around Lebanon on a bicycle.
“Next day we started at 5 a.m. Even at that early hour a crowd was waiting in the dark to see us off, and as we proceeded we found the inhabitants of no less than four villages waiting on the roadside, they having stationed a watchman to herald our approach.
In one place, at Zahleh, a town of 15,000 inhabitants, a woman brought out a tray with little cups of coffee.
It was awfully kind, but the crowd was too great, and would have hemmed us in had we dismounted, so we pitched the good woman some backsheesh and rode along to Shtora for breakfast.”
~ Round About the World on Bicycles – G.W. Burston & H.R. Stokes (1890).
My Life and Times
by Jerome K. Jerome
October 1888 – Published 1895.
From the Clyde to The Jordan.
“Narrative of a bicycle journey” was the first illustrated account by a rider of a “modern day bicycle”, and followed Scottish clergyman Hugh Callan – the same author of “Wanderings on Wheel and on Foot Through Europe” – on his ride from Glasgow to Jerusalem, which had previously appeared seven years earlier as a more in depth series of articles in the Glasgow Herald – the Beirut section (then part of the Ottoman Empire) published on 5th February, 1889.
Suffering “from a peculiar complaint called by the natives ‘white dysentery’” he reluctantly remained on board the Egyptian steamer with his safety bicycle, when it docked for a day in Beirut, en route from Mersin, Turkey, to Jaffa, Palestine; instead reserving his comments for the differences between the “cold, staid, solemn and silent” Turks and the “self-reliant, self-confident, exuberantly happy” Arabs, who “can do nothing without noise”, both “on deck and in the streets.” – “To me it was like coming into a new world.”
- By Hugh Callan.
- Published by Blackie & Son, London.
April 1889 – Published 1890.
Round About The World on Bicycles.
“The pleasure tour of G.W. Burston and H.R. Stokes, Melbourne Bicycle Club, Australia,” follows George Burston and Harry Stokes on their 56-inch high-wheel bicycle journey around the world, setting off from Melbourne, on 1st November 1888, arriving back in Australia on the 14th December 1889.
While Hugh Callan had only stopped for a day in the port of Beirut on his way to Palestine six months earlier, remaining on board his steamer with ‘white dysentery’”, Burston and Stokes however, sailing in the opposite direction, not only disembarked at Beirut – “a beautiful town” – but spent a few days exploring the country by bicycle.
The Lebanon section of their journey (through what was then two districts of the Ottoman Empire, known as the Mount Lebanon Mutasarrifate and the newly-formed Vilayet of Beirut; established a year earlier as recognition of the new-found importance of the booming capital), was chronicled in The Australasian. on 28th September and 2nd November, 1889.
Tackling “the ascent of Mount Lebanon, which rises almost from the shore”, for 30 miles on their ‘Penny Farthings’, they finally reached the snow topped peak after five and half hours, before descending to Chtoura and then climbing the Anti-Lebanon mountains, over Mount Hermon, into the Syria Vilayet district of the Ottoman Empire (today’s Lebanon-Syria boundary at Masnaa), descending into its capital, Damascus,
Returning the same way to the Mount Lebanon Mutasarrifate, at Chtoura they branched north to explore Baalbek, before heading back to Chtoura through Zahlé and over Mount Lebanon – “the frozen snow lying on the road in the same position as five days before.” – “At the highest point we drank ‘Confusion to our Enemies, the Turks in Particular,’ with a bottle of iced wine, then flew along round curves and down declines and dangerous declivities with unprotected sides” towards Beirut, where they caught a Russian liner to Tripoli (Libya), Alexandretta (İskenderun, Turkey), and Mersin (Turkey). Two miles off shore, the ship smashed its propeller, so they transfered to a Turkish steamer heading to Rhodes (Greece), Chios (Greece), and Smyrna (İzmir, Turkey) – “the largest town in Asia Minor.”
- by G.W. Burston and H.R. Stokes.
- Published by George Robertson and Company, Melbourne, Australia “for private circulation only”
ASIA MINOR AND EASTERN PARTS.
“The heat of the sun was pretty severe, so we divested ourselves of coats and vests and commenced the ascent of Mount Lebanon, which rises almost from the shore ; but the road was a fairly easy grade, and we rode a good distance, and then walked and rode where opportunity offered for four hours.
Talk about hills ! —why, all those Victorian rises, the Pentland, Black Spur and Heidelberg hills, could be rolled into one and then would be lost here.
We climbed continually for thirty miles. After four hours of it we felt somewhat limp, so rested at a wayside place for refreshment, which consisted of Araby bread, native arrack, raisins, and roast peas.
This mixture the mountain air caused us to relish, and then ‘excelsior’ once more.”
~G.W. Burston & H.R. Stokes – Round About The World on Bicycles, 1890.