[Aachen—Wednesday, 17 August 1859]
Wednesday August 17th Arrived at Cologne at ½ past 8. Drove at once to the Cathedral. It is in a sadly unfinished condition but is already a marvel of beauty. Trees are growing from the old portion while new stones are from time to time laid upon the new. I think they will never finish it. Catholicism must die as civilization continues and the tide seems slowly turning that way. Our courier George is a strong Lutheran.
Went to the church of St. Ursula and saw the monument to her and the bones of the 11,000 virgins. A painful mummery. The chapel was lined with them and each scull [sic] was separately enclosed in a glass-case and covered with elaborate embroidery, the work of the nuns.
Bought some Cologne saw the old Roman remains which are, beyond description, interesting and drove directly to the boat, to see the Rhine, the Rhine!! We felt somewhat as the poor Prussian soldiers did who were following Blucher on their return from Russia and cried as they reached the heights [of] the Rhine, the Rhine!! The sail to Bonn was lovely because the Cathedral can be seen beautifully from the river and a fine troop of Prussian horse apparently returning home, perhaps from Italy. It was a noble sight. They rode finely and their helmets glanced gaily in the sun. The beauty of the Rhine begins at Bonn but for a long time we watched the Siebengebirge from afar crowned with the tower of Drachenfels. We had Byron with us but the reality so far surpassed the poem, or any poem of mere description, that we were only too happy to use our eyes and let books alone. After Bonn, it is one long series of precipitous hills crowned with castles interspersed with others covered with the picturesque vine-terraces. Now and then an ancient village comes in view the old stone-walls still frowning upon intruders while the gates swung back upon their rusty hinges allow a picture of home-life beyond to be displayed to those who pass framed in by the graceful archway. The antique style of peasant dress is also to be seen here in perfection. Small boats continually push off from the shore bringing peasants who live at some tiny place near the banks who wish to see the world or have a holiday. It was just sun-set time as we reached Coblentz and Ehrenbreitstein looked as if built of golden stones supported by purple cliffs. We sat in the pretty French windows with their snowy draperies till very late and every ray of light had died away, then as we turned away we remembered the moon, of course we waited nor was it long before we saw the clouds first tipped, then flooded with silver, and soon “She rose supreme.” It was a scene of wonderful beauty the river, all distinct and the hills so dark and the sky so bright. The effect of the boats, passing and re-passing through the bridge of boats all evening, as it looked, a brilliant jewel on their breast, was like things of life revelling in the consciousness of beauty.