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LETTER xxxiv     FIRST VIEW OF ERZERUM                    381


ERZERUM, Dec. 1.

I LEFT Harta in a snowstorm without the caravan, and
wherever the snow was well beaten got along at a good
pace, passing on the right the fortress of Hassan-Kaleh,
with several lines of fortifications and a town at its base,
which, with the surrounding district, consumes, it is said,
an amount of strong drink equal in value to its taxation.
The adjacent Pasin Plain, watered by the Araxes, has
suffered severely from the Kurds. A short time ago all
its Christian villages were plundered, and at least 20
horses, 31 asses, 2282 sheep, and 750 head of cattle,
nearly the whole pastoral wealth of the people, were
carried off by these marauders, while the Moslem villages
were exempt from their attacks. After winding among
uninteresting hills crowned with forts, along valleys
in which military posts occur at frequent intervals, and
making a long ascent, the minarets and grim fortifica-
tions of the unhappy town of Erzerum loomed through
the snow-mist; the city itself lying on a hill slope above
a very extensive plain at a height of over 6000 feet. It
was a solemn scene. The snow was deep and was still
falling, the heavens were black, and swirls of mist driven
by a strong wind blotted out at times the surrounding
mountains. A dead calm followed, and snow clouds hung
suspended over the city.

My first impression of Erzerum was of earthworks of