Here’s another chapter of my ongoing translation of Nils Mattsson Kiöping’s 1667 travelogue. I have introduced a paragraph division for legibility.
Chapter 34: Persia, nature and culture
It is a very fertile country with wheat and barley, which they sow twice and reap twice a year. Also a very mountainous country, where lovely grapes grow all year round, both winter and summer, so that when one vine blooms, then the second is unripe, the third half ripe and the fourth ripe. And this goes on continuously every year. They also love gardens greatly, where they have all sorts, roses as well as fruit trees such as pears, white apples, almonds, plums, all kinds of sweet and sour limes, as well as several unknown to us, very large and delicious melons and watermelons, which cool a person excellently.
They have many wondrous springs or fountains in their gardens. Here are found the best horses that can ever be in Asia. So much dates grow in the countryside that they even feed their donkeys, sheep, oxen and cows with them. Here are abundantly found the best sheep that can ever be in the world. Of the most valuable trees, there are very tall cypresses here, and another one called Arbor de Raiss, which is at least one Italian mile around with the twigs, and more than 6,000 men could stand under it, and regardless of how hard it rained, not a drop would fall on them. Its branches are so long that they hang to the ground, and grow up again, they droop down again, and grow up again, so that one twig can easily reach for more than half a quarter mile from the trunk itself. It has large leaves but bears no fruit, but when you break a twig from it a white sap oozes out, which if it gets into a person’s eye, they will soon go blind.
Here are also a lot of deer, wild boar, which the Persians do not eat, but they do eat wild donkeys. Here is also a beast of prey which they call jackals, not unlike a wolf. These catch or greatly wound both birds and beasts, indeed, if they do not protect their dead in solid and deep tombs, then they dig them up and eat them. The Christians believe that this is the hyaena of which the naturalists write.* Several kinds of bird are found here, but no geese, only chickens and partridges, several hundreds together in the flock. Large and small turtle doves, cranes, herons, storks, kroppgäss** etc. The pelican is also seen here, but it never cuts up its chest over its dead chicks,*** nor is its beak suitable for it to cut with in this manner, as the naturalists report.
The Persians are white in complexion, though tending a little toward yellow. They are a proud, greedy, warlike people, similar to the Poles in their dress, except for the headgear, for which they have a mandel or turban. The King can in a matter of days muster several thousand cavalry of which some are equipped with mail coats, bows and arrows, and some with pikes. He uses nothing in particular for the infantry, they have extremely heavy muskets, and strike the cock over towards the muzzle and not to the stock. Their fuses are of cotton. On campaign he also uses cannon, but they are all managed by Christians. At the time when I was there, the artillery was directed by an Englishman and a Holsatian.
On the border between Parthia and Persia is a little town named Ilsikas where live only Muslims and all are farmers. Here also is grown the best wheat in the country, for which they are very famous, and when they say that “this is Nun de Iesikass”, then they love it more than any other grain grown in the country.
* Africa’s hyaenas and South Asia’s jackals occupy similar ecological niches but are not in fact closely related.
** Uncertain. Da. kropgaas and Ge. Kropfganz mean pelican, but NMK mentions the pelican separately here. In analogy with Sw. kroppduva, a kroppgås might be a goose that can inflate its crop. But geese have no crops to inflate, and NMK states that there are no geese in Persia (which there are in fact — he may be thinking of domestic geese).
*** Referring to the earlier version of the pelican’s tale where it kills and resurrects its chicks, not the more widespread one where it simply feeds them with its own blood.