Page images

Good old George Nusch did not overestimate his capacity. One quart, two quarts, two quarts and a half, three quarts-down it went to the very last drop! And with the last drop Nusch fell senseless at the feet of the conquering general, while a cheer went up from those he had saved from the hangman's noose.

It is gratifying to relate that Nusch came to presently and suffered no ill effects from his draft.



Tilly was as good as his word-nearly. He spared the Rothenburgers' lives, but he made them pay him heavily in cash for his leniency, and he turned the town over to his soldiers for a week of looting and pillage. But George Nusch had won a place in history and in the hearts of his countrymen that well deserves the annual Whitsuntide party the city stages for him.

This is the pageant of Whitsuntide which the tourist must not miss. Each year some thousand or more of the town's inhabitants don the costumes of 1631 and reënact the whole drama of the siege, the capture, and the emptying of the Pokalwith the exception that the George Nusch of to-day doesn't have to drink the whole three quarts. It is all done with superb accuracy of detail, with spirit, gusto, and rare histrionic power.

It would not be possible, of course, to give this drama as it is given, were not Rothenburg itself still very much as it was in medieval times. To be sure, the moat has been drained, save for a pond or two, and peaceful gardens and orchards. grow where once its turbid waters flowed. But the wall is still there, repaired and complete, and the very towers where once the arquebuses fired futilely at Tilly's men

at arms.

Moreover, the townsmen of Rothenburg, with splendid appreciation of their native place, have refused to let any modern innovations creep into the architecture or the city's streets. When a house or a highway within the walls needs repair, it is done in a way to preserve its ancient appearance. Rothenburg to-day looks as it must have looked long before Columbus discovered America. Indeed, parts of

the city date from two centuries before that time.

This fascinating town is the sort of place to drive an artist mad, since every corner, every shop, every tiny red-tiled. house, is a picture. As for the Rathaus, with its beautiful Renaissance doorway in the inner court, the Jakobskirche, the Franciscan church, the Burgturm, the romantic Topplerschlösschen, and the small Gothic Kobollzeller Church, built in 1472, with its amusing double spiral staircase, which two persons can ascend at once without seeing each other-all of these can be, have been, and will be painted again and again, for the delight of all those who find pleasure in medieval beauty.

Indeed, strolls about Rothenburg in summer are rather complicated by the number of easels and tripods that clutter the streets, each with a hard-working artist attached.

Most tourists go first, and rightly, to see the Rathaus, though not all of them climb its 193 steps to the top of the tower. Those who do so, however, are well rewarded by the view of the town and environs, the valley of the Tauber, and the river itself a silver ribbon tied around the green.

The older part of the Rathaus was built in 1240, while the newest part dates from the Renaissance, 1572, and later, and is notable for its balcony, oriel windows, portico, and the aforesaid staircase tower. The largest room in the Rathaus is called the Kaiser-Saal, and here is given the last scene of the Whitsuntide play, that in which Nusch drains the flagon.


Below the Rathaus are torture chambers and dungeons, without which no medieval town hall would be complete. The Rothenburgers did nothing by halves; so their dungeons and torture chambers are the last word in horror even now, though the rack and the Iron Maiden have been removed. Criminals were executed here by the sword as recently as 1804, in which year Bavaria stepped in and revoked the city's rights to deal out such bloody punishments.

The civic pride of the old-time Rothenburgers was a splendid thing. They dug down into their pockets and built the Rathaus just after a war tax of 80,000 guldens had been levied on the town. They built the Jakobskirche, a high and handsome basilica, which, when completed, elicited from a great ecclesiastical dignitary the inquiry as to who had endowed so noble an edifice. The reputed answer sounds very characteristic: "It has been built and bettered from gift and counsel and help and alms of our own burghers, as the custom is in the land."

Perhaps the Jakobskirche's greatest claim to distinction, however, is not its imposing appearance and fine decoration, but the fact that it was built on the site of a pilgrimage chapel from which it inherited its sacred relic, a crystal vial reputed to contain drops of the blood of Christ. Those interested in architecture and not in relics will examine the church's three-aisled nave, which is supported by 12 clustered columns of unusual beauty in decoration and arrangement.

Historically, the high spot of the church's history occurred in March, 1525. when Florian Geyer read the articles of association of the Peasant League to the burghers assembled to hear him, and invited-perhaps incited-them to join in the Franconian Peasant War.


In one of the chapels inside this church is the tomb of Heinrich Toppler, an even greater hero in Rothenburg than Nusch. He was a burgomaster of the earlier days, for he died in 1408, and to him the town owed much of its prosperity and many of its fine buildings. There are two dice carved on Toppler's tomb, because he cast dice for the city with the Burgrave of Nuremburg and won!

They were good sportsmen, these old fellows of the jackboots and plumed hats, the velvet doublets and the almost universal flowing whiskers; but Heinrich Toppler was more than a good sportsman-he was a good business man. He it was who had the bright idea of purchasing the estates of impoverished nobles round about and adding their lands to the town's territory.

Toppler directed much of the wall-building and the double bridge over the Tauber. He is called Rothenburg's greatest citizen; but he died by poison, in one of those dark and airless dungeons under the Rathaus, where his enemies had conspired to throw him, while his friends were vainly trying to tunnel a way for his


When the traveler is weary of churches he will do well to go out into the park and enjoy the views of the town's steep red gables, while below in the valley may be seen Toppler's own castle, where he used often to entertain his friend, the Emperor Wenzel. If the castle looks rather small to be called by such a fine name, it should be remembered that wherever a great man has dwelt, there is always a castle, no matter what its size.


After visiting the park, a walk around the city on top of the old wall is in order. This may be reached by staircases at the city's gates. The wall has a roofed pathway some four feet wide, open on the town side only (see Color Plate III).

Loopholes in the outer parapet gave the town's defenders their chance to fire on the assaulting enemy. Scaling ladders were little used against such fortifications, and if a man or two gained the roof of the wall, the guns in the towers could fire on him, and he had the option of falling back into the moat or over the roof, 40 feet, to the cobbled street beneath.

The Spitalbastei, the great bastion at the extreme end of the town, is an epitome of medieval defense, with its fivefoot walls, wide ramparts, and frowning old guns.

As a last and pleasing touch, one should read the old Latin motto on the near-by Kobollzellertor, the most picturesque of all the city's gates:



which may be translated roughly as "Peace to those who enter; safety to those who depart"-not a bad thought to cherish during the long half-mile trudge to the railway station where one bids Rothenburg a regretful au revoir.

[graphic][merged small]

The merchandise is from the far interior and is bound for Paotow (see page 197), the present terminus of the Peking-Süiyuan Railway, near the southern edge of the Mongolian Desert. The halt is three days' march outside the city, which is a great center for overland freight from Mongolia, northwest China, and Turkestan.

[graphic][merged small]

They boil flour paste in a copper pot to make a crude sort of macaroni, to be washed down

with strong tea. The cask is used to carry water.

An Account of the Work of the National Geographic Society's Central-China Expedition in the Mongol Kingdom of Ala Shan

[ocr errors]


With Illustrations from Photographs by the Author

T was at Paotow, near the southern edge of the Mongolian Desert and the present terminus of the railroad which points in a northwesterly direction from Peking across Asia, that the National Geographic Society's Central-China Expedition made its final arrangements for an eight months' inland journey through the Province of Kansu,* in the extreme northwest corner of China proper, where Mongolia, China, and Tibet come together.

Our mission was to gather from these little-known regions botanical and zoölogical specimens, which were subsequently presented by The Society to the U. S. National Museum, in Washington. In addition, I hoped to make a study of the people of northwestern China.

Our caravan consisted of 27 camels, besides horses, which were purchased at Paotow, and the retinue included 15 Chinese employés, among whom were four camel-drivers, who were to accompany us as far as Wang Ye Fu (Tingyuanying), in Ala Shan, a Mongolian kingdom which we estimated to be 23 days' march to the west. Here we were to find other transport for the remainder of our journey (see map, page 199).

Those 23 days grew to 39, for the way was longer and the going worse than anyone had expected.

The route from Paotow lay to the northwest, over dry, open country, dotted with the homesteads of a few Chinese settlers, who take up the land in Mongolia wherever there is enough water for farming.

The straight trail to our destination was far south of our actual route, but we had to avoid it, for at two points it

* See, also, "Where the Mountains Walked," by Upton Close and Elsie McCormick, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE for May, 1922.

crossed the Hwang (Yellow) River. Advancing spring had rotted the ice on the river until it was too soft to bear the weight of men and animals, and for a stretch of 1,200 miles there are no bridges.


We kept to the northern bank, far enough from the river to avoid irrigation ditches, since a camel dreads mud more than cold, thirst, or hardship. His big, padded feet slip on wet ground, his long legs get tangled, and a fall may result in permanent injury.

The Chinese make their camels work all winter, leaving them no opportunity to put on fat and build up resistance to hardship. Camels owned by Mongols, on the contrary, usually make only two trips a season, and can, therefore, start out in the best condition, march fast, and keep going for long hours. They are the beasts which have made the camel's reputation in Asia (see page 206).

Ours were the inferior Chinese animals and had other peculiarities which we had to humor. For one thing, they fed best in the morning, after resting; so we traveled in the afternoon and evening.

Our short, fat Chinese cook found this arrangement deplorable and we shared his opinion. Breakfast and lunch were telescoped into one meal, called "brunch," taken about 10 o'clock in the morning. The next, except for hard-tack munched in the saddle, came late in the evening, sometimes at II o'clock.

We often finished a march in the dark, blundering into holes or leading our horses and looking for the trail with a lantern; but with a full or waxing moon, which lit up the still desert brightly and made mud-walled farms look like Arabian palaces, night marching was glorious.

I remember one evening in particular, when we ended our march by the dim

« PreviousContinue »