[Annie] Wanda [Muir]
Switzerland, August 25, 1893.
I began a letter to you in Italy but was interrupted before I had got far and so I begin again from here. I think I wrote to Mama and Helen from Chamonix, which I suppose yon know, is in France. From there I went through grand scenery to Geneva - a beautiful town on a beautiful lake surrounded with vineyards and charming homes. Thence I went to Neufchatel, another beautiful and quaint old town on the shore of a lovely lake more than 20 miles long. Here the great and famous Louis Agassiz was once a professor before he went to America. Next day I went across the famous Jura Mountains through many wild gorges and tunnels to Basle, a big town on the famous river Rhine. Thence to Zurick, the most beautiful, I think, of all the towns of Switzerland, and the Lake of Zurick is also more beautiful than I can tell -such lovely pale blue glacier water - such picturesque shores - such grand icy mountains in the distance. From Zurick next day I went to a queer ancient place more than five hundred years old, some of it about a thousand, called Chur or Coire. The way to it was so beautiful and wonderful that if I should try to tell you about [it] more than a hundred pages would be needed. A good deal of the scenery was like Yosemite Valley. The Rhine runs through most of it - that is, one of the upper glacier tributaries of the Rhine.
Next day from Chur I went over the mountains in a kind of stage called a diligence to Chiviamo in Italy by the wildest pass and wildest road I ever saw,-especially the road - such wonderful feats of engineering,-- hundreds of loops and spirals cut in the solid granite and arched ways built solidly of lime and hewn stone. Part of this road ran from 7 or 8 miles through the Via Mala and part down the wall of a wild Yosemite valley. The pass is called the Splugen - strange that such places have never been described. I could spend a lifetime writing about what I [have] seen in these few weeks. My what vineyards I saw up among the rough rocks, and what a queer town is Chivianno, and what lots of queer muggins of boys and girls, black-eyed and barefooted. And how hot and tired I was at night when I got down over all the wild loops and folds of the road, past all the pretty waterfalls, and the grand mountains and the glaciers, and through all the miles and miles of chestnut woods. Chivianna is at the bottom of-a deep valley like Yosemite. I looked out of my window before going to bed and above a great rock 3000 feet high I saw the three stars of the handle of the big dipper, and four cottages shining white high up [on] the rock looked like the rest of the constellation. Next day I rode thirty miles more to see the famous Lake Come, said to be the most beautiful of all the Italian lakes, and oftentimes spoken of by geologists as being very wonderful on account of its surface being about a thousand feet above the sea and its bottom about a thousand feet below it, but I saw nothing strange in this, for the level of the sea has no necessary relationship with the bottoms of lakes such as these. It is simply a grand glacier lake -but I fear this sort of thing you will not understand. Well, I sailed on this lovely mountain lake from a place called Colico to another queer and beautiful old Italian town called Managgio. Then back to Chivianno, and wasn't I tired again, though my cough is much better. When I turned back yesterday from Managgio I then commenced my journey home. To-day I came here in a diligence from Chivianno, another wonderful day's ride through chestnut groves, vineyards, wild forests of larch and spruce, grand mountains, and 0 dear! don't know all what, but I'm sleepy and tired and it is late and I ought to be in bed, for I have to get up tomorrow morning about 4 o'clock to take the stage for a place called Davos or Dorfz over another pass, etc., Then I'll try to get to Lake Constance and the falls of the Rhine atSchaffhausen, and then to Basle and straight back to London. Then a day or two in Scotland. Ho! for America and Mar tinez. And now, Wanda, if ever you mean to travel hereabouts, learn to speak French. My! what a mess I make of it. Even the dogs don't understand it as I speak it and refuse to wag their tails to my "bon chien, bon chien." Not one person in ten thousand understands English, and when I try Chinook or pidgin-English it does no good. I must go to bed. Goodnight, goodnight, goodnight. Love to my dear Wanda - to you all. Many kisses for Helen. Tell Mama I'll write in a day or two.,
. The Engadine Valley 6000 ft. above the sea, with a row of glaciers poking their blunt cold blue noses down over the walls on either side, and a row of lovely green and blue lakes along the bottom, beautiful flowery meadows about their shores dotted with queer castles, chateaus, and cottages, dark forests of spruce and larch between the meadows and glaciers - sharp jaggedy peaks above the glaciers, and a lovely blue sky over all. Some Engadine flowers I picked to-night. I hope I'll get letters at London, it seems so long since I saw or heard you. Hello, Midge, I'm throwing you lots of kisses across the mountains and sea.
Hotel Belvedere, Switz.
1893 Aug 25
Original letter dimensions: 21.5 x 27 cm.
Muir, John, "Letter from [John Muir] to [Annie] Wanda [Muir], 1893 Aug 25." (1893). John Muir Correspondence (PDFs). 982.
Reel 07, Image 1301
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