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Portrait by Jacques-Antoine-Marie Lemoine via Wikimedia // Public Domain

10 Travel Tips From the Age of Napoleon

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Portrait by Jacques-Antoine-Marie Lemoine via Wikimedia // Public Domain

Born in 1746, Stéphanie Félicité du Crest de Saint-Aubin was a French author and harpist who tutored young members of the French royalty. Known as Madame de Genlis, she wrote historical and romance novels as well as plays intended to teach morals to children.

Pulling on her travel experience—she trekked to Britain, Switzerland, and Germany while fleeing the French Revolution—she wrote a language book called Manuel Du Voyageur, Or, The Traveller’s Pocket Companion in the last years of the 18th century. In a series of sample dialogs, Genlis gave both advice and language scripts to help travelers find good accommodations, ask for directions, order food, and arrange for long-term stays in a foreign country. After the French Revolution, Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte helped support her literary contributions by paying Genlis 500 francs per month.

Manuel Du Voyageur was so popular that it was reprinted in additional languages such as English, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese. Although it's more than two centuries old, the book contains some surprisingly relatable and relevant advice for modern travelers. Take a look at some of Genlis’s tips:


“Pray, what sort of road is it?” Inquiring about the roads around you will let you know whether they’re sandy, rocky, well paved, narrow, or full of treacherous precipices. You might ask: “Is the road very dreadful?” Ask the locals or your driver if the roads are safe, and avoid the forests when it gets dark outside.

If you have to choose between two different roads, be clear about what your goal is: “I know there are two distinct roads to go from hence to … Which is the best of them? I don’t mean by the best the shortest, but that which is in the best condition.” And if part of your journey requires mules, don’t forget to ask how many mules you'll need to safely make the trek.


Because some roads require walking, you’ll have to say goodbye to your mules and carriage at some point. “As you will perform a great part of this journey on foot, I advise you to get a pair of good, stout, and easy shoes made, and to take with you an umbrella, parasol, and some sheets and eatables," she writes.


According to Genlis, being a backseat driver is the way to go. Depending on the quality of the road, you should order your driver to go faster or more gently. If your driver pressures you to take a shortcut off the beaten path, hold your ground: “Driver, do not turn into any bye-road. I insist upon it; I will not leave the high-road … I will not turn into any bye-road, short as it may be.” And if you lose your shoes in the carriage, don’t be afraid to promptly instruct your driver to look for them.


Before setting sail, it’s important to ask a bunch of questions about your maritime voyage: “If we have favorable weather, how long shall we be on our passage? What would be the expense of a whole gondola, or vessel, for myself? ... Are the pilots and vessels good? ... How much must I pay for the small cabin, for myself? ... How many passengers have you? Are there any ladies amongst the number? ... When shall we set sail, if the wind permits?”

After drilling down on the logistical details, know what to do when you get seasick. “I advise you to take a few drops of ether, or of Hofmann’s drops, which are a sovereign remedy against the sea-sickness. How am I to take these ethereal drops? You must pour out from fifteen to twenty-two drops into a spoon, on a small lump of sugar.” (In the 1800s, ether was used as a medical anesthetic, recreational drug, and alcohol alternative for women who didn’t drink; Hoffmann’s Drops consisted of 3 parts alcohol to 1 part ether.) 

And if you get a toothache, which “happens frequently at sea,” stay inside during the morning and evening, chew on cochlearia (a plant in the cabbage family) and sage leaves, and wash your mouth with brandy.


After the innkeeper has shown you a suitable room, make sure your room isn’t on the ground floor, doesn’t face the street (the carriages are noisy), has the number of beds you desire, and has window shutters. Then inspect the bed. Tell the innkeeper that you won’t accept rumpled sheets, and if you have a baby, check that the cradle is clean and bug-free. Some questions and instructions for the innkeeper:

“The beds must be made. Can you provide us with a mattress, instead of this feather-bed? Bring us another pillow. I should prefer a bolster to this pillow. This coverlid is dirty. It is too heavy. It is too light. Give me another. Bring us some good clean sheets. I must tell you that I shall examine them very carefully. These sheets have certainly been used already. They are damp, I will not have them, I must have some others. I have my own sheets; but I always have sheets from the inn, in order to spread them over the mattress, afterwards I spread my own over them.” 


Just because you’re on the road doesn’t mean that you should have to give up your dietary preferences. Whether you’re asked how strong you like your coffee, if you prefer eggs poached or boiled, or how you want your meat cooked, don’t be afraid to answer truthfully. Speak up about your culinary preferences for white versus brown bread, fowl leg or wing, and sugar and cream for your tea. “I beg you will not put butter in the soup or gravy … I neither like cinnamon, nutmeg, nor cloves. Put none in the ragouts, and very little salt. I will have no mushrooms in any of the dishes.” Just make sure to thank your host or chef for their trouble.


Table manners are important, and politeness will take you far, especially when you’re in a foreign country. Have respect for the culture you’re visiting, even if it’s not your favorite. If you prefer the Germans’ food and way of life to the English, don’t show your disdain: “In traveling, we must accustom ourselves to the different usages of the countries through which we pass, not appear astonished at any thing, and above all, not to despise any thing.” 


Accidents happen on the road, so be prepared. If one of your horses falls down and your driver gets hurt, first tend to the injured, then whip out your first aid kit. According to Genlis, you might say: “I always carry with me every thing that is requisite in such accidents. Reach me my small casket. In this casket are bandages of linen, good plasters, Cologne water, fine parchment, brandy, two viols…” And show compassion to anyone who’s injured: “Take courage, my friend! Your fall does not appear to be dangerous. Poor man! I sympathize greatly with your sufferings, I assure you.”

Treating a bruise, a hole in someone’s head, or gushing blood requires different tools. “He has a hole in his head. We must first wash the wound well with fresh water, and afterwards apply a rag to it dipped in Cologne water mixed with fresh water … Afterwards, if the bleeding continues with the same violence, we must apply sugar well pounded to the wound. I have some in my box.” 


Traveling can be expensive, and it’s easy to overpay when you’re in a new place and don’t know the going rates. Negotiation takes practice, so whether your driver tries to shake you down for a bigger tip or your servant tells you that your heavy carriage will incur an extra fee, consider these sample dialogs: 

“How! are you not satisfied? You drove me well, certainly, but I have paid you handsomely. If you had driven us better, I should have given you more. I generally give to a coachman who drives well ...”

“I ought to pay no more than the regular charge…I assure that it is not heavy, neither has it much weight to carry. In short, I have hitherto done very well with two or four horses, and I shall certainly take no more.” 


Getting sick when you’re away from home is tough. But Genlis has you covered, whether you come down with gout, rheumatism, a fever, a pain in your neck, jingling in the ears, nose bleeding, diarrhea, or a dullness and confusion in your head. Ask the physician who comes to treat you at your inn about the healing powers of bathing: 

“Do you think, sir, that bathing would be beneficial to me? ... But what shall I do for a bathing-tub? It is very difficult to procure one, even if we pay dear for the loan of it. Would you oblige me so far as to procure me one? ... Pray tell the maid to procure a tub large enough for me to bath in. When will you have the tub? ... How long must I stay in the water? ... How often am I to bathe?” 

And even if you’re not sick, ask your innkeeper to bring you a pail or bucket of lukewarm water (with soap mixed in) so you can dip your feet in. Warm water always feels nice on feet that are tired from traveling.

 [h/t Wonders & Marvels]

All images via iStock except where noted.

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The Day Notre Dame Students Pummeled the Ku Klux Klan
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General Photographic Agency/Getty Images

At first glance, there was nothing unusual about the men who stepped off the train in South Bend, Indiana on the morning of May 17, 1924. Dapper and mannered, they drifted from the station to the downtown area. Some headed for a nearby office that sported a red cross made out of light bulbs stationed in the window. Others roamed around looking for Island Park, the site of a planned social gathering.

A closer look at these visitors revealed one common trait: Many were carrying a folded white robe under their arm. Those who had arrived earlier were fully clothed in their uniform and hood, directing automobile traffic to the park.

The Ku Klux Klan had arrived in town.

Fresh off a controversial leadership election in Indianapolis, Indiana, there was no reason for Klansmen to have any apprehension about holding a morale booster in South Bend. Indiana was Klan territory, with an estimated one in three native born white men sworn members within state lines. Just a few months later, Klansman Ed Jackson would be elected governor.

It was only when Klansmen found themselves guided into alleys and surrounded by an irate gang of Catholic students from nearby Notre Dame University that they realized mobilizing in South Bend may have been a very bad idea.

The Klan wanted a rally. What they got was a full-scale riot.

Photo of KKK Indiana Grand Dragon D.C. Stephenson
Indiana Grand Dragon D.C. Stephenson
By IndyStar, Decemeber 12, 1922 issue, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Politically-endorsed prejudice was the order of the day in the early part of the 20th century, when the Klan—first created in 1866 to oppose Republican Reconstruction with violent racial enmity and then revived in 1915—expanded its tentacles to reach law enforcement and civil service. No longer targeting people of color exclusively, the KKK took issue with Catholics, the Jewish faith, and immigrants. An estimated 4 million Americans belonged to the Klan in the 1920s, all echoing the group’s philosophy that only white, God-fearing citizens were worthy of respect.

Under the guidance of Indiana's Grand Dragon D.C. Stephenson, the group had attempted to shift public perception from the lynch mobs of the past to an orderly and articulate assembly. Rallies were held in KKK-friendly areas; propaganda material was becoming an effective weapon for their cause. Acceptance of the Klan’s ideology seeped into political office; Stephenson was a prominent Indiana politician.

To help continue that indoctrination, the Klan made plans for a parade in South Bend to be held on May 17, 1924. That it would be in close proximity to the Notre Dame campus was no mistake: At the time, 75 percent of the school's nearly 2000 students were Catholic, a religion the Klan found abhorrent. By pledging allegiance to the Vatican, their reasoning went, Catholics were acknowledging a foreign power. In the fall of 1923, they had persisted in setting crosses on fire near the University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio, a predominantly Catholic college, and were frequently chased off by angered football players. That December, the Klan set off firebombs in Dayton during Christmas break. While no one was seriously injured, the intent was to send a message—one they wanted to spread to Indiana.

In the weeks and months leading up to the parade, both students and faculty began to get a taste of that perspective. Copies of the Fiery Cross, the official Klan newspaper, circulated on campus; one Klansman showed up at an auditorium to broadcast that Catholics were not good Americans. He exited the stage when attendees began throwing potatoes at him.

If that public response was foreshadowing, the Klan either ignored or failed to heed the warning. Members began arriving the Friday evening prior to the rally and were met at the train station by irritated students, who scuffled with the early arrivals by ripping their robes. By Saturday morning, when more Klansmen arrived, hundreds of students were in town, a loosely organized anti-Klan task force.

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Klan members were used to breezing into towns without incident. Here, they were immediately confronted by young, ornery college kids proud of their Catholicism. Klansmen were led into alleys and tossed into walls; students who played for the school’s legendary football squad formed wedges, the offensive line-ups found on the field, and plowed into groups of Klan members like they were challenging for a state title.

The violence, swift and sudden, prompted the Klan to retreat to their headquarters in South Bend. The students followed, their blood pumping hot at the sight of the red cross lit in the office window. Below it stood a grocery store with barrels of fresh potatoes. The students lobbed them at the glass, smashing the bulbs inside.

The conflict had been uninterrupted by law enforcement, but not for lack of trying. Deputy Sheriff John Cully, himself a Klansman, tried to enlist the National Guard but was shot down by officials. Notre Dame president Matthew Walsh had already implored students not to go into town, but his words went unheeded.

Unencumbered by authority, the 100 or so students idling near the Klan’s office decided they wanted to seize the hideout. Dozens began running up the stairs but were greeted by a Klan member who produced a gun. Unarmed, the students backed off. Four seniors went back and came to an impromptu truce: The student body would disperse if the Klan agreed to hold their rally without weapons or their robes.

The agreement seemed to placate both sides until Stephenson finally arrived in town before the parade’s scheduled 6:30 p.m. start. Assessing the roughed-up Klansmen and their skittish behavior, he complained to the police, who posted officers on horseback around their assembly at Island Park.

But there would be no rally: A heavy downpour prompted Stephenson to call it off, although the potential for further violence likely weighed on his mind. Lingering students who still hadn’t returned to campus met departing Klansmen as they attempted to drive out of town, smashing windows and even tipping over one car.

By Sunday, things seemed to have settled down. Walsh cringed at newspaper reports of the incidents, fearing it would portray the students as thugs.

Unfortunately, neither side was done protesting. And when they met a second time, the robed men would be backed up by lawman Cully and a squad of 30 deputized Klansmen.

Denver News - The Library of Congress (American Memory Collection), Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Students back on campus Monday had taken to hanging up seized Klan robes and hoods on their walls like trophies. It had been a rout, with the Klan barely putting up a fight.

Now, word was spreading through the halls that the Klan had captured or perhaps had even killed a Notre Dame student. Roughly 500 students jogged the two miles back into South Bend, eager for another confrontation.

When they arrived at the Klan’s headquarters, the light bulb cross had been rebuilt. It was an act of defiance, and the students moved forward. But the Klan was prepared: Many had been deputized, and uniformed officers joined the melee. Axe handles and bottles were brandished, and blood began to stain the street. It was a clash, with parties on both sides laid out.

When he got word of the conflict, Walsh rushed to the site and climbed on top of a cannon that was part of a monument. Shouting to be heard, he implored students to return to campus. His voice cut through the sounds of breaking glass, snapping the students out of their reverie. They returned to the school.

Absent any opposition, the Klan did the same. Stragglers from out of town returned home. With bombastic prose, writers for the Fiery Cross later recapped the event by accusing Notre Dame students of “beating women and children.” Later that summer, they declared they’d be returning to South Bend in greater number.

It never happened. Although the Klan maintained an aura of strength for several more years, the conviction of Stephenson for raping and murdering a woman in November 1925 extinguished one of their most enthusiastic leaders; the Depression dampened the ability of new recruits to pay dues. By 1930, the Klan was down to an estimated 45,000 members.

While Walsh never condoned the vigilante justice exacted that weekend, he never disciplined a single student for it.

Additional Sources:
Notre Dame vs. the Klan, by Todd Tucker (Loyola Press, 2004)
"Hearing the Silence: The University of Dayton, the Ku Klux Klan, and Catholic Universities and Colleges in the 1920s" [PDF], by William Vance Trollinger

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Why the Berlin Wall Rose and Fell
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One of history's most notorious barriers broke ground early in the morning on August 13, 1961, when East German construction workers, guarded by soldiers and police, began tearing up the Berlin streets.

As European history professor Konrad H. Jarausch explains in this video from Ted-Ed, the roots of the Berlin Wall can be found in the period of instability that followed World War II. When the Allies couldn't decide how to govern Germany, they decided to split up the country between the Federal Republic of Germany in the West and the German Democratic Republic in the East. Eventually, citizens (especially young professionals) began fleeing the GDR for the greater freedoms—and higher salaries—of the West. The wall helped stem the tide, and stabilized the East German economy, but came at great cost to the East's reputation. In the end, the wall lasted less than three decades, as citizen pressures against it mounted.

You can learn more about exactly why the wall went up, and how it came down, in the video below.

[h/t The Kid Should See This]


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