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CLASSIFICATION OF EUROPEAN HOTELS
PICTURESQUE ENGLISH INN
ENGLISH HOTEL "MANAGERESS"
"LIGHTS AND ATTENDANCE"
ROSES AND LAVENDER
FOOD OF THE ENGLISH INN
THE "COUNTY HOTEL"
AIRING THE BEDS
SPORT AND THE ENGLISH INN
HOTEL OF THE FRENCH COUNTRYSIDE
REAL FRENCH CUISINE
"COMMIS VOYAGEURS" AND THE TABLE D'HÔTE
EARLY HOURS OF THE FRENCH COUNTRYSIDE
TYPES OF FRENCH HOTELS
MENU OF THE ITALIAN HOTEL
COUNTRY HOTELS OF SWITZERLAND
CHEAP SWISS HOTELS AND GERMAN STUDENTS
INNS OF THE BLACK FOREST
BREAKFAST AT THE DUTCH HOTEL
CHEAP HOTELS OF BELGIUM
THE COUNTRY HOTELS OF EUROPE
THE hotels of Europe are readily classified. There is the purely resort hotel, which is only open at certain seasons, catering to a special clientèle, and whose prices, on account of the various divertisements purveyed, are well in the neighbourhood of ten dollars a day. Tourist hotels of a similar rank, so far as excellence and worth may go, but less fashionable, cater in a similar fashion for, say five dollars a day all found, save the cost of wine or extras.
The frankly second-class tourist hotels of the resorts, as good perhaps in quality, but less luxurious than those of the first class, are much cheaper, catering at a minimum of three dollars per day per person.
Those of the third class, quite good enough, if price is a consideration, begin at the equivalent of two dollars, and such are found in practically all the resorts of Europe, though partaking very little of the complexion of those of the first two classes.
Without going down in scale, but of a different classification, are the commercial hotels of the towns of France in particular, which possess almost nothing of luxury, but often cater in a superior "National" manner to those establishments whose clients are English-speaking people alone. On the Continent many of these are to be found, where, for seldom more than two dollars per day, one may be served of the very best that the country affords in the way of the good things of the table; in England the cost is somewhat more. Such houses may lack in what we call modern conveniences, but invariably possess a character which many will prefer to that of the tourist establishments where only "foreigners" are found.
Last of all comes the country inn, lowest in price, and, on the Continent, often to be had for a dollar a day, or a little more, up to say a dollar and a half. In such quaint and charming hostelries as these usually prove to be, one is sure of simple, well-cooked food, abundantly served, and the opportunity of rubbing elbows with the people of the country is not the least of their attractions. Under such conditions, deficiencies and inconveniences are made light of, and one gets a touch of individuality which vividly impresses the surroundings upon one.
The American traveller accepts without question the English inn as the ideal type of the small hostelry, but regards dubiously the corresponding small hotel of the countryside of Continental Europe. Even if one does sample the modest Italian albergo, the German gasthaus or the small French auberge out of curiosity, and finds it good, the experience is looked upon as an exception. More particularly is this the woman's point of view, and still unconvinced, she passes on the next time to the big tourist hotel with a thousand windows.
The reason is obvious. The English inn has been thoroughly advertised by the time-honoured literature of its country. Poets and artists, times without number, have surrounded it with a romantic glamour, so that now it stands as the very flower of the traveller's rest-house.
Since we as a nation have largely drawn our ideas of hotel life from English sources, it is correspondingly through that same medium that we have imbibed the English contempt of the "foreign" hotel – meaning that of Continental Europe. But this point of view is giving way before the immense improvement in all classes of hotels, brought about by the Renaissance of tourisme that is sweeping over Europe. More especially is the change to be noted in the small country hotel of France, which the English themselves are forced to admit as superior, in many cases, to their own country inns, if not in actual comfort, at least in quality, and this ought to mean the same thing.
It is the English inn which still makes the strongest sentimental appeal to the traveller. It still stands for the glamour of the open road and a real hospitality of a pertinent, personal nature. The English inn is synonymous with good cheer and comfort and a welcome still warm with the traditions of old-time travel. It is the personal service with which one meets at the English inn that makes the strongest bid for the woman traveller. No matter how small the house, one is taken in hand and made to feel as much at home as is possible when one is sleeping in a strange bed and being waited upon by strange servants.
That the English inn is still our ideal of the most attractive form of hostelry, is endorsed by the imitations which are springing up all over our own country. Just the display of that magic word "inn" is enough to assure one that patronises the establishment behind it of comfort, quality and high prices, though with this latter, it ought not to be. It is easy thus to see that the picturesquely disposed inn holds its own in the affections of the American, and why it is not the least of England's charms for the tourist. The sentimental call of the country inn to the traveller who wants picturesqueness as well as solid comforts is irresistible. One does pay though for its picturesque accessories, more perhaps than is really justifiable. The English inn is often an illustration of the costliness of simplicity, for the smallest of thatch-roofed country inns is frequently a big surprise in the matter of prices.
Twelve shillings a day is about the price for meals and lodging in the inn of the average big town in England. This seems a trifle stiff for going to bed by a solitary candle and also being charged for it in the bill. It is not only inconvenient to go to bed by a candle, but galling in the extreme to be made to pay for the privilege, and this archaic custom for paying for "light and attendance" still holds good in most English hotels, the exceptions being certain of the newer ones in London. The charge varies in the country inn from a sixpence to a shilling and sixpence, according, as it would seem, to what the traffic will stand.
In most cases it is a woman who presides over the destinies of the English inn. The hotel business is more nearly a woman's business in England than elsewhere. It is the "Manageress" who is to be seen in the office of most hotels, both great and small. This has much to do with making that "home atmosphere" which is peculiarly an attribute of the English hotel. The fact that the English carry their environment, one might almost say atmosphere, about with them as much as possible, is responsible for this effort of the hotel proprietor to create what is commonly known a "home from home." This is the English idea of hotel life.
Femininity is the keynote at the little English inn. A maid in a neat dress and white apron and cap, most likely, carries your hand luggage up to your room, often to the great distress of the chivalrous American man should he happen to be an adjunct to the party. Under such circumstances he has often been known to do the porterage himself.
At its best, the English inn has roses clustering about its latticed windows, and the smell of sweet clover comes floating in from the meadows below. It is delightful to rest between lavender-scented sheets in an old-fashioned English inn, and while the first-class English bed is the best in the housekeeping world, it is more often met with as a combination of a "flock" mattress on top of a featherbed. The dressing-table takes up the best window, back to the street (the ideal place for it, by the way), and white dimity hangings look cool, too cool sometimes as one shivers through an English summer, for fires in July are not uncommon. The maid brings up hot water in a "jug," and for the bath there is a flat pie-dish-like, tin tub, unless one has sufficiently adopted the custom of the country and travels with a collapsible one of rubber, whose tendency is to fold up unexpectedly and set the floor awash.
To get into the real spirit of the thing a guest at an English inn should have a cup of tea before rising. This the maid will bring up on call, and it will not be forgotten in the bill, figuring at from sixpence to a shilling, but in spite of this no English woman would think of beginning the day without this stimulant, and even the mere English man takes kindly to the custom.
The "coffee room" is the general utility room of the English inn. Here one writes letters, sits, smokes, reads and takes one's meals, but whatever may be the disadvantage of dining off of one end of a table at which another is writing, the atmosphere of the coffee room is comfortably pleasing, and usually its furnishings are enough to turn the woman from "out West" into a collector if she had not the craze before leaving home. The furniture is apt to be old and massive and of good periods. On the walls, and on the inevitable British sideboard, is generally a display of pewter and old English china, long out of print, so to speak, and silver or plate of the Sheffield variety. No English inn is complete without a glass case of stuffed birds or beasts – or it may be fish; it all depends upon the sporting tastes of a long line of former proprietors, for such accessories are usually hand-me-downs. There is not much use to pump the proprietor as to the purchase of these relics; antiques are well known to be an asset, and for that reason alone he will be averse to parting with them, if indeed he does not wish to keep them for sentimental reasons.
At the more pretentious inn a waiter of the old type is sure to be in attendance in the "coffee room "; solemn, with mutton-chop whiskers, a fast disappearing type of the old-time servitor.
Breakfast costs what one wishes to pay for it. Coffee (though it is well to stick to tea in Britain), bacon and eggs, marmalade and toast are the staples. The toast will be cold, though this will not be through mistake but by intent, for it has stood in the toast-rack unbuttered, as is the wholesome way, to cool off. The cost may be two shillings, or it may rise to the city price of "two and six," more familiarly reckoned as half a crown. At times it may drop to one and nine pence or some such uncouth figure, but not often. On the sideboard are arranged, in that class of inn that owns to the solemn waiter, a varied assortment of those cold "joints" that so appeal to the Britisher as a breakfast dish. Thus, with a slice of cold 'am or mutton or a "bit of fish," the price will certainly reach the highest limit.
Dinner at the country inn is the midday meal, and the bill of fare is as monotonous as a tax receipt – chiefly boiled mutton, potatoes, cabbage and one of the solid English varieties of pudding, that under different names bear a strong family resemblance.
There are little towns where, if one happens in on market day, such a meal can be had for a shilling, accompanied with a glass of temperance ale at tu'pence, but the more usual price will be two shillings and six pence, the half-crown being the most popular and hard-worked coin in the realm.
Supper at night is practically what you can get. "Whatever you like, ma'am," is only a formula in the mouth of the solemn waiter or the neat maid, and soon reduces itself to a chop or a bit of cold meat left from the dinner's "joint," and, if you are late, and the village butcher shop happens to be closed, not even the chop will be forthcoming. More often than not it is cold meat and cheese combined into a "high-tea" with the help of the ever good English brew, at a cost of eighteen pence or a couple of shillings. The bill of fare of the English inn is very inelastic and is apt to cool the enthusiasm of the American traveller brought up on a great variety of food. One does get used to it, but there is always a longing for something different.
The automobile has been a missionary to the inn in England, and is directly responsible for the Renaissance of the country post-house, whose vogue had greatly declined with the passing of the old coaching days. The increased prices of the new era are sometimes extortionate for the return one gets, and have soared until the picturesque inn of the small town is often as expensive as the more ambitious "county" hotel of the larger communities.
There is always a "county" hotel in each county town. It is an establishment which is supposed to be patronised by the swell element of neighbouring country houses when perforce they have to remain in town. Here the bill of the stranger will fluctuate between twelve and twenty shillings a day, especially if the proprietor is ambitious enough to attempt to get you up an evening meal sufficiently pretentious to be called a dinner.
Happily the rule of the old coaching days, "four bottles of port to four horses," does not have to be imitated by the owner of a 60 H.P. touring car, but one pays in other ways for the privilege of being treated as a "gentleman," which, according to the tradition of the British innkeeper, is that you must be served, as nearly as possible, in the manner in which you are supposed to live at home. You also pay for this in the bill.
If one will not expect too much from the food and is not looking for modern conveniences, the English inn will serve one very well. In winter the cosy coffee room of an English inn is a most attractive spot as one comes in out of a November fog and huddles around the blaze of an open fire, the tea kettle singing on the hob, while the maid is hurried off to "air the beds," – damp sheets are the bogie of the English housekeeper, and the opening up and warming of the bed amounts almost to a religious ceremony in the humid little isle. What a pleasant antidote this is for the chills outside! In some inns that hold to old customs, the long-handled, brass warming-pan, filled with glowing coals, is still passed under the bed coverings in an effort to dry them out before the guest retires. In England one can often vary a stay at some quaint little riverside inn, if there is a desire to sample the fishing, for the proprietor usually has manorial rights which cover the taking of fish for a mile or two along the stream. You can hire a rod, a small boy and a boat and be lucky enough, perhaps, to bring back a trout or a pike for dinner. In any of the great hunting 'shires one can hire a mount at the local inn and follow the hounds of a famous hunt, a free and democratic amusement open to all under certain conditions. If a good golf links is in proximity to a comfortable inn an ideal combination is made for one who would like to take his, or her, pleasures quietly. All these things are possible to the stranger once welcomed under the hospitable roof of the English inn.
The English inn has long overshadowed its counterpart on the Continent, but the small French country hotel is coming into its own, largely through the Touring Club de France, which has done great work in improving the French hotel of all grades. Especially has the small hotel of the countryside benefited under its tutelage in the past ten years, and even if it has not always risen to the height of installing the chambres hygiéniques, advocated by the beneficent T.C.F., the whole tone and aspect of things has been put on a more livable basis, while those cabalistic letters "W.C.," opposite the name of a hotel in the hotel guide of the T.C.F., indicate improved sanitary arrangements of a kind that scarcely existed a few years ago.
The country hotel or auberge of France (the word inn does not fit in for the nomenclature of a small French hostelry) has quite as much charm on intimate acquaintance as its counterpart in Britain, though its exterior is often plain, and, at first glance, unattractive. For all this the lone woman traveller may drop into any French countryside hotel, no matter how humble it may appear, with perfect confidence and propriety, and be assured of finding a good bed, good cooking, good food and reasonable prices.
However you may arrive at the French hotel, by the hotel 'bus from the station, by the omnibus of the ville, or in your own automobile, you will most frequently drive into the courtyard – sometimes a garden, but more often paved with cobblestones, with the stables lined up on one side. The expectant garçon rings the big bell that hangs beside the entrance and the patron comes to the door to welcome you; as likely he is the chef, too, in white apron and cap; the proprietor is usually the chef himself in the country hotel in France, in which case you may count upon it that the food will be good. The rooms may seem bare after the plethora of furniture of the English inn, but its warm, waxed floors, as in the north, or the glazed tiles of the south, are more hygienic than the carpets under foot that the English insist upon at home. The bedroom is as severe as a convent cell, and the bed resembles a sarcophagus, piled so high with many mattresses that it takes a gymnastic turn to get in. The sheets are of linen, sometimes old, hand-woven heirlooms of fascinating softness, sometimes unbleached and of a board-like thickness. The frugal French housekeeper counts on the life of a sheet being a quarter of a century and buys sturdy stuff.
The washing arrangements are usually microscopic, and the bathroom non-existent. A demand for hot water meets with but slow response, but this is only because the kitchen fire has to be made up and a casserole or broc of water heated. The man chambermaid one must put up with; there is no reason for getting shocked over it, he takes it all as a matter of course, so why should not you. There will be only a solitary candle for light in the bedroom, in spite of the fact that most country hotels in France have electric lights on the ground floor. On a table in the hall is ranged a long row of candles in shining brass candlesticks, which you set aglow from the little night lamp – a wick set in a cork, floating, lighted, in a receptacle of colza oil, or by the more dangerous expedient of a cotton swab dipped in alcohol, being first lighted at a whale-oil lamp. Matches are quite as much of a luxury in France as hot water.
There will be no sitting-room, rarely a reading-room, smoking-room or the like. The café, attached to the hotel or located nearby, supplies all these wants. For the woman traveller the French hotel lacks many things, but this arises from the fact that Frenchwomen as a class travel only on rare occasions, and seldom for pleasure.
It is quite possible that you will be the only woman at the long table in the salle à manger, but do not let that disconcert you, for though there is a long line of commis-voyageurs, or commercial travellers, down either side, the chances are that they will not so much as waver an eyelid in your direction. The provincial European – the Frenchman in particular – when occupied with his dinner preserves an Oriental oblivion to the presence of woman; he makes a serious business of eating (the objectionable quality being that he does so noisily), and he is not easily diverted from this purpose, not even to stare at the unchaperoned American girl. The commis-voyageur has his uses; when in doubt as to the choice of a hotel, follow the French commercial traveller and his brassbound trunks, for he picks out the best cuisine as unerringly as a divining rod points to hidden water.
The dinner will be excellent, of a quality far superior to that of the usual tourist hotel, and it is to French hotels of this class that one must go for typical French food. It is not the cooking of Paris, which, with all its excellence, is monotonous. Throughout France each petit pays has its special dishes, and, the French being patriotic above all else, it is but natural that the proprietor should take pride in setting before his guests the plats which are celebrated in the neighbourhood.
Déjeuner and dinner are always on the table d'hôte plan; even in the most modest village hotels they are always meals of ceremony, of from six to eight courses, déjeuner being the more pretentious of the two. There is only one complaint to be made of such bountiful and uniformly good meals; it is that the two are too much alike in variety and quantity, déjeuner differs from dinner only in the omission of soup and the inclusion of cheese.
In the cider country of Normandy and Brittany carafes of golden cider are included at each meal; elsewhere the wine of the country – white or red, as may be the most plentiful cru of the region – are served ad lib, or at least, à discretion, without extra charge.
After-dinner coffee must be sought at the cafe, never far away from the hotel, perhaps even located under the same roof. Early hours are the rule in a small French town, and by ten o'clock the great portal of the hotel is locked up tight. More than one automobilist has had to sleep in his car under the windows of a wished-for hotel in France because no one would be disturbed to let him in, though he tooted his horn like the last trump. The French landlord is not so keen to corral the stranger and his purse as his Teuton, Swiss or Italian neighbours across the Alps, so that it is well to arrive early at one's stopping-place for the night.
Some of the most interesting of small French hotels are those of Normandy and the valley of the Seine. Old Norman timbered hostelries with mediaeval façades, garden courtyards and waxed floors are at their best in towns like Les Andelys and Louviers.
Out in Brittany, the westernmost point of France, the passing tourist is less frequent than elsewhere; it is, furthermore, the poorest part of France, and for these two reasons the country hotels are not up to the standard of appointments and cookery of the best of French traditions.
Across mid-France, from Paris south to Lyons, and from the Bay of Biscay to the Alps, are found the best provincial hotels of Europe, with the vraie cuisine Française.
In the region of the Pyrenees the country hotel is all that it should be, and often highly modernised in some respects because of the radiating influence of a chain of watering places which stretches out practically the whole length of the Franco-Spanish frontier.
Along the Mediterranean coast one finds the worst class of purely country hotels in France. It is not that they can be termed bad, but it is certain that the hotels of the Midi lay themselves open to criticism. It is the influence of the Southern temperament that is prone to take life easy. A lack of water is everywhere noticeable, and the tiled floors seem cheerless, after the waxed parquets of the north, while the cuisine of garlic and olive oil is distasteful to many. Thus it is that an otherwise fascinating country suffers through the deficiencies of its hotels, and until the Riviera is reached, with its great hotels catering largely to foreigners, and which for the most part are nothing French at all, the hotels of southeastern France are by no means to be classed with the many good things that are French.
The small Italian albergo, or the more humble trattoria, has not the endearing qualities of the English inn, nor of the French country hotel. It may have far more picturesqueness, it might once have been a palace or a convent where one may even dine in the old cloister, or it may possess a crumbling marble loggia, or a classic garden with a carven fountain and much battered sculpture, but it rarely inspires one with the desire to end a wandering, except to gain a brief respite from a strenuous existence as a tourist. Things are casual in Italy at the best, and in the countryside one gets the lack of order and method, unsoftened by any modernity. The comfort that even the most modest English inn provides is entirely lacking. The country hotel of Italy is like Italy as a whole, delightful to see and to add to one's recollections of experiences, but hardly suitable for making oneself at home and settling down.
The people add not a little to the restlessness that pervades the Italian country hotel. They are charmingly bright, and greet one with a spontaneity and genuine pleasure that is most agreeable, but stranger people who wander about the world for pleasure only are never ceasing objects of curiosity, and when one leaves the beaten track the scrutiny and unceasing attention that one gets becomes tiresome, no matter how good-natured and well meant they may be. These attentions are met on all sides, from willing but incompetent hotel help, from the loafers in the village, from every one. It is not ill-natured, but annoying, sometimes even embarrassing.
The word cosy, or even comfortable, cannot be applied to the Italian albergo. As a rule it is bare and gaunt, with stone or marble floors, no place to sit, not even a café attachment as in France. The Italians have not the café habit except in the cities and big towns.
There is no swinging inn sign in Italy. A little shrine beside the entrance, holding a statue of the madonna, takes the place of it, or it may be that there is a sacred picture frescoed on the wall with a swinging lamp before it. Invariably, across the façade, in bold, black letters, will be blazoned the name of the hotel.
One must do in Italy what is never done in France or England – bargain for prices, not so much for the reason that there is danger of extortion, though there is a tendency everywhere in Italy to advance prices to English-speaking people, as from the fact that there are no fixed charges. The proprietor of a little roadside albergo often does not know what to give one, in other words, how much one is willing to pay and what would be considered a proper equivalent. On such a basis of reckoning it is natural that the traveller is obliged to help him out.
Usually there is no table d'hôte, or tavola rotunda, in the Italian hotel of any grade, but the highest usually serves meals à la carte, although sometimes there may be a luncheon or midday meal which one can order as a whole, or from which one may select only a dish or two. Often you wander into the kitchen and see for yourself what is forthcoming in the way of food. The great stone-flagged room seems full of people, relatives of various degrees and ages, with a grandmother or two hovering over a copper brazier of charcoal if the weather be cold.
In Italy it is always safe to ask for a veal cutlet and some form of pasti – macaroni, tagliatelli, spaghetti or what not, and this with a long, thin-necked bottle of Chianti and Gorgonzola cheese makes as ample and excellent an Italian meal as can be got, and ought not to cost over a franc and a half.
The sleeping-room of the humble Italian albergo usually has a portrait of Garibaldi and chromos of the reigning royal family on the walls. One's bed is made up after arrival, which is not a bad custom. The washing outfit is precariously hung on an iron stand that suggest a jardiniere, and is of tin. A chair or two and a small rug about completes the furnishings. On each window ledge is a flat, red cushion, which is convenient for following the Italian fashion and spending your spare moments hanging out of the window, the cushion thus protecting your elbows.
In spite of a look of general disorder, things are actually clean enough, and while in sanitary necessities the small Italian hotel is primitive, Italy all around is improving in this respect, and is perhaps no more backward than many other parts of Europe.
The Italian hotel of the towns is fully a third dearer than the French establishment of the same grade. A déjeuner that in France usually costs two francs, fifty centimes, in Italy becomes three, and even four. There are some five, six and seven lire a day Italian hotels to be found in many places, which tourists rush on top speed, but the general impression that Italy is cheap does not hold good when compared with what one pays for the same sort of thing in France.
The trail of the tourist is over most things Swiss, but there are good, genuine country hotels in Switzerland, patronised principally by Swiss tourists. The Swiss really do tour their own country, and do it economically, by foot or on bicycle, leaving it for the visitors to support the big hotels. It is on a walking tour that one comes across these little hotels in villages that have no too well advertised mountain background to draw the summer rabble. One type is a square, low, two-storied building, with a top-heavy roof of weather-stained brown tiles and solid wood green shutters to the windows and a big brass handle on the door. It stands on the village square, the church to one side with a big tree shading the door, against which lean a half-dozen bicycles. It is neat, plain and attractive, and though perhaps within sight of a great fashionable resort its inclusive prices hover between five and seven francs a day.
The food is a bit monotonous and there is always an odour of string beans and pork in the air. This is a dish that can be counted upon with almost daily regularity. The universal Swiss breakfast of coffee, rolls and honey is apt to be the most agreeable meal of the day. Barley soup is another staple that loses its value by repetition. The truth is, Swiss cooking is not good, but there is always milk and the real Swiss cheese of Gruyere, and, as a last resort, the cheap and nourishing milk chocolate with which to fill in any deficiencies.
It is possible to get a pension rate at a Swiss country inn for five francs a day, and be comfortable and well-cared for, but this would be in one of the little villages on some of the high plateaux, such as the pastoral country where the Gruyere cheese comes from, one of the most charming, unspoiled corners of Switzerland. It may happen though that the little rural inn may refuse to take you in during the haying season on account of a scarcity of help. The proprietress will shake her head and say how sorry she is, but servants, family and everybody have had to stop work to gather in the hay, which, next to tourists, is Switzerland's main source of revenue.
If one will browse around the larger Swiss cities there are modest hotels to be found hidden away in tiny squares, patronised by country people who still wear the stilted coiffes and laced bodices with plastrons of clanking chains, the insignia of some far off mountain canton. Walking parties of German students, who do Switzerland on the closest margin of all tourists, find these places out readily enough. A room for a franc or a franc and a half, dinner for but little more and supper for a little less, brings the round figure to something less than a dollar. Such a hotel may be a picturesque old Gothic house, dating from the fifteenth century, the windows bright with growing plants. Everything will be clean, for this is not the least of the virtues of the Swiss, and while the meals will be what the French call unsympathetic they will likely enough be eaten in company with a party of gay young folk on their way down from a week's climb over some mountain pass, with their alpenstocks and their Tyrolean hats wreathed with Alpine wild flowers, the girls with nail-shod boots, sweaters and knee-length skirts, who, like their male companions, are loaded down en tour with heavy rucksacks strapped over their shoulders.
The prevailing characteristics of Swiss inns are German. So much is this so that the same conditions are met with in the small inn of the Bavarian Highlands and in the picturesque Black Forest.
The German country hotel is not so pliable as those of other countries in adapting itself to the stranger. A lone woman on a tour of exploration will find less geniality here. Germany, however, is making a big bid for the American tourist, and the desire to attract American dollars their way is spreading to the countryside from the cities and watering places.
Nothing can be more picturesque than the German gasthaus, with its ornate swinging sign, its front covered with half-defaced paintings, scrolls, dragons and flowers, with the name writ large in decorative German script.
You go to bed in a lofty chamber, chilly even in midsummer – stone flags form the flooring – and you need the fat featherbed which is the coverlid in order to keep warm. The bed is vast and fully four feet from the floor, and the heavy linen sheets feel clammy to the touch. The big porcelain stove of blue tiles blocks up an entire corner, and coffee and rye bread is your breakfast. German food is good on the whole, if one likes cold meats and a variety of excellent salads, stewed fruit with duck and, of course, sauerkraut and sausages of all lengths.
There is nothing lightsome about the speiskarte of the small German hotel. An unprejudiced, travelled German will tel! you that there is nothing in Germany so good as the country hotel of France, though he himself may appreciate German food and the manner of its cooking far more. The mark being valued at twenty-five per cent more than the franc, prices, too, in Germany are higher than in France, Switzerland or even Italy.
The country gasthaus of the Black Forest does not usually get a big tourist clientele, but if one wants to get in touch with the life of picturesque Germany – where legends are still a topic of conversation and there still exists a belief in fairies – in contrast with the rapacity that has filled the valley of the Rhine with factory chimneys, they will do well to lay out some Black Forest inns on their itinerary.
Their architecture is much the same as is seen in the peasant homes of Switzerland, of the Bavarian highlands and of the Austrian Tyrol. A low-spreading gable forms a frontage which is broken with rows of narrow windows, and the stables are usually found under the same roof. In the public room, partly a sitting-room and partly a drinking hall, the walls are of a blackened wainscoting, and one sits on a carved oak bench with a high back before a table as massive as a monument.
The proprietor usually serves himself. He wears a skullcap of embroidered velvet, home-knit grey stockings, knee trousers and an apron. He smokes a pipe that might have been handed down from his ancestors with the house, and his manners are brusque and independent, though for all this he is sincere and will not overcharge. He and his family run the hotel with the help of an extra girl or two from the village. Women servants are the rule outside the larger towns, for the business is too poorly paid to attract men. The maids clatter about in high-heeled wooden shoes, in the ugly dress of the women of the Black Forest, woolen skirts to the knees, a laced bodice over a white chemisette and a stiff wire coiffe of black or coloured ribbons.
On Sundays one can study local conditions, if one can stand the smoke, in the big room. Here the peasant folk meet and dance and eat and drink coffee and beer. The fun is boisterous, and sometimes disturbs the live stock, as there is only a half partition between the stables and the apartment.
Holland has the most expensive small hotels and Belgium the cheapest in the comparative European scale, but the country hotel of the land of big windmills and small houses gives the biggest breakfast of any.
You enter the dining-room of a real Dutch hotel and find the long table set out with various Dutch cheeses, an assortment of Dutch sausages, brown bread, white bread, sweet rolls and excellent coffee – which is spoiled by the serving with cold milk. The Dutch hotel proprietor after all gives you something for your money, and all the other meals beneath his roof are in proportion.
In Belgium one gets on the trail of the table d'hôte again. The French influence is paramount here, but with a slightly German flavour to things, beer taking the place of wine at table. The beer, however, is included in the price of the meal, and at from five to eight francs a day, Belgium, one of the cheapest but one of the wealthiest countries of Europe, cares for one very well indeed.
Those two old Flemish cities, Bruges and Ghent, have long been favourite summer places for the English who want a cheaper holiday than that afforded by many places in their own country. Dollar-a-day rates were once not uncommon and are still to be had, but too much popularity has had a tendency to boost prices.
The American woman doing Europe will have to become more of a hardy traveller than the average before she will want to rough it in the countryside of Spain. The old custom of carrying one's food about with them to be cooked at the particular place at which they might arrive for the night is giving way to the more precarious method of depending on the supplies of the primitive fonda, which at its best, in the large towns, is often not bad, but which is awful in the country.
The hotels of the larger Spanish towns are constantly improving – there is a "Ritz" even at Madrid. Often the small Spanish hotel begins on the second floor, to which you arrive by entering through a courtyard filled with country carts and mules, finally mounting a long stairway to the hotel proper. You just order "dinner," without specifying what, and you get a good meal at four or five pesetas. You raise your eyebrows over the bill, but it is your own fault. You could have ordered half of the bountiful meal for half the price if you had known. In hotels, as in life, most of our troubles come as the result of not knowing.