Chapter XVIII. The Pass of Mount Taurus.
We enter the Taurus - Turcomans - Forest Scenery - the Palace of Pan - Khan
Mezarluk - Morning among the Mountains - The Gorge of the Cydnus - The Crag
of the Fortress - The Cilician Gate - Deserted Forts - A Sublime
Landscape - The Gorge of the Sihoon - The Second Gate - Camp in the
Defile - Sunrise - Journey up the Sihoon - A Change of Scenery - A Pastoral
Valley - Kolue Kushla - A Deserted Khan - A Guest in Ramazan - Flowers - The
Plain of Karamania - Barren Hills - The Town of Eregli - The Hadji again.
"Lo! where the pass expands
Its stony jaws, the abrupt mountain breaks,
And seems, with its accumulated crags,
To overhang the world." Shelley.
Eregli, in Karamania, June 22, 1852.
Striking our tent in the gardens of Tarsus, we again crossed the Cydnus, and took a northern course across the plain. The long line of Taurus rose before us, seemingly divided into four successive ranges, the highest of which was folded in clouds; only the long streaks of snow, filling the ravines, being visible. The outlines of these ranges were very fine, the waving line of the summits cut here and there by precipitous gorges - the gateways of rivers that came down to the plain. In about two hours, we entered the lower hills. They are barren and stony, with a white, chalky soil; but the valleys were filled with myrtle, oleander, and lauristinus in bloom, and lavender grew in great profusion on the hill-sides. The flowers of the oleander gave out a delicate, almond-like fragrance, and grew in such dense clusters as frequently to hide the foliage. I amused myself with finding a derivation of the name of this beautiful plant, which may answer until somebody discovers a better one. Hero, when the corpse of her lover was cast ashore by the waves, buried him under an oleander bush, where she was accustomed to sit daily, and lament over his untimely fate. Now, a foreign horticulturist, happening to pass by when the shrub was in blossom, was much struck with its beauty, and asked Hero what it was called. But she, absorbed in grief, and thinking only of her lover, clasped her hands, and sighed out: "O Leander! O Leander!" which the horticulturist immediately entered in his note-book as the name of the shrub; and by that name it is known, to the present time.
For two or three hours, the scenery was rather tame, the higher summits being obscured with a thunder-cloud. Towards noon, however, we passed the first chain, and saw, across a strip of rolling land intervening, the grand ramparts of the second, looming dark and large under the clouds. A circular watch-tower of white stone, standing on the summit of a promontory at the mouth of a gorge on our right, flashed out boldly against the storm. We stopped under an oak-tree to take breakfast; but there was no water; and two Turks, who were resting while their horses grazed in the meadow, told us we should find a good spring half a mile further. We ascended a long slope, covered with wheat-fields, where numbers of Turcoman reapers were busy at work, passed their black tents, surrounded with droves of sheep and goats, and reached a rude stone fountain of good water, where two companies of these people had stopped to rest, on their way to the mountains. It was the time of noon prayer, and they went through their devotions with great solemnity. We nestled deep in a bed of myrtles, while we breakfasted; for the sky was clouded, and the wind blew cool and fresh from the region of rain above us. Some of the Turcomans asked us for bread, and were very grateful when we gave it to them.
In the afternoon, we came into a higher and wilder region, where the road led through thickets of wild olive, holly, oak, and lauristinus, with occasional groves of pine. What a joy I felt in hearing, once more, the grand song of my favorite tree! Our way was a woodland road; a storm had passed over the region in the morning; the earth was still fresh and moist, and there was an aromatic smell of leaves in the air. We turned westward into the entrance of a deep valley, over which hung a perpendicular cliff of gray and red rock, fashioned by nature so as to resemble a vast fortress, with windows, portals and projecting bastions. Francois displayed his knowledge of mythology, by declaring it to be the Palace of Pan. While we were carrying out the idea, by making chambers for the Fauns and Nymphs in the basement story of the precipice, the path wound around the shoulder of the mountain, and the glen spread away before us, branching up into loftier ranges, disclosing through its gateway of cliffs, rising out of the steeps of pine forest, a sublime vista of blue mountain peaks, climbing to the topmost snows. It was a magnificent Alpine landscape, more glowing and rich than Switzerland, yet equalling it in all the loftier characteristics of mountain scenery. Another and greater precipice towered over us on the right, and the black eagles which had made their eyries in its niched and caverned vaults, were wheeling around its crest. A branch of the Cydnus foamed along the bottom of the gorge, and soma Turcoman boys were tending their herds on its banks.