Of the City of Damascus. Of 3 Ways to Jerusalem; one, by Land and by Sea; another, more by land than by sea; and the 3rd Way to Jerusalem, all by Land
NOW that I have told you of some Part of the Folk in the Countries before, now will I turn again on my Way, to turn again to this half of my Travels. Then whoso will go from the Land of Galilee, that I have spoke of, to come again on this half, Men come again by Damascus, that is a full fair City and full noble, and full of all Merchandises, and a 3 Days Journey long from the Sea, and a 5 Days Journey from Jerusalem. But upon Camels, Mules, Horses, Dromedaries and other Beasts, Men carry their Merchandise thither. And thither come Merchants with Merchandise by Sea from India, Persia, Chaldea, Armenia, and from many other Kingdoms.
This City founded Eliezer Damascus, that was Yeoman and Dispenser (or Steward) of Abraham before that Isaac was born. For he thought to have been Abrahams Heir, and he named the Town after his Surname. And in that Place, where Damascus was founded, Cain slew Abel his Brother. And beside Damascus is the Mount Seir. In that City of Damascus there is great Plenty of Wells. And within the City and without be many fair Gardens of diverse Fruits. None other City is like in comparison to it for fair Gardens, and for fair Diversions. The City is great and full of People, and walled with double Walls. And there be many Physicians. And Saint Paul himself was there a Physician to keep Mens Bodies in Health, before he was converted. And after that he was Physician of Souls. And Saint Luke the Evangelist was Disciple of Saint Paul to learn Physic, and many others; for Saint Paul held then a School of Physic. And near beside Damascus was he converted. And after his Conversion he dwelt in that City 3 Days, without Sight and without Meat or Drink; and in those 3 Days he was ravished to Heaven, and there he saw many Privities of our Lord.
From Damascus Men come again by our Lady of Sardenak, that is a 5 Mile on this side Damascus. And it is set upon a Rock, and it is a full fair Place; and it seemeth a Castle, for there was wont to be a Castle, but it is now a full fair Church. And there within be Monks and Nuns Christian. And there is a Vault under the Church, where that Christian Men dwell also. And they have many good Vines. And in the Church, behind the high Altar, in the Wall, is a Table of black Wood, on the which sometime was painted an Image of our Lady that turneth into Flesh: but now the Image sheweth but little, but evermore, through the Grace of God, that Table droppeth as it were of Olive; and there is a Vessel of Marble under the Table to receive the Oil; thereof they give unto Pilgrims, for it healeth of many Sicknesses. And he that keepeth it cleanly a Year, after that Year it turneth into Flesh and Blood.
Between the City of Dark and the City of Raphan is a River that Men call Sabbatoria;1 for on the Saturday it runneth fast, and all the Week else it standeth still, and runneth nought or little. And there is another River, that in the Night freezeth wondrous fast, and in the Day is no Frost seen.
And so go Men by a City that Men call Beirout, and there Men go on to the Sea, that shall go unto Cyprus. And they arrive at the Port of Sur or of Tyre, and then go unto Cyprus. Or else Men may go from the Port of Tyre right well and come not unto Cyprus, and arrive at some Haven of Greece. And then come Men unto these Countries by Ways that I have spoken of before.
Now will I tell you the straight Way to Jerusalem: for some Men will not pass it; some for the Expense, some for they have no Company, and other many reasonable Causes. And therefore I tell you shortly how a Man may go with little Cost and short Time.
A Man that cometh from the Lands of the West, he goeth through France, Burgundy and Lombardy and to Venice and to Genoa, or to some other Haven of the Borders; and taketh a Ship there and goes by Sea to the Isle of Gryffle (? Corfu), and so arriveth in Greece, or in Port Muroch, or Valon or Duras, or at some other Haven, and goes to Land to rest him; and goes again to Sea, and arrives in Cyprus, and cometh not to the Isle of Rhodes, but arrives at Famagosta that is the chief Haven of Cyprus, or else at Lamaton; and then entereth into the Ship again and goes beside the Haven of Tyre but cometh not to Land, and so passeth he by all the Havens of that Coast until he come to Jaffa that is the nighest Haven unto Jerusalem, whence it is 27 Mile. And from Jaffa Men go to the City of Ramleh, and that is but little thence, and it is a fair City. And beside Ramleh is a fair Church of our Lady, where our Lord shewed Him to our Lady in the Likeness that betokeneth the Trinity. And there, fast by, is a Church of Saint George, where that his Head was smitten off. And then unto the Castle Emmaus. And then unto Mount Joy; and from thence Pilgrims may first see unto Jerusalem. And then to Mount Modein. And then to Jerusalem. And at the Mount Modein lieth the Prophet Maccabeus. And over Ramleh is the Town of Tekoa, where-of Amos the good Prophet was.
Another Way. Forasmuch as many Men may not suffer the Savour of the Sea, but had as lief go by Land, though that it be more Pain, a Man shall so go unto one of the Havens of Lombardy, as Venice or another. And he shall pass into Greece through Port Moroch or another, and so he shall go unto Constantinople. And he shall so pass the Water that is clept the Brace of Saint George, that is an Arm of the Sea. And from thence he shall come to Pulverall and then unto the Castle of Cinopolis. And from thence shall he go unto Cappadocia that is a great Country, where there be many great Hills. And he shall go through the City of Nyke (Nicea,) the which they won from the Emperor of Constantinople; and it is a fair City and wondrous well walled; and there is a River that Men call the Laye. And then Men go by the Alps of Aryoprynant, and by the Vales of Mallebrinez, and eke the Vale of Ernax; and so unto Antioch the Less that sitteth on the River Reclay. And thereabout be many good Hills and fair, and many fair Woods, and eke wild Beasts.
And he that will go by another Way, he must go by the Plain of Roumania, coasting the Roumanian Sea. Upon that Coast is a wondrous fair Castle that men call Florathe. And when a Man is out of those same Hills, Men pass then through a City, that is called Marioch and Arteis, where there is a great Bridge upon the River of Ferne that Men call Fassar; and it is a great River bearing Ships. And beside the City of Damascus is a River that cometh from the Mountain of Lebanon that Men call Abana: at passing of this River Saint Eustace lost his 2 Sons, when that he had lost his Wife; and it goeth through the Plain of Arthadoe, and so unto the Red Sea. And so Men may go unto the City of Phenne, and so unto the City of Ferne.
And from Antioch Men may so go forth unto the City of Latakia, and then unto Gabala, and then unto Tartus; and there-by is the Land of Cambre, where there is a strong Castle that Men call Maubeke. And from Tartus Men go unto Tripoli upon the Sea. And upon the Sea Men go unto Acre; and thence be 2 Ways unto Jerusalem. Upon the left Way, Men go first unto Damascus by River Jordan. Upon the right Side, Men go through the Land of Flagam, and so unto the City of Caiaphas, of the which Caiaphas was Lord, and some call it the Castle of Pilgrims (Athlêt). And from thence is 4 Days Journey unto Jerusalem, and they go through Cesarea Philippi, and Jaffa, and Ramleh and Emmaus, and so unto Jerusalem.
Now have I told you some of the Ways by the Land and eke by Water how that Men may go unto Jerusalem; though that it be so, that there be many other Ways that Men go by, according to the Countries that they come from; nevertheless, they turn all unto one End. Yet is there a Way all by Land unto Jerusalem and passing over no Sea. That is from France or Flanders. But that Way is full long and perilous, and of great Travail; and therefore few go that same Way. And whoso goeth that Way, he must go through Germany and Prussia, and so unto Tartary.
This Tartary is held of the great Chan, of whom I shall speak more afterward, for thither lasteth his Lordship. And the Lords of Tartary yield unto the great Chan Tribute. This is a full ill Land and a sandy, and bearing but little Fruit. For there groweth little good of Corn or Wine, neither Beans nor Peas. But Beasts be there enough, and that full great Plenty. And there eat they nought but Flesh without Bread, and they sup the Broth thereof. And also they drink the Milk. And all Manner of wild Beasts they eat, Hounds, Cats, Rats, and all other wild Beasts. And they have no Wood, or else little; and therefore they warm and seethe their Meat with Horse-dung and Cow-dung and that of other Beasts, dried against the Sun. And Princes and others eat not but once in the Day, and that but little. And they be right foul Folk and of evil Kind. And in Summer, by all the Countries, fall many Tempests and many hideous Thunders and Lightnings and slay much People and Beasts also full often-time. And suddenly is it there passing hot, and suddenly also passing cold; and it is the foulest Country and the most cursed and the poorest that Men know. And their Prince, that governeth that Country, that they call Batho, dwelleth at the City of Orda. And truly no good Man should dwell in that Country, for the Land and the Country is not worthy of Hounds to dwell in. It were a good Country to sow in Thistle and Briars and Broom and Thorns; and for no other Thing is it good. Nevertheless, there is good Land in some Places, but it is very little, as Men say.
I have not been in that Country, nor by those Ways. But I have been at other Lands that march with those Countries, and in the land of Russia, and in the Land of Nyfland (Livonia), and in the Realm of Cracow and of Letto (Lithuania), and in the Realm of Daristan, and in many other Places that march with the Borders. But I went never by that Way to Jerusalem, wherefore I may not well tell you the Manner.
But, if this Matter please any worthy Man that hath gone by that Way, he may tell it if it like him; to that Intent, that those, that will go by that Way and make their Voyage by those Borders, may know what Way is there. For no Man may pass by that Way goodly, but in Time of Winter, for the perilous Waters and wicked Morasses, that be in those Countries, that no Man may pass but if it be strong Frost and Snow above. For if there were no Snow, Men might not go upon the Ice, nor Horse nor Car either.
And it is well a 3 Days Journey of such Way to pass from Prussia to the Land of Saracens that is habitable. And it behoveth to the Christian Men, that shall war against them every Year, to bear their Victuals with them; for they shall find there none good. And then must they make carry their Victual upon the Ice with Cars that have no Wheels, that they call Sleighs. And as long as their Victuals last they may abide there, but no longer; for there shall they find no Person that will sell them any Victual or anything. And when the Spies see any Christian Men come upon them, they run to the Towns, and cry with a loud Voice; Kerra, Kerra, Kerra. And then anon they arm them and assemble them together.
And ye shall understand that it freezeth more strongly in those Countries than on this Half. And therefore hath every Man Stoves in his House, and on those Stoves they eat and do their Occupations all that they may. For that is at the North Parts that Men call the Septentrional where it is cold. For the Sun is but little or none toward those Countries. And therefore in the Septentrion, that is very North, is the Land so cold, that none may dwell there. And, on the contrary, toward the South it is so hot, that no Man may dwell there, because that the Sun, when he is upon the South, casteth his Beams all straight upon that Part.