CHAPTER X. THE START THROUGH ASIA.
The Greeks seem to be the life and poetry of these sea-coast places on the Ismidt gulf. My hotel faces the water; and for hours after dark a half-dozen caique-loads of serenaders are paddling about in front of the town, making quite an entertaining concert in the silence of the night, the pleasing effect being heightened by the well-known softening influence of the water, and not a little enhanced by a display of rockets and Roman candles. Earlier in the evening, while taking a look at Ismidt and the surrounding scenery, in company with a few sociable natives, who point out beauty-spots in the surrounding landscape with no little enthusiasm, I am impressed with the extreme loveliness of the situation. The town itself, now a place of thirteen thousand inhabitants, is the Nicomedia of the ancients. It is built in the form of a crescent, facing the sea; the houses, many of them painted white, are terraced upon the slopes of the green hills, whose sides and summits are clothed with verdure, and whose bases are laved by the blue waves of the gulf, which here, at the upper extremity, narrows to about a mile and a half in width; white villages dot the green mountain-slopes on the opposite shore, prominent among them being the Armenian town of Bahgjadjik, where for a number of years has been established an American missionary-school, a branch, I think, of Roberts College. Every mile of visible country, whether gently sloping or more rugged and imposing, is green with luxuriant vegetation, and the waters of the gulf are of that deep-blue color peculiar to mountain-locked inlets; the bright green hills, the dancing blue waters, and the white painted villages combine to make a scene so lovely in the chastened light of early eventide that, after the Bosporus, I think I never saw a place more beautiful. Besides the loveliness of the situation, the little mountain-sheltered inlet makes an excellent anchorage for shipping; and during the late war, at the well-remembered crisis when the Russian armies were bearing down on Constantinople and the British fleet received the famous order to pass through the Dardanelles with or without the Sultan's permission, the head-waters of the Ismidt gulf became, for several months, the rendezvous of the ships.