Letters

28 February 1902

From/To: Gertrude Bell to her stepmother, Dame Florence Bell

[February 28 1902] Malcajik Friday 28 Dearest Mother. Here you might observe me established in a Turkish farm. It's too amusing - I wake up and see the camels passing up the village street, and then I go out and photograph Greeks and Turks at their cottage doors. The village Bellongs to the Van Lenneps. They have quite a comfortable house where they propose to entertain me as long as I care to stay. However, I'll begin at the beginning. When I got to Smyrna [Izmir] on Wed. morning, I did some repacking, some shopping, called on the consul, Mr Cumberbatch, who was most friendly and is going to help me to carry out a little tour in the interior which I intend to make before I leave, and then lunched with Mr Van Lennep at the hotel and came up here, an hour by train, a regular Turkish railway, the movements of which appear to be entirely arbitrary. We arrived at a little wayside station and found a covered cart to meet us in which we drove up, 4 miles, to the house, over roads which are merely tracks across the fields. Our driver was a bold Greek who bustled along, quite regardless of marshes and holes - I imagined he knew what he was about, otherwise I should have had the smallest hopes of getting here unbroken. However, we did, and found Mrs Van Lennep and the youngest child, a duck of a little girl, to welcome us and give us tea. After which we walked out - a most delicious evening. The country is quite charming, smiling valleys running up to a high range of hills, everything coming into leaf and flower and the ground carpeted with anemones of every colour from the brightest scarlet through all shades of mauve and blue and pink, into white. Narcissus also and blue irises. We went up to inspect a big tumulus on the top of some rising ground, which Mr Van Lennep is opening that I may see what it's like inside. It's the largest tumulus on his farm; the trench is now about 16 ft deep and 30 ft long and we expect to get to the sarcophagus tomorrow. At dinner there appeared an amiable little man called Bari, Mrs V.L.'s brother, who is of great use in our photography, for I must tell you that we have organised a dark room and the child, Evelyn, and I spend all our spare moments developing and printing. This is a great resource, especially in the evening, when the time hangs rather heavy! For we all sit round the fire after the dinner is cleared away - we live and eat in the same room - and do nothing. Fortunately we don't dine till 8 so that there is not much time before we go to bed. Yesterday we set off directly after breakfast, taking our lunch with us and rode up to the hills where we spent the whole day exploring the ruins of Colophon. It was most exciting; we traced the walls all round and made out the whole lie of the town. Nothing but foundations and parts of the town walls remains, but the site is extremely interesting. The town was a very early Greek settlement 1200 to 1500 BC and the town was destroyed about 300 BC to rise anew nearer the sea on a place we are going to explore if we have time. I should like to do an article for Newbolt about it when I get home. Mr V.L. knows every inch of the ground and showed us all over. Today I have spent most of the morning printing and watching the digging out of the tumulus. They have got Bellow the earth and through a Bellt of stones which are all calcinated by sacrificial fires and we have seen the slabs that cover the tomb itself. I saw a dragoman when I was at Smyrna whom I am going to take with me on a 6 days' tour inland - Pergamos [Bergama (Pergamum)], Magnesia [Manisa], Sardis are the chief points of it. The weather is lovely and I think it's worth doing. I start on Tuesday. On my return I come back here and go with the V.L.s to Laodacae [Laodicea] and Hierapolis [Pamukkale] after which I shall continue my journey. It's vastly entertaining. Mr V.L. farms 20,000 acres and has the whole tower of BaBell in his village. Ever your very affectionate daughter Gertrude

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