we sailed past Hirsova, and at two o’clock stopped at Braila, a fortress occupied by the Russians since the year 1828. Here passengers were not allowed to land, as they were considered infected with the plague; but our officer stepped forward, and vouched for the fact that we had neither landed nor taken up any one on the right bank of the river; thereupon the strangers were allowed to set foot on terra firma.
By four o’clock we were opposite Galatz, one of the most considerable commercial towns, with 8000 inhabitants,—the only harbour the Russians possess on the Danube. Here we saw the first merchant-ships and barques of all kinds coming from the Black Sea. Some sea-gulls also, heralds of the neighbouring ocean, soared above our heads.
The scene here is one of traffic and bustle; Galatz being the place of rendezvous for merchants and travellers from two quarters of the globe, Europe and Asia. It is the point of junction of three great empires—Austria, Russia, and Turkey.
After the officer had repeated his assurances as at Braila, we were permitted to leave the ship. I had a letter of recommendation to the Austrian consul, who accidentally came on board; after reading my letter he received me very kindly, and most obligingly procured quarters for me.
The town promises much, but proves to be just such a miserable dirty place as Giurgewo. The houses are generally built of wood or clay, thatched with straw; those alone belonging to the consul and the rich merchants are of stone. The finest buildings are the Christian church and the Moldavian hotel.
Though Galatz lies on the Danube, water for drinking is a dear article among the inhabitants. Wells are to be found neither in the houses nor in the squares. The townspeople are compelled to bring all the water they require from the Danube, which is a great hardship for the poor people, and a considerable expense for the rich; in winter a small tub of water costs from 10 to 12 kreutzers (about 4d. or 5d.) in the more distant quarters of the town. At every corner you meet water-carriers, and little wagons loaded with tubs of water. Attempts have frequently been made to procure this indispensable element by digging; water has, indeed, in some instances gushed forth, but it always had a brackish taste.
In Galatz we made a halt of twenty-four hours: the delay was not of the most agreeable kind, as neither the town itself nor its environs offer any thing worthy of remark. Still I always think of these days with pleasure. Herr Consul Huber is a polite and obliging man; himself a traveller, he gave me many a hint and many a piece of advice for my journey. The air of quiet comfort which reigned throughout his house was also not to be despised by one who had just endured many days of privation; at Herr Huber’s I found relief both for body and mind.
The scenery round the town is so far from being inviting, that I did not feel the least inclination to explore it. I therefore remained in the town, and went up hill and down dale through the ill-paved streets. Coffee-houses appear in great abundance; but if it were not for the people sitting in front of them drinking coffee and smoking tobacco, no one would do these dirty rooms the honour of taking them for places of entertainment.