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The quarantine establishment is of great extent, enclosed with strong palisades, and guarded by a little army of pandours; it contains sheds for merchandize, and stables, a han, and a few huts for the accommodation of the traveller, who may have the means of paying for the luxury of a roof. But as the tourists in this country usually consist of kiraidjis, swineherds, and drovers of cattle, a class who prefer the night air to the expenses of a han, they bivouac in a large open space in the centre, around blazing fires.
During the time I remained a detenu in the quarantine at Alexinitz, I counted from three to four hundred persons, as wild-looking and motley an assemblage as it was ever my lot to be quartered among. Intermingled with the rayahs of Servia, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Herzegowina, and Tchernegoria, there were Turks, and Arnouts, Greeks and Zinzars, Jews, Armenians and Gipsies, habited in the costume of their respective tribes and nationalities, and speaking as many languages as might have rivalled Babel itself. Notwithstanding they drank gallon after gallon of wine and raki, they might be cited as patterns of good conduct and good humour, to the inhabitants of the most civilized country in Europe. Here was no quarrelling nor fighting, all seemed intent upon amusing themselves, by singing, smoking, dancing and cooking. Then, to afford a still greater variety of pastime, there were performers on the bagpipe, the reed and the gousla, together with bards and story-tellers, spouting forth in the expectation of winning a few pari from the audience;
these, with our four-footed companions, who, it appeared,
were also doomed to quarantine, formed a most uproarious concert: we had the grunting of swine, the braying of donkeys, the neighing of horses, the lowing of cattle, and the barking of dogs. Among the various annoyances, to which a traveller is subjected in these countries, the quarantine is the greatest and the most prejudicial to his health. Having set out from Alexinitz to extend my excursions through the Knejine of Gorgouschavatz and Mount Rtagn, we inadvertently, in a frontier so ill-defined as that of Servia, crossed the Turkish frontier, and entered the province of Bosnia. On our return into the principality, we were reminded of the indiscretion by a troop of Servian pandours, who, without much ceremony, conducted us to the establishment at Alexinitz. But as the offence was committed through ignorance, our imprisonment in the quarantine was, as a great favour, reduced from five to three days, which term may be extended to forty, when an epidemic prevails in any of the adjoining provinces. The most ludicrous part of the affair is, that a traveller can easily elude the quarantine altogether, by taking a circuitous route over some wild mountain district, which we could easily have done, had we been aware of the annoyance; for how is it possible to enforce the quarantine laws in a country so depopulated, and with a frontier so extensive, as that of Servia; the Government having taken the hint from Austria, where the quarantine yields a revenue of more than a million of florins, makes the establishment a source of profit. Everything must be paid for, the guard of honour demanded a backschish, the clothes and papers were to be fumigated, although several years have elapsed since any case of the plague had occurred in this part of the world, every item swelling the bill of costs against the luckless traveller. Quarantine establishments may be useful, when pestilence actually rages, but it is provoking to the traveller to be mulcted, in order that the Government may enrich itself at his expense: then the vexatious regulations, by which his patience is put to the test are endless; the despotism of the petty tyrants, who direct them, is absolute; the familiarity of their dirty subalterns, who they are pleased to term guardians, and who penetrate even to the privacy of your sleeping room, most offensive; and for all these annoyances you must pay exorbitantly, and from which extortion there is no appeal. I must in justice add, that these animadversions are principally directed against the quarantine establishments of Austria on the Lower Danube, where, if a traveller is found in the act of infringing the quarantine laws, he is shot by the first guard that meets him, like a mad dog; whereas here, and in Turkey, they are more humane, since a trifling fine is all that is exacted, neither are the charges onetenth so excessive, nor the vexations so insupportable. Evil is often the parent of good; my detention in the quarantine proved the means of introducing me, through the German doctor of the establishment, to two English gentlemen at Alexinitz, that town having
been selected by Her Majesty's corps of messengers as their principal station in these provinces of European Turkey; and I must ever remember, with grateful recollections, the pleasant days I spent with Mr. Gutch, who, with true English hospitality, insisted upon my removing to his residence, as soon as the period of my detention was over. This was, in truth, an unexpected, an unlooked for invitation, in a country so far removed from the great world, and can only be appreciated by the man who has been for any length of time shut out from all intellectual society; for however much we may feel inclined to render all due homage to beautiful Nature, in her most romantic and picturesque forms, and to rate at their full value the agreeable excitement of change and novel incident, yet after a time these become stale, and we pine for a companion, with ideas more enlarged than that of a kiraidji, a swineherd, or an Haiduc. On entering the sitting-room of Mr. Gutch, how great was my pleasure to see my old friend the “Times” lying on the table, with the venerable “Christopher North” in all the majesty of age and honour reposing by his side, and how gladly did I welcome the Quaker-coloured “Quarterly” and the gay blue and buff “Edinburgh”—nay, I thought the merry face of Master “Punch” wore an expression of greater archness now that he had arrived in Servia. None but the traveller, who has been long cut off from enjoying the rich treasures of England's mind, can fully appreciate the gratification with which I devoured the contents of these and several other first-rate English publications.
I was also received in the most friendly manner by Mr. Davies, of Crickhowell, South Wales, who had been for some time peering into the pathways and byways of poor Servia. Our mornings were devoted to riding excursions among the mountains, or shootingparties, and, as may be supposed in a country like this, abounding with game, we had excellent sport.
At present, Her Majesty's messengers are but indifferently quartered, but when their new house is finished, the station at Alexinitz will be a most agreeable sojour; there is capital fishing in the Morawitz, the country abounds with game, and the vicinity of the vast mountain range of the Balkan, and the romantic Bosnia and Upper Moesia, afford a variety of pleasant excursions which would even repay a journey from England.