The war in the Crimea and the business interests of foreign firms bring scores of Europeans to Constantinople every day. While modern conveniences such as train travel and steam ships simplify such excursions, most travelers from England follow one of four routes.
Because of the perilous countryside surrounding the city, all of these routes approach Constantinople by water. Only a few miles from Constantinople, the villages and farms spread far apart. Bandits and Bashi-Bazouks (Ottoman mercenaries) patrol the roads ready to rob and kill undefended travelers, and caravans. Wild dogs and other predators, far from the abundant scavenging brought by city life, hunt whatever food comes their way. Only fools leave Constantinople unarmed or unguarded.
The Danube Route (10 Days by Train and Ship)
Cross the English Channel to the Belgian port of Ostend. Travel by train from Ostend to Cologne in Prussia. Take another train across the German Confederation to Dresden, and from Dresden to Prague, and from Prague to Vienna. Barring accidents and incidents, this leg of the journey can be undertaken (with proper planning) in 3 days.
From Vienna take passage on a steamer down the Danube to the Black Sea. Leave the Black Sea, into the Bosporus Strait to reach Constantinople from the North. Due to the Crimean War, most steamers do not take this route anymore.
The Trieste Route (12 Days by Train and Ship)
Travel from England to Vienna by Ostend, Cologne, Dresden, and Prague, as described in the Danube Route (3 days barring accidents or incidents). Take a train from Vienna to the Italian seaport of Trieste. From Trieste, book passage on a steamer passing through the Mediterranean. Most cruises stop at the Greek islands Corfu, and Syra, the Turkish port in Smyrna, along with the Dardanelles before reaching Constantinople from the South.
The Gibraltar Route (15 Days by Ship)
Leave on a steamer from the English port of Southampton to the strategic British territory of Gibraltar at the mouth of the Mediterranean. From Gibraltar, sail the Mediterranean sea to Constantinople. This route is the most expensive and time-consuming, however, the best way to ship heavy equipment or large amounts of cargo is by sea.
The Marseilles Route (10 Days by Train and Ship)
Cross the English Channel to Dover. Take the train to Paris and from Paris to the great port of Marseilles in southern France. Tramp steamers regularly depart Marseilles every few weeks traveling through the Mediterranean Sea directly to Constantinople.
Most European steamships dock in Tophane, in the European quarter. Kolji (Ottoman custom officials) oversee the unloading of cargo and inspect the luggage of most travelers. Anyone wishing to expedite their tiresome inspection can charitably give the Kolji 3 piastres to be on their way. Hamals (local porters) gather at the piers ready to bear the luggage. The Hamal’s stooping stance, permanently leaning over from carrying heavy burdens on his back, identifies their profession. A Hamal carrying a trunk from Tophane to Pera charges 5 piastres for his labor and his guidance to the traveler’s quarters.
Constantinople confronts travelers with more struggles than the average unfamiliar city due to its cosmopolitan history. Beyond the plethora of languages spoken by its inhabitants, finding a specific location is further complicated by its disorganized streets. The deeper into the city, the narrower, and more crowded the street. Small alleys may open on gigantic thoroughfares or important squares, but the most vital arteries of traffic are the cramped back streets.
Outside the European quarter, few streets bear official names, and no houses have addresses. Locals describe their neighborhood’s geography based on the nearest fountains, coffeehouses, or mosques. Directions to further destinations in the city refer to monuments, ruins, or palaces, which is also how most quarters and neighborhoods get their names. For example, the Cemberlitas district gets its name from the Column of Constantine. After an earthquake damaged the column, the Sultan had the column strengthened with metal rings and Cemberlitas means “hooped stone”.
While almost all the traffic on the cramped twisting streets consists of pedestrians, a few riders mounted on horseback and the occasional carriage temporarily breaks up the crowds. Livery stables in Pera, Galata, and Tophane, hire out horses and rigs, mostly to visiting Europeans planning day trips to popular sites in the countryside. A comfortable carriage costs 40 piastres a day, or simple jostling hack 25 piastres a day. Driving a carriage through Constantinople requires tremendous vigilance to avoid the constant flow of crowds, camels bearing heavily packed burdens, packs of feral dogs, vendor’s carts, and of course other equally dangerous carriages. The streets outside the bazaars and near the shore bear the most populous foot traffic.