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On Sundays and holydays the “Sweet Waters” of Europe are much frequented. One generally crosses the Golden Horn, into which the sweet water runs, in a kaik. There is, however, another way thither across the mountains.

A large grass-plat, surrounded by trees, is the goal towards which the heaving multitude pours. Here are to be seen people from all quarters of the globe, and of all shades of colour, reclining in perfect harmony on carpets, mats, and pillows, and solacing themselves, pipe in mouth, with coffee and sweetmeats. Many pretty Jewesses, mostly unveiled, are to be seen among the crowd.

On Friday, the holiday of the Turks, the scene in the Asiatic Sweet Waters is just as animated; and here there is much more to interest us Europeans, as the company consists chiefly of Turks, male and female. The latter have, as usual, their faces covered: the most beautiful feature, the flaming eye, is, however, visible.

The trip across the sea to the Asiatic Sweet Waters is incomparably more beautiful and interesting than the journey to the European. We travel up the Bosphorus, in the direction of the Black Sea, past the splendid new palace of the Sultan. Though this palace is chiefly of wood, the pillars, staircases, and the ground-floor, built of marble of dazzling whiteness, are strikingly beautiful. The great gates, of gilded cast-iron, may be called masterpieces; they were purchased in England for the sum of 8000 pounds. The roof of the palace is in the form of a terrace, and round this terrace runs a magnificent gallery, built only of wood, but artistically carved. We also pass the two ancient castles which command the approach to Constantinople, and then turn to the right towards the Sweet Waters. The situation of this place is most lovely; it lies in a beautiful valley surrounded by green hills.

Very interesting is also an excursion to Chalcedonia, a peninsula in the Sea of Marmora, on the Asiatic side, adjoining Scutari. We were rowed thither in a two-oared kaik in an hour and a quarter. The finest possible weather favoured our trip. A number of dolphins gambolled around our boat; we saw these tame fishes darting to and fro in all directions, and leaping into the air. It is a peculiar circumstance with regard to these creatures, that they never swim separately, but always either in pairs or larger companies.

The views which we enjoy during these trips are peculiarly lovely. Scutari lies close on our left; the foreground is occupied by mountains of moderate elevation; and above them, in the far distance, gleams the snow-clad summit of Olympus. The uninhabited Prince’s Island and the two Dog Islands are not the most picturesque objects to be introduced in such a landscape. To make up for the disadvantage of their presence we have, however, a good view of the Sea of Marmora, and can also distinguish the greater portion of the city of Constantinople.

On Chalcedonia itself there is nothing to be seen but a lighthouse. Beautiful grass-plats, with a few trees and a coffee-house, are the chief points of attraction with the townspeople.

An excursion by sea to Baluklid is also to be recommended. You pass the entire Turkish fleet, which is very considerable, and see the largest ship in the world, the “Mahmud,” of 140 guns, built during the reign of the late Sultan Mahmud. Several three-deckers of 120 guns, some of them unrigged, and many men-of-war mounting from forty to sixty cannons, lie in the harbour. For an hour and a half we are riding through the Sea of Marmora, to the left of the great quay which surrounds the walls of Constantinople. Here, for the first time, we see the giant city in all its magnificent proportions. We also passed the “Seven Towers,” of which, however, only five remain standing; the other two, I was told, had fallen in. If these towers really answer no other purpose than that of prisons for the European ambassadors during tumults or in the event of hostilities, I think the sooner the remaining five tumble down the better; for the European powers will certainly not brook such an insult from the Turks, now in the day of their decline.

We disembarked immediately beyond the “Seven Towers,” and walked for half an hour through long empty streets, then out at the town-gate, where the cypress-grove for a time conceals from our view a large open space on which is built a pretty Greek church. I was told that during the holidays at Easter such riotous scenes were here enacted that broken heads were far from being phenomena of rare occurrence. In the church there is a cold spring containing little fishes. A legend goes, that on the high days at Easter these poor little creatures swim about half fried and yet alive, because once upon a time, when Constantinople was besieged, a general said that it was no more likely that the city could be taken than that fishes could swim about half fried. Ever since that period the wonderful miracle of the fried fish is said to occur annually at Easter.

On our return to our kaik, we saw near the shore an enormous cuttle-fish, more than fourteen feet in length, which had just been taken and killed. A number of fishermen were trying with ropes and poles to drag the monster ashore.

The walks in the immediate neighbourhood of Pera are the great and little Campo, and somewhat farther distant the great bridge which unites Topana with Constantinople; the latter is a most amusing walk, during which we can view the life and bustle on both shores at the same time. In the little Campo are two Frankish coffee-houses, before which we sit quite in European fashion on handsome chairs and benches, listening to pleasant music, and regaling ourselves with ices.

Feasts in Constantinople.

During my residence in Constantinople I had the good fortune to be present at some very entertaining festivities. The most magnificent of these took place on the 23d of April, the anniversary of Mahomet’s death.

On the eve of this feast we enjoyed a fairy-like spectacle. The tops of all the minarets were illuminated with hundreds of little lamps; and as there are a great many of these slender spires, it can be readily imagined that this sea of light must have a beautiful effect. The Turkish ships in the harbour presented a similar appearance. At every loop-hole a large lamp occupied the place of the muzzle of the cannon. At nine o’clock in the evening, salvoes were fired from the ships; and at the moment that the cannons were fired, the lamps vanished, flashes of light and gunpowder-smoke filled the air; a few seconds afterwards, as if by magic, the lamps had reappeared. This salute was repeated three times.

The morning of the 23d was ushered in by the booming of the cannon. All the Turkish ships had hoisted their flags, and garlands of coloured paper were twined round the masts to their very tops.

At nine o’clock I proceeded in the company of several friends to Constantinople, to see the grand progress of the Sultan to the mosque. As with us, it is here the custom to post soldiers on either side of the way. The procession was headed by the officers and government officials; but after every couple of officers or statesmen followed their servants, generally to the number of twelve or fifteen persons, in very variegated costumes, partly Turkish, partly European, and withal somewhat military; in fact, a perfect motley. Then came the Emperor’s state-horses, splendid creatures, the majority of them of the true Arabian breed, decorated with saddle-cloths richly embroidered with gold, pearls, and precious stones, and proudly moving their plumed heads. Their spirited appearance and beautiful paces excited the admiration of all the learned in such matters. They were followed by a number of pages on foot; these pages are not, however, youths, as in other countries, but men of tried fidelity. In their midst rode the youthful Emperor, wrapped in his cape, and wearing in his fez-cap a fine heron’s plume, buckled with the largest diamond in Europe. As the Sultan passed by, he was greeted by the acclamations of the military, but not of the people. The soldiers closed the procession; but their bearing is not nearly so haughty as that of the horses. The reason of this is simple enough no one dares look upon the Arabians with an evil eye, but the soldiers are entirely subject to the caprice of their officers. I would certainly rather be the Sultan’s horse than his soldier.

The uniforms of the officers, in their profusion of gold embroidery, resemble those of our hussars. The privates have very comfortable jackets and trousers of blue cloth with red trimmings; some have jackets entirely of a red colour. The artillerymen wear red facings. Their chaussure is pitiable in the extreme: some have boots, not unfrequently decorated with spurs; others have shoes, trodden down at heel and terribly tattered; and some even appear in slippers. All are without stockings, and thus naked feet peer forth every where. The position of the men with regard to each other is just as irregular; a little dwarf may frequently be seen posted next to a giant, a boy of twelve or fourteen years near a grey-headed veteran, and a negro standing next to a white man.

At this feast a great concourse of people was assembled, and every window was crowded with muffled female heads.

We had been advised not to be present at this ceremony, as it was stated to be of a purely religious nature, and it was feared we should be exposed to annoyance from the fanaticism of the Mussulmen. I am glad to say, however, that the curiosity of my party was stronger than their apprehensions. We pushed through every where, and I had again occasion to feel assured that grievous wrong is frequently done the good Turks. Not only was there no appearance of a disposition to annoy us, but we even obtained very good places without much trouble.

On their Easter days the Greeks have a feast in the great Campo. On all the three holidays, the hamaks (water-carriers and porters), after the service is over, march in large numbers to the Campo with songs and music, with noise and shouting, waving their handkerchiefs in the air. Arrived at their destination, they divide into different groups, and proceed to amuse themselves much after the manner of other nations. A number of tents are erected, where a great deal of cooking and baking is carried on. Large companies are sitting on the ground or on the tombstones, eating and drinking in quiet enjoyment. We see a number of swings laden with men and children; on this side we hear the squeaking of a bagpipe, on that the sound of a pipe and drum, uttering such dismal music that the hearer instinctively puts a finger into each ear. To this music a real bear’s dance is going on. Six or eight fellows stand in a half circle round the musician, and two leaders of these light-toed clodhoppers continually wave their handkerchiefs in the air as they stamp slowly and heavily round in a circle. The women are allowed to appear at this feast, but may neither take part in the swinging nor in the dancing. They therefore keep up a brave skirmishing with the sweetmeats, coffee, and delicacies of all kinds. The more wealthy portion of the community employ these days in riding to Baluklid, to gaze and wonder at the miracle of the half-baked and yet living fishes.

As the Greeks are not so good-natured as the Turks, the latter seldom take part in their festivities. Turkish women never appear on these occasions.

On the 8th of May I saw a truly Turkish fête in the neighbourhood of the Achmaidon (place of arrows).

In a plain surrounded on all sides by hills, men of all nations formed a large but closely-packed circle. Kavasses (gens d’arme) were there to keep order among the people, and several officers sat among the circle to keep order among the kavasses. The spectacle began. Two wrestlers or gladiators made their appearance, completely undressed, with the exception of trousers of strong leather. They had rubbed themselves all over with oil, so that their joints might be soft and supple, and also that their adversary should not be able to obtain a firm hold when they grappled together. They made several obeisances to the spectators, began with minor feats of wrestling, and frequently stopped for a few moments in order to husband their strength. Then the battle began afresh, and became hotter and hotter, till at length one of the combatants was hailed as victor by the shouting mob. He is declared the conqueror who succeeds in throwing his opponent in such a manner that he can sit down upon him as on a horse. A combat of this kind usually lasts a quarter of an hour. The victor walks triumphantly round the circle to collect his reward. The unfortunate vanquished conceals himself among the spectators, scarcely daring to lift his eyes. These games last for several hours; as one pair of gladiators retire, they are replaced by another.

Greek, Turkish, and Armenian women may only be spectators of these games from a distance; they therefore occupy the adjoining heights. For the rest, the arrangements are the same as at the Greek Easter feast. People eat, drink, and dance. No signs of beer, wine, or liqueur are to be discovered, and consequently there is no drunkenness.

The Turkish officers were here polite enough to surrender the best places to us strangers. I had many opportunities of noticing the character of the Mussulman, and found, to my great delight, that he is much better and more honest than prejudices generally allow us to believe. Even in matters of commerce and business it is better to have to do with a Turk than with a votary of any other creed, not even excepting my own.

During my stay at Constantinople (from the 5th of April until May 17th) I found the weather just as changeable as in my own country; so much so, in fact, that the temperature frequently varied twelve or fourteen degrees within four-and-twenty hours.

Excursion to Brussa.

The two brothers, Baron Charles and Frederick von Buseck, and Herr Sattler, the talented artist, resolved to make an excursion to Brussa; and as I had expressed a similar wish, they were obliging enough to invite me to make a fourth in their party. But when it came to the point, I had almost become irresolute. I was asked by some one if I was a good rider; “for if you are not,” said my questioner, “it would be far better for you not to accompany them, as Brussa is four German miles distant from Gemlek, and the road is bad, so that the gentlemen must ride briskly if they wish to reach the town before sundown, starting as they would at half-past two in the afternoon, the general hour of landing at Gemlek. In the event of your being unable to keep up with the rest, you would put them to great inconvenience, or they will be compelled to leave you behind on the road.”

I had never mounted a horse, and felt almost inclined to confess the fact; but my curiosity to see Brussa, the beautiful town at the foot of Olympus, gained the day, and I boldly declared that I had no doubt I should be able to keep pace with my companions.

On the 13th of May we left Constantinople at half-past six in the morning, on board a little steamer of forty-horse power. Passing the Prince’s and Dog Islands, we swept across the Sea of Marmora towards the snow-crowned Olympus, until, after a voyage of seven hours, we reached Gemlek.

Gemlek, distant thirty sea miles from Constantinople, is a miserable place, but nevertheless does some trade as the harbour of Bithynia. The agent of the Danube Navigation Company was civil enough to procure us good horses, and a genuine, stalwart, and fierce-looking Turkoman for a guide. This man wore in his girdle several pistols and a dagger; a long crooked scimitar hung at his side; and instead of shoes and slippers, large boots decked his feet, bordered at the top by a wide stripe of white cloth, on which were depicted blue flowers and other ornaments. His head was graced by a handsome turban.

At half-past two o’clock the horses arrived. I swung myself boldly upon my Rosinante, called on my good angel to defend me, and away we started, slowly at first, over stock and stone. My joy was boundless when I found that I could sit steadily upon my horse; but shortly afterwards, when we broke into a trot, I began to feel particularly uncomfortable, as I could not get on at all with the stirrup, which was continually slipping to my heel, while sometimes my foot slid out of it altogether, and I ran the risk of losing my balance. Oh, what would I not have given to have asked advice of any one! But unfortunately I could not do so without at once betraying my ignorance of horsemanship. I therefore took care to bring up the rear, under the pretence that my horse was shy, and would not go well unless it saw the others before it. My real reason was that I wished to hide my manoeuvres from the gentlemen, for every moment I expected to fall. Frequently I clutched the saddle with both hands, as I swayed from side to side. I looked forward in terror to the gallop, but to my surprise found that I could manage this pace better than the trot. My courage brought its reward, for I reached the goal of our journey thoroughly shaken, but without mishap. During the time that we travelled at a foot-pace, I had found leisure to contemplate the scenery around us. For half the entire distance we ride from one valley into another; as often as a hill is reached, there is a limited prospect before the traveller, who has, however, only to turn his head, and he enjoys a beautiful view over the Sea of Marmora. After a ride of two hours and a half we arrived at a little khan, where we rested for half an hour. Proceeding thence a short distance, we reached the last hills; and the great valley, at the end of which Brussa is seen leaning against Olympus, lay stretched before our eager eyes, while behind us we could still distinguish, far beyond hill and dale, the distant sea skirting the horizon. Yet, beautiful as this landscape undoubtedly is, I had seen it surpassed in Switzerland. The immense valley which lies spread out before Brussa is uncultivated, deserted, and unwatered; no carpet of luxuriant verdure, no rushing river, no pretty village, gives an air of life to this magnificent and yet monotonous region; and no giant mountains covered with eternal snow look down upon the plain beneath. Pictures like these I had frequently found in Switzerland, in the Tyrol, and also near Salzburg. Here I saw, indeed, separate beauties, but no harmonious whole. Olympus is a fine majestic mountain, forming an extended barrier; but its height can scarcely exceed 6000 feet; and during the present month it is totally despoiled of its surface of glittering snow. Brussa, with its innumerable minarets, is the only point of relief to which the eye continually recurs, because there is nothing beyond to attract it. A little brook, crossed by a very high stone bridge, but so shallow already in the middle of May as hardly to cover our horses’ hoofs; and towards Brussa, a miserable village, with a few plantations of olives and mulberry-trees, are the only objects to be discovered throughout the whole wide expanse. Wherever I found the olive-tree here, near Trieste, and in Sicily, it was alike ugly. The stem is gnarled, and the leaves are narrow and of a dingy green colour. The mulberry-tree, with its luxuriant bright green foliage, forms an agreeable contrast to the olive. The silk produced in this neighbourhood is peculiarly fine in quality, and the stuffs from Brussa are renowned far and wide.

We reached the town in safety before sunset. It is one of the most disagreeable circumstances that can happen to the traveller to arrive at an Oriental town after evening has closed in. He finds the gates locked, and may clamour for admittance in vain.

In order to gain our inn, we were obliged to ride through the greater part of the town. I had here an opportunity of observing that it is just as unsightly as the interior of Constantinople. The streets are narrow, and the houses built of wood, plaster, and some even of stone; but all wear an aspect of poverty, and at the same time of singularity; the gables projecting so much that they occupy half the width of the street, and render it completely dark, while they increase its narrowness. The inn, too, at which we put up, looked far from inviting when viewed from the outside, so that we had some dark misgivings respecting the quality of the accommodation that awaited us. But in proportion as the outside had looked unpropitious, were we agreeably surprised on entering. A neat and roomy courtyard, with a basin of pure sparkling water in the midst, surrounded by mulberry-trees, was the first thing we beheld. Round this courtyard were two stories of clean but simply-furnished rooms. The fare was good, and we were even regaled with a bottle of excellent wine from the lower regions of Olympus.

May 14th.

Next morning we visited the town and its environs, under the guidance and protection of a kavasse. The town itself is of great extent, and is reported to contain above 10,000 houses, inhabited exclusively by Turks. The population of the suburbs, which comprise nearly 4000 houses, is a mixed one of Christians, Jews, Greeks, etc. The town numbers three hundred and sixty mosques; but the greater portion of them are so insignificant and in such a dilapidated condition, that we scarcely observed them.

Strangers are here permitted to enter the mosques in company of a kavasse. We visited some of the principal, among which the Ulla Drchamy may decidedly be reckoned. The cupola of this mosque is considered a masterpiece, and rests upon graceful columns. It is open at the top, thus diffusing a chastened light and a clear atmosphere throughout the building. Immediately beneath this cupola stands a large marble basin, in which small fishes swim merrily about.

The mosque of Sultan Mahomed I. and of Sultan Ildirim Bojasid must also be noticed on account of their splendid architecture; the latter, too, for the fine view which is thence obtained. In the mosque of Murad I. visitors are still shewn weapons and garments which once belonged to that sultan. I saw none of the magnificent regal buildings mentioned by some writers. The imperial kiosk is so simple in its appearance, that if we had not climbed the hill on which it stands for the sake of the view, it would not have been worth the trouble of the walk.

A stone bridge, roofed throughout its entire length, crosses the bed of the river, which has very steep banks, but contains very little water. A double row of small cottages, in which silk-weavers live and ply their trade, lines this bridge, which I was surprised to see here, as its architecture seemed rather to appertain to my own country than to the East. During my whole journey I did not see a second bridge of this kind, either in Syria or Egypt.

The streets are all very dull and deserted, a fact which is rather remarkable in a town of 100,000 inhabitants. In most of the streets more dogs than men are to be seen. Not only in Constantinople, but almost in every Oriental town, vast numbers of these creatures run about in a wild state.

Here, as every where, some degree of bustle is to be found in the bazaars, particularly in those which are covered in. Beautiful and durable silk stuffs, the most valuable of which are kept in warehouses under lock and key, form the chief article of traffic. In the public bazaar we found nothing exposed for sale except provisions. Among these I remarked some small, very unpalatable cherries. Asia Minor is the fatherland of this fruit, but I did not find it in any degree of perfection either here or at Smyrna.

Brussa is peculiarly rich in cold springs, clear as crystal, which burst forth from Mount Olympus. The town is intersected in all directions by subterranean canals; in many streets, the ripple of the waters below can be distinctly heard, and every house is provided with wells and stone basins of the limpid element; in some of the bazaars we find a similar arrangement.

On a nearer approach, the appearance of Mount Olympus is not nearly so grand as when viewed from a distance. The mountain is surrounded by several small hills, which detract from the general effect.

The baths, distant about a mile from the town, are prettily and healthfully situated, and, moreover, abundantly supplied with mineral water. Many strangers resort thither to recruit their weakened frames.

The finest among these baths is called Jeni Caplidche. A lofty circular hall contains a great swimming bath of marble, above which rises a splendid cupola. A number of refracting glasses (six hundred, they told me) diffuse a magic light around.

Our journey back to Constantinople was not accomplished entirely without mishap. One of the gentlemen fell from his horse and broke his watch. The saddles and bridles of hired horses are here generally in such bad condition that there is every moment something to buckle or to cobble up. We were riding at a pretty round pace, when suddenly the girths burst, and the saddle and rider tumbled off together. I arrived without accident at my destination, although I had frequently been in danger of falling from my horse without its being necessary that the girth should break.

The gentlemen were satisfied with my performance, for I had never lagged behind, nor had they once been detained on my account. It was not until we were safely on board the ship that I told them how venturesome I had been, and what terror I had undergone.