Of the Court of Baatu, and our Entertainment there.
On that part of the Volga where we arrived, they have lately built a new village, in which there is a mixed population of Russians and Tartars, established for the service of the ferry, that they may transport messengers going to and from the court of Baatu, as he always remains on the east side of the Volga. Neither does he ever travel any farther north, in summer, than to the place where we arrived on that river, and was even then descending towards the south. From January till August, he and all the other Tartars ascend by the banks of rivers towards the cold regions of the north, and in August they begin again to return. From the place where we came to the Volga, is a journey of five days northward to the first villages of the Greater Bulgaria, and I am astonished to think how the Mahometan religion should have travelled thither; as from Derbent, on the extreme borders of Persia, it is thirty days journey to pass the desert and ascend along the Volga into Bulgaria, and in the whole track there are no towns, and only a few villages where the Volga falls into the Caspian; yet these Bulgarians are the most bigotedly attached to the religion of Mahomet, of any of the nations that have been perverted to that diabolical superstition.
The court of Baatu having already gone towards the south, we passed down the stream of the Volga in a bark from the before mentioned village, to where his court then was; and we were astonished at the magnificent appearance of his encampment, as his houses and tents were so numerous, as to appear like some large city, stretching out to a vast length; and there were great numbers of people ranging about the country, to three or four leagues all around. Even as the children of Israel knew every one on which side of the Tabernacle to pitch his tent, so every Tartar knows on to what side of the court of his prince he ought to place his house, when he unlades it from his cart. The princes court is called in their language Horda, which signifies the middle, because the chieftain or ruler always dwells in the midst of his people; only that no subject or inferior person must place his dwelling towards the south, as the court gates are always open to that quarter. But they extend themselves to the right and left, according as they find it convenient. On our arrival we were conducted to a Mahometan, who did not provide us with any provisions; and we were brought next day to the court, where Baatu had caused a large tent to be erected, as his house was two small to contain the multitude of men and women who were assembled at this place. We were admonished by our guide, not to speak until we should receive orders from Baatu to that purpose, and that then we should be brief in our discourse. Baatu asked if your majesty had sent us as ambassadors to him? I answered, that your majesty had formerly sent ambassadors