Turkish baths

Posted: April 5, 2015 by saraherhodes in 1915

I have just come off guard. It has been horribly wet and cold and I didn’t get too much sleep. There were only two Corporals and Sergeants to do the whole 24 hours, so we had to take 6 hour shifts instead of four.

It looks as if we are going to move soon. Orders for dis-embarkation have come out, and we have to be served with 150 rounds of ammunition and instructions re our kit and blankets etc.. The route march is cancelled as well.

Here is Crowie’s description of that last march I was telling you of.
“Monday 29th march dawned bright and fair, with hardly a ripple on the water of the bay. During the previous day, preparation had been in progress for our long march. In addition to our usual equipment we carried one blanket and oil sheet, 3 days rations and 50 rounds of ammunition, the whole weighed somewhere in the region of 100 lbs., and it was with considerable trepidation that we looked forward to carrying this formidable weight. Soon after 7 a.m. the work of transporting us ashore commenced. This is no light task and necessitated the boats making at least four trips ashore, which is some distance away, and it was not until 11 a.m. that the battalion was ready to move off. Then with the band playing and the accompaniment of our own lively banter and chatter we started on the long trek. Distance may be far, and packs heavy, but when the air is fresh with a crispness as invigorating as a tonic, how could one be sad, and it was with lively step we pushed on.

Twelve o’clock we halted for lunch and at one o’clock we resumed the march. The road on either side is bounded by verdant undulating pastureland. Occasionally we passed flocks of snow-white sheep tended by shepherd lads in the quaint costume of the country. In many places ploughing is going on, and it is interesting to watch the patient bullocks with heads down-caste drawing antiquated wooden ploughs, very similar to those we saw in Egypt. The soil is rich and prolific, as the abundance of lush grass everywhere indicates. As we proceed, mounting higher and higher the scenery assumes a more rugged nature, on every side rocky precipitous mountains rear to a considerable height. These are intersected by fertile valleys sheltering quite old world little villages and hamlets. Occasionally we pass through a village from which quaintly dressed women and children, and sometimes the village priest in his queer tall hat and cassock, gaze at us with shy curiosity and wonder, perhaps, who those brown-faced giants are.

Looking back we catch glimpses of the harbor shimmering in the sunlight and dotted with shipping of every kind. The road winds a serpentine curve around craggy mountain sides and over deep ravines spanned by graceful stone bridges. Several times through rifts in the mountains we catch glimpses of the snow-caps of far off peaks. Nobody can fail to be impressed by the majestic grandeur of the scenery. About 4 p.m. we branched off the main road, and entered a valley of a beauty entirely opposite to the scenery we had just passed through. Here instead of awe-inspiring rocks and crags was rural beauty and quietude.  Orchards and gardens intersected by rippling rooks. Tiny tiled roofed houses nestling ‘mid the trees, and everywhere a multi-coloured carpet of wild flowers. Here in this ideal spot we bivouacked for the night.

Just below us was a handsome stone fountain with marble slab inlet over the arch containing an inscription in either Arabic or Turkish. These fountains are numerous all over the country, and offer a delicious cooling draught to the tired and thirsty traveller. I do not think I have tasted water quite like it, and you can imagine how eagerly we emptied our water- bottles of what remained of the brackish water we have been accustomed to, and refilled then from the fountain. To the right is a white building with a cloistered verandah, and is, as I learnt later, a sanatorium for patients taking the baths. A rather gruesome tragedy was enacted in this place in 1912 by a band of marauding Turks who massacred a whole family.

Soon preparations were in progress for tea, everywhere one could see the smoke from small fires over which amateur cooks watched anxiously the progress of bully beef being transformed into a savoury stew. I wonder did ever a meal taste so delicious s cooked under these circumstances. Soon after night-fall we turned in and despite the fact that our couch was composed of stones, we are soon fast asleep.
Six o’clock reveille, and reluctantly we crawled out of our blankets into the cold morning air.
The smoke from the cook’s fires nearby gave promise of hot tea for breakfast. Half an hours physical culture and we were tingling with warmth, then a bath in the hot springs. I hardly knew what to expect. I was told to provide myself with a tin to bale the water. We entered a building adjacent to the sanatorium. Opening from a central hall are ante rooms in which we undressed. At the far end of the hall, a small door gave access to the bath chamber. In a moment you step from a chilly atmosphere into that of a Turkish bath. It is a small square with a domed roof through which several small funnels admit a very subdued greenish light, which shining on the naked forms of the bathers gave the weirdest effect imaginable. The floor is paved with marble, and at intervals around are marble basins about 15’ across into which a constant stream of hot water, apparently from the bowels of the earth runs. The procedure is to dip the tin in the basin and splash the water over your body. It has a very exhilarating effect, and possesses, I believe, curative properties. I tasted some of it and detected a slight sulphurous flavour.

After breakfast preparations were made for the march to Castro, a distance of six kilometres (about 4 miles) and by 9a.m. we were well on the way. As we drew near we could see built on the summit of a huge rocky mountain which dominated the surrounding country, a quaint medieval looking fort with battlemented walls. In its shadow lies the city, the towers of the cathedral standing conspicuously above the surrounding buildings. We halted outside a wall about 10 ft. high which encircles the town. After a short delay we marched at attention into the town through narrow cobblestones streets. The houses are of stone and mostly two stories, with casements and balconies, which overhang the streets. These were crowded with women-folk who watched us curiously as we passed beneath them. On we marched right to the sea-front where we halted in front of Parliament House. Here we went through the ceremony of saluting the Greek flag.  The Governor a rather greasy out at elbows looking sort of individual acknowledged our salutation. He quite banished by preconceived idea of an imposing Official in brilliant uniform, and blazing with orders.

On our way back to the bivouac we carried out some strenuous manoeuvres, and arrived there about 3.30.  I with five others were immediately told off for guards. I did not at all relish the prospect after the fatigue of the day. However, it did not turn out so bad after all. The night was perfect, with the moon at its full. My beat was along a rocky declivity which gave access to the valley and lead along a rocky mountain track bordering the edge of a steep precipice.  The calm peaceful beauty of the time and place broken only by the occasional tinkle of a sheep’s bell on the hillside made it difficult for me to realize that a few miles away a fierce fight is being waged. Nothing of event happened until just before dawn when I heard something approaching along the track, which presently resolved itself into a donkey and rider. He was evidently innocent of our proximity, and when I challenged him simply fell off the donkey with fright. He proved to be harmless enough so I escorted him through the lines. I venture to think that he received the scare of his life. In the morning all was bustle in preparation for our departure and with regret we left this peaceful valley behind us for the road again. Going back we made good progress and arrived on board tired and footsore after our long and interesting march.”

Well you know as much about the march as I do. He writes a very good description of events don’t you think?.


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