National Geographic : 1923 May
EAST OF CONSTANTINOPLE Glimpses of Village Life in Anatolia, the Battleground of East and West, Where the Turks Reorganized Their Forces After the World War BY MELVILLE CHATER AUTHOR OF "THE LAND OF THE STALKING DEATH," IN THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE «^-(OME along into the Kemalist country with me," said my chauffeur friend, whom I had met by chance in Constantinople. "I'm starting tomorrow." "But there's a Greco-Turkish war on," I demurred. "How can I manage it?" "As my mechanic. Put on old overalls, smudge up your hands and face, and you'll get by." "What are you going in for?" My friend, who is in the service of an American relief organization, answered with a peculiar narrowing of the eyes, "To take in a can of axle grease to the Talas unit !" Now, such a mission seemed scarcely to justify a 400-mile trip into the interior of Anatolia, but I laughed and said nothing. After steaming two days up the Black Sea in a boat crammed with Turkish deck-passengers, who publicly washed and prayed, dozed on rugs, and munched dried fish, whittled off with clasp-knives, we anchored under Samsun's smiling hills and were ferried ashore in one of the sheep-lighters, whose bleating hordes were being hauled up our ship's side, six on a rope's end (see page 510). Our baggage, together with various tins of gasoline and lubricating oil, came through the customs after stiff payments. The Kemalists were taxing everything 333/ per cent ad valorem and were busily enforcing the Koran's dry law of 600 A. D. by confiscating all wines and liquors. I mean that kind of confiscation whereby a "tout" approaches you on the street next day, offering for sale the iden tical bottle of cognac that was taken from you on the pier. Decidedly, prohibition pays-in Anatolia. We applied for our vessikas (travel permits), then went for a stroll in the town. Though rather battered and insig- nificant at first sight, Samsun still boasts a commercial importance which was al ready established when its ancient site was known as Amisus and the district as Paphlagonia. It is the receiving port for the camel-trains which are constantly moving northward or southward across the 500 miles of naked country lying be tween the Black Sea and the Euphrates (see map, page 534). STREET SCENES IN SAMSUN Camels, donkeys, draft-oxen, as well as the representatives of half a dozen Ana tolian peoples, throng its cobbled ways. Here is the Turkish hamal (porter), his stupendous load resting on the peculiar saddle with which he is begirt and which marks him as a veritable beast of burden. Behind him lounge some Lazis, black turbaned and clad in black, skin-tight garments, fingering their long daggers and staring about them with a savage ferocity. Greek and Armenian girls are filing into the near-by tobacco factories. The traveling butcher-shop (a donkey bearing a kind of sandwich - board. whereon hang joints of meat) ambles past. The accompanying proprietor cuts off a meat sliver and tosses it to the Koran-reciting beggar asquat in the mud. Among other things, Samsun contains an American hospital, a Turkish swamp, and much malaria. Being new in the land, the hospital di rector zealously undertook to fill in the swamp, which lay within sight of his win dows. His act almost created a panic among the local officials, who ordered him to desist at once from filling in their swamp. He was given to understand that if it were filled in, there must necessarily be a discontinuance of the annual appro priation which for 30 years had been made for that special purpose.