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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

Illustration The Baku Oil Wells


Rostoff

stands at the head of the Delta of the Don, a position of great strategical importance, where of course the Russians have not failed to build strong fortifications. These were begun as early as 1761. Now very active ship-building yards are found here, and extensive caviare factories. Leather, wool, corn, soap, ropes and tobacco are also exported, and the place, apart from its military importance, is steadily growing commercially. The majority of shops seem to deal chiefly in American and German made agricultural implements, machinery and tools, and in firearms and knives of all sizes and shapes. The place is not particularly clean and certainly hot, dusty and most unattractive. One is glad to get into the train again and steam away from it.

As we get further South towards the Caucasus the country grows more barren and hot, the dust is appalling, but the types of inhabitants at the little stations become very picturesque. The Georgians are very fine people and the Armenians too, in appearance at least. The station sheds along the dusty steppes are guarded by soldiers, presumably to prevent attacks on the trains, and as one gets near the Caspian one begins to see the wooden pyramids over oil wells, and long freight trains of petroleum carried in iron cylindrical tanks. The wells get more numerous as we go along; the stations more crowded with petroleum tanks. We are nearing the great naphtha wells of Baku, where at last we arrive, having travelled

from Tuesday to Sunday afternoon, or five days, except a few hours' halt in Kiev, Kharkoff and Rostoff.

[Illustration: The Baku Oil Wells.]

The first-class railway fare from Warsaw for the whole journey was fully covered by a five-pound note, and, mind you, could have been done cheaper if one chose to travel by slower trains on a less direct route!

CHAPTER III

Baku--Unnecessary anxiety--A storm--Oil wells--Naphtha spouts--How the wells are worked--The native city--The Baku Bay--Fortifications--The Maiden's Tower--Depressing vegetation--Baku dust--Prosperity and hospitality--The Amir of Bokhara--The mail service to Persia on the Caspian--The Mercury and Caucasus line--Lenkoran--Astara (Russo-Persian boundary)--Antiquated steamers.

So many accounts are heard of how one's registered baggage in Russia generally arrives with locks smashed and minus one's most valuable property, and how unpunctual in arriving luggage is, and how few passengers escape without having their pockets picked before reaching their destination--by the way, a fellow-passenger had his pockets picked at the station of Mineralnya Vod--that I was somewhat anxious to see my belongings again, and fully expected to find that something had gone wrong with them. Much to my surprise, on producing the receipt at the very handsome railway terminus, all my portmanteaux and cases were instantly delivered in excellent condition.


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