Copyright
H. F. B. (Harry Finnis Blosse) Lynch.

Armenia, travels and studies (Volume 1) online

. (page 17 of 49)
Online LibraryH. F. B. (Harry Finnis Blosse) LynchArmenia, travels and studies (Volume 1) → online text (page 17 of 49)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


shapes of natural architecture, the dome and the pyramid, fills the
immense length of the southern horizon and soars above the
landscape of the plain, the essential unity of the vast edifice and
the correspondence of the parts between themselves are imprinted
upon the mind. If Little Ararat, rising on the flank of the giant
mountain, may recall, both in form and in position, the minaret
which, beside the vault of a Byzantine temple, bears witness to a
conflicting creed, this contrast is softened in the natural structure



152 Armenia

by the similarity of the processes which have produced the two
neighbours, and by their intimate connection with one another as
constituents in a single plan. In this respect they suggest a
comparison to a stately ship at sea, with all the close weaving and
interdependence of hull and masts and sails. In the harmony of
a common system each supplements and continues the other,
and what Great Ararat is to the western portion of the fabric
Little Ararat is to that on the east. The long north-western
slope of the larger mountain is answered on the south-east
by the train which sweeps from the side of the smaller towards
the mists of the Caspian Sea ; and there is the same corre-
spondence between the slopes which are contiguous as between
those which are most remote. The steeper side of the greater
Ararat is turned towards the needle form of the lesser ; and,
standing in the valley which divides the two mountains, it
appears that the degree of inclination of either slope is in exactly
inverse proportion to their size. This pleasing interplay between
constancy in essential principles and diversity of form invests
the long outline of the dual structure with a peculiar charm.
The differing shapes repeat one another, and one base supports
the whole.

The plain itself, on the confines of which, and opposite to one
another, these several ranges and mountain masses rise, is not
unworthy of the works around it, and spreads at their feet a long
perspective of open and even ground. Where the valley attains
its greatest extension, just west of Erivan, the width of its floor,
or level surface, is over twenty miles ; and even when the spurs
of the Lake Sevan system have inclined the northern boundary to
the south, the space between these spurs and the extreme base of
Ararat is scarcely less than ten miles. But these are divisions
which the mind appreciates and the eye is unable to perceive, so
gradual is the transition from one level to another, from plain to
mountain-side. On the north the dappled landscape of the
campagna mingles with the patches of field and garden which,
fed by a number of slender rivulets, clothe the first slopes of
Alagoz ; on the south the gathering foundations of Ararat are
accompanied by an almost insensible inclination in the surface of
the dry and sandy soil. From either side the prospect extends
unbroken to the long summit lines which confront one another at
an interval of nearly sixty miles. From invisible limits in the
western .distance issues the looping thread of the Araxes, and.



To A^'arat 153

skirting the base of the Ararat fabric, bends slowly south-east-
wards and disappears.

The shady walks of the little park were beginning to fill with
groups of loungers w'hen, at five o'clock in the afternoon of the
1 6th of September, we started from the central square of Erivan.
A single horseman accompanied us, a cJiapar or courier belonging
to the country police. This was the first occasion, since we had
entered Russian territory, upon which an escort had been con-
sidered necessary by those responsible for our safety. We were
approaching the Turkish border, and along that extended moun-
tain frontier acts of brigandage are still not unknown. Yet the
prince of brigands, the redoubted Kerim, no longer flouts the
nachalniks ; and a stream of laden carts and leisurely wayfarers
attests the public confidence. Slowly we threaded the clay-built
walls of successive orchards, the trees within them bending with
fruit, until beyond this oasis of foliage and freshness opened, like
an ocean at the mouth of a harbour, the free expanse of plain.

The springless troika bumped heavily on the projecting slabs
of massive boulders, embedded in the fairway. The road which
leads through this stony region is little better than a natural
track. The rocky slopes of the northern mountain border extend
to the south of Erivan, until they die away into the level surface
of the valley a few versts from the town. The evening was
advancing and we had no time to linger ; we were obliged to put
up with the jolting and push on. At the promise of a rouble to
the driver the pace quickened ; we clutched the bare sides of the
little post cart, and tightened our seat on the narrow belt of
chains, cushioned with a bundle of hay. At the half stage our
courier took his leave and was succeeded by a fresh horseman ;
and so throughout the journey one horseman gave place to
another with only a {^.w minutes' delay. These chapars are young
men, native to the country, who find their own mounts ; they wear
the drab skirted coat of Georgia and the usual lambskin cap.
Their stations are often isolated, and are distinguished b\- the
curious structures which adjoin them — lofty platforms, built upon
piles, which serve the purpose of watch towers, and from which
they command the inequalities of the ground (Fig. 29). Away
on our right the distant chain of the Ararat system was shadowed
in tints of opal and indigo upon a rich ground of orange and
amber hues ; the sun sets behind those mountains, and it Avas



154 Arnienia

touching with globe of red fire the fantastic peaks of the range.
About us the plain lay grey and dim, and all the light and glory
was in the western sky. In the south the misty fabric of Ararat
loomed more gigantic as night approached ; ever higher, before
us, in the paling vault of heaven the dome and the pyramid rose.
As we neared the first station on the road to Aralykh, the village
of Aramzalu, it seemed as if the snowy roof of the mountain were
suspended in the sky above our heads, a cold and ghostly island,
holding the last glimmer of day.

Of the forty versts (26|- miles), which separate Erivan from
Aralykh, we had covered thirteen versts (8^ miles) within the
space of an hour and a half The next stage is the village of
Kamarlu, a distance of fifteen versts. Between these two stations
the road follows the course of the Araxes, at an interval of two
or three miles, and is lined on either side by the walls of ex-
tensive gardens, watered by a network of little channels which
carry the river into the plain. The character of the soil favours
the well-metalled avenue which leads within the fringe of poplars
and fruit trees and forms the principal artery of this fertile and
populous zone. Night had fallen ; the road was clear ; the fresh
pair of horses were less than an hour in covering the ten miles.

In the post house of Kamarlu, where we again changed horses,
we were surprised to find our cook. He had been retained as a
hostage for the way-money of the fourgon, which our people had
been unable to pay. We released him, and stowed him away
with difficulty in a corner of the cart. At Kamarlu you leave
the region of gardens, and make direct for the margin of the river,
which flows between high banks through a melancholy district of
waste land and cracking soil. In this yellow stream, of which
the width at this point can scarcely exceed eighty yards, it is
difficult to recognise with becoming emotion the haughty flood of
the Araxes ; yet the river is still crossed by fords or ferries, and
still retains, I believe, the ancient distinction that it does not
brook a bridge. A standing hawser of woven wire is laid from
bank to bank, and the force of the stream propels along it a wide
and solid pontoon. Transported without delay to the opposite
bank, we made rapid progress along the roadway across low and
marshy ground, and arrived just after nine at the row of trim
cantonments which compose the military station of Aralykh,
eleven versts from Kamarlu (Fig. 30).

We made halt before the entrance to a single-storeyed dwelling



To Ara7^at



155



built of clay and painted white. A young Russian officer in
white linen tunic received us at the door. As we passed within the
house, the burly figure of Rudolph was seen emerging from the
shades. Our host had lodged the whole party in his quarters,
and would not hear of our living in our tents. At Aralykh there
are stationed a squadron of Cossacks and a detachment of regular
cavalry. The regulars are employed in protecting the customs,
and the Cossacks in hunting the Kurds. It was interesting to
notice the contrast — in demeanour as well as in habits — between




Fi(



Ah.



Aralykh in the foreground.



the polished young lieutenant of regulars and the kind but
boisterous colonel of Cossacks. How small are the differences
between opposite nationalities when compared with such essential
divisions as these ! In this hospitable house the manners of
Europe prevailed over those of the East. As we sat in the
comfortable room of the Russian officer it was strange to reflect
that we were at the foot of Ararat, face to face with the memories
of primeval simplicity among the thousand pretty nicknacks of a
leisurely writing table and the various implements of a modern
toilette. Perhaps the link, which connects all human development,
was in this case supplied by a primitive reckoning table with rows
of skewered beads.



CHAPTER XII

ASCENT OF ARARAT

Next morning the sun had ah-eady risen as I let myself down
through the open casement of the window and dropped into the
garden among the dry brushwood encumbering its sandy floor.
Not a soul was stirring, and not a sound disturbed the composure
of an Eastern morning, the great world fulfilling its task in silence
and all nature sedate and serene. A narrow strip of plantation
runs at the back of Aralykh, on the south, sustained by ducts
from the Kara Su or Blackwater, a stream which leads a portion
of the waters of the Araxes into the cotton fields and marshes
which border the right bank. Within this fringe of slim poplars,
and just on its southern verge, there is a little mound and an
open summer-house — as pleasant a place as it is possible to
imagine, but which, perhaps, only differs from other summer-
houses in the remarkable situation which it occupies and in the
wonderful view which it commands. It is placed on the extreme
foot of Ararat, exactly on the line where all inclination ceases
and the floor of the plain begins. It immediately faces the
summit of the larger mountain, bearing about south-west
(Frontispiece).

Before you the long outline of the Ararat fabric fills the
southern horizon — the gentle undulations of the north-western
slope, as it gathers from its lengthy train ; the bold bastions of
the snowfields, rising to the rounded dome ; and, further east,
beyond the saddle where the two mountains commingle, the
needle form of the lesser Ararat, free at this season from snow.
Yet, although Aralykh lies at the flank of Ararat, confronting the
side which mounts most directly from the plain to the roof of
snow, the distance from a perpendicular drawn through the
summit is over i6 miles. Throughout that space the fabric is



Ascent of Ararat 157

always rising towards the snow-bank 14,000 feet above our
heads, with a symmetry and, so to speak, with a rhythm of
structure which holds the eye in spell. First, there is a belt of
loose sand, about 2 miles in depth, beginning on the margin of
marsh and irrigation, and seen from this garden, which directly
adjoins it, like the sea-bed from a grove on the shore. On the
ground of }'ellow, thus presented, rests a light tissue of green,
consisting of the sparse bushes of the ever-fresh camelthorn, a
plant which strikes down into beds of moisture, deep-seated
beneath the surface of the soil. Although it is possible, crossing
this sand-zone, to detect the growing slope, yet this feature is
scarcely perceptible from Aralykh, whence its smooth, unbroken
surface and cool relief of green suggest the appearance of an
embroidered carpet, spread at the threshold of an Eastern temple
for the services of prayer. Beyond this band or belt of sandy
ground, composed no doubt of a pulverised detritus, which the
piety of Parrot was quick to recognise as a leaving of the flood,
the broad and massive base of Ararat sensibly gathers and
inclines, seared by the sinuous furrows of dry watercourses, and
stretching, uninterrupted by any step or obstacle, hill or terrace
or bank, to the veil of thin mist which hangs at this hour along
the higher seams. Not a patch of verdure, not a streak of
brighter colour breaks the long monotony of ochre in the burnt
grass and the bleached stones. All the subtle sensations with
which the living earth surrounds us — wide as are the tracts of
barren desert within the limits of the plain itself — seem to cease,
arrested at the fringe of this plantation, as on a magician's line.
When the vapours obscuring the middle slopes of the mountain
dissolve and disappear, you see the shadowed jaws of the great
chasm — the whole side of the mountain burst asunder from the
cornice of the snow-roof to the base, the base itself depressed and
hollow throughout its width of about 10 miles. No cloud has
yet climbed to the snows of the summit, shining in the brilliant
blue.

It was the morning of the 17th of September, a period of the
year when the heats have moderated ; when the early air, even
in the plain of the Araxes, has acquired a suggestion of
crispness, and the sun still overpowers the first symptoms of
winter chills.^ The tedious arrangements of Eastern travel

1 At Aralykh the thermometer ranged between 60° and 70° F"ahrenheit between the
hours of 6 A.M. and 9 A.M. on the several mornings. At mid-day it rose to about 8o'\



158 Armenia

occupied the forenoon ; and it had been arranged that we should
dine with our host, the Lieutenant, before making the final start.
Six little hacks, impressed in the district and sadly wanting in
flesh, were loaded with our effects ; our party was mounted on
Cossack horses, which, by the extreme courtesy of the Russian
authorities, had been placed at our disposal for a week. We
took leave of our new friend under a strong sentiment of gratitude
and esteem ; but a new and pleasurable surprise was awaiting us,
as we passed down the neat square. All the Cossacks at that
time quartered in Aralykh — the greater number were absent on
the slopes of the mountain, serving the usual patrols — had been
drawn up in marching order, awaiting the arrival of their Colonel,
who had contrived to keep the secret by expressing his willing-
ness to accompany us a few versts of the way. My cousin and I
were riding with the Colonel, and the purpose of these elaborate
arrangements was explained to us with a sly smile ; the troop
with their Colonel were to escort us on our first day's journey, and
to bivouac at Sardar Bulakh. The order was given to march in
half column. It was perhaps the first time that an English
officer had ridden at the head of these famous troops. We
crossed the last runnel on the southern edge of the plantation
and entered the silent waste.

For awhile we slowly rode through the camelthorn, the deep
sand sinking beneath our horses' feet. It was nearly one o'clock,
and the expanse around us streamed in the full glare of noon.
A spell seems to rest upon the landscape of the mountain, sealing
all the springs of life. Only, among the evergreen shrubs about
us, a scattered group of camels cropped the spinous foliage, little
lizards darted, a flock of sand-grouse took wing. Our course lay
slantwise across the base of Ararat, towards the hill of Takjaltu,
a table-topped mass, overgrown with yellow herbage, which rises
in advance of the saddle between the mountains, and lies just
below you as you overlook the landscape from the valley of
Sardar Bulakh. Gullies of chalk and ground strewn with stones
succeed the even surface of the belt of sand, and in turn give
way to the covering of burnt grass which clothes the deep slope
of the great sweeping base, and encircles the fabric with a con-
tinuous stretch of ochre, extending up the higher seams. Mile
after mile we rode at easy paces over the parched turf and the
cracking soil. When we had accomplished a space of about 10
miles, and attained a height of nearly 6000 feet, the land broke



Ascent of Ararat



159



about us into miniature ravines, deep gullies, strewn with stones
and boulders, searing the slope about the line of the limit where
the base may be said to determine and the higher seams begin.
Winding down the sides of these rocky hollows, one might turn
in the saddle at a bend of the track, and observe the long line
of horsemen defilincf



into the ravine (Fig.
31). I noticed that
by far the greater
number among them
— if, indeed, one
might not say all —
were men in the
opening years of
manhood — lithe,
well-knit figures,
and fair complex-
ions, set round with
fair hair. Xt a nearer
view the feature
which most im-
pressed me was the
smallness of their
eyes. They wear
the long, skirted
coat of Circassia, a
thin and worn khaki;
the faded pink on
the cloth of their
shoulder-straps re-
lieves the dull drab.
Their little caps of
Circassian pattern fit closely round their heads. Their horses
are clumsy, long-backed creatures, wanting in all the character-
istics of quality ; and, as each man maintains his own animal,
few among them are shod. Yet I am assured that the breed is
workmanlike and enduring, and I have known it to yield most
satisfactory progeny when crossed with English racing blood.
As we rounded the heap of grass-grown soil which is known as
Takjaltu, we were joined by a second detachment of Cossacks,
coming from Akhury. Together we climbed up the troughs of




Fig. 31. Our Cavalcade on Ararat.



i6o Armenia

the ridges which sweep fanwise down the mountain side, and
emerged on the floor of the upland valley which leads between
the greater and the lesser Ararat, and crosses the back of the
Ararat fabric in a direction from south-west to north-east. We
were here at an elevation of 7500 feet above the sea, or nearly
5000 feet above the plain. Both the stony troughs and ridges,
up which we had just marched, as well as the comparatively
level ground upon which we now stood, were covered with a
scorched but abundant vegetation, which had served the Kurds
during earlier summer as pasture for their flocks, and still
sheltered numerous coveys of plump partridges, in which this
part of the mountain abounds.

At the mouth of this valley, on the gently sloping platform
which its even -surface presents, we marked out the spaces of our
bivouac, the pickets for the horses, and the fires. Our men were
acquainted with every cranny ; we had halted near the site of
their summer encampment, from which they had only recently
descended to their winter quarters in the plain. As we dis-
mounted we were met by a graceful figure, clad in a Circassian
coat of brown material let in across the breast with pink silk — a
young man of most engaging appearance and manners, presented
to us as the chief of the Kurds on Ararat who own allegiance to
the Tsar. In the high refinement of his features, in the bronzed
complexion and soft brown eyes, the Kurd made a striking
contrast to the Cossacks — a contrast by no means to the ad-
vantage of the Cis-Caucasian race. The young chief is also
worthy to be remembered in respect of the remarkable name
which he bears. His Kurdish title of Shamden Agha has been
developed and embroidered into the sonorous appellation of
Hasan Bey Shamshadinoff, under which he is officially known.

From the edge of the platform upon which we were standing
the ground falls away with some abruptness down to the base
below, and lends to the valley its characteristic appearance of an
elevated stage and natural viewing-place, overtowered by the
summit regions of the dome and the pyramid, and commanding
all the landscape of the plain. On the south-west, as it rises
towards the pass between the two mountains — a pass of 8800
feet, leading into Turkish and into Persian territory, to Bayazid or
Maku — the extent of even ground which composes this platform
cannot much exceed a quarter of a mile. It is choked by the
rocky causeways which, sweeping down the side of Great Ararat,



Ascent of Ararat i6i

tumble headlong to the bottom of the fork, and, taking the
inclination of the ever-widening valley, descend on the north-
western skirt of the platform in long, oblique curves of branching
troughs and ridges, falling fanwise over the base. The width of
the platform, at the mouth of the valley, may be about three-
quarters of a mile. It is here that the Kurds of the surrounding
region gather, as the shades of night approach, to water their
flocks at the lonely pool which is known as the sirdar's well.
On the summit of the lesser Ararat there is a little lake, formed
of melted snows ; the water permeates the mountain, and feeds
the sirdar's pool. Close by, at the foot of the lesser mountain,
is the famous covert of birch — low bushes, the only stretch of wood
upon the fabric, which is entirely devoid of trees. The wood
was soon crackling upon our fires, and the water hissing in the
pots ; but the wretched pack-horses, upon which our tents had
been loaded, were lagging several hours behind. We ourselves
had reached camp at six o'clock ; it was after nine before our
baggage arrived. As we stretched upon the slope, the keen air
of the summit region swept the valley and chilled us to the skin ;
the temperature sank to below freezing, and we had nothing but
the things in which we stood.^ Our friends, the Cossack officers,
were lavish of assistance ; they wrapped us in the hairy coats of
the Caucasus, placed vodki and partridges before us, and ranged
us around their hospitable circle, beside the leaping flames.

But the mind was absent from the picturesque bivouac, and
the eye which ranged the deepening shadows was still dazzled by
the evening lights. Mind and sense alike were saturated with the
beauty and the brilliance of the landscape, which, as you rise
towards the edge of the platform after rounding the mass of
Takjaltu, opens to an ever-increasing perspective, with ever-
growing clearness of essential features and mystery gathering upon
all lesser forms. The sun, revolving south of the zenith, lights the
mountains on the north of the plain, and fills all the valley from
the slopes of Ararat with the full flood of his rays — tier after tier of
crinkled hummock ranges, aligned upon the opposite margin of
the valley at a distance of over twenty miles, their summit out-
line fretted with shapes of cones and craters, their faces buttressed
in sand, bare and devoid of all vegetation, yet richly clothed in
lights and hues of fairyland — ochres flushed with delicate madder,

^ The temperature at 6. 30 p.m. was 50' Fahrenheit, but it sank rapidly in the cold
wind.

VOL. I M



1 62 Armenia

amethyst, shaded opaline, while the sparse plantations about the
river and the labyrinth of the plain insensibly transfigure, as you
rise above them, into an impalpable web of grey. In the lap of
the landscape lies the river, a thin, looping thread — flashes of
white among the shadow^s, in the lights a bright mineral green.
Here and there on its banks you descry a naked mound — conjur-
ing a vision of forgotten civilisations and the buried hives of man.
It is a vast prospect over the world. . . . Yet vaster far is the
expanse you feel about you beyond the limits of sight. It is
nothing but a segment of that expanse, a brief vista from north to
east between two mountain sides. On the north the slopes of
Great Ararat hide the presence of Alagoz, while behind the needle
form of Little Ararat all the barren chains and lonely valleys of
Persia are outspread. . . . The evening grows, and the sun's
returning arc bends behind the dome of snow. The light falls
between the two mountains, and connects the Little Ararat in a
common harmony with the richening tints of the plain. There it
stands on the further margin of the platform, the clean, sharp
outline of a pyramid, clothed in hues of a tender yellow, seamed
with violet veins. At its feet, where its train sweeps the floor of
the river valley in long and regular folds — far away in the east,
towards the mists of the Caspian — the sandy ground breaks into



Online LibraryH. F. B. (Harry Finnis Blosse) LynchArmenia, travels and studies (Volume 1) → online text (page 17 of 49)