Around the Black Sea. Asia Minor, Armenia, Caucasus, Circassia, Daghestan, the Crimea, Roumania Around the Black Sea. Asia Minor, Armenia, Caucasus, Circassia, Daghestan, the Crimea, Roumania

Around the Black Sea. Asia Minor, Armenia, Caucasus, Circassia, Daghestan, the Crimea, Roumania


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THERE are several lines of steamers on the Black Sea, sailing under the Turkish, Greek, Russian, German, French, Austrian, and Italian flags. The steamers of the North German Lloyd Company, which sail from Genoa and Naples, through the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus, are best, but they visit only the ports on the northern coast. The Austrian Lloyd steamers, which come from Trieste, are second best, and we were fortunate in obtaining cabins on the Euterpe, which is old-fashioned, but comfortable. The captain is an Italian of Trieste, who speaks English well, as do two of the under officers; the steward is thoughtful and attentive and the cook is beyond criticism.

The passengers were a perfect babel, representing all the races and speaking all the tongues of the East, with several Europeans mixed in, each wearing his own peculiar costume. There were Turks of all kinds and all classes and all ages wearing fezzes of red felt; there were Persians, wearing fezzes of black lamb’s-wool; Albanians with fezzes of white felt, and Jews with turbans and long robes, such as they used to wear in the days of the Scriptures. We had several Turkish army officers to amuse us, and one big, blue-eyed


 general, who looked like a philanthropist, but is said to be a fiend of a fighter. There were English, German, and French tourists and rug buyers on their way to Persia and Turkestan; a very fat Austrian woman who was going to visit her son, consul at Batoum, and several Russians who had been visiting Paris and the Riviera and were on their way back to their homes in the Caucasus.

We had five different kinds of clergymen—Mohammedan mullahs, wearing long robes and red fezzes with white turbans wound around them, Greek and Armenian priests, who are difficult to distinguish, and three Capuchin monks. One of them was a venerable old gentleman with a patriarchal beard, and one was a mere boy who smoked cigarettes incessantly—and a cigarette does not fit in well with the hood and robe of a monk. The Capuchins have several monasteries in Asia Minor, and maintain schools and do parish work in several of the cities along the coast, where there are communities of Roman Catholics.

There were several Armenians in frock suits of broadcloth, low-cut vests, and snowy shirt bosoms, like those affected by lawyers in Mississippi and Arkansas, and one howling dervish. He did not look a bit as you would expect, but was a jaunty fellow in a fancy shirt of black cotton with white spots, without a collar, and an ordinary sack suit of gray European clothes over which he wore his distinctive coat of camel’s hair with wide sleeves and facings and trimmings of broad black braid, and on his shaven head a fez of gray wool with a wide band of black around it. He carried a dainty cane and whirled it around in his fingers like a dandy when he promenaded the deck. He was a presumptuous young dervish, for he endeavoured to enjoy


 the privileges of first-class passengers on a third-class ticket, which the deck steward would not permit. And when he did not go back to his proper place, after being told to do so, he was rudely elbowed down the stairs. It was not a respectful way to treat a saint in embryo, which howling dervishes are supposed to be, but I suppose the deck steward had his orders, and perhaps he was accustomed to dealing with such men.

Most of the Turks in the first-class cabin did not come to the table, because they will not eat Christian food for fear that lard or some other extract of the despised pig was used in its preparation. They took their meals in their state-rooms, with their wives and children, where they made their own coffee over spirit lamps and drank water from red earthen jugs which they had filled at the sacred fountains before leaving Constantinople. The women did not leave their cabins until they reached their destination, when they climbed blindly down the gangways into the row-boats, with veils drawn closely over their faces and their bodies enveloped in large shawls.

Several Persians in the first cabin came to their meals regularly, and brought their appetites with them. The Koran applies to them the same as it does to the Turks, but those gentlemen were not so pious as they should be. And I noticed that none of the Mohammedan passengers, except the mullahs and one general, said their prayers when the time came. The general was very devout. He wore a long, light-gray overcoat, reaching to his heels, which he kept so closely buttoned that we wondered if he had anything under it, and, like all military men over here, Russians, Austrians, and Turks, he never put aside his sword, not even


 when he spread his prayer rug on the deck and turned his face toward Mecca to pray.

The other first-class Mohammedan passengers paid no attention whatever to the hours for devotions, which gave me a disagreeable shock, because I have always understood that a Moslem is so conscientious that he will say his prayers five times a day at the proper moment, no matter what he happens to be doing or where he happens to be.

Many of the third-class passengers, who are compelled to sleep on the open deck, performed their duties regularly. They spread their prayer rugs carefully down in the first open place they could find, and, turning their eyes toward Mecca, went through with the genuflections which are a part of the Mohammedan ritual, and cried in loud voices that there is no God but Allah. Several of the private soldiers, and we had a large number on board, said their prayers regularly, regardless of their surroundings, but the majority of them did not and probably not more than one out of five of the Moslem passengers paid any attention to the hours of prayer.

Two of the mullahs in the first-class end of the ship had handsomely bound books from which they read aloud, as is their custom. Turkish students always study aloud. When you are riding along through country villages in the East you can locate the school-houses by the murmur of the voices of the pupils learning their lessons. If you go into a mosque that is used for educational purposes you can always find groups of students squatting on the floor, rocking their bodies back and forth with a motion as regular as that of a rocking chair, and repeating the lines of their lessons in loud voices.


I once asked a Mohammedan teacher in a Syrian mosque why this is done. He explained that people understand that which they learn through their ears better than that which they learn through their eyes. In the second place, he said, when a person studies aloud the mind is kept upon the subject intently and is not so apt to wander; thirdly, a person who is studying aloud is not so apt to go to sleep as when he reads to himself—and the danger of falling asleep is the reason for the rocking motion of the body which all students practise when they are at their books.

On the forward deck, where the anchor winch is, was camped a group of Persians. Some of them were merchants of Constantinople and other cities on their way to their native country to buy rugs and other goods; others were faithful Mohammedans returning from pilgrimages to Mecca. They were dignified, thoughtful persons with dreamy eyes and intensely black beards, and two or three old men had made themselves supremely ridiculous by the use of henna, which gives hair a bright scarlet hue. It reminded me of What’s-His-Name in “Alice in Wonderland,” who suggested that it would be awfully funny if everybody would dye his whiskers green.

“And hide our heads behind our fans

So they cannot be seen.”

Others had their finger nails stained scarlet with the same stuff, which gives a startling effect.

On the other side of the deck from the Armenians was a nest of their hereditary enemies, Kurds—tall, robust, brown fellows, with snub noses, small, fierce eyes and garments that are indescribable because of the variety of cut


 and colour. They lay around smoking cigarettes in the most indolent manner, each having what looked like an old-fashioned quilted comfortable for a mattress and an embroidered bag for a pillow.

The most interesting of all were the Lazis, from Lazistan, short, broad-shouldered, muscular chaps, most of whom brought their wives and children with them and camped amidship on the open deck like a lot of gypsies. The women were entirely concealed in shawls of cotton or silk that cover the head as well as the body, and they squatted in groups in the same place all day long, scarcely moving a muscle except when their husbands were hungry, and then they would dig down into a bag and produce a loaf of bread, a dried fish, a few onions, and other simple forms of food.

There were several babies scattered about promiscuously in bright-coloured wrappings, and a number of children under ten years old. Some of them had dainty features and lovely eyes, and a better behaved lot of children you never saw. We did not hear one of them cry during the entire voyage. They lay in their clumsy, queer-looking cradles, made by rude carpenters, without the slightest attention, as self-satisfied as if they had been millionaires smothered in luxury.

One night the peasants from Lazistan gave an interesting performance. The music was furnished by an ordinary bagpipe with three stops, which emitted a mournful and monotonous refrain, but with perfect time, and the dancers kept step to it very much after the manner of the North American Indian. They placed a child in the centre, a dozen or so of them clasped hands in a circle, alternately spreading out as far as their arms would reach and then


 coming together in a bunch, and in the meantime stamping their feet, bowing the knees, and bending the upper part of the body forward. Sometimes they would stoop to a squatting posture and hop along on one side and then on the other; then they would raise their arms as high as they could reach, revolving all the time to the left. It was a graceful movement and rather fascinating, and they seemed to enjoy it.

The third-class passengers who occupy the open deck, make themselves as comfortable as possible with big bundles of rugs and blankets and pillows, which they spread out wherever the boatswain will let them. They gave us a continuous performance abounding in life and a gorgeous riot of colour, entirely unconscious of their odd ways, their artistic poses, and the entertainment they were furnishing to the foreigners who could look down upon them from the afterdeck. The captain told me that there were doubtless thirty different races among the passengers upon that ship—Turks, Tartars, Mongols, Arabs, Armenians, Albanians, Circassians, Georgians, Greeks, Jews, Kurds, Lazis, Slavs, Syrians, Turkomans, Bokharoits, Wallachs, and Persians of various clans, which can be detected one from another by experts, because of the way they wear their clothes. Everybody except the women wore brilliant colours, and they were shut off from observation as much as possible by blankets pinned to the canvas awning so as to make screens.

Turks are very democratic. Islam recognizes no caste; there is no aristocracy or nobility or any divisions among the Turks except on an official basis and the inferiors show great respect to those who are above them. The ordinary


 Turkish peasant is good-natured, honest, sober, patient, frugal, industrious, and capable of great endurance. He is not fanatical, but is kindly disposed toward everybody. His hospitality is unbounded and the exercise of charity is one of his greatest pleasures. Two ragged fellows came up to the first-class deck one day, bringing a wash basin of graniteware painted a bright blue, which they passed around, asking contributions for the benefit of a sick man with five children who was lying helpless on the open deck and ought to be given shelter below in the second-class cabin, which he had no money to pay for. I noticed that everybody chipped in something, from the glittering general to the tatterdemalions who lay sprawled upon their blankets in the shady places.

Every third-class passenger had a basket of provisions and a jug of water, and an old man fixed himself a place in the corner, where he set up a samovar and made coffee to sell. He did a good business, too. His little brass pot was always in motion, because Turks are inveterate coffee drinkers and want a cup of that beverage every few minutes. The old coffee seller was a picture—a Turk from Samsoun, a good-natured old fellow with a wrinkled face, a curly beard, a white turban, and a smile like that of our President, which won’t come off.

22 de marzo
Rectory Print
Babafemi Titilayo Olowe