14. Faido – Bellinzona – towards Italy

The next morning a clear, friendly sky arched over us again; we therefore decided to march in one tour from Faido to Bellinzona. The innkeeper suggested that I use a return chaise that was about to leave for Bellinzona. So, for the first time I betrayed my resolution, had my companion ride the horses ahead of me, gave the postmaster the agreed four francs, and then, with a light heart and a light purse, sat down in the old box, which they called a postal chaise. But mine was exhausted with that; for out of all our money, which amounted to a little over nine francs, I had given five to my companion in case of need, and now four to the postmaster for his old lumber box. Milan was still more than twelve German miles away.

My coachman was an old Italian, pale and gaunt in appearance. An old shaggy hat was pressed low over his furrowed forehead, a worn-out velvet shirt hung carelessly over his shoulders and his open-fronted shirt, which also no longer showed any colour, allowed an extremely unappetizing chest to shine through. As far as I can remember, his trousers were also of shot purple velvet; I can’t remember if he was wearing boots or sandals.

Such an individual was now easily able to approach me for a tip; but, as noted, I was not in a position to give one. In my embarrassment I looked around for Henninger. But he was not to be seen as far as the eye could reach, so that I finally had the horrible thought that he had ridden back to Airolo instead of from Faido to Bellinzona because of his poorly developed sense of place. In desperation, I pulled the chaise cushion away and felt a small, round body on my hand, which lay hidden in the crevice. The matter was examined more closely and, to my great delight, a quarter-franc piece was found. According to Cicero’s offices, as well as the teachers of Confucius and the Holy Scriptures, to appropriate this would certainly have been a theft; but I appeased my conscience by telling myself that the old Italian might not have found the coin for another quarter of a year, and so he got it decidedly earlier; so, I had done him and myself a favour at the same time.

With a lighter heart, I now drove past the banks of the gently flowing Ticino, past hills of vines and verdant meadows, which were wetted by the milky-white dust of the water rushing down from the heights. Then my velvet-clad coachman suddenly stopped, the door opened, a creature similar to that got in and sat down next to me. I asked the newcomer where he was going, etc., and found out that luckily, he would get off again in the next place. It wasn’t long before we got there. It was Bodio, beyond the Sassi Grossi, a rather insignificant place. My charioteer stopped in front of a little tavern to feed the horses and probably to see what kind of people were in the tavern. I spotted several Italians through the window panes who seemed engaged in the popular Mora game, yelling as if they were being paid for it. After a half-hour stop, we went on; I told my gray old man to drive a little fast, for I was getting more and more worried that we hadn’t caught up with my companion, although we were always going at a trot.

Now you realize that Italy can’t be far away. You come through the beautiful Riviera valley, through which the rivers Ticino, Blegno and Mëosa carry their bluish waves, where countless vines, chestnut, fig and mulberry trees contemplate their fruit and leaves. There, however, the Wingert are different from ours. Man-high posts are hammered into a large area in a regular order and connected by wickerwork; the vines stretch above it. How beautiful it is when one walks along these densely leafy corridors, while the most magnificent grapes are floating above one’s head!

At Biasca, a place one hour from Bodio, the carriage door reopened and another individual entered. I could see from his easy-going face that it must be a German and I wasn’t mistaken in that either. So, I forgot my worries and worries for a while. Unfortunately, the easy-going compatriot in Osagna, where he had to do business, got out again.

1850 – Bellinzona

Now we went closer and closer to Bellinzona, past the Claro Mountain, the Castiglione monastery and the small town of Arbedo, and finally we drove through a high stone gate into the capital of the canton of Ticino. I wanted to meet Henninger at the Albergo dell’ Angelo (Angel Inn). We drove up, I got out, the old Italian in his battered velvet jacket took his quarter franc and a few centimes, the last of the Mohicans, from the receptionist. Then I went into the stable, and lo and behold, Henninger was already standing there and was happy that our little horses had brought such a good appetite with them, although he had already had them fed on the way. For this he had given two francs; so, he was left with three.

A German beer house

Man is often at his most careless when reflection and serious action would be most advisable. We had scarcely heard that a German beer house was a few steps from our inn when we hurried there to see Signore Meier and his portly half. Oh, how small the Swiss bottles are! We also had a little breakfast with the beer, so that everything would end in a bankruptcy, and so in a short time we were as poor as church mice. This was reason enough to go to the post office and ask if any money had arrived for us. To our horror, that was not the case. Henninger was so depressed and sunk in such world-weariness that he muttered under his breath all the way from the post office to our inn: “What am I supposed to do now in my sadness? etc.” And so that he didn’t become a hypochondriac completely, I sang in between: “If there’s no money in banks, there’s pump in taverns, it’s always in dulci jubilo”. When we got back to our inn, we thought of some advice and decided to wait another twenty-four hours and, if no money had arrived from Milan after this period, to ask the porter Peter from the Albergo dell’ Angelo, who, being a Swabian by birth, was a compatriot of was to borrow against pledging my silver top hat watch with a gold border worth sixty to seventy francs.

With a relieved heart we went to dinner and noticed something I hadn’t seen before. A plate full of grated Swiss cheese was placed on the table, which, as I found out later, takes the place of a spice in the canton of Ticino and in some parts of northern Italy. There must be a surrogate in every dish, in the soup as well as in the vegetables and meat, otherwise the Ticinese will not like it; I even saw one of them throw in his wine.

After dinner we went back to the German beer house. Our compatriot Peter should also go; for although he was only a porter, we still saw in him our saving angel, and in a situation like ours one had to charm a porter too. The honest skin was still busy in the stable, but promised to follow soon. Now it was down to the very last of the three francs, and old Signore Meier was amazed to see how noble gentlemen like us were picking out one centime after the other from the various pockets. It wasn’t long before the door opened and our honest Peter walked in in his blue coat. He sat down with us and pulled out a massive chunk of Swiss cheese that weighed at least a pound and a half. He asked for bread and treated it according to our standards as cheese, I. H. he ate the bread with the cheese and not, like us, the cheese with the bread. That seemed very strange to us, and when we looked at the little glasses, on which Signora Meier also knew how to turn a two-finger-width “sergeant” to excess – despite all the beer brewers of our dear Ludovicia – the canton of Ticino seemed to us to be very special strange country to be.

When the chubby little daughter of the German beer brewing couple had received the last of our cents, it was time for us to go, especially since the old Signore Meier, who always turned a blind eye and was one of the lenient ones in this respect, definitely not was a friend of pumping.