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July 4th.

Damascus is one of the most ancient cities of the East, but yet we see no ruins; a proof that no grand buildings ever existed here, and that therefore the houses, as they became old and useless, were replaced by new ones.

To-day we visited the seat of all the riches the great bazaar. It is mostly covered in, but only with beams and straw mats. On both sides are rows of wooden booths, containing all kinds of articles, but a great preponderance of eatables, which are sold at an extraordinarily cheap rate. We found the “mish-mish” particularly good.

As in Constantinople, the rarest and most costly of the wares are not exposed for sale, but must be sought for in closed store-houses. The booths look like inferior hucksters’ shops, and each merchant is seen sitting in the midst of his goods. We passed hastily through the bazaar, in order soon to reach the great mosque, situate in the midst of it. As we were forbidden, however, not only to enter the mosque, but even the courtyard, we were obliged to content ourselves with wondering at the immense portals, and stealing furtive glances at the interior of the open space beyond. This mosque was originally a Christian church; and a legend tells that St. George was decapitated here.

The khan, also situate in the midst of the bazaar, is peculiarly fine, and is said to be the best in all the East. The high and boldly-arched portal is covered with marble, and enriched with beautiful sculptures. The interior forms a vast rotunda, surrounded by galleries, divided from each other, and furnished with writing-tables for the use of the merchants. Below in the hall the bales and chests are piled up, and at the side are apartments for travelling dealers. The greater portion of the floor and the walls is covered with marble.

Altogether, marble seems to be much sought after at Damascus. Every thing that passes for beautiful or valuable is either entirely composed of this stone, or at least is inlaid with it. Thus a pretty fountain in a little square near the bazaar is of marble; and a coffee-house opposite the fountain, the largest and most frequented of any in Damascus, is ornamented with a few small marble pillars. But all these buildings, not even excepting the great bathing-house, would be far less praised and looked at if they stood in a better neighbourhood. As the case is, however, they shine forth nobly from among the clay houses of Damascus.

In the afternoon we visited the Grotto of St. Paul, lying immediately outside the town. On the ramparts we were shewn the place where the apostle is said to have leaped from the wall on horseback, reaching the ground in safety, and taking refuge from his enemies in the neighbouring grotto, which is said to have closed behind him by miracle, and not to have opened again until his persecutors had ceased their pursuit. At present, nothing is to be seen of this grotto excepting a small stone archway, like that of a bridge. Tombs of modern date, consisting of vaults covered with large blocks of stone, are very numerous near this grotto.

We paid several more visits, and every where found great pomp of inner arrangement and decoration, varying of course in different houses. We were always served with coffee, sherbet, and argile; and in the houses of the Turks a dreary conversation was carried on through the medium of an interpreter.

Walks and places of amusement there are none. The number of Franks resident here is too small to call for a place of general recreation, and the Turk never feels a want of this kind. The most he does is to saunter slowly from the bath to the coffee-house, and there to kill his time with the help of a pipe and a cup of coffee, staring vacantly on the ground before him. Although the coffee-houses are more frequented than any other buildings in the East, they are often miserable sheds, being all small, and generally built only of wood.

The inhabitants of Damascus wear the usual Oriental garb, but as a rule I thought them better dressed than in any Eastern town. Some of the women are veiled, but others go abroad with their faces uncovered. I saw here some very attractive countenances; and an unusual number of lovely children’s heads looked at me from all sides with an inquisitive smile.

In reference to religious matters, these people seem very fanatical; they particularly dislike strangers. For instance, the painter S. wished to make sketches of the khan, the fountain, and a few other interesting objects or views. For this purpose he sat down before the great coffee-house to begin with the fountain; but scarcely had he opened his portfolio before a crowd of curious idlers had gathered around him, who, as soon as they saw his intention, began to annoy him in every possible way. They pushed the children who stood near against him, so that he received a shock every moment, and was hindered in his drawing. As he continued to work in spite of their rudeness, several Turks came and stood directly before the painter, to prevent him from seeing the fountain. On his still continuing to persevere, they began to spit upon him. It was now high time to be gone, and so Mr. S. hastily gathered his materials together and turned to depart. Then the rage of the rabble broke noisily forth. They followed the artist yelling and screaming, and a few even threw stones at him. Luckily he succeeded in reaching our convent unharmed.

Mr. S. had been allowed to draw without opposition at Constantinople, Brussa, Ephesus, and several other cities of the East, but here he was obliged to flee. Such is the disposition of these people, whom many describe as being so friendly.

The following morning at sunrise Mr. S. betook himself to the terrace of the convent, to make a sketch of the town. Here too he was discovered, but luckily not until he had been at work some hours, and had almost completed his task; so that as soon as the first stone came flying towards him, he was able quietly to evacuate the field.

July 5th.

In Damascus we met Count Zichy, who had arrived there with his servants a few days before ourselves, and intended continuing his journey to Balbeck to-day.

Count Zichy’s original intention had been to make an excursion from this place to the celebrated town of Palmyra, an undertaking which would have occupied ten days. He therefore applied to the pacha for a sufficient escort for his excursion. This request was, however, refused; the pacha observing, that he had ceased for some time to allow travellers to undertake this dangerous journey, as until now all strangers had been plundered by the wandering Arabs, and in some instances men had even been murdered. The pacha added, that it was not in his power to furnish so large an escort as would be required to render this journey safe, by enabling the travellers to resist all aggressions. After receiving this answer, Count Zichy communicated with some Bedouin chiefs, who could not guarantee a safe journey, but nevertheless required 6000 piastres for accompanying him. Thus it became necessary to give up the idea altogether, and to proceed instead to Balbeck and to the heights of Lebanon.

At the hour of noon we rode out of the gate of Damascus in company with Count Zichy. The thermometer stood at 40 degrees Reaumur. Our procession presented quite a splendid appearance; for the pacha had sent a guard of honour to escort the Count to Balbeck, to testify his respect for a relation of Prince M –.

At first our way led through a portion of the bazaar; afterwards we reached a large and splendid street which traverses the entire city, and is said to be more than four miles in length. It is so broad, that three carriages can pass each other with ease, without annoyance to the pedestrians. It is a pity that this street, which is probably the finest in the whole kingdom, should be so little used, for carriages are not seen here any more than in the remaining portion of Syria.

Scarcely have we quitted this road, before we are riding through gardens and meadows, among which the country-houses of the citizens lie scattered here and there. On this side of the city springs also gush forth and water the fresh groves and the grassy sward. A stone bridge, of very simple construction, led us across the largest stream in the neighbourhood, the Barada, which is, however, neither so broad nor so full of water as the Jordan.

But soon we had left these smiling scenes behind us, and were wending our way towards the lonely desert. We passed several sepulchres, a number of which lie scattered over the sandy hills and plains round us. On the summit of one of these hills a little monument was pointed out to us, with the assertion that it was the grave of Abraham. We now rode for hours over flats, hills, and ridges of sand and loose stones; and this day’s journey was as fatiguing as that of our arrival at Damascus. From twelve o’clock at noon until about five in the evening we continued our journey through this wilderness, suffering lamentably from the heat. But now the wilderness was passed; and suddenly a picture so lovely and grand unfolded itself before our gaze, that we could have fancied ourselves transported to the romantic vales of Switzerland. A valley enriched with every charm of nature, and shut in by gigantic rocks of marvellous and fantastic forms, opened at our feet. A mountain torrent gushed from rock to rock, foaming and chafing among mighty blocks of stone, which, hurled from above, had here found their resting-place. A natural rocky bridge led across the roaring flood. Many a friendly hut, the inhabitants of which looked forth with stealthy curiosity upon the strange visitors, lay half hidden between the lofty walls. And so our way continued; valley lay bordered on valley, and the little river which ran bubbling by the roadside led us past gardens and villages, through a region of surpassing loveliness, to the great village of Zabdeni, where we at length halted, after an uninterrupted ride of ten hours and a half.

The escort which accompanied us consisted of twelve men, with a superior and a petty officer. These troopers looked very picturesque when, as we travelled along the level road, they went through some small manoeuvres for our amusement, rushing along on their swift steeds and attacking each other, one party flying across the plain, and the other pursuing them as victors.

The character of these children of nature is, on the whole, a very amiable one. They behaved towards us in an exceedingly friendly and courteous manner, bringing us fruit and water whenever they could procure them, leading us carefully by the safest roads, and shewing us as much attention as any European could have done. But their idea of mine and thine does not always appear to be very clearly defined. Once, for instance, we passed through fields in which grew a plant resembling our pea, on a reduced scale. Each plant contained several pods, and each pod two peas. Our escort picked a large quantity, ate the fruit with an appearance of great relish, and very politely gave us a share of their prize. I found these peas less tender and eatable than those of my own country, and returned them to the soldier who had offered them to me, observing at the same time that I would rather have had mish-mish. On hearing this he immediately galloped off, and shortly afterwards returned with a whole cargo of mish-mish and little apples, which had probably been borrowed for an indefinite period from one of the neighbouring gardens. I mention these little circumstances, as they appeared to me to be characteristic. On the one hand, Mr. S. had been threatened with the fate of St. Stephen for wishing to make a few sketches; and yet, on the other, these people were so kind and so ready to oblige.

This region produces abundance of fruit, and is particularly rich in mish-mish, or apricots. The finest of these are dried; while those which are over-ripe, or half decayed, are boiled to a pulp in large pots, and afterwards spread to dry on long smooth boards, in the form of cakes, about half an inch in thickness. These cakes, which look like coarse brown leather, are afterwards folded up, and form, together with the dried mish-mish, a staple article of commerce, which is exported far and wide. In Constantinople, and even in Servia, I saw cakes of this description which came from these parts.

The Turks are particularly fond of taking this dried pulp with them on their journeys. They cut it into little pieces, which they afterwards leave for several hours in a cup of water to dissolve; it then forms a really aromatic and refreshing drink, which they partake of with bread.

From Damascus to Balbeck is a ride of eighteen hours. Count Zichy wished to be in Balbeck by the next day at noon; we therefore had but a short night’s rest.

The night was so mild and beautiful, that we did not want the tents at all, but lay down on the bank of a streamlet, beneath the shade of a large tree. For a long time sleep refused to visit us, for our encampment was opposite to a coffee-house, where a great hubbub was kept up until a very late hour. Small caravans were continually arriving or departing, and so there was no chance of rest. At length we dropped quietly asleep from very weariness, to be awakened a few hours afterwards to start once more on our arduous journey.

July 6th.

We rode without halting for eight hours, sometimes through pleasant valleys, at others over barren unvarying regions, upon and between the heights of the Anti-Libanus. At the hour of noon we reached the last hill, and

Heliopolis or Balbeck,

the “city of the sun,” lay stretched before us.

We entered a valley shut in by the highest snow-covered peaks of Lebanon and Anti-Libanus, more than six miles in breadth and fourteen or sixteen miles long, belonging to Caelosyria. Many travellers praise this vale as one of the most beautiful in all Syria.

It certainly deserves the title of the ‘most remarkable’ valley, for excepting at Thebes and Palmyra we may search in vain for the grand antique ruins which are here met with; the title of the ’most beautiful’ does not, according to my idea, appertain to it. The mountains around are desert and bare. The immeasurable plain is sparingly cultivated, and still more thinly peopled. With the exception of the town of Balbeck, which has arisen from the ruins of the ancient city, not a village nor a hut is to be seen. The corn, which still partly covered the fields, looked stunted and poor; the beds of the streams were dry, and the grass was burnt up. The majestic ruins, which become visible directly the brow of the last hill is gained, atone in a measure for these drawbacks; but we were not satisfied, for we had expected to see much more than met our gaze.

We wended our way along stony paths, past several quarries, towards the ruins. On reaching these quarries we dismounted, to obtain a closer view of them. In the right hand one lies a colossal block of stone, cut and shaped on all sides; it is sixty feet in length, eighteen in breadth, and thirteen in diameter. This giant block was probably intended to form part of the Cyclops wall surrounding the Temple of the Sun, for we afterwards noticed several stones of equal length and breadth among the ruins. Another to the left side of the road was remarkable for several grottoes and fragments of rock picturesquely grouped.

We had sent our horses on to the convent, and now hastened towards the ruined temples. At the foot of a little acclivity a wall rose lofty and majestic; it was constructed of colossal blocks of rock, which seemed to rest firmly upon each other by their own weight, without requiring the aid of mortar. Three of these stones were exactly the size of one we had seen in the quarry. Many appeared to be sixty feet in length, and broad and thick in proportion. This is the Cyclops wall surrounding the hill on which the temples stand. A difficult path, over piled-up fragments of marble and pieces of rock and rubbish, serves as a natural rampart against the intrusion of camels and horses; and this circumstance alone has prevented these sanctuaries of the heathen deities from being converted into dirty stables.

When we had once passed this obstruction, delight and wonder arrested our footsteps. For some moments our glances wandered irresolutely from point to point; we could fix our attention on nothing, so great was the number of beauties surrounding us: splendid architecture arches rising boldly into the air, supported on lofty pillars every thing wore an air so severely classic, and yet all was gorgeously elegant, and at the same time perfectly tasteful.

At first we reviewed every thing in a very hasty manner, for our impulse hurried us along, and we wished to take in every thing at one glance. Afterwards we began a new and a more deliberate survey.

As we enter a large open courtyard, our eye is caught by numerous pieces of marble and fragments of columns, some of the latter resting on tastefully sculptured plinths. Almost every thing here is prostrate, covered with rubbish and broken fragments, but yet all looks grand and majestic in its ruin. We next enter a second and a larger courtyard, above two hundred paces in length and about a hundred in breadth. Round the walls are niches cut in marble, and ornamented with the prettiest arabesques. These niches were probably occupied in former times by statues of the numerous heathen gods. Behind these are little cells, the dwellings of the priests; and in the foreground rise six Corinthian pillars, the only trace left of the great Temple of the Sun. These six pillars, which have hitherto bid defiance to time, devastation, and earthquakes, are supposed to be the loftiest and most magnificent in the world. Nearly seventy feet in height, each pillar a rocky colossus, resting on a basement twenty-seven feet high, covered with excellent workmanship, a masterpiece of ancient architecture, they tower above the Cyclops wall, and look far away into the distance giant monuments of the hoary past.

How vast thus temple must originally have been is shewn by the remaining pedestals, from which the pillars have fallen, and lay strewed around in weather-stained fragments. I counted twenty such pedestals along the length of the temple, and ten across its breadth.

The lesser temple, separated from the greater merely by a wall, lies deeper and more sheltered from the wind and weather; consequently it is in better preservation. A covered hall, resting on pillars fifty feet in height, leads round this temple. Statues of gods and heroes, beautifully sculptured in marble, and surrounded by arabesques, deck the lofty arches of this corridor. The pillars consist of three pieces fastened together with such amazing strength, that when the last earthquake threw down a column it did not break, but fell with its top buried in the earth, where it is seen leaning its majestic height against a hill.

From this hall we pass through a splendid portal into the interior of the little sanctuary. An eagle with outspread wings overshadows the upper part of the gate, which is thirty feet in height by twenty in breadth. The two sides are enriched with small figures prettily executed, in a tastefully-carved border of flowers, fruit, ears of corn, and arabesques. This portal is in very good preservation, excepting that the keystone has slipped from its place, and hangs threateningly over the entrance, to the terror of all who pass beneath. But we entered and afterwards returned unhurt, and many will yet pass unharmed like ourselves beneath the loose stone. We shall have returned to dust, while the pendent mass will still see generation after generation roll on.

This lesser temple would not look small by any means, were it not for its colossal neighbour. On one side nine, and on the other six pillars are still erect, besides several pedestals from which the pillars have fallen. Walls, niches, every thing around us, in fact, is of marble, enriched with sculptured work of every kind. The sanctuary of the Sun is separated from the nave of the temple by a row of pillars, most of them prostrate.

To judge from what remains of both these temples, they must originally have been decorated with profuse splendour. The costliest statues and bas-reliefs, sculptured in a stone resembling marble, once filled the niches and halls, and the remains of tasteful ornaments and arabesques bear witness to the luxury which once existed here. The only fault seems to have been a redundancy of decoration.

A subterranean vaulted passage, two hundred and fifty paces in length and thirty in breadth, traverses this temple. In the midst of this walk a colossal head is hewn out of the rocky ceiling representing probably some hero of antiquity. This place is now converted into a stable for horses and camels!

The little brook Litany winds round the foot of the hill on which these ruins stand.

We had been cautioned at Damascus to abstain from wandering alone among these temples; but our interest in all we saw was so great that we forgot the warning and our fears, and hastened to and fro without the least protection. We spent several hours here, exploring every corner, and meeting no one but a few curious inhabitants, who wished to see the newly-arrived Franks. Herr S. even wandered through the ruins at night quite alone, without meeting with an adventure of any kind.

I am almost inclined to think that travellers sometimes detail attacks by robbers, and dangers which they have not experienced, in order to render their narrative more interesting. My journey was a very long one through very dangerous regions; on some occasions I travelled alone with only one Arab servant, and yet nothing serious ever happened to me.

Heliopolis is in such a ruined state, that no estimate can be formed of the pristine size and splendour of this celebrated town. Excepting the two temples of the Sun, and a very small building in their vicinity, built in a circular form and richly covered with sculpture and arabesques, and a few broken pillars, not a trace of the ancient city remains.

The present town of Balbeck is partly built on the site occupied by its predecessor; it lies to the right of the temples, and consists of a heap of small wretched-looking houses and huts. The largest buildings in the place are the convent and the barracks; the latter of these presents an exceedingly ridiculous appearance; fragments of ancient pillars, statues, friezes, etc. having been collected from all sides, and put together to form a modern building according to Turkish notions of taste.

We were received into the convent, but could command no further accommodation than an empty room and a few straw mats. Our attendant brought us pilau, the every-day dish of the East; but to-day he surprised us with a boiled fowl, buried beneath a heap of the Turkish fare. Count Zichy added a few bottles of excellent wine from Lebanon to the feast; and so we sat down to dinner without tables or chairs, as merry as mortals need desire to be.

Here, as in most other Eastern towns, I had only to step out on the terrace-roof of the house to cause a crowd of old and young to collect, eager to see a Frankish woman in the costume of her country. Whoever wishes to create a sensation, without possessing either genius or talent, has only to betake himself, without loss of time, to the East, and he will have his ambition gratified to the fullest extent. But whoever has as great an objection to being stared at as I have, will easily understand that I reckoned this among the greatest inconveniences of my journey.

July 7th.

At five o’clock in the morning we again mounted our horses, and rode for three hours through an immense plain, where nothing was to be seen but scattered columns, towards the foremost promontories of the Lebanon range. The road towards the heights was sufficiently good and easy; we were little disturbed by the heat, and brooks caused by the thawing of snow-fields afforded us most grateful refreshment. In the middle of the day we took an hour’s nap under the shady trees beside a gushing stream; then we proceeded to climb the heights. As we journeyed onwards the trees became fewer and farther between, until at length no soil was left in which they could grow.

The way was so confined by chasms and abysses on the one side, and walls of rock on the other, that there was scarcely room for a horse to pass. Suddenly a loud voice before us cried, “Halt!” Startled by the sound, we looked up to find that the call came from a soldier, who was escorting a woman afflicted with the plague from a village where she had been the first victim of the terrible disease to another where it was raging fearfully. It was impossible to turn aside; so the soldier had no resource but to drag the sick person some paces up the steep rocky wall, and then we had to pass close by her. The soldier called out to us to cover our mouths and noses. He himself had anointed the lower part of his face with tar, as a preventive against contagion.

This was the first plague-stricken person I had seen; and as we were compelled to pass close by her, I had an opportunity of observing the unfortunate creature closely. She was bound on an ass, appeared resigned to her fate, and turned her sunken eyes upon us with an aspect of indifference. I could see no trace of the terrible disease, except a yellow appearance of the face. The soldier who accompanied her seemed as cool and indifferent as though he were walking beside a person in perfect health.

As the plague prevailed to a considerable extent throughout the valleys of the Lebanon, we were frequently obliged to go some distance out of our way to avoid the villages afflicted with the scourge; we usually encamped for the night in the open fields, far from any habitation.

On the whole long distance from Balbeck to the cedars of Lebanon we found not a human habitation, excepting a little shepherd’s hut near the mountains. Not more than a mile and a half from the heights we came upon small fields of snow. Several of our attendants dismounted and began a snow-balling match, a wintry scene which reminded me of my fatherland. Although we were travelling on snow, the temperature was so mild that not one of our party put on a cloak. We could not imagine how it was possible for snow to exist in such a high temperature. The thermometer stood at 9 degrees Reaumur.

A fatiguing and dangerous ride of five hours at length brought us from the foot to the highest point of Mount Lebanon. Here, for the first time, we can see the magnitude and the peculiar construction of the range.

Steep walls of rock, with isolated villages scattered here and there like beehives, and built on natural rocky terraces, rise on all sides; deep valleys lie between, contrasting beautifully in their verdant freshness with the bare rocky barriers. Farther on lie stretched elevated plateaux, with cows and goats feeding at intervals; and in the remote distance glitters a mighty stripe of bluish-green, encircling the landscape like a broad girdle this is the Mediterranean. On the flat extended coast several places can be distinguished, among which the most remarkable is Tripoli. On the right the “Grove of Cedars” lay at our feet.

For a long time we stood on this spot, and turned and turned again, for fear of losing any part of this gigantic panorama. On one side the mountain-range, with its valleys, rocks, and gorges; on the other the immense plain of Caelosyria, on the verge of which the ruins of the Sun-temple were visible, glittering in the noontide rays. Then we climbed downwards and upwards, then downwards once more, through ravines and over rocks, along a frightful path, to a little grove of the far-famed cedars of Lebanon. In this direction the peculiar pointed formation which constitutes the principal charm of these mountains once more predominates.

The celebrated Grove of Cedars is distant about two miles and a half from the summit of Lebanon; it consists of between five and six hundred trees: about twenty of these are very aged, and five peculiarly large and fine specimens are said to have existed in the days of Solomon. One tree is more than twenty-five feet in circumference; at about five feet from the ground it divides into four portions, and forms as many good-sized trunks.

For more than an hour we rested beneath these ancient monuments of the vegetable world. The setting sun warned us to depart speedily; for our destination for the night was above three miles away, and it was not prudent to travel on these fearful paths in the darkness.

Our party here separated. Count Zichy proceeded with his attendants to Huma, while the rest of us bent our course towards Tripoli. After a hearty leave-taking, one company turned to the right and the other to the left.

We had hardly held on our way for half an hour, before one of the loveliest valleys I have ever beheld opened at our feet; immense and lofty walls of rock, of the most varied and fantastic shapes, surrounded this fairy vale on all sides: in the foreground rose a gigantic table-rock, on which was built a beautiful village, with a church smiling in the midst. Suddenly the sound of chimes was borne upwards towards us on the still clear air; they were the first I had heard in Syria. I cannot describe the feeling of delicious emotion this familiar sound caused in me. The Turkish government every where prohibits the ringing of bells; but here on the mountains, among the free Maronites, every thing is free. The sound of church-bells is a simple earnest music for Christian ears, too intimately associated with the usages of our religion to be heard with indifference. Here, so far from my native country, they appeared like links in the mysterious chain which binds the Christians of all countries in one unity. I felt, as it were, nearer to my hearth and to my dear ones, who were, perhaps, at the same moment listening to similar sounds, and thinking of the distant wanderer.

The road leading into this valley was fearfully steep. We were obliged to make a considerable detour round the lovely village of Bscharai; for the plague was raging there, which made it forbidden ground for us. Some distance beyond the village we pitched our camp beside a small stream. This night we suffered much from cold and damp.

The inhabitants of Bscharai paid us a visit for the purpose of demanding backsheesh. We had considerable difficulty in getting rid of them, and were obliged almost to beat them off with sticks to escape from their contagious touch.

The practice of begging is universal in the East. So soon as an inhabitant comes in sight, he is sure to be holding out his hand. In those parts where poverty is every where apparent, we cannot wonder at this importunity; but we are justly surprised when we find it in these fruitful valleys, which offer every thing that man can require; where the inhabitants are well clothed, and where their stone dwellings look cheerful and commodious; where corn, the grape-vine, the fig and mulberry tree, and even the valuable potato-plant, which cannot flourish throughout the greater part of Syria on account of the heat and the stony soil, are found in abundance. Every spot of earth is carefully cultivated and turned to the best account, so that I could have fancied myself among the industrious German peasantry; and yet these free people beg and steal quite as much as the Bedouins and Arabs. We were obliged to keep a sharp watch on every thing. My riding-whip was stolen almost before my very eyes, and one of the gentlemen had his pocket picked of his handkerchief.

Our march to-day had been very fatiguing; we had ridden for eleven hours, and the greater part of the road had been very bad. The night brought us but little relaxation, for our cloaks did not sufficiently protect us from the cold.