H. C. (Hans Christian) Andersen.

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

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are now called " the Black Towers." The palace, on the Eu-
ropean side, is singularly built ; the Sultan Mahmoud would
have it built so as to form his name, as it is written in Arabian
characters ; hundreds of Christian churches round about had
to furnish materials for these inhabited ciphers ; but no joy or



THE BOSPHORUS. 263

gladness has breathed within them ! death-groans have quiv-
ered through Mahmoud's monogram. Even though walled
fast with stone on stone, Time's strong finger will blot out this
writing ; and where it stood the earth will bear spring's poem
on her black table, sending forth odorous bushes, grass, and
flowers.

It is most beautiful here on the Asiatic side. Behind the
gloomy fortress yonder, the valley, with " the heavenly
waters," stretches into the land, that of all the valleys by
the Bosphorus which is praised as the finest, and whose nat-
ural splendor has given the rivulet that runs through it its
name ; but we glided too quickly past ; we saw only so much
as one, by looking into the open eyes of a beautiful woman,
can read of her mental loveliness.

The large mosque of Kandelli arose before us, as if it were
Achmet's church, borne hither by Mohammed's angels, that
we might once more be refreshed by the sight of it. A little
village lay almost concealed between gigantic fig-trees, from
which it took its name, " the Fig Town."

Sultanje rose like an amphitheatre between weeping-willows,
plantains, and linden-trees, and mirrored itself in the still
waters under the coast. The white, slender minaret, that
which in reality pointed toward heaven, and that which on
the water's surface pointed downward, seemed to say : " See
not life only in the sunlight around you, see it above in the
chasing clouds, and flying birds ; see it in the throng on
the water between the two quarters of the world." And in
truth there were life and motion here ! Large boats, with
Turkish women enveloped in white, airy veils, passed over
from the one shore to the other. One of the youngest women
rose in one of the boats directly under our vessel ; she looked
upward, and the Persian song about the cedar's growth, and
the tulip's splendor, sounded in my ears. Who has not seen,
>n a pitchy night, the whole scenery around him suddenly
illumined by one single flash of lightning, and all become
ih^ht again ? But I can never forget the vision I now saw j
there came two flashes each eye sent forth one, and then
it was night. We no longer saw the daughter of the East ;
but the poet has sung of her, even centuries before our time.



2t>4 A POFT'S BAZAAR.

" If she dries her locks with cloth, it then sheds the per-
fume of musk ; if she wipes the tears from her eyes, then
pearls roll down from the cloth ; if it touches her cheek, it
is filled with scenting roses ; and if she presses it to her
mouth, it then incloses a fruit of paradise ! "

I looked after the boat ; we were far away from it. The
women in the white veils seemed spirits in Charon's boat ;
and there was truth in the thought, for what we never more
shall see is of the dead. She had thrown an orange into
the water ; it rocked like a star of memory that told us of
this meeting. Long fishing-boats shot past large vessels com-
ing from the Black Sea ; Russia's double eagle flapped its
wings in the proud flag. Outside a fishing village I think
it is called Baikos there lay huts rocking on the water.
Around them was an extended net, in which they caught the
sword-fish. I say huts, but we might rather call them baskets,
and in each sat a half-naked fisherman, looking after his prey.

On the European side we approached Therapia, in whose
deep bay lay a few large vessels. A little boat, rowed by an
old negro, passed us here. He had a woolen frock on, such
as the Greeks wear ; large silver rings were pendent from his
ears ; but his head was only covered with his thick woolly
hair. The boat was, literally speaking, filled with roses. A
little Greek girl, with her dark hair plaited around the red
fez, and a large gold coin in it, stood leaning against one of
the baskets of roses ; in her hand she had one of the Bul-
garian hand drums. The boat rocked with the increased
motion into which the rapid course of our vessel put the stream,
and the little girl held faster to one of the baskets ; it over-
turned, and poured out its stream of roses over her breast
and face. She arose again ; and, when she saw that we were
looking at her, she laughed and beat her little drum, then
threw it into the basket, and held a handful of roses before
her face. The boat, the negro, the little girl, and, as a back-
ground, Therapia, with its gardens, buildings, and ships,
formed a picture that deserved to be perpetuated.

On wandering for the first time through a large and rich
gallery of paintings, one picture supplants the other, and the
Bosphorus is just such a picture gallery, with thousands of



I
THE BOSPHORUS 265

beautiful views, such as only the greatest masters are capable
of giving us. I, who tell of them, have only once in my life
beheld these coasts, and then on a steam-vessel at its utmost
speed.

A larger and broader bay than we had yet seen, composed
the foreground of the next picture. The summer residence
of the Ambassador, Bujukdere, lay before us. I sought
amongst the many flags that waved there for that of my
nation and I discovered it. I saw the white cross on the
red ground. Denmark had planted its white Christian cross
in the Turk's land ; the flag waved in the wind it was as
if it brought me a greeting from home. My neighbor, who
stood by the gunwale, pointed to the large aqueduct with
the double arches, which arose out of the deep green valley.
Another spoke about Medea, who had been here where the
seamen now drew their boats up under the high plantains ;
but my eye and my thoughts were only with the Danish flag,
which I now saw for the first time during all my travels, and
which awoke remembrances that softened the heart, and sank
mildly into the soul.

What imaginable softness or beauty could the shores of the
Bosphorus show more ? As if they felt this, they suddenly
changed into a wild and rugged scene. Yellowish, split stone
blocks stood up out of the water ; batteries, erected to protect
the Bosphorus against the incursions of the Cossacks, strength-
ened the savage prospect. The tower, higher up, is called
Ovid's tower, and the legend states, but falsely, that it was here
the poet was confined, imprisoned by the Black Sea. The
tower is now a ruin, which, when the sun is down, is used as a
light-house. Large torches are lighted ; the red flame shines
for the ships on the Black Sea.

Another small extent of land on the Asiatic side is beauti-
fully green ; but where the shores approach nearest each other,
the wild rocky scenery soon stands boldly forth on both sides.
The Bithynian chain of mountains in Asia, and the Thracian
in Europe, end here. No more the path winds along the wa-
ter side ; the wild goats climb up the uncouth rocks. The
Black Sea lies before us ; and on the point of two quarters of
the globe lie the fire-towers with welcome-flame or parting-star,
just as the ship directs its course.



266 A POET'S BAZAAR.

Singular rocky islands rise near the coast ; they seem to
have been dashed against each other ; one block of stone ap-
pears to hold on by the other. The legend says that they
were once floating rocks, and that they crushed the vessels
between them. When the Argonauts fortunately sailed past
them they were first bound together.

The sun shone on the bare stones, the sea lay a vast im-
mensity before us : we darted into it. The fogs which, dur-
ing the whole of our voyage through the Bosphorus, had risen
and fallen at intervals, but yet had never hidden the shores
from our view, now dropped like a curtain that descends before
a splendid opera scene. At once the coasts of Europe and
Asia were hidden from our sight ; the sea-birds flew in circles
around the steamer's chimney, and darted off again : we only
saw sea and fog.

XV.

THE BLACK SEA.

As long as we were in the Bosphorus, we had only an eye
to the charming landscapes, as they passed in review ; these
now were ended. We appeared to hover amongst clouds
that hurried with greater rapidity than ourselves over the
sea ; there was something homely to me in these North-like
fogs ; it was as if I was sailing in the Cattegat in the month
of November. We were obliged to wrap ourselves up in all
the winter clothes we had ; and the further we advanced the
colder it became. This clammy fog pressed on us for half an
hour, and then it passed away quick as lightning. The sun
shone clear ; the air became beautifully blue, yet the water
had not the blueness and transparency of the Mediterranean.
The Black Sea has quite the character of our northern seas ;
it has short waves of a close, sullen hue, lead-like when con-
trasted with those of the light, shining Mediterranean.

Our ship, which now cut through the waters that the Argo-
nauts once sailed over, was neither in size nor convenience like
steam-vessels of the first class ; and yet it would in Jason's
time have been accounted a right royal bark nay, have



THE BLACK SEA. 26?

been considered a miraculous work. Elastic divans and con-
venient hammocks surrounded a large ornamental saloon with
mirrors, pictures, and books; fresh Egyptian figs, plucked
a week before, were set out on the table, with grapes from
Smyrna, and wine from the far distant Gaul. Yet the mighty
necromancer the flaming monster, which bore the ship on
against wind and stream, lay within the vessel, and from
thence sent out its breath, like coal-black steam a cloud
thai laid itself alortg the sea. Such marvels Medea could not
create. The discoveries of our time stand above the mightiest
witchcraft of departed centuries. Cunning and skill are no
longer confined to individual spirits ; they extend to all man-
kind.

On we rush, sometimes enveloped in damp fogs, and some-
times in clear sunshine. Besides the four previously named
passengers in the first cabin, there was in the second and third
another little company, who were going to Vienna. The most
prominent passenger was Peter Adam, an Armenian priest, in
a black habit, and with a hat as large as a knight's shield.
He had not seen his friends in the Danube's imperial city for
twenty-five years, and was now going thither for a short visit,
as conductor of two Armenian boys the Armenian Bish-
op's nephews. The elder, Jeronimus, with a round, girlish
face, was to study, and be a physician ; the younger, Antonio
Maruz, extremely handsome, with wise, speaking eyes, highly
characteristic features, and a certain pride in every motion,
was to be an ecclesiastic : they both wore fez on their heads,
and slippers on their feet. The departure from home was al-
ready forgotten : the elder boy lay stretching himself along,
whilst he smoked his cigar ; the younger played with some
pictures of saints.

A young fat Jew who meddled in everything, a good-nat-
ured young servant, and a seasick lady's-maid who remained
in her hammock, so that we had not yet seen her, three Ger-
mans, a young Turk, and two Greeks were the rest of the
party, who were to make the whole voyage with us. The
others only went with us to Kiistendje and Silistria. We also
got a tired flying passenger here, the same as in the Mediter-
ranean : a little bird rested with us on the deck, ate bread



268 A POET'S BAZAAR.

crumbs, and drank water from a plate. Toward evening it
flew away from us, directly toward the East. I bade it greet
the mountains of Caucasus ; greet the wild forests by the
rivers where the tiger quenches his thirst ; greet the city of
Tiflis and Circassia's beautiful women ! I would gladly have
seen everything in the East, but this time, at least, I could
not. We steered toward the North, our wet, stormy way. 1
The stars twinkled as brightly as over Greece and the Medi-
terranean, but it was cold here. We might 'easily imagine that
we were making a summer expedition to Spitzbergen, and not
a voyage on the Black Sea in the month of May.

At night I was awakened by their casting anchor. The fog
was so thick that the captain, in whose thoughts the wreck of
the Stamboul still lay, durst not sail longer. In the morning
it cleared up a little, and we started off, but in a few minutes
we again lay still. It was as if a thick steam swelled out of
the sea ; large drops of water stood on the deck and gun-
wale ; the shrouds were as wet as if they had been just drawn
from the bottom of the ocean.

At once the sun broke through the mist ; the coast was vis-
ible, but low and uninhabited ; not a tree, not a sea-mark was
to be seen : but the captain read on the flat outline of the
land that we had come almost eight miles more to the north
than we should have done. The vessel was soon turned, and
it went over the green foaming waves toward a little bay.
The anchor fell, and the sick lady's-maid then ascended to
the deck, smiling toward the coast, which did not smile again.
Farewell to thee, sea of the Argonauts ! If I do not bring
the golden fleece of poesy, yet I bring that of memory from
the East over thy waters.

1 It is highly dangerous in winter and autumn to traverse this part of
the Black Sea, in particular between the Bosphorus and Odessa ; many
ships are lost : the winter preceding my voyage, the Austrian steamer, Serl
Pfrvtu, and a Russian, The Neva, were both wrecked hers.



THE STEPPE-JOURNEY. 269

XVI.

A STEPPE-JOURNEY BETWEEN THE BLACK SEA AND THE

DANUBE.

KUSTENDJE presents a low coast, the declivities of which
are a lime soil with shells ; not a tree, not a bush is to be
seen. Here lay a few cottages without windows, with rush-
roofs inclining toward the ground, and inclosed by a stone
fence. A flag waved, and a group of close-veiled women
watched our arrival.

Our boat went on through a heavy surf toward the land,
where some noisy Tartars received us.

The landing-place consisted of fallen blocks of stone, be-
tween which the people had thrown a mass of grass-turf to
level it a little ; the wooden huts seemed to have been erected
in the greatest haste ; the whole coast announced a desert
where dwellings had been run up yesterday or to-day. They
threw our luggage into a couple of wagons drawn by oxen,
and we went toward the inn, a very respectable place in
this neighborhood, and particularly inviting from its cleanli-
ness. A balcony with a projecting roof of reeds, led into
the best room, which was appropriated to the passengers in
the first cabin.

Whilst the dinner was preparing, we sauntered through the
town.

Kiistendje was completely destroyed by the Russians in
1809 ; everything appeared as if this destruction had taken
place a few weeks ago ; miserable, half-fallen-down houses
formed the main street, which was pretty broad ; here and
there lay columns of marble and gray stone that seemed to
belong to a former period. On several of the houses, the
roof or projecting story was supported by a wooden beam
resting on an antique marble capital. The minaiet on the
only and half-ruined mosque in the town was built of planks,
and whitewashed. A coffee-house was not wanting ; but its
appearance, like that of the guests, was extremely wretched.
Here lay a few Turks on the jutting balcony ; they smoked
their pipes, drank their coffee, and appeared not to take any
notice of us strangers.



270 A POET'S BAZA AX.

A couple of terribly ragged men, with long beards, turban,
caftan, and morocco slippers, came along the street, and gath-
ered sweepings for fuel, as wood is not to be found at less than
many miles' distance.

Close by the town were some considerable remains of
Trajan's walls, which are said to have extended from Kiis-
tendje along the Black Sea to the Danube. As far as we
could see around, we could discern nothing but sea or an im-
mense steppe, not a house, not the smoke from a herdsman's
fire ; no herds of cattle, no living object ; all was an inter-
minable green field. Near the town were some few spots
without any fence, where the corn was growing no higher than
the grass, and of the same color.

I bent my steps to the sea, close by which, directly under
the declivity, a dead stork was the first thing my eye fell
upon ; it lay with one wing stretched out, and the neck bent ;
I became quite melancholy on seeing it. The stork has
always been the most interesting of all birds to me ; it has
occupied my thoughts when a child ; it haunts my novels and
tales ; and it was now the first thing I saw as I was wending
homeward by sea. It had just reached these coasts, and
there died. A superstitious thought crossed my mind, and
no one can certainly say that in his whole life he has been
free from superstition, perhaps I also shall just reach across
the sea, and my life's career is ended.

As I regarded the bird, the wet fog came rapidly on over
sea and shore, so thick and close that I feared I should
not be able to find my way back to the inn. I could not
see four paces before me, but went in a straight dir ;

climbed over a stone fence, and so came by quite another but
shorter way to the inn, where an excellent meal awaited me ;
so well prepared, that if all my readers cry out : " What !
shall we now have a description of the dinner ? " they must,
nevertheless, hear it. The viands were excellent, as was
all beside, and as we learned the day after so incred-
ibly cheap that none of us had ever before experienced a
like tenderness to our pockets. We wrote down the host
and hostess' name, and promised to praise and extend their
inn as far as we could. I will do my part thereto, and



A STEPPE-JOURNEY. 2fl

therefore beg to state, that the man is an Austrian, his name,
Thomas Radicsevitch, and he lives at the corner of the Black
Sea!

After dinner, our luggage was packed in large wagons,
made entirely of wood, to be sent off to the Danube ; and as
they were drawn by oxen, they said it would occupy the whole
afternoon, night, and the following day to reach Czerna-Woda ;
that we must stay in Kiistendje that night, and that by starting
in the morning we should arrive the same time as the luggage.
Wallachian peasants, clothed in short sheepskin cloaks, and
with black felt hats, the immense brims of which literally
hung like an umbrella over their shoulders and backs, accom-
panied the wagons. They assured us that the country was
perfectly quiet, and that we should meet none on our steppe-
journey but Wallachian nomads.

A thick, damp fog poured forth again from the sea over the
whole neighborhood ; the loaded wagons, which now drove
away, disappeared, as in a cloud, at a few paces from us, and
it was as cold as in the midst of the ocean.

Mine host told us about these severe changes in the air ; of
the terrible storms of the previous winter, and of the cold.
The ice had lain for several miles out into the sea, and they
could drive on it from Kiistendje down to Warna. He told
us about the snow-storm which drove the herdsmen with their
flocks over the steppe ; and about the wild dogs, of which we
saw several. Whole packs of these howling animals pass
through Bulgaria and Roumelia, particularly in the winter sea-
son. They often meet with the wolves, and then the combat
is equally severe on both sides. It sometimes happens that a
she-wolf gets mixed with the dogs, and then she is obliged to
keep with them. The young cubs are not to be distinguished
from her own race, and she suckles them with the utmost ten-
derness ; but, when they are a few days old, she drags them
down to the river, and if they lap the water as the dogs do,
with the tongue, she tears them to pieces ; for instinct tells her
that they are the worst foes to her race.

Toward evening the weather was fine. I wandered with
Mr. Ainsworth along the sea-shore to collect stones and
shells. We passed the dead stork ; close by it lay another



272 A FOETUS BAZAAR.

poor dead animal. I had seen it before, but did not lake
much notice of it then ; and yet it was, perhaps, more inter-
esting than the stork. It was a large poodle-dog, certainly
cast out of a ship, and driven on land here. A sea and
air romance might be written about these two. Of the last
we have none, but we shall have them soon, now that balloons
are so plentiful.

On our way back we visited one of those wretched Tartar
cabins, with its rush-roof inclining nearly to the ground. We
actually crept down into the room, which looked just like a
large chimney. The walls were thick with soot ; everything
above us was lost in smoke. An unveiled Tartar girl stood
by the fire roasting meat on a stick. She was not exactly
pretty ; her features were too coarse ; her eyes of too light
a blue, but her figure and carriage were good. A painter
might have got a subject here for a characteristic picture
with a double light the fire within the hut, and the evening
sun, which shone in, blood-red, at the low doorway.

We came out again, and the moon stood round and large
over the sea. A bowl of punch steamed on the table at the
inn. We passed a comfortable merry evening here ; German
entertainment, German language and comforts, made us think
that we were removed, by magic, from the East into the midst
of Germany. Broad divans with rush mats extended round the
room, under the windows, and along the walls ; on these were
couches. I could not sleep ; the rush of the waves over the
breakers sounded like thunder. I saw the wide and bound-
less sea radiant with the beams of the clear, round moon.

Our journey was fixed for the next morning early. Peasants
came with lively Wallachian horses, which pranced outside
our door. Two of them got loose, sprang over a stone fence,
and struck out with their hind legs such a screaming and
shouting on a sudden ! I went, in the mean time, once more
to the sea to bid it farewell. The open salt sea, which I love,
I was not to see again before I reached the Danish coast.

At length the procession was arranged ; our host, in his old
Austrian uniform, rode before, and we followed at a rapid pace
through the town out into the open boundless steppe. During
the whole of our day's journey the lake of Kurasu, which is



A STEPPE-JOURNEY. 2?$

said to be the remains of the canal by which Trajan united
the Danube and the Black Sea, lay on our left. It would
be an easy matter to repair the damage, yet it would be less
expensive to lay down a railway on this level extent of land.
The only difficulty in the execution of sucn a project might
be, that which would be made from the Turkish side. It is
said to have been a matter of much difficulty for the com-
mittee of the Danube Steam Navigation Company to obtain
permission to erect inns and offices here, that their travel-
lers might pass this shorter way through the country. The per-
mission, I was told, was entitled " For the Austrian Committee,
family and friends of the Danube Steam Navigation Company."

We went past some barricades from the last Russian war.
They were quite undermined by the wild dogs, which find a
cool retreat in these holes from the heat of summer, when
the sun burns on the shadowless steppe, and warmth and
shelter in the winter, when the storm and snow whistle over
their heads.

At length we reached a village where every house looked
like a dunghill on a heap of stones. To the left stood a few
gray stone columns of a ruined cloister. We drove past,
and the green solitary steppe alone extended before and on all
sides of us. Three Turks, in various colored dresses, with
turban and fluttering caftan, came riding in a wild flight
directly toward us. It was just such a picture as Horace
Vernet has given us. " Allah ekber ! " was their greeting.

In the midst of the silent steppe lay a deserted Turkish
burial-ground, with broken grave-stones. The turban was only
to be seen on a few ; not a cypress, not a bush cast its shade
over the dead ; the village that had lain here was blotted out
from the earth !

Even the most insignificant object awakens our attention.
On a monotonous plain, a large eagle sat in the grass, and
kept its place until we were within fifty paces of it. We saw
herds of cattle, which at a distance looked like a whole army of
warriors. The Wallachian herdsmen resembled wild men ;
they wore long sheepskin clothes with the woolly side turned
outward, immense hats, or else a narrow cap of hairy skin.
Long, black wiry hair hung over their shoulders, and they all
18



274 A POET'S BAZAAR.

carried a long axe. The sun burnt as I have never yet felt it



Online LibraryH. C. (Hans Christian) AndersenA poet's bazaar : a picturesque tour in Germany, Italy, Greece, and the Orient → online text (page 24 of 31)