Some persons have attributed the cause of unhealthiness to the existence of the trenches made by the Turks during the siege in 1571, which are considered to emit malarious exhalations. I do not think so; all these low levels, surrounded by high banks which protect the crops from wind, are most carefully cultivated with beans, cereals, cotton, and garden produce, and I do not believe that successful gardens are malarious, but only those localities where water is allowed to become stagnant, in which case cultivation must be a failure. Many of these rich bottoms were at one time valuable as "madder" grounds, and Consul White states that in 1863 good madder-root land at Famagousta was worth 90 pounds per acre. It may not be generally known that the indelible dye called "Turkey red" was formerly produced from the madder-root, but that it has been entirely superseded by the chemical invention known as "alizarine," which, by reducing the price in a ruinous degree, has driven the vegetable substance out of the market, and the madder is no longer cultivated. This chemical discovery has lowered the rich, deep, sandy loams of Famagousta and of Morphu to a mere average agricultural value, and has completely destroyed an important local industry.
The madder-root required three years before it arrived at maturity. From Consul Riddell's report in 1872, the amount of madder exported reached 330 tons, of which 250 tons were shipped for Great Britain. The same authority reports in 1873, "The falling-off, however, in the quantity sent to Great Britain is remarkable, being only 230 cwts. (11.5 tons)." This disappearance of a special agricultural industry has been an enormous loss to the proprietors of the madder-lands.
The fruit-orchards and gardens of Famagousta are the finest in the island. The land is extremely rich, and of a bright chocolate colour, but the trees are, as usual in Cyprus, planted too close to each other, which interferes with the necessary light and circulation of air. These gardens commence just outside the walls, and, running parallel with the sea below the large village of Varoschia, extend for about two miles along the shore. Oranges, lemons, pomegranates, apricots, figs, prickly pears and mulberry-trees, are the chief products, and it was here that we obtained the largest and best oranges that I had tasted in the island; generally this fruit is much inferior to the varieties imported into England. The pomegranates of Cyprus are very celebrated, and are exported to Egypt, but it is a fruit that is not generally appreciated by Europeans. There are extensive gardens inland, but they do not convey the idea of "gardens" as understood by Englishmen, but are merely dense groves of various fruit-trees, irrigated by a cattle-wheel, and planted with an utter disregard of all taste or arrangement.
The large village, or town of Varoschia is an important adjunct to Famagousta, from which it is hardly separated. It was originally founded by the Venetian Christians, who were expelled from Famagousta after the Turkish conquest. There is a large Greek Church, extensive bazaars, and several manufactures of pottery, for which the locality is celebrated. We saw a vessel loading in the harbour entirely with these—jars, water-bottles, dishes, &c.—but the earthen-ware is of a coarse description, and the quality of the clay does not admit of sufficient porosity for the purpose of cooling water or of filtering, like the Egyptian ware; at the same time it is not sufficiently impervious for the retention of wine or oil without a considerable loss by absorption. Varoschia has been always celebrated for a large production of a high quality of silk, but the quantity has fallen off, as in all other parts of the island. There are some good houses in this thriving and busy little town, and it is said that decent accommodation may be had; but I preferred the cleanliness and independence of our own tent.
Varoschia is not much healthier than Famagousta, as it suffers from the same cause, in addition to an enormous accumulation of filth on the heights at the rear of the town. If this were carefully stored to manure the numerous gardens, it would be profitably utilised; but it belongs to nobody in particular, and is a public nuisance. A fine should be inflicted upon the municipal authorities in the sanitary interests of the population, and the refuse of the neighbourhood should be periodically collected into heaps and burned. Captain Inglis and the various British officials moved their quarters from Famagousta to the healthy village of Derinia, about three miles distant, during our stay near Varoschia. The new station is to the south-west of the port, and completely beyond the influence of the marshes, the elevation being about 250 feet above the sea. Should this locality become a permanently healthy settlement, the sanitary difficulty of our position will be considerably modified, as the troops might be quartered at Derinia in time of peace, and even during war they would be immediately within call.
A lake exists about three miles inland from Famagousta, which is between four and five miles in circumference; the water is fresh, but exceedingly shallow and impure, the edges covered with high reeds, which extend for several hundred yards from the shore. This lake swarms with varieties of water-fowl, which can only be shot by wading and waiting concealed in the high cover of rushes and tamarisk, as they are exceedingly wary. Commander Hammond, of H.M.S. Torch, bagged thirty-five ducks to his own gun upon one occasion, by thus challenging the fever and remaining hip-deep in the muddy water for some hours. I did not feel disposed to risk the chances of malaria, as the effluvium from the mud was sufficiently offensive even when walking round the margin, and I already felt some warning symptoms of the heavy atmosphere of Famagousta, which might, if neglected, have terminated in ague. I shot a fine specimen of the glossy ibis, and I otherwise contented myself with watching the variety of ducks, coots, teal, and other water-fowl through my glass, as they enjoyed themselves in flocks upon the surface of the lake at a great distance.
Having exhausted the sights of Famagousta, we started on the 22nd of March for Kuklia, twelve miles distant, where we had left our vans in charge of the headman during our absence in the Carpas country. Upon our arrival we found them untouched or unharmed, and we were met not only by the headman himself, but by our two bullock-drivers Georgi and Theodori, who had come from Lithrankomi. Georgi had recovered from the despair which had overpowered him when we last parted, and he was almost triumphant when he related the success of his mission to Gallibornu with the mysterious paper written in English, that I had given him in order to terrify the purchaser of his bullock. He had exhibited this awe-inspiring epistle, which nobody could either read or understand, and Georgi had taken advantage of his opportunity to threaten the sharp cattle-dealer with a long list of imaginary punishments that would be inflicted by English law should he refuse to return the bullock, which had been hired for a special service by an Englishman. The paper was closely scrutinised, and being in an unknown character, Georgi felt his advantage, and expounded the contents so forcibly that he worked upon the fears of the inhabitants of Gallibornu, who insisted that the Turk should compromise the affair and return the handsome bullock, receiving in exchange his own half-starved old animal, in addition to a present of half a sovereign. Georgi was only too delighted to immediately clench the bargain. I advised him in future to manage his own cattle-dealing instead of confiding in his able friend Theodori, and I ordered the oxen to be put in the yokes at once, and to draw the vans to our old camping-place beneath the hawthorn-tree. Upon arrival at the spot a great change had taken place; the hawthorns were a mass of blossom, and scented the air for a considerable distance; the groves of fig-trees had broken into leaf; the trefoil had grown to a height of two feet, and numerous cattle were tethered in the rich field, to feed upon the few square yards that each owner had purchased at a high price to save his animals from starvation. A field of broad-beans that we had left in early blossom twenty-four days before now produced our well-known vegetable for dinner, and I observed that the native children, with their usual liking for uncooked food, were eating these indigestible beans raw!
There had been no rain since our departure, and every crop that was not irrigated was absolutely destroyed. The aspect of the country was pitiable; it should have been at this season a waving sea of green barley and young wheat, but it was a withered desert —with a few patches of verdure like oases in a thirsty wilderness. This terrible calamity extended throughout the entire district or plain of Messaria, and exhibited a sad example of the great necessity of Cyprus—"an organised system of artificial irrigation."
We remained some days at Kuklia, during which I strengthened the gipsy-van by lashing the frame-work with raw bull's-hide and securing the blocks of the springs to the axles with the same material. It is worthy of note "that a fresh hide should never be used for lashing, but a skin that has been already dried should be soaked for twenty-four hours, and then cut into a strip as carefully and as long as the size will permit. When thus prepared, it should be re-soaked for four or five hours, and used while wet as a lashing, drawn as tight as possible. The power of contraction is enormous, and when dry the skin becomes as hard as wood; but a fresh hide has not the same contractive power, and will stretch and become loose when subject to a severe strain." It was a great comfort to return to the luxury of the gipsy-van, which looked the picture of neatness; the gorgeous Egyptian lantern had ceased to exist as an object of value, as it had several times been upset and thrown completely off its hook by the jumpings and bumpings of the vehicle when forcibly dragged over the steep banks and watercourses. It was now reduced to an "antique," and looked as though it had been recovered from the ruins of an ancient temple.
The post was kindly forwarded from Famagousta by the chief commissioner, and we revelled in newspapers, which during our stay in the Carpas had been a complete blank. Our cook Christo had also received letters which disconcerted him. After dinner at about 8.30 P.M. he suddenly appeared at the tent door with a very large breakfast-cup in his hand. "I beg your pardon, sir, but I'm sorry to say my mother has just fallen down and broken her leg!" was his first announcement; and he continued, "she is an old woman, past fifty, sir, and a broken leg is a very bad thing; I have come to ask for some brandy, and I've brought a cup."
"Your mother broken her leg, Christo? Why, where is she?" I replied.
"She is at Athens, sir, and I want a drop of brandy, as I have just received the letter, and I am very anxious about her."
I now discovered that the brandy was not intended for his mother's leg, but for his own stomach, to comfort his nerves and to allay his filial anxiety. He had a good dose that quickly restored his usual spirits, as I heard him relating stories in the servants' tent which created roars of laughter.
Christo was an excellent, hard-working fellow, who having passed his life at sea, was exceedingly handy, and combined the usual good qualities of a sailor with the art of cookery and a certain knowledge which enabled him to act as interpreter. He was as clever in lashing up a van with raw hide as in preparing a dinner at the shortest notice, and his mayonnaise would have raised the envy of many a professor in England. His English varied like his dishes, and upon certain days there was a considerable vagueness in his language, while at other times he expressed himself clearly. Upon one of these foggy intervals I asked him "Why the people had made so much noise during the night?" and he replied, that "A little hen-horse had made one child in the stable!" He intended to explain that a pony had foaled in the stable. When he first joined us he frequently rambled and confused his genders, and termed all females "hens," which at times had almost as ludicrous an effect as the mistakes of my African cook, who invariably called "cocks and hens"— "bulls and women." I never had so useful a man in travelling, as he excelled at tent pitching and arranging the luggage on pack-animals, and took the lead in everything; in addition to which he showed a great interest in interpreting, which is a rare quality in a dragoman.
We selected a road upon higher ground for our return to Lefkosia, and thus avoided the watercourses which had caused so much vexation and delay upon our former journey. The first night's halt was at the long stone bridge across the Pedias river, about twenty miles from Kuklia, opposite the village of Kythrea at four miles distance—this was only constructed eight years ago, and it was already rendered impassable by the overflow of the torrent, which had carried away a considerable portion. On the following morning we arrived at the capital, and were once more hospitably received by Sir Garnet and Lady Wolseley.
KYRENIA AND THE NORTH COAST.
The change from camp-life to the luxury of Government House, with the charm of the society of Sir Garnet and Lady Wolseley and officers of the staff, was a most agreeable interlude in the usually monotonous journey through Cyprus. The view from the verandah had changed, and was certainly not charming, as the few green tints that had looked hopeful on our former visit had turned to brown; but the house within more than compensated for the cheerlessness of the exterior landscape. A picnic excursion to the castle of St. Hilarion had been arranged for the 29th instant by Colonel Greaves, C. B., chief of the staff, who kindly included us in the invitation. This point was seldom visited, as it was situated 3240 feet above the sea upon the sky-line of the crags above Kyrenia, and the ride there and back covered a distance of about thirty miles from Lefkosia. The energy of English ladies rather astonishes the people of this country, where inertia is considered to be happiness, and although our animals were ordered to be saddled punctually at 6 A.M. the owner in Lefkosia was sceptical as to our actual start at so early an hour; therefore much time was lost on the morning in question in sending messengers vainly to and fro for the missing mule and pony; and 8 A.M. arrived before their appearance. The party had started two hours earlier. Colonel White, 1st Royal Scots, who was the chief commissioner at Lefkosia, had kindly waited to accompany us. As St. Hilarion was only a short distance to the left of the Kyrenia road, I had determined not to return, but to send the camels and luggage on direct. We left all unnecessary luggage locked up within the vans, which Sir Garnet Wolseley kindly permitted us to leave at head-quarters. We took leave of our good and big friend Georgi and his sharp companion Theodori, who returned to Dali, where Georgi would meet the only Venus that I have seen in Cyprus, his wife; but even that pretty Venus was ruined by high boots and baggy trousers.
Crossing the dry bed of the Pedias below the Government House, we struck a line over the open and withered plain to a direct route to Kyrenia. At a distance of about five miles from Lefkosia, the broad and well-trodden road became lost in a variety of independent paths, which at length converged into one narrow route that ascended a curious formation of water-washed and utterly denuded hills, composed of sandstone, claystone, and peculiar deposits of sedimentary rock, which in places resembled an artificial pavement. In many places the strata were vertical, exhibiting the confusion that had been created by the upheaval. Having passed through a succession of ups and downs for about three miles, sometimes winding through narrow gorges where the soil was covered with an efflorescence of salt, at other places clambering over loose rocks and entering narrow glens, we arrived in a plain at the foot of the bold and bluff range of the Carpas mountains. The path led to a village almost concealed amongst dwarf-cypress and pines, at a spot where the ascent commenced to a deep gorge forming a gap between the heights upon either side, through which the road was being rendered accessible for wheeled conveyances to Kyrenia.
We had quitted the Messaria and its misery; thank Heaven, we once more looked upon green trees, and magnificent cliffs of compact grey limestone tinted with various colours according to the presence of metallic substances, instead of wearying the eyes with the depressing brown of a withered surface. The road was improving under the hands of several working parties, and the animals stepped along at a cheerful pace. On the left hand were exceedingly steep slopes, ascending for several hundred yards to the base of cliffs, which rose in many places almost perpendicular to the height of more than 2000 feet above the sea. Upon our right we skirted a deep ravine, the bottom and sides of which were completely covered with mastic shrubs, and myrtles. Above this gorge the cliffs rose in imposing grandeur to about 3000 feet, the clefts being filled with evergreens; and in some unapproachable heights which man had not invaded the Pinus maritima ornamented the grey crags with its foliage of pale green.
We should have turned off to the left towards St. Hilarion, but, without a guide, we overshot the path, and having ridden about three miles through the gorge, always ascending, we suddenly burst upon the magnificent view of the northern side. At this moment a few heavy drops of rain fell from inky clouds which had been gathering among the mountains, and I thought it advisable to forego the excursion to St. Hilarion, and to push on towards Kyrenia, three miles distant, though apparently almost at our feet.
The dark clouds above us added to the beauty of the scenery. We looked down upon the blue sea, and the snow-covered mountains of Caramania in the northern distance, with the beautiful foreground of perpendicular green cliffs upon our right, up to nearly 3000 feet, and the abrupt mountain sides upon the left, which formed the entrance to the gorge. The narrow strip of three miles between the sea margin and the point upon which we stood was a green forest of caroub-trees, almost to the water's edge. The town, and its striking feature the Venetian fort, stood out in clear relief against the background of the sea. To the right and left, farther than the eye could reach, were trees of caroubs, varied by almonds, mulberries, and occasional date-palms, interspersed with highly irrigated fields of emerald green. The beautiful old monastery of Bellapais, erected by the Templars, although in reality half ruined, appeared from this distance like some noble ancestral mansion, surrounded by all that could make a landscape perfect: trees, water, mountains, precipices; above which towered the castle of Buffavento upon the craggy sky-line; while to the left, cutting with keen edges the dark cloud that hovered over it, were the walls and towers of St. Hilarion; where by this time we should have been eating luncheon with a charming party. Pit-pat came the heavy drops; and still drinking in the magnificent view, we descended the stony and steep path towards Kyrenia. When we arrived near the base, after a descent of about a mile and three-quarters, a perfectly straight road of a good width led direct to Kyrenia, through a forest of the shady and ever green caroub-trees. By this time the shower had cleared away, and only a few light clouds hovered over the high point of St. Hilarion, and having had nothing to eat, we began to wish for balloons to make a direct ascent to the well-provided party on the heights above us, who were enjoying the hospitality of Colonel Greaves. We comforted ourselves with the idea that we had at all events been wise in foregoing pleasure when upon the march, as the camels had been ordered to start from Lefkosia, and it would be advisable that the camp should be arranged without delay. We accordingly dismounted about half a mile from Kyrenia, and having tied the animals beneath a wide-spreading caroub, we selected another tree, beneath which we sat to await the arrival of the camels and servants; in the meantime I sent the muleteer into the town to buy us something to eat. After about an hour he returned, with a bottle of Commandoria wine, a bunch of raw onions, a small goat's-milk cheese, a loaf of brown native bread, and a few cigarettes, which the good, thoughtful fellow had made himself for my own private enjoyment. Many years of my life have been passed in picnicking, and when really hungry, it is astonishing how vulgar diet is appreciated; we regretted the loss of our friends, but we nevertheless enjoyed the simple fare, and having looked at our watches, we speculated upon the probable arrival of the camels and luggage, and waited patiently beneath the tree.
There is a limit to all endurance, and when 5 P.M. arrived without a sign of camels, we came to the conclusion that something had gone wrong. It was in vain that I had searched the pass with my binocular; only the white thread between the green shrubs appeared, that denoted the path; and this was desolate.
At length I observed something moving on the crest of the pass: mules or horses! then a parasol! somebody was coming; most likely returning to Kyrenia from the picnic? Presently a mule, saddled but without a rider, came galloping down the road. This we stopped, and secured; it looked like a practical result of a good luncheon and champagne cup. Shortly after this first appearance a dismounted English servant came walking down the road after his mule, which he was happy to recover from our hands. He had neither seen nor heard anything of our camels or people, but his master, the chief commissioner of Kyrenia (Dr. Holbeach, 60th Rifles), was approaching, together with Mr. and Mrs. Stevenson, all of whom were returning from St. Hilarion. At length the distant parasol drew nearer, and by degrees we could distinguish the party as they emerged from the pass upon the broad straight road.
As there are no highwaymen in Cyprus, I had no hesitation in walking suddenly out of the green wood upon the road-side and intercepting them as they arrived in front of our position; I explained that we were "waifs and strays" upon the wide world of Cyprus without baggage or servants, or, in fact, what Shakespeare calls "sans everything." Mr. Holbeach with much kindness and hospitality captured us as vagrants, and insisted upon escorting us to his house. Mrs. Stevenson was good enough to supply Lady Baker with a few little necessaries for the night, and Mr. Holbeach, having thoughtfully made up an impromptu little dinner-party of all named, we passed a most pleasant evening, although I fear that our sudden invasion of his bachelor's quarters must have caused him some inconvenience.
On the following morning, we enjoyed the splendid view from the covered balcony at the back of Mr. Holbeach's house, which showed the richest foreground in Cyprus in the dark green of caroub-forest and gardens of fruit-trees intermingled with plots of barley already in the ear. This rich front was backed by the wall of dark limestone cliffs two miles distant, 3000 feet elevation, with the castles of Buffavento and St. Hilarion perched left and right on the giddy summits of the highest crags, which in the clear atmosphere apparently overhung our position. We then breakfasted, took leave of our hospitable host, and rode back to Lefkosia to inquire into the cause of the delay.
On arrival we found a string of mules just starting, as the camels that had been engaged yesterday had never appeared. I sent off the servants and animals, with orders to pitch the tent upon the site of the old camp of the 42nd Highlanders, within a mile of Kyrenia; we then once more encroached upon the kindness of Sir Garnet and Lady Wolseley for the night. On the following morning we rode to Kyrenia, sixteen miles, and found tents pitched in a delightful situation, and the camp swept and arranged in perfect order. There could not have been a better site for a military camp, as the ground was firm and sloped gradually towards the sea, above which the elevation may have been about 120 feet. The beautiful caroub-trees afforded a dense shade for individual tents and for unlimited numbers of men. The ground had been well drained, and every care had been taken to ensure the health of the troops; but in spite of all sanitary arrangements they had suffered severely from fever, by which, although only four had actually succumbed, and now lay in the lonely little cemetery close to our tents, the regiment had been demoralised, and was withdrawn from this lonely position completely fever-smitten. I made close inquiries among the natives, and all agreed that the past year, having been unusually wet, had been exceptionally unhealthy, and the inhabitants had suffered almost to the same degree as the Europeans. It was painfully clear that when the rainfall was sufficiently plentiful to produce abundant harvests it at the same time ensured a crop of fevers.
We remained ten days in our Kyrenia camp, and we were both sorry to leave, as the neighbourhood is exceedingly beautiful and full of interest; there is certainly no portion of Cyprus that can equal it in the picturesque, or in the extreme richness of genuine forest-trees and foliage.
The town is small and most irregular: an old Turkish graveyard forms a boundary upon the outskirts opposite the fort, precisely similar in position to that of Famagousta. Within 300 paces of this point are the principal houses, mostly well built of stone and surrounded by high-walled gardens fruitful in oranges, lemons, almonds, apricots, figs, and the fruits commonly known throughout the island. The houses are generally one story above the ground-floor, with a wide balcony that forms an open face to the first-floor of five or six arches, which support the roof upon that side. This is a convenient plan for the climate, as it admits fresh air to all the rooms which open into the balcony; in fact it is an open landing to the staircase. A few date-palms ornament the gardens, the presence of these graceful trees being a sure sign of the preponderance of Turks in the population.
The fort of Kyrenia is a great curiosity, as it forms a portion of the harbour, being situated like the nose in a pair of spectacles, the basins being the eyes right and left. The actual defences are intact, although the inner accommodation for barracks, magazines, &c., &c., require great repairs and alteration. The walls are of solid squared masonry, the stones jointed with the usual imperishable cement, and rise to the great perpendicular height of upwards of seventy feet sheer from the bottom of the fosse. There is only one entrance, by a narrow bridge upon arches, across the extremely wide and deep ditch, terminating near the gateway by a drawbridge, which admits an entry in the face of the immense wall, with portcullis and iron-bound hinged gate. The ramparts overlooking the town and harbour on the west face are 147 yards in length, exclusive of the tower, and the embrasures of solid masonry measured at the angle are generally twenty-four feet in thickness. The fort is nearly square, and is flanked at each corner by a circular tower which would completely enfilade the ditch by several tiers of guns. This powerful fortress is washed by the sea upon two sides (the north and east), and the foundations upon the native rock are protected from the action of the waves by reefs and huge fragments of natural detached masses which characterise this portion of the coast. As I stood upon the parapet facing north I obtained an admirable view of the original harbours to my left and right, and although they could never have admitted large vessels, I was struck by the great importance of this sole place of refuge upon the northern coast of Cyprus, which in former times had suggested such a formidable arrangement for defence. The fort was constructed by the Venetians, but there are fallen masses of much older works that now lie at the foot of the sea-face, and add to the natural reefs in defending the foundations from the breaking water.
The style of this fortress suggests a date anterior to Famagousta, as it is devoid of cavaliers and depends for its defence upon the simple flanking fire of the four towers and the great height and thickness of the walls. It is supplied with fresh water by an aqueduct, and is provided with immense reservoirs of masonry to contain a sufficient quantity during a prolonged siege, when the outer aqueduct might be destroyed by the enemy. There are extensive subterranean caves and dungeons, but these have not yet been explored. Above this fine old specimen of Venetian fortifications, upon the high platform of the tower facing the harbour, was a flag-staff, upon which a small bundle of rags fluttered in the strong wind, as though they, had been arranged to frighten the jackdaws from building within the crevices of masonry. It appeared that this miserable remnant of tattered bunting had once represented a British Union Jack! and the colourless, poverty-stricken thing flapped and cracked as it tore itself into the finest threads of misery in the gale, too truly representing the result of our ambiguous position according to the terms of the Cyprian occupation. I felt ashamed that such an exhibition should meet the eye of any foreign ship upon entering the harbour of Kyrenia, and I was informed "that it was the only flag that was possessed by the authorities." As all the revenue of the island was handed over to the Porte excepting a bagatelle insufficient for the requirements of the country, the really overworked and energetic servants of the Crown were absolutely obliged to practise a most rigid economy, commencing with their own salaries, equally vexatious to themselves and unworthy of our high position.
The curious collection of old cannon had all been removed by the Turks, but one iron piece remained, which, being almost worthless as metal, had been left behind when the bronze guns had been shipped to Constantinople. This was a great curiosity, as it somewhat resembled a hand-bell about five feet in length; the bell which formed the mouth to receive the ball was only two feet in length, although the muzzle was sufficiently wide to admit the stone projectile of nineteen inches diameter. The portion which resembled the handle of a bell was the continuation which formed the narrow chamber for the powder; this was about three feet long and eight inches thick*. (*These measurements are from memory, excepting the diameter of muzzle, which I took on the spot.) There were no trunnions to this singular old gun, but it may have been lashed to some lever which could be raised or depressed, and it was evidently intended for firing into shipping from the fort walls, to command the harbour at a short range. It had been cast with concentric rings, which I examined carefully, as at first I imagined they had been wrought-iron shrunk on to the casting: this was not the case, but the extra thickness of metal at the rings added sufficient strength. The large stone shot, formed of a peculiarly hard metamorphous rock (a conglomerate of matter that had been fused by heat), were to be seen in various positions within the fortress. A few were on the parapet above the drawbridge, as though prepared for rolling over upon an assaulting party. I found this quality of rock upon the mountains within two miles of Kyrenia.
There were evidently two harbours, which included the small bay upon either side of the present fort; that upon the west was the most important, as the depth of water is greater, and it shows evident signs of having received peculiar attention. The remains of the ancient moles still exist, and afford considerable protection; but the sea has broken through in several places and washed away the upper tiers of stones. These moles were carefully constructed by laying the masonry upon a foundation of hydraulic cement, which connected the various natural rocks; the layer of cement still exists, while the squared blocks of the original surface may be seen at the bottom, where they have been deposited by the waves. Like all defensive works in historical countries, those of Kyrenia have undergone continual changes and modifications, as from time to time alterations may have been suggested by successful attacks. In a ruined tower which, completely isolated within the sea, commanded the entrance of the harbour on the west, I observed that an ancient column of white marble from some old building has been used as a key to prevent the large squared stones from yielding to the constant vibration caused by the breaking waves. Each tier of stones has been cut at the central edge to form a half-circle where the edges of the adjoining blocks were connected; those have been similarly shaped to produce a complete circle when faced together. The squared stones in the lower and upper tiers have been perforated in a circle, so that when several courses of masonry were completed, the hole represented a shaft of about twelve inches diameter, sunk from top to bottom; the marble column has been inserted from the top, and has tied each course effectively together; the havoc occasioned in this tower of solid squared blocks is the work of man; the stones have until recently been removed for the purposes of building.
Kyrenia could never have been a perfectly safe harbour in all weathers, as the entrance is open to the north. There is a slight turn to the east, which might have protected a few small vessels during a northerly gale, but this portion is now silted up, and it should be cleared by dredging. The houses rise above the harbour from the water's edge to the cliffs, forming a horseshoe shape. Mr. Holbeach had just completed a small quay of masonry, and a very moderate outlay would restore the ancient mole and render Kyrenia an important port for the trading vessels of Syria and Asia Minor. When a good carriage-road shall be completed to the capital, Lefkosia, only sixteen miles distant, the value of Kyrenia as a commercial harbour will be much enhanced. There are also important towns with a considerable population within eight or nine miles of Kyrenia on the west: Carava and Lapithas would offer markets for a great extension of trade, and Morphu would be brought within the same commercial circle. There is a peculiar advantage throughout the ports of Cyprus in the presence of stone quarries upon the spot where the material is required; this is specially marked at Kyrenia, where the solid rock, with its tombs, cave-dwellings, and ancient quarries, is on the actual borders of the sea, within a few yards of the existing harbour. There would be no great difficulty in converting these quarries into a dock, should a demand for stone be sufficient to repay the outlay for cutting the supply, according to the example already exhibited and left to us by the ancients.
The quarries of Kyrenia form the chief curiosity of the locality. The rock is the sedimentary limestone mixed with a proportion of sand that is the characteristic geological feature around the coast of Cyprus; but in these quarries the stone is perfectly solid and free from fissures, which enables the mason to obtain blocks of any size. From prehistoric times the rock of Kyrenia, which rises about forty feet above the sea-level, has been worked out upon the most careful method; every block has been cut from the parent mass by measurement, and no broken edges have been permitted to destroy the symmetry of the adjoining stone. The work was commenced from the top, or surface of the rock, and a smooth cliff face has been produced as the first operation; upon completion the surface has been lined out parallel with the perpendicular face, and the blocks have been carefully chiselled and removed by wedges driven horizontally from beneath. In this manner the rock has been worked until it resembled a flight of steps, which remain in many places perfect to the present hour. The entire fortress and town have been constructed from these quarries, and there can be no doubt that when Kyrenia was originally founded by the Dorian colonists under Cepheus and Praxander the stones were obtained from the existing site. There is a considerable difference in the quality of the rock, which has been remarked by the original builders, as a passage has been cut through the first cliff face nearest to the town, and the desired level for wheeled conveyances having been obtained, the workmen have discovered a superior stone as they proceeded into the bowels of the quarry. They have accordingly neglected much of the nearer portion, and have excavated a large square, always pushing forward towards the west, which is now terminated by a worked perpendicular face and a series of steps incomplete, precisely as it remained when the last chisel relinquished the labour.
This quality of rock in all parts of Cyprus is cavernous, and the natural caves have suggested to the ancients an artificial extension both for dwellings and for cemeteries. The rock is easily worked by the mason's pick, and near the town I observed an old fort-ditch which had been originally excavated for the double object of quarrying building stone at the same time that it served the purpose of defence. There would be no great difficulty in connecting the ancient quarry with the harbour by cutting a canal through the soft rock and extending the depth of the ancient excavations. It is well known to all quarrymen that the stone should be placed in a building according to the position in which it lay when forming the original rock. Within the fortress of Kyrenia there are many examples of neglect, where the masons have either inverted or placed the stones sideways, in which case the action of the weather has completely honey-combed and reduced the material to an appearance of decayed coral. I observed instances of similar neglect with the same results in portions of the fortress of Famagousta.
The tombs are easily distinguished from the cave-dwellings with which the rocks are perforated, as they are merely chambers of a few feet square sufficient for the reception of a limited number of bodies; the dwellings have been carefully chiselled, and arranged with a bench cut from the solid rock around the apartment.
The remains of ancient fortifications, including ruined towers and ditches, prove that in former times Kyrenia was of far greater extent than would be implied by its present small proportions. In like manner with Famagousta this powerful fort has been considered as a position to be occupied exclusively by Turks. The population of the town is now about 600, but the Greek element is increasing since the British Convention ensured their protection.
Our camp was daily visited by the women of both Turks and Cypriotes, who came to indulge their curiosity, and my wife had some difficulty in receiving the increasing circle of acquaintance. The want of a female interpreter was at first acutely felt, as the conversation was much restricted when Georgi was the only medium. After a few days this shyness on the part of the Turkish ladies wore off, and Georgi, who was a good, painstaking young fellow, became a favourite; some of these ladies were exceedingly gracious, and took off their veils when in the tent with Lady Baker and myself, and conversed upon various subjects with much intelligence. A few were decidedly pretty; all were studiously clean and well dressed, and they formed a marked contrast in appearance and general style to the Cypriote women; the breed was superior, their hands were delicate and well cared for, but disfigured by the prevalent habit of staining the nails and palms with henna. This plant is called shenna by all Turks and Cypriotes, and it is imported from Syria for the purpose of dyeing the hair, and also the feet and hands of Turkish women. It is not a production of Cyprus, as has been erroneously stated by some authors; I made particular inquiries in all portions of the island, and of all classes, upon this subject. The henna, or shenna, is only to be met with in some few gardens, where it is cultivated as an ornamental shrub, in the same manner that the arbutus may be seen in the shrubberies of England. The Turkish women are very particular in dyeing their hair, and use various preparations. The shenna produces a glossy red, which some years ago was the fashionable tinge in England. There is also a small seed of a plant which is prepared by roasting until burnt, like coffee, and then reducing to powder, which is formed into a paste with oil; this is a well-known dye, which turns the hair into a deep black. There was a sudden rush for information when the British occupation of Cyprus was announced to the startled public, and books were rather hurriedly put together, compiled from various authorities, which, although yielding valuable information upon many points, unfortunately perpetuated errors by reproducing erroneous statements. The asserted existence of henna as "an indigenous shrub which originated the name of Cyprus," is an instance of such mistakes, similar to the descriptions of "HEATH-covered surface," when no such plant exists upon the island.
The longer I remained in the neighbourhood of Kyrenia the deeper was my regret that the arrivals of strangers should take place in the southern ports, instead of receiving their first impressions of Cyprus by an introduction to this lovely coast. I was never afloat on the northern side, but the view must be strikingly impressive, as the trees, ever green almost to the water's edge, shadow the rocky coves, and clothe the surface to the base of the mountains, whilst, at a short distance from the land these must appear as though rising abruptly from the sea. The castles upon the extreme summits form unmistakable landmarks, resembling sentries on either side the fort and harbour of Kyrenia.
On 6th April the general rendezvous was the monastery of Bellapais, three and a half miles distant from Kyrenia, in response to the invitation of Major McCalmont, 7th Hussars, on the staff of Sir Garnet Wolseley, who had taken immense trouble for the gratification of his guests by sending tents, baggage, and sleeping accommodation for two nights, in addition to every kind of necessary refreshments.
The route from Kyrenia lay through a country of the brightest shades of green, parallel with the sea, about a mile and a half distant, towards which a succession of deep ravines, which formed river-beds in the rainy season, drained from the mountains at right angles with the path. This side of the Carpas range formed a strong contrast with the parched southern slopes, as every garden and farm was irrigated by water conducted from the mountains in artificial channels, which would otherwise have been absorbed and lost in the wide and stony stream-beds if left to its natural course. We passed through sombre groves of very ancient olives of immense girth; then through villages concealed among a luxuriant growth of fruit-trees, the almonds being already large, and eaten eagerly by the inhabitants, although still unripe. The oranges in heavy crops weighed down the dark green branches, the deep yellow fruit contrasting brightly with the foliage, and the fields of barley that had benefited by artificial irrigation looked like green carpets spread between the neighbouring villages and gardens. Having crossed several deep and wide stream-beds, in one of which the water still trickled in a clear but narrow channel, we commenced a steep ascent among scattered but numerous caroub-trees, which gave a park-like appearance to the country, and upon gaining an eminence we came suddenly upon the view of Bellapais. The monastery was not more than 600 yards distant, but a deep hollow intervened between the opposing heights, which necessitated a circuit of more than a mile before we could reach the village. It would be impossible to select a more beautiful position for a house than the flat summit of the height upon which we stood. The valley at our feet nursed a rippling stream deep in the bottom of a precipitous gorge, the rough sides clothed with myrtles, which now occupied basket-makers who were completing their work upon the spot where they cut their wands of this tough wood in lieu of willow. The fine old Gothic building stood before us on the opposite height upon the extreme edge, surrounded by trees of various kinds, including tall poplars which unfortunately were not yet in leaf. This grand old pile was an impressive contrast to the scene around; there were neat villages with flat-topped roofs of clay, down in the vale far beneath, with the intense blue sea washing the rocky shore: there was also the adjoining village at the rear, occupying the same plateau as the monastery, with its rich gardens and groves of orange-trees; the ruined walls and towers of Buffavento upon the highest crags dominated our position by more than 2,500 feet, and the castle of St. Hilarion stood upon a still higher elevation on the western sky-line behind Kyrenia. There was nothing modern that appeared compatible with the style and grandeur of Bellapais. When this monastery was erected, Cyprus must have been a flourishing and populous country worthy of such architecture, but the present surroundings, although harmonising in colouring, and in a quiet passiveness of scene, in no way suggested a connection with a past that gave birth either to the Gothic building or to the important castles of Buffavento and St. Hilarion.
Having skirted the amphitheatre upon the monastery level, we passed through an orange-garden and entered the courtyard. The church occupies the right side, and the wall is fronted by cloisters which, supported upon arches, form a quadrangle. A stone staircase ascends from the cloisters to the refectory upon the left; this is in considerable ruin, but must originally have formed an imposing hall. Upon the flat roof of the cloisters, which is perfect for three sides of the quadrangle, a magnificent view is obtained through the fine old Gothic open window, which looks down sheer to the great depth below, and commands the entire country seaward. Descending into the courtyard to the northern cloister we pass two large sarcophagi of white marble. One of these has been elaborately worked in rich garlands of flowers and very grand bulls' heads, together with nude figures, all of which have been much damaged. These sarcophagi have been used as cisterns for containing water, as the tap is still visible. Immediately opposite is the entrance to the great hall, which is in good repair, as a new cement floor was added by the British authorities, with the intention of converting it into a temporary hospital when the troops were suffering from fever at Kyrenia.
This hall is 102 feet long and 33 feet wide, with a height of upwards of 30 feet. Nothing can exceed the beauty of the view from the windows of this grand entrance, and in the deep recesses we found Sir Garnet and Lady Wolseley enjoying the scene, while our host, Major McCalmont, welcomed his guests in this splendid vestige of the Knights Templars. The abbey, which belonged to the Latin Church, was built during the Lusignan dynasty by Hugh III. in about 1280 A.D. and was destroyed by the Turks. The castle of Buffavento, upon the summit of the mountain, 3240 feet above the sea, is of far more ancient date, and is interesting from the fact of its having during the conquest by Richard Coeur de Lion succumbed to the assault conducted in person by that king. The castle of Kyrenia had already fallen, and the wife, daughter, and treasures of Isaac Comnenus fell into the hands of the victorious English, led by the gallant Guy de Lusignan in the absence of Richard I., who was at that time incapacitated through illness, which detained him at Lefkosia. This fortification was probably the original defence of the town, and could have had no relation to the present work, which is of a far later date, and was constructed specially for an armament of heavy guns.
Captain Savile (101st Royal Irish), in his admirable compilation from all the principal works that have been written upon Cyprus, states:—
"Richard was now able to turn his thoughts to his neglected crusade; he returned to Limasol, and sent Isaac's daughter, with his own wife and sister, on before him to St. Jean d'Acre. On 5th June, 1191, Richard himself sailed from Cyprus, leaving the island in charge of Richard de Canville and Robert de Turnham, with injunctions to keep the army in Syria well provided with provisions.
"Isaac was placed in silver fetters and taken with King Richard to Syria, where he was handed over to the Hospitallers, since Knights of Rhodes, for safe custody, and was by them confined in the Castle of Margat, near Tripoli, where he died shortly afterwards.
"Several insurrections subsequently occurred in Cyprus, but were all suppressed by the decisive and prompt action of Robert de Turnham.
"The Templars now entered into negotiations with King Richard for the purchase of Cyprus, and they eventually obtained it from him for the sum of 100,000 Saracenic golden besants; it was further arranged that 40,000 golden besants should be paid at once, and the remainder as soon as it could be derived from the revenues of the island."
According to a high authority, De Mas Latrie (see L'Histoire de l'Ile de Chypre, vol. ii. p. 7), the above sum would now represent about 304,000 pounds sterling.
Richard had at once appreciated the importance of Cyprus as a base of operations that would secure a supply of provisions within two days' sail of his salient point of attack, and to which he could retreat in the event of failure. The geographical position remains the same, but unfortunately Cyprus is no longer capable of furnishing supplies for a large army, and the hay necessary for the cavalry was obliged to be imported at great cost immediately upon the British occupation in 1878.
The Templars quickly became disgusted with their bargain, and after only ten months' rule, during which the island was in a state of chronic revolt, they endeavoured to persuade King Richard to cancel the agreement of purchase.
Captain Savile continues:—
"Richard expressed his willingness to take over the island, but refused to return the 40,000 besants. King Guy de Lusignan now came forward, and having arranged with the Templars that in the event of his being made king of Cyprus he would refund to them what they had paid, went to Richard and asked him for the island as compensation for the loss of the crown of Jerusalem, engaging also to pay the same sum that the Templars had agreed to. This offer was accepted, and Guy intrusted to his Chancellor, Pierre d'Engoulesme, Bishop of Tripoli, the task of raising the money. The sum of 60,000 besants was collected by means of loans from the citizens of Tripoli and from the Genoese, and was paid by Guy to Richard, who asked for the remaining 40,000 besants; but Guy then pleaded poverty, and it is stated that the English king did not urge this claim further."
Guy de Lusignan at once took possession of the island (May 1192), but it appears, according to De Mas Latrie, that he never actually assumed the title of King of Cyprus. His reign was but short, lasting only one year and eleven months; but from all accounts he governed wisely, and restored order and tranquillity in the island. One of his first measures was the establishment of a feudal system, and he endowed with portions of land, according to rank, about 300 knights and 200 esquires, who formed the nucleus of the nobility and privileged bodies in Cyprus.
The Lusignan dynasty thus commenced in 1192, continued until 1489, and terminated with Queen Catherine Cornaro, when Cyprus was annexed by the Venetian Republic.
I did not ascend to the castle of Buffavento, which towered above the monastery about two miles distant, but I observed with the telescope that every inch of ground that could be cultivated was green with barley, even to extreme heights which appeared inaccessible. Small terraces had been arranged by heaping up stones among the numerous declivities to save the soil from falling below, and to catch the wash that might be added by some passing shower. This was the result of enormous labour, far disproportioned to the value of the crops; yet in the face of this perilous industry there are persons who declare that the Cypriotes are an idle race, and that "land exists in superabundant acreage sufficient for double the amount of population." If this theory is correct the Cypriotes, who climb to these dizzy heights to build some walls among the precipices that will act as an agricultural trap to catch some few square yards of soil, must be simply madmen; but I have not found them wanting either in brains or industry when working independently for their own profit; where they are positively wanting, is in ready money. All strangers who take an interest in agriculture must be struck with the extraordinary pains taken by the natives to save the soil from water-wash, to which I have already alluded; but this peculiarity is the more striking when we observe the dangerous positions to which they have been driven by a desire to increase their lands.
In a ride from our camp to St. Hilarion I carefully remarked throughout the extremely rugged nature of the route that no plot, however minute, had been neglected. In one rocky nook buried among the cliffs was a little cottage, with hanging gardens all terraced by exceedingly high walls, yet affording the smallest superficial area for cultivation. This is discernible with a powerful telescope from the base of the mountains, although to the naked eye it appears like a cluster of barren rocks, tinged with the green of fruit-trees growing from the clefts. If such labour had been expended to produce a picturesque effect the object might be appreciated, but that it should be profitable is beyond belief.
The summit of St. Hilarion is 3340 feet above the sea, from which, in a direct line, it is not three miles distant. The cliffs are quite perpendicular in some places for several hundred feet, and the greatest care has been taken to perch the towers and walls upon the extreme verge. Although from the base of the mountains at Kyrenia the castle appears to occupy an impregnable position, it can be easily approached by one of those rough paths in the rear which can be scrambled over by the Cyprian mules. I am afraid that my willing animal grumbled somewhat at my weight, as it was obliged to halt for breath seven or eight times before we reached a secluded little dell among the mountain tops, from which the path ascended by steep zigzags, directly through the entrance of the old fortification. This narrow dell, hidden among the surrounding crags about 2800 feet above the sea, was entirely cropped with barley, and the people who owned the plot resided in a cave that had been arranged for a habitation for themselves and animals.
On the ridge before we descended into this vale the view was magnificent, as two lofty crags formed a natural frame for the picture within. Between these rugged peaks of silvery grey limestone, tinted by ferruginous rocks with various shades of red and brown, we looked down a precipice beneath our feet upon the blue sea, the snow-capped mountains of Caramania in the distance, and the rich border of our own shores covered with green trees, gardens, fields, and clustering villages: in the centre of which was the fort and harbour of Kyrenia. I could just distinguish our white tents among the caroub-trees far beneath. To complete this superb landscape there should have been a few sails upon the sea; but all was blue and barren, without signs of life. The castle of St. Hilarion stood before us on the left as we faced the sea, and the towers occupied the peaks within less than a quarter of a mile of our position. Continuing along the narrow vale, a mountain-top upon our left-hand, which sloped to the path upon which we rode, appeared slightly higher than the extreme summit of the castle peak; the sides of this steep slope were covered with dwarf cypress and occasional young pines, and it was clear that St. Hilarion would be commanded by a battery upon these heights, or even by the fire of modern rifles. Ascending the zigzag path among blocks of fallen stone, which had rolled from the partially dismantled walls, we entered the gateway, and at once perceived the great extent of the old fortress. The entire mountain-top is encircled by a high wall, flanked at intervals by towers, and crenellated for archers or cross-bowmen. Although the opposite mountain would by artillery fire completely command the inner and lower portion of the works, which we had now entered, the distance would have been far beyond the range of catapults or arrows at the time when the defences were erected. The error appeared to have been in the great area of the fortifications, which would have necessitated a garrison of at least 4000 men, entailing a large supply of provisions and of water. There was no trace of a well throughout the works, but I observed the remains of water-pipes in numerous directions, which appeared to have conducted the rainfall into reservoirs. The nearest water was by the caves, occupied by the peasants in the glen, about a quarter of a mile distant. Nothing would have been easier than an investment, which would sooner or later have reduced the garrison to starvation, as the precipices upon the north, west, and east, which rendered the position impregnable from those directions, at the same time prevented an exit, and effectually barred all egress either for sorties or escape. The first court upon entering the gateway comprised several acres, but there was no level ground, and the natural slope of the mountain was inclosed by walls and parapets upon all sides, until at convenient places the earth had been scarped out for the erection of buildings, which had either been barracks or magazines. These were all of stone and hard cement, and were now used as stables for various animals by the few peasants of this wild neighbourhood. Passing through galleries, from which an occasional window showed a deep chasm of many hundred feet beneath, and continuing until we entered a tower which terminated the passage upon a perpendicular peak that enfiladed the outer line of defence, and at the same time from its great height commanded the main approach, we descended a rude flight of steps, and presently entered a grand hall supported upon numerous arches which appeared to connect two peaks of the mountain. Descending from this solid work, we entered upon a plot of grass which sloped towards a precipice of rock that completely closed this side of the fortress. Several cypress-trees grew among the stones, which assisted us in ascending from this steep and dangerous slope, until by a passage which led into a quadrangular courtyard of grass we emerged into an imposing portion of the ruin which commanded the west face. This was a wall built upon the extreme edge of a precipice, which looked down a giddy depth, and afforded a lovely view lengthways of the narrow strip of caroub-forest and verdure along the mountain range to the margin of the sea. The guide knew every inch of these labyrinth-like works, and upon my expressing a desire to ascend to the earth on the summit, he commenced a scramble over loose stones, large rocks, and occasional slippery grass, holding on to the now numerous dwarf-cypress, until we reached a narrow saddle of the peak, over which a man could sit astride and look down to the right and left into the depth below. It was necessary to cross this saddle for about ten or twelve feet to gain the wider pathway formed by the natural rock, which was terminated after a few yards by the castle tower. This, as may be imagined, was built upon the verge, and formed an artificial peak to the precipices upon all sides. The view was superb, as it commanded a panorama of mountains, valleys, the sea, precipices, and all that could make a perfect landscape.
Sitting down to rest upon the solid rock upon the left of this castle entrance, I observed that it was composed of white marble. The exterior had a greyish coating from the action of the weather, but this could be scraped off with a knife, which exposed the white marble beneath. I remarked that the cement of the masonry was mixed with small fragments of the same material, and subsequently I discovered blocks of this substance in the immediate neighbourhood of Kyrenia.
There was a peculiarity in the walls and towers of the fortress of St. Hilarion: the stones were of such small dimensions that few exceeded forty or fifty pounds in weight, except those which formed the principal halls or other buildings upon the secure plateaux within the outer works. The masons had apparently depended upon the extreme tenacity and hardness of their cement, which bound the mass into a solid block. Upon a close examination I discovered the reason. As the towers and many of the walls were built upon the extreme edge of various precipices, it would have been impossible to have erected a scaffolding on the outside, in the absence of which it would have been difficult to have raised heavy weights; the builders were therefore obliged to limit the size of stones to the power of individuals, who would be obliged to supply the material by the simple handing of single stones as the work proceeded. By this crude system the mason would stand upon his own wall and receive the stones as his work grew in height.
The origin and date of this interesting fortress are uncertain, but it is known that, like other eagle-nests upon this craggy range, it formed a place of refuge to some of the Latin kings of Cyprus. As in ancient times the port of Kyrenia had been an object of frequent attacks, the lofty fortresses of St. Hilarion and Buffavento offered immediate asylums in the event of a retreat from the invaded harbour. In close proximity to the sea these elevated posts commanded an extended view, and the approach of an enemy could be discerned at a distance that would afford ample warning for preparing a defence. Both St. Hilarion and other mountain strongholds upon this range were dismantled by the Venetian Admiral Prioli about A.D. 1490, shortly after the annexation of the island by Venice.
The return ride down the mountain side was, if possible, more beautiful than the ascent, as the lights and shadows were rendered acute by dark but quickly passing clouds; occasional light mists curled round the highest peaks like veils of gauze and then dissolved in the clear air. These atmospherical changes intensified the colouring and brought out the varying tints of grey and purple rocks into a strange prominence, while every wild flower appeared to thrust itself suddenly into observation: the purple cistus seemed magnified to the size of roses, and a bright gleam of gold from the masses of prickly bloom now in fullest blaze mingled with the general green surface of mastic and arbutus. As we neared the base of the mountains the dark green rounded tops of a forest of caroub-trees were occasionally broken by the white bloom of sweet-scented hawthorns; and to the delight of my ear, the first notes of the cuckoo that I had heard in Cyprus recalled the spring of England! It is a curious arrangement of our nervous system, that a sound so simple in itself should invest the scene with a tenfold pleasure, and should conjure up uncalled-for recollections of places, friends, and a life of years long past: but so it was; and for the moment I longed to be at home. . . .
The mules and camels were ready to start on the 10th April. I had engaged a well-known fine-looking muleteer named Katarjii Iiani, who had contracted, for twenty-nine shillings a day, to supply the riding mules and baggage animals sufficient for our party from Kyrenia to any portion of the island I might wish to visit. My plan was arranged, to include a circuit of the north and west to Baffo; thence to Limasol; by which time the hot weather would be drawing near, and we should seek a settlement as near the clouds as possible upon Troodos; the snow was still deep upon the northern summit of this mountain, which formed the prominent object in the range.
Our new muleteer Iiani was about six feet two inches high, and not being sufficiently tall, he added nearly three inches more by enormous heels to a pair of well-fitting high boots; these, fastened below the knee, just showed sufficient clean grey stocking to prove that he possessed such hose; which are luxuries seldom indulged in by the peasantry. The boots were carefully blackened and polished, and were armed with long spurs. His trousers were the usual roomy pattern, containing sufficient stuff to clothe a small family of English children; above these dark-blue bags he wore a kind of Jersey frock of thick silk fitting tight to his figure; the junction between this purple-striped garment and his waistband was concealed in the many windings of a long shawl which passed several times round his centre; in this he wore a German-silver-handled knife or dagger of pure Birmingham or Sheffield origin. His figure was very perfect, and he was as thoroughly "set-up" as though he had been in the hands of a drill-sergeant from his cradle. He carried a long stick like the shaft of a lance, with which he could poke a refractory mule, but which he always used when mounting by resting one end upon the ground, and with the left hand upon the saddle he ascended with the ease of a spiritualist "floating in the air." Iiani was very polite to ladies, and he knew their ways. He seldom advanced without an offering of some lovely flower or a small sprig of sweetly-scented herb, which he invariably presented with a graceful bow and a smile intended to represent a combination of humility, amiability, gentility, and as many other "ilitys" as could be squeezed into his expressive features. It is hardly necessary after this description to say that Iiani was a very tall humbug, pleasant in manner when he had his own way. He was lazy to such a degree that he invariably fell asleep upon his mule after smoking innumerable cigarettes. In these cases his long body swayed to the right and left, and occasionally nodded forward to an extent that sometimes awoke him with the jerk; after which spasmodic return of consciousness an immediate relapse took place, and he fell asleep again. As he rode directly before me, as guide, this chronic somnolency was most annoying, and I had to drive his mule into a faster walk by poking its hind-quarters with my stick. The animal would then break into a sudden trot, which would awaken the rider to the fact that he had been dreaming; upon which he burst into some peculiar song that was intended to prove that he was wide awake; but after a few bars the ditty ceased; the head once more nodded and swung from side to side; the mule relaxed its pace . . . Iiani was asleep again!
In another sense he was very wide-awake. He had represented to me that he was the proprietor of the seven camels and five mules, but I quickly discovered that he was only the owner of a completely worn-out old camel and four mules: he had hired the other animals at a considerably lower rate than I had agreed to pay him, therefore I should have the difficulty of several discontented owners instead of one. However, we had started before this fact was explained by my factotum Christo.
The route lay along the sea-shore through a forest of caroub-trees and olives, occasionally varied by patches of cereals. Upon our right to the sea-margin were tolerable crops of barley, most of which had been irrigated by water conducted from the hills. At about four miles distance from Kyrenia the caroubs and olives of all growths exhibited the effects of north-easterly gales, as they inclined to south-west; and those nearest to the sea, which acted as screens, and received the full unbroken force of the wind, were seriously damaged. As we proceeded towards Lapithus the trees became widely scattered, the slopes were steeper, and the strip of level ground to the sea-margin narrowed to only half a mile. The mountains rose rapidly from this base, and an extra deep tinge of green showed the effect of streams, which in this happy spot of Cyprus are perennial. Many little villages were dotted about the mountain sides with groves of olives and other fruit-trees, which appeared to be in danger from the impending cliffs, huge masses having fallen and rolled to various distances at the bottom. The country reminded me of the prettiest portions of South Italy.
At eight miles from Kyrenia we arrived at the thriving town of Karava, built upon the mountain slope and watered by powerful streams diverted into artificial channels from the parent bed. The large population of this neighbourhood is principally engaged in the production of silk, for which the locality has long been famous. Every garden that surrounded the houses was rich in mulberry-trees, together with oranges and lemons and the luxuriant foliage of the almond. We rode along steep paved lanes within the town, through which the water was rushing in refreshing streams, until we at length reached the precipitous edge of the ravine, which in the rainy season becomes an important torrent. Although some flour-mills are worked, I observed a terrible waste of water-power, which might be turned to account for machinery. I heard the usual excuse for this neglect, "The people have no money!"
We had ridden fast, and were far ahead of the baggage animals; we accordingly halted to lunch beneath a shady caroub-tree near the edge of the ravine, about fifty feet below. A French game-bag, with net and numerous pockets, always contained our meals, which consisted of a cold fowl, some eggs boiled hard, and a loaf of native brown bread or biscuits. This was luncheon and breakfast, as we never indulged in more than two meals a day, merely taking a cup of cafe au lait, or cocoa, in the early morning, and our lunch or breakfast at any hour that travelling made convenient. This depended upon the attraction of some pretty spot or wide-spreading tree that suggested a halt.
We now remounted and rode to Lapithus, a mile and a half distant, and, avoiding the town, selected a camping-place on the flat ground within 300 yards of the sea.
There was little difference between Lapithus and Karava. A succession of mountain streams nourished the higher grounds, and having fertilised the gardens and plots of cereals, were subsequently led into the fields below.
Lapithus has been celebrated from an ancient date in like manner with Kythrea, owing to the unfailing supply of water from its mountain-springs, and, under the Ptolemies, B.C. 295, it became one of the four provinces into which Cyprus was divided. Lapithus, north; Amathus, south; Salamis, east; Paphos (now Baffo), west.
On the following morning our muleteer Iiani, having indulged in cigarettes and sleep, was not ready to start at the proper hour, neither were the animals forth-coming. We accordingly started on foot and threaded our way through paved lanes, which twisted and turned in various directions according to the positions of the houses and innumerable gardens. The people were very civil, and directed us in the right direction, although evidently surprised at our journeying on foot, which is most unusual even among the poorer classes. We walked for more than a mile through the town: the air was fresh and enjoyable, the thermometer was 53 degrees at 7 A.M. Streams of clear water gushed through the lanes in many places, which had created the flourishing aspect around. With such a picture of prosperity before us, due entirely to the presence of never-failing streams, it seemed incredible that the great central district of Messaria should be left to the chance of seasons when the means of artificial irrigation lie close beneath the surface.
Upon quitting Lapithus the country on the west was almost devoid of trees, and we walked for four miles and a half before we could procure a shade. At this distance we halted to await the mules beneath a clump of three caroub-trees close to the road side. Beneath this group were several masses of rock which appeared to have rolled at some remote period from the mountain side, as blocks of all sizes strewed the ground in every direction. I was at once struck with a beautiful block of dark green marble, and upon examining the neighbourhood I discovered many pieces of the same material, all of which had evidently fallen from the mountain's side, thus proving that the parent mass would be found in situ were the high cliffs investigated. The mules arrived, and I directed attention of Iiani to the fact, in order that I might procure a specimen by sending him to the spot upon a future occasion. We now entered upon groves of caroub-trees, and the ground was covered with blocks of limestone and of marbles. As we proceeded the shore became exceedingly narrow, as the base of the steep mountain sprang from within a short distance of the sea. The quantity and varieties of marbles increased, the dark green was present in large blocks, and several masses of bright rose-colour suggested that rare and valuable qualities might be profitably worked and exported, as great facilities existed in the presence of snug little coves within only a few yards, where in the summer months native vessels of twenty or thirty tons might anchor in security.
The country now became exceedingly wild and rugged. The sea was in many places exactly below us as we skirted the cliffs and occasionally crossed the beaches of narrow coves. The high mountain upon our immediate left was the western terminus of the Carpas range, and exhibited peculiar geological features, eruptive rocks having burst in some places through the limestone and created great disturbance. The route was exceedingly interesting and beautiful, rocks of every shade of colour were mingled with bright green foliage, the sea was an emerald green in the shallow coves, and dark blue within a few hundred paces of the shore, while a brisk breeze curled the waves and tipped their crests with a glistening white. The path at length turned to the left and led through a gap that rounded the mountain base, and formed the extreme end of the Jurassic limestone, which only exists in Cyprus in the peculiar wall-like Carpasian range running from west to east upon the northern coast.
We crossed a stream of water at the bottom of the gorge which winds through the narrow glen that terminates the range; and ascending upon the opposite side, we at once entered upon steep slopes composed of marls interspersed with an exceedingly bright rose-coloured marble in veins of about two feet thickness. This would probably develop considerable blocks if quarried to a greater depth.
Continuing for about two miles along the glen, which was cultivated with barley in all available localities, we several times crossed the stream in its winding course, and my dogs hunted the steep myrtle-covered banks in expectation of game; but nothing moved, and the croaking of numerous frogs was the only sign of life. The glen now widened to a valley about a mile and three-quarters in diameter, surrounded upon all sides by heights, and we commenced one of the steepest ascents in Cyprus, up the face of the slope about 1000 feet above the bottom. The zigzags were upon a surface of white marl, which during wet weather would become as slippery as soap, and be impassable for loaded animals. Many times our mules were forced to halt and rest, but they were good and sure-footed beasts, that could always be depended upon.
At length we gained the summit, which was a total change of scene. Instead of descending upon the other side, as I had expected, we had arrived at a plateau eight or nine miles in length from north to south, and an invisible distance from east to west. The soil was a rich reddish chocolate, forming a grateful contrast to the glaring white marls that we had just quitted, and which composed the steep hills that surrounded the lower basin. A growth of young pines and other evergreen shrubs ornamented the surface, and at about a quarter of a mile from the summit of the pass by which we had arrived we halted at a well of pure water among a small grove of olive-trees. Although we were at least 1000 feet above the valley, the water was only ten feet from the coping-stone by measurement. There could be little doubt that the perennial stream in the deep glen was the result of the drainage of this extensive table-land, corresponding with similar heights upon the other side.
Having breakfasted by the well of deliciously cold water, we remounted, and continued our route along the extensive table-land. This was cultivated in many places, but as we advanced for two or three miles the country became exceedingly wild, and we entered a wood of Pinus maritima, composed of young trees of several years' growth, and older stems that had been mutilated in the disgraceful manner that characterises all Cyprian forests. There was not one perfect tree above eight years' growth; but every stem had been cut off about six feet from the top for the sake of the straight pole. Trees of fifteen years or more had been mercilessly hacked for the small amount of turpentine that such trunks would produce, and the bark had been ripped off for tanning. Great quantities of mastic bushes covered the surface between the pines, and even these exhibited the continual attacks of the woodcutter's grubbing-axe, which had torn up the roots, in addition to the stems, for the requirements of the lime-burner. The red soil is so propitious to the growth of pines that, in spite of the unremitting destruction, the ground was covered with young plants, self-sown from the fallen cones. If these young forests were protected for twelve or fourteen years, the surface would again be restored to the original woodland that once ornamented this portion of the island. Under the present conditions of Cyprus all wholesome laws and enactments are practically ridiculed by the inhabitants, as there are no foresters or keepers to enforce the orders of the government. A governor may sit upon the top of Olympus and issue wise decrees like Jupiter, but unfortunately he does not possess the thunderbolts, as the country is so poor that it cannot afford to pay the salaries necessary for the support of foresters and the officers required for this special department. I myself met droves of donkeys and mules loaded with wood and accompanied by their owners with their destructive axes, all wending their way through the forest to the town of Morphu, which is thus supplied with fuel for baking, cooking, lime- burning, and all other purposes.
It is impossible to feel amiable when passing through these desolating scenes, where nature, originally so beautiful, has been defaced, and the people, instead of deriving pleasure from natural beauties, are obtuse to all the surroundings, which, according to educated taste, would ensure appreciation. I felt inclined to upset the donkeys, capture their proprietors, and . . . I could not have hung them upon the trees that they had defaced, for no bough had been left that would have supported their weight . . . and there was no rope.
While these vindictive and statesman-likethoughts boiled within me, the naturally courteous people made their graceful salaams as we passed, and studiously conducted their heavily-laden donkeys out of the path to make way for our advance, that otherwise would have been effectually choked by the throng of bush-and-faggot-laden animals, which looked like "Birnam-wood marching to Dunsinane." In my heart I immediately forgave the poor people; I knew that the man with the axe who marched behind was as ignorant, and not so strong, as his donkey who carried the load. They had been both subjects of a bad government, and it was not their fault that they were despoilers. You might as well blame the wind for the destruction of venerable trees; or the locusts for devouring the crops; they were ungoverned, and unfortunately the instinct of uncivilised man is to destroy. I shall say more upon this important subject when we arrive among the last remaining forests of the Troodos mountains.
We rode onwards, always through the same wilderness of old tree-stems hacked, and young trees that would be hacked; at length we saw on a cleared space in the distance what I imagined to be a long brown rock lying upon the surface; but upon riding out of the path to examine this object I found it was a splendid trunk of a pine-tree more that two feet in diameter. Why this had been spared for so many years I cannot say, but its size suggested reflections upon the original forests that must have covered the surface and have ornamented the once beautiful island of Cyprus; now denuded, and shorn of every natural attraction.
I again became angry; visions of the past primaeval forests appeared before me, all of which had been destroyed: and as formerly we hung a man in England for cutting an oak sapling, I thought that the same cure for timber-destroying propensities might save the few remaining forests in this island. While indulging in this strain of unphilanthropic thought we overtook another throng of wood-laden donkeys and their proprietors: again they smiled, courteously salaamed, and vacated the path for us, little knowing what my inward thoughts had been. Of course I smiled, salaamed as courteously in return, and forgave them at once; and we proceeded on our way condemning Turkish rule, the impecuniosity of our own government, the miserable conditions of our present occupation, which rendered Cyprus neither fish, flesh, nor fowl, and thus by degrees I lashed myself into the worst possible frame of mind, until . . . we overtook another throng of polite donkeys and their proprietors, who salaamed and got out of our way. Upon suddenly emerging from the forest upon the edge of a steep slope, we looked down upon the barren sand-coloured plain of Messaria. Our guide Iiani, who had been asleep and awake for at least eight miles, suddenly burst out into a ditty, and explained that a village in the plain below was Morphu, the home of his wife and family.
Even from this elevated point of view Morphu looked a long way off. The sleepy Iiani was sufficiently wide awake to steer for his wife, and we had made a long march already. I doubted the possibility of the loaded camels ascending the steep slope, which had severely tried our mules, and I felt sure that liani's old camel would either knock up or tumble down with his load, should he attempt the ascent. It was of no use to reflect, and as Morphu lay before us in the now barren and sun-smitten plain, we touched our animals with the spur and pressed on. Descending for some miles, we passed a garden of olives, that must have been upwards of a thousand years old, upon our right; and still inclining downwards, through ground cultivated with cereals completely withered by the drought, we at length arrived at the broad but perfectly dry bed of the river. Crossing this, we steered for a grove of ancient olive-trees, which I at once selected for a camping-place, on the outskirts of the town. We were now twenty-three miles from Lapithus, and I felt sure that our baggage animals would not arrive till nightfall.
As we sat beneath one of these grand old olive-trees alone, Iiani having taken his mules to his home, and probably at the same time having advertised our arrival, throngs of women and children approached to salaam and to stare. I always travelled with binocular glasses slung across my back, and these were admirable stare-repellers; it was only necessary to direct them upon the curious crowd, and the most prominent individuals acknowledged their power by first looking shy and conscious, and then confusedly laughing and retreating to the rear.
We had arrived at 2.20 P.M., and we waited beneath the olive-trees until 8 P.M., when the advance camels at length came in after dark. It was 9.30 before the tents were pitched and the camp arranged. The great delay had been occasioned by Iiani's old camel, which had, as I had expected, rolled down the steep bill with its load, and having nearly killed itself, had mortally wounded the sacred copper kettle, which every traveller knows is one of his Penates, or household gods, to which he clings with reverence and affection. This beautiful object had lost its plump and well-rounded figure, and had been crushed into a museum-shaped antiquity that would have puzzled the most experienced archaeologist. Metal water-jugs upon which the camel had rolled had been reduced to the shape of soup-plates, and a general destruction of indispensable utensils had inflicted a loss more than equal to the value of Iiani's animal.
The following morning (12th April) exhibited the extraordinary change of climate between the northern and southern sides of the Carpas mountain-range. The average temperature of the week had been at 7 A.M. 57.5 degrees F, 3 P.M. 66.5 degrees. At Morphu the thermometer at 7 A.M. showed 62 degrees, and at 3 P.M. 83 degrees! It was precisely the same on the following day.
It was a distressing contrast to the beautiful Kyrenia and the interesting north coast to have exchanged the green trees and rippling streams for the arid and desolate aspect of the Messaria. The town of Morphu has no special interest; like all others, it consists of houses constructed of sun-baked bricks of clay and broken straw, with flat-topped roofs of the same materials. There are fruitful gardens irrigated by water-wheels, and formerly the extremely rich sandy loam of the valley produced madder-roots of excellent quality, which added materially to the value of the land. This industry having been completely eclipsed by the alizarine dye, Morphu has to depend upon silk and cereals for its agricultural wealth. The population is composed almost entirely of Greeks. There is a monastery and a large school.
I rode to the bay, about four miles and a half distant, passing many villages, which, as we neared the sea, were in the midst of magnificent crops of barley and wheat, resulting from artificial irrigation by the water that percolates beneath the sandy bed of the dry river at a certain level, which has been led into numerous channels before it can reach the natural exit at its mouth. It must be exceedingly unhealthy, as, for several square miles upon the sea margin, the country is an expanse of marsh and bulrushes, abounding with snipe during the winter months. On 13th April I walked over the greater portion of this locality with my three spaniels, but the snipe had departed, and we did not move a bird.
On the right side of Morphu Bay to the east, by Kormachiti, there are extensive sand-dunes, forming deep drifts, which extend for several miles inland at the foot of the hill-range that we had descended. These exhibit the prevailing wind (north). Many people upon observing sand-dunes attribute the most distant limit of the sand to the extreme violence of the wind; but this is not the case. It is the steady prevalence of moderately strong winds that causes the extension of sand-drifts. The wind of to-day deposits the sand at a certain distance from the shore. The wind to-morrow starts the accumulated sand from that depot to form a new deposit about equidistant; and thus by slow degrees the dunes are formed by a succession of mounds, conveyed onwards by an unchanging force; but the maximum power of a gale would be unable to carry thousands of tons of heavy sand to form a hill-range at the extreme distance from the original base of the material. At Hambantotte, in the southern district of Ceylon, there is an extraordinary example of this action, where during one monsoon a range of mounds is formed which might be termed hills; when the monsoon changes, these by degrees disappear, and, according to the alteration in the wind, a range of hills is formed in an exactly opposite direction.
I was glad to escape from Morphu; the wind from the dry plain was hot, and brought clouds of dust. We were surrounded by throngs of people during the day, many of whom were blind, including young children. The 13th April was the Greek Easter Sunday, and we could not start, as Iiani declared that the mules had run away during the night, and could not be found; we knew this was only an excuse for remaining at Morphu, and he at length confessed that the mules were caught, and we could start in the afternoon if I would allow him to wait until he should have received the sacrament together with his wife. Having thus brought the theological and the domestic guns to concentrate their fire upon me, I was obliged to yield, and liani appeared in such a jovial frame of mind in the afternoon, and smelt so strongly of spirits, that I suspected his devotions had been made at the raki-shop instead of the altar.