Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Constantinople, First Afternoon
It will take ten days for the party to travel the 380 nautical miles to Constantinople. As you make your way north, you find the cool temperatures worsening somewhat, as the nights steadily become more brisk and the days more cool. There's only a little rain over your journey, however; some the night after leaving Koufonisia, some off the coast of Lesbos and a good, moderate rain the afternoon you make your way through the strait at Canakkale.
The journey is fairly uninteresting. The crew seem in better spirits for some resting time in Koufonisia, which had proven to be more relaxing than their last sojourn in Fiume. The Captain seems in better spirits too, which improve still further after stopping in the small town of Eresos on Lesbos to pick up a pilot who knows the waters of the Straits and of the Black Sea. The pilot's name is Meredith, a 45-year old Turkish woman with hard, experienced eyes, a silent temperment and considerable strength, standing 6 foot one and weighing some 17 stone. She takes over the wheel with little ceremony, and apparently without spite from the previous pilot, Gerhund, who had apparently gone to pieces after the near sinking at Koufonisia.
The Dardanelles strait is quite narrow, no wider than a medium sized river (narrower than the Weser that the party crossed the day after burying the Captain's husband), but the Sea of Marmara on the other side is wide, smooth and easy sailing. The Dardanelles and the sea beyond are filled with boats, the strait being something of a friendly experience as you hail the crews of ships moving just fifteen feet off the beam, even where a bit of supply is passed back and forth between crews. Marmara has hundreds of little boats skittering this way and that, some coming quite close to be run over by the Petrel ... but it all seems to be quite normal, as no one shows the slightest bit of alarm. Meredith breaks her silence to tell the crew to settle down, that if one of these crazy small boat pilots is struck she'll work that day for free.
Constantinople is magnificent. The party comes ashore there with eyes open. They have been to Venice, and to Hamburg, so they have seen big ports before, but there's something truly elegant and Old World about Constantinople that those European cities lacked. Where Venice had a few beautiful piazzas, Constantinople seems to stretch for miles with nothing but. The huge Blue Mosque and the Great Santa Sofia rise like a mother and father from the city, seeming to embrace the teeming, odorous, shouting, passionate marketeers, peddlers, musicians, city officials and holy men that dominate the narrow city streets, the wide boulevards, the preponderous waterfront that stretches all around the point called the "Golden Horn" ... and gold indeed seems plentiful enough to sink all the hundred, perhaps two hundred ships in the harbor.
The market for Constantinople can be found here.
A map of old Constantinople: