Great Nebraska

Naturalists and Scientists

Edith Schwartz Clements

Letters, 1911

June 29, 1911


June 29th: Thursday: Heigh-ho! we have put as much into the last two days, as in the
entire two weeks on the ocean. It’s great sport too! We landed at seven Tuesday evening,
amid the usual accompaniment of confusion, band-playing and flag-waving. There was
a crowd of people on the dock, watching us come in; some to meet friends. The first
thing after landing was the customs, and this was such fun. There was a great long
building with a counter behind which the luggage was collected as soon as brought
from the boat. This was done by means of trucks, pulled by horses on a narrow track,
dumped unceremoniously off piece by piece, but with the unamerican​ precaution of a heavy mattress on the floor to break the fall, and then distributed
by hand trucks to the various compartments, lettered from A to Z. There were very
few names beginning with C, apparently, and we did not have to wait as long as some.
The customs-officers were in green uniforms. They would ask one to open grips & trunks,
glance at you & then at the luggage; ask if you had



anything dutiable & if satisfied that you were honest — paste a blue sticker on &
let you go. Some people did not even have to open their luggage, but one man with
yards & yards of rope around his trunk had to undo it. I think he had some boxes of
cigars which were taxed. Another had wine. The hurry, bustle & novelty were all a
welcome relief from past monotony. From the customs, we proceeded to the waiting-room,
where the Germans were already eating & drinking despite the fact that they had had
“coffee” at three, & dinner at four or five on the boat! At eight, the train was ready
(a special for the ship’s passengers from Cuxhaven to Hamburg) the doors opened, and we all rushed for seats. We got out early enough to get seats
next [to] the window. Later five more people got in. I like the German trains. This one had compartments the whole width of the
car, just as though the Pullman seats extended clear across & then each section, enclosed
in its own little room. It makes it so quiet



and private. They seats are nicely upholstered, like Pullmans — even second class; though I think third
has no upholstering at all. There are commodious racks for luggage, and doors at either
side with plenty of window space. By eight-thirty, everything was ready, and we were
off, through a fresh green country — with fields of ripening grain, truck gardens,
some trees, neat villages. The most striking thing about it all to us was the absolute
neatness everywhere — villages, roads — even the pastures looked as though they were
swept daily. Scarcely a shingle roof and not a frame house anywhere. All the buildings
— from small to large — of brick, or plaster or stone-gray or buff — with red-tiled,
sloping roofs — some of thatch. Imagine how much more artistic than our hodge-podge
of cheap-frame, gayly​ colored, many styled-houses. There was plenty of open country on the way, but every
available foot of it under cultivation.



The twilight lasted until ten o’clock & we were able to see until near Hamburg, which we reached at 10:30. Being somewhat tired, and planning to leave for Berlin early the next morning, we went at a venture to a hotel opposite the station — the
Lloyd.” Here I put my newly acquired language-facility into effect, and also tried bargaining,
with the result that I secured an 8 mark room for seven! The hotel delighted us: new
— modern, with electric lights & all conveniences, and oh so spotless!, with white
wood-work or tiling. Our room had two large windows, two beds, two wash-stands two
reading lights, etc. The beds were luxuriously soft, but the only cover was a down
comfort fastened between sheets, and proved somewhat warm. I found the noise of the
traffic and of late revellers somewhat disturbing, especially as I still felt the
motion of the boat. Since the morning train for Berlin left at eight, we decided to sleep


Letter 2 – page 2-

our fill and take a later one. We had a Continental breakfast at 8:30, in the pleasant
breakfast room. Freddie‘s eyes popped out at the sight of raspberry jam, orange marmalade, & honey, on the
table. Besides, there was coffee & crusty rolls with plenty of fresh butter. Everyone
has said one could not get a good cup of coffee abroad, but I am pleasantly disappointed.
It is made very strong, and is served with hot milk. This amounts to the same thing,
practically, as weaker coffee with cream. We were interested in watching the people
streaming by the window, to note how little different from Americans they were. One
could scarcely realize one was not in America, except that everything was so clean
— no dirt, no smoke — and the fact that practically every man carried a cane. I even
saw a little chap of about six with a tiny one! We spent our time at the zoological
garden. It apparently was



children’s day, for hordes of small boys overran the place. They were in groups —
probably classes from school — each in charge of a man — evidently the teacher. All
the school-children — both boys & girls had knapsacks strapped across their backs;
some had absurd little bright green botany cans. I cannot begin to tell you all the
strange animals & birds & fishes we saw — snakes & turtles — armadilloes​, flamingoes, all sorts of tropical, beautifully colored birds etc. etc. Everything
imaginable. Those that interested me the most, however were the Toucan, the monkeys,
kangaroos & sea-anemones. The toucan looks like his picture in our animal book. The
monkeys were so funny — playing tricks just like children, & romping. One mother monkey
perched on a limb, had her baby in her arms & was absorbedly hunting all through its
fur for vermin! —looking, oh so human! The little one snug-



gled down with eyes closed in content. Another one had a narrow strip of tin which
he bent around the bars, or into various shapes. Still another, sat on the floor with
his feet lifted up against the projection on the wall — for all the world like an
Irishman with feet on the table — and ate something he had in his hands. The kangaroos
too were amusing. Among the most beautiful creatures were the brilliant colored song-birds
— hundreds of them & the pea-cock who had his tail spread in all its glory — a wonderful
sight, especially when he sent ecstatic quivers all through its shimmering brilliance.
Nor will I ever forget the marvelous sea-anemones — all sizes, many colors — especially
pinks & lavenders — all variations of fringe from the ones with delicate frills like
carnation pinks to the im-




mense chrysanthemum — like affairs. I wish I could an adequate word-picture, but I
can’t & you will all have to come and see them. We also walked thru the botanical
garden near-by but it is rather small, and unkempt in spots & seemed tame after the previous excitement. We had a little more of this on leaving
the hotel, as I napped longer than I intended, & there was much scurrying about to
get packed in time to catch the 4:39 for Berlin. Fritz had calculated the cost of the tickets in dollars & when he came to get them, did
not have enough money. His knowledge of German was inadequate to the occasion & he
had to call in the assistance of an official standing-by-to act as interpreter. When
he finally understood, he had to come to me for the money & I had to go into a dark
corner to produce it from my bag. We made the train, however & had a pleasant quick
trip. There were beautiful



Letter 2 – page 3-

forests here & there along the way, & of course we had our eyes open for familiar
or new faces among the flowers by the way. I saw two tiny deer in the fields, stealing
the grain — pretty little rascals that they are. Every cross-road on the railway,
had a bar & a gate for safety, & every station a man in blue, standing at military
attention as the train whirled by. Everything is managed like clockwork, & every precaution
taken for safety: double tracks, block system, etc. etc. I have none of the fear of
accident that I have on American trains. On arriving at Berlin, we took a droschke which is a sort of taxi cab, drawn by a horse, & drove straight to an address of
a pension someone had given us. It was late, & I accepted the hosts first terms, to
my regret, later, for I think I could have done better.

Saturday: July 1st: Dresden

I certainly could have done



better, but that was because I understood the price of six marks (about $1.50) to include three meals. It turned out to be just for the room! We understood,
on learning this, why mine host — a big, jolly fellow, was so cordial & friendly.
He had caught some “suckers” without half-trying. I suppose, however, we will have
to pay something for experience, & until I get a basis for bargaining, I can do none.
Our room was very large, tho’ a little stuffy, with the two beds, “built” German fashion,
with the pillow a foot higher than the foot. We have learned how to pull at the sloping
bolster which gives this elevation, & get a flat bed. The only cover is a comfort
or feather-bed. Fortunately, the nights are cool.

We spent Thursday morning



looking up the University. The men Fritz knew, were not there, one having moved to Marking & the other being at botanic gardens. I was interested in watching the students,
with the inevitable cane & Panama hat — some munching huge sandwiches, some with sabre
scars across the cheek. No one seemed to pay any particular attention to us, though
it seems to be plainly written on us, somewhere, that we are Americans. At Cook’s office, where we stopped for a check, a young man remarked to F. [Fritz] that he was glad to see some Americans. Perhaps the mark is in our shoes, for I
never saw such funny things in that line as the Germans wear! long, narrow toes —square at the end — low heels, so that one flops along like a duck, flat-footed, with several



to spare at the toe. My natty little cream-colored Cinderellas attracted very evident
attention. From the University we walked down “Unter den Linden”, which as a street is famous for its beauty, but we decided this could not be on account
of the trees themselves — a double line down the middle — as they are still small.
The Siegesallée is the wonderfully beautiful place — a wide street — flanked by acres & acres of
park: beautiful trees, shrubs, flowers & walks. On either side of the street, itself
embrasures along the walk — a row of large stakes of all the German rulers from the
beginning, in white marble. The faces, costumes, attitudes & details were all faithfully
done & history made a living thing. We could not walk over all the park, so returned
for dinner at the pension. In the



Letter 2 – page 4-

afternoon, we spent a couple of hours in the national gallery & got a good idea of
native art.

Friday morning dawned bright & clear, for a wonder, but later, we were lucky in dodging
the sudden showers. Apparently one must always carry an umbrella here. We spent the
greater part of the day, wandering about the botanical garden in the suburb of Steglitz. Dr. Engler, as luck would have it, was at the University, so we missed him at both places. We
saw much to interest us, however, which would not interest you, so I spare you. I
think you all would be interested, however, in the general aspects of Berlin, itself. It is a comparatively new city & is apparently being built with an eye to
harmony & beauty. Street after street of apart-



ment buildings, but all of similar material, style & uniform height: gray stone or
plaster, red-tiled roof, & rare the window or balcony which was not wreathed in graceful
vines or gay with geraniums or petunias. This love of nature & of beauty was also
evident in shanty-town — hundreds of tiny frame shanties, but each with garden, vines
or climbing roses, so that the effect was charming. I found out later that these are
a particular institution known as Schräbergardens, and are a device whereby plant-lovers living in apartments in town may rent a tiny
garden plot for flowers & vegetables & a summer-house.

Strassburg-July 7th: It has been simply impossible to write since getting into the hands of
Prof. Drude at Dresden, who is a dynamo of energy & enthusiasm. I intended to make up arrears on the long
journey between Dresden & Strass[burg]



burg, but the train rocked worse than a ship at sea & I had to give it up.

We left Berlin Friday afternoon & reached Dresden about eight, drove to an address both Prof. Schlenker & Mabel Thomas had given us & were delighted with the accommodations & the price offered. The characteristic
thing about the interior of houses & pensions here is the spaciousness: ceilings —
12 to 15 ft. high, windows to match. Think of trying to heat these with a tile stove!
This pension had two large entrance doors, & a pair of iron-barred gates. We had to
unlock all three at night with enormous keys. Another noticeable thing is the lack
of illumination. At Berlin, I stumbled up & down two flights of stairs, in a dark hall, hunting the proprietor;
at Dresden, there was an oil lamp set on the stairs, tho’ the room had electricity. German “sparsamkeit” (frugality) is a wonderful thing. Everything is planned on the scale of their unit
of money,



a mark, which is, one-fourth as large as ours, the dollar. We cannot get used to handing
out a ten mark piece ($2.48) at a store & finding there is not enough money at the
store to make change! A 20 mark piece ($4.80) caused a great commotion at the pension
when handed in as part payment of our bill. Nor can we get used to realizing that
a 20 pfenning piece, which sounds large is only 5 cents. It helps one to be economical
to feel that it is larger than as large as it sounds.

To return: our room was large, exquisitely neat with white-enameled furniture & plenty
of it: writing-desk, tables, couch, etc. all for 6 M. (1.44) for both, including two
breakfasts. We have not yet found, any lack of bath-rooms, though here the baths were
extra. The wash-bowls are each big enough to bath in — almost.

The first thing, Saturday morning was a visit to the “High School” near-by where we



Letter 2 – page 5-

mately got into communication with Prof. Drude. He is delightful — a breezy, demonstrative, hospitable friend. He came rushing in
from his class-room to almost hug us in welcome & to chide us for not announcing our
arrival definitely. We had failed to mail the letter in New York & had carried it
all around with us! However, he made the best of the short notice for planning things,
& carried us off at once to his home & the botanical gardens. Not, however, before
I had gotten a glimpse of some perfectly marvellous water-colors of flowers! I thought mine had been done with minute care but there​ are not in it with these! They were done, by the court-painter to the King of Saxony
about a hundred years ago. Every tiny vein & hair on the foliage was faithfully portrayed
& beautifully done! There were three hundred in all — about one by two feet in



size. I could not bear to leave them & only wish I could find a present-day teacher
to give me lessons.

When Prof. Drude was free, he ran off with us to his house & the botanical garden. The setting for
these is lovely: great avenues of majestic linden trees in full bloom — lovely shrubbery
& flowers. The botanic garden itself is small, but as F. [Fritz] says, a “gem.” Professor Drude was in his element, pointing at things of interest & rattling off a steady, rapid
stream, of comment. It is lucky we are able to understand so well, as he does most
of the talking, & I make most of the necessary p replies for our part. I have received many compliments on my ability to speak — some
of them rather dubious — however. For instance a man in the Berlin pension told me I spoke better German than he did English. I mischievously asked
how well he spoke English. He replied “not at all”! I don’t believe he realizes yet
what that statement did to his evidently seriously meant compliment.



Fritz finds it quite a new & somewhat unpleasant experience to have to take a back-seat,
as he finds his stored language knowledge unavailable for conversational purposes.
Fortunately he understands about as well as I & the others understand enough English,
so that he does not have to be entirely dumb. We both find, however, that the constant
absorbed attention necessary to understand rapid speech is very tiring.

Mrs. Drude is very attractive — rather stately — capable & dignified. She is rather more advanced
than the usual German hausfrau, knows considerable botany & is taking yet lectures under her husband. We all — Prof.
& Mrs. D. & the three youngest children — the youngest of these being a girl of fourteen
or fifteen — took a stroll at six through the beautiful park & gardens. Everyone seemed
to enjoy it thoroughly — even the young man of about twenty. That seems to be another
German trait: their child like enjoyment of simple pleasures. At the terminus of the
walk, we sat in a rude garden & each devoured a huge plate of delicious cherries at
five cents a pound. Then the children were sent home &



the “old folks” sat by a small lake at a pavilion & had ham & drinks & potato salad,
not to mention black bread, which I preferred to feed the fishes rather than myself.
These were greedy fellows & gobbled with a sucking noise like pigs. We carried two
pounds of cherries home with us to fill in the dearth of fruit at the pension.

This is being written under such unfavorable circumstances that I will have to continue
in my next.