CHAPTER IX. THROUGH EUROPEAN TURKEY.
Over the undulating cliffs and along the sandy beach, my road now leads through the pretty little seaport of Cilivria, toward Constantinople, traversing a most lovely stretch of country, where waving wheat-fields hug the beach and fairly coquet with the waves, and the slopes are green and beautiful with vineyards and fig-gardens, while away beyond the glassy shimmer of the sea I fancy I can trace on the southern horizon the inequalities of the hills of Asia Minor. Greek fishing-boats are plying hither and thither; one noble sailing-vessel, with all sails set, is slowly ploughing her way down toward the Dardanelles - probably a grain- ship from the Black Sea - and the smoke from a couple of steamers is discernible in the distance. Flourishing Greek fishing-villages and vine- growing communities occupy this beautiful strip of coast, along which the Greeks seem determined to make the Cross as much more conspicuous than the Crescent as possible, by rearing it on every public building under their control, and not infrequently on private ones as well. The people of these Greek villages seem possessed of sunny dispositions, the absence of all reserve among the women being in striking contrast to the demeanor of the Turkish fair sex. These Greek women chatter after me from the windows as I wheel past, and if I stop a minute in the street they gather around by dozens, smiling pleasantly, and plying me with questions, which, of course, I cannot understand. Some of them are quite handsome, and nearly all have perfect white teeth, a fact that I have ample opportunity of knowing, since they seem to be all smiles. There has been much making of artificial highways leading from Constantinople in this direction in ages past. A road-bed of huge blocks of stone, such as some of the streets of Eastern towns are made impassable with, is traceable for miles, ascending and descending the rolling hills, imperishable witnesses of the wide difference in Eastern and Western ideas of making a road. These are probably the work of the people who occupied this country before the Ottoman Turks, who have also tried their hands at making a macadam, which not infrequently runs close along-side the old block roadway, and sometimes crosses it; and it is matter of some wonderment that the Turks, instead of hauling material for their road from a distance did not save expense by merely breaking the stones of the old causeway and using the same road-bed. Twice to-day I have been required to produce my passport, and when toward evening I pass through a small village, the lone gendarme who is smoking a nargileh in front of the mehana where I halt points to my revolver and demands "passaporte," I wave examination, so to speak, by arguing the case with him, and by the not always unhandy plan of pretending not exactly to comprehend his meaning. "Passaporte! passaporte! gendarmerie, me, " replies the officer, authoritatively, in answer to my explanation of a voyager being privileged to carry a revolver; while several villagers who have gathered around us interpose "Bin! bin! monsieur, bin! bin." I have little notion of yielding up either revolver or passport to this village gendarme, for much of their officiousness is simply the disposition to show off their authority and satisfy their own personal curiosity regarding me, to say nothing of the possibility of coming in for a little backsheesh. The villagers are worrying me to "bin! bin!" at the same time the gendarme is worrying me about the revolver and passport, and knowing from previous experience that the gendarme would never stop me from mounting, being quite as anxious to witness the performance as the villagers, I quickly decide upon killing two birds with one stone, and accordingly mount, and pick my way along the rough street out on to the Constantinople road. The gloaming settles into darkness, and the domes and minarets of Stamboul, which have been visible from the brow of every hill for several miles back, are still eight or ten miles away, and rightly judging that the Ottoman Capital is a most bewildering city for a stranger to penetrate after night, I pillow my head on a sheaf of oats, within sight of the goal toward which I have been pedalling for some 2,500 miles since leaving Liverpool. After surveying with a good deal of satisfaction the twinkling lights that distinguish every minaret in Constantinople each night during the fast of Ramadan, I fall asleep, and enjoy, beneath a sky in which myriads of far-off lamps seem to be twinkling mockingly at the Ramadan illuminations, the finest night's repose I have had for a week. Nothing but the prevailing rains have prevented me from sleeping beneath the starry dome entirely in peference to putting up at the village mehanas.