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March 31st.

We started early this morning, and at eight o’clock had already reached Giurgewo. This town is situate on the left bank of the Danube, opposite the fortress of Rustschuk. It contains 16,000 inhabitants, and is one of the chief trading towns of Wallachia. We were detained here until four o’clock in the afternoon; for we had to unload above 600 cwt. of goods and eight carriages, and to take coals on board in exchange. Thus we had time to view the interior of this Wallachian city.

With what disappointed surprise did my fellow-passengers view the ugliness of this town, which from a distance promises so much! On me it made but little impression, for I had seen towns precisely similar in Galicia. The streets and squares are full of pits and holes; the houses are built without the slightest regard to taste or symmetry, one perhaps projecting halfway across the street, while its neighbour falls quite into the background. In some places wooden booths were erected along each side of the street for the sale of the commonest necessaries of life and articles of food, and these places were dignified by the name of “bazaars.” Curiosity led us into a wine-shop and into a coffee-house. In both of these we found only wooden tables and benches; there were hardly any guests; and the few persons present belonged to the humblest classes. Glasses and cups are handed to the company without undergoing the ceremony of rinsing.

We purchased some eggs and butter, and went into the house of one of the townspeople to prepare ourselves a dish after the German fashion. I had thus an opportunity of noticing the internal arrangements of a house of this description. The floor of the room was not boarded, and the window was only half glazed, the remaining portion being filled up with paper or thin bladder. For the rest, every thing was neat and simple enough. Even a good comfortable divan was not wanting. At four o’clock we quitted the town.

The Danube is now only broad for short distances at a time. It is, as it were, sown with islands, and its waters are therefore more frequently parted into several streams than united into one.

In the villages we already notice Greek and Turkish costumes, but the women and girls do not yet wear veils.

Unfortunately it was so late when we reached the fortress of Silistria that I could see nothing of it. A little lower down we cast anchor for the night. At an early hour on

April 1st

we sailed past Hirsova, and at two o’clock stopped at Braila, a fortress occupied by the Russians since the year 1828. Here passengers were not allowed to land, as they were considered infected with the plague; but our officer stepped forward, and vouched for the fact that we had neither landed nor taken up any one on the right bank of the river; thereupon the strangers were allowed to set foot on terra firma.

By four o’clock we were opposite Galatz, one of the most considerable commercial towns, with 8000 inhabitants, the only harbour the Russians possess on the Danube. Here we saw the first merchant-ships and barques of all kinds coming from the Black Sea. Some sea-gulls also, heralds of the neighbouring ocean, soared above our heads.

The scene here is one of traffic and bustle; Galatz being the place of rendezvous for merchants and travellers from two quarters of the globe, Europe and Asia. It is the point of junction of three great empires Austria, Russia, and Turkey.

After the officer had repeated his assurances as at Braila, we were permitted to leave the ship. I had a letter of recommendation to the Austrian consul, who accidentally came on board; after reading my letter he received me very kindly, and most obligingly procured quarters for me.

The town promises much, but proves to be just such a miserable dirty place as Giurgewo. The houses are generally built of wood or clay, thatched with straw; those alone belonging to the consul and the rich merchants are of stone. The finest buildings are the Christian church and the Moldavian hotel.

Though Galatz lies on the Danube, water for drinking is a dear article among the inhabitants. Wells are to be found neither in the houses nor in the squares. The townspeople are compelled to bring all the water they require from the Danube, which is a great hardship for the poor people, and a considerable expense for the rich; in winter a small tub of water costs from 10 to 12 kreutzers (about 4d. or 5d.) in the more distant quarters of the town. At every corner you meet water-carriers, and little wagons loaded with tubs of water. Attempts have frequently been made to procure this indispensable element by digging; water has, indeed, in some instances gushed forth, but it always had a brackish taste.

In Galatz we made a halt of twenty-four hours: the delay was not of the most agreeable kind, as neither the town itself nor its environs offer any thing worthy of remark. Still I always think of these days with pleasure. Herr Consul Huber is a polite and obliging man; himself a traveller, he gave me many a hint and many a piece of advice for my journey. The air of quiet comfort which reigned throughout his house was also not to be despised by one who had just endured many days of privation; at Herr Huber’s I found relief both for body and mind.

April 2d.

The scenery round the town is so far from being inviting, that I did not feel the least inclination to explore it. I therefore remained in the town, and went up hill and down dale through the ill-paved streets. Coffee-houses appear in great abundance; but if it were not for the people sitting in front of them drinking coffee and smoking tobacco, no one would do these dirty rooms the honour of taking them for places of entertainment.

In the market and the squares we notice a great preponderance of the male sex over the female. The former are seen bustling about every where, and, like the Italians, perform some duties which usually fall to the lot of the softer sex. We notice a mixture of the most different nations, and among them a particularly large number of Jews.

The bazaar is overloaded with southern fruits of all kinds. Oranges and lemons are seen here in great numbers, like the commonest of our fruits. The prices are of course very trifling. The cauliflowers brought from Asia Minor are particularly fine. I noticed many as large as a man’s head.

In the evening I was required to repair to the harbour and re-embark.

It is almost impossible to form an idea of the confusion which reigns here. A wooden railing forms the barrier between the healthy people and those who come from or intend travelling to a country infected with the plague. Whoever passes this line of demarcation is not allowed to return. Soldiers, officers, government officials, and superintendents, the latter of whom are armed with sticks and pairs of tongs, stand at the entrance to drive those forcibly back who will not be content with fair words. Provisions and other articles are either thrown over the barrier or left in front of it. In the latter case, however, they may not be touched until the bearers have departed. A gentleman on the “plague” side wished to give a letter to one on the other; it was immediately snatched from his hand and handed across by means of a pair of tongs. And all this time such a noise and hubbub is going on, that you can scarcely hear the sound of your own voice.

“Pray hand me over my luggage!” cries one. “Keep farther away! don’t come near me, and mind you don’t touch me!” anxiously exclaims another. And then the superintendents keep shouting “Stand back, stand back!” etc.

I was highly entertained by this spectacle; the scene was entirely new to me. But on my return, when I shall be one of the prisoners, I fear I may find it rather tedious. For this time I was not at all hindered in the prosecution of my journey.

On the whole, these timid precautions seemed to me exceedingly uncalled for, particularly at a time when neither the plague nor any kind of contagious disease prevailed in Turkey. One of my fellow-passengers had been banished to our ship on the previous day because he had had the misfortune to brush against an official on going to see after his luggage.

At seven o’clock the tattoo is beaten, the grating is shut, and the farce ends. We now repaired to the fourth and last steamer, the Ferdinand. From first to last we changed vessels six times during a journey from Vienna to Constantinople; we travelled by four steamers and twice in boats; a circumstance which cannot be reckoned among the pleasures of a trip down the Danube.

Though not a large boat, the Ferdinand is comfortable and well built. Even the second-class cabin is neatly arranged, and a pretty stove diffused a warmth which was peculiarly grateful to us all, as the thermometer showed only six to eight degrees above zero. Unfortunately even here the men and women are not separated in the second-class cabin; but care is at least taken that third-class passengers do not intrude. Twelve berths are arranged round the walls, and in front of these are placed broad benches well cushioned.

April 3d.

At five o’clock in the morning we steamed out of the harbour of Galatz. Shortly afterwards basins and towels were handed to us; a custom totally unknown upon former vessels. For provisions, which are tolerably good, we are charged 1 f kr. per diem.

Towards ten o’clock we reached Tehussa, a Bessarabian village of most miserable appearance, where we stopped for a quarter of an hour; after which we proceeded without further delay towards the Black Sea.

I had long rejoiced in the expectation of reaching the Black Sea, and imagined that near its mouth the Danube itself would appear like a sea. But as it generally happens in life, “great expectations, small realisations,” so it was the case here also. At Galatz the Danube is very broad; but some distance from its mouth it divides itself into so many branches that not one of them can be termed majestic.

Towards three o’clock in the afternoon we at length entered the Black Sea.

Here the arms of the Danube rush forward from every quarter, driving the sea tumultuously back, so that we can only distinguish in the far distance a stripe of green. For above an hour we glide on over the yellow, clayey, strongly agitated fresh water, until at length the boundary is passed, and we are careering over the salt waves of the sea. Unfortunately for us, equinoctial gales and heavy weather still so powerfully maintained their sway, that the deck was completely flooded with the salt brine. We could hardly stand upon our feet, and could not manage to reach the cabin-door, where the bell was ringing for dinner, without the assistance of some sailors.

Several of the passengers, myself among the number, did little honour to the cook’s skill. We had scarcely begun to eat our soup, before we were so powerfully attacked by sea-sickness, that we were obliged to quit the table precipitately. I laid myself down at once, feeling unable to move about, or even to drag myself on deck to admire the magnificent spectacle of nature. The waves frequently ran so high as to overtop the flue of our stove, and from time to time whole streams of water poured into the cabin.

April 4th.

Since yesterday the storm has increased considerably, so that we are obliged to hold fast by our cribs to avoid being thrown out. This misfortune really happened to one of the passengers, who was too ill to hold sufficiently tight.

As I already felt somewhat better, I attempted to rise, but was thrown in the same instant with such force against a table which stood opposite, that for a long time I felt no inclination to try again. There was not the slightest chance of obtaining any sleep all night. The dreadful howling of the wind among the masts and cordage, the fearful straining of the ship, which seemed as though its timbers were starting, the continual pitching and rolling, the rattling of the heavy cables above us, the cries, orders, and shouting of the captain and his sailors, all combined to form a din which did not allow us to enjoy a moment’s rest. In the morning, ill as I felt myself, I managed to gain the deck with the help of the steward, and sat down near the steersman to enjoy the aspect of that grandest of nature’s phenomena a storm at sea.

Holding tightly on, I bade defiance to the waves, which broke over the ship and wetted me all over, as though to cool my feverish heat. I could now form a clear and vivid conception of a storm at sea. I saw the waves rush foaming on, and the ship now diving into an abyss, and anon rising with the speed of lightning to the peak of the highest wave. It was a thrilling, fearful sight; absorbed in its contemplation, I soon ceased to think of my sickness.

Late at night the violence of the storm abated in some degree; we could now run in and cast anchor in the harbour of Varna, which under ordinary circumstances we should have reached twelve hours sooner.

April 5th.

This morning I had leisure to admire this fine fortress-town, which was besieged and taken by the Russians in 1828. We remained here several hours. The upper portion of the ship was here loaded with fowl of all descriptions, to such a degree that the space left for us travellers was exceedingly circumscribed. This article of consumption seems to be in great demand in Constantinople both among Turks and Franks; for our captain assured me that his vessel was laden with this kind of ware every time he quitted Varna, and that he carried it to Stamboul.

April 6th.

The shades of night prevented my seeing one of the finest sights in the world, in anticipation of which I had rejoiced ever since my departure from Vienna the passage through the Bosphorus. A few days afterwards, however, I made the excursion in a kaik (a very small and light boat), and enjoyed to my heart’s content views and scenes which it is totally beyond my descriptive power to portray.

At three o’clock in the morning, when we entered the harbour of Constantinople, every one, with the exception of the sailors, lay wrapped in sleep. I stood watching on deck, and saw the sun rise in its full glory over the imperial city, so justly and universally admired.

We had cast anchor in the neighbourhood of Topona; the city of cities lay spread out before my eyes, built on several hills, each bearing a separate town, and all blending into a grand and harmonious whole.

The town of Constantinople, properly speaking, is separated from Galata and Pera by the so-called “Golden Horn;” the means of communication is by a long and broad wooden bridge. Scutari and Bulgurlu rise in the form of terraces on the Asiatic shore. Scutari is surrounded, within and without, by a splendid wood of magnificent cypresses. In the foreground, on the top of the mountain, lie the spacious and handsome barracks, which can contain 10,000 men.

The beautiful mosques, with their graceful minarets the palaces and harems, kiosks and great barracks the gardens, shrubberies, and cypress-woods the gaily painted houses, among which single cypresses often rear their slender heads, these, together with the immense forest of masts, combine to form an indescribably striking spectacle.

When the bustle of life began, on the shore and on the sea, my eyes scarcely sufficed to take in all I saw. The “Golden Horn” became gradually covered as far as the eye could reach with a countless multitude of kaiks. The restless turmoil of life on shore, the passing to and fro of men of all nations and colours, from the pale inhabitant of Europe to the blackest Ethiopian, the combination of varied and characteristic costumes, this, and much more which I cannot describe, held me spell-bound to the deck. The hours flew past like minutes, and even the time of debarcation came much too early for me, though I had stood on deck and gazed from three o’clock until eight.

I found myself richly repaid for all the toils of my journey, and rejoiced in the sight of these wonderful Eastern pictures; I could only wish I were a poet, that I might fitly portray the magnificent gorgeousness of the sight.

To land at Topona, and to be immediately surrounded by hired servants and hamaks (porters), is the fate of every traveller. The stranger is no longer master either of his will or his luggage. One man praises this inn, the other that. The porters hustle and beat each other for your effects, so that the custom-house officers frequently come forward with their sticks to restore order. The boxes are then searched, a ceremony which can, however, be considerably accelerated by a fee of from ten to twenty kreutzers.

It is very advisable to fix on an hotel before leaving the boat. There are always passengers on board who are resident at Constantinople, or at least know the town well, and who are polite enough to give advice on the subject to strangers. By this means you rid yourself at once of the greedy servants, and need only tell a porter the name of your inn.

The inns for the Franks (a term used in the East to designate all Europeans) are in Pera. I stayed at the hotel of Madame Balbiani, a widow lady, in whose house the guests are made comfortable in every respect. Clean rooms, with a beautiful view towards the sea, healthy, well-selected, and palatable fare, and good prompt attendance, are advantages which every one values; and all these are found at Madame Balbiani’s, besides constant readiness to oblige on the part of the hostess and her family. The good lady took quite a warm interest in me; and I can say, without hesitation, that had not my good fortune led me under her roof, I should have been badly off. I had several letters of introduction; but not being fortunate enough to travel in great pomp or with a great name, my countrymen did not consider it worth while to trouble themselves about me.

I am ashamed, for their sakes, to be obliged to make this confession; but as I have resolved to narrate circumstantially not only all I saw, but all that happened to me on this journey, I must note down this circumstance with the rest. I felt the more deeply the kindness of these strangers, who, without recommendation or the tie of country, took so hearty an interest in the well-being of a lonely woman. I am truly rejoiced when an opportunity occurs of expressing my sincere gratitude for the agreeable hours I spent among them.

The distance from Vienna to Constantinople is about 1000 sea miles.

Residence at Constantinople. The dancing dervishes.

I arrived at Constantinople on a Tuesday, and immediately inquired what was worth seeing. I was advised to go and see the dancing dervishes, as this was the day on which they held their religious exercises in Pera.

As I reached the mosque an hour too soon, I betook myself in the meantime to the adjoining garden, which is set apart as the place of meeting of the Turkish women. Here several hundred ladies reclined on the grass in varied groups, surrounded by their children and their nurses, the latter of whom are all negresses. Many of these Turkish women were smoking pipes of tobacco with an appearance of extreme enjoyment, and drinking small cups of coffee without milk. Two or three friends often made use of the same pipe, which was passed round from mouth to mouth. These ladies seemed also to be partial to dainties: most of them were well provided with raisins, figs, sugared nuts, cakes, etc., and ate as much as the little ones. They seemed to treat their slaves very kindly; the black servants sat among their mistresses, and munched away bravely: the slaves are well dressed, and could scarcely be distinguished from their owners, were it not for their sable hue.

During my whole journey I remarked with pleasure that the lot of a slave in the house of a Mussulman is not nearly so hard as we believe. The Turkish women are no great admirers of animated conversations; still there was more talking in their societies than in the assemblies of the men, who sit silent and half asleep in the coffee-houses, languidly listening to the narrations of a story-teller.

The ladies’ garden resembles a churchyard. Funeral monuments peer forth at intervals between the cypresses, beneath which the visitors sit talking and joking cheerfully. Every now and then one would suddenly start up, spread a carpet beside her companions, and kneel down to perform her devotions.

As no one of the male sex was allowed to be present, all were unveiled. I noticed many pretty faces among them, but not a single instance of rare or striking beauty. Fancy large brilliant eyes, pale cheeks, broad faces, and an occasional tendency to corpulence, and you have the ladies’ portrait. Small-pox must still be rather prevalent in these parts, for I saw marks of it on many faces.

The Turkish ladies’ costume is not very tasteful. When they go abroad, they are completely swathed in an upper garment, generally made of dark merino. In the harem, or in any place where men are not admitted, they doff this garment, and also the white cloth in which they wrap their heads and faces. Their costume consists, properly speaking, of very wide trousers drawn together below the ancle, a petticoat with large wide sleeves, and a broad sash round the waist. Over this sash some wear a caftan, others only a spencer, generally of silk. On their feet they wear delicate boots, and over these slippers of yellow morocco; on their heads a small fez-cap, from beneath which their hair falls on their shoulders in a number of thin plaits. Those Turks, male and female, who are descended from Mahomet, have either a green caftan or a green turban. This colour is here held so sacred, that scarcely any one may wear it. I would even advise the Franks to avoid green in their dresses, as they may expose themselves to annoyance by using it.

After I had had more than an hour’s leisure to notice all these circumstances, a noise suddenly arose in the courtyard, which produced a stir among the women. I considered from these appearances that it was time to go to the temple, and hastened to join my party. A great crowd was waiting in the courtyard, for the Sultan was expected. I was glad to have the good fortune to behold him on the very day of my arrival. As a stranger, I was allowed, without opposition, a place in the front ranks, a trait of good breeding on the part of the Turks which many a Frank would do well to imitate. In a Turk, moreover, this politeness is doubly praiseworthy, from the fact that he looks upon my poor sex with great disrespect; indeed, according to his creed, we have not even a soul.

I had only stood a few moments, when the Sultan appeared on horseback, surrounded by his train. He alone rode into the courtyard; the others all dismounted at the gate, and entered on foot. The horse on which the Sultan rode was of rare beauty, and, as they told me, of the true Arabian breed; the saddle-cloth was richly embroidered with gold, and the stirrups, of the same precious metal, were in the form of shoes, covered with the finest chased work.

The Sultan is a slender slim-looking youth of nineteen years of age, and looks pale, languid, and blase. His features are agreeable, and his eyes fine. If he had not abandoned himself at so early an age to all the pleasures of the senses, he would, no doubt, have grown up a stalwart man. He wore a long cape of dark-blue cloth; and a high fez-cap, with a heron’s plume and a diamond clasp, decked his head. The greeting of the people, and the Sultan’s mode of acknowledging it, is exactly as at Vienna, except that here the people at intervals raise a low cry of welcome.

As soon as the Sultan had entered the temple, all flocked in. The men and the Franks (the latter without distinction of sex) sit or stand in the body of the temple. The Turkish women sit in galleries, behind such close wire gratings that they are completely hidden. The temple, or more properly the hall, is of inconsiderable size, and the spectators are only separated from the priests by a low railing.

At two o’clock the dervishes appeared, clad in long petticoats with innumerable folds, which reached to their heels. Their heads were covered with high pointed hats of white felt. They spread out carpets and skins of beasts, and began their ceremonies with a great bowing and kissing of the ground. At length the music struck up; but I do not remember ever to have heard a performance so utterly horrible. The instruments were a child’s drum, a shepherd’s pipe, and a miserable fiddle. Several voices set up a squeaking and whining accompaniment, with an utter disregard of time and tune.

Twelve dervishes now began their dance, if indeed a turning round in a circle, while their full dresses spread round them like a large wheel, can be called by such a name. They display much address in avoiding each other, and never come in contact, though their stage is very small. I did not notice any “convulsions,” of which I had read in many descriptions.

The ceremony ended at three o’clock. The Sultan once more mounted his horse, and departed with his train and the eunuchs. In the course of the day I saw him again, as he was returning from visiting the medical faculty. It is not difficult to get a sight of the Sultan; he generally appears in public on Tuesdays, and always on Fridays, the holiday of the Turks.

The train of the young autocrat presents a more imposing appearance when he goes by water to visit a mosque, which he generally does on every Friday. Only two hours before he starts it is announced in which mosque he intends to appear. At twelve, at noon, the procession moves forward. For this purpose two beautiful barges are in readiness, painted white, and covered with gilded carvings. Each barge is surmounted by a splendid canopy of dark-red velvet, richly bordered with gold fringe and tassels. The floor is spread with beautiful carpets. The rowers are strong handsome youths, clad in short trousers and jacket of white silk, with fez-caps on their heads. On each side of the ship there are fourteen of these rowers, under whose vigorous exertions the barge flies forward over wave and billow like a dolphin. The beautifully regular movements of the sailors have a fine effect. The oars all dip into the water with one stroke, the rowers rise as one man, and fall back into their places in the same perfect time.

A number of elegant barges and kaiks follow the procession. The flags of the Turkish fleet and merchant-ships are hoisted, and twenty-one cannons thunder forth a salutation to the Sultan. He does not stay long in the mosque, and usually proceeds to visit a barrack or some other public building. When the monarch goes by water to the mosque, he generally returns also in his barge; if he goes by land, he returns in the same manner.

The most popular walks in Pera are “the great and little Campo,” which may be termed “burying-places in cypress-groves.” It is a peculiar custom of the Turks, which we hardly find among any other nation, that all their feasts, walks, business-transactions, and even their dwellings, are in the midst of graves. Every where, in Constantinople, Pera, Galata, etc., one can scarcely walk a few paces without passing several graves surrounded by cypresses. We wander continually between the living and the dead; but within four and twenty hours I was quite reconciled to the circumstance. During the night-time I could pass the graves with as little dread as if I were walking among the houses of the living. Seen from a distance, these numerous cypress-woods give to the town a peculiar fairy-like appearance; I can think of nothing with which I could compare it. Every where the tall trees appear, but the tombs are mostly hidden from view.

It took a longer time before I could accustom myself to the multitude of ownerless dogs, which the stranger encounters at all corners, in every square and every street. They are of a peculiarly hideous breed, closely resembling the jackal. During the daytime they are not obnoxious, being generally contented enough if they are allowed to sleep undisturbed in the sun, and to devour their prey in peace. But at night they are not so quiet. They bark and howl incessantly at each other, as well as at the passers-by, but do not venture an attack, particularly if you are accompanied by a servant carrying a lantern and a stick. Among themselves they frequently have quarrels and fights, in which they sometimes lose their lives. They are extremely jealous if a strange dog approaches their territory, namely the street or square of which they have possession. On such an intruder they all fall tooth and nail, and worry him until he either seeks safety in flight or remains dead on the spot. It is therefore a rare circumstance for any person to have a house-dog with him in the streets. It would be necessary to carry the creature continually, and even then a number of these unbidden guests would follow, barking and howling incessantly. Neither distemper nor madness is to be feared from these dogs, though no one cares for their wants. They live on carrion and offal, which is to be found in abundance in every street, as every description of filth is thrown out of the houses into the road. A few years ago it was considered expedient to banish these dogs from Constantinople. They were transported to two uninhabited islands in the Sea of Marmora, the males to one and the females to another. But dirt and filth increased in the city to such a degree, that people were glad to have them back again.

The town is not lighted. Every person who goes abroad at night must take a lantern with him. If he is caught wandering without a lantern by the guard, he is taken off without mercy to the nearest watch-house, where he must pass the night. The gates of the city are shut after sunset.

In proportion as I was charmed with the beautiful situation of Constantinople, so I was disgusted with the dirt and the offensive atmosphere which prevail every where; the ugly narrow streets, the continual necessity to climb up and down steep places in the badly-paved roads, soon render the stranger weary of a residence in this city.

Worse than all is the continual dread of conflagration in which we live. Large chests and baskets are kept in readiness in every house; if a fire breaks out in the neighbourhood, all valuable articles are rapidly thrown into these and conveyed away. It is customary to make a kind of contract with two or three Turks, who are pledged, in consideration of a trifling monthly stipend, to appear in the hour of danger, for the purpose of carrying the boxes and lending a helping hand wherever they can. It is safer by far to reckon on the honesty of the Turks than on that of the Christians and Greeks. Instances in which a Turk has appropriated any portion of the goods entrusted to his care are said to be of very rare occurrence. During the first nights of my stay I was alarmed at every noise, particularly when the watchman, who paraded the streets, happened to strike with his stick upon the stones. In the event of a conflagration, he must knock at every house-door and cry, “Fire, fire!” Heaven be praised, my fears were never realised.