Elsewhere In The Southeast
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
Adrianople is two miles from the station. The night was pitch. Not a soul was about but the men on guard. They peered at the carriage, but when they saw the "kavass" they shuffled to attention. Over the cobbles we rattled through that city as of the dead. No lights save dim flickers in the guard-houses. While the morning was yet fragrant I was out in the narrow, crowded streets. Their meanness was saved by the dome of many a stately mosque, and the graceful and frail tapering of many a lofty minaret piercing the blue vault.
Memory of Haroun al Raschid !—here was the real East. A great yard walled with high buildings, brightly painted, and with arched balconies. The slim limbs of trees spread wide branches, so the pavement was fretted with a mosaic of lights and shadows. In the middle was a fountain of marble, cracked and smeared, but the splash of water in a sunray was coolness itself. On a little platform squatted dignified Turks, their beards henna-dyed, their cloaks falling loose and easy, their turbans snowy-white -save one which was green, indicating a "haji" who had made the pilgrimage to Mecca. They all puffed slowly, sedately, meditatively, at their narghiles. Here was no vulgar hustle; here was only repose.
Next come the lone, dimly-lit tunnels with shops on either side, called bazaars. It was all weird and garish and un-European. Then a look at the wares. That crockery was from Austria; all these iron articles were German; the cheap jewelry was from France; the flaming cottons were from Lancashire; the gramophones shrieking: "Ya-ya-ye-a-ah-ah-ah !" to attract, came from America. Nothing was Turkish save the dirt.
The population is a medley of Turk, Greek, Jew, and Armenian. But all the trading, the commerce, and the banking is in the hands of foreigners. The Turk is hopeless as a business man.
Yet an old-time veneration rests upon Adrianople. Its story goes back to the time of Antinous. It was rebuilt by the Emperor Hadrian. In the fourth century Constantine defeated Licinius out on the plains, and half a century later Valens was defeated by the Goths. But the walls of the city were so strong that they did not capture it. A thousand years later it fell into the hands of the Turks, and it was their capital before Constantinople became the center of Ottoman rule. Another five centuries, and the Russians, without opposition, marched into Adrianople and compelled the Turks to recognize the independence of Greece. It rose, it became mighty; it has fallen from its great estate.