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Chekhov - Love Letters


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BERLIN, Sunday, June 6, 1904.

... I write to you from Berlin, where I have been now for twenty-four hours. It turned very cold in Moscow after you went away; we had snow, and it was most likely through that that I caught cold. I began to have rheumatic pains in my arms and legs, I did not sleep for nights, got very thin, had injections of morphia, took thousands of medicines of all sorts, and remember none of them with gratitude except heroin, which was once prescribed me by Altschuller....

On Thursday I set off for foreign parts, very thin, with very lean skinny legs. We had a good and pleasant journey. Here in Berlin we have taken a comfortable room in the best hotel. I am enjoying being here, and it is a long time since I have eaten so well, with such appetite. The bread here is wonderful, I eat too much of it. The coffee is excellent and the dinners beyond description. Anyone who has not been abroad does not know what good bread means. There is no decent tea here (we have our own), there are no hors d’oeuvres, but all the rest is magnificent, though cheaper than with us. I am already the better for it, and to-day I even took a long drive in the Thiergarten, though it was cool. And so tell Mother and everyone who is interested that I am getting better, or indeed have already got better; my legs no longer ache, I have no diarrhoea, I am beginning to get fat, and am all day long on my legs, not lying down....

BERLIN, June 8.

. . . The worst thing here which catches the eye at once is the dress of the ladies. Fearfully bad taste, nowhere do women dress so abominably, with such utter lack of taste. I have not seen one beautiful woman, nor one who was not trimmed with some kind of absurd braid. Now I understand why taste is so slowly developed in Germans in Moscow. On the other hand, here in Berlin life is very comfortable. The food is good, things are not dear, the horses are well fed—the dogs, who are here harnessed to little carts, are well fed too. There is order and cleanliness in the streets....


I have been for three days settled here, this is my address—Germany, Badenweiler, Villa Fredericke. This Villa Fredericke, like all the houses and villas here, stands apart in a luxuriant garden in the sun, which shines and warms us till seven o’clock in the evening (after which I go indoors). We are boarding in the house; for fourteen or sixteen marks a day we have a double room flooded with sunshine, with washing-stands, bedsteads, etc., with a writing-table, and, best of all, with excellent water, like Seltzer water. The general impression: a big garden, beyond the garden, mountains covered with forest, few people, little movement in the street. The garden and the flowers are splendidly cared for. But to-day, apropos of nothing, it has begun raining; I sit in our room, and already begin to feel that in another two or three days I shall be thinking of how to escape.

I am still eating butter in enormous quantities and with no effect. I can’t take milk. The doctor here, Schworer, married to a Moscow woman, turns out to be skilful and nice.

We shall perhaps return to Yalta by sea from Trieste or some other port. Health is coming back to me not by ounces but by stones. Anyway, I have learned here how to feed. Coffee is forbidden to me absolutely, it is supposed to be relaxing; I am beginning by degrees to eat eggs. Oh, how badly the German women dress!

I live on the ground floor. If only you knew what the sun is here! It does not scorch, but caresses. I have a comfortable low chair in which I can sit or lie down. I will certainly buy the watch, I haven’t forgotten it. How is Mother? Is she in good spirits? Write to me. Give her my love. Olga is going to a dentist here....

June 16.

I am living amongst the Germans and have already got used to my room and to the regime, but can never get used to the German peace and quiet. Not a sound in the house or outside it; only at seven o’clock in the morning and at midday there is an expensive but very poor band playing in the garden. One feels there is not a single drop of talent in anything nor a single drop of taste; but, on the other hand, there is order and honesty to spare. Our Russian life is far more talented, and as for the Italian or the French, it is beyond comparison.

My health has improved. I don’t notice now as I go about that I am ill; my asthma is better, nothing is aching. The only trace left of my illness is extreme thinness; my legs are thin as they have never been. The German doctors have turned all my life upside down. At seven o’clock in the morning I drink tea in bed—for some reason it must be in bed; at half-past seven a German by way of a masseur comes and rubs me all over with water, and this seems not at all bad. Then I have to lie still a little, get up at eight o’clock, drink acorn cocoa and eat an immense quantity of butter. At ten o’clock, oatmeal porridge, extremely nice to taste and to smell, not like our Russian. Fresh air and sunshine. Reading the newspaper. At one o’clock, dinner, at which I must not taste everything but only the things Olga chooses for me, according to the German doctor’s prescription. At four o’clock the cocoa again. At seven o’clock supper. At bedtime a cup of strawberry tea—that is as a sleeping draught. In all this there is a lot of quackery, but a lot of what is really good and useful—for instance, the porridge. I shall bring some oatmeal from here with me....

June 21.

Things are going all right with me, only I have begun to get sick of Badenweiler. There is so much German peace and order here. It was different in Italy. To-day at dinner they gave us boiled mutton—what a dish! The whole dinner is magnificent, but the maitres d’hotel look so important that it makes one uneasy.

June 28.

... It has begun to be terribly hot here. The heat caught me unawares, as I have only winter suits here. I am gasping and dreaming of getting away. But where to go? I should like to go to Italy, to Como, but everyone is running away from the heat there. It is hot everywhere in the south of Europe. I should like to go from Trieste to Odessa by steamer, but I don’t know how far it is possible now, in June and July.... If it should be rather hot it doesn’t matter; I should have a flannel suit. I confess I dread the railway journey. It is stifling in the train now, particularly with my asthma, which is made worse by the slightest thing. Besides, there are no sleeping carriages from Vienna right up to Odessa; it would be uncomfortable. And we should get home by railway sooner than we need, and I have not had enough holiday yet. It is so hot one can’t bear one’s clothes, I don’t know what to do. Olga has gone to Freiburg to order a flannel suit for me, there are neither tailors nor shoemakers in Badenweiler. She has taken the suit Dushar made me as a pattern.

I like the food here very much, but it does not seem to suit me; my stomach is constantly being upset. I can’t eat the butter here. Evidently my digestion is hopelessly ruined. It is scarcely possible to cure it by anything but fasting—that is, eating nothing—and that’s the end of it. And the only remedy for the asthma is not moving.

There is not a single decently dressed German woman. The lack of taste makes one depressed.

Well, keep well and happy. My love to Mother, Vanya, George, and all the rest. Write!

I kiss you and press your hand.

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