Fired by a wish to travel and visit exotic lands, Olivia and her former governess reach Constantinople in April 1811
Dusk on the Golden Horn, by Ivan Aivasovsky
Two days later Olivia stood at the ship’s rail, her excitement growing as Constantinople came into view. The greatest city of the ancient world, capital of the mighty Ottoman Empire, gateway between east and west, and she was actually here!
‘I feel awed,’ she told Miss Neston in a voice that was not quite steady, ‘it’s magnificent.’ She shook her head and breathed out a long sigh of wonder. ‘The pictures really are true. I recognise the skyline; all those towers and domes and the tall minarets everywhere – and how green it is, Nessie. The whole city is full of trees.’ She danced across the deck to peer at the Asian shore, but rushed back when Miss Neston called to say they were approaching the Golden Horn. At this point, where the Horn opened, there was a busy floating market along the edge of the shore, noisy with men calling their wares. A savoury smell of frying fish wafted up from some boats. Olivia laughed and waved. ‘I wish we could taste that. My mouth is watering.’
They both stared at the many huge buildings lining the shores, and the picturesque wooden houses whose upper storeys jutted out over the water. It was all so different and fascinating. Olivia’s eyes misted. I did it. I’m really here.
The sea was crowded with boats of all shapes and sizes. A forest of masts swayed where large merchant ships were moored at the docks. Boats out on the open water had sails that flapped wildly in the stiff wind blowing down from the Black Sea. Small fishing boats and gondola-like rowing boats full of passengers wove their way among the larger ships. It seemed everyone was on the move, crossing from Europe to Asia and between north to south of the city. The sound of men shouting mingled with the raucous screaming of the gulls wheeling overhead.