H. C. (Hans Christian) Andersen.

A poet's bazaar : a picturesque tour in Germany, Italy, Greece, and the Orient online

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the pale red to the dark blue. The sun went down, the even-
ing gun sounded, and the flags were lowered. What soli-
tude ! not a tree, not a bush to be seen ! what stillness
amongst these mountains, what quiet over this extended plain,
and what transparency in this atmosphere ! Jupiter already
glitters high above ; the Great Bear appeared still further off,
but, as I continued to gaze, it approached nearer with the
night j the stars swarmed forth more and more as if that vast
space would be filled with globes, as if that blue ground must
be shut out by one radiant light. The stars shone through the
air, they shone in the water with the blue tinge of diamonds.
The sailors' song sounded from Piraeus ; a fire was lighted on
the beach ; people came with lights in their hands out of
doors : sometimes we heard the splashing of an oar in the
water as a boat passed, or else all was still ; even the sea-gulls
which had screamed around us had gone to roost.

What a holy temple with monuments, graves, and great
reminiscences ! The evening's silence was the most touching
mass for the dead.



IV.

ARRIVAL AT ATHENS.

IT was our third morning at Piraeus, and our hour of free-
dom struck. I believe there lay above a dozen Greek boats
about our vessel. I sprang into the first at hand, and we
rowed briskly toward land, where there were a number of
cabriolets, old chariots, and open carriages ; they all appeared
to have served their time, perhaps in Italy ; and now in their
old age had wandered into Greece to sen'e anew.

Only a few years since a morass extended between Piraeus



1 62 A POET'S BAZAAR.

and Athens, around which camels journeyed, laden with goods ;
now there is an excellent high-road, and a very good khan or
inn ; we travel this road, which is about four or five English
miles in length, for a mere nothing. All our luggage was
crammed into an old carriage, which was quite filled with
portmanteaus and travelling bags that peeped out of the win-
dows ; the travellers themselves were in three large carriages.
Behind the one in which I sat there was a fine, smartly dressed
Greek, who was a messenger from the " Hotel de Munich " in
Athens. He was so richly clothed, that if he had been at a
masquerade in the North he might well have passed for an
oriental prince.

We rolled rejoicing out of Piraeus. Sailors, in their glazed
hats, sat outside coffee-houses, which really appeared to me
like large rooms of planks. They gave us a " hurra" empty-
ing their wine-glasses. The way passed over the remains of
the antique walls, which once consisted of a species of yel-
low travertine, and which still form the basis of the rocks here.
We went at a gallop ; there was a terrible dust, but then it
was classic dust

We soon reached the olive grove Minerva's sacred olive
grove ! A wooden shop was erected on each side of the road.
Citrons and oranges were exhibited, whose temptation was
heightened by a row of bottles in which were wine and liquors.
Whilst our horses baited, there came beggars with large pew-
ter cups ; we gave something to all, for they were Greeks.

We pass at this day, as in the best days of Athens, from Pi-
raeus through the large olive grove. Before us lay the Acropolis,
which I had so often seen in pictures ; but now it was before
me in reality ! The steep Lycabettus, with its shining white
hermitage, stood distinctly forth, and I saw Athens ! A few
paces from the city, close by the road to the right, stands the
Temple of Theseus, so large and perfect, with its fine marble
columns which have become a yellow-brown by time.

I could not rightly bring myself to think that I was in
Greece, and that I was entering Minerva's city. Hermes
Street, the largest in Athens, is also the first which is entered
by the traveller coming from Piraeus ; but it commences with a
row of houses which a European must pronounce most miser



ARRIVAL AT ATHENS. 163

able and poor. By degrees, however, better and larger onet
with two stories, as in the town on Syra, present themselves ;
nevertheless, there was something, within me at least, that whis-
pered, " Here is the capital of Greece ! "

The Acropolis stood like a gigantic throne high above all
the small houses, and in the middle of the street through
which we drove stood a palm-tree, higher than I had ever be-
fore seen one ; a small barricade of rough planks surrounded
the stem, otherwise it would soon be destroyed by the Greeks,
who stand up in the old vehicles and drive past as if they
were running a race. Of all things around us this palm-tree
drew our attention most. I afterward learned that when the
street was paved, the palm-tree was to have been cut down be-
cause it stood in the middle of the road, but our countryman,
Professor Ross from Holstein, begged that it might be spared ;
and it was permitted to stand. I therefore christen it " Ross's
palm " and from this time all travellers and writers of trav-
els will be pleased to call it by its proper name ! We further
charge all Greeks to remember that their land forms the
bridge from Europe to the East : and accordingly that they
ought to cherish all oriental ornaments that intimate this fact ;
and this palm-tree is a brilliant ornament, for we find but two
or three remaining in Athens.

We stopped at the " Hotel de Munich " ; the landlord is a
Greek, the landlady German ; " die schone Wienerinn," she is
called. They gave me the best room, and it was just such a
one as we find in every little German town in a third-rate inn.
I had now a home a home in Athens.

I will endeavor to convey the first impression the city made
on me, and relate how I passed the first day there.

The terrible description they had given me in Naples, of
Greece, and particularly of Athens, I found was absurdly ex-
travagant, for although I really believe that six or seven years
ago everything here was in the most wretched state, yet we
must remember what one year alone is able to effect for a land
like Greece, which is in a state of development more rapid than
tfiat of any other land in Europe. It is as if we should com-
pare the perceptible advance, in an intellectual sense, of the
child, with the less striking progress in the grown man ; seven



l6d * POET'S BAZAAR.

months are to the child what seven years are to the man.
Athens appeared to me as large as a Danish provincial town,
for instance, Elsinore, and looked like a town that had been
built up in the greatest haste for a market, which was now in full
activity. What are called bazaars here, are common crooked
streets, with wooden houses on both sides ; wooden houses
such as we see at a Danish fair, and dressed out with scarfs,
variegated stockings, whole suits of clothes, and morocco
shoes ; a little clumsy but motley to look upon ! Here is
meat of all kinds ; here is fruit ; here hang fez or caps ; here
they sell old and new books. The cab-driver buys himself
one, and what is it ? Homer's " Iliad," printed in Athens in
1839. I read the title myself.

Athens has a few Greek, or rather Turkish coffee-houses,
and a new Italian one, so large and handsomely furnished,
that it would look well in Hamburg or Berlin. The much fre-
quented Cafd Greco in Rome is but a sand-hole under the stairs
compared to this. I saw in this hotel young Greeks all in the
national dress, but so tightly laced that they must have been
blue and green about the ribs, with eye-glass, and glad gloves,
smoking their cigars, and playing billards. They were real
Greek dandies ; they only required to change their costume to
be loungers in any other European city. At the corner of
the street stood Maltese porters. There was a whole row of
them in the sun, like the street porters in Copenhagen.

Athens is a place which seems to grow during the few days
the stranger stays there. The King's new palace rises between
the city and Hymettus ; it is a marble building, for which
every stone is hewed and shaped on the Pentelicon hard by ;
the entrance hall is already covered with portraits of Greek
heroes of the period of the war for freedom. The Univer-
sity was yet building, and a Dane is the architect. 1 A few
churches and private dwellings for the ministers and merchants
grow hour by hour ; and who are the many workmen ? They
are almost all Greeks, as I was told. They are peasants,
soldiers, and robbers, who have seized the hammer, the saw,
and the brick. They have looked a little at the foreign work-
men, and have become bricklayers, smiths, and carpenters at
once. The Greeks are truly an intelligent, clever people !
1 The Danish architect. Christian Hansen.



ARRIVAL AT ATHENS, 165

The first impression Athens made on me far surpassed
what I had been led to expect from the representations they
had awakened in me at Naples. I said so ; and Ross told
me about a Greek who had been in Athens a few days before
a Greek from Chios, Homer's native isle, who, according to
his station in life and associates, might be called well-bred ;
but he had never before seen a large town, and accordingly
he was quite astonished at the greatness and the luxury he
found in the capital of Greece. Every moment he expressed
his astonishment at what he saw ; and when one who had
seen him there for a fortnight said that now, certainly, he
must know every part of Athens by heart, he exclaimed :
" By heart ! one can never know such a town ! Here is
always someting to see and hear. What a number of places
of amusement ! How many comforts and conveniences. Here
are carriages to drive in. Here is delightful music every day
before the King's palace. Here are coffee-houses with news-
papers, theatres where they perform plays and operas. It is
a wonderful city ! "

The modern greatness and luxury of Athens overwhelmed
him. I found it very tolerable here, compared to what I had
anticipated. Thus we judge differently, according as our
habits and customs have been different.

I had imagined that I should find myself so strange in
Greece so far away from home ; and here, on the con-
trary, I was quite at home ; Danes and Germans were so
friendly toward me. I was invited, the first day, to a per-
fectly Danish house, to the Queen's private chaplain's, the
Rev. Mr. Liith, from Holstein, who is married to a Danish
lady from Fredensborg, and whose younger sister was with
her. Our countrymen assembled here. I met our Danish
Consul Travers, a Dutchman, who spoke very good Danish.
The champagne corks flew ! My first night in Athens ended
with a visit to the theatre.

The theatre is situated at a short distance from the city. It
has four tiers of boxes, prettily decorated ; but the prettiest
sight was the audience in the boxes and pit in their Greek
costume. There were several handsome Greek women ; but
I was told that they were all from the islands, for there are



1 66 A POETS BAZAAR.

not many in Athens itself. An Italian company performed \
the prima donna had just before been condemned by the
audience. I heard another prima donna, who was a very
poor singer. The performance itself was quite a medley.
We heard the overture to " Norma," and " The Bronze
Horse ; " one act of " The Barber of Seville," and one act of
" La Gazza Ladra." There was a ballet to conclude with.

From the pit we retired into a sort of green-room, where
we got refreshments ; but there was not the least decoration
in this apartment. We saw above, and on all sides, only the
roughly joined planks. The long counter was, also, of planed
boards, at which some few Greeks served coffee, punch, and
orgeat.

The theatre, as I have said, is a little way out of the city.
It had, therefore, a strange effect, to issue out of this build-
ing in the middle of the night, from a performance of " The
Barber of Seville," and " La Gazza. Ladra," and then find one's
self under an oriental firmament, where the stars shone so
brightly that we could make out to see the extent of the vast
plain encircled by high mountains. It was still and lonely here.
One could imagine one's self transported by a powerful magi-
cian to the barren desert. The magnificent decorations of
nature mocked the painted scenery ; the solitude revealed a
drama that showed how frivolous was everything within the
place from whence we had come. In the humiliating contrast
I felt the classic greatness of Greece.

A single marble column stood on our way amid gravel and
heath-plants : no one knew what temple it had adorned. The
people say that it is the pillar to which Christ was bound when
his executioners scourged him ; and they believe that the
Turks have thrown it into the sea, but that it returns here
every night. The white pillar stood in the solitude, and
pointed in the starlight night toward heaven.



THE ACROPOLIS. 167

V.

THE ACROPOLIS.

THIS isolated rock, with fine marble ruins, is the heart of
ancient Athens ; its reminiscences extend to a fabulous age.
When Aaron's almond rod flourished, the laurel-tree of Athens
shot forth young twigs, and Neptune's salt-spring welled forth
from the rock. 1

At the end of the broad street ^Eolus, there is an extensive
place, necessarily uneven, from its torn down clay huts and
ruined walls. The Tower of the Winds rises, half dug out
of the earth and grass, where the dervishes lived in the time
of the Turks. Two tall cypresses point mournfully toward
heaven. A Turkish bathing-house, with many cupolas, a soli-
tary palm, and a splashing fountain, are the most picturesque
objects around.

I wandered over the place. By the fountain stood a pretty
Greek girl, with her pitcher on her shoulder. It was a little
picture, but a much greater one lay before me. A green hill,
behind which was a chalk cliff, rose above the irregularly
built houses, where a flock of sheep grazed in company with
five or six young camels. The latter stretched out their long
necks, and proudly extended their nostrils as they threw up
their heads. The ruins of a devastated fortification extended
over this plain. The path wound along by it over stones and
gravel, past deep, uninclosed wells, the one close by the other.
I followed this path, and the houses and city soon lay be-
hind me.

Every spot here is historical : at every step we tread on
holy ground. That mighty rock to the left, which seems to
have been torn from the Acropolis by some convulsion of na-
rure, is the place where the Apostle Paul preached to the
\thenians. A solitary shepherd now sat there with his two

1 Fourteen hundred years before the birth of Christ, Cecrops brought a
cxlony from Sais to Greece, and erected the Castle of Cecropia on the
rock. The graves of Cecrops and Erectheus have been discovered. In
the time of Pericles, the present Parthenon was erected by Phidias, and
ihe architects Iktinos and Kalhcratides.



1 68 A POET'S BAZAAR.

dogs, and looked over the extensive plain where the olive
groves grow. But I only regarded this picture slightly, and
let my eye glide over the foundation of the rock with its
hewn steps, the place where Solon and Plato have spoken
The Acropolis was the chief aim of my walk ; the Acropo-
lis had all my thoughts ; the extended sea and the pictur-
esque mountains of Morea alone arrested my attention for a
few moments.

I entered the walls of the fortification erected in the Turks'
time, through an open gate, whose old iron-covered door
hung on one hinge ; some tombstones of marble with inscrif
tions on them served as a cornice to the gate. Just beneath,
there still lies the so-called Herod's Theatre, with its lofty
arches of large, square-hewn stones forming a semicircle.

I had now to pass through a little court-yard, formed of
the ruined fortifications ; a string hung on the miserable gate ;
the wooden latch sprang up, and I stood in a somewhat larger
yard, where they had erected a little guard-house of the bro-
ken marble pillars, despoiled bass-reliefs, and broken bricks.
Greek soldiers half-dressed, some with the coarse military
frock thrown loosely over their shoulders, lay in different
groups smoking their paper cigars ; one played the man
dolin and sang a Greek song.

A few paces further, and the road passes between heaped
up marble blocks and overthrown columns ; the unwinged
Goddess of Victory's temple, the mighty Propylea, and a ru-
inous Gothic tower, from the Middle Ages, stand before us.

This ascent is, and always has been, the only one leading
to the Acropolis ; from all other sides the rocks rise steep,
and strong walls on the top make it still more inaccessible.

Under the Turkish dominion, the colonnades of Propylea
were walled up, and formed a part of the battery. The fluted
marble columns now stand detached, and broken marble fig-
ures, dug out of the gravel, are placed up in rows on the snow-
white floor. The wind blew strong up here ; it whistled
through the large pillars, which cast deep shadows in the sun-
shine.

I passed through the Propylea, and then stood on a place
so disordered, so devastated, that I have never before seen



THE ACROPOLIS. 169

the like. It was as if an earthquake had shaken the gigantic
columns and cornices together ; here was no longer a road or
path. I made my way over the ruins of clay cabins, dating
from the time of the Turks, where grass and acanthus shot
richly forth. Here and there were seen demolished cisterns,
and wooden sheds in which they had piled up vases, bass-
reliefs, and plaster casts ; here lay human bones, and rusty,
broken bomb-shells from the Venetians' time. Some few
horses were grazing ; and in what looks like a gravel-pit, to the
left, stood Erectheus' Temple with its caryatides. A ruinous
stone column fills the place of the caryatide which Elgin stole
for the British Museum. The skeleton of an ass lay before the
excavated marble steps. A little to the right stands the Par-
thenon, the most magnificent ruin on the Acropolis, wonderful
still in its greatness and majesty. It is the temple of temples ,
but every column is barbarously shivered, every bass-relief in
the frontispiece and frieze is disfigured ; and yet it is surpris-
ing how much of it is still standing. During the siege by the
Venetians a great part of it was blown into the air by the
springing of the powder-magazine. In the struggle for liberty
the Parthenon was the target for the bombs and balls ; and
yet these remains have still a greatness which one can only
conceive by standing between the splendid columns that
support gigantic blocks of marble as if they were but light
beams. A ruinous mosque stands athwart the interior of the
temple : it now serves as a shed for the marble figures of
gods and emperors ! On the side which looks toward the
sea time has given the pillars a reddish-yellow tinge ; but
most of the others are as white as if they had been hewn out
of the marble quarry of Paros a year ago.

When I entered, the whole temple lay in the broadest sun-
light ; and as a background there rose, on the other side of
the valley, the mountain Hymettus, over whose yellow-gray
stone mass, without a trace of vegetation, a dark cloud cast
its heavy shadow. Eternal God ! would that all mankind
could see this greatness and glory ! Our thoughts become
magnified in the midst of greatness ! Every little feeling was
dead in my breast ; I was filled with joy, peace, and happi-
ness ; and I bent my knee in this immense solitude.



I7O A POET'S BAZAAR.

A few paces from me, between the shivered marble blocks,
where the wild thistle shot forth, lay many human bones :
they had cast a skull on one white marble block ; it made a
strangely powerful impression on me. The tears streamed
from my eyes.

The storm roared between the columns ; dark birds of prey
flew over the valley of Hymettus. Directly under the rock
lay Athens extended, looking almost a city indeed, with its
white houses and red roofs. Snow had fallen on the moun-
tains of Pentelicon and Parnassus. What a view around ; yet
it was most beautiful toward the sea, which shone so vast
and extended, so deeply blue, as it bore the white sails along.
The air was so transparent, that I thought I could see over
the whole Peloponnesus. I saw the distant mountain tops
around Sparta; and toward the hill where Corinth stands,
the road appeared very short, yet it is several days' journey
by land. I saw the white walls of the fortification at Aero-
Corinth with the naked eye, even the angles they made, and
the strong shadows they cast

When I descended I met my travelling companion, the Per-
sian from Herat ; he nodded familiarly, gave me his hand, and
pointed over the sea. This was our leave-taking.

During my stay in Athens, I visited daily the Acropolis,
whether it were sunshine or rain ! I celebrated my birthday
by a visit here ; here I read my letters from home. The Acrop-
olis was the last place I visited at Athens when I was about
to leave ; my thoughts dwell longest on the Acropolis when
they visit Greece. It was as if nature and art reposed on my
breast in this place ; here I felt no want, except that all my
dear friends could not participate with me in this spectacle.

A sunset, seen from this place, is one of the most sublime
sights I know. I have seen such a one. I sat on the steps
of the Parthenon ; everything was void and dead toward
Hymettus ; black birds flew over the valley where a single
white column stands. An ass brayed down there, and it
sounded like the screams of a jackal ; the sun sank behind
the Bay of Salamis, and the mountains shone with the most
powerful colors. ^Egina was as blue as the freshest violets.
The same colors, the same forms of the mountains, were seen



A RAINY DAY IN ATHENS. 171



by Plato, Socrates, and the great men of that world from the
same spot as that from which I myself saw them. It was
the same earth they had trodden. I felt, for a moment, that
I was living in those times. The sun went down, and the glit-
tering stars streamed forth over the dilapidated temples. I
felt that God's work is eternal, man's perishable ; but I drank
life's poetry from both, which (if God allows it to flourish and
expand) shall refresh the heart of man.



VI.

A RAINY DAY IN ATHENS.

THICK, heavy clouds hung over the mountain of Hymettus ;
the weather was gray and cold; the unpaved street was
covered with a yellow mud, caused by the rain during the
night ; the thin walls in the houses ran down with water.

The most important postman in the country a Greek,
who travels with money and letters overland to Patras went
by in his heavy, wet, swollen cloak. He drew the burdened
horse along ; loaded pistols hung over its neck : it dragged its
legs after it. The postman stopped at the apothecary's, and
they rubbed the poor animal's lame legs with salve.

The rain fell in large drops, and soon after came down in a
leavy shower. Three different flocks of sheep stood in the
narrow space before the church. They huddled closer and
closer together. The shepherds leaned on their long staves in
the midst of the rain, closely wrapped up in thick brown man-
tles, with their clumsy hats pulled down over their heads ;
they looked more like Greenlanders than we imagine Greeks
to be. They stood bare-legged in the yellow mud. The rain
poured down throughout the day, and was not until evening
that it began to abate ; the wind tore the clouds asunder, and
drove them away like mists.

I ventured out. I saw a few black families, who had been
slaves undjer the Turks, creep out of their low clay houses.
The woman's whole dress consisted of a sort of loose gown
and a dirty petticoat. She lay and baled water out over the



172 A FOETUS BAZAAR.

threshold, whilst the little black children one had only a red
woolen shirt on danced in the mud

The whole extent from this, the last house in the street, and
out to the Pentelicon and the mountains of Parnassus, ap-
peared wild, and without road or path. A man in a sheepskin
jacket, with a pipe in his mouth, rode over the heath ; the
wife and a grown daughter ran behind ; the woman had a little
child in a bag on her back ; under one arm she had an iron
pot, and under the other an empty pig-skin, in which there
had been wine. The daughter carried a large bundle. They
talked aloud and joyously. The man turned gravely round
and nodded, then rode on quicker, and the wife and daughter
held on by the horse's tail, that they might keep up with him.
Everything there was as it should be : all found themselves in
their right place, according to their habits.

What a picture ! Those naked mountains where the cloud
lies thick and heavy, as if it would stream down in torrents on
the valley, and the valley itself without cabins, without the



Online LibraryH. C. (Hans Christian) AndersenA poet's bazaar : a picturesque tour in Germany, Italy, Greece, and the Orient → online text (page 15 of 31)