ACROSS ASIA ON A BICYCLE
ACROSS ASIA ON A BICYCLE
THE JOURNEY OF TWO AMERICAN STUDENTS FROM CONSTANTINOPLE TO PEKING
BY THOMAS GASKELL ALLEN, JR. AND WILLIAM LEWIS SACHTLEBEN
NEW YORK THE CENTURY CO. 1894
Copyright, 1894, by THE CENTURY CO.
All rights reserved.
THE DEVINNE PRESS.
THOSE AT HOME
WHOSE THOUGHTS AND WISHES WERE EVER WITH US IN OUR WANDERINGS
This volume is made up of a series of sketches describing the most interesting part of a bicycle journey around the world,—our ride across Asia. We were actuated by no desire to make a "record" in bicycle travel, although we covered 15,044 miles on the wheel, the longest continuous land journey ever made around the world.
The day after we were graduated at Washington University, St. Louis, Mo., we left for New York. Thence we sailed for Liverpool on June 23, 1890. Just three years afterward, lacking twenty days, we rolled into New York on our wheels, having "put a girdle round the earth."
Our bicycling experience began at Liverpool. After following many of the beaten lines of travel in the British Isles we arrived in London, where we formed our plans for traveling across Europe, Asia, and America. The most dangerous regions to be traversed in such a journey, we were told, were western China, the Desert of Gobi, and central China. Never since the days of Marco Polo had a European traveler succeeded in crossing the Chinese empire from the west to Peking.
Crossing the Channel, we rode through Normandy to Paris, across the lowlands of western France to Bordeaux, eastward over the Lesser Alps to Marseilles, and along the Riviera into Italy. After visiting every important city on the peninsula, we left Italy at Brindisi on the last day of 1890 for Corfu, in Greece. Thence we traveled to Patras, proceeding along the Corinthian Gulf to Athens, where we passed the winter. We went to Constantinople by vessel in the spring, crossed the Bosporus in April, and began the long journey described in the following pages. When we had finally completed our travels in the Flowery Kingdom, we sailed from Shanghai for Japan. Thence we voyaged to San Francisco, where we arrived on Christmas night, 1892. Three weeks later we resumed our bicycles and wheeled by way of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas to New York.
During all of this journey we never employed the services of guides or interpreters. We were compelled, therefore, to learn a little of the language of every country through which we passed. Our independence in this regard increased, perhaps, the hardships of the journey, but certainly contributed much toward the object we sought—a close acquaintance with strange peoples.
During our travels we took more than two thousand five hundred photographs, selections from which are reproduced in the illustrations of this volume.
PAGE I. BEYOND THE BOSPORUS 1 II. THE ASCENT OF MOUNT ARARAT 43 III. THROUGH PERSIA TO SAMARKAND 83 IV. THE JOURNEY FROM SAMARKAND TO KULDJA 115 V. OVER THE GOBI DESERT AND THROUGH THE WESTERN GATE 149 OF THE GREAT WALL VI. AN INTERVIEW WITH THE PRIME MINISTER OF CHINA 207
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
THROUGH WESTERN CHINA IN LIGHT MARCHING ORDER. [Frontispiece] BICYCLE ROUTE OF Messrs. Allen & Sachtleben ACROSS ASIA. [p. 4 and 5] THE DONKEY BOYS INSPECT THE 'DEVIL'S CARRIAGE.' [p. 6] HELPING A TURK WHOSE HORSES RAN AWAY AT SIGHT OF OUR BICYCLES. [p. 8] AN ANGORA SHEPHERD. [p. 9] 1, THE ENGLISH CONSUL AT ANGORA FEEDING HIS PETS; 2, PASSING A CARAVAN OF CAMELS; 3, PLOWING IN ASIA MINOR. [p. 11] A CONTRAST. [p. 12] A TURKISH FLOUR-MILL. [p. 13] MILL IN ASIA MINOR. [p. 15] GIPSIES OF ASIA MINOR. [p. 16] SCENE AT A GREEK INN. [p. 19] EATING KAISERICHEN (EKMEK) OR BREAD. [p. 20] GRINDING WHEAT. [p. 21] A TURKISH (HAMAAL) OR CARRIER. [p. 22] TURKISH WOMEN GOING TO PRAYERS IN KAISARIEH. [p. 23] THE 'FLIRTING TOWER' IN SIVAS. [p. 25] HOUSE OF THE AMERICAN CONSUL IN SIVAS. [p. 26] ARABS CONVERSING WITH A TURK. [p. 29] A KADI EXPOUNDING THE KORAN. [p. 30] EVENING HALT IN A VILLAGE. [p. 32] PRIMITIVE WEAVING. [p. 33] A FERRY IN ASIA MINOR. [p. 38] A VILLAGE SCENE. [p. 40] [Rural scene without caption.] [p. 42] WHERE THE 'ZAPTIEHS' WERE NOT A NUISANCE. [p. 50] READY FOR THE START. [p. 53] PARLEYING WITH THE KURDISH PARTY AT THE SPRING. [p. 56] THE KURDISH ENCAMPMENT. [p. 59] OUR GUARDS SIT DOWN TO DISCUSS THE SITUATION. [p. 65] HELPING THE DONKEYS OVER A SNOW-FIELD. [p. 67] LITTLE ARARAT COMES INTO VIEW. [p. 69] THE WALL INCLOSURE FOR OUR BIVOUAC AT ELEVEN THOUSAND FEET. [p. 72] NEARING THE HEAD OF THE GREAT CHASM. [p. 74] ON THE SUMMIT OF MOUNT ARARAT—FIRING THE FOURTH OF JULY SALUTE. [p. 78] HARVEST SCENE NEAR KHOI. [p. 84] LEAVING KHOI. [p. 86] YARD OF CARAVANSARY AT TABREEZ. [p. 88] LUMBER-YARD AT TABREEZ. [p. 88] THE CONVEYANCE OF A PERSIAN OFFICIAL TRAVELING IN DISGRACE TO TEHERAN AT THE CALL OF THE SHAH. [p. 91] A PERSIAN REPAIRING THE WHEELS OF HIS WAGON. [p. 94] LEAVING TEHERAN FOR MESHED. [p. 96] IN A PERSIAN GRAVEYARD. [p. 98] PILGRIMS IN THE CARAVANSARY. [p. 99] A PERSIAN WINE-PRESS. [p. 100] CASTLE STRONGHOLD AT LASGIRD. [p. 102] PILGRIM STONE HEAPS OVERLOOKING MESHED. [p. 104] RIDING BEFORE THE GOVERNOR AT MESHED. [p. 105] FEMALE PILGRIMS ON THE ROAD TO MESHED. [p. 106] IN THE GARDEN OF THE RUSSIAN CONSULATE AT MESHED. [p. 107] WATCH-TOWER ON THE TRANSCASPIAN RAILWAY. [p. 108] GIVING A 'SILENT PILGRIM' A ROLL TOWARD MESHED. [p. 109] AN INTERVIEW WITH GENERAL KUROPATKINE AT THE RACES NEAR ASKABAD. [p. 111] MOSQUE CONTAINING THE TOMB OF TAMERLANE AT SAMARKAND. [p. 112] CARAVANSARY AT FAKIDAOUD. [p. 113] A MARKET-PLACE IN SAMARKAND, AND THE RUINS OF A COLLEGE. [p. 114] A RELIGIOUS DRAMA IN SAMARKAND. [p. 116] OUR FERRY OVER THE ZERAFSHAN. [p. 118] PALACE OF THE CZAR'S NEPHEW, TASHKEND. [p. 121] A SART RESCUING HIS CHILDREN FROM THE CAMERA OF THE 'FOREIGN DEVILS.' [p. 123] VIEW OF CHIMKEND FROM THE CITADEL. [p. 125] ON THE ROAD BETWEEN CHIMKEND AND VERNOYE. [p. 129] UPPER VALLEY OF THE CHU RIVER. [p. 132] KIRGHIZ ERECTING KIBITKAS BY THE CHU RIVER. [p. 134] FANTASTIC RIDING AT THE SUMMER ENCAMPMENT OF THE COSSACKS. [p. 138] STROLLING MUSICIANS. [p. 141] THE CUSTOM-HOUSE AT KULDJA. [p. 143] THE CHINESE MILITARY COMMANDER OF KULDJA. [p. 145] TWO CATHOLIC MISSIONARIES IN THE YARD OF OUR KULDJA INN. [p. 146] A MORNING PROMENADE ON THE WALLS OF KULDJA. [p. 148] THE FORMER MILITARY COMMANDER OF KULDJA AND HIS FAMILY. [p. 151] VIEW OF A STREET IN KULDJA FROM THE WESTERN GATE. [p. 153] OUR RUSSIAN FRIEND AND MR. SACHTLEBEN LOADED WITH ENOUGH CHINESE 'CASH' TO PAY FOR A MEAL AT A KULDJA RESTAURANT. [p. 155] A STREET IN THE TARANTCHI QUARTER OF KULDJA. [p. 158] PRACTISING OUR CHINESE ON A KULDJA CULPRIT. [p. 160] THE HEAD OF A BRIGAND EXPOSED ON THE HIGHWAY. [p. 161] A CHINESE GRAVEYARD ON THE EASTERN OUTSKIRTS OF KULDJA. [p. 163] SPLITTING POPPY-HEADS TO START THE OPIUM JUICE. [p. 165] THE CHIEF OF THE CUSTOM-HOUSE GIVES A LESSON IN OPIUM SMOKING. [p. 167] RIDING BEFORE THE GOVERNOR OF MANAS. [p. 168] MONUMENT TO A PRIEST AT URUMTSI. [p. 170] A BANK IN URUMTSI. [p. 171] A MAID OF WESTERN CHINA. [p. 173] STYLISH CART OF A CHINESE MANDARIN. [p. 174] A CHINESE PEDDLER FROM BARKUL. [p. 176] CHINESE GRAVES ON THE ROAD TO HAMI. [p. 178] SCENE IN A TOWN OF WESTERN CHINA. [p. 179] A LESSON IN CHINESE. [p. 180] A TRAIL IN THE GOBI DESERT. [p. 182] IN THE GOBI DESERT. [p. 183] STATION OF SEB-BOO-TCHAN. [p. 185] A ROCKY PASS IN THE MOUNTAINS OF THE GOBI. [p. 187] A WASTE OF BLACK SAND IN THE GOBI. [p. 188] A ROAD MARK IN THE GOBI DESERT. [p. 189] WITHIN THE WESTERN GATE OF THE GREAT WALL. [p. 191] RIDING BY THE GREAT WALL ON THE ROAD TO SU-CHOU. [p. 193] A TYPICAL RECEPTION IN A CHINESE TOWN. [p. 196] A CHINAMAN'S WHEELBARROW. [p. 199] MONUMENT TO THE BUILDER OF A BRIDGE. [p. 201] TWO PAGODAS AT LAN-CHOU-FOO. [p. 203] MISSIONARIES AT LAN-CHOU-FOO. [p. 205] LI-HUNG-CHANG. [p. 206] OPIUM-SMOKERS IN A STREET OF TAI-YUEN-FOO. [p. 209] MISSIONARIES AT TAI-YUEN-FOO. [p. 210] ENTERING TONG-QUAN BY THE WEST GATE. [p. 211] MONUMENTS NEAR ONE-SHE-CHIEN. [p. 212] MONUMENT NEAR CHANG-SHIN-DIEN. [p. 215] ON THE PEI-HO. [p. 217] A CHINAMAN SCULLING ON THE PEI-HO. [p. 218] SALT HEAPS AT THE GOVERNMENT WORKS AT TONG-KU. [p. 220] WINDMILLS AT TONG-KU FOR RAISING SALT WATER. [p. 221] FURNACE FOR BURNING WASTE PAPER BEARING WRITTEN CHARACTERS. [p. 225] MR. LIANG, EDUCATED IN THE UNITED STATES, NOW IN THE SHIPPING BUSINESS. [p. 228] A CHINESE SEEDING-DRILL. [p. 230] A CHINESE BRIDE. [p. 233]
ACROSS ASIA ON A BICYCLE
ACROSS ASIA ON A BICYCLE
THE JOURNEY OF TWO AMERICAN STUDENTS FROM CONSTANTINOPLE TO PEKING
BEYOND THE BOSPORUS
On a morning early in April the little steamer conveying us across from Stamboul touched the wharf at Haider Pasha. Amid the rabble of Greeks, Armenians, Turks, and Italians we trundled our bicycles across the gang-plank, which for us was the threshold of Asia, the beginning of an inland journey of seven thousand miles from the Bosporus to the Pacific. Through the morning fog which enveloped the shipping in the Golden Horn, the "stars and stripes" at a single masthead were waving farewell to two American students fresh from college who had nerved themselves for nearly two years of separation from the comforts of western civilization.
Our guide to the road to Ismid was the little twelve-year-old son of an Armenian doctor, whose guests we had been during our sojourn in Stamboul. He trotted for some distance by our side, and then, pressing our hands in both of his, he said with childlike sincerity: "I hope God will take care of you"; for he was possessed with the thought popular among Armenians, of pillages and massacres by marauding brigands.
The idea of a trip around the world had been conceived by us as a practical finish to a theoretical education; and the bicycle feature was adopted merely as a means to that end. On reaching London we had formed the plan of penetrating the heart of the Asiatic continent, instead of skirting its more civilized coast-line. For a passport and other credentials necessary in journeying through Russia and Central Asia we had been advised to make application to the Czar's representative on our arrival at Teheran, as we would enter the Russian dominions from Persia; and to that end the Russian minister in London had provided us with a letter of introduction. In London the secretary of the Chinese legation, a Scotchman, had assisted us in mapping out a possible route across the Celestial empire, although he endeavored, from the very start, to dissuade us from our purpose. Application had then been made to the Chinese minister himself for the necessary passport. The reply we received, though courteous, smacked strongly of reproof. "Western China," he said, "is overrun with lawless bands, and the people themselves are very much averse to foreigners. Your extraordinary mode of locomotion would subject you to annoyance, if not to positive danger, at the hands of a people who are naturally curious and superstitious. However," he added, after some reflection, "if your minister makes a request for a passport we will see what can be done. The most I can do will be to ask for you the protection and assistance of the officials only; for the people themselves I cannot answer. If you go into that country you do so at your own risk." Minister Lincoln was sitting in his private office when we called the next morning at the American legation. He listened to the recital of our plans, got down the huge atlas from his bookcase, and went over with us the route we proposed to follow. He did not regard the undertaking as feasible, and apprehended that, if he should give his official assistance, he would, in a measure, be responsible for the result if it should prove unhappy. When assured of the consent of our parents, and of our determination to make the attempt at all hazards, he picked up his pen and began a letter to the Chinese minister, remarking as he finished reading it to us, "I would much rather not have written it." The documents received from the Chinese minister in response to Mr. Lincoln's letter proved to be indispensable when, a year and a half later, we left the last outpost of western civilization and plunged into the Gobi desert. When we had paid a final visit to the Persian minister in London, who had asked to see our bicycles and their baggage equipments, he signified his intention of writing in our behalf to friends in Teheran; and to that capital, after cycling through Europe, we were now actually en route.
Since the opening of the Trans-Bosporus Railway, the wagon-road to Ismid, and even the Angora military highway beyond, have fallen rapidly into disrepair. In April they were almost impassable for the wheel, so that for the greater part of the way we were obliged to take to the track. Like the railway skirting the Italian Riviera, and the Patras-Athens line along the Saronic Gulf, this Trans-Bosporus road for a great distance scarps and tunnels the cliffs along the Gulf of Ismid, and sometimes runs so close to the water's edge that the puffing of the kara vapor or "land steamer," as the Turks call it, is drowned by the roaring breakers. The country between Scutari and Ismid surpasses in agricultural advantages any part of Asiatic Turkey through which we passed. Its fertile soil, and the luxuriant vegetation it supports, are, as we afterward learned, in striking contrast with the sterile plateaus and mountains of the interior, many parts of which are as desolate as the deserts of Arabia. In area, Asia Minor equals France, but the water-supply of its rivers is only one third.
One of the principal agents in the work of transforming Asia Minor is the railroad, to which the natives have taken with unusual readiness. The locomotive is already competing with the hundred and sixty thousand camels employed in the peninsula caravan-trade. At Geiveh, the last station on the Trans-Bosporus Railway, where we left the track to follow the Angora highway, the "ships of the desert" are beginning to transfer their cargoes to the "land steamer," instead of continuing on as in former days to the Bosporus.
The Trans-Bosporus line, in the year of our visit, was being built and operated by a German company, under the direct patronage of the Sultan. We ventured to ask some natives if they thought the Sultan had sufficient funds to consummate so gigantic a scheme, and they replied, with the deepest reverence: "God has given the Padishah much property and power, and certainly he must give him enough money to utilize it."
A week's cycling from the Bosporus brought us beyond the Allah Dagh mountains, among the barren, variegated hills that skirt the Angora plateau. We had already passed through Ismid, the ancient Nicomedia and capital of Diocletian; and had left behind us the heavily timbered valley of the Sakaria, upon whose banks the "Freebooter of the Bithynian hills" settled with his four hundred tents and laid the foundation of the Ottoman empire. Since leaving Geiveh we had been attended by a mounted guard, or zaptieh, who was sometimes forced upon us by the authorities in their anxiety to carry out the wishes expressed in the letters of the Grand Vizir. On emerging from the door of an inn we frequently found this unexpected guard waiting with a Winchester rifle swung over his shoulder, and a fleet steed standing by his side. Immediately on our appearance he would swing into the saddle and charge through the assembled rabble. Away we would go at a rapid pace down the streets of the town or village, to the utter amazement of the natives and the great satisfaction of our vainglorious zaptieh. As long as his horse was fresh, or until we were out of sight of the village, he would urge us on with cries of "Gellcha-buk" ("Come on, ride fast"). When a bad piece of road or a steep ascent forced us to dismount he would bring his horse to a walk, roll a cigarette, and draw invidious comparisons between our steeds. His tone, however, changed when we reached a decline or long stretch of reasonably good road. Then he would cut across country to head us off, or shout after us at the top of his voice, "Yavash-yavash" ("Slowly, slowly"). On the whole we found them good-natured and companionable fellows, notwithstanding their interest in baksheesh which we were compelled at last, in self-defense, to fix at one piaster an hour. We frequently shared with them our frugal, and even scanty meals; and in turn they assisted us in our purchases and arrangements for lodgings, for their word, we found, was with the common people an almost unwritten law. Then, too, they were of great assistance in crossing streams where the depth would have necessitated the stripping of garments; although their fiery little steeds sometimes objected to having an extra rider astride their haunches, and a bicycle across their shoulders. They seized every opportunity to impress us with the necessity of being accompanied by a government representative. In some lonely portion of the road, or in the suggestive stillness of an evening twilight, our Turkish Don Quixote would sometimes cast mysterious glances around him, take his Winchester from his shoulder, and throwing it across the pommel of his saddle, charge ahead to meet the imaginary enemy. But we were more harmful than harmed, for, despite our most vigilant care, the bicycles were sometimes the occasion of a stampede or runaway among the caravans and teams along the highway, and we frequently assisted in replacing the loads thus upset. On such occasions our pretentious cavalier would remain on his horse, smoking his cigarette and smiling disdainfully.
It was in the company of one of these military champions that we emerged on the morning of April 12 upon the plateau of Angora. On the spring pasture were feeding several flocks of the famous Angora goats, and the karamanli or fat-tailed sheep, tended by the Yurak shepherds and their half-wild and monstrous collies, whose half-savage nature fits them to cope with the jackals which infest the country. The shepherds did not check their sudden onslaught upon us until we were pressed to very close quarters, and had drawn our revolvers in self-defense. These Yuraks are the nomadic portion of the Turkish peasantry. They live in caves or rudely constructed huts, shifting their habitation at will, or upon the exhaustion of the pasturage. Their costume is most primitive both in style and material; the trousers and caps being made of sheepskin and the tunic of plaited wheat-straw. In contradistinction to the Yuraks the settled inhabitants of the country are called Turks. That term, however, which means rustic or clown, is never used by the Turks themselves except in derision or disdain; they always speak of themselves as "Osmanli."
The great length of the Angora fleece, which sometimes reaches eight inches, is due solely to the peculiar climate of the locality. The same goats taken elsewhere have not thriven. Even the Angora dogs and cats are remarkable for the extraordinary length of their fleecy covering. On nearing Angora itself, we raced at high speed over the undulating plateau. Our zaptieh on his jaded horse faded away in the dim distance, and we saw him no more. This was our last guard for many weeks to come, as we decided to dispense with an escort that really retarded us. But on reaching Erzerum, the Vali refused us permission to enter the district of Alashgerd without a guard, so we were forced to take one.
We were now on historic ground. To our right, on the Owas, a tributary of the Sakaria, was the little village of Istanas, where stood the ancient seat of Midas, the Phrygian king, and where Alexander the Great cut with his sword the Gordian knot to prove his right to the rulership of the world. On the plain, over which we were now skimming, the great Tatar, Timur, fought the memorable battle with Bajazet I., which resulted in the capture of the Ottoman conqueror. Since the time that the title of Asia applied to the small coast-province of Lydia, this country has been the theater for the grandest events in human history.
The old mud-houses of modern Angora, as we rolled into the city, contrasted strongly with the cyclopean walls of its ancient fortress. After two days in Angora we diverged from the direct route to Sivas through Yuezgat, so as to visit the city of Kaisarieh. Through the efforts of the progressive Vali at Angora, a macadamized road was in the course of construction to this point, a part of which—to the town of Kirshehr—was already completed. Although surrounded by unusual fertility and luxuriance for an interior town, the low mud-houses and treeless streets give Kirshehr that same thirsty and painfully uniform appearance which characterizes every village or city in Asiatic Turkey. The mud buildings of Babylon, and not the marble edifices of Nineveh, have served as models for the Turkish architect. We have seen the Turks, when making the mud-straw bricks used in house-building, scratch dirt for the purpose from between the marble slabs and boulders that lay in profusion over the ground. A few of the government buildings and some of the larger private residences are improved by a coat of whitewash, and now and then the warm spring showers bring out on the mud roofs a relieving verdure, that frequently serves as pasture for the family goat. Everything is low and contracted, especially the doorways. When a foreigner bumps his head, and demands the reason for such stupid architecture, he is met with that decisive answer, "Adet"—custom, the most powerful of all influences in Turkey and the East.
Our entry into Kirshehr was typical of our reception everywhere. When we were seen approaching, several horsemen came out to get a first look at our strange horses. They challenged us to a race, and set a spanking pace down into the streets of the town. Before we reached the khan, or inn, we were obliged to dismount. "Bin! bin!" ("Ride! ride!") went up in a shout. "Nimkin deyil" ("It is impossible"), we explained, in such a jam; and the crowd opened up three or four feet ahead of us. "Bin bocale" ("Ride, so that we can see"), they shouted again; and some of them rushed up to hold our steeds for us to mount. With the greatest difficulty we impressed upon our persistent assistants that they could not help us. By the time we reached the khan the crowd had become almost a mob, pushing and tumbling over one another, and yelling to every one in sight that "the devil's carts have come." The inn-keeper came out, and we had to assure him that the mob was actuated only by curiosity. As soon as the bicycles were over the threshold, the doors were bolted and braced. The crowds swarmed to the windows. While the khanji prepared coffee we sat down to watch the amusing by-play and repartee going on around us. Those who by virtue of their friendship with the khanji were admitted to the room with us began a tirade against the boyish curiosity of their less fortunate brethren on the outside. Their own curiosity assumed tangible shape. Our clothing, and even our hair and faces, were critically examined. When we attempted to jot down the day's events in our note-books they crowded closer than ever. Our fountain-pen was an additional puzzle to them. It was passed around, and explained and commented on at length.
Our camera was a "mysterious" black box. Some said it was a telescope, about which they had only a vague idea; others, that it was a box containing our money. But our map of Asiatic Turkey was to them the most curious thing of all. They spread it on the floor, and hovered over it, while we pointed to the towns and cities. How could we tell where the places were until we had been there? How did we even know their names? It was wonderful—wonderful! We traced for them our own journey, where we had been and where we were going, and then endeavored to show them how, by starting from our homes and continuing always in an easterly direction, we could at last reach our starting-point from the west. The more intelligent of them grasped the idea. "Around the world," they repeated again and again, with a mystified expression.
Relief came at last, in the person of a messenger from Osman Beg, the inspector-general of agriculture of the Angora vilayet, bearing an invitation to supper. He stated that he had already heard of our undertaking through the Constantinople press, and desired to make our acquaintance. His note, which was written in French, showed him to be a man of European education; and on shaking hands with him a half-hour later, we found him to be a man of European origin—an Albanian Greek, and a cousin of the Vali at Angora. He said a report had gone out that two devils were passing through the country. The dinner was one of those incongruous Turkish mixtures of sweet and sour, which was by no means relieved by the harrowing Turkish music which our host ground out from an antiquated hand-organ.
Although it was late when we returned to the khan, we found everybody still up. The room in which we were to sleep (there was only one room) was filled with a crowd of loiterers, and tobacco smoke. Some were playing games similar to our chess and backgammon, while others were looking on, and smoking the gurgling narghile, or water-pipe. The bicycles had been put away under lock and key, and the crowd gradually dispersed. We lay down in our clothes, and tried to lose consciousness; but the Turkish supper, the tobacco smoke, and the noise of the quarreling gamesters, put sleep out of the question. At midnight the sudden boom of a cannon reminded us that we were in the midst of the Turkish Ramadan. The sound of tramping feet, the beating of a bass drum, and the whining tones of a Turkish bagpipe, came over the midnight air. Nearer it came, and louder grew the sound, till it reached the inn door, where it remained for some time. The fast of Ramadan commemorates the revelation of the Koran to the prophet Mohammed. It lasts through the four phases of the moon. From daylight, or, as the Koran reads, "from the time you can distinguish a white thread from a black one," no good Mussulman will eat, drink, or smoke. At midnight the mosques are illuminated, and bands of music go about the streets all night, making a tremendous uproar. One cannon is fired at dusk, to announce the time to break the fast by eating supper, another at midnight to arouse the people for the preparation of breakfast, and still another at daylight as a signal for resuming the fast. This, of course, is very hard on the poor man who has to work during the day. As a precaution against oversleeping, a watchman goes about just before daybreak, and makes a rousing clatter at the gate of every Mussulman's house to warn him that if he wants anything to eat he must get it instanter. Our roommates evidently intended to make an "all night" of it, for they forthwith commenced the preparation of their morning meal. How it was despatched we do not know, for we fell asleep, and were only awakened by the muezzin on a neighboring minaret, calling to morning prayer.
Our morning ablutions were usually made a la Turk: by having water poured upon the hands from a spouted vessel. Cleanliness is, with the Turk, perhaps, more than ourselves, the next thing to godliness. But his ideas are based upon a very different theory. Although he uses no soap for washing either his person or his clothes, yet he considers himself much cleaner than the giaour, for the reason that he uses running water exclusively, never allowing the same particles to touch him the second time. A Turk believes that all water is purified after running six feet. As a test of his faith we have often seen him lading up drinking-water from a stream where the women were washing clothes just a few yards above.
As all cooking and eating had stopped at the sound of the morning cannon, we found great difficulty in gathering together even a cold breakfast of ekmek, yaourt, and raisins. Ekmek is a cooked bran-flour paste, which has the thinness, consistency, and almost the taste of blotting-paper. This is the Turkish peasant's staff of life. He carries it with him everywhere; so did we. As it was made in huge circular sheets, we would often punch a hole in the middle, and slip it up over our arms. This we found the handiest and most serviceable mode of transportation, being handy to eat without removing our hands from the handle-bars, and also answering the purpose of sails in case of a favoring wind. Yaourt, another almost universal food, is milk curdled with rennet. This, as well as all foods that are not liquid, they scoop up with a roll of ekmek, a part of the scoop being taken with every mouthful. Raisins here, as well as in many other parts of the country, are very cheap. We paid two piasters (about nine cents) for an oche (two and a half pounds), but we soon made the discovery that a Turkish oche contained a great many "stones"—which of course was purely accidental. Eggs, also, we found exceedingly cheap. On one occasion, twenty-five were set before us, in response to our call for eggs to the value of one piaster—four and a half cents. In Asiatic Turkey we had some extraordinary dishes served to us, including daintily prepared leeches. But the worst mixture, perhaps, was the "Bairam soup," which contains over a dozen ingredients, including peas, prunes, walnuts, cherries, dates, white and black beans, apricots, cracked wheat, raisins, etc.—all mixed in cold water. Bairam is the period of feasting after the Ramadan fast.
On preparing to leave Kirshehr after our frugal breakfast we found that Turkish curiosity had extended even to the contents of our baggage, which fitted in the frames of the machines. There was nothing missing, however: and we did not lose so much as a button during our sojourn among them. Thieving is not one of their faults, but they take much latitude in helping themselves. Many a time an inn-keeper would "help us out" by disposing of one third of a chicken that we had paid him a high price to prepare.
When we were ready to start the chief of police cleared a riding space through the streets, which for an hour had been filled with people. As we passed among them they shouted "Oorooglar olsun" ("May good fortune attend you"). "Inshallah" ("If it please God"), we replied, and waved our helmets in acknowledgment.
At the village of Topakle, on the following night, our reception was not so innocent and good-natured. It was already dusk when we reached the outskirts of the village, where we were at once spied by a young man who was driving in the lowing herd. The alarm was given, and the people swarmed like so many rats from a corn-bin. We could see from their costume and features that they were not pure-blooded Turks. We asked if we could get food and lodging, to which they replied, "Evet, evet" ("Yes, yes"), but when we asked them where, they simply pointed ahead, and shouted, "Bin, bin!" We did not "bin" this time, because it was too dark, and the streets were bad. We walked, or rather were pushed along by the impatient rabble, and almost deafened by their shouts of "Bin, bin!" At the end of the village we repeated our question of where. Again they pointed ahead, and shouted, "Bin!" Finally an old man led us to what seemed to be a private residence, where we had to drag our bicycles up a dark narrow stairway to the second story. The crowd soon filled the room to suffocation, and were not disposed to heed our request to be left alone. One stalwart youth showed such a spirit of opposition that we were obliged to eject him upon a crowded stairway, causing the mob to go down like a row of tenpins. Then the owner of the house came in, and in an agitated manner declared he could not allow us to remain in his house overnight. Our reappearance caused a jeering shout to go up from the crowd; but no violence was attempted beyond the catching hold of the rear wheel when our backs were turned, and the throwing of clods of earth. They followed us, en masse, to the edge of the village, and there stopped short, to watch us till we disappeared in the darkness. The nights at this high altitude were chilly. We had no blankets, and not enough clothing to warrant a camp among the rocks. There was not a twig on the whole plateau with which to build a fire. We were alone, however, and that was rest in itself. After walking an hour, perhaps, we saw a light gleaming from a group of mudhuts a short distance off the road. From the numerous flocks around it, we took it to be a shepherds' village. Everything was quiet except the restless sheep, whose silky fleece glistened in the light of the rising moon. Supper was not yet over, for we caught a whiff of its savory odor. Leaving our wheels outside, we entered the first door we came to, and, following along a narrow passageway, emerged into a room where four rather rough-looking shepherds were ladling the soup from a huge bowl in their midst. Before they were aware of our presence, we uttered the usual salutation "Sabala khayr olsun." This startled some little boys who were playing in the corner, who yelled, and ran into the haremluek, or women's apartment. This brought to the door the female occupants, who also uttered a shriek, and sunk back as if in a swoon. It was evident that the visits of giaours to this place had been few and far between. The shepherds returned our salutation with some hesitation, while their ladles dropped into the soup, and their gaze became fixed on our huge helmets, our dogskin top-coats, and abbreviated nether garments. The women by this time had sufficiently recovered from their nervous shock to give scope to their usual curiosity through the cracks in the partition. Confidence now being inspired by our own composure, we were invited to sit down and participate in the evening meal. Although it was only a gruel of sour milk and rice, we managed to make a meal off it. Meantime the wheels had been discovered by some passing neighbor. The news was spread throughout the village, and soon an excited throng came in with our bicycles borne upon the shoulders of two powerful Turks. Again we were besieged with entreaties to ride, and, hoping that this would gain for us a comfortable night's rest, we yielded, and, amid peals of laughter from a crowd of Turkish peasants, gave an exhibition in the moonlight. Our only reward, when we returned to our quarters, was two greasy pillows and a filthy carpet for a coverlet. But the much needed rest we did not secure, for the suspicions aroused by the first glance at our bed-cover proved to be well grounded.
About noon on April 20, our road turned abruptly into the broad caravan trail that runs between Smyrna and Kaisarieh, about ten miles west of the latter city. A long caravan of camels was moving majestically up the road, headed by a little donkey, which the devedejee (camel-driver) was riding with his feet dangling almost to the ground. That proverbially stubborn creature moved not a muscle until we came alongside, when all at once he gave one of his characteristic side lurches, and precipitated the rider to the ground. The first camel, with a protesting grunt, began to sidle off, and the broadside movement continued down the line till the whole caravan stood at an angle of about forty-five degrees to the road. The camel of Asia Minor does not share that antipathy for the equine species which is so general among their Asiatic cousins; but steel horses were more than even they could endure.
A sudden turn in the road now brought us in sight of old Arjish Dagh, which towers 13,000 feet above the city of Kaisarieh, and whose head and shoulders were covered with snow. Native tradition tells us that against this lofty summit the ark of Noah struck in the rising flood; and for this reason Noah cursed it, and prayed that it might ever be covered with snow. It was in connection with this very mountain that we first conceived the idea of making the ascent of Ararat. Here and there, on some of the most prominent peaks, we could distinguish little mounds of earth, the ruined watch-towers of the prehistoric Hittites.
Kaisarieh (ancient Caesarea) is filled with the ruins and the monuments of the fourteenth-century Seljuks. Arrowheads and other relics are every day unearthed there, to serve as toys for the street urchins. Since the development of steam-communication around the coast, it is no longer the caravan center that it used to be; but even now its charshi, or inclosed bazaars, are among the finest in Turkey, being far superior in appearance to those of Constantinople. These charshi are nothing more than narrow streets, inclosed by brick arches, and lined on either side with booths. It was through one of these that our only route to the khan lay—and yet we felt that in such contracted quarters, and in such an excited mob as had gathered around us, disaster was sure to follow. Our only salvation was to keep ahead of the jam, and get through as soon as possible. We started on the spurt; and the race began. The unsuspecting merchants and their customers were suddenly distracted from their thoughts of gain as we whirled by; the crowd close behind sweeping everything before it. The falling of barrels and boxes, the rattling of tin cans, the crashing of crockery, the howling of the vagrant dogs that were trampled under foot, only added to the general tumult.
Through the courtesy of Mr. Peet of the American Bible House at Constantinople, we were provided with letters of introduction to the missionaries at Kaisarieh, as well as elsewhere along our route through Asiatic Turkey, and upon them we also had drafts to the amount of our deposit made at the Bible House before starting. Besides, we owed much to the hospitality and kindness of these people. The most striking feature of the missionary work at Kaisarieh is the education of the Armenian women, whose social position seems to be even more degraded than that of their Turkish sisters. With the native Armenians, as with the Turks, fleshiness adds much to the price of a wife. The wife of a missionary is to them an object both of wonderment and contempt. As she walks along the street, they will whisper to one another: "There goes a woman who knows all her husband's business; and who can manage just as well as himself." This will generally be followed in an undertone by the expression, "Madana satana," which means, in common parlance, "a female devil." At first it was a struggle to overcome this ignorant prejudice, and to get girls to come to the school free of charge; now it is hard to find room for them even when they are asked to pay for their tuition.
The costume of the Armenian woman is generally of some bright-colored cloth, prettily trimmed. Her coiffure, always elaborate, sometimes includes a string of gold coins, encircling the head, or strung down the plait. A silver belt incloses the waist, and a necklace of coins calls attention to her pretty neck. When washing clothes by the stream, they frequently show a gold ring encircling an ankle.
In the simplicity of their costumes, as well as in the fact that they do not expose the face, the Turkish women stand in strong contrast to the Armenian. Baggy trousers a la Bloomer, a loose robe skirt opening at the sides, and a voluminous shawl-like girdle around the waist and body, constitute the main features of the Turkish indoor costume. On the street a shroud-like robe called yashmak, usually white, but sometimes crimson, purple, or black, covers them from head to foot. When we would meet a bevy of these creatures on the road in the dusk of evening, their white, fluttering garments would give them the appearance of winged celestials. The Turkish women are generally timorous of men, and especially so of foreigners. Those of the rural districts, however, are not so shy as their city cousins. We frequently met them at work in groups about the villages or in the open fields, and would sometimes ask for a drink of water. If they were a party of maidens, as was often the case, they would draw back and hide behind one another. We would offer one of them a ride on our "very nice horses." This would cause a general giggle among her companions, and a drawing of the yashmak closer about the neck and face.
The road scenes in the interior provinces are but little varied. One of the most characteristic features of the Anatolian landscape are the storks, which come in flocks of thousands from their winter quarters in Egypt and build summer nests, unmolested, on the village housetops. These, like the crows, magpies, and swallows, prove valuable allies to the husbandmen in their war against the locust. A still more serviceable friend in this direction is the smarmar, a pink thrush with black wings. Besides the various caravan trains of camels, donkeys, horses, and mules, the road is frequently dotted with ox-carts, run on solid wooden wheels without tires, and drawn by that peculiar bovine species, the buffalo. With their distended necks, elevated snouts, and hog-like bristles, these animals present an ugly appearance, especially when wallowing in mud puddles.
Now and then in the villages we passed by a primitive flour-mill moved by a small stream playing upon a horizontal wheel beneath the floor; or, more primitive still, by a blindfolded donkey plodding ceaselessly around in his circular path. In the streets we frequently encountered boys and old men gathering manure for their winter fuel; and now and then a cripple or invalid would accost us as "Hakim" ("Doctor"), for the medical work of the missionaries has given these simple-minded folk the impression that all foreigners are physicians. Coming up and extending a hand for us to feel the pulse they would ask us to do something for the disease, which we could see was rapidly carrying them to the grave.
Our first view of Sivas was obtained from the top of Mount Yildiz, on which still stands the ruined castle of Mithridates, the Pontine monarch, whom Lucullus many times defeated, but never conquered. From this point we made a very rapid descent, crossed the Kizil Irmak for the third time by an old ruined bridge, and half an hour later saw the "stars and stripes" flying above the U. S. consulate. In the society of our representative, Mr. Henry M. Jewett, we were destined to spend several weeks; for a day or two after our arrival, one of us was taken with a slight attack of typhoid fever, supposed to have been contracted by drinking from the roadside streams. No better place could have been chosen for such a mishap; for recovery was speedy in such comfortable quarters, under the care of the missionary ladies.
The comparative size and prosperity of Sivas, in the midst of rather barren surroundings, are explained by the fact that it lies at the converging point of the chief caravan routes between the Euxine, Euphrates, and Mediterranean. Besides being the capital of Rumili, the former Seljuk province of Cappadocia, it is the place of residence for a French and American consular representative, and an agent of the Russian government for the collection of the war indemnity, stipulated in the treaty of '78. The dignity of office is here upheld with something of the pomp and splendor of the East, even by the representative of democratic America. In our tours with Mr. Jewett we were escorted at the head by a Circassian cavass (Turkish police), clothed in a long black coat, with a huge dagger dangling from a belt of cartridges. Another native cavass, with a broadsword dragging at his side, usually brought up the rear. At night he was the one to carry the huge lantern, which, according to the number of candles, is the insignia of rank. "I must give the Turks what they want," said the consul, with a twinkle in his eye—"form and red tape. I would not be a consul in their eyes, if I didn't." To illustrate the formality of Turkish etiquette he told this story: "A Turk was once engaged in saving furniture from his burning home, when he noticed that a bystander was rolling a cigarette. He immediately stopped in his hurry, struck a match, and offered a light."
The most flagrant example of Turkish formality that came to our notice was the following address on an official document to the Sultan:
"The Arbiter; the Absolute; the Soul and Body of the Universe; the Father of all the sovereigns of the earth; His Excellency, the Eagle Monarch; the Cause of the never-changing order of things; the Source of all honor; the Son of the Sultan of Sultans, under whose feet we are dust, whose awful shadow protects us; Abdul Hamid II., Son of Abdul Medjid, whose residence is in Paradise; our glorious Lord, to whose sacred body be given health, and strength, and endless days; whom Allah keeps in his palace, and on his throne with joy and glory, forever. Amen."
This is not the flattery of a cringing subordinate, for the same spirit is revealed in an address by the Sultan himself to his Grand Vizir:
"Most honored Vizir; Maintainer of the good order of the World; Director of public affairs with wisdom and judgment; Accomplisher of the important transactions of mankind with intelligence and good sense; Consolidator of the edifice of Empire and of Glory; endowed by the Most High with abundant gifts; and 'Monshir,' at this time, of my Gate of Felicity; my Vizir Mehmed Pasha, may God be pleased to preserve him long in exalted dignity."
Though the Turks cannot be called lazy, yet they like to take their time. Patience, they say, belongs to God; hurry, to the devil. Nowhere is this so well illustrated as in the manner of shopping in Turkey. This was brought particularly to our notice when we visited the Sivas bazaars to examine some inlaid silverware, for which the place is celebrated. The customer stands in the street inspecting the articles on exhibition; the merchant sits on his heels on the booth floor. If the customer is of some position in life, he climbs up and sits down on a level with the merchant. If he is a foreigner, the merchant is quite deferential. A merchant is not a merchant at all, but a host entertaining a guest. Coffee is served; then a cigarette rolled up and handed to the "guest," while the various social and other local topics are freely discussed. After coffee and smoking the question of purchase is gradually approached; not abruptly, as that would involve a loss of dignity; but circumspectly, as if the buying of anything were a mere afterthought. Maybe, after half an hour, the customer has indicated what he wants, and after discussing the quality of the goods, the customer asks the price in an off-hand way, as though he were not particularly interested. The merchant replies, "Oh, whatever your highness pleases," or, "I shall be proud if your highness will do me the honor to accept it as a gift." This means nothing whatever, and is merely the introduction to the haggling which is sure to follow. The seller, with silken manners and brazen countenance, will always name a price four times as large as it should be. Then the real business begins. The buyer offers one half or one fourth of what he finally expects to pay; and a war of words, in a blustering tone, leads up to the close of this every-day farce.
The superstition of the Turks is nowhere so apparent as in their fear of the "evil eye." Jugs placed around the edge of the roof, or an old shoe filled with garlic and blue beets (blue glass balls or rings) are a sure guard against this illusion. Whenever a pretty child is playing upon the street the passers-by will say: "Oh, what an ugly child!" for fear of inciting the evil spirit against its beauty. The peasant classes in Turkey are of course the most superstitious because they are the most ignorant. They have no education whatever, and can neither read nor write. Stamboul is the only great city of which they know. Paris is a term signifying the whole outside world. An American missionary was once asked: "In what part of Paris is America?" Yet it can be said that they are generally honest, and always patient. They earn from about six to eight cents a day. This will furnish them with ekmek and pilaff, and that is all they expect. They eat meat only on feast-days, and then only mutton. The tax-gatherer is their only grievance; they look upon him as a necessary evil. They have no idea of being ground down under the oppressor's iron heel. Yet they are happy because they are contented, and have no envy. The poorer, the more ignorant, a Turk is, the better he seems to be. As he gets money and power, and becomes "contaminated" by western civilization, he deteriorates. A resident of twenty years' experience said: "In the lowest classes I have sometimes found truth, honesty, and gratitude; in the middle classes, seldom; in the highest, never." The corruptibility of the Turkish official is almost proverbial; but such is to be expected in the land where "the public treasury" is regarded as a "sea," and "who does not drink of it, as a pig." Peculation and malversation are fully expected in the public official. They are necessary evils—adet (custom) has made them so. Offices are sold to the highest bidder. The Turkish official is one of the politest and most agreeable of men. He is profuse in his compliments, but he has no conscience as to bribes, and little regard for virtue as its own reward. We are glad to be able to record a brilliant, though perhaps theoretical, exception to this general rule. At Koch-Hissar, on our way from Sivas to Kara Hissar, a delay was caused by a rather serious break in one of our bicycles. In the interval we were the invited guests of a district kadi, a venerable-looking and genial old gentleman whose acquaintance we had made in an official visit on the previous day, as he was then the acting caimacam (mayor). His house was situated in a neighboring valley in the shadow of a towering bluff. We were ushered into the selamluek, or guest apartment, in company with an Armenian friend who had been educated as a doctor in America, and who had consented to act as interpreter for the occasion.
The kadi entered with a smile on his countenance, and made the usual picturesque form of salutation by describing the figure 3 with his right hand from the floor to his forehead. Perhaps it was because he wanted to be polite that he said he had enjoyed our company on the previous day, and had determined, if possible, to have a more extended conversation. With the usual coffee and cigarettes, the kadi became informal and chatty. He was evidently a firm believer in predestination, as he remarked that God had foreordained our trip to that country, even the food we were to eat, and the invention of the extraordinary "cart" on which we were to ride. The idea of such a journey, in such a peculiar way, was not to be accredited to the ingenuity of man. There was a purpose in it all. When we ventured to thank him for his hospitality toward two strangers, and even foreigners, he said that this world occupied so small a space in God's dominion, that we could well afford to be brothers, one to another, in spite of our individual beliefs and opinions. "We may have different religious beliefs," said he, "but we all belong to the same great father of humanity; just as children of different complexions, dispositions, and intellects may belong to one common parent. We should exercise reason always, and have charity for other people's opinions."
From charity the conversation naturally turned to justice. We were much interested in his opinion on this subject, as that of a Turkish judge, and rather high official. "Justice," said he, "should be administered to the humblest person; though a king should be the offending party, all alike must yield to the sacred law of justice. We must account to God for our acts, and not to men."
The regular route from Sivas to Erzerum passes through Erzinjan. From this, however, we diverged at Zara, in order to visit the city of Kara Hissar, and the neighboring Lidjissy mines, which had been pioneered by the Genoese explorers, and were now being worked by a party of Englishmen. This divergence on to unbeaten paths was made at a very inopportune season; for the rainy spell set in, which lasted, with scarcely any intermission, for over a fortnight. At the base of Kosse Dagh, which stands upon the watershed between the two largest rivers of Asia Minor, the Kizil Irmak and Yeshil Irmak, our road was blocked by a mountain freshet, which at its height washed everything before it. We spent a day and night on its bank, in a primitive flour-mill, which was so far removed from domestic life that we had to send three miles up in the mountains to get something to eat. The Yeshil Irmak, which we crossed just before reaching Kara Hissar, was above our shoulders as we waded through, holding our bicycles and baggage over our heads; while the swift current rolled the small boulders against us, and almost knocked us off our feet. There were no bridges in this part of the country. With horses and wagons the rivers were usually fordable; and what more would you want? With the Turk, as with all Asiatics, it is not a question of what is better, but what will do. Long before we reached a stream, the inhabitants of a certain town or village would gather round, and with troubled countenances say, "Christian gentlemen—there is no bridge," pointing to the river beyond, and graphically describing that it was over our horses' heads. That would settle it, they thought; it never occurred to them that a "Christian gentleman" could take off his clothes and wade. Sometimes, as we walked along in the mud, the wheels of our bicycles would become so clogged that we could not even push them before us. In such a case we would take the nearest shelter, whatever it might be. The night before reaching Kara Hissar, we entered an abandoned stable, from which everything had fled except the fleas. Another night was spent in the pine-forests just on the border between Asia Minor and Armenia, which were said to be the haunts of the border robbers. Our surroundings could not be relieved by a fire for fear of attracting their attention.
When at last we reached the Trebizond-Erzerum highway at Baiboot, the contrast was so great that the scaling of Kop Dagh, on its comparatively smooth surface, was a mere breakfast spell. From here we looked down for the first time into the valley of the historic Euphrates, and a few hours later we were skimming over its bottom lands toward the embattled heights of Erzerum.
As we neared the city, some Turkish peasants in the fields caught sight of us, and shouted to their companions: "Russians! Russians! There they are! Two of them!" This was not the first time we had been taken for the subjects of the Czar; the whole country seemed to be in dread of them. Erzerum is the capital of that district which Russia will no doubt demand, if the stipulated war indemnity is not paid.
The entrance into the city was made to twist and turn among the ramparts, so as to avoid a rush in case of an attack. But this was no proof against a surprise in the case of the noiseless wheel. In we dashed with a roaring wind, past the affrighted guards, and were fifty yards away before they could collect their scattered senses. Then suddenly it dawned upon them that we were human beings, and foreigners besides—perhaps even the dreaded Russian spies. They took after us at full speed, but it was too late. Before they reached us we were in the house of the commandant pasha, the military governor, to whom we had a letter of introduction from our consul at Sivas. That gentleman we found extremely good-natured; he laughed heartily at our escapade with the guards. Nothing would do but we must visit the Vali, the civil governor, who was also a pasha of considerable reputation and influence.
We had intended, but not so soon, to pay an official visit to the Vali to present our letter from the Grand Vizir, and to ask his permission to proceed to Bayazid, whence we had planned to attempt the ascent of Mount Ararat, an experience which will be described in the next chapter. A few days before, we heard, a similar application had been made by an English traveler from Bagdad, but owing to certain suspicions the permission was refused. It was with no little concern, therefore, that we approached the Vali's private office in company with his French interpreter. Circumstances augured ill at the very start. The Vali was evidently in a bad humor, for we overheard him storming in a high key at some one in the room with him. As we passed under the heavy matted curtains the two attendants who were holding them up cast a rather horrified glance at our dusty shoes and unconventional costume. The Vali was sitting in a large arm-chair in front of a very small desk, placed at the far end of a vacant-looking room. After the usual salaams, he motioned to a seat on the divan, and proceeded at once to examine our credentials while we sipped at our coffee, and whiffed the small cigarettes which were immediately served. This furnished the Vali an opportunity to regain his usual composure. He was evidently an autocrat of the severest type; if we pleased him, it would be all right; if we did not, it would be all wrong. We showed him everything we had, from our Chinese passport to the little photographic camera, and related some of the most amusing incidents of our journey through his country. From the numerous questions he asked we felt certain of his genuine interest, and were more than pleased to see an occasional broad smile on his countenance. "Well," said he, as we rose to take leave, "your passports will be ready any time after to-morrow; in the mean time I shall be pleased to have your horses quartered and fed at government expense." This was a big joke for a Turk, and assured us of his good-will.
A bicycle exhibition which the Vali had requested was given the morning of our departure for Bayazid, on a level stretch of road just outside the city. Several missionaries and members of the consulates had gone out in carriages, and formed a little group by themselves. We rode up with the "stars and stripes" and "star and crescent" fluttering side by side from the handle-bars. It was always our custom, especially on diplomatic occasions, to have a little flag of the country associated with that of our own. This little arrangement evoked a smile from the Vali, who, when the exhibition was finished, stepped forward and said, "I am satisfied, I am pleased." His richly caparisoned white charger was now brought up. Leaping into the saddle, he waved us good-by, and moved away with his suite toward the city. We ourselves remained for a few moments to bid good-by to our hospitable friends, and then, once more, continued our journey toward the east.
THE ASCENT OF MOUNT ARARAT
According to tradition, Mount Ararat is the scene of two of the most important events in the history of the human race. In the sacred land of Eden, which Armenian legend places at its base, the first of human life was born; and on its solitary peak the last of human life was saved from an all-destroying flood. The remarkable geographical position of this mountain seems to justify the Armenian view that it is the center of the world. It is on the longest line drawn through the Old World from the Cape of Good Hope to Bering Strait; it is also on the line of the great deserts and inland seas stretching from Gibraltar to Lake Baikal in Siberia—a line of continuous depressions; it is equidistant from the Black and Caspian Seas and the Mesopotamian plain, which three depressions are now watered by three distinct river-systems emanating from Ararat's immediate vicinity. No other region has seen or heard so much of the story of mankind. In its grim presence empires have come and gone; cities have risen and fallen; human life has soared up on the wings of hope, and dashed against the rocks of despair.
To the eye Ararat presents a gently inclined slope of sand and ashes rising into a belt of green, another zone of black volcanic rocks streaked with snow-beds, and then a glittering crest of silver. From the burning desert at its base to the icy pinnacle above, it rises through a vertical distance of 13,000 feet. There are but few peaks in the world that rise so high (17,250 feet above sea-level) from so low a plain (2000 feet on the Russian, and 4000 feet on the Turkish, side), and which, therefore, present so grand a spectacle. Unlike many of the world's mountains, it stands alone. Little Ararat (12,840 feet above sea-level), and the other still smaller heights that dot the plain, only serve as a standard by which to measure Ararat's immensity and grandeur.
Little Ararat is the meeting-point, or corner-stone, of three great empires. On its conical peak converge the dominions of the Czar, the Sultan, and the Shah. The Russian border-line runs from Little Ararat along the high ridge which separates it from Great Ararat, through the peak of the latter, and onward a short distance to the northwest, then turns sharply to the west. On the Sardarbulakh pass, between Great and Little Ararat, is stationed a handful of Russian Cossacks to remind lawless tribes of the guardianship of the "White Sultan."
The two Ararats together form an elliptical mass, about twenty-five miles in length, running northwest and southeast, and about half that in width. Out of this massive base rise the two Ararat peaks, their bases being contiguous up to 8800 feet and their tops about seven miles apart. Little Ararat is an almost perfect truncated cone, while Great Ararat is more of a broad-shouldered dome supported by strong, rough-ribbed buttresses. The isolated position of Ararat, its structure of igneous rocks, the presence of small craters and immense volcanic fissures on its slopes, and the scoriae and ashes on the surrounding plain, establish beyond a doubt its volcanic origin. But according to the upheaval theory of the eminent geologist, Hermann Abich, who was among the few to make the ascent of the mountain, there never was a great central crater in either Great or Little Ararat. Certain it is that no craters or signs of craters now exist on the summit of either mountain. But Mr. James Bryce, who made the last ascent, in 1876, seems to think that there is no sufficient reason why craters could not have previously existed, and been filled up by their own irruptions. There is no record of any irruption in historical times. The only thing approaching it was the earthquake which shook the mountain in 1840, accompanied by subterranean rumblings, and destructive blasts of wind. The Tatar village of Arghuri and a Kurdish encampment on the northeast slope were entirely destroyed by the precipitated rocks. Not a man was left to tell the story. Mr. Bryce and others have spoken of the astonishing height of the snow-line on Mount Ararat, which is placed at 14,000 feet; while in the Alps it is only about 9000 feet, and in the Caucasus on an average 11,000 feet, although they lie in a very little higher latitude. They assign, as a reason for this, the exceptionally dry region in which Ararat is situated. Mr. Bryce ascended the mountain on September 12, when the snow-line was at its very highest, the first large snow-bed he encountered being at 12,000 feet. Our own ascent being made as early as July 4,—in fact, the earliest ever recorded,—we found some snow as low as 8000 feet, and large beds at 10,500 feet. The top of Little Ararat was still at that time streaked with snow, but not covered. With so many extensive snow-beds, one would naturally expect to find copious brooks and streams flowing down the mountain into the plain; but owing to the porous and dry nature of the soil, the water is entirely lost before reaching the base of the mountain. Even as early as July we saw no stream below 6000 feet, and even above this height the mountain freshets frequently flowed far beneath the surface under the loosely packed rocks, bidding defiance to our efforts to reach them. Notwithstanding the scarcity of snow-freshets, there is a middle zone on Mount Ararat, extending from about 5000 feet to 9000 feet elevation, which is covered with good pasturage, kept green by heavy dews and frequent showers. The hot air begins to rise from the desert plain as the morning sun peeps over the horizon, and continues through the day; this warm current, striking against the snow-covered summit, is condensed into clouds and moisture. In consequence, the top of Ararat is usually—during the summer months, at least—obscured by clouds from some time after dawn until sunset. On the last day of our ascent, however, we were particularly fortunate in having a clear summit until 1:15 in the afternoon.
Among the crags of the upper slope are found only a few specimens of the wild goat and sheep, and, lower down, the fox, wolf, and lynx. The bird and insect life is very scanty, but lizards and scorpions, especially on the lowest slopes, are abundant. The rich pasturage of Ararat's middle zone attracts pastoral Kurdish tribes. These nomadic shepherds, a few Tatars at New Arghuri, and a camp of Russian Cossacks at the well of Sardarbulakh, are the only human beings to disturb the quiet solitude of this grandest of nature's sanctuaries.
The first recorded ascent of Mount Ararat was in 1829, by Dr. Frederick Parrot, a Russo-German professor in the University of Dorpat. He reached the summit with a party of three Armenians and two Russian soldiers, after two unsuccessful attempts. His ascent, however, was doubted, not only by the people in the neighborhood, but by many men of science and position in the Russian empire, notwithstanding his clear account, which has been confirmed by subsequent observers, and in spite of the testimony of the two Russian soldiers who had gone with him.(1) Two of the Armenians who reached the summit with him declared that they had gone to a great height, but at the point where they had left off had seen much higher tops rising around them. This, thereupon, became the opinion of the whole country. After Antonomoff, in 1834, Herr Abich, the geologist, made his valuable ascent in 1845. He reached the eastern summit, which is only a few feet lower than the western, and only a few minutes' walk from it, but was obliged to return at once on account of the threatening weather. When he produced his companions as witnesses before the authorities at Erivan, they turned against him, and solemnly swore that at the point which they had reached a higher peak stood between them and the western horizon. This strengthened the Armenian belief in the inaccessibility of Ararat, which was not dissipated when the Russian military engineer, General Chodzko, and an English party made the ascent in 1856. Nor were their prejudiced minds convinced by the ascent of Mr. Bryce twenty years later, in 1876. Two days after his ascent, that gentleman paid a visit to the Armenian monastery at Echmiadzin, and was presented to the archimandrite as the Englishman who had just ascended to the top of "Masis." "No," said the ecclesiastical dignitary; "that cannot be. No one has ever been there. It is impossible." Mr. Bryce himself says: "I am persuaded that there is not a person living within sight of Ararat, unless it be some exceptionally educated Russian official at Erivan, who believes that any human foot, since Father Noah's, has trodden that sacred summit. So much stronger is faith than sight; or rather so much stronger is prejudice than evidence."
We had expected, on our arrival in Bayazid, to find in waiting for us a Mr. Richardson, an American missionary from Erzerum. Two years later, on our arrival home, we received a letter explaining that on his way from Van he had been captured by Kurdish brigands, and held a prisoner until released through the intervention of the British consul at Erzerum. It was some such fate as this that was predicted for us, should we ever attempt the ascent of Mount Ararat through the lawless Kurdish tribes upon its slopes. Our first duty, therefore, was to see the mutessarif of Bayazid, to whom we bore a letter from the Grand Vizir of Turkey, in order to ascertain what protection and assistance he would be willing to give us. We found with him a Circassian who belonged to the Russian camp at Sardarbulakh, on the Ararat pass, and who had accompanied General Chodzko on his ascent of the mountain in 1856. Both he and the mutessarif thought an ascent so early in the year was impossible; that we ought not to think of such a thing until two months later. It was now six weeks earlier than the time of General Chodzko's ascent (August 11 to 18), then the earliest on record. They both strongly recommended the northwestern slope as being more gradual. This is the one that Parrot ascended in 1829, and where Abich was repulsed on his third attempt. Though entirely inexperienced in mountain-climbing, we ourselves thought that the southeast slope, the one taken by General Chodzko, the English party, and Mr. Bryce, was far more feasible for a small party. One thing, however, the mutessarif was determined upon: we must not approach the mountain without an escort of Turkish zaptiehs, as an emblem of government protection. Besides, he would send for the chief of the Ararat Kurds, and endeavor to arrange with him for our safety and guidance up the mountain. As we emerged into the streets an Armenian professor gravely shook his head. "Ah," said he, "you will never do it." Then dropping his voice, he told us that those other ascents were all fictitious; that the summit of "Masis" had never yet been reached except by Noah; and that we were about to attempt what was an utter impossibility.
In Bayazid we could not procure even proper wood for alpenstocks. Willow branches, two inches thick, very dry and brittle, were the best we could obtain. Light as this wood is, the alpenstocks weighed at least seven pounds apiece when the iron hooks and points were riveted on at the ends by the native blacksmith, for whom we cut paper patterns, of the exact size, for everything we wanted. We next had large nails driven into the souls of our shoes by a local shoemaker, who made them for us by hand out of an old English file, and who wanted to pull them all out again because we would not pay him the exorbitant price he demanded. In buying provisions for the expedition, we spent three hours among the half dilapidated bazaars of the town, which have never been repaired since the disastrous Russian bombardment. The most difficult task, perhaps, in our work of preparation was to strike a bargain with an Armenian muleteer to carry our food and baggage up the mountain on his two little donkeys.
Evening came, and no word from either the mutessarif or the Kurdish chief. Although we were extremely anxious to set off on the expedition before bad weather set in, we must not be in a hurry, for the military governor of Karakillissa was now the guest of the mutessarif, and it would be an interference with his social duties to try to see him until after his guest had departed. On the morrow we were sitting in our small dingy room after dinner, when a cavalcade hastened up to our inn, and a few minutes later we were surprised to hear ourselves addressed in our native tongue. Before us stood a dark-complexioned young man, and at his side a small wiry old gentleman, who proved to be a native Austrian Tyrolese, who followed the profession of an artist in Paris. He was now making his way to Erivan, in Russia, on a sight-seeing tour from Trebizond. His companion was a Greek from Salonica, who had lived for several years in London, whence he had departed not many weeks before, for Teheran, Persia. These two travelers had met in Constantinople, and the young Greek, who could speak English, Greek, and Turkish, had been acting as interpreter for the artist. They had heard of the "devil's carts" when in Van, and had made straight for our quarters on their arrival in Bayazid. At this point they were to separate. When we learned that the old gentleman (Ignaz Raffl by name) was a member of an Alpine club and an experienced mountain-climber, we urged him to join in the ascent. Though his shoulders were bent by the cares and troubles of sixty-three years, we finally induced him to accompany our party. Kantsa, the Greek, reluctantly agreed to do likewise, and proved to be an excellent interpreter, but a poor climber.
The following morning we paid the mutessarif a second visit, with Kantsa as interpreter. Inasmuch as the Kurdish chief had not arrived, the mutessarif said he would make us bearers of a letter to him. Two zaptiehs were to accompany us in the morning, while others were to go ahead and announce our approach.
At ten minutes of eleven, on the morning of the second of July, our small cavalcade, with the two exasperating donkeys at the head laden with mats, bags of provisions, extra clothing, alpenstocks, spiked shoes, and coils of stout rope, filed down the streets of Bayazid, followed by a curious rabble. As Bayazid lies hidden behind a projecting spur of the mountains we could obtain no view of the peak itself until we had tramped some distance out on the plain. Its huge giant mass broke upon us all at once. We stopped and looked—and looked again. No mountain-peak we have seen, though several have been higher, has ever inspired the feeling which filled us when we looked for the first time upon towering Ararat. We had not proceeded far before we descried a party of Kurdish horsemen approaching from the mountain. Our zaptiehs advanced rather cautiously to meet them, with rifles thrown across the pommels of their saddles. After a rather mysterious parley, our zaptiehs signaled that all was well. On coming up, they reported that these horsemen belonged to the party that was friendly to the Turkish government. The Kurds, they said, were at this time divided among themselves, a portion of them having adopted conciliatory measures with the government, and the rest holding aloof. But we rather considered their little performance as a scheme to extort a little more baksheesh for their necessary presence.
The plain we were now on was drained by a tributary of the Aras River, a small stream reached after two hours' steady tramping. From the bordering hillocks we emerged in a short time upon another vast plateau, which stretched far away in a gentle rise to the base of the mountain itself. Near by we discovered a lone willow-tree, the only one in the whole sweep of our vision, under the gracious foliage of which sat a band of Kurds, retired from the heat of the afternoon sun, their horses feeding on some swamp grass near at hand. Attracted by this sign of water, we drew near, and found a copious spring. A few words from the zaptiehs, who had advanced among them, seemed to put the Kurds at their ease, though they did not by any means appease their curiosity. They invited us to partake of their frugal lunch of ekmek and goat's-milk cheese. Our clothes and baggage were discussed piece by piece, with loud expressions of merriment, until one of us arose, and, stealing behind the group, snapped the camera. "What was that?" said a burly member of the group, as he looked round with scowling face at his companions. "Yes; what was that?" they echoed, and then made a rush for the manipulator of the black box, which they evidently took for some instrument of the black art. The photographer stood serenely innocent, and winked at the zaptieh to give the proper explanation. He was equal to the occasion. "That," said he, "is an instrument for taking time by the sun." At this the box went the round, each one gazing intently into the lens, then scratching his head, and casting a bewildered look at his nearest neighbor. We noticed that every one about us was armed with knife, revolver, and Martini rifle, a belt of cartridges surrounding his waist. It occurred to us that Turkey was adopting a rather poor method of clipping the wings of these mountain birds, by selling them the very best equipments for war. Legally, none but government guards are permitted to carry arms, and yet both guns and ammunition are sold in the bazaars of almost every city of the Turkish dominions. The existence of these people, in their wild, semi-independent state, shows not so much the power of the Kurds as the weakness of the Turkish government, which desires to use a people of so fierce a reputation for the suppression of its other subjects. After half an hour's rest, we prepared to decamp, and so did our Kurdish companions. They were soon in their saddles, and galloping away in front of us, with their arms clanking, and glittering in the afternoon sunlight.
At the spring we had turned off the trail that led over the Sardarbulakh pass into Russia, and were now following a horse-path which winds up to the Kurdish encampments on the southern slope of the mountain. The plain was strewn with sand and rocks, with here and there a bunch of tough, wiry grass about a foot and a half high, which, though early in the year, was partly dry. It would have been hot work except for the rain of the day before and a strong southeast wind. As it was, our feet were blistered and bruised, the thin leather sandals worn at the outset offering very poor protection. The atmosphere being dry, though not excessively hot, we soon began to suffer from thirst. Although we searched diligently for water, we did not find it till after two hours more of constant marching, when at a height of about 6000 feet, fifty yards from the path, we discerned a picturesque cascade of sparkling, cold mountain water. Even the old gentleman, Raffl, joined heartily in the gaiety induced by this clear, cold water from Ararat's melting snows.
Our ascent for two and a half hours longer was through a luxuriant vegetation of flowers, grasses, and weeds, which grew more and more scanty as we advanced. Prominent among the specimens were the wild pink, poppy, and rose. One small fragrant herb, that was the most abundant of all, we were told was used by the Kurds for making tea. All these filled the evening air with perfume as we trudged along, passing now and then a Kurdish lad, with his flock of sheep and goats feeding on the mountain-grass, which was here much more luxuriant than below. Looking backward, we saw that we were higher than the precipitous cliffs which overtower the town of Bayazid, and which are perhaps from 1500 to 2000 feet above the lowest part of the plain. The view over the plateau was now grand. Though we were all fatigued by the day's work, the cool, moisture-laden air of evening revived our flagging spirits. We forged ahead with nimble step, joking, and singing a variety of national airs. The French "Marseillaise," in which the old gentleman heartily joined, echoed and reechoed among the rocks, and caused the shepherd lads and their flocks to crane their heads in wonderment. Even the Armenian muleteer so far overcame his fear of the Kurdish robbers as to indulge in one of his accustomed funeral dirges; but it stopped short, never to go again, when we came in sight of the Kurdish encampment. The poor fellow instinctively grabbed his donkeys about their necks, as though they were about to plunge over a precipice. The zaptiehs dashed ahead with the mutessarif's letter to the Kurdish chief. We followed slowly on foot, while the Armenian and his two pets kept at a respectful distance in the rear.
The disk of the sun had already touched the western horizon when we came to the black tents of the Kurdish encampment, which at this time of the day presented a rather busy scene. The women seemed to be doing all the work, while their lords sat round on their haunches. Some of the women were engaged in milking the sheep and goats in an inclosure. Others were busy making butter in a churn which was nothing more than a skin vessel three feet long, of the shape of a Brazil-nut, suspended from a rude tripod; this they swung to and fro to the tune of a weird Kurdish song. Behind one of the tents, on a primitive weaving-machine, some of them were making tent-roofing and matting. Others still were walking about with a ball of wool in one hand and a distaff in the other, spinning yarn. The flocks stood round about, bleating and lowing, or chewing their cud in quiet contentment. All seemed very domestic and peaceful except the Kurdish dogs, which set upon us with loud, fierce growls and gnashing teeth.
Not so was it with the Kurdish chief, who by this time had finished reading the mutessarif's message, and who now advanced from his tent with salaams of welcome. As he stood before us in the glowing sunset, he was a rather tall, but well-proportioned man, with black eyes and dark mustache, contrasting well with his brown-tanned complexion. Upon his face was the stamp of a rather wild and retiring character, although treachery and deceit were by no means wanting. He wore a headgear that was something between a hat and a turban, and over his baggy Turkish trousers hung a long Persian coat of bright-colored, large-figured cloth, bound at the waist by a belt of cartridges. Across the shoulders was slung a breech-loading Martini rifle, and from his neck dangled a heavy gold chain, which was probably the spoil of some predatory expedition. A quiet dignity sat on Ismail Deverish's stalwart form.
It was with no little pleasure that we accepted his invitation to a cup of tea. After our walk of nineteen miles, in which we had ascended from 3000 to 7000 feet, we were in fit condition to appreciate a rest. That Kurdish tent, as far as we were concerned, was a veritable palace, although we were almost blinded by the smoke from the green pine-branches on the smoldering fire. We said that the chief invited us to a cup of tea: so he did—but we provided the tea; and that, too, not only for our own party, but for half a dozen of the chief's personal friends. There being only two glasses in the camp, we of course had to wait until our Kurdish acquaintances had quenched their burning thirst. In thoughtful mood we gazed around through the evening twilight. Far away on the western slope we could see some Kurdish women plodding along under heavy burdens of pine-branches like those that were now fumigating our eyes and nostrils. Across the hills the Kurdish shepherds were driving home their herds and flocks to the tinkling of bells. All this, to us, was deeply impressive. Such peaceful scenes, we thought, could never be the haunt of warlike robbers. The flocks at last came home; the shouts of the shepherds ceased; darkness fell; and all was quiet.
One by one the lights in the tents broke out, like the stars above. As the darkness deepened, they shone more and more brightly across the amphitheater of the encampment. The tent in which we were now sitting was oblong in shape, covered with a mixture of goats' and sheep's wool, carded, spun, and woven by the Kurdish women. This tenting was all of a dark brown or black color. The various strips were badly joined together, allowing the snow and rain, during the stormy night that followed, to penetrate plentifully. A wickerwork fencing, about three feet high, made from the reeds gathered in the swamps of the Aras River, was stretched around the bottom of the tent to keep out the cattle as well as to afford some little protection from the elements. This same material, of the same width or height, was used to partition off the apartments of the women. Far from being veiled and shut up in harems, like their Turkish and Persian sisters, the Kurdish women come and go among the men, and talk and laugh as they please. The thinness and lowness of the partition walls did not disturb their astonishing equanimity. In their relations with the men the women are extremely free. During the evening we frequently found ourselves surrounded by a concourse of these mountain beauties, who would sit and stare at us with their black eyes, call attention to our personal oddities, and laugh among themselves. Now and then their jokes at our expense would produce hilarious laughter among the men. The dress of these women consisted of baggy trousers, better described in this country as "divided skirts," a bright-colored overskirt and tunic, and a little round cloth cap encircled with a band of red and black. Through the right lobe of the nose was hung a peculiar button-shaped ornament studded with precious stones. This picturesque costume well set off their rich olive complexions, and black eyes beneath dark-brown lashes.
There were no signs of an approaching evening meal until we opened our provision-bag, and handed over certain articles of raw food to be cooked for us. No sooner were the viands intrusted to the care of our hosts, than two sets of pots and kettles made their appearance in the other compartments. In half an hour our host and friends proceeded to indulge their voracious appetites. When our own meal was brought to us some time after, we noticed that the fourteen eggs we had doled out had been reduced to six; and the other materials suffered a similar reduction, the whole thing being so patent as to make their attempt at innocence absurdly ludicrous. We thought, however, if Kurdish highway robbery took no worse form than this, we could well afford to be content. Supper over, we squatted round a slow-burning fire, on the thick felt mats which served as carpets, drank tea, and smoked the usual cigarettes. By the light of the glowing embers we could watch the faces about us, and catch their horrified glances when reference was made to our intended ascent of Ak-Dagh, the mysterious abode of the jinn. Before turning in for the night, we reconnoitered our situation. The lights in all the tents, save our own, were now extinguished. Not a sound was heard, except the heavy breathing of some of the slumbering animals about us, or the bark of a dog at some distant encampment. The huge dome of Ararat, though six to eight miles farther up the slope, seemed to be towering over us like some giant monster of another world. We could not see the summit, so far was it above the enveloping clouds. We returned to the tent to find that the zaptiehs had been given the best places and best covers to sleep in, and that we were expected to accommodate ourselves near the door, wrapped up in an old Kurdish carpet. Policy was evidently a better developed trait of Kurdish character than hospitality.