Letters of Anton Chekhov, by Anton Chekhov

To N. A. Leikin.

SUMY, August 12.

. . . I have been to the Crimea. I spent twelve days at Suvorin’s in Feodosia, bathed, idled about; I have been to Aivazovsky’s estate. From Feodosia I went by steamer to Batum. On the way I spent half a day at Suhum — a charming little town buried in luxuriant, un-Russian greenery, and one day at the Monastery, at New Athos. It is so lovely there at New Athos that there is no describing it: waterfalls, eucalyptuses, tea-plants, cypresses, olive-trees, and, above all, sea and mountains, mountains, mountains. From Athos and Suhum I went to Poti; the River Rion, renowned for its valley and its sturgeons, is close by. The vegetation is luxuriant. All the streets are planted with poplars. Batum is a big commercial and military, foreign-looking, cafe’-chantant sort of town; you feel in it at every step that we have conquered the Turks. There is nothing special about it (except a great number of brothels), but the surrounding country is charming. Particularly fine is the road to Kars and the swift river Tchoraksu.

The road from Batum to Tiflis is poetical and original; you look all the time out of window and exclaim: there are mountains, tunnels, rocks, rivers, waterfalls, big and little. But the road from Tiflis to Baku is the abomination of desolation, a bald plain, covered with sand and created for Persians, tarantulas, and phalangas to live in. There is not a single tree, there is no grass . . . dreary as hell. . . . Baku and the Caspian Sea are such rotten places that I would not agree to live there for a million. There are no roofs, there are no trees either; Persian faces everywhere, fifty degrees Reaumur of heat, a smell of kerosine, the naphtha-soaked mud squelches under one’s feet, the drinking water is salt.

. . . You have seen the Caucasus. I believe you have seen the Georgian Military Road, too. If you have not been there yet, pawn your wives and children and the Oskolki [Translator’s Note: Oskolki, (i.e., “Chips,” “Bits”) the paper of which Leikin was editor.] and go. I have never in my life seen anything like it. It is not a road, but unbroken poetry, a wonderful, fantastic story written by the Demon in love with Tamara.

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