I am now approaching pretty close to the Sea of Marmora, and next morning I am agreeably surprised to find sandy roads, which the rains have rather improved than otherwise; and although much is unridably heavy, it is immeasurably superior to yesterday's mud. I pass the country residence of a wealthy pasha, and see the ladies of his harem seated in the meadow hard by, enjoying the fresh morning air. They form a circle, facing inward, and the swarthy eunuch in charge stands keeping watch at a respectful distance. I carry a pocketful of bread with me this morning, and about nine o'clock, upon coming to a ruined mosque and a few deserted buildings, I approach one at which signs of occupation are visible, for some water. This place is simply a deserted Mussulman village, from which the inhabitants probably decamped in a body during the last Russo-Turkish war; the mosque is in a tumble-down condition, the few dwelling-houses remaining are in the last stages of dilapidation, and the one I call at is temporarily occupied by some shepherds, two of whom are regaling themselves with food of some kind out of an earthenware vessel.
Obtaining the water, I sit down on some projecting boards to eat my frugal lunch, fully conscious of being an object of much furtive speculation on the part of the two occupants of the deserted house; which, however, fails to strike me as anything extraordinary, since these attentions have long since become an ordinary every-day affair. Not even the sulky and rather hang-dog expression of the men, which failed not to escape my observation at my first approach, awakened any shadow of suspicion in my mind of their being possibly dangerous characters, although the appearance of the place itself is really sufficient to make one hesitate about venturing near; and upon sober after-thought I am fully satisfied that this is a resort of a certain class of disreputable characters, half shepherds, half brigands, who are only kept from turning full-fledged freebooters by a wholesome fear of retributive justice. While I am discussing my bread and water one of these worthies saunters with assumed carelessness up behind me and makes a grab for my revolver, the butt of which he sees protruding from the holster. Although I am not exactly anticipating this movement, travelling alone among strange people makes one's faculties of self-preservation almost mechanically on the alert, and my hand reaches the revolver before his does. Springing up, I turn round and confront him and his companion, who is standing in the doorway. A full exposition of their character is plainly stamped on their faces, and for a moment I am almost tempted to use the revolver on them. Whether they become afraid of this or whether they have urgent business of some nature will never be known to me, but they both disappear inside the door; and, in view of my uncertainty of their future intentions, I consider it advisable to meander on toward the coast.
Ere I get beyond the waste lands adjoining this village I encounter two more of these shepherds, in charge of a small flock; they are watering their sheep; and as I go over to the spring, ostensibly to obtain a drink, but really to have a look at them, they both sneak off at my approach, like criminals avoiding one whom they suspect of being a detective. Take it all in all, I am satisfied that this neighborhood is a place that I have been fortunate in coming through in broad daylight; by moonlight it might have furnished a far more interesting item than the above.
An hour after, I am gratified at obtaining my first glimpse of the Sea of Marmora off to the right, and in another hour I am disporting in the warm clear surf, a luxury that has not been within my reach since leaving Dieppe, and which is a thrice welcome privilege in this land, where the usual ablutions at mehanas consist of pouring water on the hands from a tin cup. The beach is composed of sand and tiny shells, the warm surf-waves are clear as crystal, and my first plunge in the Marmora, after a two months' cycle tour across a continent, is the most thoroughly enjoyable bath I ever had; notwithstanding, I feel it my duty to keep a loose eye on some shepherds perched on a handy knoll, who look as if half inclined to slip down and examine my clothes. The clothes, with, of course, the revolver and every penny I have with me, are almost as near to them as to me, and always, after ducking my head under water, my first care is to take a precautionary glance in their direction. "Cursed is the mind that nurses suspicion," someone has said; but under the circumstances almost anybody would be suspicious. These shepherds along the Marmora coast favor each other a great deal,: and when a person has been the recipient of undesirable attention from one of them, to look askance at the next one met with comes natural enough.
Over the undulating cliffs and along the sandy beach, my road now leads through the pretty little seaport of Cilivria, toward Constantinople, traversing a most lovely stretch of country, where waving wheat-fields hug the beach and fairly coquet with the waves, and the slopes are green and beautiful with vineyards and fig-gardens, while away beyond the glassy shimmer of the sea I fancy I can trace on the southern horizon the inequalities of the hills of Asia Minor. Greek fishing-boats are plying hither and thither; one noble sailing-vessel, with all sails set, is slowly ploughing her way down toward the Dardanelles - probably a grain- ship from the Black Sea - and the smoke from a couple of steamers is discernible in the distance. Flourishing Greek fishing-villages and vine- growing communities occupy this beautiful strip of coast, along which the Greeks seem determined to make the Cross as much more conspicuous than the Crescent as possible, by rearing it on every public building under their control, and not infrequently on private ones as well. The people of these Greek villages seem possessed of sunny dispositions, the absence of all reserve among the women being in striking contrast to the demeanor of the Turkish fair sex. These Greek women chatter after me from the windows as I wheel past, and if I stop a minute in the street they gather around by dozens, smiling pleasantly, and plying me with questions, which, of course, I cannot understand. Some of them are quite handsome, and nearly all have perfect white teeth, a fact that I have ample opportunity of knowing, since they seem to be all smiles.
There has been much making of artificial highways leading from Constantinople in this direction in ages past. A road-bed of huge blocks of stone, such as some of the streets of Eastern towns are made impassable with, is traceable for miles, ascending and descending the rolling hills, imperishable witnesses of the wide difference in Eastern and Western ideas of making a road. These are probably the work of the people who occupied this country before the Ottoman Turks, who have also tried their hands at making a macadam, which not infrequently runs close along-side the old block roadway, and sometimes crosses it; and it is matter of some wonderment that the Turks, instead of hauling material for their road from a distance did not save expense by merely breaking the stones of the old causeway and using the same road-bed. Twice to-day I have been required to produce my passport, and when toward evening I pass through a small village, the lone gendarme who is smoking a nargileh in front of the mehana where I halt points to my revolver and demands "passaporte," I wave examination, so to speak, by arguing the case with him, and by the not always unhandy plan of pretending not exactly to comprehend his meaning. "Passaporte! passaporte! gendarmerie, me, " replies the officer, authoritatively, in answer to my explanation of a voyager being privileged to carry a revolver; while several villagers who have gathered around us interpose "Bin! bin! monsieur, bin! bin." I have little notion of yielding up either revolver or passport to this village gendarme, for much of their officiousness is simply the disposition to show off their authority and satisfy their own personal curiosity regarding me, to say nothing of the possibility of coming in for a little backsheesh. The villagers are worrying me to "bin! bin!" at the same time the gendarme is worrying me about the revolver and passport, and knowing from previous experience that the gendarme would never stop me from mounting, being quite as anxious to witness the performance as the villagers, I quickly decide upon killing two birds with one stone, and accordingly mount, and pick my way along the rough street out on to the Constantinople road.
The gloaming settles into darkness, and the domes and minarets of Stamboul, which have been visible from the brow of every hill for several miles back, are still eight or ten miles away, and rightly judging that the Ottoman Capital is a most bewildering city for a stranger to penetrate after night, I pillow my head on a sheaf of oats, within sight of the goal toward which I have been pedalling for some 2,500 miles since leaving Liverpool. After surveying with a good deal of satisfaction the twinkling lights that distinguish every minaret in Constantinople each night during the fast of Ramadan, I fall asleep, and enjoy, beneath a sky in which myriads of far-off lamps seem to be twinkling mockingly at the Ramadan illuminations, the finest night's repose I have had for a week. Nothing but the prevailing rains have prevented me from sleeping beneath the starry dome entirely in peference to putting up at the village mehanas.
En route into Stamboul, on the following morning, I meet the first train of camels I have yet encountered; in the gray of the morning, with the scenes around so thoroughly Oriental, it seems like an appropriate introduction to Asiatic life. Eight o'clock finds me inside the line of earthworks thrown up by Baker Pasha when the Russians were last knocking at the gates of Constantinople, and ere long I am trundling through the crooked streets of the Turkish Capital toward the bridge which connects Stamboul with Galata and Pera. Even here my ears are assailed with the eternal importunities to "bin! bin!" the officers collecting the bridge- toll even joining in the request. To accommodate them I mount, and ride part way across the bridge, and at 9 o'clock on July 2d, just two calendar months from the start at Liverpool, I am eating my breakfast in a Constantinople restaurant.
I am not long in finding English-speaking friends, to whom my journey across the two continents is not unknown, and who kindly direct me to the Chamber of Commerce Hotel, Eue Omar, Galata, a home-like establishment, kept by an English lady. I have been purposing of late to remain in Constantinople during the heated term of July and August, thinking to shape my course southward through Asia Minor and down the Euphrates Valley to Bagdad, and by taking a south-easterly direction as far as circumstances would permit into India, keep pace with the seasons, thus avoiding the necessity of remaining over anywhere for the winter. At the same time I have been reckoning upon meeting Englishmen in Constantinople who, having travelled extensively in Asia, could further enlighten me regarding the best route to India. As I house my bicycle and am shown to my room I take a retrospective glance across Europe and America, and feel almost as if I have arrived at the half-way house of my journey. The distance from Liverpool to Constantinople is fully 2,500 miles, which brings the wheeling distance from San Francisco up to something over 6,000.
So far as the, distance wheeled and to be wheeled is concerned, it is not far from half-way; but the real difficulties of the journey are still ahead, although I scarcely anticipate any that time and perseverance will not overcome. My tour across Europe has been, on the whole, a delightful journey, and, although my linguistic shortcomings have made it rather awkward in interior places where no English-speaking person was to be found, I always managed to make myself understood sufficiently to get along. In the interior of Turkey a knowledge of French has been considered indispensable to a traveller: but, although a full knowledge of that language would have made matters much smoother by enabling me to converse with officials and others, I have nevertheless come through all right without it; and there have doubtless been occasions when my ignorance has saved me from a certain amount of bother with the gendarmerie, who, above all things, dislike to exercise their thinking apparatus. A Turkish official is far less indisposed to act than he is to think; his mental faculties work sluggishly, but his actions are governed largely by the impulse of the moment.
Someone has said that to see Constantinople is to see the entire East; and judging from the different costumes and peoples one meets on the streets and in the bazaars, the saying is certainly not far amiss. From its geographical situation, as well as from its history, Constantinople naturally takes the front rank among the cosmopolitan cities of the world, and the crowds thronging its busy thoroughfares embrace every condition of man between the kid-gloved exquisite without a wrinkle in his clothes and the representative of half-savage Central Asian States incased in sheepskin garments of rudest pattern. The great fast of Ramadan is under full headway, and all true Mussulmans neither eat nor drink a particle of anything throughout the day until the booming of cannon at eight in the evening announces that the fast is ended, when the scene quickly changes into a general rush for eatables and drink. Between eight and nine o'clock in the evening, during Ramadan, certain streets and bazaars present their liveliest appearance, and from the highest-classed restaurant patronized by bey and pasha to the venders of eatables on the streets, all do a rushing business; even the mjees (water-venders), who with leather water-bottles and a couple of tumblers wait on thirsty pedestrians with pure drinking water, at five paras a glass, dodge about among the crowds, announcing themselves with lusty lung, fully alive to the opportunities of the moment.
A few of the coffee-houses provide music of an inferior quality, Constantinople not being a very musical place. A forenoon hour spent in a neighborhood of private residences will repay a stranger for his trouble, since he will during that time see a bewildering assortment of street-venders, from a peregrinating meat-market, with a complete stock dangling from a wooden framework attached to a horse's back, to a grimy individual worrying along beneath a small mountain of charcoal, and each with cries more or less musical. The sidewalks of Constantinople are ridiculously narrow, their only practical use being to keep vehicles from running into the merchandise of the shopkeepers, and to give pedestrians plenty of exercise in jostling each other, and hopping on and off the curbstone to avoid inconveniencing the ladies, who of course are not to be jostled either off the sidewalk or into a sidewalk stock of miscellaneous merchandise. The Constantinople sidewalk is anybody's territory; the merchant encumbers it with his wares and the coffee-houses with chairs for customers to sit on, the rights of pedestrians being altogether ignored; the natural consequence is that these latter fill the streets, and the Constantinople Jehu not only has to keep his wits about him to avoid running over men and dogs, but has to use his lungs continually, shouting at them to clear the way. If a seat is taken in one of the coffee-house chairs, a watchful waiter instantly makes his appearance with a tray containing small chunks of a pasty sweetmeat, known in England as " Turkish Delight," one of which you are expected to take and pay half a piastre for, this being a polite way of obtaining payment for the privilege of using the chair. The coffee is served steaming hot in tiny cups holding about two table-spoonfuls, the price varying from ten paras upward, according to the grade of the establishment. A favorite way of passing the evening is to sit in front of one of these establishments, watching the passing throngs, and smoke a nargileh, this latter requiring a good half-hour to do it properly. I undertook to investigate the amount of enjoyment contained in a nargileh one evening, and before smoking it half through concluded that the taste has to be cultivated.
One of the most inconvenient things about Constantinople is the great scarcity of small change. Everybody seems to be short of fractional money save the money-changers-people who are here a genuine necessity, since one often has to patronize them before making the most trifling purchase. Ofttimes the store-keeper will refuse point-blank to sell an article when change is required, solely on account of his inability or unwillingness to supply it. After drinking a cup of coffee, I have had the kahuajee refuse to take any payment rather than change a cherik. Inquiring the reason for this scarcity, I am informed that whenever there is any new output of this money the noble army of money-changers, by a liberal and judicious application of backsheesh, manage to get a corner on the lot and compel the general public, for whose benefit it is ostensibly issued, to obtain what they require through them. However this may be, they manage to control its circulation to a great extent; for while their glass cases display an overflowing plenitude, even the fruit-vender, whose transactions are mainly of ten and twenty paras, is not infrequently compelled to lose a customer because of his inability to make change. There are not less than twenty money-changers' offices within a hundred yards of the Galata end of the principal bridge spanning the Golden Horn, and certainly not a less number on the Stamboul side.
The money-changer usually occupies a portion of the frontage of a cigarette and tobacco stand; and on all the business streets one happens at frequent intervals upon these little glass cases full of bowls and heaps of miscellaneous coins, varying in value. Behind sits a business-looking person - usually a Jew - jingling a handful of medjedis, and expectantly eyeing every approaching stranger. The usual percentage charged is, for changing a lira, eighty paras; thirty paras for a medjedie, and ten for a cherik, the percentage on this latter coin being about five per cent. Some idea of the inconvenience to the public of this state of affairs can be better imagined by the American by reflecting that if this state of affairs existed in Boston he would frequently have to walk around the block and give a money-changer five per cent, for changing a dollar before venturing upon the purchase of a dish of baked beans. If one offers a coin of the larger denominations in payment of an article, even in quite imposing establishments, they look as black over it as though you were trying to palm off a counterfeit, and hand back the change with an ungraciousness and an evident reluctance that makes a sensitive person feel as though he has in some way been unwittingly guilty of a mean action.
Even the principal streets of Constantinople are but indifferently lighted at night, and, save for the feeble glimmer of kerosene lamps in front of stores and coffee-houses, the by-streets are in darkness. Small parties of Turkish women are encountered picking their way along the streets of Galata in charge of a male attendant, who walks a little way behind, if of the better class, or without the attendant in the case of poorer people, carrying small Japanese lanterns. Sometimes a lantern will go out, or doesn't burn satisfactorily, and the whole party halts in the middle of the, perhaps, crowded thoroughfare, and clusters around until the lantern is radjusted. The Turkish lady walks with a slouchy gait, her shroud-like abbas adding not a little to the ungracefulness.
Matters are likewise scarcely to be improved by wearing two pairs of shoes, the large, slipper-like overshoes being required by etiquette to be left on the mat upon entering the house she is visiting; and in the case of a strictly orthodox Mussulman lady - and, doubtless, we may also easily imagine in case of a not over-prepossessing countenance - the yashmak hides all but the eyes. The eyes of many Turkish ladies are large and beautiful, and peep from between the white, gauzy folds of the yashmak with an effect upon the observant Frank not unlike coquettishly ogling from behind a fan. Handsome young Turkish ladies with a leaning toward Western ideas are no doubt coming to understand this, for many are nowadays met on the streets wearing yashmaks that are but a single thickness of transparent gauze that obscures never a feature, at the same time producing the decidedly interesting and taking effect above mentioned. It is readily seen that the wearing of yashmaks must be quite a charitable custom in the case of a lady not blessed with a handsome face, since it enables her to appear in public the equal of her more favored sister in commanding whatever homage is to be derived from that mystery which is said to be woman's greatest charm; and if she has but the one redeeming feature of a beautiful pair of eyes, the advantage is obvious. In street-cars, steamboats, and all public conveyances, board or canvas partitions wall off a small compartment for the exclusive use of ladies, where, hidden from the rude gaze of the Frank, the Turkish lady can remove her yashmak and smoke cigarettes.
On Sunday, July 12th, in company with an Englishman in the Turkish artillery service, I pay my first visit to Asian soil, taking a caique across the Bosphorus to Kadikeui, one of the many delightful seaside resorts within easy distance of Constantinople. Many objects of interest are pointed out, as, propelled by a couple of swarthy, half-naked caique- jees, the sharp-prowed caique gallantly rides the blue waves of this loveliest of all pieces of land-environed water. More than once I have noticed that a firm belief in the supernatural has an abiding hold upon the average Turkish mind, having frequently during my usual evening promenade through the Galata streets noted the expression of deep and genuine earnestness upon the countenances of fez-crowned citizens giving respectful audience to Arab fortune-tellers, paying twenty-para pieces for the revelations he is favoring them with, and handing over the coins with the business-like air of people satisfied that they are getting its full equivalent. Consequently I am not much astonished when, rounding Seraglio Point, my companion calls my attention to several large sections of whalebone suspended on the wall facing the water, and tells me that they are placed there by the fishermen, who believe them to be a talisman of no small efficacy in keeping the Bosphorus well supplied with fish, they firmly adhering to the story that once, when the bones were removed, the fish nearly all disappeared. The oars used by the caique-jees are of quite a peculiar shape, the oar-shaft immediately next the hand-hold swells into a bulbous affair for the next eighteen inches, which is at least four times the circumference of the remainder, and the end of the oarblade is for some reason made swallow-tailed. The object of the enlarged portion, which of course comes inside the rowlocks, appears to be the double purpose of balancing the weight of the longer portion outside, and also for preventing the oar at all times from escaping into the water. The rowlock is simply a raw-hide loop, kept well greased, and as, toward the end of every stroke, the caique-jee leans back to his work, the oar slips several inches, causing a considerable loss of power. The day is warm, the broiling sun shines directly down on the bare heads of the caique-jees. and causes the perspiration to roll off their swarthy faces in large beads, but they lay back to their work manfully, although, from early morning until cannon roar at 8 P.M. neither bite nor sup, not even so much water as to moisten the end of their parched tongues, will pass their lips; for, although but poor hard- working caique-jees, they are true Mussulmans.
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