Johann Diederich Gries’s journey to Switzerland and Italy
during the summer of 1808
Johann Diederich Gries, who had been living in Heidelberg since May 1806, decided in mid-1808 to move back to Jena.  Before returning to Jena, however, he undertook a prodigious and remarkable journey to Switzerland and Italy during the summer and early autumn of 1808 whose itinerary and experiences are worthy of inclusion here because they likely broadly reflect the sort of journey that, in one form or another, Caroline and Schelling had since 1803 dreamed of making and indeed were still actively planning, though their plans included a stay two or three years and included “establishing a foundation at the center of the arts, viz., in Rome, for its own [the Bavarian state’s] artists.” 
Gries spent two weeks in Munich during October 1808 on his way back to Jena, and although Caroline regrettably does not mention the conversations in Munich during October 1808 that she and Schelling doubtless had with Gries about this journey (he also visited Rome), Gries himself recounts the journey in a letter to a friend from Jena in early 1809: 
For now I am trying my best to flee the present, preferably by immersing myself in the memories of my journey of last summer . I left Heidelberg on 1 July and travelled by way of Stuttgart on to Schaffhausen,
and from there to Bern and Lausanne, where I lingered several days and met two young Holsteiners, von Cronstern, with whom I had become acquainted in Heidelberg. In their company, I crisscrossed most of the French, German, and Italian parts of Switzerland and the entirety of Valais, almost always on foot.
I boated on the most magnificent lakes and climbed several of the highest mountains. Finally I also scaled the Gotthard and the path “which the vapour enshrouds,” and then hiked down into the “land where the lemon tree blows.” 
[Mount Gotthard pass]
I spent several days in the immense bustle of the grand capital [Rome] of the Kingdom of Italy, where from the tower of the great cathedral I could see the blue Appenines [mountain range in central Italy] — at least in the distance. Because I now know what sort of journey leads to Rome, I will take the journey again at the proper time.
[Locations of Pliny the Younger’s villas]
[Pliniana and its courtyard spring]
[Borromean Islands on Lago Maggiore]
and then climbed across the Simplon Pass on the most magnificent chaussée in the world, bolder and grander than anything the Romans ever built, and for the second time down into the lengthy Valais. I hiked along the Rhône River up to the foot of the lofty Col de Balme, which separates Valais from Savoy.
After scaling this enormous wall I entered the wondrous Valley of Chamonix, out of which the king of all mountains, the shimmering white Mont Blanc, elevates itself above the clouds. I then hiked along the rushing Arve River, passing by the grave monument of our unfortunate Eschen, 
the estate of the much-praised Madame de Staël, where I was pleased to meet up again with my old friend August Wilhelm Schlegel, and thence farther along the charming shores of Lake Geneva back to Lausanne.
After a brief rest, I hastened on to Bern,  where I separated from my traveling companions and continued alone by way of Zürich, St. Gallen, and Lindau on to Munich, where I spent two weeks with the excellent Schelling and his witty and intelligent spouse. Then by way of Regensburg, Nürnberg, Bamberg, and Koburg back to this desolate seat of the muses [Jena],  where I arrived on the last day of October .
 Aus dem Leben J. D. Gries 82–83. Accompanying llustrations are from:
Heidelberg to Schaffhausen: Neueste Post. Karte von Deutschland und den angrenzenden Laendern, ed. T. Molls (Vienna 1805); Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Cartes et plans.
(1) Bern, Lausanne, Valais, Gotthard; (2) Lake Como and Lago Maggiore: William R. Shepherd, “Central Europe about 1786,” in idem, Historical Atlas (New York 1921).
Mount Gotthard pass: Antoine de Zurlauben and Jean Benjamin Laborde, The Scenery and Science of Switzerland illustrated (Paris, 1780–88).
Valais to Rome: William Shepherd, Germany and Italy in 1803 after the Principal Decree of the Imperial Deputation, Historical Atlas, 2nd ed. (New York 1921), 151.
(1) Alleged location of Pliny’s villa; (2) location of the two Borromean Islands on Lago Maggiore; (3) from the Simplon Pass down the Rhône Valley to the Col de Balme; (4) Col de Balme, Montblanc, and, surprisingly perhaps, an indication of the where Friedrich August Eschen’s monument is to be found; (5) from Mont BLanc to Geneva and Coppet; (6) Geneva, Coppet, Lausanne: H. Keller, Reisecharte der Schweiz. Carte routière de la Suisse (Zürich, 1819); Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Cartes et plans.
Exterior and interior illustrations of the Pliniana: A. A. Schgmidl, Das lombardisch venetianische Königreich, vol. 1 of Das Kaiserthum Oesterreich, 2 vols. (Stuttgart 1841), gallery in back matter.
Mont Blanc: frontispiece to John Auldjo, Narrative of an Ascent to the Summit of Mont Blanc, on the eighth and ninth of August, 1827, 2nd ed. (London 1830).
Borromean Islands: Jerome John Mercier and Charles Pyne, Mountains and Lakes of Switzerland and Italy (London 1871), 35.
(1) Simplon Pass and chaussée; (2) Valais: Jean-Marie-Vincent Audin, Guide du voyageur en Suisse (Paris 1824), plates following pp. 98, 114.
Eschen’s marker: photograph by Adolphe Braun, 1858–59.
Gries’s return route to Jena: “Central Europe: Wars of the Third Coalition 1805–7,” Cambridge Modern History Atlas (Cambridge 1912). Back.
 Concerning the surmised location of Pliny the Younger’s villa (he actually owned several; the locations are essentially a matter of conjecture), see Frederic Schoberl, Picturesque tour from Geneva to Milan, by way of the Simplon (London 1820), 130:
It is believed that at Bellagio, the point where the lake divides into the two branches of Lecco and Como, was situated the villa which Pliny calls his Tragedy, from the awful magnificence of the spot where it was seated upon rocks, which he compares to buskins , where, without fearing any surprise, he could see the fishermen pass, whilst in his other mansion on the same lake he could fish himself. Here is a palace more remarkable for magnitude than beauty, belonging to the Duke of Lodi, and commanding highly picturesque views. In this palace is preserved a fragment of an inscription containing the words: — M. Plinio.
A later author identifies the villas thus (A. A. Schgmidl, Das lombardisch venetianische Königreich, vol. 1 of Das Kaiserthum Oesterreich, 2 vols. [Stuttgart 1841], 155):
Following the lake shore eastward from Como we find: Perlasca, formerly with many manufacturers of woolen items, with the villa Tanzi and, further on, the famous Pliniana. The younger Pliny had two villas in this area, the more cordially situated one he called Comoedia, probably near modern Bellagio, which disappeared without a trace. The second, called Tragoedia after its darker, romantic location, situated on the place where, thus the suspicion, the Pliniana was built, which in its own turn has today fallen into ruin and in whose courtyard one finds the intermittent spring that Pliny himself describes. Back.
 Gries’s stay in Bern included the following (Aus dem Leben J. D. Gries 82):
During his return from the French part of Switzerland, he [Gries] spent several weeks in Bern with his friend Oth and the latter’s witty and charming spouse, Charlotte, née Wiedemann from Braunschweig [i.e., Luise Wiedemann’s sister-in-law], who made sure he enjoyed a most pleasant stay in her serene family circle. Here this wonderful reunion evoked for our poet [Gries] the most beautiful memories from his earliest life in Jena. Charlotte was a sister of Madam Hufeland, and we already know how inclined Gries was to spend time in that circle, where music and art were always at home. Charlotte’s poetic talent had in the meantime made considerable progress.
 It may be recalled that Jena had suffered greatly from the battles of Jena and Auerstedt. Indeed, at the beginning of this same letter in which Gries tries to “escape” the present by evoking his memories of his journey, he writes the following about Jena itself, to which he has only recently returned:
I have been back here for two months now, at this former setting of the joys and sufferings of our youth, a setting that, however, is now considerably more desolate and quiet than when we played our roles on it. — — The burned-out streets, still in ruins, the deathly quiet that reigns everywhere, the only too visibly dejected countenances of the people here, indeed, even the barren, infertile hills round about the town. — —
I can see now that among the variously stupid things I have done in my life, this return to Jena is surely one of the most stupid. I would have done better simply to remain in the serene, cordial atmosphere of Heidelberg living on bread and water than in this half-rotten and half-decimated nest living on wine and pies, which, moreover, are certainly also not available here in any grand abundance. In a word, and between us, I am already thinking about emigration again. Back.
Translation © 2018 Doug Stott