Letters

9 April 1907

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

[9 April 1907] Wednesday Ap 9. Magnesia ad Meandrum [Manisa] Dearest Mother. I must sieze the opportunity of an hour's leisure here to write to you. I've just been visiting the ruins of this town in the company of a pleasant Greek who talked Turkish so we managed to have a little conversation. But oh it is such a bore not talking the language properly. I must hurry up and learn. Of course one ought to know Greek too but for the moment I feel one new language is a good deal more than I can manage. There is very little left of this place. It's mostly heaps of stones and big trenches. The Germans excavated it 10 years ago - hence the trenches. They are filled now with water and forests of reeds. Still, as I was passing I thought I might as well see it, so I had my saloon carriage dropped here for 4 or 5 hours and presently I go on to Sokhia [Sîke] where I spend the night. I've just been giving my friend the Greek tea in my carriage. The station master came in and joined the party. The station masters on this line are supposed to know English and accordingly as he entered he said cheerfully "Goodbye!" He then asked if he might bring his wife - at least I couldn't make out what it was he wished to bring, but it turned out to be his wife. He then remarked that he took a girl every 25 days. That also was rather astonishing but when he had repeated it several times I found out he meant that he had only been married 25 days. So all was well and we regaled ourselves on jam and water. And now they have all gone, which is best. I left Smyrna [Izmir] on Monday, a pouring wet day, and spent the night at Malcajik with the Van Lenneps. It cleared in the afternoon and it was quite pleasant walking about the farm. It's very charming country. Yesterday I left very early and went to Ephesus, two of the van Lennep children coming with me. The Austrians have done a great deal since I was last there 5 years ago and it is now extremely interesting. There is a great paved road with monuments on either side of it leading down to a beautiful building which was the library, and the big double church which has puzzled everyone for many a year is now laid bare and has become more or less understandable. The van Lennep children left early in the afternoon and I remained behind and had Ephesus quite to myself. There were a few shepherd boys high up on the hills but otherwise it was all solitary and most beautiful. So I spent a delightful couple of hours wandering about by myself. I went into camp that night so as to make sure that everything was in order. My camping ground was on a hillside high above the ruins, overlooking the whole Ephesus plain down to the sea. I can't take tents on my expedition from Sokhia]. The Maeander [BÅyÅk Menderes] is out and the whole valley is flooded. I shall cross it in a boat but I can't take horses over. I intend to be about 10 days away from trains or baggage and you will probably have no letter from me - unless I can post one at Budrum. I go first to Priene and then by boat across the valley to Miletus. Fortunately Wiegand, the head man of the German excavations, is there. I met him at Ephesus station and he said he wd put me up if I wd come to Miletus. It's great luck that he should be there. It will make my visit a thousand times more interesting.

This sort of travelling is far more difficult and less pleasant than my Syrian journeys. There one simply gets onto a horse and rides off, carrying one's house with one. Here there are so many arrangements to be made and one has to depend on other people's hospitality which is always a bore. It's worth doing however and while I am about it I will see as much of the country as I can so that I need not come back.

Please tell Father I went to Andrea's but found the carpets had been despatched. Your affectionate daughter Gertrude

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