Letters from Turkey, by Mary Wortley Montagu

Letter xiv.

From Prague. — General state of Bohemia — Prague described with reference to Vienna.

To the Countess of ——.

Prague, Nov. 17. O. S. 1716.

I HOPE my dear sister wants no new proofs of my sincere affection for her: but I am sure, if you do, I could not give you a stronger than writing at this time, after three days, or, more properly speaking, three nights and days, hard post-travelling. — The kingdom of Bohemia is the most desert of any I have seen in Germany. The villages are so poor, and the post-houses so miserable, that clean straw and fair water are blessings not always to be met with, and better accommodation not to be hoped for. Though I carried my own bed with me, I could not sometimes find a place to set it up in; and I rather chose to travel all night, as cold as it is, wrapped up in my furs, than go into the common stoves, which are filled with a mixture of all sorts of ill scents.

THIS town was once the royal seat of the Bohemian king, and is still the capital of the kingdom. There are yet some remains of its former splendour, being one of the largest towns in Germany, but, for the most part, old built, and thinly inhabited, which makes the houses very cheap. Those people of quality, who cannot easily bear the expence of Vienna, chuse to reside here, where they have assemblies, music, and all other diversions, (those of a court excepted) at very moderate rates, all things being here in great abundance, especially the best wild-fowl I ever tasted. I have already been visited by some of the most considerable ladies, whose relations I know at Vienna. They are dressed after the fashions there, after the manner that the people at Exeter imitate those of London; that is, their imitation is more excessive than the original. ’Tis not easy to describe what extraordinary figures they make. The person is so much lost between head-dress and petticoat, that they have as much occasion to write upon their backs, “This is a Woman,” for the information of travellers, as ever sign-post painter had to write, “This is a Bear.” I will not forget to write to you again from Dresden and Leipzig, being much more solicitous to content your curiosity, than to indulge my own repose. I am, &c.

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