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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

One calls Enzeli a port pour facon de parler


The

hurricane having abated there was a prospect of a fair voyage and the probability of landing at Enzeli in Persia, so when the Tuesday came I went on board the old rickety paddle-steamer (no less than forty-five years old) which was to convey me to that port. She was one of the Mercury-Caucasus Co. fleet, and very dirty she was, too.

It is perhaps right to mention that for the first time in Russia, purposeless rudeness and insolence came to my notice on the part of the ticket officials of the Mercury line. They behaved like stupid children, and were absolutely incompetent to do the work which had been entrusted to them. They were somewhat surprised when I took them to task and made them "sit up." Having found that they had played the fool with the wrong man they instantly became very meek and obliging. It is nevertheless a great pity that the Mercury Company should employ men of this kind who, for some aim of their own, annoy passengers, both foreign and Russian, and are a disgrace to the Company and their country.

On board ship the captain, officers and stewards were extremely civil. Nearly all the captains of the Caspian steamers were Norwegian or from Finland, and were jolly fellows. The cabins were very much inhabited, so much so that it was difficult to sleep in them at all. Insects so voracious and in such quantities and variety were in full possession of the berths, that they gave one as lively a night

as it is possible for mortals to have. Fortunately the journey was not a long one, and having duly departed at midnight from Baku I reached Lenkoran the next day, with its picturesque background of mountains and thickly-wooded country. This spot is renowned for tiger-shooting.

Our next halt was at Astara, where there were a number of wooden sheds and drinking saloons,--a dreadful place, important only because on the Perso-Russian boundary line formed by the river of the same name. We landed here a number of police officers, who were met by a deputation of some fifty Persian-looking men, who threw their arms round their necks and in turn lustily kissed them on both cheeks. It was a funny sight. When we got on board again after a couple of hours on shore the wind rose and we tossed about considerably. Another sleepless night on the "living" mattress in the bunk, and early in the morning we reached the Persian port of Enzeli.

CHAPTER IV

The Port of Enzeli--Troublesome landing--Flat-bottomed boats--A special permit--Civility of officials--Across the Murd-ap lagoon--Piri-Bazaar--A self-imposed golden rule--Where our stock came from--The drive to Resht--The bazaar--The native shops and foreign goods--Ghilan's trade--The increase in trade--British and Russian competitions--Sugar--Tobacco--Hotels--The British Consulate--The Governor's palace--H.E. Salare Afkham--A Swiss hotel--Banks.

One calls Enzeli a "port" _pour facon de parler_, for Persia has no harbours at all on the Caspian sea. Enzeli, Meshed-i-Sher or Astrabad, the three principal landing places on the Persian coast, have no shelter for ships, which have to lie a good distance out at sea while passengers and cargo are transhipped by the Company's steam launch or--in rough weather--by rowing boats. In very rough weather it is impossible to effect a landing at all, and--this is a most frequent occurrence on the treacherous Caspian--after reaching one's journey's end one has to go all the way back to the starting point and begin afresh. There are people who have been compelled to take the journey four or five times before they could land, until the violent storms which often rage along the Persian coast had completely subsided and allowed the flimsy steam-launch at Enzeli to come out to meet the steamers, lying about a mile outside.


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