Robbins: European trip in 1900 enlightens Sophia Scholze Long

Robbins: European trip in 1900 enlightens Sophia Scholze Long

October 23rd, 2016 by Mickey Robbins in Opinion Columns

In this photograph of Sophia Scholze Long taken in the early 1950s, she is with her grandchildren, from left, Linda, Betsy, Billy, Robin and Sim.

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Read more Chattanooga History Columns

Last week's Local History column detailed the efforts of my great aunt Sophia Scholze Long to preserve Moccasin Bend and Cameron Hill. Below are excerpts from her diary describing the awakening of her bright and spirited personality as a 17-year-old during a trip to Europe in the summer of 1900.

Off the Coast of Northern Ireland

The first sight rather startled me, so different from anything I have ever seen. Great gray cliffs raising high out of the water, with farms cut up in to squares, all colors! With black thorn hedges all around them. One at once realizes that it is another land which we have reached, so old and gray with ruins of castles and then light houses and signal stations dotting the coast here to there.

Going to London

[On] the road in between Liverpool and London, we passed a place where they were taking up some peat. It was rather high land, but nothing will grow on it and the peat is, as a rule, only about 1 foot and a half thick. Also a chemical town where if you stay there for about 10 years, your hair turns red. Not a man there over 40 with any other color of hair. It also cuts your life short to live there.

The British Museum is certainly grand. Oh, if I could only stay there and sketch, then I should be happy. Old figures and busts, a few perfect but most of them injured, worn and decayed, yet retaining their original beauty. Zeus or Jupiter, Juno, Venus, Diana, Minerva, Cupid, Hercules, Mercury and hosts of others.

On a Boat on the Rhine

We are now riding down the Rhine. We have passed the Castles Drachenfels, Roladseck, Ockenfels, Tower of Olbrook and Castle Ehrenfels and Rheinfels. We brought lunch along, but it was not much, only a roll and half with a piece of cheese and ham, cherries and gooseberries. Annie [Sophie's sister] and I bought a bottle of wine and treated the rest of the girls. It only cost 2 marks 50 pfennigs, but you can get some for one mark. We have just passed an extinct volcano. Oh!, the beautiful scenery.


We arrived in Pisa at 11:45. We hurried off to bed. After getting off some of the crust of dirt which so completely covered us, I certainly look like an Italian every time I get off a railroad train and am getting as bony as a snake.

Rome to Naples and Pompeii

We left Rome that night for Naples and arrived there the next morning. Went to the Hotel De Naples which is a very pleasant place. The awful goats have ears like elephants. Annie called the butter Billy Goat butter because it was not very good.

We went out to Pompeii at about 10 o'clock and came back at two. The mosaics are still very bright and the museum had pottery and the bodies of some of the people who were killed in the destruction. Their bodies were petrified. Such awful anguish expressed in their faces. Also a dog with his teeth showing.

Rome to Venice

We caught the train and started off all right, but Oh! Such an awful lot of tunnels as we had to go through up the side of a range of mountains and down the other side. 89 tunnels in all. When we reached Venice, we took a gondola to our hotel. I can never express the beauty of that evening, a large silver moon casting a silver path over the water and the lights of the gondolas in red and yellow reflected in great streams. The variety of color and magnificence and beauty must be seen before one can understand it.

Oberammergau and the Passion Play

We went out walking in the evening in the mud. The next morning bright and early we got up to get ready for the passion play. A cannon was fired from the top of one of the many high peaks surrounding the village. The chorus comes out and then the tableaus and the acting commences.

I was very much surprised to see such beautiful costumes, fine voices, acting and scenery. The play certainly was fine but Oh! How cold we were.

Five decades later, Sophia had married, raised a family, and become an ardent preservationist.

Frank "Mickey" Robbins is an investment advisor with Patten and Patten. For more, visit

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