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LETTERS FROM LUCERNE

[By Katharine A. MexmndJ No. I. It is Siindav, a summer Sunday, in " Lovely Lucerne." Pilatus, the Rigi, and tho other snow-capped mountains surrounding tho lake show clear-cut against the clear blue sky. There is not. a breath of wind to ruffle the surface of the water, and the beds in the gardens and the window-boxes of tho hotel* are a blaze of luxuriant ilowers and creepers. Hundreds of English and American . tourißts stroll slowly the exquisite . (Juai National, vet amidst all this loveliness many of them have very heavy hearts, and "there is a feeling of depression in the air. It is no wonder, yesterday a clergyman staying at our hotel went up Sonnerburg and heard the booming of big guns from Alsace. This was announced from the pulpits to-day, and wc knew that fighting between' the French and' the Germans had begun not far trom trie Swiss' border. ' . It is now a week since we arrived at Lucerne railway station on our flight i to England from the Italian Alps, only to be told that the French frontier was closed. We were hurrying through to Basle, by which route our return tickets were taken, having heard that all foreigners were being expelled from J ranee, but hoping to get through before the frontier was barred. We soon found that the last train to get through at Basle was on Saturday morning, August 1. and we arrived on the 3rd. The pa*senders had a touch-and-go experience, for "in the vicinity of Basle they found tho Germans had torn up the railway lines: so thev got out of the train, hunted up al l the country carts they could find to carry their luggage, and then walked 4 J, miles- into French territory. At the railway station at Lucerne the officials told lis that the only chance of getting to England would be by a very roundabout route through Germany. Some English had alreadv started, but they could not sav whether they would get through. As Germany had declared war, this was not a tempting proposal for we had neither the money nor the inclination to ri«k being shut up there indefinitely. Wo then made a bee-line for the British Consul, Dr Falck, oniv to find his offices closed,' for he had been called to the war Even at Thos. Cook and Sons, that stand-by of the travelling British public, tho shutters were up and the door locked, but standing on the pavement outside we found an English clergyman, with whom we got into conversation, and from him learned of a cheap and comfortable little hotel at Weggis, a small place up the lake. . We took the steamer there, intending to settle down and await developments but after one night we came to the conclusion that it was too remote in times of war. There was a possibility of the hotel closing, as most of the tourists had fled; and, besides, in the event of special trains being put on to take the English away, somehow we stood a much better chance of Teaching home if on the spot at Lucerne. So on Tuesday, August 4, we returned to that town, and finally found rooms at a comfortable hotel on the edge of the lake. Prices of some foodstuffs were alreadv up, and madame'i rooms had followed suit, but by agreeing to sleep in the dependence in a tiny fiat across the. street and up three flights of stairs, wo secured three" very comfortable rooms at Bfr per head per 'day. all found, and considered ourselves well off. With all the stranded English and American travellers the want of money was the great diffieultv. There is never much money in Switzerland, and with the means of i drawing it closed, or nearly so, some i people "wore reduced to terrible straits. You might have £SOO to your credit at i the bank here, and wish to draw it, but ! thev could only afford you, say, £lO. I There were such great demands being made on the banks in every way. While "coming here in the train I got into conversation with a very intelligent' Swiss soldier, who spoke very fair English. He'said that the scarcity of money I was verv inconvenient, as he went to draw out, a goodly sum before going to the frontier; hut'they could not give him more thanTOOfr. Some British and Americangirls had exhausted their supply of cash through being detained, and were on. the point'"of being turned out of their Icdcriiiffs. The English travellers held a meeting in the street, outside the closed British Consulate, but the crowd became so immense that it wa« adjourned till the afternoon v.; tho Kursaal Theatre. There were a'- '■■: 300 present, and a Scotch minister v.--voted to the chair. T had decided to get a snapshot- of the meeting to send with this letter, hut only that morning someone in authority came round to our hotel and asked the guests to put away all cameras, so as not Ui "do anything to vex the Swiss bv snapping the troops, etc. There are so many spies'in Switzerland at present. At the meeting we were told that the British Government knew of our condition, and were negotiating with the French and Swiss Governments to try to arrange for special trains to be run to" have us all repatriated, a message under King George's seal being read out. Various people gave their experiences, and told how they had seen hundreds of British travellers," large numbers of them women, stuck up on the neutral ground at Pontarlier, some camping in the open by the roadside and some in sheds. They wore not allowed over into Franco nor back into Switzerland. Hours of heavy rain had fallen since, andso on, and so on. We were strongly advised to stav whero wo were and not try to push over the frontier, and we were much comforted to learn that under no circumstances would the English and Americans-be asked to leave the country, and also that Lu'cerne and Switzerland were well supplied with provisions. 'the Swiss mobilised in an extremely short space of time —soldiers, soldiers everywhere, and largo regiments marching through the town several times a day. At our firit meeting an Englishman said ho had heard that, the Swiss were asking for help in tho fields, ae all the men were called away, so two of the girls gave in their names as wiling to help im getting in the hay or doing anything m the town, and two your.;; Englishmen did the same. The girli made an excursion into tho country and inquired at one or two farms, but their hay was in, and they did not stem to be in need of assistance. At one place the good people smiled on the girls, who were using parasols, and eaid " But r. hat can you do?" and were rather surprised when the girls replied "We can milk cows and make butter!" Meantime thev are knitting sox for the Swiss soldier*. Tho two young Englishmen spent many days tramping round the country near Lucerne, but found the crops were all in. They then offered to grease and clean 1 engines at the railway station, one of tViei-n. \3ern3 tffl etismwsr, SO 35 to let the men away to the frontier, but everything was so well organised that their services were not required. In a dav or two woTd was sent round telling all" British subjects in Lucerne to attend an important meeting at the Kursnal on a certain day. There was a large gathering of about 800, though it is possible that some were Americans, come out of curiosity. Long printed notices were handed to us, signed by the British Minister at Berne, giving us much useful information with regard to repatriation. The formation of different "groups" was advised, and we were tokT to let the hon. secretary know our addresses here and in England, and also to what "group", we belonged. Ours was "group 3"—viz., people with a small amount of cash (under lOOfr per head), but with return tickets. The groups began,with "people sufficiently provided for all purposes with Swiss cash, Englieh. notes, or gold," and, went down to " people without means and without return tickets,'' and aleo " invalid* of all classes." Steps were being taken to reliave those absolutely at the end of their tether. We were teld that th* needy would be wnt away first, und w« knew that ih*r«. tnig nt Bo only On* Uaift * d*y, *ad thw tint* INTi thousand* of Britiih »till l*ft in Sffitsw land. We had aimply to wait patiently, and when France could spare us train* and drivers to run them, word would b* sent to our hotel that, wy# "group $" were to be at the railway station oil 6QCh-and-sucb. a day at ..such-and-such an faoioy All luggage must be left behind In SwitzerlandT only ,«mali hand fo*ggittg«- fcxMUg

found taking more than his share of band luggage would not be allowed to proceed. / People who did not join the groups would be kept back till all organised groups were despatched. Almost,' all speakers strongly impressed upon us .to observe the strictest economy at once, and nover to discuss the war with anyone. The injunctions to be economical were really not needed—people had not the money. iShops of exquisite lace,/ jewellery, embroidery, etc., display their tempting wares day after day, but if yon look into them, as I have done, you : will new see one purchaser, -Scores- and scores of charming little rowing boa-is and launches lie temptingly alongside the Quel National, but no one can afford to hiro them. Beautifully-dressed 'Americans and English promenade backwards and forwards on the quai, under the chestnuts, but that is all they can afford to do in the way of pleasure. One American said to me : " Wyl, I know of Americans right here in this town who are accustomed to handling their millions, and can't rajse a dollar! My, it's a noo experience for them !** There are, of course, many sad cases when wars and rumors of wars ore around. At meals, two feet from the back of my chair, sits a pretty but sad-faced young French girl and her brother. She was to have been married in four weeks, the house was ready, the wedding prcpara- { tions all fixed, when her intended husband was called to the'front. Days and j days go by, and «ho do« 8 not know where i he is or what has 'happened. Ho is not allowed to divulge where he is, and she I and her brother are here," unable to get j back to France. She knows that fighting between the French and Germans goes 0:1 round about Alsace, that 7CO prisoners 1 were taken by the Germans the other j day, and that, 'of course, a certain mini- j ber of French are killed and wounded, and that ie all. August 9. ■

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https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ESD19141017.2.82

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LETTERS FROM LUCERNE, Issue 15626, 17 October 1914

Word Count
1,836

LETTERS FROM LUCERNE Issue 15626, 17 October 1914

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