« ZurückWeiter »
NOTES OF TRAVEL.
ALEXANDRIA TO PALESTINE-GREECE-SPAIN. Before leaving Alexandria, I ascertained that by taking the Austrian steamer to Jaffa, I could stop a week in Palestine and then proceed to Athens. But if the steamer should be taken a week later, the stay in Palestine would have to be two weeks instead of one, making me two weeks later in Greece, and disarranging my subsequent plans of travel. So I resolved to take the Austrian steamer.
On the 17th of December, 1886, we embarked on the steamer Danae, for Jaffa. After passing the custom-house there was a swarm of Egyptians struggling to get possession of the baggage, so as to get the fee for taking it on board.
The natives look upon travelers as legitimate prey, and it is very difficult to avoid payment of the most extortionate charges. Even the customhouse officers or employees who volunteer the passenger's protection, sometimes make themselves parties to the abuses which are practiced. It is a crying evil which calls for correction from the law making powers on the Mediterranean.
On the morning of the 19th, we arrived at Jaffa, having stopped several hours at Port Said.
At Port Said, the houses, fronting on the sea, with their bright contrast of colors (the windows and some other portions being painted green or red, and the body of the house white), presented a motley and picturesque appearance.
A dignitary of some kind was being conveyed ashore from one of the vessels, and on the small boat in which he was seated was what might be called a band. The music resembled a Scotch bag-pipe, accompanied
by a base drum. A large crowd had assembled on shore to do honor to the public functionary.
There was also music on our vessel, consisting of the performance of a Turk on a rattle and a tambourine. It was a chant, ending frequently in the chorus, “Alla-hoo-ah, Alla-hoo-ah.”
The poor Egyptians who were loading coal on one of the steamers, had to go on the run, not only with the empty baskets, but many of them with the baskets loaded.
Under a splendid sky we sailed over this inland sea, arriving at Jaffa, as stated, on the 19th of December.
This City contained from twenty to twenty-five thousand inhabitants, composed largely of Jews, with many Syrian Christians.
Stopping at a hotel I asked of the landlord the expense of going to Jerusalem. He would take me there, stay two days and return, for 125 francs. But that would not, of course, include my meals and hotel bills. To go to Jerusalem merely, would cost 50 francs in one carriage, and 40 in another not so good. I told the landlord I would take a walk about the City. Would I have some one with me? No. I had better. "No.!" (Somewhat emphatically.)
Fearing the result of the walk, he took me into the back yard, and showing me the second class carriage, offered to take me in it for 15 francs. I insisted upon my walk, however, and walking to Cook's Office, purchased a good cushioned seat for 12 francs. In a few hours, I was on the road to Jerusalem.
The Arabs are a fine people-honest, industrious, and moreover, very religious. For a mile or two out of Jaffa, the road was lined with trees and plants of tropical growth-the palm tree, the date, the olive, and the orange trees, loaded with fruit ripening in the December sun. The earth rejoiced in its luxuriousness of vegetation.
But this did not last long. Soon we began to cross vast, open plains, with no fences and no habitations, though mostly under cultivation. This was the character of the country until we reached the mountains-two thirds of the way to Jerusalem.
At 5 or 6 in the evening, we reached Ramla, a place of 4 or 5,000 inhabitants, and after supper proceeded to the foot of the mountains, where we halted for about 3 hours.
It was an Arabic public house; a stone building resembling a brick or or lime-kiln; the entrance corresponding with the arched opening in which the fuel is put.
Inside was wood, etc., and animals. Men were sitting around on the ground near small fire. I went up the stone steps, to the second story and entered a room comparatively aristocratic. Stretching myself on a bench, covered with plain upholstering, I tried to sleep. But the night was chilly, and the scenes were so strange and exciting, that sleep did not
About 3 A. M., after drinking a small cup of very sweet coffee, and paying the moderate fee demanded, we resumed our journey.
The road in the mountains was in some places not only steep, but exceedingly rough. The passengers frequently walked, though they were not required to do so.
About 9 o'clock in the forenoon, we arrived at Jerusalem, the stony hills having continued up to the very city. There was no vegetation, except the olive tree. This is here about the size of a large apple tree, and grows sometimes from the very rocks themselves. And this is Jerusalem, the holy city, inhabited by Jews as in days of old. Hot it came to be built upon these rocky hills is a constant source of wonderment, especially to one who finds it difficult to adopt the theory of Mr. Spafford, who was presiding over a religious colony, most of whom, like himself, came from Chicago. His explanation is that in ancient times all these hills were covered dense forests. I asked him for the evidence.
“Why," said he, “this country was given by the Almighty to his chosen people for an inheritance. Would you give your son something not worth having? These hills, in their present condition, would be very undesirable. Therefore, they must have been covered with a luxuriant growth of timber.” How such a growth could have been supported upon the sterile rocks, he did not explain.
Almost the only fuel used here, consists of the limbs and roots of the dead or decaying olive trees. The trees are of a stunted growth. The fuel obtained from them is very dear, and gives out but little heat. The expense of bringing coal from Jaffa, is about equal to the price of it in that city. Some charcoal is brought on mules, from the valley of the Hebron.
I visited the Mount of Olives, and saw the stone from which Christ is said to have ascended into heaven. I then descended into the City, and visiting the Mosque, saw the stone from which Mohammed is said to have ascended. On the stone are shown the foot-prints of the angel, who sustained and assisted the prophet before his ascent. I saw the Valley of Jehoshaphat, the Dead Sea and the River Jordan. I passed through the
Garden of Gethsemane, and into the Church of the Virgin Mary, where devotees were paying homage at her tomb. Afterward, visited the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and was shown what purported to be the tomb of Christ.
I took supper with Mr. Spafford and his “family" or society. Every thing was pleasant. There were about twenty of them. They had been living under the same roof for about 5 years.
During my stay, I visited Bethlehem, which was a repetition of the olive crowned hills; though here they were less sterile-more beautiful and picturesque. There were also some fertile valleys between.
AN ARAB DINNER.
While in Jerusalem, in company with Mr. Spafford, I took dinner with an Arab sheik, or chief. He lived in a two story stone house, on the side of the Mount of Olives. We ascended two or three flights of stone steps, built outside the house, and were ushered into a room somewhat luxuriously furnished, there being plenty of sofa seats and lounges. In one corner of the room was a bed. We were seated about a low table, upon which soon appeared a round, flat cake of bread for each guest, and one for the host. There were five in all. The bread had been baked on hot stones, and was very good. Then came a large platter, with four dishes of food. In the center of the platter was a plate containing small pieces of meat, well cooked. There was a dish containing rolls, about an inch thick and four to six inches long, having on the outside cabbage leaves wound round, like the outside of a cigar. The inside consisted of meat and rice, properly cooked and seasoned. The whole was very palatable. There was another dish containing what appeared to be carrots; but in some mysterious way the outside of the carrots was gone, and the place was supplied also by meat and rice. Then there was a bowl of olives. The rolls we ate with our fingers. Then came the dessert. It was served on a platter about two feet in diameter, and consisted of a delicious pudding, covered over the top with almond meats. The drink was water. After dinner, rose water was passed round for the hands and head.
Jerusalem had at that time 45 or 50,000 inhabitants, and was growing rapidly, the accessions being principally Jews, from all parts of the world.
After an interesting sojourn of a week in Palestine, I took steamer for Athens, by the way of Smyrna.
On the second of January, we passed Cape Colonna, where we could see the twelve remaining pillars of the Temple of Minerva, built by
Pericles, about 450 years before Christ.
As we approached Piraeus we could see Athens in the distance, and the Acropolis very distinctly. Here, before us, was the home of the philosophers, among whom were some of the most profound thinkers the world has ever produced. It was with mingled feelings of pleasure and sadness, and with some confusion of thought that I placed my foot upon this classic soil.
In Athens I passed the month of January. It has been too often and too well described, to justify me in attempting a description. Athens is a beautiful, modern city. There are many ancient ruins of interest. There are no paintings worth speaking of, and not a single complete piece of ancient statuary did I see while in Athens. These I was told had all been removed to London by Lord Elgin. If so, the English government should do that justice to Greece, which France has done to the various European governments whose cities and villages had been despoiled by Napoleon, of their choicest works of art.
One of my visits to the Acropolis was made by moonlight. The moon was shining gloriously through one of the clearest of Grecian skies, and the solemn splendor of the scene, as we ascended the marble steps of the Propylæon, no words can describe. Here were the majestic and still beautiful witnesses of the greatness and splendor of ancient Greece. No ruins in Rome can compare with them in beauty and completeness of preservation; nor in the many remains of the most splendid architecture.
All the way from the Propylæon to the Parthenon, and in every direction around this noble structure, were broken columns and massive blocks of marble, as well as smaller pieces, ornamented in the handsomest manner known to architectural art. There were thousands of pieces, any one of which would be a valued treasure in an American museum
On the fourth of February I embarked in a French vessel for Marseilles. Thence in a Spanish vessel for Malaga, encountering on the way a terrific gale—the worst storm which had been known on the Spanish coast for twenty years. We touched at Barcelona, where I attended the theater; also at Valencia, Alicante, Carthagena and Almaria, and arrived at Malaga, Feb. 20, 1887.
From Malaga I proceeded to Grenada, and visited the Alhambra. Thence to Madrid, where I witnessed a bull fight, during which five bulls were slain by the matadores.
After a stay of two weeks in Spain, I turned my course, for the third time, toward Paris.
C. B. W.