Chapter XXI. The Heart of Asia Minor.
Scenery of the Hills - Ladik, the Ancient Laodicea - The Plague of
Gad-Flies - Camp at Ilguen - A Natural Warm Bath - The Gad-Flies Again - A
Summer Landscape - Ak-Sheher - The Base of Sultan Dagh - The Fountain of
Midas - A Drowsy Journey - The Town of Bolawaduen.
"By the forests, lakes, and fountains,
Though the many-folded mountains." Shelley.
Bolawaduen, July 1, 1852.
Our men brought all the beasts into the court-yard of the khan at Konia, the evening before our departure, so that no more were stolen during the night. The oda-bashi, indefatigable to the last in his attention to us, not only helped load the mules, but accompanied us some distance on our way. All the merchants in the khan collected in the gallery to see us start, and we made our exit in some state. The morning was clear, fresh, and delightful. Turning away from the city walls, we soon emerged from the lines of fruit-trees and interminable fields of tomb-stones, and came out upon the great bare plain of Karamania. A ride of three hours brought us to a long, sloping hill, which gave us a view of the whole plain, and its circuit of mountains. A dark line in the distance marked the gardens of Konia. On the right, near the centre of the plain, the lake, now contracted to very narrow limits, glimmered in the sun. Notwithstanding the waste and unfertile appearance of the country, the soft, sweet sky that hangs over it, the pure, transparent air, the grand sweep of the plain, and the varied forms of the different mountain chains that encompass it, make our journey an inspiring one. A descent of the hills soon shut out the view; and the rest of the day's journey lay among them, skirting the eastern base of Allah Dagh.
The country improved in character, as we advanced. The bottoms of the dry glens were covered with wheat, and shrubbery began to make its appearance on the mountain-sides In the afternoon, we crossed a watershed, dividing Karamania from the great central plain of Asia Minor, and descended to a village called Ladik, occupying the site of the ancient Laodicea, at the foot of Allah Dagh. The plain upon which we came was greener and more flourishing than that we had left. Trees were scattered here and there in clumps, and the grassy wastes, stretching beyond the grain-fields, were dotted with herds of cattle. Emir Dagh stood in the north-west, blue and distant, while, towards the north and north-east, the plain extended to the horizon - a horizon fifty miles distant - without a break. In that direction lay the great salt lake of Yuezler, and the strings of camels we met on the road, laden with salt, were returning from it. Ladik is surrounded with poppy-fields, brilliant with white and purple blossoms. When the petals have fallen, the natives go carefully over the whole field and make incisions in every stalk, whence the opium exudes.
We pitched our tent under a large walnut tree, which we found standing in a deserted inclosure. The graveyard of the village is studded with relics of the ancient town. There are pillars, cornices, entablatures, jambs, altars, mullions and sculptured tablets, all of white marble, and many of them in an excellent state of preservation. They appear to date from the early time of the Lower Empire, and the cross has not yet been effaced from some which serve as head-stones for the True Believers. I was particularly struck with the abundance of altars, some of which contained entire and legible inscriptions. In the town there is the same abundance of ruins. The lid of a sarcophagus, formed of a single block of marble, now serves as a water-trough, and the fountain is constructed of ancient tablets. The town stands on a mound which appears to be composed entirely of the debris of the former place, and near the summit there are many holes which the inhabitants have dug in their search for rings, seals and other relics.
The next day we made a journey of nine hours over a hilly country lying between the ranges of Allah Dagh and Emir Dagh. There were wells of excellent water along the road, at intervals of an hour or two. The day was excessively hot and sultry during the noon hours, and the flies were so bad as to give great inconvenience to our horses. The animal I bestrode kicked so incessantly that I could scarcely keep my seat. His belly was swollen and covered with clotted blood, from their bites. The hadji's mule began to show symptoms of illness, and we had great difficulty in keeping it on its legs. Mr. Harrison bled it in the mouth, as a last resource, and during the afternoon it partly recovered.