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Wednesday, October 22nd 2014, 5:09pm

By dan

1842: Journal of a Steam Voyage ..., Kustenje, Czernavoda, Robert Snow, Constanta, Cernavoda, Dobrogea

1842: Journey ... Kustendje

Quoted from "Journal..."

Tuesday, August 10.
At six in the morning the steamer reached Silistria, the capital of Bulgaria,
and between ten and eleven o'clock we arrived at Czernavoda. Czernavoda is a miserable-looking Bulgarian village, and does not afford the slightest accommodation for travellers. The Bulgarian banks of the river are generally rocky, and the neighbouring country wild, open, and arid. The Wallachian side is a dead flat of great extent, and a very unhealthy district.

The thermometer stands at 95 in the shade, and this is the temperature we have been subjected to all the way from Orsova. There is a fine breeze blowing all day, but so drying that crumb of bread exposed to it becomes in half an hour as crisp as biscuit. One of our fellow-passengers, an English gentleman, brought out his gun ; he allowed me to take a shot with it, and I killed one of the small species of river gull ; the bird fell into the 'stream, and a Bulgarian instantly stripped and plunged in after it.

We observed that he struck with his arms as a dog strikes with his fore legs in swimming. In the meantime the steamer was being unloaded of its heavy baggage, which was packed on small wagons, each drawn by two oxen, and immediately forwarded overland to Kustanje. Several large falcons were hovering about the rocks, with now and then a flight of storks floating at a great height in the air. Some vultures, too, made their appearance over the brow of the hill, evidently, together with some wolf-like dogs, watching a Bulgarian skinning and cutting up a sheep that had just been killed on the shore.

Turkish boys swimming in the Danube, elder Turks performing their ablutions, and engaged in noon-day prayer with their faces turned tovards Mecca, with the animated and busy scene of unloading the steamer, all under the beautifully blue sky and splendid sunshine.

In the evening we all went on shore, and amused ourselves in various directions with guns, sketch-books, and whatever means we had, or could invent, of passing the time agreeably until dusk, when we returned to our steamer to sleep.

At Czernavoda we bade farewell to the Danube, after a voyage down its stream of about 1200 miles, performed on the wings of steam in twenty-six days, including seven days spent at Vienna, five at Pesth, and four at Orsova, so that we were ten days and nights on board.

The Danube is of very nearly the same size as the Ganges, and is the largest river in Europe except the Volga. Its tributaries are not less than an hundred in number, of which a fourth part are navigable rivers. Throughout its whole course, from the Black Forest to the Black Sea, it is distinguished by classical and historical associations, although most of these are of a less peaceful character than might beseem the annals of a river.

Above Vienna its banks present the most beautiful and varied scenery imaginable ; and there is something in the very rapidity of the stream, and the overpowering succession of objects during the first two days of the downward voyage from Ratisbon, that fills the mind with an agreeable perplexity, as if a lovely vision had passed away, upon which it was delightful to dwell. Below Vienna the interest in no respect falls off, and the scenes which at intervals present themselves are among the most striking to be found in Europe, replete with subject-matter and imagery for the artist and poet.

There is also a gloomy grandeur, and a peculiar sublimity in the vast solitary tracts of swamp and forest on the banks of this mighty river ; regions ceded by man to the dominion of marsh exhalations, and to the mosquito, who says,
"My name is Legion."

Wednesday, August 11.
Early in the morning I took a farewell swim in the Danube,
and at six o'clock we left Czernavoda for Kustenje, in light carriages, each drawn by four horses, driven by a postilion.

The luggage had been forwarded overnight by one of the bullock-wains. Czernavoda is rather more than forty miles from Kustenje, and we went the whole distance with the same horses, stopping three times, twice for a very few minutes, and once for an hour and a half. The whole journey was performed in less than seven hours, including the stoppages.

The horses were small and active, and were driven at a gallop nearly all the tvay. They did not appear to suffer in the least from the pace, or from the heat of the sun, and arrived quite fresh at Kustenje. There was no regularly made road, and our route lay over an undulating prairie country, such as I had never seen before, frequently without a bush or a tree within sight.

The soil was light and sandy, with coarse grass, thistles, and brushwood. We noticed a great quantity of different sorts of birds ; vultures, large hawks, storks, and some birds not unlike partridges ; and on some swampy, unhealthy-looking lakes which we passed there were multitudes of pelicans, beautifully white in the morning sun, with wild ducks, geese, coots, bitterns, and herons, and great quantities of the common plover.

We also passed by the sites of two or three Bulgarian villages that had been destroyed by the Russians, marked only by the rude tomb-stones of the unfortunate inhabitants. There were also in the plain some large herds of the common buffalo, which are here in very general use as beasts of draught, and troops of horses running wild.

One of the lakes that we passed by was very striking. It was backed by low grey limestone cliffs, and was nearly covered over with weed of a bright reddish-brown colour, but in one corner or bay the surface of the water lay smooth as a mirror, and reflected the blue sunny sky with amazing brilliancy, whilst the banks were surrounded with large patches of tall reeds of a vivid green.

We overtook the baggagewains that had left Czernavoda the previous evening about ten miles from Kustenje, at which place we arrived early in the afternoon.

Kustenje is finely situated
on a small promontory overlooking the Black Sea; it was once a flourishing town, but is now in a very ruined state, having been nearly destroyed by the Russians. It boasts of some antiquity ; fragments of marble columns and rich remains of Roman structures are met with among the ruins, and the sound of its ancient name, Constantina, still lurks in its modern appellation.

The house we went to afforded much better accommodation than we had expected. It belongs to the Danube Steam Company, who rebuilt it, and fitted it up in a humble way for the accommodation of their passengers. There were two regular beds, but we all, chiefly for fear of the insects, preferred sleeping on the simple divans or sofas belonging to the rooms, and passed the night with very tolerable comfort. Mr. Marenovitch, the Company's agent, who came with us from Czernavoda, presided over all the arrangements with the greatest civility and attention.

The route by land from Czernavoda to Kustenje has been only recently adopted by the Company. The alternative is to persevere from Czernavoda down the Danube to Galatz, and there to get on board another steamer which goes by the Soulineh mouth of the Danube into the Black Sea, and so to Constantinople ; but the journey is now shortened by 200 miles, and exposure to the mosquitoes and the unwholesome swamps of Galacz is avoided.

Several of our party, as well as myself, were here attacked by low fever and great depression, but we recovered in a day or two. I am happy to say that G : 's health and spirits never suffered in the least.

Thursday, August 12. The Ferdinand steamer from Constantinople having arrived in the night, we looked forward towards speedily getting away from Kustenje.

However, we were alarmed by a report that news having arrived of the occurrence of a case of plague at Constantinople, from whence our vessel had just arrived, the Kustenje authorities would not allow the steamer to take us on board, as that implied communication with the shore. Mr. Marenovitch, however, managed to overrule this difficulty, and we embarked once more, for the last time before reaching Constantinople.

Had we not succeeded in embarking from Kustenje, we should have had to retrace our steps by land to Czernavoda, and re-embark on board the steamer we left there, and so proceed to Galacz, and ait there in great discomfort until the Ferdinand could have come round to meet us by the mouth of the river.

On the whole we had fine weather for our voyage, but there was enough wind to make the vessel roll a great deal, to the practical illustration of Byron's wellknown couplet respecting the billows of the Euxine.