Spiez is not large: indeed, its few houses are nearly all picturesquely grouped upon a narrow rib of land which is thrust into the lake on purpose to make the loveliest picture in the world. There is the old castle, with its many slim spires and its square-peaked roofed tower; the slender-steepled church; a fringe of old houses below on the lake, one overhanging towards the point; and the promontory, finished by a willo drooping to the water. Beyond, in hazy light, over the lucid green of the lake, are mountains whose masses of rock seem soft and sculptured. To the right, at the foot of the lake, tower the great snowy mountains, the cone of the Schreckhorn, the square top of the Eiger, the Jungfrau, just showing over the hills, and the Blumlisalp rising into heaven clear and silvery.
What can one do in such a spot, but swim in the lake, lie on the shore, and watch the passing steamers and the changing light on the mountains? Down at the wharf, when the small boats put off for the steamer, one can well entertain himself. The small boat is an enormous thing, after all, and propelled by two long, heavy sweeps, one of which is pulled, and the other pushed. The laboring oar is, of course, pulled by a woman; while her husband stands up in the stern of the boat, and gently dips the other in a gallant fashion. There is a boy there, whom I cannot make out,—a short, square boy, with tasseled skull-cap, and a face that never changes its expression, and never has any expression to change; he may be older than these hills; he looks old enough to be his own father: and there is a girl, his counterpart, who might be, judging her age by her face, the mother of both of them. These solemn old-young people are quite busy doing nothing about the wharf, and appear to be afflicted with an undue sense of the responsibility of life. There is a beer-garden here, where several sober couples sit seriously drinking their beer. There are some horrid old women, with the parchment skin and the disagreeable necks. Alone, in a window of the castle, sits a lady at her work, who might be the countess; only, I am sorry, there is no countess, nothing but a frau, in that old feudal dwelling. And there is a foreigner, thinking how queer it all is. And while he sits there, the melodious bell in the church-tower rings its evening song.