Evliya Celebi was born on the 25th of February 1611 in Istanbul. He says he slipped out of every difficulty in his adventurous life with ease because of the goodwill of the seventy friends of his father who had been at their home on the night of his birth.
His father, Mehmet Aga (Dervis Muhammed Zilli), had taken part in the conquest of Cyprus during the reign of Sultan Selim II, had presented the keys of Famagusta to the Sultan and had risen to the post of a chief jeweler in the palace. He was over seventy-five and in his words “a grand old, man”.
Mehmet Aga was an artist and a man of agreeable temperament. He undertook the decoration of the famous Mosque of Sultan Ahmet in Istanbul and was sent to Mecca to make Mihrap during the reign of Sultan Ahmet I.
His mother was related to one of the famous pashas of the age, Melek Ahmet Pasha.
His full name is that of his father, Evliya bin Dervis Mehmet Zilli. This world-famous traveler was called Evliya after Imam-i Sultani Evliya Mehmet Efendi, a famous personage of that age, a close friend of Dervis Mehmet Aga and later a tutor to our traveler.
Celebi likes to describe himself as “Seyyah-i alem ve Nedim-i beni adem Evliya-yi bi-riya”.
His Passion for Adventure
In Completion of his elementary education, Evliya entered a Medrese (religious school) and, while trying to master the art of jewelry from his father, he learned Greek from his father’s apprentice to whom in turn he taught the Shahidi vocabulary.
He listened to many an adventurous story from his father, a man of long years and experience who had served many sultans from Suleyman the Magnificent to Ibrahim, and these, coupled with the things he heard from their numerous guests, lit in him the passion for foreign lands. “Through heredity, many an adventure and experience was passed to your humble servant from his grandfather and father”, he writes in an explanation of his curiosity.
One night he dreamt of the Prophet and instead of saying “Sefaat ya Rasulullah” (intercede on my behalf. Oh envoy of God), he said, “Seyahat ya Rasulullah” (grant me travel, Oh envoy of God).
He sought the interpretation of his dream from many a learned man of the age and gave himself up to ruminating on “how can I free myself from the burden of father, mother, master, brother and see the world?”.
First, he wandered through Istanbul as, in his own words, a “vagabond pedestrian” and started recording his first impressions. He made these very picturesque by adding his own thoughts for his imagination was as strong as his passion. Step by step, he saw the whole of Istanbul until there remained nothing he had not seen nor anyone he had not talked with. He found his way to the court of eminent men; he sat and listened in the coffee-shops and wine shops to storytellers and convents.
In the year 1640, he traveled to Bursa for the first time. In that year too he made a sea voyage to Izmit. Though the son of a father who had lived in court and had close relations with the Sultan and eminent statesmen and a mother who was related to the pashas of the period, he was never to succumb to the wish for mundane wealth and position.
Instead of an office, which he could easily attain through his influential relatives and friends, he devoted his life to travel to distant lands, to the desire to see the whole world, acquaint himself with everybody and learn everything. This enlightened citizen of Istanbul accepted only assignments that involved travel and not for their importance. He went to Trabzon with Ketenci Omer Pasha when the latter was appointed the governor of that province. From there he went to Georgia in Russia, Merhilistan and the land of the Abaza.
In 1641, he took part in the famous Battle of Azak and thence went to Crimea with the Khan of Crimea. On his voyage back to Istanbul his ship encountered a fierce storm and was wrecked. For eight months he lay ill in the convent of Kelgra. Later he took part in the Battle of Crete.
He spent the two years between 1646 and 1648 as a customs clerk in Erzurum, to which he had traveled in the company of Defterzade Mehmet Pasha. From there he embarked on his travels to parts of Russia and Persia – Tabriz, Revan, Baku, and Tiflis. The news of his father’s death brought him back to Istanbul and the fortune he inherited supplied him with enough funds to enable him to travel comfortably for the rest of his life, sometimes accompanied by his friends, more often with his slaves. Also the expensive presents he received from those he served and the sale of the booty he won from the various battles in which he participated provided for himself and his relations in Istanbul.
After settling his family affairs, he went to Damascus as the Chief Muezzin of Murtaza Pasha who had been appointed Governor there. On his way back to Istanbul as a courier, he met the revolutionaries in Uskudar and took part in the fighting.
As he was searching for means of travel from Istanbul he became the Chief Muezzin and Accountant of Melek Ahmet Pasha who was Governor in the western regions of the Ottoman Empire and during the next years, he traveled to Sofia, Silistra and all the cities in mid-Europe with him. He participated in the Polish Campaign. In his book, he describes at length these cities and the interesting happenings.
In 1661 after the demise of this Pasha, to whom he was related, he took part in the Austrian campaign of Sultan Mehmet IV. He also participated in the Demirkazik Campaign. He was one of the envoys of Vienna. From Vienna, he embarked on a long journey into Europe.
In 1667, he returned to Istanbul which he had not seen for eight years. He made contact with the members of his family from whom he had long been separated and settled his family affairs. But he could live only one year in Istanbul. He went to Edirne and searched for means of joining the army for the Crete campaign. He went to Anatolia by land, then passed on to Kandiye and finally to Morea. He was sixty and, wanting to perform his religious duty of pilgrimage, he traversed with several friends from the eastern sections of Anatolia and reached Cairo.
He traveled from early childhood until the time when there was nothing to see and no one to meet; he learned and recorded everything. He derived his real source of knowledge and culture not from education but life. The desire in him to learn burned until his last days. Likewise, during his long stay in Egypt during his old age, he explored the whole country while also attending lectures by the scholars of the period.
The last volume of his book is in Egypt and thereafter he did not write about the rest of his life.
As well as devoting his life to travel, he was also a calligrapher, decorator, musician and poet in his way. He was very fond of all works of art and books whether miniaturized or illuminated. For example, he was not greatly excited over the Jewels of Abdal Khan of Bitlis but deeply impressed with the chest containing them.
A man with a beautiful voice and a deep knowledge of musical instruments, he could spare no time for marriage in his fifty years of travel and consequently had no offspring.
It is understood that he did not live long after his return from Egypt and according to the latest investigations and appraisals is buried in the family burial ground near the Meyyit-zade cemetery.
His Book of Travels (Seyahatname)
His “Book of Travels” is nearly 6000 pages long. It is written in “spoken language”. That is to say, he has, on the one hand, avoided using words and expressions not used in spoken language —thus refraining from exhibiting his art and knowledge – and on the other hand, spontaneously made the grammatical mistakes one usually indulges in careless colloquial speech. He spent his entire life amongst people who could never spare the time for reading and writing and he made the language of these people his style.
He showed an undying interest in the characteristics of the countries in which he journeyed and in the people he met. This unflagging curiosity and the extraordinary ability for observation is obvious in his work. One can read there a long and detailed account of every city, town, mosque, medrese, inn, bath, castle, rampart and other installations he deemed important. He also gives a vivid account of the wars he experienced and the characteristics of the pashas and viziers he served.
He was knowledgeable of humans and objects. His volumes covering all his travels. He always refers to himself as descriptions are vivid and distinct. In this way, he cannot be said to be a “theoretician”; this ‘is not in the parts where manifested he gives facts and figures about cities and roads but where he describes events he witnessed.
Evliya’s Book of Travels has three versions.
His work covers the historic events of the 17th century Ottoman Empire with vivid flashes into the life of the period and is an invaluable source of historical and geographic knowledge. A few pages are enough to accustom one to his unusual and flowing style.
Those who enjoy witch stories, history and geography will find in Celebi a rich source of historical accounts in a lucid style and will find it hard to stop reading the “Book of Travels“.
The Advice of his Father
(On his first trip, he goes to Bursa without informing his family of his departure. On his return, his father greets him with “Come, oh traveler of Bursa” and gives him some advice. The following may not be the actual advice, but it is of significance in as much as it is the result of his impressions of years of travels and experience!.)
When your humble servant returned to his grief-stricken home that day, kissed the hands of his father and mother and stood in their noble presence, his beloved father said, “Welcome traveler of Bursa. Welcome”. However, nobody had known which direction I had taken. “Sire”, said your humble servant, “how did you know your humble servant was in Bursa?” “When you disappeared on the night of the ‘Asure’ of ‘Muharram’ one thousand and fifty” (May 1640) he condescended to say “many an ancient prayer did I say. One thousand times did I repeat the ‘Inne a’ tayna’ chapter of the Koran. That night I dreamt that you were at the tomb of Emir Sultan at Bursa, seeking succor from the spiritual influence and begging for world travel with tears flowing from your eyes. That night many a dervish asked and begged for my consent that you go on your travels. And 1, that night, gave you my consent, with the acquiescence of them all. We then spoke the Fatiha’ chapter of the Koran. Come then, son. Henceforth you are destined to travel. Blessed may it be. But I have some advice”, he said and clasped my hand; and as I stood in front of him he began to wring my left ear with his left hand and deliver these counsels:
Son, a man may be poor, do not start eating without mentioning the name of God.
“If you have a secret beware of telling It to your wife. Do not eat if you are polluted. “If a thing is good do not say it is bad. “Do not be a comrade to the malicious, you will be harmed. If your clothing gets torn, do not repair it while you are wearing it.
Advance, do not let your eye linger behind. Do not lead the procession astray. Do not tread on fields. Do not encroach on the share of a friend.
Do not pick up things you do not own. Do not listen when two people converse. Abide by the right of bread and salt. Do not look at another’s wife and commit treachery. Do not go to places you are not invited to. If you do, go to honest people, to places of which you are sure. Keep secrets. At every gathering retain in your mind the things you may hear.
Do not carry word from house to house. Refrain from backbite, from denunciation, from talking behind the backs of others, from gossip. Be decent. Maintain good relations with everyone. Do not be stubborn and poisonous of the tongue. Do not go in front of those who are more imminent than you.
Abide by the wise old man.
Be clean always and abstain from the illicit and forbidden.
Perform your religious duties five times a day, be well-known for your tranquillity of conduct and preoccupy yourself with munificent science.
Son, My advice in mundane affairs is that you be sweet of tongue. Do not ask for worldly things from the viziers and nobles you have close ties with so that they do not hate you and accord you a cold reception. Content yourself with a mouthful. And do not dissipate property you may come to own.
Live modestly. ‘Modesty is an inexhaustible treasure’ they say.
You may require it in sickness and in health. Do not save the worldly coin for food and clothing and then in need of the despicable. Because: “Enemy does not matter only be not in need of a friend”, they say. In the places, you walk and visit tie the belt of endeavor securely around your waist and conserve yourself. Water sleeps but the alien and cruel enemies do not sleep. Visit the saints and all the places of pilgrimage and in all the lands you visit, write in volumes all about their plans, tall mountains, lonely trees and stones, their towns and their monuments and castles, their conquerors and their founders and compose a book which will be called “book of travels” so that your end be good and you be preserved from the malice of your enemies. May God be your excellent defender and helper. May you in the world be given quarter and at your last breath faith, and may you in the day of resurrection awake beside the flag of the Prophet.
Let these counsels dwell on your ear like pendant earrings”, he said, and slapped me mightily on the nape and twisted my ear and said, “Go, in the name of God, may your fate be good.
When your humble servant opened his eyes with the shock of the slap, lo and behold our house was full of light. Without delay, I kissed the blessed hand of my father and stood in silence. I beheld him to give me, in a saddle-bag, twelve excellent books and about two hundred gold coins for my journey.
A Jinnee Story and Famous Wrestles – Edirne
The medrese of Kemal Pasazade. For years one cell of this medrese is infested with jinn and nobody can set foot in it. The cell is empty and the door barred. Then, in the century of Bayezid-i Veli, Kemal Pasazade Ahmet Celebi, a fellow in quest of scientific studies, travels up to Edirne soon. As luck would have it he arrives at this medrese while seeking quarters. When he asks for a cell from the chief lecturer he is answered, “Mullah, there are no empty cells in our medrese; however, we have only one cell which is empty but that being infested with the jinn nobody can enter it. Those who do enter sleep for a mere night and in the morning their dead bodies are found”. Kemal Pasazade replies, “My Sultan, grant me that cell. Let me receive a lesson from your answer”. He begs and insists and at last, the chief lecturer gives in, saying, “My son, you know best. Here is the key to the cell. Acquit me of your claims”. Kemal Pasazade and the chief lecturer mutually forgive one another and, whispering the name of God, he opens the door of the cell. He sits on a sheepskin.
After the late-night prayer, the porters and the chief lecturer place outside Kemal Pasazade’s cell a bench on which the corpse is washed, a coffin and other funeral equipment as custom demanded.
At midnight, when Kemal Pasazade was busy with study, the part of the wall facing Mecca divided in two and an old, saintly angel appears holding a beautiful child in his arms. “May God be with you.” he says, and Kemal Pasazade says “God be with you”. “Son I will trust you with my child in the name of Allah. You will teach him science and the regulations of prayers of the five appointed times of day”, he says and leaves.
Kemal Pasazade whispers the name of God and teaches this innocent child the Koran and then passes on to his work. Before daybreak the old man emerges from the same wall and says “Son, may the approval of God be with you. May you be happy in this world and the next. I am Sultan Asfail, a ruler of the jinn. Every time I come to this cell and entrust my son to its inmates and go. But they betray the trust of God and mishandle my son and I kill them. From now on let all sciences be open to you”, he concludes and, praying, takes his child and leaves.
When early in the morning Kemal Pasazade opens his door to go out he sees before him an imam, muezzin and congregation and a coffin and boiling water in readiness. When they see Kemal Pasazade they are amazed and offer thanks to God.
Kemal Pasazade did not reveal his secret to a living soul and mastered all the sciences and he was so learned and wise that he was the only man of that century.
While my humble-self was lodging with Melek Ahmed Pasha at Topcular (Artillery) Palace, every evening we used to watch thousands of firecrackers reach the sky and hear the report of thousands of guns and rifles. Later, when I inquired of a fellow man-of-pleasure about this feast, he said “Woe to the hopeless fool who has dissipated his wits, wisdom and yielded to sorrow and despair… Why is it that you are so aggrieved as not to know about Kagithane? Ever since this Great Ottoman Empire has existed, never has there been a gayer and more joyful feast than Kagithane. Anyone who has not seen this place has seen nothing”.
He so much praised Kagithane that my soul swiftly flowed there and I recalled this poem:
Happiness is relishing each pleasure
So let your heart enjoy this treasure.
Life is short my friend, the world so unkind,
With sorrow and heartaches to remind;
But only in pleasures, you will find
Solace, Joy and your peace of mind.
I then immediately went and got the Pasha’s permission to go to Kagithane. I spent 40 gold bullion to buy two kayim, food and drinks and, together with five or six Agas, pitched our tents in the shadow of the great oak trees along the Kagithane river, thus settling, we started our feast of reason and the flow of soul to continue day and night.
During the two months from the beginning of the month of Recep until the holy crescent of Ramazan appears in the sky there have been such amusements and pleasures on these green fields that no words can fully describe. All gentry, noblemen and prodigal sons of the plutocrats of Istanbul adorned the valley with more than three thousand tents. Every night these tents were illuminated with thousands of candles, oil lamps, and lanterns. In the evening, the leading groups were entertained by musicians, singers, minstrels and performers like the Ahmed group, Cevahir group, Nazli group, Garibanu group, Abide group, Zumrut group, Postalci group, Batakoglu group, Hasena group, Samurka group, who played many tunes on their “Ceng-ur Rebab” “Santur”, tambour and “Ud-u Kanun” until sunrise while hundred thousand fireworks adorned the sky with lightning, stars, butterflies, etc., and the entire Kagithane was bathed in this radiant splendor. Guns were fired from dawn to dusk. Besides these tents, scattered along the two banks of the Kagithane river, were more than two thousand shops vending not only foods and drinks but also myriad valuables. Every day the clowns, jesters, magicians, weightlifters, ropedancers, acrobats, jugglers, jongleurs, bear, monkey, donkey and dog trainers, puppet shows, birdmen, and sword eaters, about three hundred and sixty entertainers performed and made a great profit. Four Janissary platoons were assigned by the palace to maintain order in this area. Most of these Janissaries used to swim in the Kagithane river.
Never in history, there has been such union of gentlemen and scholars.
The Palace of Abdal Khan – His Bath – His Feasts
When Melek (Angel) Ahmed Pasha became the governor of Van, Evliya Celebi also went with him. After a short rest in Diyarbakir, they arrive at Bitlis where they stay a few days as guests of Abdal Khan in his palace.
From the treasury on enters the bathroom hall, where the numerous windows adorned with bronze and iron cage work which look like carvings, open to the garden. The carved window shutters have been sent from Tabriz as a gift of the Persian Khan. The sills are covered with black amber. The window tops and all of the hall are decorated with writings by Mehmet Riza Tabrizi, a famous calligrapher.
The writing includes a poem from Fuzuli, praising the bathroom.
In the middle of the hall, there was a water basin from which 300 fountains were spurting water to the ceilings. The servants, all Circassian and Georgian slaves, were dressed and adorned with jewels. In the richly decorated belts, they had stuck precious daggers and knives. For footwear, they wore wooden shoes with the mother of pearl decorations. They looked like peacocks from paradise. Respectfully they were handing shoulder covers and mother of pearl decorated wooden shoes to the bathing guests.
The hall led to a lukewarm room covered with an immense dome. The walls are covered with tiles. The dome is ornated with innumerable chandeliers. The middle of this room represents the actual bathroom. One that enters it feels as if he is floating in lights. This is because the dome is not held by the walls, but almost only by columns between which are panels made of rare crystals and transparent gleaming glasses. Sun rays that reflect from these glass walls, turn the bath into a fascinatingly shimmering sea of lights.
Yonder the panels of the room resemble a garden of Eden in which thousands of nightingales are singing while on the roof various kinds of other singing birds can be observed. In the middle of the bathroom decorated with semi-precious stones like jades, turquoise, garnets, ambers, etc.; is placed a large water basin that resembles birds’ eyes. The basin is coated with tiles; many faucets are made of gold and silver.
Adorable slaves, covered either by white or red clothes, help washing by providing soft towels and perfumed soaps so that one loses his senses from sheer happiness. The fragrance of musk which is being burnt in all kinds of vapor containers is filling the room. All along the forty years of traveling my humble sell had never seen the likes of this. Only God knows how much it had cost.
When Sultan Murat the conqueror of Bagdad took a bath here, the cold water was mixed with rosewater and the hot with incense. In a bathing booth, he was attended by five black masseurs and five unusually lovely slaves who resembled hurries or angels. It is said that the Sultan, overwhelmed with joy, sighed contently and said: “Oh, I wish I had this bath in my residence,” And truly it was something to long for.
After we and the Pasha departed from the bathroom and headed for the table that according to the prevailing etiquette and the habits of the Khan had been laid in honor of the Pasha. Exactly 200 silver plates all filled with delicious foods were brought in. Most of the meals were rice dishes prepared in different ways and soups. Slaves, dressed in gold – yellow, and richly adorned, with gold and silver woven clothes clad around their hips stood respectfully and attentively in a row to serve the Pasha. I simply can not find the right word to describe adequately the napkins, the spoons with jewel covered to handle the sherbet bowls and all the other tableware. Therefore I am not going to dwell on that subject any longer. The Khan and the Pasha sat down with the sons of the Khan lined up on their left and right, and they began to eat.
The quantity they ate and the orgies they went through is unmatchable. On the other side of the table, the Agas of the Pasha and the Khan were seated.
After the meal, golden bowls were carried in, our hands were washed with fragrant soaps. Then a pile of napkins was brought in to be distributed on the laps of the guests, who were sitting on the carpet.
Compote spoons made from cocoa wood, boxwood, mother of pearls walnut wood, iron, etc., each single one priceless by itself were placed on the table.
Fifty other slaves carried in fifty bowls which I am not in a position to describe.
Later mocha, sahlep, tea, sherbet jelly, and milk was served in jewel covered little cups.
For breakfast, there were sweet meals, jellies pastries, etc., every day. Lunch was always as pictured above. So was dinner. Thus, ten days and ten nights did the Khan honor his guest the Pasha. He also extended his hospitality to Pasha’s escort 3060 men, his soldiers, and servants.
After the meal the Khan said to the Pasha:
“We also have a couple of acrobats at our service. If you wish to come to the flower garden you may see their performance.” The Pasha went to the garden and was seated on a raised place wherefrom he could observe everything very nicely.
First came the famous acrobat Zenguzar. Cladded in a black leather dress, he faced the Pasha, kissed the floor and recited a short prayer.
Then he started to run around the courtyard with such a speed that racehorses could not have been able to pace with him. When the circuit ended he was in front of the Pasha. Giving out a loud “Ya Allah”, he made a triple summersault in the air and again landed safely on both his legs. That was followed by another summersault of four turns in the air. After that, the acrobat performed a whole series of neck-breaking tricks that were beyond the endurance of a normal human being. Head, arms, and legs rolled together as he moved around the courtyard like a paper windmill.
As his next feat of daring, he put three bottles one on the other, took a run, made a summersault and winded up standing on the bottles. Then he jumped down. He placed three more bottles on them and made two towers of six bottles each. The bottles were so thin that the wind could shake them, back and forth. Six bottles one on the other, were taller than a man’s height He backed up 40 or 50 meters, jumped up once and shot up like an arrow from a stretched bow. When he reached the bottles he screamed “Aia Hi”, jumped up very high and landed on the two rows of bottles. From there he saluted the Pasha, jumped down, kissed the ground and stepped aside.
After him came the turns of the other acrobats. Hammers made in Bitlis are matchless. The tailors there are so agile that dresses sewed by them look as if they had no stitches.
The dyes of Bitlis, as well as the arrows and bows, are also famous.
Nine days and nights did Melek (Angel) Ahmet Pasha stays as a guest of the Khan of Bitlis. On the tenth day, he accepted the valuable gifts of the Khan, his host and left for Van. Before leaving, the Khan requested from the Pasha that my humble self should stay on a few more days. Thus I spent three more glorious and exciting days as a guest of the Khan. At the end of the three days, he wished me a good journey and me, loaded with precious gifts, followed the Pasha to Van…
The People of Trabzon and their Occupation Trabzon’s Food and Beverages
In the year of 1640, Evliya Celebi, after his stay in Bursa and Izmit, goes to Trabzon with Ketenci Omer Pasha. After a detailed description of Trabzon, its big and small mosques, its madrasas, inns, baths, etc. he writes:
“Because of its pleasant climate, its panoramic beauties the majority of the people in Trabzon are especially fond of amusements. They are inclined to drinking and making love. However. they hold work at the same level of importance as their pleasure and amusement. Carefree and airy, they are tender lovers and faithful friends. The women are Abhasian, Georgian and Circassian beauties, each one a beauty queen in her own right.
The population is divided into seven groups. There are the State employees and other high-ranking Beys who walk around wrapped in ermine coats. The second group is the scholars, the people of knowledge who wear their costumes of definite distinction.
The third group is the merchants who go on business trips to Asow, Kazak, Meril, Abkhazia, Circassian land and Crimea. They wear woolen dresses, ferace, (coats with large sleeves) kontus (furskirt) dolama, (wrap) and yelek (waistcoat.)
The fourth group includes industrialists. These gentlemen dress in bugans and feraces.
The fifth group is sailors whose attire includes a waistcoat, a baggy trouser, and a long wrap. Around their hips, they wind an Astar. They trade on the high seas and thus earn their living.
The sixth group are the vineyard keepers and the gardeners In Goztepe only, there are approximately more than thirty thousand vineyards and gardens.
Finally, there is the seventh group that includes the fishermen. In Trabzon, people are very fond of fish.
Goldsmiths of Trabzon is the best in the world. Various kinds of incense containers, rosewater pitchers, swords, daggers and kitchen knives that are handmade here are unique and not to be found anywhere else. The famous Gurguroglu knives and also the axes known as Trabzon Axes are manufactured here. Fascinating handwork concerning the mother of pearl is also very widely known.
Trabzon’s cherries, pears, and grapes have the loveliest taste. A special kind of fig called “Aubergine” fig grows in this area. Also famous are Trabzon lemons, citrus, grenadines, and olives. They have seven different qualities of olives here. Dates are dried in the ovens and sent to all of the Provinces. These dates just taste divine. There are many kinds of flowers in Trabzon. There is a kind of carnation that resembles a pinkish-red rose. Without its stem, it weighs 5 or 6 dirhams.
Of the fish levrek (seabass) and kefal (mullet) taste exquisite. Apart from the tekir, a fish with a redhead and about a headlong, and the uskumru (mackerel) there are innumerable others. The best-liked of all is the hamsi (anchovy) for which the men of Trabzon quarrel and even fight with each other while making transactions.
“Give me a Makrama (towel) full of Hamsi”, they say and after they wrap the fish in the gold and silver embroidered Makrama they happily head for home. Sometimes on their way, it happens that the water drizzles down. Then the pranksters and the jokesters call after them:
“Don’t let the good water be wasted. You could cook a rice dish with it.”
The fish has many advantages. It requires only seven days of consumption for one to realize the unbelievable and unusual strength the muscles have developed. Because it does not have an unpleasant odor, those who relish eating it have no indigestion. Bodily pains disappear right after having eaten the fish.
Serpents and poisonous centipedes flee from their hiding place in the house when these spots are vapored with Hamsi heads. Hamsi has numerous uses in the kitchen. The people of Trabzon cook about 40 different kinds of meals with Hamsi. Hamsisoups, hamsi roasts, hamsi stew, hamsi pies, and even hamsi and baklava (sweet pastry) are served in Trabzon. A meal cooked in a frying pan and called pilaki is equally favored.
First, the fish is cleaned, sliced into ten pieces and put on small skewers. Parsley, onions, celery, and bay leaves are finely shredded, seasoned with cinnamon and salt and all ingredients mixed well.
The Hamsi on skewers is put in the pan and covered with one layer of the mixture. Olive oil and water are added. After one hour it is removed from the fire. It is a very delicious meal.
In the mountains, there are pine trees, and in the vineyards cypresses and walnut trees.
Outside the Zagnos gates, there is an oak tree. On holidays the Pashas go there with their soldiers and play cirit which is a horseman’s game played with spears. The place is very large. In the center, three-ship masts are tied together and topped with a golden ball. The horsemen stop their horses and aim at the ball. Those who reach the target are rewarded accordingly.
The House of the Wrestler
Young men from Rumeli gather here every Friday. 70 or 80 pairs of stalwarts, all rubbed down with grease, meet to wrestle ? with each other. After the hug and the hand kiss, they catch each other around the neck and thus the fight starts. Through yells of encouragement, they are provoked to wrestle. With bare legs and naked chests they often fight for hours, using all kinds of tricks, but not being able to have the referees and the spectators draw up a decision.
Finally, one or the other manages to detect the weak point of his opponent and to revenge himself by trapping him. The strength of the muscles means manhood for the wrestlers. But trapping is more important. According to proverb manhood at a fight means “ten”, of which nine parts are tricks. In reality, this is the truth.
The wrestling house, although not strongly constructed, is in good condition. It has many partitions, a kitchen, and a garden. In the yard are hanging the belongings of the former wrestlers:
iron bows, truncheons, unusual bows and arrows and also greasy trousers made of Buffalo hide and each weighing 40 or 50 Okkas. (1 Okka = 1282 grams.)
Melek (Angel) Ahmet Pasha becomes Grand Vizier
(Between the periods of 1650 to 1662, Evliya Celebi held the post of head-muezzin and accountant for Melek Ahmet Pasha. Together with the Pasha, they reside in the province of Ozi and Rumeli. Many events connected with the Pasha and which are narrated as personal experiences. Below is described how the Pasha, after having been governor in many provinces becomes Grand Vizier. The steps he took and the decision he made are related along with his dismissal in the end.)
On August 1st, 1650, Sultan Murad IV held a great State meeting in his little palace Cimensofa in which participated in many religious leaders and Viziers. Since the governor of Bagdad, Nogayoglu Arslan Pasha had died, it was to be determined who was to be elected as his successor. Grand Vizier Murad Pasha took the lead:
“My Lord and Master, your Lala, Melek Ahmet Pasha have just arrived from Bagdad. He knows well about the situation there and also got along with the Persians so famously. Therefore may you honor him with this task?”
Upon this, the Sultan turned to Melek Ahmet Pasha and said:
“Melek, my Lala. I donate you again to the Province of Bagdad.”
“I accept it my Lord and Master”, said the Pasha, “only the terror and tyranny imposed on the folk by” the Yanizaris has gone beyond the limits of endurance. The Yanizari Aga and the Vizier of Bagdad do as they please. Give out a decree for the removal of ten of these tyrants.”
Consequently, he received three packs of gold as traveling fare, 50 guns, 50 harnesses- 50 camels, 50 mules, a new attractive tent and a decree on his appointment as head commander.
The Pasha got up, kissed the hand of the Sultan and bid farewell to the Viziers and other high Commissioners. From the palace Sinan Pasha, at Sarayburnu, he took the boats with his escort and went to Uskudar wherefrom he was to head for Bagdad. There he stayed a couple of days in his palace.
His wife Kaya Sultan also prepared for the journey. To see Bagdad, my humble self who was serving the Pasha as head muezzin and accountant, also proceeded in preparations.
On August 7, 1650, Hasan Aga, chief of the Imperial Chancellery together with the commander of the Palace garden arrived by boat and told the Pasha that his Majesty the Sultan wanted to see him.
“I hope it’s good news;” said the Pasha with a worried expression.
“It is good news for which I have deserved a recompense” answered Hasan Aga.
The Pasha took a boat. While we were still on our way we were met by another boat coming from the direction of the Sinan Pasha Palace. When it got closer we recognized the Chief of the Palace eunuchs.
“Blessed winds good news;” he called to us.
At Sarayburnu, the Pasha was met by the Commander of the Palace Guard and other high officials who were all decorated with medals. Then he was taken to the Cimensofa, the Imperial Garden. Many high officials of the Divan (High Court) Viziers, the Sheikh-ul-Islam; the Kazaskers and other important personages were gathered. Only I could not see the Grand Vizier Kara Murad Pasha.
The Sultan came in and after the greetings seated himself on the throne. He immediately turned to Melek Ahmet Pasha and said:
“Melek, my Lala, your trip did not last long. You do not need to go to Bagdad any longer. I have entrusted you with the Honorable Seal.”
He took the Seal taken away from Murad Pasha and handed it personally to Melek Pasha. Melek Pasha received it, kissed the floor and said:
“My Master, I accept the Seal, but may nobody from either inside or outside the Palace cause me any hindrance in my work. Nobody should ask for something and thus interfere with matters connected with the Moslems.”
He paused for a while and continued:
“Do send me a thousand bags of gold from the treasury so that I may form a big fleet, go to Crete with the Seal, conquer Kandia and take revenge from the Genoas. I hope that thus and by, praying for the prosperity of the Sultan we shall render valuable services to our religion.”
When Melek Ahmet Pasha ended his sentence the Sultan said:
“Lala Murad Pasha has the hundred bags of gold you need. Take it from him and use it to form your fleet.”
“My master,” retorted Melek Pasha, “I like to provide the one thousand bags of gold myself. To your Lala Murad Pasha, give the Province of Budin.”
His request was granted. Murad Pasha received Budin and felt like a newborn baby. After that many people swarmed the palace of the Pasha. Many high-ranking officials and tradesmen came. The crowd that kept on coming for seven days and nights were so big that we could hardly move. During this period money was spent like water. Our hands got tired of collecting money to be used for various services.
On the day Melek Ahmet Pasha received the Seal, the Kizlar-aga (head of the eunuchs) came to see him and brought him the following message from the Sultan:
“May your new job be blessed. May the mighty Allah aid and abet you in everything and may He lead you on the path of righteousness. Show Yourself..”
He brought the Pasha a kaftan like the ones that the Sultans wear and a fur. When the Pasha put it on the under officers of the Divan wished him that the Kaftan may bring him luck and that he may live long.
“May God grant long life to the Sultan,” they shouted. To the chief of the eunuchs, the Pasha gave a bag of gold and a fur. Princess Kaya also was very happy and distributed twenty bags of gold among the Agas. My humble self also received 300 Kurus. Everybody young and old, rich and poor rejoiced the event.
On the 14th day of the Ramazan, the month of fasting, the new Grand Vizier, followed by a great procession led by the Molla of Istanbul and including the representative of the State and the Aga of the city, went to his executive quarters at Unkapani, by the provision room where once Sultan Mehmet the conqueror also had a seat.
At his first official dealing, Evliya Celebi brought together many ship captains from the Black Sea, bakers, millers and cargo owners. He asked how much corn did cost at the Black Sea Ports. Since a 300 dirham weighing white bread was priced at one Akce, he accordingly set a maximum price. For meat, he sat a price of 7 Akce. Later he went to the Fatih vegetable market and there he also set maximum prices for rice, beans, green peas, lentils, henna, sugar, coffee, etc. From there he returned to the Palace.
Our nights turned into holy nights and our days into holidays…