A guide to the worst places in Europe

The Portuguese are the most clumsy in Europe, Italy is full of beggars and Sweden has the most thieves. In 1849, a strange book was published by a British poetess…

The Portuguese are the most clumsy in Europe, Italy is full of beggars and Sweden has the most thieves. In 1849, a strange book was published by a British poetess who had something bad to say about all countries.

The poet traveled almost nothing

When the 47-year-old priest mrs. Favell Lee Mortimer published her book “The Countries of Europe” in 1849, she had already written 16 books – for children.

Her most popular book had sold more than a million copies in 38 countries.

Mrs. Mortimer thus had a lot of experience in writing when she began to describe the countries of Europe and their inhabitants. At that time, she had certainly traveled to Belgium and France, and then her journeys are listed, but that alone could count.

She only published a few books – and then started writing about nations she had never met and probably didn’t want to meet.

Her world began and ended in England – a country Denmark could almost resemble.

Country ratings

♠ ♠ ♠ – Not completely lost

♠ ♠ – Hardly helpful

♠- Never visit it

Mr. Mortimer said the Spanish countryside was full of robbers and murderers.

Bandits in the countryside of Spain

Country rating – ♠

It is beautiful in Spain, admitted mrs. Mortimer but in the countryside murderers and robbers rule.

“They hide in caves in the mountains and in the thickets of the forest”, the poetess warned readers.

According to her, robberies were so common that travelers could see black crosses in long rows along every country road.

Spanish food culture was also not limited to many fish. The Spanish eat a lot of salted olives that few Brits know about – and for good reason:

“The taste is so bitter that I am sure my countrymen will not like it.”

The Spaniards are short and thin and have a sad expression. The young people love to dance and sing, but otherwise there is not much to recommend, according to mrs. Mortimer: “Very few appreciate reading or any other useful occupation.”

The Spaniards are not only lazy, but also cruel, because they then all jump into a bloody bullfight:

“Even the priests themselves who should set a good example”!

In Russia, the wolves eat babies and the kids drink brandy

Country rating – ♠

Mrs. Mortimer was a little more aware of the compliment when it came to Russia.

This vast land would be icy cold and full of ferocious wolves that wouldn’t have to attack grown men anyway:

“But if a child is traveling alone in the forest, wolves usually attack him and eat him to pieces.”

Russian men grow their hair to such lengths that they are forced to tie it up on their heads in order to see out of their eyes.

Outside the villages, ravenous wolves wait to pounce on lonely children.

They were still better looking than the poor people who were called the blacks. “Because they are filthy”, explained the priestess.

To her great surprise, everyone still took a bath every week – without it making any difference!

Their favorite food would be rye bread which they wash down with tea:

“But they also love brandy and drink it indiscriminately – not in glasses but in pitchers – and gladly let their children have a sip.

Copenhagen was according to mrs. Mortimer so quiet you’d think no one lived there.

Denmark: A bit sharper than the Netherlands

Country rating ♠ ♠ ♠

Denmark was one of the very few countries that mrs. Mortimer appreciated.

Namely, the country reminded me of England – without the fact that she let the fascination run away with her:

“Denmark is a flat country, but not as wet and ugly as Holland”.

According to the poet, the country’s capital is extremely beautiful, but also very strange:

“It is so quiet and silent that you would think no one lives there”.

But mrs. Mortimer appreciated this stillness. She had noticed Dan’s worse symptoms though:

“They’re having too much fun!”

But in the Danes’ defense, she pointed out that – unlike most other countries in Europe – they don’t drink. A certain traveler who had stayed for several months in Denmark had expressed his admiration for this small Nordic nation:

“In this country I never saw cripples, beggars or drunken people – neither during the day nor at night”.

The binding deacon mrs. Mortimer believed that this was something that the English could take as a model.

Italian beggars and revelers

Country rating – ♠

Apart from the decay of the buildings, nothing had changed in the capital city of Rome since the Roman emperors ruled there.

“It was a vile city at the time, full of evasions and cruelty – and it is still a vile city,” she stated.

Italians were dark skinned and haired, sad and with lips.

“And it is understandable that they are sad because the state of the country is sad”.

The poet said that many young Italians go to England, which would not be strange:

“You only need to see all the multitudes of beggars in Italy. It’s hard to see all the poor people dressed in tattered rags, many with bruises and some with broken limbs.”

Italians were according to mrs. Mortimer always looking for money games and entertainment.

The fate of the other Italians was a little less clear in the opinion of the British priestess, who were ignorant and wasted their time:

“Their main pleasure is gambling for money.” Sometimes with cards but also with your fingers alone”.

But the madness was not limited to constant gambling:

“Sometimes the people wearing masks take to the streets and run around to see if others recognize them with their faces covered. Italians also have fun holding burning candles and trying to blow out other people’s candles while protecting the flame of their own”.

Mrs. Mortimer found it unbearable to look up at grown people wasting their time in this way. The same was true of the Italian interest in paintings and statues:

“They are much more interested in beautiful things than useful things. This is the opposite for the English”.

Mrs. Mortimer thought little of the poor Irish’s love of potatoes.

Ireland; Demolished houses and potatoes every day

Country rating – ♠

Stale, dirty with lots of poor people – Ireland was certainly not a country that mrs. Mortimer was able to recommend. “No shack in Europe was so wretched as the dwellings of the Irish”, she wrote.

The demolished houses did not have chimneys, but the smoke was led through holes in the walls that also served as doors and windows.

When it rained – which was almost always – the water seeped through the leaky roofs. But for visitors, the worst part was that there was no furniture to be found inside:

“In one corner was a pile of straw with a blanket on top. It’s the bed. In the other corner lay a pig in a much dirtier lair”.

According to mrs. Mortimer reaches only the poor, because the wealthier flee to England. And it was a disaster to associate with these poor Irish people in tattered caterpillars.

Travelers had no business going to Ireland to taste good food either. “There are potatoes for everything! For breakfast, lunch and dinner”, wrote the poetess.

In fact, the Irish religion was appalling: “This is some terrible distortion of true and genuine Christianity!”

France is every king’s nightmare

Country rating – ♠ ♠

For royalists like mrs. Mortimer France was a strange country. Since the revolution of 1789, the French had made the country pure hell for kings.

“The last king left his palace in great haste, for an agitated mob had gathered below his window, and he feared for his life!”

Louis Philip I didn’t even manage to finish his speech, but had to flee with his wife through the streets of the city to avoid losing his head:

“And where did he go?” To England. There is a safe haven for French kings”, said the British one.

The French, however, are extremely polite – more polite than some in Europe. But according to mrs. Mortimer, it’s still mostly a sham:

“The French praise others indiscriminately to get in their favor, but the praise is usually empty rhetoric”.

The kings of France had to flee every time a rebellion hit the country. Fortunately, according to Mrs. Mortimer, it was not so in England.

Compared to the beloved England of the priestess, France was full of poor people who could not even afford the English’s favorite drink: hot tea.

“The poor people can’t buy tea, but sometimes, especially when they are sick, they put a little sugar in water to make a difference.”

On the other hand, the British one admired the French’s rational attitude towards drinking alcohol:

“In England it is common for poor people to be drunk, but it is extremely rare in France.” Sometimes, however, people whip each other, point at someone and say: This one was drunk once”.

However, the priestess admitted that Paris is a beautiful city with many shops and well-dressed people. All of them still had to share housing, so one family could only have one floor, “and the rooms are not as comfortable as in England”.

Ever since Loðvík 16. was put to death in 1793, one revolution drove the other.

A few grains of truth from the lady

  • 1789-1799

The French Revolution is raging. Louis XVI and Queen Marie-Antoinette are executed.

  • 1830

In the so-called July Revolution, the people attacked the restored monarchy. Charles the 10th must flee the country.

  • 1832

The new king, Lodvík Philippus I, faces a lot of setbacks when the republicans in the June revolution try to overthrow the monarchy.

  • 1848

After years of social distress, the revolutionary spirit sweeps across Europe and then hits France again. The monarchy is finally abolished and Loðvík Philippus flees the country. France becomes a republic.

Sweden: Land of thieves and prisoners

Country rating – ♠ ♠

A stay in Sweden was truly something that mrs. Mortimer just couldn’t recommend it.

Certainly most people knew how to read and you could find bookstores in every town. But it was wrong to assume that Swedes are therefore friendly and sensible.

“Not at all! There is no other country in Europe with so many citizens in prison”, she pointed out.

Still, there would be fewer robbers in Sweden than, for example, in Sicily, but there the thieves are not punished at all. The Swedes could do that though.

“Despite that, they keep stealing!”

An incredible number of Swedes were in prison. And the others who weren’t sitting there were on their way there, said mrs. Mortimer.

According to the lady, Sweden also had another big problem:

“The Swedes curse and curse all the time – both the upper class and the poor”.

Sweden’s house choice was also not mrs. Mortimer’s mood. The apartments are so small that beds have to be stacked, one on top of the other to make room.

“You have to climb stairs and be careful not to fall down and miss your bed”.

Similarly, the Swedish diet would be disappointing, as usually smoked meat or raw salmon was offered:

“But the Swedes often eat it with vinegar and pepper”.

German women do not read but are always knitting and spinning.

German women knit all day

Country rating – ♠ ♠ ♠

Germany was a nice country with healthy people, beautiful mountains and forests, according to mrs. Mortimer, with several caveats though:

“However, one does not see the beautiful green meadows and hedges, covered with flowers that are so beautiful in England”.

The German apartments were also not as nice as her home. “You can find a chest of drawers with shelves, curtains and stoves, but most of these are dirty and tasteless”.

The reason is that the women are rarely at home and then always busy knitting and spinning. Also, they rarely read books and when they did, they were books about fictional characters.

“It would be better not to read at all than to read such books,” thundered Mortimer.

She admitted, however, that Germans were polite and thoughtful: “But it would be better if they were neater and cleaner – especially the poor!”

Portugal: Europe’s biggest clubs

Country rating – ♠

A country full of untalented ungulates – this was mrs.’s opinion. Mortimer in Portugal

“It is unlikely that the builders there are poor”, complained the poetess, adding that the wagon wheels were so badly made that the greatest wonder was that they should turn at all!

The Portuguese, like the Spanish, are fair-skinned, “but they have whiter teeth because they never smoke,” she added.

It is not known if this builder is from Portugal, but that could explain several things.

Lisbon is beautiful from a distance, but when you get closer, everything else becomes apparent:

“The streets are full of trash and trash. Packs of dirty dogs are everywhere and the worst stench comes out of the houses”.

Even worse was spending the night in the city: “It’s full of all kinds of skunks and you get bitten to bits at night!”

Norway: Drunkards and home brewers

Country rating – ♠ ♠

Norwegians were according to mrs. Mortimer tall, strong and surprisingly honest.

“In the summer, people leave their doors open, but there are no thieves on the move, not even in the cities. Fences and locks are unnecessary in Norway”, she asserted.

The Norwegians were honest, but much too fond of alcohol, said Mrs. Mortimer.

However, the nation has a devastating alcohol problem.

“Norwegians’ worst fault is their alcohol consumption. They love a liquor called finkel – which resembles gin but is brewed from potatoes”.

The poet stated that in every single town you could find brewing equipment to produce finkel:

“Oh, who knows what misery those brewers have caused!”

Read more about Mrs. Mortimer’s vision

Favell Lee Mortimer: The Countries of Europe Described , 1849

FL Mortimer, Todd Pruzan: The Clumsiest People in Europe , Bloomsbury, 2006

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