Изображения страниц

active, noisy, toiling, and ever-progressing Europe, and the calm silence and mystery of the unchanged and unchanging Land of the Crescent. Belgrade, with its domes and minarets—the Turkish flag waving from the fortress—lay before us. How many scenes of deadly strife do not its crumbling battlements recal to the memory of the traveller | Here it was that the proud hosts of Othman so often engaged the chivalry of Christendom; and here the fiery Hun and furious Turk, excited by religious fanaticism, fought with the determination of men resolved to conquer or die; and here we read, in the battered walls and yawning breach, a record of the prowess of the undaunted Savoyard, Prince Eugene. The melting of the snow on the mountains, and the continued deluge of rain for several weeks, had swollen the Danube and the Save to a height far above their usual level, and they now formed a vast expanse of water, studded with tiny islets, among which our Arnout boatmen found it no easy task to pilot their bark in safety; and when at length we reached Belgrade, the insecure landing afforded by the slippery mud, together with the dilapidated state of the fortifications, did not tend to create favourable impressions in the mind of the traveller; as the Turks rarely repair anything, and the Servians naturally rejoice to see the stronghold of their hereditary oppressors falling into ruins. In one respect, Belgrade has adopted the manners and customs of well-ordered continental Europe, for the traveller, much to his annoyance, is reminded that he is still confined within the wholesome restrictions of the passport-system, by the demand made upon him for that important document. We now had to pass through a triple ordeal: first there was the tight-laced, buttonedto-the-chin Austrian Consul, to certify that we were not subjects of his Kaiserliche Königliche Majestät; then the chief of the Servian police; and thirdly, the Turkish official—all concurring in the expediency of an attack upon the purse of the luckless traveller; even the Osmanli pandour, who had rendered the service of showing us the passport-office, had learned to echo the cry, “Backschish, Effendi’” We had to ascend to the town from the river Save, by what had been once a succession of stone steps, but Prince Eugene's well-directed cannon-balls having most ruthlessly expended their fury upon our ill-fated staircase, it was only here and there a piece of stone still maintained its position, to remind us that the time had been when we might have ascended with ease. As it was, the earth that had replaced the step, rendered slippery by the rain, afforded a most insecure footing, and sundry compulsory descents provoked hearty maledictions at the Oriental taste for ruined stairs. However, our companions, whether quadrupeds or bipeds, having probably the advantage of frequent practice, exhibited a commendable example of sure-footedness; these consisted of mules, donkeys, men and women, laden with sheep-skin bags, filled with water from the Save—there being, it appeared, no other here fit to

[ocr errors]

use for culinary purposes. At length, fainting under the weight of our well-stuffed saddle-bags—for not one of those heroic democrats of modern Servia would carry them to relieve a lazy Frank, for love or money—we reached the gate of the town, where fatigue having, perhaps, disposed us to view things in their most unfavourable light, we must confess the tacticoes on duty did not impress us favourably as a specimen of the Sultan's soldiery; they were diminutive in size, their yellow swarthy features unprepossessing, and their equipments dirty and slovenly. As soon as we had fairly entered the town, the question as to where we should take up our quarters for the night naturally suggested itself, my fellow-traveller, a young Frenchman, agreeing with me in the expediency of at once commencing our noviciate in abstinence, preparatory to travelling over a half-civilized country. We took up our abode in the first han we met with, which happened to be kept by an honest Zinzar, called Constantina. Our hanji (innkeeper), the first human being since we entered the principality of Servia that exhibited the slightest interest in our affairs, loaded his own broad shoulders with the saddle-bags, and led the way up an almost perpendicular ladder-like staircase into a spacious apartment destitute of every article of furniture, except a wooden bench, six inches high, nailed to the floor and surrounding the room, upon which was placed a plaited straw mat as a substitute for a bed, and a canvas case stuffed with straw for a pillow ; these, with a brass basin, and an antique-looking jug of the same material, constituted all that is considered necessary to supply the wants of the traveller in the land of the Crescent. My friend was young, and with that love of change so natural to his volatile countrymen, exhibited the most exuberant delight at finding himself emancipated from the restrictions of civilized society, exclaiming that the only way to enjoy life, was to roam through the world with the pilgrim's staff in hand, and like the Oriental, convert the carpet, on which he prays by day, into a bed; and his constant companion, the kabanitza, which serves to screen him alike from the wintry wind and the summer's sun, into a covering by night. Having dined at Semlin, we only required some slight refreshment; therefore imitating our companions of the han, a clapping of hands, and the cry of “hanji,” summoned to our aid a ji; or, as a Yankee would say, one of the helps of the hanji, who presented himself in the form of a youth of such classic outline of proportion and features, that he might have passed for the original of one of those fine statues of Roman heroes we see in Italy. As it was, the abundant dark glossy hair that fell over his broad shoulders, the simple tunic of coarse linen, secured round the waist, forming a kilt over his bare legs and feet, gave him so wild an appearance, that we might have supposed he had been just taken in the woods, and made his first début as a waiter at our han. On demanding the name and nation of our ji, he informed us with some show of pride, that he was a

Roumani from the republic of Zagori, in the Pindus,
and was called Liouli. These Zinzars, as they are
termed by the Turks and the Slavonians, and by them-
selves Roumaniski, are every where found in these pro-
vinces as shepherds, petty shopkeepers, hanjis and
We were able to carry on something like a conver-
sation with our ji, Liouli, by means of Latin; the
idiom he spoke was, however, intermingled with words
of Slavonian, Greek and Turkish origin, and with
others to which we were a stranger, and might be
Dacian. The circumstance, in itself though trifling, is
highly interesting, since it shows us a people scarcely
numbering half a million in these provinces, still pre-
serving for century after century, not only the language,
but the tradition of their fathers; and so great is the
national feeling among this race of the ancient Romans,
that in our case, the simple fact of being able to con-
verse with them drew to our han several Zinzar traders
established here, offering the hospitality of their own
private houses, as if we were descendants of the same
Our slight repast consisted of confectionary and
coffee, everywhere excellent in Turkey. This was
served on a small round table a foot in height; and
as there were no seats, our only alternative was to re-
cline in a recumbent position, resting on the elbow, or
to sit a la Turque. The time had now arrived for my
animated friend to make his first essay in Oriental
manners, but—alas! vain was every attempt to main-

[ocr errors]
« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »