Sir Francis Ronalds' Travel Journal: Greece and Balkan Coast
[30 June 1820]
Soon after we had left the Piraeus we landed at Eleusis & saw the Theatre, the site of the Temple of Ceres with some scattered columns &c & the Well of Ceres, all nothing, but on sailing away round the far famed Salamis we enjoyed a most delicious view of this place as the sun grew low. I saw nothing superior to it in the Bosphorus.
"After filling our stomachs with one kid and carrying away 2 others for provender we sailed at abt 11"
At sun set of the 1st July we arrived at the end of the Gulph of Corinth and as there were no houses but such as we had not courage to enter on account of our eternal enemies the Animalerle, spread our beds & slept upon the beach very well. In the morning (2nd) 20 mules arrived to convey us & our baggage to Corinth and our troop arrived there at about 8 in the morning. We soon saw all that was to be seen viz the 7 remaining Doric Columns of the Temple of [blank]. They appeared to me very ancient by their gamminess[?] or heavy style but Clarke considers this as a proof of their more modern construction tho' he don't say why. I cannot enter the lists against him on such a subject. The acropolis contains nothing ancient. After filling our stomachs with one kid and carrying away 2 others for provender we sailed at abt 11. There is one circumstance not mentioned I think by Clarke respecting the columns at Corinth which appears to me a proof of their high antiquity viz that they have the same kind of ornament below the capitals upon the shafts as those of the temples at Paestum, the 3 parallel lines cut in them.
Coast of the Morea (Peloponnese)
" "Full waving Corn", rich valleys, gentle slopes, dark green Foliage of woods, tremendous precipices, rugged mountains of a dark red tint, bright green vineyards spotted with little white cottages, all could not cure us"
In the evening the view of Corinth & the coast of the Morea became very agreeable, a fine diversified fertile plain backed by bold craggy rocks and distant Mountains purpled by the last rays of the setting Sun. Our land breeze failed in the morning so we landed and spent the day under the shade of a fine spreading Fig on the coast of the Morea. In the evening we again went on board and got a little wind from the land, the evening was beautifull & I don't think I ever saw any thing superior to the view. On the morning of the 4th we had advanced only 30 miles & began to feel a little ennui notwithstanding the beautifull scenery. It was a dead calm which ill suited our impatience to get away from the Levant. "Full waving Corn", rich valleys, gentle slopes, dark green Foliage of woods, tremendous precipices, rugged mountains of a dark red tint, bright green vineyards spotted with little white cottages, all could not cure us. We spent the 4th and part of the 5th in the same listlessness and apathy, so that notwithstanding the great heat of the Sun and in spite of my fever & of the Mal-aria I went ashore and walked in the morning of the latter day and was certainly paid in some degree for my pain. There were a great variety of shrubs & trees such as we rarely meet with at home. The Rhododendron in great quantity was in full Bloom & mixed most agreeably with the jagged leaved plane & many of our greenhouse plants which I don't know. The Myrtle growing in a great luxuriance scented the air powerfully & in short the whole not only felt but smelt like a hothouse and looked like a delicious shrubbery. The earth was flatt [sic] & swampy. I met with some Brobdingnag flies exactly like our common house flies except that they were about twenty times as large and some spiders to eat them of similar proportion. We went ashore again in the evening on the other side almost opposite Vostizza. Here some fishermen were taking sardinas, they have the reputation of taking other things sometimes being accused of piracy & thieving.
"[We] met the french Consul... the veriest[?] frenchman I ever came near, it did one's heart good to observe his perfect self complacency & vivacity, I wish I had a tenth part of his nonchalance"
On the 6th we at length arrived at Patras about noon. The appearance of which town on approaching it from the east is something like Smyrna and its interior has also some slight resemblance but it is not a tenth part so good a town. The Heat felt v oppressive, the inhabitants themselves complaining that it was greater than usual but the thermometer did not rise above 86. The Barometer varies so little here that the Consul imagined his instrument was out of order, but upon examining it & trying every means necessary to prove it I could not discover the Smallest defect. He had a myrtle in his courtyard about 50 ft high. We dined with our consul Mr [blank] on the 7th and met the french Consul M. [blank] the veriest[?] frenchman I ever came near, it did one's heart good to observe his perfect self complacency & vivacity, I wish I had a tenth part of his nonchalance. He took us to see some Roman mosaic pavement in his garden but knew nothing of its history and he said that some 20 or 30 years ago the Sea came up about ¼ mile nearer his house. The Inn is far worse than that at Constantinople.
In the evening we had to do that which I believe I may say with the strictest veracity was not the least disagreeable thing which we did since we met and that was to part. For myself, I had every thing to regret in loosing the society of Mr Davidson & Dr Coats. To the former I am particularly obliged & nothing will give me greater pleasure than to have an opportunity of shewing my lasting [?] of his disinterested kindness to me in Cyprus when we became acquainted only as fellow Countrymen. Having taken leave of our two excellent friends on board a brig in which they were to sail in the night for Zante & Malta, Mr Boggie & I returned to the same little vessell which we brot from Corinth with the intention of sailing at the same time for Corfu.
"a set of poor diseased slaves were just landed, they asked for 500 to 600 piastres for the Women & little Boys and 700 for the stouter boys"
On the quay of the town a set of poor diseased slaves were just landed, they asked for 500 to 600 piastres for the Women & little Boys and 700 for the stouter boys. 2 of the women were very ill with the Fever and all were very scorbutic. At sun rise (8th) we again put to sea in our little dirty crazy vessell & with our cowardly salt Greeks (greeks are called in derision by the Catholics salt because they are baptized in salt water). As the voyage presented nothing very striking I shall merely copy my notes made in my sketch book.
- Weather calm. At noon landed near the NW cape (the Araxum promontory) of the Morea & bathed. The difference of temperature in water near the shore and that further out so great that in walking in it appeared at first quite like a warm bath. The Air too on shore was very remarkably more hot than at a short distance at Sea. Sailed in evening & anchored again in a Shallow bay of Carnia. Some fishermen were taking fish with a sort of volute formed of nets and poles something like a labyrinth. The quantity of fish taken here is said to be very great.
(9th) Sailed & stood for a point in the South of Cephalonia but a gale came in from NW which obliged us to return and anchor for we could not weather Oxia.
(10th) Stood for south point of Oxia which we weathered with great difficulty and kept at sea all night. It blew very hard, vessell very crazy & leaked much.
"went ashore and were received by the English Governor, Commander & garrison all comprised in a raw scotch private of the 75th"
Santa Maura (Lefkada)
(11th) At Sun rise had in sight Zante, Cephalonia, Ithake (Ithaca) &c. Wind moderate. At abt 2 the wind from NW returned with great violence so were obliged to put into a cove of the little Island of [?] and went ashore and were received by the English Governor, Commander & garrison all comprised in a raw scotch private of the 75th, were conducted to his pallace of marble (i.e. a cottage of marble loose stones) of which the island is constructed, received a present of his ration of bread (for ours had failed) & some pears, and returned 2 or 3 pairs of old breeches and an [?] of indian stuff for the lady governess &c.
(12th) Sailed at day break. At 1PM anchd in a cove of Sta Maura. Construction of the island all marble. Bathed. The Winds are said to blow hereabouts almost constantly from N & to calm or blow lightly from S at midnight, this was both our experience and our vexation. Sailed at Sun Set.
(13th) At day break found ourselves at a considerable distance W of Sta Maura. Had no compass on board except my landneedle. Dead calm. Rowed all day. In evening got sight of Paxo & (indistinctly) of Corfu. Sailed all night.
(14th) At day break had made very little progress. Abt noon a fresh breeze sprung up from SW & S which soon carried us past Antipaxo & Paxo. The town of the latter as we passed it at abt ½ mile distance looked very well, being seated in a little bay backed by woody hills & well cultivated land. Observed with much pleasure our national flag hoisted at the port. Land for cultivation held up by walls as at Malta. The island alltogether strikingly different from all the other barren rocky islands we had passed since leaving Patras.
Met hereabouts an English sloop of war, the [blank] cruising for Pirates & soon afterwards heard a heavy discharge of guns from her. Passed Parga. Could see very distinctly the fortifications & house of the Governor [blank]. Quarterly review quite correct in saying that no such things occurred as stated by the greek author of [blank] respecting the digging up of old bones &c by the inhabitants on quitting their republic.
"Found the best mess to be a couple of fowls cut up, half a dozen large onions, 2 or 3 Cucumbers, a few potatoes, a few love apples... lots of pepper & a due proportion of Salt, all stewed together for about two hours"
During this voyage we had no servants and were obliged to cook for ourselves. Found the best mess to be a couple of fowls cut up, half a dozen large onions, 2 or 3 Cucumbers, a few potatoes, a few love apples (when we could get them), lots of pepper & a due proportion of Salt, all stewed together for about two hours. This in fact had been our daily standing dish at Sea ever since we left Cyprus, we never tired of it in the course of the whole 6 weeks & our drink was nothing but Lemonade.
The Breeze continued all night and carried us safely into the Harbour of Corfu at day break of the 15th, which day we spent in attempts to procure some mitigation of our quarantine thru the influence of Mr B's friends here high in office. But our attempts were not only fruitless, we learned that we were the first who would have to remain in douane ville 21 days instead of the usual time of 15 on account of the Vessells at Patras coming from Constantinople. So all we had for it was to make up our minds to a philosophical retirement in the quarantine island, and having provided a guardiano (i.e. a sort of nursery man who was never to see us out of his sight as an Irishman might say) we came here on the morning of the 16th and here we have been ever since (16 days) (31st).
"Then we do odd jobs such as cut our nails or bite them. Then we rest a little from our labours"
The history of one day will serve for that of the whole of our time. A little before Sun rise we tumble out of bed and into the Sea. Then we finish our morning sleep. Then we sometimes shave. Then we breakfast on Water melons, Honey & Tea. Then we gravely discuss points of all sorts but chiefly those relating to human vanity and political economy. Then we gape a little. Then we read or write a little. Then we do odd jobs such as cut our nails or bite them. Then we rest a little from our labours. Then we bathe again (I can swim exactly double the distance that I could on our arrival). Then we attack the stew (we drink no wine). Then we retire to the drawing room viz the courtyard and smoke whilst a Frenchman gives us a stave or two. Then we hear the nine o clock gun fired, set our watches, blott [sic] out a day from our almanacks [sic] & calmly resign ourselves to the dominionship of Morpheus or the fleas.
We have been lately in daily expectation of having for our next door neighbour Ali Pasha whose proceedings against his master you will have heard of. His character and fortune seem now to be equally desperate and it is supposed that if he can effect his escape with a little treasure to Corfu he will be very lucky. Preparations are making for his reception here in the Lazaretto but they say his head will be sent to Constantinople by his own soldiers. I suppose you have heard the ridiculous story that his offense to the porte arose from his having sent as a present to the Grande Signore a box of pretended jewels which was manufactured at Vienna & which when opened was to have exploded some curious combustible matter which was to blow Constantinople to the devil at once, & that suspecting some trick the Grande Sigr sent it out of the town with a few soldiers to try an experiment by opening it there which had such compleat success that they were all blown to Mohammed according to theory.
Old Lazaretto Venice Sep 8th 1820
Be so good as to take particular precautions to keep my poor journal out of the Squirrel's claws for being by nature you know a very mischievous little animal and fond of nuts there would otherwise be very great danger of his pulling it to pieces to come at them, but being moreover a learned squirrel what direfull [sic] consequences might not be anticipated when he found it to contain verry little beside a mere diary of personal occurrences in a tour through Greece &c.
We were released from the Lazaretto island at Corfu on the 1st of August and proceeded immediately to thank Coll Brown (W[?] B's friend) for having procured us a mitigation of 5 days of our quarantine. He, Coll Irvine, & Capn Cadell are the only 3 officers who remain of the 22nd regiment as it existed in the peninsular, all the others have been killed with the exception of one or two who died natural deaths. Our quarters at the Inn tho' not good were far superior to anything we had been accustomed to for a long time & when we had comfortably established ourselves there began to feel a little Civilized. The next day (2nd) we went over the fortifications with Capn Cadell. They are strong enough for the salt Greeks or any enemy likely to attempt anything against them I suppose but cut a very poor figure now compared with what they once were. On the land side they are almost dismantled as being old fashioned and useless. The Views from there are sometimes verry picturesque and the country is said to be most beautifull, but unprovided with roads except in the immediate vicinity of the Town viz about 2 miles. I had more desire to get to Venice than to visit it. We then took a walk through the town of which the principal ornament is the new Pallace now building. Whilst the original pure Doric style is adhered to strictly it is I think elegant, but the curved wings where some of the Columns no longer serve a definite usefull purpose but are merely ornamental almost spoil it & the Doric is not my taste for a pallace. The Hall of the Knights in the interior is also very chaste & pretty as long as the Ionic order is strictly preserved but almost spoilt by a variation from it in the bases of the columns. The Citadel & old pallace & the square or parade are much better than I expected to find anything in these parts. The rest of the town is very poor & shabby, scarcely a good house to be found, it is improving but still remains very Greek. In the evening we were much amused by the Promenade & the Band, all the young ladies appeared very pretty to us but it is said they are not remarkably so. A traveller ought for manifest reasons to suffer his first impressions on arriving in a place to explode a little before he sums up his judgement on the female charms of a town. The European Dress both of Males & Females is imitated by almost all of the middle & better class and they would imitate our manners too if they could get rid of a few "absurd prejudices".
On the 3rd we dined with the officers of the 22nd by Coll Brown's invitation and were regaled with as good a dinner as the place could afford and some excellent music. The provisions of Meat all come from the Albanian Shore. On the 4th we dined again at the same Mess with Capn Cadell & in the evening walked with him to the One gun battery near which he shewed us some mosaic pavement (I think part of some baths) in an old trench. There is some of the same kind but not containing figures on the Lazaretto Island close to the Sea and in excavations exactly resembling ancient baths. I spent the 4th & 5th principally in the Garrison Library where I was much amused with the english review &c. It was verry refreshing to get a little litterary & public news from home. I long very much to read poor Burckhardt's travels &c & the letters of Capn Mangles who I dare say from the acquaintance I had with him at Athens gives an ungarnished faithfull relation of his & Capn Irby's proceedings in Egypt &c. He seems to have a thorough relish for excavating, he says he wants to have another dig very much. I saw here with great pleasure the announcement of Hugh's Marriage. In wishing him lots of young yankeys I suppose I am wishing the best I possibly can for him. -
On the 7th I embarked on board a Trabaccolo for Venice to encounter the worst and I hope the last voyage (except that from Holland) which I have ever yet made or am to make before reaching home. Provi[?] would not let me escape from the east without a taste of what I might have had from her by way of inspiring due respect for her forbearance, which sentiment[?] I hope I really entertain. I had now to part with the last of my Indian Friends Mr Boggie, who intended to wait the arrival of Sir Thos Maitland the Governor with whom he had business. I shall never meet with a friend more indulgent & more open & sincere in every thing he said and did & I don't think either of us will easily forget our quarantine discussions, our greek voyages & our chicken stews. I cannot help thinking that I have been extreemly fortunate hitherto in all my travelling acquaintance & am Confirmed in the opinion that Lord Byron & his cast in parting with their respect for men part with much happiness, you may call it a delusive happiness if you will, we won't dispute about words. But which system is the most philosophical, that of Lord Byron or that of Sterne[?]?
On the 8th we had got out of the Harbour & lied in a dead Calm off Porto Palermo having in View the islands of Corfu, Samota, Merlere & Fano. On the 9th a strong NW breeze sprung up & in the evening we came in View of the Cape & Monastery of Sta Maria & a castle or tower of Otranto; not the castle, Walpole's castle is founded in the Air. We saw a great many shooting stars to W, they generally went horizontally but sometimes seemed to me to shoot rather upwards. All the 10th & part of the 11th the wind blew in a Hurricane & we were at last obliged to run for Porto Palermo, but as we approached the Albanian Shore it calmed a little & we were beating about scarcely knowing what to do on the 12th when we saw 2 other sails proceeding Westward, which inspired our Captain with fresh courage & we again faced the breeze. In short the 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th & 17th were spent in buffeting these NW gales & in sometimes the most ennuyant calms off the island of Saseno and its neighbourhood, and it was not until the evening of the 17th that as we lied in one of these calms off Dulcigno a favourable breeze reached us out of the gulph of Ludrino, but it lasted only a few hours. We saw this evening a remarkably brilliant Meteor or falling star, it illuminated the Vessell like a very vivid flash of lightning and left a luminous track behind it which lasted at least half a minute. As it vanished it grew wavey thus . The course of the meteor was exactly parallel to the 2 pointers of the North Star and verry near, the length of the course was I think about 3 times the distance of the pointers from each other.
Page of Sir Francis' journal describing his voyage up the Adriatic Sea to Venice
"the wind shifted about in all directions... we were driven about wholly at their furious will... The Lightning formed... one continuous blaze, darting every instant most vivid... streams into the sea all around us & the thunder was not inaudible"
On the 18th we arrived off Budua & the Bocche di Cattaro. In the evening about 8 a thunder storm gathered in the mountains which was accompanied by a spanking[?] Southerly breeze which lasted a few hours and was succeeded by a Sirocco (SE) which lasted all might. On the 19th at Sun rise we found ourselves off the SE end of the island of Meleda, at abt 10 the wind changed to E & at noon we reached the W end, distant at abt 10 miles from shore. At 10 we arrived off the middle of Agosta on S side, distant 5 miles it appeared very barren and constructed of marble of trap formation. Soon afterwards we passed close to a small island or rock very near to the little island called Cazza where the trap formation was extreemly perfect. Our Captain told me that all the Islands in this part of the gulph are of marble of similar forms. Towards sun set we approached near to Lissa (only half of our voyage being yet compleated).
At about midnight the most tremendous storm of Thunder came over us that I ever witnessed. Its approach was announced by an arch of dense clouds expanding as its distance lessened & the wind shifted about in all directions. But we were very lucky in having our sails all doused and every thing prepared for action for during the storm we were driven about wholly at their furious will, sometimes eastward, sometimes Northward, sometimes Southward; we only feared however that we were rather too much embarrassed amongst the islands. The Lightning formed as it were one continuous blaze, darting every instant most vivid flashes or rather streams into the sea all around us & the thunder was not inaudible. These pretty little fire works and gales of wind amused us until about 4 in the morning when a hard shower of rain dissipated the fury and our anxieties, & having trimmed the Virgin's lamp & thanked the little gentleman in her arms for his merciful protection "addressed ourselves to sleep again" happy in finding that the storm had not robbed us of our Sirocco.
At day break on the 20th we found that it had given us a lift as far as Zuri[?] nearly. At abt 10 we were menaced with a second performance but it proved to be only an after piece. Some great black clouds collected in the E and came dancing[?] up to us grumbling & growling as they came like hungry lions so we doused our sails again and waited in a deathlike calm their approach, during which time a very large & beautifull Water-spout at about 10 Miles distance gave me an opportunity of seeing in great perfection the whole progress of the phenomenon & I got out my sketch book. Fig 1 is its beginning, Fig 2 its maturity, Fig 3 its form when it began to decline, and it terminated in the form of Fig 4. Our captain said that these Trombi are very common in the Adriatic. The storm passed to NE without bestowing any of its favours upon us.
Our Captain (a much more intelligent and stout headed fellow than many of his country men (Italians) or almost any greek sailors I think) says that these storms verry frequently occur in these parts when a Sirocco (SE wind) begins after a Maestro NW, for he says that the hot Sirocco meeting the colder Maestro causes the dense[?] clouds and thunder. This theory is perfectly consonant with Volta's & Howard's & seems to me reasonable enough for the Sirocco here after traversing an immense expanse of Sea is found to contain a very large quantity of water which its high temperature enables it to hold in solution, & the natural consequences of its meeting with a much colder wind must be the precipitation in the form of clouds of a very large proportion of its water, & this precipitation or condensation is proved by Volta to cause the production of electric signs of a tension proportionate to the rapidity of the condensation and the quantity of water condensed. At Palermo in Sicily the Sirocco is very dry (that is, it does not contain so much water as it is capable of holding in solution) but it arrives there after passing over arid mountains where I suppose it deposits some of its moisture by a process with which I am not yet acquainted. Mountains are said to attract Clouds. That they are found on their summits or exist there in greater abundance than in other places don't[?] require proof but how is this fact to be accounted, for electricity does not seem to me a sufficient power because it acts at but small distances when not accumulated in verry great tension, & besides how does it become accumulated in the air at all previous to the formation of clouds, or how can we account for its accumulation at all in the mountains before the formation of clouds. You may recollect that I made some experiments on Atmospheric Electricity at Palermo some time ago and I think them rather curious as their results deviate a little from such as we obtain in England, but they explain nothing new.
We passed this day the Cornati islands and got a view of the town of Zara. On the 21st we passed Sansego, Lusin, Mount Ossero, the Premantura and Pola but were too distant from the latter place to distinguish either the Amphitheatre or Temple. On the morning of the 22nd we came in sight of the steeples of St Mark's at Venice and at about 10 entered by the passage for small vessells this curious & I may say totally pleasurable city. Soon afterwards we were lodged safely in the old Lazaretto where we have been ever since scarcely vegetating but it is rather more tolerable than that of Corfu to me because I can get newspapers & Books. My Companions de Voyage & here are A Greek student going to Padua, a Greek doctor of Laws (an old obstinate fool), a Merchant, and a Puppet shew man (who acts in capacity of servant to me) & his wife & 2 squalling[?] children. On Sunday the 10th I quit the state of a Grub and took my flight once more amid the flowers of civilized Europe. Farewell.