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Letter from Gertrude Bell to her stepmother, Dame Florence Bell

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Reference code
Bell, Dame Florence Eveleen Eleanore
Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
Person(s) mentioned
Lascelles, Frank
Hogarth, D.G.
Extent and medium
1 letter plus envelope, paper

37.5101357, 22.372644

Friday 15 [sic] Tripolitsa [Tripolis]. Dearest Mother. Here we are safely embarked upon our tour. Our staff consists of our dragoman, Constantine Icomenides and his cook whose simple name is Themistocles. He is an excellent artist and not unworthy, in his own line, of so high sounding a name; we have just "enjoyed a good dinner", as Constantine says, of his cooking. We left Athens [Athinai] at 8 on Wednesday morning and travelled to Mycenae where we got out and lunched and then drove up to the ruins of Agamemnon's town. A most astonishing place it is, surrounded by walls built of colossal stones, so big and heavy, indeed, that they have remained in their places for upwards of 3000 years. You go in by a great gate with a triangular carving over it, two lions standing up on their hind legs and joining heads (only their heads are gone) over the top of a column. They were probably the armorial bearings of the "bloody house of Pelops" anyway they are a splendid decoration. In the Citadel, by dint of some guessing and many plans, we traced the foundations of the palace. On one hillside, leading down to a small postern gate in the wall, the ground was covered with scarlet anemonies - when I say small everything was built in the same colossal style, with stones weighing Heaven knows how much. He had a fine view from his palace, Agamemnon, right across the fertile Argolic plain, with the Acropolis of Argos sticking up in the distance, and the sea beyond. We drove on from Mycenae past Argos to Nauplia [Navplion], which is a charming place lying on a sheltered bay with hills behind, crowed by great Venetian forts, with the lion of St Mark's carved on all the walls. We found Dörpfeld and 40 German archaeologists making a tour here. Constantine (who regards all professors with extreme contempt) promised us much amusement, from watching them walking about in the square of Nauplia. They certainly are an odd lot but Dörpfeld is a dear and has been most friendly. We even think we may join him in his expedition to Delphi, where he has most kindly offered to take us. Constantine, however looks upon this proposal with horror. "They professors" he says "lives upon a one hard boil egg. English people don't like it." (We, I must tell you, batten upon "soft boil egg") On Thursday we drove over to Epidaurus [Epidavros], which was, I take it, the Lourdes of ancient Greece, with perhaps a dash of Homburg thrown in, for there are two theatres. There was an immense temple to A­sculabeus where people came and made cures under the auspices of the god - you can see still the semicircular marble seats all round the temple - on these the patients sat and waited till one night, as they were sleeping under the great colonnade, the god appeared to them in a dream and suggested a treatment. Those who were cured set up a tablet in his honour, and the whole place is covered with these inscribed stones. One of the theatres is quite perfect - almost quite perfect - and enormous. But you could hear in every part of it. Papa stood on the stage and made a mock political speech to Uncle Tom and me in the highest seats, almost without raising his voice. Our road from Nauplia lay up and down over incredibly bare hills; here and there a Pelasgic fort of dateless antiquity stood up on a rock and sometimes we saw a shepherd and a tinkling flock of goats; otherwise no human sign. This morning we climbed up onto the Venetian fort in Nauplia. The top of it is inhabited by goats which seem to live on prickly pears, and one or two sentinels whose duty, apparently, is to look after the goats and the prisoners, whom we saw sticking their heads out between the most authodox[?] bars and letting down bags in which the passers by put food or money. Just in front of their windows (a cheerless sight for a prisoner) is a small island all built over with a fort, and in this the executioner lives! We then drove to Tiryns [Tirins], a town much older than Mycenae but on the same plan. Tiryns had already flourished and been forgotten by Homer's time! The walls are even more wonderful than those of Mycenae and the ground plan of the palace clearer. Then we took the train and went to Argos, where we changed and fell in with all the Dörpfeld party, and so on here over a lovely mountain line. We are now in the middle of Arcadia [Arkadhia] and the shepherds really do play on penny whistles while they watch their goats! The town is charming, a collection of red roofed, tightly packed houses lying in a green plain surrounded by range above range of mountains. We walked about the streets which are arranged on the bazaar plan, one street to a trade, most entertaining. Papa is in great spirits, indeed we are all enjoying ourselves immensely. When are Uncle Frank and Fl. [Florence] going to London? If I go to Caroline at Dresden on my way home, cd I come up to Berlin and travel to England with them just after Whitsuntide? Ever your aff. daughter Gertrude

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