town. He is city architect so all the schools, the new city hall, just opened a few days before, and other municipal buildings are all done by him. Every one is excellent, and especially the city hall. All very modern of course, and in a manner that I don't see how anyone, no matter how much they were for the old stuff, could help but like. It has some marvellous ideas incorporated in it, and quite a bit of time was spent in taking notes on the subject. So many people have come to see it, that they had to lock the doors so that people inside could do some work. We got an introduction to the head of Dudok's office, Mr. Dudok being away on a vacation, and so we were taken all through the building from top to bottom, into the Burgomaster's office, the council chamber, the ball room, the marrying rooms, (all marriages in Holland are performed first in the city hall and then in the church), and into the other various private offices, out in the courts with their nice pools and fountains. We did not miss a thing. His schools are very interesting pieces of work also, and Hilversum has some of the nicest ones I've ever seen. Every one has the maximum of air and light and cleanliness. Speaking of cleanliness, one little town we passed through before Amsterdam some of the women were out scrubbing the streets in front of their homes. Holland certainly is one clean place in comparison to the rest of Europe. While in Hilversum we saw a funny movie and there again I laughed so hard and loud that when the lights came on all the people in the place looked at us to see who was making all the noise. These guys over here don't seem to have much of a sense of humor. The same thing happened in Brussels, where we went to see Buster Keaton in "Buster Goes to War" which was one of the funniest pictures that, I've ever seen.
On the way to Hilversum, in Bussum, we stopped to inquire about a building there. The man of whom we asked directions, spoke English and was interested in architecture himself. A man in Dudok's office had designed his home, which he took us all through and which was a very interesting design. He made it possible for us to meet Mr. Dudok if Dudok hadn't been away, but we did get the next man as I've already said.
Utrecht was our next place but we didn't find that very worth while so we went on, headed for Apeldoorn where the Queen has a summer home and where she was at that time. It is not far from Doorn where the old Kaiser is staying but we didn't go there as there was nothing of special interest to us at that place. We ran out to a little place called Kootwijk near Apeldoorn where is located the Holland government's radio station, with which they talk all over the world. The masts are 700 feet high and the entire thing is in modern buildings and has a very pretty and nice layout. We just calmly blundered into the whole thing, up around the masts, and through the station. It is so far from civilization that they figure no guards are needed so we saw the whole thing. The superintendent ran on to us looking around, he spoke English, and was a very charming man. We were taken in for the night at the government hotel there at the station which is run for the men working at the place. The superintendent took us through the whole thing in a much more thorough manner than we had ever hoped for, showed us the new short wave sets, and gave us permission to sketch. But that was of very little use, for the next morning as we were ready to start in, it began raining and to-day eight days later, is the first time that it has stopped raining. It's been terrible weather for a very very long time. Reminds one of March or November and not of the first part of August. Kootwijk, as I've said before is the highest point in Holland, being 180 feet above sea level. It lies right out in the middle of a large territory of sand dunes stretching for miles and miles, all waste land, which must be quite a loss to Holland where they need land so badly. You surely do get lots of swell air out at that place though and it was well appreciated.
We crossed the border into Germany that afternoon in the rain. The only border that I've ever crossed in my life where it has not been raining is into Canada. Some day I hope to get my first glimpse of a new country in Europe in sunshine and not rain. It is queer how the land and surroundings and everything can change in just a few miles around a border, but just as soon as we got into Germany the country took on an entirely different aspect than Holland where we had just been. The last few days we've been through some of the most beautiful country that there is but have seen it all in the rain which has probably dulled the countryside a great deal. We have followed upstream along the Rhine, that is going from Essen to Dusseldorf, to Cologne, to Boan, to Coblenz where the American Army of Occupation was stationed following the War, and then to Bingen about which that poem "Fair Bingen on the Rhine" is written, a pretty lousy poem but a darn nice town, and then on here to Frankfort. Frankfort is to me one of the most fascinating towns I've ever been in. I would place it very near the top of the list of towns for a person to visit because of its great wealth of the real old sections with some of the most picturesque houses and municipal buildings, and then in the same city some of the very latest and up to the minute modern architecture. In general, the architecture here in Germany is much cruder and more brutal than that we've seen in Holland but looking at the plans and general layout as a whole I think it goes ahead of the other. You don't get much enjoyment out of looking closely at one of the great number of buildings put up to house families in huge blocks, but you do get a big kick out of getting off at a distance and taking the entire section in at a glance and see how nicely it all ties together and has great power and stability.
You certainly can see the genuine old houses right here in Frankfort, with narrow streets that about all you can do is to squeeze through them yourself. They twist and turn and have some of the swellest carvings on the half timber and on the brackets; they are painted bright colors, and lean up against each other like a couple of drunks, or rather a whole bunch of drunks because there are many many such house and all crowded in together. With all the room they had in those days, yet they built their houses closer together than you could possibly dream of, but of course that was for getting them all within the city or town walls for protection from attack.
The old city hall here is one of the most interesting buildings of the old days I've ever seen. On the second floor is the big room where the Emperor just after his election as Holy Roman Emperor dined with the electors who had just raised him to that position. Since about sixteen hundred they were also elected in that building and then went down to the cathedral a few steps away to be crowned. The room is one of the most richly decorated ones I've seen and it has a beautiful floor. You must put on felt slippers to walk around and you go from place to place as if you are on skis. Around the room are the full size portraits of all the Emperors of the Holy Roman Empire from Charlemagne to Francis Joseph of the World War.
It is here in Frankfort that the great Rothchild family began its career as bankers. Frankfort has its own section for Jews, and in the old days they were compelled to live in one certain place. The old homes of the Rothchild family, Schiff family, and many other wealthy and well known Jews are all here in this little section and along one or two streets. The old cemetery is one of the most interesting things. According to Jewish law no grave can be removed. The cemetery that they had in this section had no chance of expansion so when it filled up, a new layer of dirt was spread over it, the old tombstones set on the new level and new graves were put in. This occured several times, and now in a very small space there are over seven thousand tombstones of the last six centuries.
Since I wrote a short while ago that this was the first nice day we'd seen for over a week, we all went out to make a sketch. We lasted half an hour when we were chased back home by rain, and it's been raining torrents ever since. Where all the water comes from I don't know but it sure is wet water. We've seen all this beautiful country along the Rhine in the rain, and some day I'm going to do it over again in some sunshine. The Rhine is a marvellous drive, and you follow the river all the way almost on its very banks. The river is very swift and it's a great sight to see a little tug pulling several huge barges loaded to the gunwales against the current of the river. And then every now and then you will pass a boat like the Hudson River day boats only they have side paddle wheels instead of screw propellers. These boats give one a marvellous view of the territory also, weaving in and out among the islands, passing all the old castles setting high up on the mountains along the river, some in ruins and some still inhabited. I don't wonder that the Germans love the old river and wrote their national anthem about it. It certainly must be beautiful in sunshine if it is marvellous in the rain.
There are some very nice legends written about the land along the Rhine and I think that anyone would make a great mistake to visit it without first reading the legends, because they are all written about the various castles and towns there, and one by one you come upon them all. I'm reading them now and I know that I would have enjoyed the country much more if I'd known them as I came upon them.
Our first night in Germany was spent in Essen which is the very heart of the Rhur District which the French occupied for so long after the War. The huge industrial developments around there are very interesting, and every mine and steel plant is going at top speed. It is here that the huge Krupp steel works is located, and the whole city is built around it. For miles all that you see is huge factories and smoke stacks, just like in Lackawanna. The class of people are the same type also which wasn't so good as an introduction to Germany. Dusseldorf was our next stop which is a very pleasant city and had some very interesting architecture especially the old Exposition buildings. One, the planetarium was exceedingly interesting, both exterior and interior. We weren't there when one of their demonstrations of the planets was going on but we are going to try to hit one of those in Hamburg or Munich. Joe M. met us in Dusseldorf and now we are travelling four in the flivver. He will be with us for about a month we hope, when he will have to leave and return to Paris to work on his projet in the Ecole. Perhaps we can get him to stay longer with us; hope so. Next we landed at Cologne where there is a very lovely cathedral with most of all the important things of the city located at the foot of it. It is a very impressive thing and like all the rest of Germany so far, was swell even in a pouring rain. There in Cologne they have a very interesting restaurant built out over the river ad it has a perfectly fine site. After Cologne came Coblenz which I've mentioned before, and then Bonn where we spent a night; Bingen, fair Bingen on the Rhine, ugh! was the next place. We easily got rooms at all these places just because of the weather but in ordinary good weather all these places are great vacation resorts and are crowded. At Mainz I invested in a German hat that makes me look as if I've lost my ship and trying to find one. They are just small blue caps that look like those a petty officer wears on a ship but they are pretty darn nice, all in all. We all invested so now we're the German navy in a flivver. Wait till you see the leather pants I'll buy in Munich, though.
The feeling here in Germany is very tense and one that makes you feel almost like a criminal the way everyone from kids to police officers examine you minutely. The day we entered they were having a great vote all over Germany as to whether they would continue under the present government or would have a revolution and give the communists and Fasiciti a chance and refuse to pay reparations. The present government still remains, at least for a while, but feeling certainly is tense and running high. They had revolts and fights all over Germany, about thirty people including several police being killed on that day. The Reds certainly have a strong foothhold here in Germany. I've just come in off the balcony after watching a parade and demonstration of Communists. They were well guarded by the police to see that they remained orderly. Carful after carful of police went by just as a grim reminder for the Communists to remain as they should, and the entire parade had mounted police about every hundred feet. The people marching are the typical Reds, those who think they should be in power, are ignorant in every way, and wouldn't know what to do with power if they had it, but, some day I'm afraid they'll get it, both here and in America. A great change is bound to come. In many cases we haven't been treated very cordially, but we've excused that because of the great tenseness now prevailing over all of Germany. Here like in Italy, they all think that every American is wealthy beyond words. That type of people give me a pain, and the Germans have a lot more sense than the Italians; they ought to know such a thing is impossible, and especially with times such as they are, yet try and convince a guy who says that, that you are having as hard a time to get along as he is. Germany yells about being poor and all that and yet every amusement hall, every beer garden, every theater, and in general every place where you can spend money for amusement, is filled and over-flowing with Germans. I think they have a lot more money than they want the world to think. I have seen no suffering from poverty whatsoever here in Germany, and I've seen plenty in Italy.
Germany is a great country for athletics, and every city has its gymnasium and pool, etc. We were out today to the one here in Frankfort which has a very fine layout and included everything from golf, swimming, stadium, tennis, out-door theater, football field, and play grounds, to a huge concrete track for motorcycles and bicycle races. Everyone in Germany hikes. If Holland has a few million bicycles on the road, there are even more Germans, men, women, boys and girls who are hiking all over the country seeing their state with a pack on their back. Don't know what they do when the month is like this one seems to be, maybe they swim their way around. There are several interesting modern churches here in Frankfort, and one of the nicest large modern buildings I've yet see in their Great Market Hall. It's really the size of a factory and very very impressive. Seeing all these things makes you want to get home with an office of your own, some jobs, and turn out some real up to the minute stuff instead of some old Renaissance or classical stuff. That's all right in its place but that place is not the type of things that I wish to do. Time'll tell. Bye.