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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

Alamut the old state prisons were formerly to be found


I

met on the road two fellows, one old and very dignified; the other young, and who spoke a little French. He informed me that they were both Princes. He called his friend "_Monsieur le Prince, mon ami_," and himself "_Monsieur le Prince, moi!_" which was rather amusing. He informed me that he was a high Customs official, and displayed towards his fellow countrymen on the road a great many qualities that revealed a very mean native indeed.

The elder one wore carpet slippers to which he had attached--I do not know how--an enormous pair of golden spurs! He was now returning from Russia. He was extremely gentleman-like and seemed very much annoyed at the behaviour of his companion. He begged me to believe that not all men in Persia were like his friend, and I quite agreed with him.

We travelled a great portion of the road together, and the old fellow was extremely civil. He was very well informed on nearly all subjects, and had belonged to the army. He pointed out to me the important sights on the road, such as Mount Janja (7,489 ft.) to the East.

After passing Rudbar (665 ft.) the road is mostly in narrow gorges between mountains. It is rocky and arid, with hardly any vegetation. The river has to be crossed by the new bridge, a handsome and solid structure, and we arrive at the village of Menjil or Menzil. The Russian station-house is the most prominent structure. Otherwise all

is desert and barren. Grey and warm reddish tints abound in the dried-up landscape, and only a few stunted olive groves relieve the scenery with some vegetable life.

CHAPTER VII

Menzil and the winds--The historical Alamut mountain--A low plateau--Volcanic formation--Mol-Ali--A genuine case of smallpox--Characteristic sitting posture--A caravan of mules--Rugged country--The remains of a volcanic commotion--The old track--Kasvin, the city of misfortunes--The Governor's palace and palatial rest house--Earthquakes and famine--_Kanats_, the marvellous aqueducts--How they are made--Manufactures--Kasvin strategically.

Perhaps Menzil should be mentioned in connection with the terrific winds which, coming from the north-east and from the south, seem to meet here, and blow with all their might at all times of the year. The traveller is particularly exposed to them directly above the river course on crossing the bridge. Menzil is celebrated for these winds, which are supposed to be the worst, in all Persia, but unpleasant as they may be to any one who has not experienced worse, they are merely gentle breezes as compared, for instance, with the wind storms of the Tibetan plateau. To the east there is a very mountainous region, the Biwarzin Yarak range, or Kuse-rud, averaging from 6,000 to 7,000 ft.; further north a peak of 7,850 ft., and south-west of the Janja, 7,489 ft., the high Salambar, 11,290 ft. On the historical Mt. Alamut the old state prisons were formerly to be found, but were afterwards removed to Ardebil.


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