CHAPTER IX. THROUGH EUROPEAN TURKEY.
En route into Stamboul, on the following morning, I meet the first train of camels I have yet encountered; in the gray of the morning, with the scenes around so thoroughly Oriental, it seems like an appropriate introduction to Asiatic life. Eight o'clock finds me inside the line of earthworks thrown up by Baker Pasha when the Russians were last knocking at the gates of Constantinople, and ere long I am trundling through the crooked streets of the Turkish Capital toward the bridge which connects Stamboul with Galata and Pera. Even here my ears are assailed with the eternal importunities to "bin! bin!" the officers collecting the bridge- toll even joining in the request. To accommodate them I mount, and ride part way across the bridge, and at 9 o'clock on July 2d, just two calendar months from the start at Liverpool, I am eating my breakfast in a Constantinople restaurant. I am not long in finding English-speaking friends, to whom my journey across the two continents is not unknown, and who kindly direct me to the Chamber of Commerce Hotel, Eue Omar, Galata, a home-like establishment, kept by an English lady. I have been purposing of late to remain in Constantinople during the heated term of July and August, thinking to shape my course southward through Asia Minor and down the Euphrates Valley to Bagdad, and by taking a south-easterly direction as far as circumstances would permit into India, keep pace with the seasons, thus avoiding the necessity of remaining over anywhere for the winter. At the same time I have been reckoning upon meeting Englishmen in Constantinople who, having travelled extensively in Asia, could further enlighten me regarding the best route to India. As I house my bicycle and am shown to my room I take a retrospective glance across Europe and America, and feel almost as if I have arrived at the half-way house of my journey. The distance from Liverpool to Constantinople is fully 2,500 miles, which brings the wheeling distance from San Francisco up to something over 6,000. So far as the, distance wheeled and to be wheeled is concerned, it is not far from half-way; but the real difficulties of the journey are still ahead, although I scarcely anticipate any that time and perseverance will not overcome. My tour across Europe has been, on the whole, a delightful journey, and, although my linguistic shortcomings have made it rather awkward in interior places where no English-speaking person was to be found, I always managed to make myself understood sufficiently to get along. In the interior of Turkey a knowledge of French has been considered indispensable to a traveller: but, although a full knowledge of that language would have made matters much smoother by enabling me to converse with officials and others, I have nevertheless come through all right without it; and there have doubtless been occasions when my ignorance has saved me from a certain amount of bother with the gendarmerie, who, above all things, dislike to exercise their thinking apparatus. A Turkish official is far less indisposed to act than he is to think; his mental faculties work sluggishly, but his actions are governed largely by the impulse of the moment.
Someone has said that to see Constantinople is to see the entire East; and judging from the different costumes and peoples one meets on the streets and in the bazaars, the saying is certainly not far amiss. From its geographical situation, as well as from its history, Constantinople naturally takes the front rank among the cosmopolitan cities of the world, and the crowds thronging its busy thoroughfares embrace every condition of man between the kid-gloved exquisite without a wrinkle in his clothes and the representative of half-savage Central Asian States incased in sheepskin garments of rudest pattern. The great fast of Ramadan is under full headway, and all true Mussulmans neither eat nor drink a particle of anything throughout the day until the booming of cannon at eight in the evening announces that the fast is ended, when the scene quickly changes into a general rush for eatables and drink. Between eight and nine o'clock in the evening, during Ramadan, certain streets and bazaars present their liveliest appearance, and from the highest-classed restaurant patronized by bey and pasha to the venders of eatables on the streets, all do a rushing business; even the mjees (water-venders), who with leather water-bottles and a couple of tumblers wait on thirsty pedestrians with pure drinking water, at five paras a glass, dodge about among the crowds, announcing themselves with lusty lung, fully alive to the opportunities of the moment.