Sir Francis Ronalds' Travel Journal: Holy Land and Cyprus
Limassol Cyprus 2nd May 1820
I have barely time before going on board a vessell, which three English gentlemen arrived here in yesterday and which sails again at Daybreak, to fetch up my journal since quitting Jerusalem.
I left that unholy city on the morning of the 4th April intending to go to Nazareth by way of Rama, Jaffa & Acre for some serious disturbances were going on at Nablus and I wished to see Caesarea.
"I was stoped by some peasants... and money demanded of me, for I... had left my Servant and 2 or 3 Hadgees (or Pilgrims) at some distance behind with my pistols, but I dashed through them and rode away"
I was stoped by some peasants in the little village of [blank] about 4 hours distant from Jerusalem, and money demanded of me, for I happened to have a good horse and had left my Servant and 2 or 3 Hadgees (or Pilgrims) at some distance behind with my pistols, but I dashed through them and rode away. I little before arriving at Elihmah Mahli[?] (the usual halting place) I again fell in with a party of peasants and was stoped by a tall fellow who held a large Hammer over my head and demanded money, seizing at the same time the bridle, so not being able to quit them, I held him in conversation until Ferdinando came up, which he no sooner had done than he gave him a handful of Paras and he marched off content. I was a third time stoped by another fellow but he being unarmed except by a stone got no money. It is strange that this road from Rama should be more infested by robbers than any other in the Holy land. Having arrived at Rama again I took up my old lodging in the Convent for the night (5th) and the next morning again shook hands with the hospitable old Consul at Jaffa, a Sigr Damiani, with whom I spent that day (6th), and started with mules on the afternoon of the next for Acre.
The road at first lied along the sea shore and was not at all interesting. Towards sun set I passed several tents of the wandering arabs who did not offer us the least obstruction; they made a picturesque appearance as they were barouking[?] & their fine horses grazing around them. In the evening I was requested by the muleteers to alight in a solitary place near a pond so crowded with frogs & toads that the noise was absolutely stunning; here I learnt we were to take up our lodging for the night amidst the long damp grass. We had some time previously passed a Village but could obtain no lodging & were pelted a little by the boys. Some turks who travelled[?] with me gave a good example of their usual politeness in offering me their beds (for mine had been sent by sea) but of course I could not accept them, & the cold & noise of frogs & crickets effectually prevented sleep. Soon after starting in the morning we crossed a little River where I saw a considerable quantity of the Papyrus Plant. The journey all day was extreemly hot and fatiguing, sometimes over a deep sandy road. The scenery was of rather a peculiar character and sometimes beautifull & romantic. We travelled through a plain generally well cloathed with verdure and had on the right some lofty distant cliffs of a brownish red colour, which together with a very fine sky formed as the sun grew low a pretty effect.
We slept a little this night in the open air again and passing the next morning sometimes along the sandy beach, sometimes over rugged mountains of a redish [sic] soil, arrived at Caesarea about 8 o clock. This place fully [?] my expectations. The theatre is very easily discoverable and the Citadel remains in a state sufficiently perfect to give a good Idea of its extent and strength. I attempted a sketch of a Fort on a Rock in the Sea built in not very ancient time apparently, but forming a very picturesque appearance. It had been I think ruined by an earthquake for large masses of masonry lied scattered about or partially detatched [sic] in such a manner as neither time nor human force ever produces. I observed a vast number of shafts of marble and granite columns layed in the foundation in 2 layers crosswise and a great quantity of small fragments of fine marble and alabaster was distributed about in all directions. I could also frequently trace remains of the wall of the town. No habitation exists of any kind. Found[?] a latin inscription near the Gateway on the right but I did not copy it.
"imagine my vexation at being informed that I... must wait... about an hour under a burning sun and most dreadfully in want of sleep until the pasha had finished his luxurious slumber in order that my name and business should be reported to him"
"I frequently met people without noses who had suffered by the caprice & tyranny of Djezzar Pasha; the minister... whom I called upon had undergone this operation when in Djezzar's service"
We rested about an hour and I did not stop again until I reached the summit of Mount Carmel (The Turks went on) the view from which is indeed most glorious, I need not describe it. Descending & passing through Haifa where I got some refreshment of sour milk called [blank] (an excellent thing) &c we passed round the sandy low shore of the bay of Acre & crossed the insignificant little river Belus, not deeper than the mules' hoofs scarcely & bearing no such peculiarity of colour or appearance in my eyes as Clarke mentions. As to Pliny's story about the Fishermen's discovery of Glass making here it seems quite out of all probability. We arrived at the Gate of Acre about 1 o clock, but imagine my vexation at being informed that I being a frank must wait without the town about an hour under a burning sun and most dreadfully in want of sleep until the pasha had finished his luxurious slumber in order that my name and business should be reported to him.
At last I entered Acre & was glad to be informed that a vessell, which was to carry a present of 6 Horses to the Grand Sigr at Constantinople, would go away in a few days, so I took up my quarters in the Latin Convent and the next day proceeded to view the town &c but there are scarcely any remains of antiquity. The Church of the Knights (the only one) is so far destroyed that not more than a few blocks of masonry remain, and the site can scarcely be made out. I intended to go to Nazareth on the 2nd day but altho' the vessell did not sail for sometime afterwards, I was constantly informed that she would do so every day & thus lost the opportunity. I did not regret Nazareth as I believe every thing to be seen there is of the same stamp as at Bethlehem &c &c but I much regret missing Mount Tabor.
The only amusement I had during this ennuyant delay was that of walking about the fortifications (which would be respectable if the guns were well mounted) and in the Bazaars & Town. The former are well provided with a great deal of very bad hardware &c &c & they make an amazing number of pipes for smoaking which are distributed all over Syria. I frequently met people without noses who had suffered by the caprice & tyranny of Djezzar Pasha; the minister of the present Pasha whom I called upon had undergone this operation when in Djezzar's service. He seemed to [?] his character of a verry Cunning jew. The town upon the whole is certainly in an increasing state of prosperity. A little fountain near the Mosque attracted my attention as being a very tasty thing & I think a good sample of the Turkish style which is not perhaps so despicable as we are apt to imagine it. I did not chuse to ask the favour of entering the Mosque.
I did not get on board until the 13th April, and could not sail that evening on account of a verry heavy thunder storm & rain which lasted all night. There were a few Jew Pilgrims on board who came from [blank]. Nothing happened worth notice on the voyage. We arrived at Larnaca in Cyprus on the 17th and I was kindly received by the Consul Sigr Vondiziano but much disappointed to find no letters for me.
"The complaints of Trade were very grievous here, as well as wherever else I have been in the Mediterranean; all cry out for a War"
At a distance Larnaca looks very well and even on entering the Town one sees that greater attention is paid to neatness and comfort than in any of the towns of Syria or Egypt, the Houses are regularly built and whitewashed. There were some 20 or 30 Vessells in the Road but only 4 or 5 which were taking Cargos from thence, they were Austrian & Italian. The complaints of Trade were very grievous here, as well as wherever else I have been in the Mediterranean; all cry out for a War. The Remains of some ancient Doric architecture may be distinguished near the sea a little to the NW of the Scala or Port consisting of a few pieces of Columns but nothing else, neither is there any thing else worthy of attention so that I spent a few days expecting the arrival of letters verry tediously.
In my walks I frequently met with the Rolling Beetle. 2 of these animals were generally engaged in concert to roll the Ball. I don't know whether my sketch [not found] will give an idea of their method. One climbs up one side of it and by his weight pulls it round, whilst his fellow labourer on the opposite side turning his hinder parts upwards to the ball places his front feet on the ground and shoves it round with his hind feet. I used to watch their labour for an hour together sometimes, and found it the best amusement that Larnaca could afford. The indefatigability of this insect exceeds that of the ant I think. It was sometimes very laughable to see the ball run away from the fellow labourers down a hill and their races & contention which of the 2 should get up to it first again & obtain possession of the favourite place which seemed to be the side which was to be pulled down. The insect is not eaten by the women in Egypt now whatever it might have been.
The quantity of crickets (a sort of small locusts) in the neighbourhood of Larnaca is incredible and a most grievous nuisance, one cannot walk sometimes over the NW side without crushing many at every step and the noise is extreemly disagreeable. They do considerable mischief to the Corn. At last the Beetles & crickets quite tired out my patience. I wanted to be as actively employed as them for the season was advancing rapidly & determining to wait no longer, I took a small vessell and sailed for Limassol on the evening of the 21st with a gentle land breeze. But it failed the next day, therefore I went ashore at Old Limassol the ancient [blank] where I could find nothing but the old Venetian Wall and the cistern which has been described by [blank], and I walked to Limassol the same evening leaving Ferdinando in charge of the Baggage.
(22nd) Here I was very politely received by a Vice Consul Sigr Francuda, a greek, who pressed so forcibly upon me the imprudence of my going to Alexandria as we were daily receiving dreadfull accounts of the Plague there that I at last consented to remain in Cyprus a little longer in expectation of my letters & in order to occupy a part of the time made an excursion to Baffa, the Ancient Paphos, for Limassol is still less interesting than Larnaca. The wine called Commanderia is certainly very good but not in my opinion deserving the very high encomiums of travellers, it is very much like Mountain; it is made in a small district about 5 or 10 miles N of Limassol & costs here about 8d a bottle when one year old. It is in perfection at about 12 years. It is at first of a dark red like port, then it becomes by age almost as light as Madeira and when 12 years old grows dark again.
"[the] Greek Bishop at Baffa... does not live in great state, but seems to enjoy himself very well spending his time... sitting in his balcony, smoaking his pipe, watching the growth of his corn below... eating a good dinner, drinking a few curious wines & liquors, & singing a few psalms"
House of Venus at Baffa
I hired mules and started for Baffa on the 24th. The Road principally by the sea was not interesting until we came to a large plain within about 20 miles of Baffa, this was very richly cultivated with long bearded Wheat, the finest I ever saw I think. I slept the first night at a little Village called [blank], the chief of which treated me as well as he could but with more animalerle than I wished for. I saw here in the morning (25th) a great many eagles. They looked very respectable upon the top of a crag plucking their feathers & seeming to watch for the rising sun.
The Consul of Limassol had given me a letter to the Metropolitan or Greek Bishop at Baffa which procured me a polite reception and a lodging in his Pallace. He does not live in great state, but seems to enjoy himself very well spending his time principally I believe in sitting in his balcony, smoaking his pipe, watching the growth of his corn below in the beautiful plain, eating a good dinner, drinking a few curious wines & liquors, & singing a few psalms, which last was the occupation he & his suite were engaged in on my arrival.
(26th) The Temple of Venus is so much ruined that it was impossible even to trace the exact size, I observed a great quantity of Columns of granite and a few blocks of marble of very large diameter (pieces of others) I think equal to 5 feet & I found a little piece of mosaic pavement. This is all that remains of the city of the Paphian Goddess. Lord Elgin has had some things sent over from here. The Gothic town still retains some vestiges, amongst others a building of three arches called "the House of Venus" which I sketched & some tombs cut in the Rock & a subterranean dome or recess which appears like part of a small temple or interior of a magnificent tomb. The Town was deserted I believe on account of its extreemly unwholesome atmosphere, the Mal-aria fever rages very much here & the inhabitants have chosen a much healthier & higher spot near the Bishop's pallace.
I left the jolly Bishop on the afternoon of the 2nd day, determined to return over mount Olympus to Limassol, a route not before trodden by any traveller except Colonel Rook I believe, & received from the Bishop letters to the Superior of the Convent of Santa Croce &c. My way lied first through a part of the same valley I had passed before and then turning to the left entered the mountains at a Village called [blank]. Here I observed vestiges of some very enormous masonry but could not determine (having no books with me and not recollecting to have seen any accounts of them) what they had belonged to. One of the longest blocks measured 9 ft long 6 High and 3 broad. I could not make out the site, one side was at least 100 feet.
"The combination of Parade and poverty was here very strikingly displayed. We supped in an apartment... of about 20 feet long & 12 broad with no other floor than the bare earth & no other furniture than a few rotten old chairs, a table & a couple of beds... yet each person was attended by a servant behind his chair"
The Chief of the Village was a Turk, he received me civilly and very hospitably. The combination of Parade and poverty was here very strikingly displayed. We supped in an apartment (the only one besides that of the women) of about 20 feet long & 12 broad with no other floor than the bare earth & no other furniture than a few rotten old chairs, a table & a couple of beds & the walls were quite bare, yet each person was attended by a servant behind his chair. We ate a la turque (i.e. we pulled a young roasted Kid to pieces with our fingers) and we retired out of doors into the Horse yard to take our coffee & Pipes. This yard also served for the Kitchen. The Turk had just got in his wine and cursed most heartily his countrymen who came for the duty on it. He had several good horses and attendants & assumed more consequence than the Bishop at Baffa. The Archbishop of Cyprus at Nicosia is however very much respected and it is said has power enough to remove any turkish governor who may be displeasing to him.
I rose long before daylight (27th) chased out of bed by myriads of fleas &c and had a most delightful ride though a beautiful valley to the Greek convent of Sta Croce. The first part of the road was over rocks of Pudding stone, more or less compact. In the neighbourhood of this Convent & Village which stands upon a high Mountain a great deal of Wine is grown altho' the climate is almost as cold as in England, the vines are cultivated in the french way & were just beginning to sprout. I was considered rather a curiosity here as very few Europeans ever come this way and treated with great attentamente[?], the Superior of the Convent shewed me the piece of the Cross in the little church and the Tomb of Colonel Rook who died suddenly in going from hence. He also shewed me a stone trough near a Well which had an antique appearance but I could not find any other remains. In the evening I found it so cold that a fire was very pleasant and the feel of the air was altogether quite english. I enjoyed the sensation very much. They have frequent rains and cloudy weather & therefore I suppose the atmosphere is constantly much more humid than in the lower parts of the Island but it is also much more healthy and productive.
My route the next day (28th) to Limassol was over a beautiful and one of the most interesting countries I ever saw I think. Sometimes I passed the varied sides to a Valley which extends to the plain near the sea clothed with shrubs & trees of Rhododendron, Plane (jagged leaved), Oaks, Turpentine, Charoub & many others which I did not know. Sometimes I crossed the river rippling in a shallow stony bed at its bottom amid Clumps of trees or rode along its banks when swelling into a deep slow stream & sometimes I had to climb Mountains covered with the Mastic & Gum cistus. I met with some calcareous spar which is I suppose what is called the Baffa Diamond. The rocks were in the neighbourhood of Sta Croce almost Marble but softened as I approached the termination of the Mountains into first a lime stone & at last a sandy soil. They were all of the Trap formation and this was so regular that on the summits I seemed to ride over an artificial pavement in squares & lozenges & sometimes in descending or ascending a fine natural flight of steps presented itself for my convenience. The country abounded with Partridges (with red bills) & Hares and altogether pleased me very much but the Villages I met with now & then presented a deplorable contrast. Nature has here been lavish but man has cursed her gifts. If one sees a few cottages peeping out from a pretty romantic pass one hopes to see some cheerfull hearths, some good house[?] loaves, some skins of Wine, but no, approach it and you find all is desolation. If 3 or 4 houses in a score are inhabited by a few poor ragged worn out wretches it is all you can do to meet with a conversable being. The Turks (the tyrants) have ground away their neighbours' sons, their fathers, their mothers, the exertions are so enormous that the former[?] population always small is still too great to live upon the soil. The inhabitants remain broken spirited and gloomy whilst all nature smiles around them in her richest attire.
"The effect of... of the want of conversable beings but particularly of the society of women folks for so long a time had begun to render me stupid & barbarous"
On my return from this little tour across to Baffa I had before me the prospect of living a very monotonous life & no little apprehension of the fever and I began to despair of getting my letters without either going or sending to Alexandria; but shortly afterwards (1st May) the three gentlemen I have mentioned arrived in a vessell which they had hired at Jaffa to take them to Smyrna touching where they pleased. Their names are Mr W S Davidson from China, Mr Boggie from Bombay & Dr Coats from Bombay, they all came overland from India up the Red Sea & through Egypt. You may easily imagine how gladly I accepted their offer (2nd) of taking me to Smyrna where I have friends & where think I may perhaps find a letter. I leave Ferdinando to go to Alexandria for my letters there and he is to meet me at Smyrna, for he has not the slightest fear of the infection having lived many years at Alexandria in the midst of the Plague. Now I take my leave of you and of Cyprus, I fear I have communicated the dullness of my manner of living to my journal. Good night. I am happier to get away from this dull Island than Robinson Crusoe was from his. The effect of the climate, of my almost desponding hopes, of the want of conversable beings but particularly of the society of women folks for so long a time had begun to render me stupid & barbarous. I can now easily understand & appreciate the advantages of a "Winter in London".