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FTER a rough night, in which we had
some experience of the suddenness with which the Ægean may be lashed into fury by the winds, we came to anchor in the harbour of Syra at nine, A.M., on the 7th of
July. We were at once put into
quarantine on board the steamer;
that is to say, the health officer came alongside in a little boat and looked at us for ten
seconds as we stood in a row at the side of the ressel; after which we were forbidden to communicate with the land until nine o'clock the next morning, when the health officer at the Piræus would examine us in like manner, and would give us pratique upon the payment of our fees. This is a much easier and pleasanter mode of keeping quarantine than that of entering the Lazaretto on shore; it is an invention of the Austrian Lloyd Steam Company, of which their boats enjoy a monopoly.
It was no privation not to go on shore at Syra, for the town, which reaches from the sea to the summit of a cone-like hill, looked exceedingly steep and barren, and hot and dreary. The bells at evening were the only pleasant feature of the place; their sound rolled sweetly down the hills and over the waters.
At five the next morning we sailed into the beautiful harbour of the Piræus, between the pedestals where once stood the lions that guarded the entrance to the port of Athens. I strained my eyes to catch a view of the Parthenon, but it was hardly visible through the clouds of dust that filled the scorching air. The quarantine over, in an hour we were riding in this hot cloud of powdered marble, past the temple of Theseus, the Pnyx and the Acropolis.
Of all places in the Levant, Athens is the worst for a summer residence. The heat is even more intense and melting here than at Beyrout, and there is no covered bazaar or seaside balcony where he can take refuge. Macadamized roads, built of a friable stone, and seldom moistened by showers, throw up immense quantities of dust as the fierce scorching winds sweep over the plain; while the white stone of the streets and of the houses, relieved by no shade, and the naked faces of the surrounding inountains reflect and multiply the sun's rays like a combination of mirrors, in whose focus the luckless sight-seer must always stand. It is only in the early morning and at evening that one can go about the streets with comfort or safety.