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Departure from Jaffa-Flying Fish-Syra---Cape Colonna--Temple of Minerva Sunias- The
Piræus-Omnibuses-Athens-View of the Parthenon-Present Condition of the City--Sir Edmund Lyons-Society-King Otho-Bavarian Government–The New Palace-Its CostThe Greek Loan-Destruction of the Pentelic Quarries-Climate of Athens-Accommodation for Invalids--Means of Access-Fossil Beds of Pikermi- Visit to Marathon-Mr. Finlay
His Paper on the Battle--Arrow-heads--Their Similarity to Irish--Varna-LeosheaReturn to Athens-Easter-The Greek Church-Christian Salutation-Romaie DanceMissionaries--Schools --The English Church Hospitals-Museum-Proceed to the MoreaNapoli di Romania-Tyrinthus-Tomb of Agamemnon--Mycena--Its Lions-Architecture Argos-Geological Appearance-Gibraltar-Advantages of Yachting-Return to Ireland.
On leaving Jaffa it blew a gale of wind, during which numbers of flying fish came aboard. It was then evident to all who observed the flight of these curious little animals, that, although they cannot, as some writers have stated, stop and turn back in their flight, they yet possess the power of making a considerable curve, nearly half a circle either to the right hand or to the left, in their transit through the air.
We arrived at Cyprus on the 28th, but finding that the plague had just broken out there, proceeded on our course to the bay of Symi, in Asia Minor, where we remained till the weather moderated
On the 2nd of April we made the Grecian Archipelago, and cast anchor on the 4th at Syra, the Liverpool of modern regenerated Greece. The island of Syra is picturesque, but barren ; the town is not unlike Jaffa, being built on a conical hill, which is covered to the very summit with white-washed buildings, and crowned by a monastery. Below this, the town spreads out along the water's edge, where the crowds of busy traders, the number of boats lading and unlading and the mul
THE GRECIAN ISLANDS.
titude of sailors and porters that swarm on the wharfs and landing-places, tell of the rising condition, and commercial importance of this flourishing place. The harbour is one of the best in Greece, and generally exhibits a vast assemblage of the vessels of nearly every nation trading in the Mediterranean. There is a good light-house and safe anchorage.
The streets of the town are narrow, and the houses small and dirty; yet the number of shops, stalls, and bazaars, and the several happy faces that you meet in your walks through the town, speak, if not of wealth, at least of comfort and comparative independence.
I know of no place that has risen so rapidly as this. Its population in 1838 was above 21,000, though, but ten years before, it did not reach 6,000. The port is free; and all the steamers that ply in this portion of the Levant touch here. Not the least important item of the daily increasing trade of Syra is its pigs, which are the very finest I have seen out of Ireland.
We left Syra the next morning for Athens ; but, owing to the baffling winds and partial calms that are met with among the numerous islands of this sea, we were in the evening but a short distance from the place we had left. At day-break next morning we were roused by the welcome information, that we were within a short distance of Cape Colonna. The cold, thin, morning air was just beginning to usher in the dawn as we descended the vessel's side, and proceeded in our boat to visit the ruins of the famed temple of Minerva Sunias, that crowns the summit of this bare, steep, and rocky promontory. Standing, as it does, so lone and drear above that wild and sea-washed shore, it forms one of the most awakening objects that Greece presents, to remind us of her by-gone days and glory; and it is still as noted a land-mark to the modern mariner, as in other times it was to the steersman of the trireme. Independent of its classic associations, it will be ever memorable to the Englishman, as the scene of “Falconer's Shipwreck.” The hour at which we visited it, was one seldom chosen by the traveller ; but one that, although piercingly cold, we had no cause to regret, for all around us was in unison with the feelings the place called up. The sea remained a perfect mirror ; and the birds of the ocean had not yet risen on the wing to skim its placid waters, or disturb the silence and solemnity of the moment by their fishing song.
ining the its site affordround us.
The sun rose almost directly behind the noble cluster of white marble columns that still remain, until his broad disk appeared a crown of burnished gold above its head. We spent an hour or two in examining the ruins, and enjoying the glorious and exciting prospect which its site affords of that island-studded ocean, that lay stretched beneath and around us.
The same weather as that of yesterday succeeded, alternate calms and breezes, so that at night-fall we were still some leagues from our destination. This day was the anniversary of the revolution of Greece, and we could hear the firing of cannon, and the rejoicing of its people on all sides. At night a thousand lights sprung up around us, and the whole sea became illuminated, from the numerous bonfires on the different islands. There was one in particular that had the grandest and most imposing effect; it was a series of lights placed in the form of a cross, on the side of Mount Anchesmus that faces the city of Athens, and which, owing to the clearness of the night, was perfectly visible to us even at that distance.
We entered the harbour of the Piræus early next morning, and “ brought up” among a large fleet of the Austrian, English, Russian, and French navies, besides some small Greek brigs and corvettes.
We found the port of Athens in a much more thriving condition than accounts had led us to expect. Several good houses have sprung up, with the usual accompaniments of stores and wine-shops ; besides a handsome building lately erected for a military college. One of the first objects that caught our attention on landing, was a stand of cars, hackney coaches, and several omnibuses, that ply from the port to the city. In one of these we set forward to Athens, upon a good level road that runs in nearly a direct line to the city; and for the most part, upon the site of the long walls of Pausanias, part of the foundations of which are still discoverable near the Piræus. The distance is about five miles, and the prospect during the entire way is most imposing ; for the Acropolis rises in monarchical grandeur in the centre, and every pillar of the Parthenon is clearly defined against the azure sky that forms the back-ground of the picture. On either side of the road is an extensive plain, watered by the streamlets of the Cephissus and Ilissus ; it is fast coming under cultivation, bearing some good crops of well-grown barley, and
several groves of olives, which yet remain, despite the desolating hand of Turkish tyranny and misrule, that had attempted to destroy them prior to the revolution.
We took up our quarters at the Hotel de France, and shortly after strolled out to inspect the antiquities, having for our cicerone, Mr. George Finlay, now a resident in Athens, than whom few possess more knowledge of the classic lore of ancient Greece, or, from actual observation and participation in it, are better acquainted with the late revolution, or the present condition of that country.
Notwithstanding its bad government, Athens continues to improve and to progress; its population is now nearly 20,000, though it was but 5,000 six or seven years ago. Alas! many of the sacred associations and illusive charms that surrounded the most refined city of the ancients, are dissolved by an inspection of the capital of modern Greece. To climb the acropolis, we must wade through the mud and dirt of narrow streets and lanes. The Lantern of Demosthenes is in the back yard of a miserable hovel ; and several of the finest specimens of architecture form the sides and gables of modern buildings. The streets are long, straggling, and irregular ; and it is very much to be regretted, that some plan has not been laid down for the construction of the new town, so as not to interfere with the remains of all that makes Athens valuable to the scholar, the traveller, or the antiquary. What an interesting object would not the Temple of the Winds form in one of the squares that may yet beautify the rising city; when the wretched houses that now obscure it and other like structures, shall very likely have to be purchased by a “ board of wide-street commissioners.”
With the antiquities of Athens I shall not trouble my readers. So many splendid works have been published on that subject; and so many proud names that note the genius and learning of our own countrymen, have gone before us, that unless he would plagiarise from the works of Stuart or Dodwell ; quote the accurate and critical Colonel Leake; or draw from the able sketches of the chaste and classical Mr. Wordsworth, little remains for the passing traveller to notice, except its present condition under its Bavarian government. Not that we did not visit every scene of interest ; make copious notes of its past purpose and present state ; and, in the enthusiasm of the place and hour, pen
down heroic and euphonious thoughts and reflections. But the page at which I have arrived, reminds me that I have already carried my readers over a long, and to some, perhaps a weary route ; but bear with me a little longer-we are on our way to England—to home; there to enjoy whatever of climate suited to invalids our summer months afford; and then we'll part, perhaps for ever.
We remained in Athens, altogether, about eight days. In the mornings we loitered among its ruins, or inquired into its present social condition ; and in the evenings enjoyed the society of some of our countrymen, or partook of the hospitality of our worthy minister-for all who come here, will find a cordial welcome at the residence of Sir E. Lyons; and few could enjoy the comforts of that elegant and social circle more than we did, after being so long estranged from all that makes the home and table of a Briton happy, no matter under what clime he may be placed. The ambassadors and representatives of foreign powers are by far the greatest personages in Athens; and their residences are the most splendid buildings in the city. In society, which is chiefly formed of those personages, and the few landed proprietors who may have settled in the vicinity of the city, the affairs of other countries and the intrigues of the several diplomatists are much more spoken of, than the affairs or prospects of Greece. But, besides these, Athens in general possesses a few enlightened travellers of different nations-artists, antiquaries, and men of letters; and nearly all the foreign residents are educated persons— well acquainted with the history, antiquities, and topography of their adopted country.
With the government of king Otho every party seemed dissatisfied, and apparently with great justice. But little good could be expected from the despotic administration of a stripling foreign monarch, who despises trade, and thinks that he is not only the state but the country; who acts as his own prime minister, and sits as president of the council that now governs Greece—and that assembly was, then at least, with one exception, composed entirely of foreigners! The Greeks naturally look with a jealous eye upon the Bavarian intruders, who they know will be preferred to any place of trust or emolument before themselves ; while the Bavarians in turn consider themselves as martyrs, who have risked their precious lives, and deserted their