While obtaining my breakfast of bread and milk in the Philippopolis bazaar an Arab ragamuffin rushes in, and, with anxious gesticulations toward the bicycle, which I have from necessity left outside, and cries of "Monsieur, monsieur," plainly announces that there is something going wrong in connection with the machine. Quickly going out I find that, although I left it standing on the narrow apology for a sidewalk, it is in imminent danger of coming to grief at the instance of a broadly laden donkey, which, with his load, veritably takes up the whole narrow street, including the sidewalks, as he slowly picks his way along through mud-holes and protruding cobble-stones. And yet Philippopolis has improved wonderfully since it has nominally changed from a Turkish to a Christian city, I am told; the Cross having in Philippopolis not only triumphed over the Crescent, but its influence is rapidly changing the condition and appearance of the streets. There is no doubt about the improvements, but they are at present most conspicuous in the suburbs, near the English consulate. It is threatening rain again as I am picking my way through the crooked streets of Philippopolis toward the Adrianople road; verily, I seem these days to be fully occupied in playing hide-and-seek with the elements; but in Roumelia at this season it is a question of either rain or insufferable heat, and perhaps, after all, I have reason to be thankful at having the former to contend with rather than the latter. Two thunderstorms have to be endured during the forenoon, and for lunch I reach a mehana where, besides eggs roasted in the embers, and fairly good bread, I am actually offered a napkin that has been used but a few times - an evidence of civilization that is quite refreshing.
A repetition of the rain-dodging of the forenoon characterizes the afternoon journey, and while halting at a small village the inhabitants actually take me for a mountebank, and among them collect a handful of diminutive copper coins about the size and thickness of a gold twenty-five-cent piece, and of which it would take at least twenty to make an American cent, and offer them to me for a performance. What with shaking my head for "no" and the villagers naturally mistaking the motion for " yes," according to their own custom, I have quite an interesting time of it making them understand that I am not a mountebank travelling from one Roumelian village to another, living on two cents' worth of black sandy bread per diem, and giving performances for about three cents a time.
For my halting-place to-night I reach the village of Cauheme, in which I find a mehana, where, although the accommodations are of the crudest nature, the proprietor is a kindly disposed and, withal, a thoroughly honest individual, furnishing me with a reed mat and a pillow, and making things as comfortable and agreeable as possible. Eating raw cucumbers as we eat apples or pears appears to be universal in Oriental Europe; frequently, through Bulgaria and Roumelia, I have noticed people, both old and young, gnawing away at a cucumber with the greatest relish, eating it rind and all, without any condiments whatever.
All through Roumelia the gradual decay of the Crescent and the corresponding elevation of the Cross is everywhere evident; the Christian element is now predominant, and the Turkish authorities play but an unimportant part in the government of internal affairs. Naturally enough, it does not suit the Mussulman to live among people whom his religion and time- honored custom have taught him to regard as inferiors, the consequence being that there has of late years been a general folding of tents and silently stealing away; and to-day it is no very infrequent occurrence for a whole Mussulman village to pack up, bag and baggage, and move bodily to Asia Minor, where the Sultan gives them tracts of land for settlement. Between the Christian and Mussulman populations of these countries there is naturally a certain amount of the "six of one and half a dozen of the other " principle, and in certain regions, where the Mussulmans have dwindled to a small minority, the Christians are ever prone to bestow upon them the same treatment that the Turks formerly gave them. There appears to be little conception of what we consider "good manners" among Oriental villagers, and while I am writing out a few notes this evening, the people crowding the mehana because of my strange unaccustomed presence stand around watching every motion of my pen, jostling carelessly against the bench, and commenting on things concerning me and the bicycle with a garrulousness that makes it almost impossible for me to write. The women of these Eoumelian villages bang their hair, and wear it in two long braids, or plaited into a streaming white head-dress of some gauzy material, behind; huge silver clasps, artistically engraved, that are probably heirlooms, fasten a belt around their waists; and as they walk along barefooted, strings of beads, bangles, and necklaces of silver coins make an incessant jingling. The sky clears and the moon shines forth resplendently ere I stretch myself on my rude couch to-night, and the sun rising bright next morning would seem to indicate fair weather at last; an indication that proves illusory, however, before the day is over.
At Khaskhor, some fifteen kilometres from Cauheme, I am able to obtain my favorite breakfast of bread, milk, and fruit, and while I am in-doors eating it a stalwart Turk considerately mounts guard over the bicycle, resolutely keeping the meddlesome crowd at bay until I get through eating. The roads this morning, though hilly, are fairly smooth, and about eleven o'clock I reach Hermouli, the last town in Roumelia, where, besides being required to produce my passport, I am requested by a pompous lieutenant of gendarmerie to produce my permit for carrying a revolver, the first time I have been thus molested in Europe. Upon explaining, as best I can, that I have no such permit, and that for a voyageur permission is not necessary (something about which I am in no way so certain, however, as my words would seem to indicate), I am politely disarmed, and conducted to a guard-room in the police-barracks, and for some twenty minutes am favored with the exclusive society of a uniformed guard and the unhappy reflections of a probable heavy fine, if not imprisonment. I am inclined to think afterward that in arresting and detaining me the officer was simply showing off his authority a little to his fellow-Hermoulites, clustered about me and the bicycle, for, at the expiration of half an hour, my revolver and passport are handed back to me, and without further inquiries or explanations I am allowed to depart in peace.
As though in wilful aggravation of the case, a village of gypsies have their tents pitched and their donkeys grazing in the last Mohammedan cemetery I see ere passing over the Roumelian border into Turkey proper, where, at the very first village, the general aspect of religious affairs changes, as though its proximity to the border should render rigid distinctions desirable. Instead of the crumbling walls and tottering minarets, a group of closely veiled women are observed praying outside a well-preserved mosque, and praying sincerely too, since not even my ncver-before-seen presence and the attention-commanding bicycle are sufficient to win their attention for a moment from their devotions, albeit those I meet on the road peer curiously enough from between the folds of their muslin yashmaks. I am worrying along to-day in the face of a most discouraging head-wind, and the roads, though mostly ridable, are none of the best. For much of the way there is a macadamized road that, in the palmy days of the Ottoman dominion, was doubtless a splendid highway, but now weeds and thistles, evidences of decaying traffic and of the proximity of the Eoumelian railway, are growing in the centre, and holes and impassable places make cycling a necessarily wide-awake performance.
Mustapha Pasha is the first Turkish town of any importance I come to, and here again my much-required "passaporte" has to be exhibited; but the police-officers of Mustapha Pasha seem to be exceptionally intelligent and quite agreeable fellows. My revolver is in plain view, in its accustomed place; but they pay no sort of attention to it, neither do they ask me a whole rigmarole of questions about my linguistic accomplishments, whither I am going, whence I came, etc., but simply glance at my passport, as though its examination were a matter of small consequence anyhow, shake hands, and smilingly request me to let them see me ride.
It begins to rain soon after I leave Mustapha Pasha, forcing me to take refuge in a convenient culvert beneath the road. I have been under this shelter but a few minutes when I am favored with the company of three swarthy Turks, who, riding toward Mustapha Pasha on horseback, have sought the same shelter. These people straightway express their astonishment at finding me and the bicycle under the culvert, by first commenting among themselves; then they turn a battery of Turkish interrogations upon my devoted head, nearly driving me out of my senses ere I escape. They are, of course, quite unintelligible to me; for if one of them asks a question a shrug of the shoulders only causes him to repeat the same over and over again, each time a little louder and a little more deliberate. Sometimes they are all three propounding questions and emphasizing them at the same time, until I begin to think that there is a plot to talk me to death and confiscate whatever valuables I have about me. They all three have long knives in their waistbands, and, instead of pointing out the mechanism of the bicycle to each other with the finger, like civilized people, they use these long, wicked-looking knives for the purpose. They maybe a coterie of heavy villains for anything I know to the contrary, or am able to judge from their general appearance, and in view of the apparent disadvantage of one against three in such cramped quarters, I avoid their immediate society as much as possible by edging off to one end of the culvert. They are probably honest enough, but as their stock of interrogations seems inexhaustible, at the end of half an hour I conclude to face the elements and take my chances of finding some other shelter farther ahead rather than endure their vociferous onslaughts any longer. They all three come out to see what is going to happen, and I am not ashamed to admit that I stand tinkering around the bicycle in the pelting rain longer than is necessary before mounting, in order to keep them out in it and get them wet through, if possible, in revenge for having practically ousted me from the culvert, and since I have a water-proof, and they have nothing of the sort, I partially succeed in my plans.
The road is the same ancient and neglected macadam, but between Mustapha Pasha and Adrianople they either make some pretence of keeping it in repair, or else the traffic is sufficient to keep down the weeds, and I am able to mount and ride in spite of the downpour. After riding about two miles I come to another culvert, in which I deem it advisable to take shelter. Here, also, I find myself honored with company, but this time it is a lone cow-herder, who is either too dull and stupid to do anything but stare alternately at me and the bicycle, or else is deaf and dumb, and my recent experience makes me cautious about tempting him to use his tongue. I am forced by the rain to remain cramped up in this last narrow culvert until nearly dark, and then trundle along through an area of stones and water-holes toward Adrianople, which city lies I know not how far to the southeast. While trundling along through the darkness, in the hope of reaching a village or mehana, I observe a rocket shoot skyward in the distance ahead, and surmise that it indicates the whereabout of Adrianople; but it is plainly many a weary mile ahead; the road cannot be ridden by the uncertain light of a cloud-veiled moon, and I have been forging ahead, over rough ways leading through an undulating country, and most of the day against a strong head-wind, since early dawn. By ten o'clock I happily arrive at a section of country that has not been favored by the afternoon rain, and, no mehana making its appearance, I conclude to sup off the cold, cheerless memories of the black bread and half-ripe pears eaten for dinner at a small village, and crawl beneath some wild prune-bushes for the night.
A few miles wheeling over very fair roads, next morning, brings me into Adrianople, where, at the Hotel Constantinople, I obtain an excellent breakfast of roast lamb, this being the only well-cooked piece of meat I have eaten since leaving Nisch. It has rained every day without exception since it delayed me over Sunday at Bela Palanka, and this morning it begins while I am eating breakfast, and continues a drenching downpour for over an hour. While waiting to see what the weather is coming to, I wander around the crooked and mystifying streets, watching the animated scenes about the bazaars, and try my best to pick up some knowledge of the value of the different coins, for I have had to deal with a bewildering mixture of late, and once again there is a complete change. Medjidis, cheriks, piastres, and paras now take the place of Serb francs, Bulgar francs, and a bewildering list of nickel and copper pieces, down to one that I should think would scarcely purchase a wooden toothpick. The first named is a large silver coin worth four and a half francs; the cherik might be called a quarter dollar; while piastres and paras are tokens, the former about five cents and the latter requiring about nine to make one cent. There are no copper coins in Turkey proper, the smaller coins being what is called "metallic money," a composition of copper and silver, varying in value from a five-para piece to five piastres.
The Adrianopolitans, drawn to the hotel by the magnetism of the bicycle, are bound to see me ride whether or no, and in their quite natural ignorance of its character, they request me to perform in the small, roughly-paved court-yard of the hotel, and all sorts of impossible places. I shake my head in disapproval and explanation of the impracticability of granting their request, but unfortunately Adrianople is within the circle where a shake of the head is understood to mean " yes, certainly;" and the happy crowd range around a ridiculously small space, and smiling approvingly at what they consider my willingness to oblige, motion for me to come ahead. An explanation seems really out of the question after this, and I conclude that the quickest and simplest way of satisfying everybody is to demonstrate my willingness by mounting and wabbling along, if only for a few paces, which I accordingly do beneath a hack shed, at the imminent risk of knocking my brains out against beams and rafters.
At eleven o'clock I decide to make a start, I and the bicycle being the focus of attraction for a most undignified mob as I trundle through the muddy streets toward the suburbs. Arriving at a street where it is possible to mount and ride for a short distance, I do this in the hope of satisfying the curiosity of the crowd, and being permitted to leave the city in comparative peace and privacy; but the hope proves a vain one, for only the respectable portion of the crowd disperses, leaving me, solitary and alone, among a howling mob of the rag, tag, and bobtail of Adrianople, who follow noisily along, vociferously yelling for me to "bin! bin!" (mount, mount), and "chu! chu!" (ride, ride) along the really unridable streets. This is the worst crowd I have encountered on the entire journey across two continents, and, arriving at a street where the prospect ahead looks comparatively promising, I mount, and wheel forward with a view of outdistancing them if possible; but a ride of over a hundred yards without dismounting would be an exceptional performance in Adrianople after a rain, and I soon find that I have made a mistake in attempting it, for, as I mount, the mob grows fairly wild and riotous with excitement, flinging their red fezes at the wheels, rushing up behind and giving the bicycle smart pushes forward, in their eagerness to see it go faster, and more than one stone comes bounding along the street, wantonly flung by some young savage unable to contain himself. I quickly decide upon allaying the excitement by dismounting, and trundling until the mobs gets tired of following, whatever the distance.
This movement scarcely meets with the approval of the unruly crowd, however, and several come forward and exhibit ten-para pieces as an inducement for me to ride again, while overgrown gamins swarm around me, and, straddling the middle and index fingers of their right hands over their left, to illustrate and emphasize their meaning, they clamorously cry, "bin! bin! chu! chu! monsieur! chu! chu!" as well as much other persuasive talk, which, if one could understand, would probably be found to mean in substance, that, although it is the time-honored custom and privilege of Adrianople mobs to fling stones and similar compliments at such unbelievers from the outer world as come among them in a conspicuous manner, they will considerately forego their privileges this time, if I will only "bin! bin!" and "chu! chu!" The aspect of harmless mischievousness that would characterize a crowd of Occidental youths on a similar occasion is entirely wanting here, their faces wearing the determined expression of people in dead earnest about grasping the only opportunity of a lifetime. Respectable Turks stand on the sidewalk and eye the bicycle curiously, but they regard my evident annoyance at being followed by a mob like this with supreme indifference, as does also a passing gendarme, whom I halt, and motion my disapproval of the proceedings. Like the civilians, he pays no sort of attention, but fixes a curious stare on the bicycle, and asks something, the import of which will to me forever remain a mystery.
Once well out of the city the road is quite good for several kilometres, and I am favored with a unanimous outburst of approval from a rough crowd at a suburban mehana, because of outdistancing a horseman who rides out from among them to overtake me. At Adrianople my road leaves the Maritza Valley and leads across the undulating uplands of the Adrianople Plains, hilly, and for most of the way of inferior surface. Reaching the village of Hafsa, soon after noon, I am fairly taken possession of by a crowd of turbaned and fezed Hafsaites and soldiers wearing the coarse blue uniform of the Turkish regulars, and given not one moment's escape from "bin! bin!" until I consent to parade my modest capabilities with the wheel by going back and forth along a ridable section of the main street. The population is delighted. Solid old Turks pat me on the back approvingly, and the proprietor of the mehana fairly hauls me and the bicycle into his establishment. This person is quite befuddled with mastic, which makes him inclined to be tyrannical and officious; and several times within the hour, while I wait for the never-failing thunder-shower to subside, he peremptorily dismisses both civilians and military out of the mehana yard; but the crowd always filters back again in less than two minutes. Once, while eating dinner, I look out of the window and find the bicycle has disappeared. Hurrying out, I meet the boozy proprietor and another individual making their way with alarming unsteadiness up a steep stairway, carrying the machine between them to an up-stairs room, where the people will have no possible chance of seeing it. Two minutes afterward his same whimsical and capricious disposition impels him to politely remove the eatables from before me, and with the manners of a showman, he gently leads me away from the table, and requests me to ride again for the benefit of the very crowd he had, but two minutes since, arbitrarily denied the privilege of even looking at the bicycle. Nothing would be more natural than to refuse to ride under these circumstances; but the crowd looks so gratified at the proprietor's sudden and unaccountable change of front, that I deem it advisable, in the interest of being permitted to finish my meal in peace, to take another short spin; moreover, it is always best to swallow such little annoyances in good part.
My route to-day is a continuation of the abandoned macadam road, the weed-covered stones of which I have frequently found acceptable in tiding me over places where the ordinary dirt road was deep with mud. In spite of its long-neglected condition, occasional ridable stretches are encountered, but every bridge and culvert has been destroyed, and an honest shepherd, not far from Hafsa, who from a neighboring knoll observes me wheeling down a long declivity toward one of these uncovered waterways, nearly shouts himself hoarse, and gesticulates most frantically in an effort to attract my attention to the danger ahead. Soon after this I am the innocent cause of two small pack-mules, heavily laden with merchandise, attempting to bolt from their driver, who is walking behind. One of them actually succeeds in escaping, and, although his pack is too heavy to admit of running at any speed, he goes awkwardly jogging across the rolling plains, as though uncertain in his own mind of whether he is acting sensibly or not; but his companion in pack-slavery is less fortunate, since he tumbles into a gully, bringing up flat on his broad and top-heavy pack with his legs frantically pawing the air. Stopping to assist the driver in getting the collapsed mule on his feet again, this individual demands damages for the accident; so I judge, at least, from the frequency of the word "medjedie," as he angrily, yet ruefully, points to the mud-begrimed pack and unhappy, yet withal laughter-provoking, attitude of the mule; but I utterly fail to see any reasonable connection between the uncalled-for scariness of his mules and the contents of my pocket-book, especially since I was riding along the Sultan's ancient and deserted macadam, while he and his mules were patronizing a separate and distinct dirt-road alongside. As he seems far more concerned about obtaining a money satisfaction from me than the rescue of the mule from his topsy-turvy position, I feel perfectly justified, after several times indicating my willingness to assist him, in leaving him and proceeding on my way.
The Adrianople plains are a dreary expanse of undulating grazing-land, traversed by small sloughs and their adjacent cultivated areas. Along this route it is without trees, and the villages one comes to at intervals of eight or ten miles are shapeless clusters of mud, straw-thatched huts, out of the midst of which, perchance, rises the tapering minaret of a small mosque, this minaret being, of course, the first indication of a village in the distance. Between Adrianople and Eski Baba, the town I reach for the night, are three villages, in one of which I approach a Turkish private house for a drink of water, and surprise the women with faces unveiled. Upon seeing my countenance peering in the doorway they one and all give utterance to little screams of dismay, and dart like frightened fawns into an adjoining room. When the men appear, to see what is up, they show no signs of resentment at my abrupt intrusion, but one of them follows the women into the room, and loud, angry words seem to indicate that they are being soundly berated for allowing themselves to be thus caught. This does not prevent the women from reappearing the next minute, however, with their faces veiled behind the orthodox yashmak, and through its one permissible opening satisfying their feminine curiosity by critically surveying me and my strange vehicle.
Four men follow me on horseback out of this village, presumably to see what use I make of the machine; at least I cannot otherwise account for the honor of their unpleasantly close attentions - close, inasmuch as they keep their horses' noses almost against my back, in spite of sundry subterfuges to shake them off. When I stop they do likewise, and when I start again they deliberately follow, altogether too near to be comfortable. They are, all four, rough-looking peasants, and their object is quite unaccountable, unless they are doing it for "pure cussedness," or perhaps with some vague idea of provoking me into doing something that would offer them the excuse of attacking and robbing me. The road is sufficiently lonely to invite some such attention. If they are only following me to see what I do with the bicycle, they return but little enlightened, since they see nothing but trundling and an occasional scraping off of mud. At the end of about two miles, whatever their object, they give it up.
Page 19 of 50