YOUNGEST MEMBER OF THE EUROPEAN FAMILY:
RESIDENCE IN BELGRADE,
TRAVELS IN THE HIGHLANDS AND WOODLANDS OF THE INTERIOR,
DURING THE YEARS 1843 AND 1844.
ANDREW ARCHIBALD PATON, ESQ.
AUTHOR OF "THE MODERN SYRIANS."
"Les hommes croient en general connaitre suffisamment l'Empire Ottoman pour peu qu'ils aient lu l'enorme compilation que le savant M. de Hammer a publiee ... mais en dehors de ce mouvement central il y a la vie interieure de province, dont le tableau tout entier reste a faire."
LONDON: LONGMAN, BROWN, GREEN, AND LONGMANS, PATERNOSTER ROW.
The narrative and descriptive portion of this work speaks for itself. In the historical part I have consulted with advantage Von Engel's "History of Servia," Ranke's "Servian Revolution," Possart's "Servia," and Ami Boue's "Turquie d'Europe," but took the precaution of submitting the facts selected to the censorship of those on the spot best able to test their accuracy. For this service, I owe a debt of acknowledgment to M. Hadschitch, the framer of the Servian code; M. Marinovitch, Secretary of the Senate; and Professor John Shafarik, whose lectures on Slaavic history, literature, and antiquities, have obtained unanimous applause.
Leave Beyrout.—Camp afloat.-Rhodes.—The shores of the Mediterranean suitable for the cultivation of the arts.—A Moslem of the new school.—American Presbyterian clergyman.—A Mexican senator.—A sermon for sailors.—Smyrna.—Buyukdere.—Sir Stratford Canning.—Embark for Bulgaria.
Varna.—Contrast of Northern and Southern provinces of Turkey.—Roustchouk.—Conversation with Deftendar.—The Danube.—A Bulgarian interior.—A dandy of the Lower Danube.—Depart for Widdin.
River steaming.—Arrival at Widdin.—Jew.—Comfortless khan.—Wretched appearance of Widdin.—Hussein Pasha.—M. Petronievitch.—Steam balloon.
Leave Widdin.—The Timok.—Enter Servia.—Brza Palanka.—The Iron Gates.—Old and New Orsova.—Wallachian Matron.—Semlin.—A conversation on language.
Description of Belgrade.—Fortifications.—Street and street population.—Cathedral.—Large square.—Coffee-house.—Deserted villa.—Baths.
Europeanization of Belgrade.—Lighting and paving.—Interior of the fortress.—Turkish Pasha.—Turkish quarter.—Turkish population.—Panorama of Belgrade.—Dinner party given by the prince.
Return to Servia.—The Danube.—Semlin.—Wucics and Petronievitch.—Cathedral solemnity.—Subscription ball.
Holman, the blind traveller.—Milutinovich, the poet.—Bulgarian legend.—Tableau de genre.—Departure for the interior.
Journey to Shabatz.—Resemblance of manners to those of the middle ages.—Palesh.—A Servian bride.—Blind minstrel.—Gipsies.—Macadamized roads.
Shabatz.—A provincial chancery.—Servian collector.—Description of his house.—Country barber.—Turkish quarter.—Self-taught priest.—A provincial dinner.—Native soiree.
Kaimak.—History of a renegade.—A bishop's house.—Progress of education.—Portrait of Milosh.—Bosnia and the Bosnians.—Moslem fanaticism.—Death of the collector.
The banat of Matchva.—Losnitza.—Feuds on the frontier.—Enter the back-woods.—Convent of Tronosha.—Greek festival.—Congregation of peasantry.—Rustic finery.
Romantic sylvan scenery.—Patriarchal simplicity of manners.—Krupena.—Sokol.—Its extraordinary position.—Wretched town.—Alpine scenery.—Cool reception.—Valley of the Rogatschitza.
The Drina.—Liubovia.—Quarantine station.—Derlatcha.—A Servian beauty.—A lunatic priest.—Sorry quarters.—Murder by brigands.
Arrival at Ushitza.—Wretched street.—Excellent khan.—Turkish vayvode.—A Persian dervish.—Relations of Moslems and Christians.—Visit the castle.—Bird's eye view.
Poshega.—The river Morava.—Arrival at Csatsak.—A Viennese doctor.—Project to ascend the Kopaunik.—Visit the bishop.—Ancient cathedral church.—Greek mass.—Karanovatz.—Emigrant priest.—Albanian disorders.—Salt mines.
Coronation church of the ancient kings of Servia.—Enter the Highlands.—Valley of the Ybar.—First view of the High Balkan.—Convent of Studenitza.—Byzantine Architecture.—Phlegmatic monk.—Servian frontier.—New quarantine.—Russian major.
Cross the Bosniac frontier.—Gipsy encampment.—Novibazar described.—Rough reception.—Precipitate departure.—Fanaticism.
Ascent of the Kopaunik.—Grand prospect.—Descent of the Kopaunik.—Bruss.—Involuntary bigamy.—Conversation on the Servian character.—Krushevatz.—Relics of monarchy.
Formation of the Servian monarchy.—Contest between the Latin and Greek Churches.—Stephen Dushan.—A great warrior.—Results of his victories.—Kucs Lasar.—Invasion of Amurath.—Battle of Kossovo.—Death of Lasar and Amurath.—Fall of the Servian monarchy.—General observations.
A battue missed.—Proceed to Alexinatz.—Foreign-Office courier.—Bulgarian frontier.—Gipsy Suregee.—Tiupria.—New bridge and macadamized roads.
Visit to Ravanitza.—Jovial party.—Servian and Austrian jurisdiction.—Convent described.—Eagles reversed.—Bulgarian festivities.
Manasia.—Has preserved its middle-age character.—Robinson Crusoe.—Wonderful echo.—Kindness of the people.—Svilainitza.—Posharevatz.—Baby giantess.
Rich soil.—Mysterious waters.—Treaty of Passarovitz.—The castle of Semendria.—Relics of the antique.—The Brankovitch family.—Panesova.—Morrison's pills.
Personal appearance of the Servians.—Their moral character.—Peculiarity of manners.—Christmas festivities.—Easter.—The Dodola.
Town life.—The public offices.—Manners half-oriental half-European.—Merchants and tradesmen.—Turkish population.—Porters.—Barbers.—Cafes.—Public writer.
Poetry.—Journalism.—The fine arts.—The Lyceum.—Mineralogical cabinet.—Museum.—Servian Education.
Preparations for departure.—Impressions of the East.—Prince Alexander.—The palace.—Kara Georg.
A memoir of Kara Georg.
The prince.—The government.—The senate.—The minister for foreign affairs.—The minister of the interior.—Courts of justice.—Finances.
Agriculture and commerce.
The foreign agents.
VIENNA IN 1844.
Improvements in Vienna.—Palladian style.—Music.—Theatres.—Sir Robert Gordon.—Prince Metternich.—Armen ball.—Dancing.—Strauss.—Austrian policy.
Concluding observations on Austria and her prospects.
Leave Beyrout.—Camp afloat.—Rhodes.—The shores of the Mediterranean suitable for the cultivation of the arts.—A Moslem of the new school.—American Presbyterian clergyman.—A Mexican senator.—A sermon for sailors.—Smyrna.—Buyukdere.—Sir Stratford Canning.—Embark for Bulgaria.
I have been four years in the East, and feel that I have had quite enough of it for the present. Notwithstanding the azure skies, bubbling fountains, Mosaic pavements, and fragrant narghiles, I begin to feel symptoms of ennui, and a thirst for European life, sharp air, and a good appetite, a blazing fire, well-lighted rooms, female society, good music, and the piquant vaudevilles of my ancient friends, Scribe, Bayard, and Melesville.
At length I stand on the pier of Beyrout, while my luggage is being embarked for the Austrian steamer lying in the roads, which, in the Levantine slang, has lighted her chibouque, and is polluting yon white promontory, clear cut in the azure horizon, with a thick black cloud of Wallsend.
I bade a hurried adieu to my friends, and went on board. The quarter-deck, which retained its awning day and night, was divided into two compartments, one of which was reserved for the promenade of the cabin passengers, the other for the bivouac of the Turks, who retained their camp habits with amusing minuteness, making the larboard quarter a vast tent afloat, with its rolled up beds, quilts, counterpanes, washing gear, and all sorts of water-cans, coffee-pots, and chibouques, with stores of bread, cheese, fruit, and other provisions for the voyage. In the East, a family cannot move without its household paraphernalia, but then it requires a slight addition of furniture and utensils to settle for years in a strange place. The settlement of a European family requires a thousand et ceteras and months of installation, but then it is set in motion for the new world with a few portmanteaus and travelling bags.
Two days and a half of steaming brought us to Rhodes.
An enchanter has waved his wand! in reading of the wondrous world of the ancients, one feels a desire to get a peep at Rome before its destruction by barbarian hordes. A leap backwards of half this period is what one seems to make at Rhodes, a perfectly preserved city and fortress of the middle ages. Here has been none of the Vandalism of Vauban, Cohorn, and those mechanical-pated fellows, who, with their Dutch dyke-looking parapets, made such havoc of donjons and picturesque turrets in Europe. Here is every variety of mediaeval battlement; so perfect is the illusion, that one wonders the waiter's horn should be mute, and the walls devoid of bowman, knight, and squire.
Two more delightful days of steaming among the Greek Islands now followed. The heat was moderate, the motion gentle, the sea was liquid lapis lazuli, and the hundred-tinted islets around us, wrought their accustomed spell. Surely there is something in climate which creates permanent abodes of art! The Mediterranean, with its hydrographical configuration, excluding from its great peninsulas the extremes of heat and cold, seems destined to nourish the most exquisite sentiment of the Beautiful. Those brilliant or softly graduated tints invite the palette, and the cultivation of the graces of the mind, shining with its aesthetic ray through lineaments thorough-bred from generation to generation, invites the sculptor to transfer to marble, grace of contour and elevation of expression. But let us not envy the balmy South. The Germanic or northern element, if less susceptible of the beautiful is more masculine, better balanced, less in extremes. It was this element that struck down the Roman empire, that peoples America and Australia, and rules India; that exhausted worlds, and then created new.
The most prominent individual of the native division of passengers, was Arif Effendi, a pious Moslem of the new school, who had a great horror of brandy; first, because it was made from wine; and secondly, because his own favourite beverage was Jamaica rum; for, as Peter Parley says, "Of late years, many improvements have taken place among the Mussulmans, who show a disposition to adopt the best things of their more enlightened neighbours." We had a great deal of conversation during the voyage, for he professed to have a great admiration of England, and a great dislike of France; probably all owing to the fact of rum coming from Jamaica, and brandy and wine from Cognac and Bordeaux.
Another individual was a still richer character: an American Presbyterian clergyman, with furi-bond dilated nostril and a terrific frown.
"You must lose Canada," said he to me one day, abruptly, "ay, and Bermuda into the bargain."
"I think you had better round off your acquisitions with a few odd West India Islands."
"We have stomach enough for that too."
"I hear you have been to Jerusalem."
"Yes; I went to recover my voice, which I lost; for I have one of the largest congregations in Boston."
"But, my good friend, you breathe nothing but war and conquest."
"The fact is, war is as unavoidable as thunder and lightning; the atmosphere must be cleared from time to time."
"Were you ever a soldier?"
"No; I was in the American navy. Many a day I was after John Bull on the shores of Newfoundland."
"After John Bull?"
"Yes, Sir, sweating after him: I delight in energy; give me the man who will shoulder a millstone, if need be."
"The capture of Canada, Bermuda, and a few odd West India Islands, would certainly give scope for your energy. This would be taking the bull by the horns."
"Swinging him by the tail, say I."
The burlesque vigour of his illustrations sometimes ran to anti-climax. One day, he talked of something (if I recollect right, the electric telegraph), moving with the rapidity of a flash of lightning, with a pair of spurs clapped into it.
In spite of all this ultra-national bluster, we found him to be a very good sort of man, having nothing of the bear but the skin, and in the test of the quarantine arrangements, the least selfish of the party.
Another passenger was an elderly Mexican senator, who was the essence of politeness of the good old school. Every morning he stood smiling, hat in hand, while he inquired how each of us had slept. I shall never forget the cholera-like contortion of horror he displayed, when the clerical militant (poking his fun at him), declared that Texas was within the natural boundary of the State, and that some morning they would make a breakfast of the whole question.
One day he passed from politics to religion. "I am fond of fun," said he, "I think it is the sign of a clear conscience. My life has been spent among sailors. I have begun with many a blue jacket hail-fellow-well-met in my own rough way, and have ended in weaning him from wicked courses. None of your gloomy religion for me. When I see a man whose religion makes him melancholy, and averse from gaiety, I tell him his god must be my devil."
The originality of this gentleman's intellect and manners, led me subsequently to make further inquiry; and I find one of his sermons reported by a recent traveller, who, after stating that his oratory made a deep impression on the congregation of the Sailors' chapel in Boston, who sat with their eyes, ears, and mouths open, as if spell-bound in listening to him, thus continues: "He describes a ship at sea, bound for the port of Heaven, when the man at the head sung out, 'Rocks ahead!' 'Port the helm,' cried the mate. 'Ay, ay, sir,' was the answer; the ship obeyed, and stood upon a tack. But in two minutes more, the lead indicated a shoal. The man on the out-look sung out, 'Sandbreaks and breakers ahead!' The captain was now called, and the mate gave his opinion; but sail where they could, the lead and the eye showed nothing but dangers all around,—sand banks, coral reefs, sunken rocks, and dangerous coasts. The chart showed them clearly enough where the port of Heaven lay; there was no doubt about its latitude and longitude: but they all sung out, that it was impossible to reach it; there was no fair way to get to it. My friends, it was the devil who blew up that sand-bank, and sunk those rocks, and set the coral insects to work; his object was to prevent that ship from ever getting to Heaven, to wreck it on its way, and to make prize of the whole crew for slaves for ever. But just as every soul was seized with consternation, and almost in despair, a tight little schooner hove in sight; she was cruizing about, with one Jesus, a pilot, on board. The captain hailed him, and he answered that he knew a fair way to the port in question. He pointed out to them an opening in the rocks, which the largest ship might beat through, with a channel so deep, that the lead could never reach to the bottom, and the passage was land-locked the whole way, so that the wind might veer round to every point in the compass, and blow hurricanes from them all, and yet it could never raise a dangerous sea in that channel. What did the crew of that distressed ship do, when Jesus showed them his chart, and gave them all the bearings? They laughed at him, and threw his chart back in his face. He find a channel where they could not! Impossible; and on they sailed in their own course, and everyone of them perished."
At Smyrna, I signalized my return to the land of the Franks, by ordering a beef-steak, and a bottle of porter, and bespeaking the paper from a gentleman in drab leggings, who had come from Manchester to look after the affairs of a commercial house, in which he or his employers were involved. He wondered that a hotel in the Ottoman empire should be so unlike one in Europe, and asked me, "If the inns down in the country were as good as this."
As for Constantinople, I refer all readers to the industry and accuracy of Mr. White, who might justly have terminated his volumes with the Oriental epistolary phrase, "What more can I write?" Mr. White is not a mere sentence balancer, but belongs to the guild of bona fide Oriental travellers.
In summer, all Pera is on the Bosphorus: so I jumped into a caique, and rowed up to Buyukdere. On the threshold of the villa of the British embassy, I met A——, the prince of attaches, who led me to a beautiful little kiosk, on the extremity of a garden, and there installed me in his fairy abode of four small rooms, which embraced a view like that of Isola Bella on Lake Maggiore; here books, the piano, the narghile, and the parterre of flowers, relieved the drudgery of his Eastern diplomacy. Lord N——, Mr. H——, and Mr. T——, the other attaches, lived in a house at the other end of the garden.
I here spent a week of delightful repose. The mornings were occupied ad libitum, the gentlemen of the embassy being overwhelmed with business. At four o'clock dinner was usually served in the airy vestibule of the embassy villa, and with the occasional accession of other members of the diplomatic corps we usually formed a large party. A couple of hours before sunset a caique, which from its size might have been the galley of a doge, was in waiting, and Lady C—— sometimes took us to a favourite wooded hill or bower-grown creek in the Paradise-like environs, while a small musical party in the evening terminated each day. One of the attaches of the Russian embassy, M. F——, is the favorite dilettante of Buyukdere; he has one of the finest voices I ever heard, and frequently reminded me of the easy humour and sonorous profundity of Lablache.
Before embarking the reader on the Black Sea, I cannot forbear a single remark on the distinguished individual who has so long and so worthily represented Great Britain at the Ottoman Porte.
Sir. Stratford Canning is certainly unpopular with the extreme fanatical party, and with all those economists who are for killing the goose to get at the golden eggs; but the real interests of the Turkish nation never had a firmer support.
The chief difficulty in the case of this race is the impossibility of fusion with others. While they decrease in number, the Rayahs increase in wealth, in numbers, and in intelligence.
The Russians are the Orientals of Europe, but St. Petersburg is a German town, German industry corrects the old Muscovite sloth and cunning. The immigrant strangers rise to the highest offices, for the crown employs them as a counterpoise on the old nobility; as burgher incorporations were used by the kings of three centuries ago.
No similar process is possible with Moslems: one course therefore remains open for those who wish to see the Ottoman Empire upheld; a strenuous insistance on the Porte treating the Rayah population with justice and moderation. The interests of humanity, and the real and true interests of the Ottoman Empire, are in this case identical. Guided by this sound principle, which completely reconciles the policy of Great Britain with the highest maxims of political morality, Sir. Stratford Canning has pursued his career with an all-sifting intelligence, a vigour of character and judgment, an indifference to temporary repulses, and a sacrifice of personal popularity, which has called forth the respect and involuntary admiration of parties the most opposed to his views.
I embarked on board a steamer, skirted the western coast of the Black Sea, and landed on the following morning in Varna.
Varna.—Contrast of Northern And Southern Provinces of Turkey.—Roustchouk.—Conversation with Deftendar.—The Danube.—A Bulgarian interior.—A dandy of the Lower Danube.—Depart for Widdin.
All hail, Bulgaria! No sooner had I secured my quarters and deposited my baggage, than I sought the main street, in order to catch the delightfully keen impression which a new region stamps on the mind.
How different are the features of Slaavic Turkey, from those of the Arabic provinces in which I so long resided. The flat roofs, the measured pace of the camel, the half-naked negro, the uncouth Bedouin, the cloudless heavens, the tawny earth, and the meagre apology for turf, are exchanged for ricketty wooden houses with coarse tiling, laid in such a way as to eschew the monotony of straight lines; strings of primitive waggons drawn by buffaloes, and driven by Bulgarians with black woolly caps, real genuine grass growing on the downs outside the walls, and a rattling blast from the Black Sea, more welcome than all the balmy spices of Arabia, for it reminded me that I was once more in Europe, and must befit my costume to her ruder airs. This was indeed the north of the Balkan, and I must needs pull out my pea-jacket. How I relished those winds, waves, clouds, and grey skies! They reminded me of English nature and Dutch art. The Nore, the Downs, the Frith of Forth, and sundry dormant Backhuysens, re-awoke to my fancy.
The moral interest too was different. In Egypt or Syria, where whole cycles of civilization lie entombed, we interrogate the past; here in Bulgaria the past is nothing, and we vainly interrogate the future.
The interior of Varna has a very fair bazaar; not covered as in Constantinople and other large towns, but well furnished. The private dwellings are generally miserable. The town suffered so severely in the Russian war of 1828, that it has never recovered its former prosperity. It has also been twice nearly all burnt since then; so that, notwithstanding its historical, military, and commercial importance, it has at present little more than 20,000 inhabitants. The walls of the town underwent a thorough repair in the spring and summer of 1843.
The majority of the inhabitants are Turks, and even the native Bulgarians here speak Turkish better than their own language. One Bulgarian here told me that he could not speak the national language. Now in the west of Bulgaria, on the borders of Servia, the Turks speak Bulgarian better than Turkish.
From Varna to Roustchouk is three days' journey, the latter half of the road being agreeably diversified with wood, corn, and pasture; and many of the fields inclosed. Just at sunset, I found myself on the ridge of the last undulation of the slope of Bulgaria, and again greeted the ever-noble valley of the Danube. Roustchouk lay before me hitherward, and beyond the river, the rich flat lands of Wallachia stretched away to the north.
As I approached the town, I perceived it to be a fortress of vast extent; but as it is commanded from the heights from which I was descending, it appeared to want strength if approached from the south. The ramparts were built with great solidity, but rusty, old, dismounted cannon, obliterated embrasures, and palisades rotten from exposure to the weather, showed that to stand a siege it must undergo a considerable repair. The aspect of the place did not improve as we rumbled down the street, lined with houses one story high, and here and there a little mosque, with a shabby wooden minaret crowned with conical tin tops like the extinguishers of candles.
I put up at the khan. My room was without furniture; but, being lately white-washed, and duly swept out under my own superintendence, and laid with the best mat in the khan, on which I placed my bed and carpets, the addition of a couple of rush-bottomed chairs and a deal table, made it habitable, which was all I desired, as I intended to stay only a few days. I was supplied with a most miserable dinner; and, to my horror, the stewed meat was sprinkled with cinnamon. The wine was bad, and the water still worse, for there are no springs at Roustchouk, and they use Danube water, filtered through a jar of a porous sandstone found in the neighbourhood. A jar of this kind stands in every house, but even when filtered in this way it is far from good.
On hearing that the Deftendar spoke English perfectly, and had long resided in England, I felt a curiosity to see him, and accordingly presented myself at the Konak, and was shown to the divan of the Deftendar. I pulled aside a pendent curtain, and entered a room of large dimensions, faded decorations, and a broad red divan, the cushions of which were considerably the worse for wear. Such was the bureau of the Deftendar Effendi, who sat surrounded with papers, and the implements of writing. He was a man apparently of fifty-five years of age, slightly inclining to corpulence, with a very short neck, surmounted by large features, coarsely chiselled; but not devoid of a certain intelligence in his eye, and dignity in general effect. He spoke English with a correct accent, but slowly, occasionally stopping to remember a word; thus showing that his English was not imperfect from want of knowledge, but rusty from want of practice. He was an Egyptian Turk, and had been for eight years the commercial agent of Mohammed Ali at Malta, and had, moreover, visited the principal countries of Europe.
I then took a series of short and rapid whiffs of my pipe while I bethought me of the best manner of treating the subject of my visit, and then said, "that few orientals could draw a distinction between politics and geography; but that with a man of his calibre and experience, I was safe from misinterpretation—that I was collecting the materials for a work on the Danubian provinces, and that for any information which he might give me, consistently with the exigencies of his official position, I should feel much indebted, as I thought I was least likely to be misunderstood by stating clearly the object of my journey to the authorities, while information derived from the fountain-head was the most valuable."
The Deftendar, after commending my openness, said, "I suspect that you will find very little to remark in the pashalic of Silistria. It is an agricultural country, and the majority of the inhabitants are Turks. The Rayahs are very peaceable, and pay very few taxes, considering the agricultural wealth of the country. You may rest assured that there is not a province of the Ottoman empire, which is better governed than the pashalic of Silistria. Now and then, a rude Turk appropriates to himself a Bulgarian girl; but the government cannot be responsible for these individual excesses. We have no malcontents within the province; hut there are a few Hetarist scoundrels at Braila, who wish to disturb the tranquillity of Bulgaria: but the Wallachian government has taken measures to prevent them from carrying their projects into execution." After some further conversation, on indifferent topics, I took my leave.
The succeeding days were devoted to a general reconnaissance of the place; but I must say that Roustchouk, although capital of the pashalic of Silistria, and containing thirty or forty thousand inhabitants, pleased me less than any town of its size that I had seen in the East. The streets are dirty and badly paved, without a single good bazaar or cafe to kill time in, or a single respectable edifice of any description to look at. The redeeming resource was the promenade on the banks of the Danube, which has here attained almost its full volume, and uniting the waters of Alp, Carpathian, and Balkan, rushes impatiently to the Euxine.
At length the day of departure came. The attendant had just removed the tumbler of coffee, tossing the fragments of toast into the court-yard, an operation which appeared to have a magnetic effect on the bills of the poultry; and then, with his accustomed impropriety, placed the plate as a basis to my hookah, telling me that F——, a Bulgarian Christian, wished to speak with me.
"Let him walk in," said I, as I took the first delightful whiff; and F——, darkening the window that looked out on the verandah, gave me a fugitive look of recognition, and then entering and making his salutation in a kindly hearty manner, asked me to eat my mid-day meal with him.
"Indeed," quoth I, "I accept your invitation. I have not gone to pay my visit to the Bey, because I remain here too short a time to need his good offices; but I am anxious to make the acquaintance of the people,—so I am your guest."
When the hour arrived, I adjusted the tassel of my fez, put on my great coat, and proceeded to the Christian quarter; where, after various turnings and windings, I at length arrived at a high wooden gateway, new and unpainted.
An uncouth tuning of fiddles, the odour of savoury fare, and a hearty laugh from within, told me that I had no further to go; for all these gates are so like each other, one never knows a house till after close observation. On entering I passed over a plat of grass, and piercing a wooden tenement by a dark passage, found myself in a three-sided court, where several persons were sitting on rush-bottomed chairs.
F—— came forward, took both my hands in his, and then presented me to the company. On being seated, I exchanged salutations, and then looked round, and perceived that the three sides of the court were composed of rambling wooden tenements; the fourth was a little garden in which a few flowers were cultivated.
The elders sat, the youngers stood at a distance;—so respectful is youth to age in all this eastern world. The first figure in the former group was the father of our host; the acrid humours of extreme age had crimsoned his eye-lids, and his head shook from side to side, as he attempted to rise to salute me, but I held him to his seat. The wife of our host was a model of fragile delicate beauty. Her nose, mouth, and chin, were exquisitely chiselled, and her skin was smooth and white as alabaster; but the eye-lid drooped; the eye hung fire, and under each orb the skin was slightly blue, but so blending with the paleness of the rest of the face, as rather to give distinctness to the character of beauty, than to detract from the general effect. Her second child hung on her left arm, and a certain graceful negligence in the plaits of her hair and the arrangement of her bosom, showed that the cares of the young mother had superseded the nicety of the coquette.
The only other person in the company worthy of remark, was a Frank. His surtout was of cloth of second or third quality, but profusely braided. His stock appeared to strangle him, and a diamond breast-pin was stuck in a shirt of texture one degree removed from sail-cloth. His blood, as I afterwards learned, was so crossed by Greek, Tsinsar, and Wallachian varieties, that it would have puzzled the united genealogists of Europe to tell his breed; and his language was a mangled subdivision of that dialect which passes for French in the fashionable centres of the Grecaille.
Exquisite. "Quangt etes vous venie, Monsieur?"
Author. "Il y a huit jours."
Exquisite (looking at a large ring on his fore finger). "Ce sont de bons diables dans ce pays-ci; mais tout est un po barbare."
"Assez barbare," said I, as I saw that the exquisite's nails were in the deepest possible mourning.
Exquisite. "Avez vous ete a Boukarest?"
Author. "Non—pas encore."
Exquisite. "Ah je wous assire que Boukarest est maintenant comme Paris et Londres;"
Author. "Avez-vous vu Paris et Londres?"
Exquisite. "Non—mais Boukarest vaut cent fois Galatz et Braila."
During this colloquy, the gipsy music was playing; the first fiddle was really not bad: and the nonchalant rogue-humour of his countenance did not belie his alliance to that large family, which has produced "so many blackguards, but never a single blockhead."
Dinner was now announced. F——'s wife, relieved of her child, acted as first waitress. The fare consisted mostly of varieties of fowl, with a pilaff of rice, in the Turkish manner, all decidedly good; but the wine rather sweet and muddy. When I asked for a glass of water, it was handed me in a little bowl of silver, which mine hostess had just dashed into a jar of filtered lymph. Dinner concluded, the party rose, each crossing himself, and reciting a short formula of prayer; meanwhile a youthful relation of the house stood with the washing-basin and soap turret poised on his left hand, while with the right he poured on my hands water from a slender-spouted tin ewer. Behind him stood the hostess holding a clean towel with a tiny web of silver thread running across its extremities, and on my right stood the ex-diners with sleeves tucked up, all in a row, waiting their turn at the wash-hand basin.
After smoking a chibouque, I took my leave; for I had promised to spend the afternoon in the house of a Swiss, who, along with the agent of the steam-boat company and a third individual, made up the sum total of the resident Franko-Levantines in Roustchouk.
A gun fired in the evening warned me that the steamer had arrived; and, anxious to push on for Servia, I embarked forthwith.
River Steaming.—Arrival at Widdin—Jew.—Comfortless Khan.—Wretched appearance of Widdin.—Hussein Pasha.—M. Petronievitch.—Steam Balloon.
River steaming is, according to my notions, the best of all sorts of locomotion. Steam at sea makes you sick, and the voyage is generally over before you have gained your sea legs and your land appetite. In mail or stage you have no sickness and see the country, but you are squeezed sideways by helpless corpulence, and in front cooped into uneasiness by two pairs of egotistical knees and toes. As for locomotives, tunnels, cuts, and viaducts—this is not travelling to see the country, but arrival without seeing it. This eighth wonder of the world, so admirably adapted for business, is the despair of picturesque tourists, as well as post-horse, chaise, and gig letters. Our cathedral towns, instead of being distinguished from afar by their cloud-capt towers, are only recognizable at their respective stations by the pyramids of gooseberry tarts and ham sandwiches being at one place at the lower, and at another at the upper, end of an apartment marked "refreshment room." Now in river steaming you walk the deck, if the weather and the scenery be good; if the reverse, you lounge below; read, write, or play; and then the meals are arranged with Germanic ingenuity for killing time and the digestive organs.
On the second day the boat arrived at Widdin, and the agent of the steam packet company, an old Jew, came on board. I stepped across the plank and accompanied him to a large white house opposite the landing-place. On entering, I saw a group of Israel's children in the midst of a deadly combat of sale and purchase, bawling at the top of their voices in most villainous Castilian; all were filthy and shabbily dressed. The agent having mentioned who I was to the group, a broad-lipped young man with a German mutze surmounting his oriental costume, stepped forward with a confident air, and in a thick guttural voice addressed me in an unknown tongue. I looked about for an answer, when the agent told me in Turkish that he spoke English.
Jew. "You English gentleman, sir, and not know English."
Author. "I have to apologize for not recognizing the accents of my native country."
Jew. "Bring goods wid you, sir?"
Author. "No, I am not a merchant. Pray can you get me a lodging?"
Jew. "Get you as mush room you like, sir."
Author. "Have you been in England?"
Jew. "Been in London, Amsterdam, and Hamburgh."
We now arrived at the wide folding gates of the khan, which to be sure had abundance of space for travellers, but the misery and filth of every apartment disgusted me. One had broken windows, another a broken floor, a third was covered with half an inch of dust, and the weather outside was cold and rainy; so I shrugged up my shoulders and asked to be conducted to another khan. There I was somewhat better off, for I got into a new room leading out of a cafe where the charcoal burned freely and warmed the apartment. When the room was washed out I thought myself fortunate, so dreary and deserted had the other khan appeared to me.
I now took a walk through the bazaars, but found the place altogether miserable, being somewhat less village-like than Roustchouk. Lying so nicely on the bank of the Danube, which here makes such beautiful curves, and marked on the map with capital letters, it ought (such was my notion) to be a place having at least one well-built and well-stocked bazaar, a handsome seraglio, and some good-looking mosques. Nothing of the sort. The Konak or palace of the Pasha is an old barrack. The seraglio of the famous Passavan Oglou is in ruins, and the only decent looking house in the place is the new office of the Steam Navigation Company, which is on the Danube.
Being Ramadan, I could not see the pasha during the day; but in the evening, M. Petronievitch, the exiled leader of the Servian National party, introduced me to Hussein Pasha, the once terrible destroyer of the Janissaries. This celebrated character appeared to be verging on eighty, and, afflicted with gout, was sitting in the corner of the divan at his ease, in the old Turkish ample costume. The white beard, the dress of the pasha, the rich but faded carpet which covered the floor, the roof of elaborate but dingy wooden arabesque, were all in perfect keeping, and the dubious light of two thick wax candles rising two or three feet from the floor, but seemed to bring out the picture, which carried me back, a generation at least, to the pashas of the old school. Hussein smoked a narghile of dark red Bohemian cut crystal. M. Petronievitch and myself were supplied with pipes which were more profusely mounted with diamonds, than any I had ever before smoked; for Hussein Pasha is beyond all comparison the wealthiest man in the Ottoman empire.
After talking over the last news from Constantinople, he asked me what I thought of the projected steam balloon, which, from its being of a marvellous nature, appears to have caused a great deal of talk among the Turks. I expressed little faith in its success; on which he ordered an attendant to bring him a drawing of a locomotive balloon steered by flags and all sorts of fancies. "Will not this revolutionize the globe?" said the pasha; to which I replied, "C'est le premier pas qui coute; there is no doubt of an aerial voyage to India if they get over the first quarter of a mile."
I returned to sup with M. Petronievitch at his house, and we had a great deal of conversation relative to the history, laws, manners, customs, and politics of Servia; but as I subsequently obtained accurate notions of that country by personal observation, it is not necessary on the present occasion to return to our conversation.
[Footnote 1: Hussein Pasha has since retired from Widdin, where he made the greater part of his fortune, for he was engaged in immense agricultural and commercial speculations; he was succeeded by Mustapha Nourri Pasha, formerly private secretary to Sultan Mahommud, who has also made a large fortune, as merchant and ship-owner.]
Leave Widdin.—The Timok.—Enter Servia.—Brza Palanka.—The Iron Gates.—Old and New Orsova.—Wallachian Matron.—Semlin.—A Conversation on Language.
I left Widdin for the Servian frontier, in a car of the country, with a couple of horses, the ground being gently undulated, but the mountains to the south were at a considerable distance. On our right, agreeable glimpses of the Danube presented themselves from time to time. In six hours we arrived at the Timok, the river that separates Servia from Bulgaria. The only habitation in the place was a log-house for the Turkish custom-house officer. We were more than an hour in getting our equipage across the ferry, for the long drought had so reduced the water, that the boat was unable to meet the usual landing-place by at least four feet of steep embankment; in vain did the horses attempt to mount the acclivity; every spring was followed by a relapse, and at last one horse sunk jammed in between the ferry boat and the bank; so that we were obliged to loose the harness, send the horses on shore, and drag the dirty car as we best could up the half dried muddy slope. At last we succeeded, and a smart trot along the Danube brought us to the Servian lazaretto, which was a new symmetrical building, the promenade of which, on the Danube, showed an attempt at a sort of pleasure-ground.
I entered at sunset, and next morning on showing my tongue to the doctor, and paying a fee of one piastre (twopence) was free, and again put myself in motion. Lofty mountains seemed to rise to the west, and the cultivated plain now became broken into small ridges, partly covered with forest trees. The ploughing oxen now became rarer; but herds of swine, grubbing at acorns and the roots of bushes, showed that I was changing the scene, and making the acquaintance not only of a new country, but of a new people. The peasants, instead of having woolly caps and frieze clothes as in Bulgaria, all wore the red fez, and were dressed mostly in blue cloth; some of those in the villages wore black glazed caps; and in general the race appeared to be physically stronger and nobler than that which I had left. The Bulgarians seemed to be a set of silent serfs, deserving (when not roused by some unusual circumstance) rather the name of machines than of men: these Servian fellows seemed lazier, but all possessed a manliness of address and demeanour, which cannot be discovered in the Bulgarian.
Brza Palanka, at which we now arrived, is the only Danubian port which the Servians possess, below the Iron Gates; consequently, the only one which is in uninterrupted communication with Galatz and the sea. A small Sicilian vessel, laden with salt, passed into the Black Sea, and actually ascended the Danube to this point, which is within a few hours of the Hungarian frontier. As we approached the Iron Gates, the valley became a mere gorge, with barely room for the road, and fumbling through a cavernous fortification, we soon came in sight of the Austro-Hungarian frontier.
New Orsova, one of the few remaining retreats of the Turks in Servia, is built on an island, and with its frail houses of yawning rafters looks very old. Old Orsova, opposite which we now arrived, looked quite new, and bore the true German type of formal white-washed houses, and high sharp ridged roofs, which called up forthwith the image of a dining-hall, where, punctually as the village-clock strikes the hour of twelve, a fair-haired, fat, red-faced landlord, serves up the soup, the rindfleisch, the zuspeise, and all the other dishes of the holy Roman empire to the Platz Major, the Haupt-zoll-amt director, the Kanzlei director, the Concepist, the Protocollist, and hoc genus omne.
After a night passed in the quarantine, I removed to the inn, and punctually as the clock struck half past twelve, the very party my imagination conjured up, assembled to discuss the mehlspeise in the stencilled parlour of the Hirsch.
Favoured by the most beautiful weather, I started in a sort of caleche for Dreucova. The excellent new macadamized road was as smooth as a bowling-green, and only a lively companion was wanting to complete the exhilaration of my spirits.
My fair fellow-traveller was an enormously stout Wallachian matron, on her way to Vienna, to see her daughter, who was then receiving her education at a boarding-school. I spoke no Wallachian, she spoke nothing but Wallachian; so our conversation was carried on by my attempting to make myself understood alternately by the Italian, and the Spanish forms of Latin.
"Una bella Campagna," said I, as we drove out Orsova.
"Bella, bella?" said the lady, evidently puzzled.
So I said, "Hermosa."
"Ah! formosa; formosa prate," repeated the lady, evidently understanding that I meant a fine country.
"Deunde venut?" Whence have you come?
"Constantinopolis;" and so on we went, supposing that we understood each other, she supplying me with new forms of bastard Latin words, and adding with a smile, Romani, or Wallachian, as the language and people of Wallachia are called by themselves. It is worthy of remark, that the Wallachians and a small people in Switzerland, are the only descendants of the Romans, that still designate their language as that of the ancient mistress of the world.
As I rolled along, the fascinations of nature got the better of my gallantry; the discourse flagged, and then dropped, for I found myself in the midst of the noblest river scenery I had ever beheld, certainly far surpassing that of the Rhine, and Upper Danube. To the gloom and grandeur of natural portals, formed of lofty precipitous rocks, succeeds the open smiling valley, the verdant meadows, and the distant wooded hills, with all the soft and varied hues of autumn. Here we appear to be driving up the avenues of an English park; yonder, where the mountain sinks sheer into the river, the road must find its way along an open gallery, with a roof weighing millions of tons, projecting from the mountain above.
After sunset we arrived at Dreucova, and next morning went on board the steamer, which conveyed me up the Danube to Semlin. The lower town of Semlin is, from the exhalations on the banks of the river, frightfully insalubrious, but the cemetery enjoys a high and airy situation. The people in the town die off with great rapidity; but, to compensate for this, the dead are said to be in a highly satisfactory state of preservation. The inns here, once so bad, have greatly improved; but mine host, zum Golden Lowen, on my recent visits, always managed to give a very good dinner, including two sorts of savoury game. I recollect on a former visit, going to another inn, and found in the dining-room an individual, whose ruddy nose, and good-humoured nerveless smile, denoted a fondness for the juice of the grape, and seitel after seitel disappeared with rapidity. By-the-bye, old father Danube is as well entitled to be represented with a perriwig of grapes as his brother the Rhine. Hungary in general, has a right merry bacchanalian climate. Schiller or Symian wine is in the same parallel of latitude as Claret, Oedenburger as Burgundy, and a line run westwards from Tokay would almost touch the vineyards of Champagne. Csaplovich remarks in his quaint way, that the four principal wines of Hungary are cultivated by the four principal nations in it. That is to say, the Slavonians cultivate the Schiller, Germans the Oedenburger and Ruster, Magyars and Wallachians the Menesher. Good Schiller is the best Syrmian wine. But I must return from this digression to the guest of the Adler. On hearing that I was an Englishman, he expressed a wish to hear as much of England as possible, and appeared thunderstruck, when I told him that London had nearly two millions of inhabitants, being four hundred thousand more than the population of the whole of the Banat. This individual had of course learned five languages with his mother's milk, and therefore thought that the inhabitants of such a country as England must know ten at least. When I told him that the majority of the people in England knew nothing but English, he said, somewhat contemptuously, "O! you told me the fair side of the English character: but you did not tell me that the people was so ignorant." He then good-humouredly warned me against practising on his credulity. I pointed out how unnecessary other languages were for England itself; but that all languages could be learned in London.
"Can Wallachian be learned in London?"
"I have my doubts about Wallachian, but"—
"Can Magyar be learned in London?"
"I suspect not."
"Can Servian be learnt in London?"
"I confess, I don't think that any body in London teaches Servian; but"—
"There again, you travellers are always making statements unfounded on fact. I have mentioned three leading languages, and nobody in your city knows anything about them."
Description of Belgrade.—Fortifications.—Streets and Street Population.—Cathedral.—Large Square.—Coffe-house.—Deserted Villa.—Baths.
Through the courtesy and attention of Mr. Consul-general Fonblanque and the numerous friends of M. Petronievitch, I was, in the course of a few days, as familiar with all the principal objects and individuals in Belgrade, as if I had resided months in the city.
The fare of a boat from Semlin to Belgrade by Austrian rowers is five zwanzigers, or about 3s. 6d. English; and the time occupied is half an hour, that is to say, twenty minutes for the descent of the Danube, and about ten minutes for the ascent of the Save. On arrival at the low point of land at the confluence, we perceived the distinct line of the two rivers, the Danube faithfully retaining its brown, muddy character, while the Save is much clearer. We now had a much closer view of the fortress opposite. Large embrasures, slightly elevated above the water's edge, were intended for guns of great calibre; but above, a gallimaufry of grass-grown and moss-covered fortifications were crowned by ricketty, red-tiled houses, and looking very unlike the magnificent towers in the last scene of the Siege of Belgrade, at Drury Lane. Just within the banks of the Save were some of the large boats which trade on the river; the new ones as curiously carved, painted, and even gilded, as some of those one sees at Dort and Rotterdam. They have no deck—for a ridge of rafters covers the goods, and the boatmen move about on ledges at the gunwale.
The fortress of Belgrade, jutting out exactly at the point of confluence of the rivers, has the town behind it. The Servian, or principal quarter, slopes down to the Save; the Turkish quarter to the Danube. I might compare Belgrade to a sea-turtle, the head of which is represented by the fortress, the back of the neck by the esplanade or Kalai Meidan, the right flank by the Turkish quarter, the left by the Servian, and the ridge of the back by the street running from the esplanade to the gate of Constantinople.
We landed at the left side of our imaginary turtle, or at the quay of the Servian quarter, which runs along the Save. The sloping bank was paved with stones; and above was a large edifice with an arcade, one end of which served as the custom-house, the other as the Austrian consulate.
The population was diversified. Shabby old Turks were selling fruit; and boatmen, both Moslem and Christian—the former with turbans, the latter with short fez's—were waiting for a fare. To the left was a Turkish guard-house, at a gate leading to the esplanade, with as smart a row of burnished muskets as one could expect. All within this gate is under the jurisdiction of the Turkish Pasha of the fortress; all without the gate in question, is under the government of the Servian Prefect of Belgrade.
We now turned into a curious old street, built quite in the Turkish fashion, and composed of rafters knocked carelessly together, and looking as if the first strong gust of wind would send them smack over the water into Hungary without the formality of a quarantine; but many of the shops were smartly garnished with clothes, haberdashery, and trinkets, mostly from Bohemia and Moravia; and in some I saw large blocks of rock-salt.
Notwithstanding the rigmarole construction of the quarter on the water's edge, (save and except at the custom-house,) it is the most busy quarter in the town: here are the places of business of the principal merchants in the place. This class is generally of the Tsinsar nation, as the descendants of the Roman colonists in Macedonia are called; their language is a corrupt Latin, and resembles the Wallachian dialect very closely.
We now ascended by a steep street to the upper town. The most prominent object in the first open space we came to is the cathedral, a new and large but tasteless structure, with a profusely gilt bell-tower, in the Russian manner; and the walls of the interior are covered with large paintings of no merit. But one must not be too critical: a kindling of intellectual energy ever seems, in most countries, to precede excellence in the imitative arts, which latter, too often survives the ruins of those ruder and nobler qualities which assure the vigorous existence of states or provinces.
In the centre of the town is an open square, which forms a sort of line of demarcation between the crescent and the cross. On the one side, several large and good houses have been constructed by the wealthiest senators, in the German manner, with flaring new white walls and bright green shutter-blinds. On the other side is a mosque, and dead old garden walls, with walnut trees and Levantine roofs peeping up behind them. Look on this picture, and you have the type of all domestic architecture lying between you and the snow-fenced huts of Lapland; cast your eyes over the way, and imagination wings lightly to the sweet south with its myrtles, citrons, marbled steeps and fragrance-bearing gales.
Beside the mosque is the new Turkish coffee-house, which is kept by an Arab by nation and a Moslem by religion, but born at Lucknow. One day, in asking for the mullah of the mosque, who had gone to Bosnia, I entered into conversation with him; but on learning that I was an Englishman he fought shy, being, like most Indian Moslems when travelling in Turkey, ashamed of their sovereign being a protected ally of a Frank government.
I now entered the region of gardens and villas, which, previous to the revolution of Kara Georg, was occupied principally by Turks. Passing down a shady lane my attention was arrested by a rotten moss-grown garden door, at the sight of which memory leaped backwards for four or five years. Here I had spent a happy forenoon with Colonel H——, and the physician of the former Pasha, an old Hanoverian, who, as surgeon to a British regiment had gone through all the fatigues of the Peninsular war. I pushed open the door, and there, completely secluded from the bustle of the town, and the view of the stranger, grew the vegetation as luxuriant as ever, relieving with its dark green frame the clear white of the numerous domes and minarets of the Turkish quarter, and the broad-bosomed Danube which filled up the centre of the picture; but the house and stable, which had resounded with the good-humoured laugh of the master, and the neighing of the well-fed little stud (for horse-flesh was the weak side of our Esculapius), were tenantless, ruinous, and silent. The doctor had died in the interval at Widdin, in the service of Hussein Pasha. I mechanically withdrew, abstracted from external nature by the "memory of joys that were past, pleasant and mournful to the soul."
I then took a Turkish bath; but the inferiority of those in Belgrade to similar luxuries in Constantinople, Damascus, and Cairo, was strikingly apparent on entering. The edifice and the furniture were of the commonest description. The floors of the interior of brick instead of marble, and the plaster and the cement of the walls in a most defective state. The atmosphere in the drying room was so cold from the want of proper windows and doors, that I was afraid lest I should catch a catarrh. The Oriental bath, when paved with fine grained marbles, and well appointed in the departments of linen, sherbet, and narghile, is a great luxury; but the bath at Belgrade was altogether detestable. In the midst of the drying business a violent dispute broke out between the proprietor and an Arnaout, whom the former styled a cokoshary, or hen-eater, another term for a robber; for when lawless Arnaouts arrive in a village, after eating up half the contents of the poultry-yard, they demand a tribute in the shape of compensation for the wear and tear of their teeth while consuming the provisions they have forcibly exacted.
Europeanization of Belgrade.—Lighting and Paving.—Interior of the Fortress—Turkish Pasha.—Turkish Quarter.—Turkish Population.—Panorama of Belgrade—Dinner party given by the Prince.
The melancholy I experienced in surveying the numerous traces of desolation in Turkey was soon effaced at Belgrade. Here all was life and activity. It was at the period of my first visit, in 1839, quite an oriental town; but now the haughty parvenu spire of the cathedral throws into the shade the minarets of the mosques, graceful even in decay. Many of the bazaar-shops have been fronted and glazed. The oriental dress has become much rarer; and houses several stories high, in the German fashion, are springing up everywhere. But in two important particulars Belgrade is as oriental as if it were situated on the Tigris or Barrada—lighting and paving. It is impossible in wet weather to pay a couple of visits without coming home up to the ankles in mud; and at night all locomotion without a lantern is impossible. Belgrade, from its elevation, could be most easily lighted with gas, and at a very small expense; as even if there be no coal in Servia, there is abundance of it at Moldava, which is on the Danube between Belgrade and Orsova; that is to say, considerably above the Iron Gates. I make this remark, not so much to reproach my Servian friends with backwardness, but to stimulate them to all easily practicable improvements.
One day I accompanied M. de Fonblanque on a visit to the Pasha in the citadel, which we reached by crossing the glacis or neck of land that connects the castle with the town. This place forms the pleasantest evening lounge in the vicinity of Belgrade; for on the one side is an extensive view of the Turkish town, and the Danube wending its way down to Semendria; on the other is the Save, its steep bank piled with street upon street, and the hills beyond them sloping away to the Bosniac frontier.
The ramparts are in good condition; and the first object that strikes a stranger on entering, are six iron spikes, on which, in the time of the first revolution, the heads of Servians used to be stuck. Milosh once saved his own head from this elevation by his characteristic astuteness. During his alliance with the Turks in 1814, (or 1815,) he had large pecuniary transactions with the Pasha, for he was the medium through whom the people paid their tribute. Five heads grinned from five spikes as he entered the castle, and he comprehended that the sixth was reserved for him; the last head set up being that of Glavash, a leader, who, like himself, was then supporting the government: so he immediately took care to make the Pasha understand that he was about to set out on a tour in the country, to raise some money for the vizierial strong-box. "Peh eiu," said Soliman Pasha, thinking to catch him next time, and get the money at the same time; so Milosh was allowed to depart; but knowing that if he returned spike the sixth would not wait long for its head, he at once raised the district of Rudnick, and ended the terrible war which had been begun under much less favourable auspices, by the more valiant but less astute Kara Georg.
We passed a second draw-bridge, and found ourselves in the interior of the fortress. A large square was formed by ruinous buildings. Extensive barracks were windowless and tenantless, but the mosque and the Pasha's Konak were in good order. We were ushered into an audience-room of great extent, with a low carved roof and some old-fashioned furniture, the divan being in the corner, and the windows looking over the precipice to the Danube below. Hafiz Pasha, the same who commanded at the battle of Nezib, was about fifty-five, and a gentleman in air and manner, with a grey beard. In course of conversation he told me that he was a Circassian. He asked me about my travels: and with reference to Syria said, "Land operations through Kurdistan against Mehemet Ali were absurd. I suggested an attack by sea, while a land force should make a diversion by Antioch, but I was opposed." After the usual pipes and coffee we took our leave.
Hafiz Pasha's political relations are necessarily of a very restricted character, as he rules only the few Turks remaining in Servia; that is to say, a few thousands in Belgrade and Ushitza, a few hundreds in Shabatz Sokol and the island of Orsova. He represents the suzerainety of the Porte over the Christian population, without having any thing to do with the details of administration. His income, like that of other mushirs or pashas of three tails, is 8000l. per annum. Hafiz Pasha, if not a successful general, was at all events a brave and honourable man, and his character for justice made him highly respected. One of his predecessors, who was at Belgrade on my first visit there in 1839, was a man of another stamp,—the notorious Youssouf Pasha, who sold Varna during the Russian war. The re-employment of such an individual is a characteristic illustration of Eastern manners.
As my first stay at Belgrade extended to between two and three months, I saw a good deal of Hafiz Pasha, who has a great taste for geography, and seemed to be always studying at the maps. He seemed to think that nothing would be so useful to Turkey as good roads, made to run from the principal ports of Asia Minor up to the depots of the interior, so as to connect Sivas, Tokat, Angora, Konieh, Kaiserieh, &c. with Samsoun, Tersoos, and other ports. He wittily reversed the proverb "El rafyk som el taryk" (companionship makes secure roads) by saying, "el taryk som el rafyk" (good roads increase passenger traffic).
At the Bairam reception, the Pasha wore his great nishau of diamonds. Prince Alexander wore a blue uniform with gold epaulettes, and an aigrette of brilliants in his fez. His predecessor, Michael, on such occasions, wore a cocked hat, which used to give offence, as the fez is considered by the Turks indispensable to a recognition of the suzerainety of the Porte.
Being Bairam, I was induced to saunter into the Turkish quarter of the town, where all wore the handsome holyday dresses of the old fashion, being mostly of crimson cloth, edged with gold lace. My cicerone, a Servian, pointed out those shops belonging to the sultan, still marked with the letter f, intended, I suppose, for mulk or imperial property. We then turned to the left, and came into a singular looking street, composed of the ruins of ornamented houses in the imposing, but too elaborate style of architecture, which was in vogue in Vienna, during the life of Charles the Sixth, and which was a corruption of the style de Louis Quatorze. These buildings were half-way up concealed from view by common old bazaar shops. This was the "Lange Gasse," or main street of the German town during the Austrian occupation of twenty-two years, from 1717 to 1739. Most of these houses were built with great solidity, and many still have the stucco ornaments that distinguish this style. The walls of the palace of Prince Eugene are still standing complete, but the court-yard is filled up with rubbish, at least six feet high, and what were formerly the rooms of the ground-floor have become almost cellars. The edifice is called to this day, "Princeps Konak." This mixture of the coarse, but picturesque features of oriental life, with the dilapidated stateliness of palaces in the style of the full-bottom-wigged Vanbrughs of Austria, has the oddest effect imaginable.
The Turks remaining in Belgrade have mostly sunk into poverty, and occupy themselves principally with water-carrying, wood-splitting, &c. The better class latterly kept up their position, by making good sales of houses and shops; for building ground is now in some situations very expensive. Mr. Fonblanque pays 100L. sterling per annum for his rooms, which is a great deal, compared with the rates of house-rent in Hungary just over the water.
One day, I ascended the spire of the cathedral, in order to have a view of the city and environs. Belgrade, containing only 35,000 inhabitants, cannot boast of looking very like a metropolis; but the environs contain the materials of a good panorama. Looking westward, we see the winding its way from the woods of Topshider; the Servian shore is abrupt, the Austrian flat, and subject to inundation; the prospect on the north-west being closed in by the dim dark line of the Frusca Gora, or "Wooded Mountain," which forms the backbone of Slavonia, and is the high wooded region between the Save and the Drave. Northwards, are the spires of Semlin, rising up from the Danube, which here resumes its easterly course; while south and east stretch the Turkish quarter, which I have been describing.
There are no formal levees or receptions at the palace of Prince Alexander, except on his own fete day. Once or twice a year he entertains at dinner the Pasha, the ministers, and the foreign consuls-general. In the winter, the prince gives one or two balls.
One of the former species of entertainments took place during my stay, and I received the prince's invitation. At the appointed day, I found the avenue to the residence thronged with people Who were listening to the band that played in the court-yard; and on arriving fit the top of the stairs, was led by an officer in a blue uniform, who seemed to direct the ceremonies of the day, into the saloon, in which I had, on my arrival in Belgrade, paid my respects to the prince, which might be pronounced the fac simile of the drawing-room of a Hungarian nobleman; the parquet was inlaid and polished, the chairs and sofas covered with crimson and white satin damask, which is an unusual luxury in these regions, the roof admirably painted in subdued colours, in the best Vienna style. High white porcelain urn-like stoves heated the suite of rooms.
The company had that picturesque variety of character and costume which every traveller delights in. The prince, a muscular middle sized dark complexioned man, of about thirty-five, with a serious composed air, wore a plain blue military uniform. The princess and her dames de compagnie wore the graceful native Servian costume. The Pasha wore the Nizam dress, and the Nishan Iftihar; Baron Lieven, the Russian Commissioner, in the uniform of a general, glittered with innumerable orders; Colonel Philippovich, a man of distinguished talents, represented Austria. The archbishop, in his black velvet cap, a large enamelled cross hanging by a massive gold chain from his neck, sat in stately isolation; and the six feet four inches high Garashanin, minister of the interior, conversed with Stojan Simitch, the president of the senate, one of the few Servians in high office, who retains his old Turkish costume, and has a frame that reminds one of the Farnese Hercules. Then what a medley of languages; Servian, German, Russian, Turkish, and French, all in full buzz!
We proceeded to the dining-room, where the cuisine was in every respect in the German manner. When the dessert appeared, the prince rose with a creaming glass of champagne in his hand, and proposed the health of the sultan, acknowledged by the pasha; and then, after a short pause, the health of Czar Nicolay Paulovitch, acknowledged by Baron Lieven; then came the health of other crowned heads. Baron Lieven now rose and proposed the health of the Prince. The Pasha and the Princess were toasted in turn; and then M. Wastchenko, the Russian consul general rose, and in animated terms, drank to the prosperity of Servia. The entertainment, which commenced at one o'clock, was prolonged to an advanced period of the afternoon, and closed with coffee, liqueurs, and chibouques in the drawing-room; the princess and the ladies having previously withdrawn to the private apartments.
My time during the rest of the year was taken up with political, statistical, and historical inquiries, the results of which will be found condensed at the termination of the narrative part of this work.
Return to Servia.—The Danube.—Semlin.—Wucics and Petronievitch.—Cathedral Solemnity.—Subscription Ball.
After an absence of six months in England, I returned to the Danube. Vienna and Pesth offered no attractions in the month of August, and I felt impatient to put in execution my long cherished project of travelling through the most romantic woodlands of Servia. Suppose me then at the first streak of dawn, in the beginning of August, 1844, hurrying after the large wheelbarrow which carries the luggage of the temporary guests of the Queen of England at Pesth to the steamer lying just below the long bridge of boats that connects the quiet sombre bureaucratic Ofen with the noisy, bustling, movement-loving new city, which has sprung up as it were by enchantment on the opposite side of the water. I step on board—the signal is given for starting—the lofty and crimson-peaked Bloxberg—the vine-clad hill that produces the fiery Ofener wine, and the long and graceful quay, form, as it were, a fine peristrephic panorama, as the vessel wheels round, and, prow downwards, commences her voyage for the vast and curious East, while the Danubian tourist bids a dizzy farewell to this last snug little centre of European civilization. We hurry downwards towards the frontiers of Turkey, but nature smiles not,—We have on our left the dreary steppe of central Hungary, and on our right the low distant hills of Baranya. Alas! this is not the Danube of Passau, and Lintz, and Molk, and Theben. But now the Drave pours her broad waters into the great artery. The right shore soon becomes somewhat bolder, and agreeably wooded hills enliven the prospect. This little mountain chain is the celebrated Frusca Gora, the stronghold of the Servian language, literature, and nationality on the Austrian aide of the Save.
A few days after my arrival, Wucics and Petronievitch, the two pillars of the party of Kara Georgevitch, the reigning prince, and the opponents of the ousted Obrenovitch family, returned from banishment in consequence of communications that had passed between the British and Russian governments. Great preparations were made to receive the popular favourites.
One morning I was attracted to the window, and saw an immense flock of sheep slowly paraded along, their heads being decorated with ribbons, followed by oxen, with large citrons stuck on the tips of their horns.
One vender of shawls and carpets had covered all the front of his shop with his gaudy wares, in order to do honour to the patriots, and at the same time to attract the attention of purchasers.
The tolling of the cathedral bell announced the approach of the procession, which was preceded by a long train of rustic cavaliers, noble, vigorous-looking men. Standing at the balcony, we missed the sight of the heroes of the day, who had gone round by other streets. We, therefore, went to the cathedral, where all the principal persons in Servia were assembled. One old man, with grey, filmy, lack-lustre eyes, pendant jaws, and white beard, was pointed out to me as a centenarian witness of this national manifestation.
The grand screen, which in the Greek churches veils the sanctuary from the vulgar gaze, was hung with rich silks, and on a raised platform, covered with carpets, stood the archbishop, a dignified high-priest-looking figure, with crosier in hand, surrounded by his deacons in superbly embroidered robes. The huzzas of the populace grew louder as the procession approached the cathedral, a loud and prolonged buzz of excited attention accompanied the opening of the grand central portal, and Wucics and Petronievitch, grey with the dust with which the immense cavalcade had besprinkled them, came forward, kissed the cross and gospels, which the archbishop presented to them, and, kneeling down, returned thanks for their safe restoration. On regaining their legs, the archbishop advanced to the edge of the platform, and began a discourse describing the grief the nation had experienced at their departure, the universal joy for their return, and the hope that they would ever keep peace and union in view in all matters of state, and that in their duties to the state they must never forget their responsibility to the Most High.
Wucics, dressed in the coarse frieze jacket and boots of a Servian peasant, heard with a reverential inclination of the head the elegantly polished discourse of the gold-bedizened prelate, but nought relaxed one single muscle of that adamantine visage; the finer but more luminous features of Petronievitch were evidently under the control of a less powerful will. At certain passages of the discourse, his intelligent eye was moistened with tears. Two deacons then prayed successively for the Sultan, the Emperor of Russia, and the prince.
And now uprose from every tongue, and every heart, a hymn for the longevity of Wucics and Petronievitch. "The solemn song for many days" is the expressive title of this sublime chant. This hymn is so old that its origin is lost in the obscure dawn of Christianity in the East, and so massive, so nobly simple, as to be beyond the ravages of time, and the caprices of convention.
The procession then returned, the band playing the Wucics march, to the houses of the two heroes of the day.
We dined; and just as dessert appeared the whiz of a rocket announced the commencement of fire-works. As most of us had seen the splendid bouquet of rockets, which, during the fetes of July, amuse the Parisians, we entertained slender expectations of being pleased with an illumination at Belgrade. On going out, however, the scene proved highly interesting. In the grand square were two columns a la Vicentina, covered with lamps. One side of the square was illuminated with the word Wucics, and the other with the word Avram in colossal letters. At a later period of the evening the downs were covered with fires roasting innumerable sheep and oxen, a custom which seems in all countries to accompany popular rejoicing.
I had never seen a Servian full-dress ball, but the arrival of Wucics and Petronievitch procured me the opportunity of witnessing an entertainment of this description. The principal apartment in the new Konak, built by prince Michael, was the ball-room, which, by eight o'clock, was filled, as the phrase goes, by all "the rank and fashion" of Belgrade. Senators of the old school, in their benishes and shalwars, and senators of the new school in pantaloons and stiff cravats. As Servia has become, morally speaking, Europe's youngest daughter, this is all very well: but I must ever think that in the article of dress this innovation is not an improvement. I hope that the ladies of Servia will never reject their graceful national costume for the shifting modes and compressed waists of European capitals.
No head-dress, that I have seen in the Levant, is better calculated to set off beauty than that of the ladies of Servia. From a small Greek fez they suspend a gold tassel, which contrasts with the black and glossy hair, which is laid smooth and flat down the temple. Even now, while I write, memory piques me with the graceful toss of the head, and the rustle of the yellow satin gown of the sister of the princess, who was admitted to be the handsomest woman in the room, and with her tunic of crimson velvet embroidered in gold, and faced with sable, would have been, in her strictly indigenous costume, the queen of any fancy ball in old Europe.
Wucics and Petronievitch were of course received with shouts and clapping of hands, and took the seats prepared for them at the upper end of the hall. The Servian national dance was then performed, being a species of cotillion in alternate quick and slow movements.
I need not repeat the other events of the evening; how forms and features were passed in review; how the jewelled, smooth-skinned, doll-like beauties usurped the admiration of the minute, and how the indefinably sympathetic air of less pretentious belles prolonged their magnetic sway to the close of the night.
Holman, the Blind Traveller.—Milutinovich, the Poet.—Bulgarian Legend.—Tableau de genre.—Departure for the Interior.
Belgrade, unlike other towns on the Danube, is much less visited by Europeans, since the introduction of steam navigation, than it was previously. Servia used to be the porte cochere of the East; and most travellers, both before and since the lively Lady Mary Wortley Montague, took the high road to Constantinople by Belgrade, Sofia, Philippopoli, and Adrianople. No mere tourist would now-a-days think of undertaking the fatiguing ride across European Turkey, when he can whizz past Widdin and Roustchouk, and even cut off the grand tongue at the mouth of the Danube, by going in an omnibus from Czernovoda to Kustendgi; consequently the arrival of an English traveller from the interior, is a somewhat rare occurrence.
One day I was going out at the gateway, and saw a strange figure, with a long white beard and a Spanish cap, mounted on a sorry horse, and at once recognized it to be that of Holman, the blind traveller.
"How do you do, Mr. Holman?" said I.
"I know that voice well."
"I last saw you in Aleppo," said I; and he at once named me.
I then got him off his horse, and into quarters.
This singular individual had just come through the most dangerous parts of Bosnia in perfect safety; a feat which a blind man can perform more easily than one who enjoys the most perfect vision; for all compassionate and assist a fellow-creature in this deplorable plight.
Next day I took Mr. Holman through the town, and described to him the lions of Belgrade; and taking a walk on the esplanade, I turned his face to the cardinal points of the compass, successively explaining the objects lying in each direction, and, after answering a few of his cross questions, the blind traveller seemed to know as much of Belgrade as was possible for a person in his condition.
He related to me, that since our meeting at Aleppo, he had visited Damascus and other eastern cities; and at length, after sundry adventures, had arrived on the Adriatic, and visited the Vladika of Montenegro, who had given him a good reception. He then proceeded through Herzegovina and Bosnia to Seraievo, where he passed three days, and he informed me that from Seraievo to the frontiers of Servia was nearly all forest, with here and there the skeletons of robbers hung up in chains.
Mr. Holman subsequently went, as I understood, to Wallachia and Transylvania.
Having delayed my departure for the interior, in order to witness the national festivities, nothing remained but the purgatory of preparation, the squabbling about the hire of horses, the purchase of odds and ends for convenience on the road, for no such thing as a canteen is to be had at Belgrade. Some persons recommended my hiring a Turkish Araba; but as this is practicable only on the regularly constructed roads, I should have lost the sight of the most picturesque regions, or been compelled to take my chance of getting horses, and leaving my baggage behind. To avoid this inconvenience, I resolved to perform the whole journey on horseback.
The government showed me every attention, and orders were sent by the minister of the interior to all governors, vice-governors, and employes, enjoining them to furnish me with every assistance, and communicate whatever information I might desire; to which, as the reader will see in the sequel, the fullest effect was given by those individuals.
On the day of departure, a tap was heard at the door, and enter Holman to bid me good-bye. Another tap at the door, and enter Milutinovich, who is the best of the living poets of Servia, and has been sometimes called the Ossian of the Balkan. As for his other pseudonyme, "the Homer of a hundred sieges," that must have been invented by Mr. George Robins, the Demosthenes of "one hundred rostra." The reading public in Servia is not yet large enough to enable a man of letters to live solely by his works; so our bard has a situation in the ministry of public instruction. One of the most remarkable compositions of Milutinovich is an address to a young surgeon, who, to relieve the poet from difficulties, expended in the printing of his poems a sum which he had destined for his own support at a university, in order to obtain his degree.
Now, it may not be generally known that one of the oldest legends of Bulgaria is that of "Poor Lasar," which runs somewhat thus:—
"The day departed, and the stranger came, as the moon rose on the silver snow. 'Welcome,' said the poor Lasar to the stranger; 'Luibitza, light the faggot, and prepare the supper.'
"Luibitza answered: 'The forest is wide, and the lighted faggot burns bright, but where is the supper? Have we not fasted since yesterday?'
"Shame and confusion smote the heart of poor Lasar.
"'Art thou a Bulgarian,' said the stranger, 'and settest not food before thy guest?'
"Poor Lasar looked in the cupboard, and looked in the garret, nor crumb, nor onion, were found in either. Shame and confusion smote the heart of poor Lasar.
"'Here is fat and fair flesh,' said the stranger, pointing to Janko, the curly-haired boy. Luibitza shrieked and fell. 'Never,' said Lasar, 'shall it be said that a Bulgarian was wanting to his guest,' He seized a hatchet, and Janko was slaughtered as a lamb. Ah, who can describe the supper of the stranger!
"Lasar fell into a deep sleep, and at midnight he heard the stranger cry aloud, 'Arise, Lasar, for I am the Lord thy God; the hospitality of Bulgaria is untarnished. Thy son Janko is restored to life, and thy stores are filled.'
"Long lived the rich Lasar, the fair Luibitza, and the curly-haired Janko."
Milutinovich, in his address to the youthful surgeon, compares his transcendent generosity to the sacrifice made by Lasar in the wild and distasteful legend I have here given.
I introduced the poet and the traveller to each other, and explained their respective merits and peculiarities. Poor old Milutinovich, who looked on his own journey to Montenegro as a memorable feat, was awe-struck when I mentioned the innumerable countries in the four quarters of the world which had been visited by the blind traveller. He immediately recollected of having read an account of him in the Augsburg Gazette, and with a reverential simplicity begged me to convey to him his desire to kiss, his beard. Holman consented with a smile, and Milutinovich, advancing as if he were about to worship a deity, lifted the peak of white hairs from the beard of the aged stranger, pressed them to his lips, and prayed aloud that he might return to his home in safety.
In old Europe, Milutinovich would have been called an actor; but his deportment, if it had the originality, had also the childish simplicity of nature.
When the hour of departure arrived, I descended to the court yard, which would have furnished good materials for a tableau de genre, a lofty, well built, German-looking house, rising on three sides, surrounded a most rudely paved court, which was inclosed on the fourth by a stable and hay-loft, not one-third the height of the rest. Various mustachioed far niente looking figures, wrapped cap-a-pie in dressing gowns, lolled out of the first floor corridor, and smoked their chibouques with unusual activity, while the ground floor was occupied by German washer-women and their soap-suds; three of the arcades being festooned with shirts and drawers hung up to dry, and stockings, with apertures at the toes and heels for the free circulation of the air. Loud exclamations, and the sound of the click of balls, proceeded from the large archway, on which a cafe opened. In the midst of the yard stood our horses, which, with their heavily padded and high cantelled Turkish saddles, somewhat a la Wouvermans, were held by Fonblanque's robust Pandour in his crimson jacket and white fustanella. My man Paul gave a smack of the whip, and off we cantered for the highlands and woodlands of Servia.
Journey to Shabatz.—Resemblance of Manners to those of the Middle Ages.—Palesh.—A Servian Bride.—Blind Minstrel.—Gypsies.—Macadamized Road.
The immediate object of my first journey was Shabatz; the second town in Servia, which is situated further up the Save than Belgrade, and is thus close upon the frontier of Bosnia. We consequently had the river on our right hand all the way. After five hours' travelling, the mountains, which hung back as long as we were in the vicinity of Belgrade, now approached, and draped in forest green, looked down on the winding Save and the pinguid flats of the Slavonian frontier. Just before the sun set, we wound by a circuitous road to an eminence which, projected promontory-like into the river's course. Three rude crosses were planted on a steep, not unworthy the columnar harmony of Grecian marble.
When it was quite dark, we arrived at the Colubara, and passed the ferry which, during the long Servian revolution, was always considered a post of importance, as commanding a communication between Shabatz and the capital. An old man accompanied us, who was returning to his native place on the frontiers of Bosnia, having gone to welcome Wucics and Petronievitch. He amused me by asking me "if the king of my country lived in a strong castle?" I answered, "No, we have a queen, whose strength is in the love of all her subjects." Indeed, it is impossible to travel in the interior of Turkey without having the mind perpetually carried back to the middle ages by a thousand quaint remarks and circumstances, inseparable from the moral and political constitution of a half civilized and quasi-federal empire. For, in nearly all the mountainous parts of Turkey, the power of the government is almost nominal, and even up to a very recent period the position of the Dere Beys savoured strongly of feudalism.
We arrived at Palesh, the khan of which looked like a new coffee-shop in a Turkish bazaar, and I thought that we should have a sorry night's quarters; but mine host, leading the way with a candle up a ladder, and though a trap-door, put us into a clean newly-carpeted room, and in an hour the boy entered with Turkish wash-hand apparatus; and after ablution the khan keeper produced supper, consisting of soup, which contained so much lemon juice, that, without a wry face, I could scarcely eat it—boiled lamb, from which the soup had been made, and then a stew of the same with Tomata sauce. A bed was then spread out on the floor a la turque, which was rather hard; but as the sheets were snowy white, I reckoned myself very lucky.
I must say that there is a degree of cleanliness within doors, which I had been led to consider as somewhat foreign to the habits of Slaavic populations. The lady of the Austrian consul-general in Belgrade told me that she was struck with the propriety of the dwellings of the poor, as contrasted with those in Galicia, where she had resided for many years; and every traveller in Germany is struck with the difference which exists between the villages of Bohemia and those in Saxony, and other adjacent German provinces.
From Palesh we started with fine weather for Skela, through a beautifully wooded park, some fields being here and there inclosed with wattling. Skela is a new ferry on the Save, to facilitate the communication with Austria.
Near here are redoubts, where Kara Georg, the father of the reigning prince, held out during the disasters of 1813, until all the women and children were transferred in safety to the Austrian territory. Here we met a very pretty girl, who, in answer to the salute of my fellow-travellers, bent herself almost to the earth. On asking the reason, I was told that she was a bride, whom custom compels, for a stated period, to make this humble reverence.
We then came to the Skela, and seeing a large house within an enclosure, I asked what it was, and was told that it was the reconciliation-house, (primiritelnj sud,) a court of first instance, in which cases are decided by the village elders, without expense to the litigants, and beyond which suits are seldom carried to the higher courts. There is throughout all the interior of Servia a stout opposition to the nascent lawyer class in Belgrade. I have been more than once amused on hearing an advocate, greedy of practice, style this laudable economy and patriarchal simplicity—"Avarice and aversion from civilization." As it began to rain we entered a tavern, and ordered a fowl to be roasted, as the soup and stews of yester-even were not to my taste. A booby, with idiocy marked on his countenance, was lounging about the door, and when our mid-day meal was done I ordered the man to give him a glass of slivovitsa, as plum brandy is called. He then came forward, trembling, as if about to receive sentence of death, and taking off his greasy fez, said, "I drink to our prince Kara Georgovich, and to the progress and enlightenment of the nation." I looked with astonishment at the torn, wretched habiliments of this idiot swineherd. He was too stupid to entertain these sentiments himself; but this trifling circumstance was the feather which indicated how the wind blew. The Servians are by no means a nation of talkers; they are a serious people; and if the determination to rise were not in the minds of the people, it would not be on the lips of the baboon-visaged oaf of an insignificant hamlet.
The rain now began to pour in torrents, so to make the most of it, we ordered another magnum of strong red wine, and procured from the neighbourhood a blind fiddler, who had acquired a local reputation. His instrument, the favourite one of Servia, is styled a goosely, being a testudo-formed viol; no doubt a relic of the antique, for the Servian monarchy derived all its arts from the Greeks of the Lower Empire. But the musical entertainment, in spite of the magnum of wine, and the jovial challenges of our fellow traveller from the Drina, threw me into a species of melancholy. The voice of the minstrel, and the tone of the instrument, were soft and melodious, but so profoundly plaintive as to be painful. The song described the struggle of Osman Bairactar with Michael, a Servian chief, and, as it was explained to me, called up successive images of a war of extermination, with its pyramids of ghastly trunkless heads, and fields of charcoal, to mark the site of some peaceful village, amid the blaze of which its inhabitants had wandered to an eternal home in the snows and trackless woods of the Balkan. When I looked out of the tavern window the dense vapours and torrents of rain did not elevate my spirits; and when I cast my eyes on the minstrel I saw a peasant, whose robust frame might have supported a large family, reduced by the privation of sight, to waste his best years in strumming on a monotonous viol for a few piastres.
I flung him a gratuity, and begged him to desist.
After musing an hour, I again ordered the horses, although it still rained, and set forth, the road being close to the river, at one part of which a fleet of decked boats were moored. I perceived that they were all navigated by Bosniac Moslems, one of whom, smoking his pipe under cover, wore the green turban of a Shereef; they were all loaded with raw produce, intended for sale at Belgrade or Semlin.
The rain increasing, we took shelter in a wretched khan, with a mud floor, and a fire of logs blazing in the centre, the smoke escaping as it best could by the front and back doors. Gipsies and Servian peasants sat round it in a large circle; the former being at once recognizable, not only from their darker skins, but from their traits being finer than those of the Servian peasantry. The gipsies fought bravely against the Turks under Kara Georg, and are now for the most part settled, although politically separated from the rest of the community, and living under their own responsible head; but, as in other countries, they prefer horse dealing and smith's work to other trades.
As there was no chance of the storm abating, I resolved to pass the night here on discovering that there was a separate room, which our host said he occasionally unlocked, for the better order of travellers: but as there was no bed, I had recourse to my carpet and pillow, for the expense of Uebergewicht had deterred me from bringing a canteen and camp bed from England.
Next morning, on waking, the sweet chirp of a bird, gently echoed in the adjoining woods, announced that the storm had ceased, and nature resumed her wonted calm. On arising, I went to the door, and the unclouded effulgence of dawn bursting through the dripping boughs and rain-bespangled leaves, seemed to realize the golden tree of the garden of the Abbassides. The road from this point to Shabatz was one continuous avenue of stately oaks—nature's noblest order of sylvan architecture; at some places, gently rising to views of the winding Save, with sun, sky, and freshening breeze to quicken the sensations, or falling into the dell, where the stream darkly pellucid, murmured under the sombre foliage.
The road, as we approached Shabatz, proved to be macadamized in a certain fashion: a deep trench was dug on each side; stakes about a foot and a half high, interlaced with wicker-work, were stuck into the ground within the trench, and the road was then filled up with gravel.
Shabatz.—A Provincial Chancery.—Servian Collector.—Description of his House.—Country Barber.—Turkish Quarter.—Self-taught Priest.—A Provincial Dinner.—Native Soiree.
I entered Shabatz by a wide street, paved in some places with wood. The bazaars are all open, and Shabatz looks like a good town in Bulgaria. I saw very few shops with glazed fronts and counters in the European manner.
I alighted at the principal khan, which had attached to it just such a cafe and billiard table as one sees in country towns in Hungary. How odd! to see the Servians, who here all wear the old Turkish costume, except the turban—immersed in the tactics of carambolage, skipping most gaily and un-orientally around the table, then balancing themselves on one leg, enveloped in enormous inexpressibles, bending low, and cocking the eye to catch the choicest bits.
Surrendering our horses to the care of the khan keeper, I proceeded to the konak, or government house, to present my letters. This proved to be a large building, in the style of Constantinople, which, with its line of bow windows, and kiosk-fashioned rooms, surmounted with projecting roofs, might have passed muster on the Bosphorus.
On entering, I was ushered into the office of the collector, to await his arrival, and, at a first glance, might have supposed myself in a formal Austrian kanzley.
There were the flat desks, the strong boxes, and the shelves of coarse foolscap; but a pile of long chibouques, and a young man, with a slight Northumbrian burr, and Servian dress, showed that I was on the right bank of the Save.
The collector now made his appearance, a roundly-built, serious, burgomaster-looking personage, who appeared as if one of Vander Helst's portraits had stepped out of the canvass, so closely does the present Servian dress resemble that of Holland, in the seventeenth century, in all but the hat.
Having read the letter, he cleared his throat with a loud hem, and then said with great deliberation, "Gospody Ilia Garashanin informs me that having seen many countries, you also wish to see Servia, and that I am to show you whatever you desire to see, and obey whatever you choose to command; and now you are my guest while you remain here. Go you, Simo, to the khan," continued the collector, addressing a tall momk or pandour, who, armed to the teeth, stood with his hands crossed at the door, "and get the gentleman's baggage taken to my house.—I hope," added he, "you will be pleased with Shabatz; but you must not be critical, for we are still a rude people."