It was on the 30th of December, 1835, that we anchored in the Golden Horn; my long-indulged hopes were at length realized, and the Queen of Cities was before me, throned on her peopled hills, with the silver Bosphorus, garlanded with palaces, flowing at her feet!
It was with difficulty that I could drag myself upon deck after the night of intense suffering which I had passed in the sea of Marmora, and, when I did succeed in doing so, the vessel was already under the walls of the Seraglio garden, and advancing rapidly towards her anchorage. The atmosphere was laden with snow, and I beheld Stamboul for the first time clad in the ermine mantle of the sternest of seasons. Yet, even thus, the most powerful feeling that unravelled itself from the chaos of sensations which thronged upon me was one of unalloyed delight. How could it be otherwise? I seemed to look on fairy-land—to behold the embodiment of my wildest visions—to be the denizen of a new world.
Queenly Stamboul! the myriad sounds of her streets came to us mellowed by the distance; and, as we swept along, the whole glory of her princely port burst upon our view! The gilded palace of Mahmoud, with its glittering gate and overtopping cypresses, among which may be distinguished the buildings of the Seraï, were soon passed; behind us, in the distance, was Scutari, looking down in beauty on the channel, whose waves reflected the graceful outline of its tapering minarets, and shrouded themselves for an instant in the dark shadows of its funereal grove. Galata was beside us, with its mouldering walls and warlike memories; and the vessel trembled as the chain fell heavily into the water, and we anchored in the midst of the crowd of shipping that already thronged the harbour. On the opposite shore clustered the painted dwellings of Constantinople, the party-coloured garment of the “seven hills”—the tall cypresses that overshadowed her houses, and the stately plane trees, which more than rivalled them in beauty, bent their haughty heads beneath the weight of accumulated snows. Here and there, a cluster of graceful minarets cut sharply against the sky; while the ample dome of the mosque to which they belonged, and the roofs of the dwellings that nestled at their base, lay steeped in the same chill livery. Eagerly did I seek to distinguish those of St. Sophia, and the smaller but far more elegant Solimaniè, the shrine of the Prophet’s Beard, with its four minarets, and its cloistered courts; and it was not without reluctance that I turned away, to mark where the thronging houses of Pera climb with magnificent profusion the amphitheatre of hills which dominate the treasure-laden port.
As my gaze wandered along the shore, and, passing by the extensive grove of cypresses that wave above the burying-ground, once more followed the course of the Bosphorus, I watched the waves as they washed the very foundation of the dwellings that skirt it, until I saw them chafing and struggling at the base of the barrack of Topphannè, and at intervals flinging themselves high into the air above its very roof.