For the space of four days which we spent in the court of Sartach, we had no victuals allowed us, except once a little cosmos; and during our journey to the residence of his father Baatu, we travelled in great fear, on account of certain Russian, Hungarian, and Alanian servants of the Tartars, who often assemble secretly in the night, in troops of twenty or thirty together, and being armed with bows and arrows, murder and rob whoever they meet with, hiding themselves during the day. These men are always on horseback, and when their horses tire, they steal others from the ordinary pastures of the Tartars, and each man has generally one or two spare horses to serve as food in case of need. Our guide therefore was in great fear lest we might fall in with some of these stragglers. Besides this danger, we must have perished during this journey, if we had not fortunately carried some of our biscuit along with us. We at length reached the great river Etilia or Volga, which is four times the size of the Seine, and of great depth. This river rises in the north of Greater Bulgaria, and discharges itself into the Hircanian Sea, called the Caspian by Isidore, having the Caspian mountains and the land of Persia on the south, the mountains of Musihet, or of the Assassins on the east, which join the Caspian mountains, and on the north is the great desert now occupied by the Tartars, where formerly there dwelt certain people called Canglae, or Cangitae, and on that side it receives the Etilia, or Volga, which overflows in summer like the Nile in Egypt. On the west side of this sea are the mountains of the Alani and Lesgis, the Iron-gate or Derbent, and the mountains of Georgia. This sea, therefore, is environed on three sides by mountains, but by plain ground on the north. Friar Andrew, in his journey, travelled along its south and east sides; and I passed its north side both in going and returning between Baatu and Mangu-khan, and along its western side in my way from Baatu into Syria. One may travel entirely round it in four months; and it is by no means true, as reported by Isidore, that it is a bay of the ocean, with which it nowhere joins, but is environed on all sides by the land.
At the region from the west shore of the Caspian, where the Iron-gate of Alexander is situated, now called Derbent, and from the mountains of the Alani, and along the Palus Moeotis, or sea of Azoph, into which the Tanais falls, to the northern ocean, was anciently called Albania; in which Isidore says, that there were dogs of such strength and fierceness, as to fight with bulls, and even to overcome lions, which I have been assured by several persons to be true; and even, that towards the northern ocean, they have dogs of such size and strength, that the inhabitants make them draw carts like oxen.
 It is astonishing how easily a small exaggeration
converts truth to
fable. Here the ill-told story of the light sledges of the Tshutki,
drawn by dogs of a very ordinary size, is innocently magnified into
carts dragged by gigantic mastiffs.—E.