From Pole to Pole

From Pole to Pole – Sven Hedin

Vividly written and fully illustrated sketches of the travels of the famous explorer, including descriptions of countries and peoples, tales of exploration in all ages and historical stories connected with places described. Abridged for young people from the original Norwegian work .

From Pole to Pole

From Pole to Pole.

Format: eBook

From Pole to Pole.

ISBN: 9783849663407  (eBook)

 

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Stockholm to Berlin

 

Our journey begins at Stockholm, the capital of my native country. Leaving Stockholm by train in the evening, we travel all night in comfortable sleeping-cars and arrive next morning at the southernmost point of Sweden, the port of Trelleborg, where the sunlit waves sweep in from the Baltic Sea.

Here we might expect to have done with railway travelling, and we rather look for the guard to come and open the carriage doors and ask the passengers to alight. Surely it is not intended that the train shall go on right across the sea? Yet that is actually what happens. The same train and the same carriages, which bore us out of Stockholm yesterday evening, go calmly across the Baltic Sea, and we need not get out before we arrive at Berlin. The section of the train which is to go on to Germany is run by an engine on to a great ferry-boat moored to the quay by heavy clamps and hooks of iron. The rails on Swedish ground are closely connected with those on the ferry-boat, and when the carriages are pushed on board by the engine, they are fastened with chains and hooks so that they may remain quite steady even if the vessel begins to roll. As the traveller lies dozing in his compartment, he will certainly hear whistles and the rattle of iron gear and will notice that the compartment suddenly becomes quite dark. But only when the monotonous groaning and the constant vibration of the wheels has given place to a gentle and silent heaving will he know that he is out on the Baltic Sea.

We are by no means content, however, to lie down and doze. Scarcely have the carriages been anchored on the ferry-boat before we are on the upper deck with its fine promenade. The ferry-boat is a handsome vessel, 370 feet long, brand-new and painted white everywhere. It is almost like a first-class hotel. In the saloon the tables are laid, and Swedish and German passengers sit in groups at breakfast. There are separate rooms for coffee and smoking, for reading and writing; and we find a small bookstall where a boy sells guidebooks, novels, and the Swedish and German newspapers of the day.

The ferry-boat is now gliding out of the harbour, and every minute that passes carries us farther from our native land. Now the whole town of Trelleborg is displayed before our eyes, its warehouses and new buildings, its chimneys and the vessels in the harbour. The houses become smaller, the land narrows down to a strip on the horizon, and at last there is nothing to be seen but a dark cloud of smoke rising from the steamers and workshops. We steam along a fairway rich in memories, and over a sea which has witnessed many wonderful exploits and marvellous adventures. Among the wreckage and fragments at its bottom sleep vikings and other heroes who fought for their country; but to-day peace reigns over the Baltic, and Swedes, Danes, Russians, and Germans share in the harvest of the sea. Yet still, as of yore, the autumn storms roll the slate-grey breakers against the shores; and still on bright summer days the blue waves glisten, silvered by the sun.

Four hours fly past all too quickly, and before we have become accustomed to the level expanses of the sea a strip of land appears to starboard. This is Rügen, the largest island of Germany, lifting its white chalk cliffs steeply from the sea, like surf congealed into stone. The ferry-boat swings round in a beautiful curve towards the land, and in the harbour of Sassnitz its rails are fitted in exactly to the railway track on German soil. We hasten to take our seats in the carriages, for in a few minutes the German engine comes up and draws the train on to the land of Rügen.

The monotonous grind of iron on iron begins again, and the coast and the ferry-boat vanish behind us. Rügen lies as flat as a pancake on the Baltic Sea, and the train takes us through a landscape which reminds us of Sweden. Here grow pines and spruces, here peaceful roe-deer jump and roam about without showing the slightest fear of the noise of the engine and the drone of the carriages.

Another ferry takes us over the narrow sound which separates Rügen from the mainland, and we see through the window the towers and spires and closely-packed houses of Stralsund. Every inch of ground around us has once been Swedish. In this neighbourhood Gustavus Adolphus landed with his army, and in Stralsund Charles XII. passed a year of his adventurous life.

In the twilight the train carries us southwards through Pomerania, and before we reach Brandenburg the autumn evening has shrouded the North German lowland in darkness. The country is flat and monotonous; not a hill, hardly even an insignificant mound, rises above the level expanse. Yet the land has a peculiar attraction for the stranger from Sweden. He thinks of the time when Swedish gun-carriages splashed and dashed through the mud before the winter frost made their progress still more difficult and noisy. He thinks of heroic deeds and brave men, of early starts, and horses neighing with impatience at the reveille; of victories and honourable peaces, and of the captured flags at home.

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