Called at Chios, and arrived at Smyrna about 12 oclock. It appears that we might have remained aboard until arrival of steamer for Beyrout; but we went ashore to the Deux Auguste Hotel: and did not like the appearance of things at first; but the dinner was pretty good, and then things looked brighter. Our first impression of the town was disappointing; but I understand that all Eastern towns are the same in this respect. The streets are narrow and the pavement is horrible. The shops are small and dark and generally open to the street. The Bazaar is something like our Arcade, only dingier and dirtier. The shopmen are principally Greeks.
The population is very mixed and consists of Greeks, Turks and a considerable mixture of French and English. French is spoken more than English; but most of the respectable inhabitants speak all four languages: and I have, many a time, felt our deficiency as a nation, and of myself in particular, in this respect. Smyrna is badly drained, and in many places the sewers are open to the street; and you may tumble into them without any trouble if you are so minded! The stinks are very bad - and numerous too towards evening. The smelly oil on fried fish is shocking in the poor streets. The houses are much alike in structure; but the streets have a very irregular appearance, for they have no system in building, and allow the folks to do much as they like. Owing to the sameness and crookedness, it is difficult for a stranger to find his way about!
I hired a dragoman belonging to the Hotel; but did not get much satisfaction out of him. He was more desirous to get us to buy things, on which, no doubt he got a commission, than to show us the place. There is nothing of remarkable interest here; but some things are worth seeing. Camels are almost the only means of transport. They carry about 700 lbs wt; and in walking along the streets almost fill them up. The reason for having no carts is obvious: the roads are too narrow and the pavement too bad. This cause brings another class of carrier into operation, viz. men porters. They have a huge pad, shaped to their backs and projecting outwards at the bottom: and on this they carry enormous weights - from 300 lbs to 400 lbs, and go trudging along without shaking. I am told the poor fellows break down after only a few years work - and that is easy to believe.
The Churches and Mosques are not notably fine; but incongruity and bad taste mark them all. For instance, a colonnade with beautiful Corinthian columns having a miserable whitewashed affair for its base; and, internally, splendid chandeliers, gaudy decorations, and a ragged old wooden floor. I did not enter a mosque, but saw them worshipping, taking off their shoes before entering, and bowing half down, and then to the ground, several times before entering. We made an excursion to the Acropolis, the ruins of an ancient castle on a hill above the town. We went on a donkey, and had to pay 12? each for them. The views are fine from the summit; and Smyrna certainly looks better from a distance, showing a number of green trees dotted about it, and the narrowness and dirtiness of the streets not being observable from a distance. We were shown, in the distance, one of the 7 Churches referred to by St John, and saw what is said to be Polycarp's grave. It is an ugly mud enclosure, and has a cypress growing from one side of it which had some of the roots exposed. These were covered with bits and tapes and rags which are tied round it by the poor people in the faith that they would be well and preserved from harm while the tapes are there. Close by, a poor Turk woman with a little child was crouched, and was there to be made well from some weakness. Our donkeys did well, and carried us safely up and down hill. They are, some of them, nice creatures, and worth from 5 to £15.
The first night at Smyrna I was frightened of mosquitoes, and, although covered by a net, remained awake in expectation - and had the satisfaction of downing a few; but all fears were unnecessary, for I never felt a bite all the time here, although I discovered a few marks.
Wandered about with the dragoman, and called on Mr Gineaud. Went home with him, by rail, about 6 miles. Country around very pleasant, but for want of grass, of which there is some green only in spring. They are now suffering from want of rain, and say it is 7 months since they had any. Gineaud's house is a pleasant double building, with a large hall, which appears to be a general living room in these parts. Did not go into other rooms; remained about hour and returned to Smyrna and Hotel.