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 warmth poured forth over us; we almost languished with
thirst. Most of the travellers spread their handkerchiefs over
some little water-pits, swarming with insects, and sucked in
the water. I was only able to wet my lips. In the midst of
this warmth, in the burning heat of the sun, the Wallachian
herdsmen stood in their heavy skin mantles, leaning on their
axes the poor nomads ! I heard their songs ; the melody
still sounds in my ears. I must put words to it.

" Thou green willow, with the hanging boughs ! where the
Cossack leans on his lance in the Czar's land ; where the sun
glitters on the Austrian sabre and on Mohammed's minaret ;
where two rivers separate three emperors' lands, there stood
my father's hanging wooden house amongst the rushes ; close
by grew the green willows ! I watched the herd ; I drove it
into Bessarabia's steppes, solitary and alone ! But the night
has stars, the heart has thoughts ! thou green willow with the
hanging boughs !

" I watched the herd on the steppe, when the vernal sun
broke forth ; but the clouds vanquished, the rain poured down
in streams ; the rain became snow in the air, and the storm
forged icy arrows that came darting against my face ; the icy
arrows pierced through the sheep's thick wool ; the herd be-
came shy, it fled before the storm ; we ran and we flew by
day and by night wherever the storm drove us. The dead
alone remained behind, thou green willow with the hanging
boughs I

" Where is there shelter, where is there lee on the extended
steppe I The storm drove us away, herd and herdsman. We
could not turn our faces against the mouth of the storm from
whence the icy arrows flew ! Before us lay the sea under the
steep cliffs ! What a flight, what a fright ! a driving snow, a
flying herd ! But there were huts by the declivity, there were
strong men ; the whole herd was saved, and I again saw the
two rivers that separate three emperors' lands! thou green
willow with the hanging boughs I

" The sun burns hot in the Turks' land ! I sleep in the
caves that the wild dogs have dug ; I see strange men and



A STEPPE-JOURNEY. 2 75

women hurry rapidly past me ; they seem to be chased, as I
was chased, in the snow-storm ! Do they think, what I then
thought, and what I now think, leaning on my axe here in the
hot sun ? No, they have none that resembles her I know, and
thou knowest, thou green willow with the hanging boughs !"

The poor nomads ! we hurry past them. A little khan
erected for travellers stood very invitingly on the way : the
coffee was boiled, the food we brought with us was consumed ;
we were ourselves both host and guests. No one lived here ;
the doors and windows were locked again when we had rested ;
and away we went in the same direction as before, with re-
newed speed. The country now became more hilly ; and
grass-grown Wallachia showed itself like a green sea toward
the horizon.

The hills we passed were covered with low leaf-trees, beech
and birch ; the whole had a Danish character, wild and smil-
ing. We were now in Czerna-Woda, which is an excellent
sample of a ruined town; the one house seemed as if it
would surpass the other in the picturesque beauty of decay.
On one, the roof consisted of only three or four beams, on
which lay a few wisps of reeds ; another house, on the con-
trary, had its roof entire, which extended straight down to
the ground. A large swarm of children poured out of every
door or rather hole ; most of the little ones were quite naked ;
one certainly had a sheepskin cap on its head, but that was
its sole article of raiment ; another boy had his father's large
caftan about him, but the caftan stood open, and we could
see that he had nothing on but that.

The Danube had flowed high up over the meadows ; the
water splashed under the horses' feet. The Austrian flag
waved on the steamship Argo, which called us to our home.
Within was a saloon with mirrors, books, maps, and elastic
divans ; the table was spread with steaming dishes, fruits, and
wine : all was very good on board



THE PASSAGE OF THE DANUBE.
I.

FROM CZERNA-WODA TO RUSTZUK.

IT was three o'clock in the afternoon when our voyage up
the Danube began. The crew on board was Italian.
The captain, Marco Dobroslavich, a Dalmatian, an excellent,
humorous old fellow, soon became endeared to us all. He
treated the sailors like dogs, and yet he was inwardly beloved
by them ; they always looked pleased when he knocked them
aside, for he had always a piece of ready wit that was worth
the beating. During the several days and nights we were on
board here, no one was more active or in better humor than
our old captain. In the middle of the night, when they could
sail, his commanding voice was always heard in the same hu-
mor, always ready with a " blowing up," or a witticism, and at
the dinner-table he was a jovial, good-natured host. He was
certainly the pearl amongst the Danube captains with whom
we came in connection. They constantly diminished in amia-
bility ; more and more we felt our comfort decrease, and we
naturally came more together, and in closer connection with
foreign people, as we proceeded. As we got nearer to Pesth
and Vienna, the company became so great, that one cared
nothing about the other. But we were quite at home with
old Marco, who treated us like part of his own family.

The whole of our afternoon's sailing tour from Czerna-
Woda was between flooded islands, where the tops of willows
and the gable-end of a reed hut stuck out of the water. We
had nowhere yet seen the Danube in all its breadth. We
passed a merry evening in the well-lighted, pretty cabin. The
champagne corks flew. The taste of rye-bread in the genuine
Tokay reminded me of the land of rye, the distant Denmark.
The night, however, was not like the evening. Our blood



FROM CZERNA-WODA TO RUSTZUK. 277

flowed under the coast of Bulgaria. In these marshy coun-
tries the summer heat not only hatches fevers, but millions of
poisonous gnats, which plague the inhabitants of the coasts
and the crews of the river vessels in the most frightful manner.
Innumerable swarms of gnats had been generated during the
few past nights, and they streamed in to us through the open
hatches. No one had, as yet, suspected their existence ; they
fell upon us and stung so that the blood stood in drops over
our faces and hands.

Early in the morning, even before the sun arose, we were
all on deck, each with a bleeding and swelled face. We had
passed the Turkish fortress, Silistria, at midnight, and had
several Turks, deck-passengers, on board. They lay wrapped
up in large carpets, and slept amongst the coal -sacks.

It was now day. The islands of the Danube lay under wa-
ter : they looked like swimming woods about to dive under.
The whole of the Wallachian side offered a prospect of endless
green plain, whose only variation was a ruined guard-house,
built of clay and straw ; or an oblong, whitewashed, quaran-
tine building with a red roof. There was no garden, not a
single tree ; the building stood alone, like the circumnaviga-
tor's ship on a calm, untravelled sea.

The coast of Bulgaria, on the contrary, rose with its under-
wood and bushes. The fat soil appeared particularly well
suited for agriculture. Large districts lay completely waste.
Thousands emigrate from Europe to America ; how much bet-
ter a home could they not find here ? Here is fertile arable
land close by "Europe's largest river the highway to the
East.

The first town greeted us on the Bulgarian side. It was
Tuturcan ; a little garden was planted before every house.
Half-naked boys ran along the shore, and shouted " Urolaht" *
Here everything announced peace and safety ; the disturbances
in the country had not yet reached these shores. However,
we learned from the Turks whom we had taken on board the
previous night at Silistria, that several fugitives had crossed
the Danube, to seek refuge in Bucharest. On the other side
of the mountains revok and death were raging.

1 A happy voyage !



278 A POET'S BAZAAR.

Above Tuturcan, we passed a highly picturesque, hollow
way. Luxuriant hedges hung down over it from the high de-
clivities of red-brown earth. A troop of beautiful black horses
were driven down here to the river to be ferried over. One of
them, in particular, was noticeable, partly for its lively action,
and partly for its jet-black color and long flowing inane. It
pranced upon the slope, and the earth flew from its hoofs.

Thou wild horse ! Thou wilt, perhaps, bear the young
royal bride, be patted by her delicate hand, and thy shining
black sides be covered with variegated carpets ! Dost thou
dance because thou now seest thy new father-land on yonder
side of the river ? Or wilt thou become the progenitor of a race
in Wallachia, a hundred times as great as the troop that now
surrounds thee ? Thy name stands topmost in the pedigree !
The boys' shout is for thee, thou beautiful, spirited animal !
Urolahl Urolah I

The next hamlet we reached on the Bulgarian side, Havai,
lay like a charming episode in a small Turkish novel. Wild
roses bloomed in the warm sunshine. Hedges, trees, and
houses were grouped with peculiar beauty around the white
minaret ; yes a novelist might be satisfied to lay the scene of
his plot here ; and such a one may appear, for Havai affords
materials for a novel and that an historical one. The deceased
Sultan Mahmoud, father of Abdul Meschid, once made a voy-
age up the Danube : a terrible storm came on and the vessel
was near sinking, but they reached Havai. There the believ-
ers' ruler effected a landing, where an odoriferous rose-hedge
swung its sacrificial bowl for him. The Sultan remained here
one night. Whether he slept well and had pleasant dreams I
know not ; but that night is now a pleasant dream that is past,
to the inhabitants of Havai.

Not far from hence we saw the first water-mills. They
stand on fast tethered river vessels ; and, when the winter
comes, they are drawn up on land under lee of the bushes.
The family then sit within the silent mill ; the tabor sends
forth its cracked sounds ; the flute, too, has one monotonous
tone, as if they had learned it from the cricket. The family
grow tired of their life on shore, and long for the vernal spring,
that the mill may rock again on the rushing stream. The



FROM CZERNA-WODA TO RUSTZUtf.

wheels clatter, life moves, and they themselves stand at their
door and fish as the steam-vessel darts past.

The sun burned warm, our tented canopy afforded us shade ;
but the air was heated as in an oven, and its heat increased.
Nothing refreshed the body, nothing the spirit ; all round
about was the same green ; we sailed on and on, as if between
parsley and asparagus beds. The warmth became more and
more oppressive ; we felt as if we were in a bathing-room sur-
rounded by dry steam ; but there came no cooling plunging-
bath. There was not a cloud in the sky ! To such a degree
of warmth my fancy has never elevated itself in my cool father-
land !

At length we saw a town on the Wallachian side. It was
Giurgevo, 1 whose fortresses were destroyed by the Russians.
A number of the townspeople had assembled on these ruins
of walls. There was a shouting and asking about the state of
health in Constantinople, 2 and about the disturbances in the
country. The sun was just going down. The church-tower
of the town, which had lately been covered with shining tin,
glittered as if it were of silver ; it affected the eyes to look at
it. A summer-like tone of atmosphere lay over the flat, green
meadows ; the marsh birds flew out of the rushes. Yellow
cliffs arose on the Bulgarian side ; we steered in under them ;
and, whilst we still beheld the shining tower in Giurgevo, we
were under houses and gardens which form the suburbs to a
considerable Bulgarian city, Rustzuk ; a number of minarets,
the one close to the other, announced that it must be a real
city of believers. The whole quay and pier were filled with
men, amongst whom there was a strange movement. We
were close to the landing-place, when two persons, both in
Prankish dresses, sprang into the water, one on each side
of the narrow bridge. They both swam toward land : the one
was helped up ; but they drove the other back with horrid
screams, and even threw stones at him. He turned toward
our ship, and cried out to us in French : " Help ! they will

1 From hence it is but six hours' travelling to Bucharest, the capital of
Wallachia.

2 There was no plague there at that time ; but it raged in Alexandria and
Cairo. I heard by letter, whilst I wat> at Pera, that, in the two last named
places, there died daily several hundreds of persons.



28O * POETS BAZAAR

murder me ! " A couple of our sailors jumped into a boat,
and hauled him up. Our vessel turned off from lind again ;
all the crew and all the passengers flocked to the gunwale.

Perhaps the troubles of travel were now to begin in a re-
volted land ! How stood matters in Rustzuk ? A few mo-
ments of anxious uncertainty succeeded. Some signals were
made, and answered : soldiers appeared on the bridge ; a
boat was rowed out to us with the petty Pasha of the town,
Hephys. 1 A few of his officers accompanied him on board,
and the manner in which they did so appeared singularly
strange. One held him by each wrist, another by each elbow,
and another by each shoulder. Thus they proceeded to the
captain's cabin, in which they were served with preserved
fruits and liqueurs. The Pasha afterwards visited the different
cabins, accompanied in the same manner as before, only that
two young Turks bore lighted candles before him.

With respect to the fracas, it was merely a private affair ;
the two persons engaged in it were the director of the quar-
antine, a Turk, and the doctor, a Frenchman. They stood in
each other's way in many respects, and as this was the case
once more on the pier, they had pushed each other about, and
the Turks took the Turk's part.

The doctor had, in the mean time, been clothed anew on
board, and under the Pasha's protection he left our vessel,
which now lay alongside the pier from whence the soldiers
had driven the crowd. Coal was now taken in ; it was a dark
evening, only one lantern gave light from the shrouds. All was
still in Rustzuk ; a houseless dog howled once ; the muezzins
cried the hour from the minarets ; a single lantern moved
through the dark, solitary streets.

Our beds were hung round with green crape to protect us
from the poisonous gnats. My company sat down, however,
to play cards ; but I, who do not know a single game, could
not. The chart of the Danube was my card ; I studied the
imperishable highway to the East, which will, year after year,
be more and more visited, and then bear on its rapid stream
poets who know how to extol the treasures of poetry that every
bush and every stone here contain.

1 There were no less than three Pashas in kust/uk ; the chief is Mersa
Said, the next is Mohammed, and the third is Hephys.



WR SAIL I 28l

II.

WE SAIL!

THE morning is so beautiful ! What an expanse of green
plain ! what a sweet scent of hay ! Are we in Denmark '
See what a swarm of flowers ! see, grass-grown hills, and bar-
rows as in Zealand ; the hand of man has formed them !
Everything is so pastoral, so Danish and yet we are not in
Denmark ! that green plain where the hay sheds its perfume
is Wallachian ; the barrows and mounds to the right are in
Bulgaria. Close to the shore there is a hut ; it is only a rush
mat thrown over two posts ; the herdsman's family sit outside ;
the large dog barks at our rushing vessel.

Here are fresh faces on board ; Rustzuk has sent us many
guests during the night. What a mixed tribe ! The Turk
kneels and says his morning prayer ; his brow touches the
ship's deck ; close by him sits a Jew in coat of silver tissue,
and purple-colored turban ; his yellow slippers stand before
him ; he holds a parasol over his head though the sun does
not shine on him ; he takes a little pocket mirror out, looks
at himself in it, smiles, and now and then plucks the gray
hairs out of his beard with a pair of tweezers.

We speed past Bulgarian towns ! What is that called *- it
is Verdun ! When I hear the nightingale sing amongst the
wild, blooming lilacs, I will remember its sisters on this spot !
Again a town ! it is Sistowa, high above it stand the walls
of a citadel. Turks, with their long pipes, stretch themselves
on the wooden balconies of the houses, and look with as much
indifference on the flight of the steam-vessel as on the smoke
from their pipes. Now a town to the right, a Wallachian
town, with wretched clay cabins and a long, death-like quar-
antine building ; it is Simnitza ! we write its name, and yet
forget it !

What is that, shining before us! what white slopes are
they on the Bulgarian side ? They stand out more and more ;
it is Danish ! they are the chalk cliffs of Moen that have
come to meet me ! I know all their forms, I know that sum-
mer-green high up on the white slopes ! yet they are only



282 A POET'S BAZAAR.

bushes. I see now ; Moen has woods ; Moen has the clear,
the blue-green sea under it, and not these brown-yellow waves
of the Danube. There lies a city up there ; it is Nicopoli,
Trajan's city, Bajazet's trophy. We glide close under the
white cliffs ; the captain points upward to a row of deep exca-
vations in the slope ; they look like large embrasures in the
walls of a fortress ! They are the graves of the ancients !
Who were the heroes and princes that went to dust here,
whilst the unchanged yellow river rolled its waves against the
base of the cliff? No one knows ! now the swallow builds
its nesr in the heroes' burial chambers.

Between the white cliffs and the green Wallachian plains a
beautiful rainbow hangs arched high above the river which
lifts its waves as on a lake. How glowing, how splendid !
Many a rainbow has stretched its arch here, seen by pashas
and bojars : but it was lost; no painter or poet has seen it 1
Thou magnificent, glorious, airy picture on the dark cloud !
would that I were a painter !

Are those summer clouds aloft in the horizon of Bulgaria ?
I have often seen the clouds thus over the green fields in
Denmark. Are they mountains with snow ? We see the Alps
thus from the capital of Bavaria. They are the Balkan
Mountains! The setting sun gilds the white snow-tops \\ith
its rays ! Glorious mountain land, thy greatness attunes the
soul to devotion ! Close by me kneels the Turk ; he bends
his face toward the ground, and mutters his evening prayer.
The sun is down ! there is peace in nature, peace in my heart !
The evening is so light ! We sail ! The night is clear ! We
sail !



III.

A TURBULENT PASSAGE.

IT was in the middle of the night : we were all awakened
by the ship's suddenly standing still, and loud piercing voices
talking overhead ; the captain's was heard above the rest
Our lamp had gone out ; it was quite dark in the cabin : we
heard the plash of oars. Some one came on board, and the



A TURBULENT PASSAGE. 283

clang of a sabre was heard directly over our heads ! What is
that ? was the mutual question. We were at most only ten
miles 1 from the district where the revolt was greatest when we
left Constantinople ; had it extended here to the coast ?

People came down the stairs. There was a clang of arms
on the steps, but no one spoke. The first we saw was the
captain with a lantern in his hand ; he was followed by a well
armed Tartar with a woolen sheepskin cloak over his shoul-
ders, and high miitze ; for the rest he was half covered with
mud, and his hair was dripping wet. He stepped up to Phil-
ippovich, and a conversation began in Turkish. We could
half understand it by the Tartar's gesticulations ! He spoke
of an attack, combat, and death ! He several times seized
one of his pistols, or shook his sabre ; his eyes rolled in his
head.

It was not before he and the captain left us, that we got a
clear account of the whole story. The Tartar was one of the
messengers who carried letters and dispatches from Widdin
to Constantinople. He knew that all his comrades had been
carried off, and kept imprisoned in Nissa and Sophia; and
had, therefore, with his escort, endeavored to avoid those
places. In this he had not succeeded ; his companions had
been shot, and he himself had reached this part of the Dan-
ube, where he knew the Austrian steamer would pass at
night ; here he had sat, and waited in the rushes. When we
came he hailed us, intending to sail with us to the coast of
Servia, to Radejevacz, and from thence try a new road, and
more fortunate journey.

We all rose with the sun ; we had passed Oreava ; flat
shores stretched along both sides of the Danube. It was un-
comfortable on deck ; the Turks had spread out their dirty
carpets ; my Frankish comrades talked about animal-emigra-
tion ; the passengers in the second cabin confirmed it ; and
the captain nodded. I scarcely knew where I dare tread :
there was a washing and rinsing of leeches in the forepart of
the vessel. We had taken several French leech dealers on
board at Nicopoli ; they had been to Bulgaria for their Hying

1 Ten miles Danish, consequently between forty and fifty miles English ;
the Danish mile is somewhat more than four English miles.



284 J POET'S BAZAAR.

wares, millions of leeches emigrate annually to France
They had to be washed and taken care of, and therefore, as I
have said, there was a washing and rinsing. The poor ani-
mals were then put in bags and hung up on cords, so that the
water might drip from them. Several of them crawled away
down the deck or up the balustrade. One of the cabin boys
limped about with bleeding feet, for a leech had laid fast hold
of him.

We sailed past the Bulgarian town Zibru ; the horizon
closed with Balkan's proud snow-covered mountains ; a large
flock of storks marched about in the green meadow, where the
uninclosed cemetery lay with its white grave-stones. A few
fishing nets were stretched out ; it was a complete, charming
landscape ; but there was no peace in our vessel.

The Danube was troubled ; its water rolled like waves on
a stormy lake ; the vessel rocked up and down ; the seasick
lady's-maid sat quite pale ; and leaning against the captain's
cabin she whispered : " It is terrible ! it is just as on the
sea ! " but it was not like being at sea here it was only
a little rough.

The city of Lom-Palanka, with a bush-grown hill and green,
fragrant gardens toward the river, arose right nobly. Turks
real gold-men, according to the Turkish phrase, " to speak
is silver, to be silent is gold ! " sat as immovable as statues,
and smoked their pipes ; they did not so much as turn their
heads to look after us.

The wind whistled through the shrouds of the vessel ; the
waves rose higher and higher, as if they danced in a storm.
I had never imagined that the waves of a river could dance
thus. The lady's-maid was as seasick as it was possible to be i
Father Marco sang, and assured her that it was weather to
have a christening in. He even hoisted a sail, which he called
una fantasia, as, according to his opinion it looked like some-
thing serviceable, whereas it was of little service.

Widden, the strongest fortress in Bulgaria, lay before us
with its twenty-five minarets. The cannons peeped out of the
loop-holes, and a swarm of men stood by the landing-place.
Turks lay around on the wooden balconies, and drank their
toffee ; soldiers marched up, to prevent any one coming fron?



A TURBULENT PASSAGE. 285

our ship to enter into the town, and so bring a contagious fever
or plague from that ever suspected Constantinople ! There was
jife and motion amongst that many-colored tribe. At length
we lay to by the low bridge ; a large flight of stairs was set
up, and planks laid from it to the ship, so that we could now
descend. Close by stood a little wooden house, in which was
a drawer with fire and incense. Every one of us that wished
to walk about in the town must first go into this house and be
smoked through, so that the infectious matter in our clothes
and bodies might be driven out. It was somewhat difficult to
hold one's balance on the loose boards from the ship. The
steps were also pretty steep ; but the good-natured Turks took
us by the hand and helped us down. They then let go di-
rectly, and we were smoked that we might not infect them.
Philippovich, who they already knew was on board, and who
was to have an audience with the Pasha, was not smoked at
all, for it would have detained him. A fine saddled horse
awaited him ; he mounted it, and darted off through the street



Online LibraryH. C. (Hans Christian) AndersenA poet's bazaar : a picturesque tour in Germany, Italy, Greece, and the Orient → online text (page 25 of 31)