Henry Fanshawe Tozer.

Researches in the highlands of Turkey; including visits to mounts Ida, Athos, Olympus, and Pelion, to the Mirdite Albanians, and other remote tribes (Volume 1) online

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and did not desire bakshish at all.

The scenery of this part of the lake of Ochrida is
extremely beautiful, and it is more easy for the traveller
to fancy himself in the neighbourhood of the Italian
lakes, than in the midst of the wild stern regions of
European Turkey. One of the mediaeval travellers com-
pares it to the lake of Gennesaret, and my companion
assured me that from the level of the lake, where the
distant mountains are hidden from view, the resemblance
is striking. Great numbers of waterfowl might be seen
near the shore, and huge buffaloes lay revelling in the
coolness, and in freedom from the attacks of flies, with
their heads just protruded above the surface, and their
mouths idly gaping. But the greatest curiosity of these
parts are the boats which are used on the lake. These
are flat-bottomed vessels, with large logs of wood pro-
jecting from their sides to keep them steady in the
water ; and in the bow a sort of platform, rising in three
steps, for the three rowers, who have their oars all on the
same side ; while to counterbalance them another sits in
the stern, and steers with an oar on the other side — a
mode of progression the disadvantages of which are more
apparent than the advantages. Their primitive shape
and peculiar arrangement is probably intended to suit
them for fishing purposes ; though, when the history of
primaeval boats comes to be written, those which are
found in the remote lakes of Turkey may perhaps be
found to belong to a very early type.

Chap. IX. The Drm at Struga. 197

At Struga the Drin is crossed by a long wooden
bridge, beneath which the full clear stream rushes along
in a well-defined bed. As we looked down into it, we
could see fish of all sizes swimming about in the water ;
and before long we were able to pronounce on their ex-
cellence as an article of food, as we purchased for six
piastres (one shilling) a fine pink salmon-trout, of four
pounds and a half, off which we made a luxurious repast.
The trout and salmon-trout which abound in this lake
are rarely, if ever, found in the other lakes of Turkey.
Struga is the head-quarters of the fishery, in consequence
of the fish resorting at certain seasons to the outlet of
the lake, where they are caught in immense quantities.
A great part of the population of the place is occupied
in catching and drying them, and they are exported to
all parts of Turkey, being in great request on account of
the frequent fasts of the Greek Church. The fishery is
the property of the Sultan, and is sublet by him to con-
tractors for a very large sum. The fishing takes place
by night, and has been described to me as a very pic-
turesque and exciting scene. These fisheries and the
export of their produce must have existed from very
early times, for Strabo mentions " the places for drying
fish belonging to the lake near Lychnidus." ^ The em-
bankment of the sides of the river, by which the neigh-
bourhood was converted from a marsh into a habitable
region, w^as the work of the Bulgarian prince Samuel, at
the time when he made Ochrida the capital of his
monarchy. Originally the system of desiccation must
have been much more elaborate than what appears at
present. Anna Comnena- speaks with warm admira-
tion of the hundred channels into which the water w^as
drawn off, with embankments and covered watercourses

' Strabo, vii. 7, § 8. ^ xii. p. 371.

198 Ochrida to Elbassan. Chap. IX..

communicating with one another, by means of which the

river Drin at length was formed. It was from these

works that the place obtained its name, for struga in

Bulgarian signifies " a dike, or arm of a river."

At one angle of the outer wall of the church at Struga

is an ancient Roman milestone, a single cylindrical

block rounded at the top, the base of which, and together

with it the lower part of the inscription, is now buried in

the earth. It was probably one of the milestones of the

Egnatian Way, which passed by this place, and is

described by Strabo as being " measured by miles and

marked by milestones."^ It is not easy to decipher, but

seems almost identical with one in the courtyard of a

house at Ochrida, which was copied and communicated

to me by my friend Mr. Curtis of Constantinople. As I

am not aware that this has been copied before, I give it

here. The greater part of the inscription is in Latin,

that being the official language, but the distance is given

in Greek for the information of the natives. In this

respect I believe it is unique, for though many other

Roman milestones have been discovered, the inscriptions

on all of them are in Latin throughout.*














^ Strabo, vii. 4.

^ They may be found in Glitter's ' Inscriptiones Antiquce,' pp. IS3-I59'

Chap. IX. Bulgarian School. 199

Close by the same church is a large school for Bul-
garian children. There were 200 of them there, and
very clean and orderly they looked as they sat at their
desks, very much in the style of an English school. The
master was a Bulgarian ; and the children are taught to
read and write both Greek and Bulgarian, two days in
the week being devoted to the latter language. Here
again the intrusive Greek element makes its appearance.
I was told that other schools like this have lately sprung
up among the Bulgarians of these parts (we saw one
ourselves adjoining the metropolitan church at Ochrida),
and in many ways they seem desirous of improvement.
Before leaving I heard the children read the Gospel, but
the room was crammed with people, who had followed
me from curiosity to see a Frank, and to discover the
reason of my interest in the inscription. Here, however,
as elsewhere during this tour, I was not the least
molested, nor did I meet with any incivility.^

Leaving Struga in the afternoon we bade adieu to the
beautiful lake of Ochrida, and crossed the mountains to
the west by a low pass over stony ground, the sides of
which were partly clad with oak trees, while the track
itself was frequently shaded by walnuts. From the head
of the ridge we descended into an upland plain, culti-
vated in places and dotted with trees, from whence again
we made our way by a similar pass into a deep valley
beyond. All along this part of our route we saw nume-
rous lazy tortoises crawling along by the path : they are

The two first letters of the mscription given in the text are unintelligible ;
■vv-e should expect it to begin with Imp. Cas. Probably the word has been

^ Mr. Lear, who passed through this part of the country twelve years
previously, describes himself as being constantly annoyed by the people,
and having stones thrown at him. See his 'Journals of a Landscape

200 Ochrida to Elbassan. Chap. IX.

common throughout Greece and Turkey. As we de-
.scended, night came on, and it was a pretty sight to
watch the bright fires in the shepherds' huts or encamp-
ments, shining hke glowworms all about the mountain
side. At the bottom we crossed a narrow picturesque
Turkish bridge, which spans the river Skumbi with a
single lofty arch undefended by a parapet, and then
scrambled along for some way in the darkness to the
little village of Kukus, where we found only one small
room in the khan. In this some of the natives had
already lighted a fire, so that we were thankful to sleep
outside under a sort of kiosk, or summer-house, in the
open air. Here we were only disturbed by the cats and
fowls, which in the early morning skipped playfully over
our prostrate bodies.

The next day was spent in winding along the steep
mountain sides by an extremely rough track, in and out,
and up and down, wherever the steep rocks left room for
the path. An Albanian, who was bound in the same
direction as ourselves, had now joined our company.
At an hour's distance from our night's resting-place we
stopped to breakfast at the Khan of Jura, which is one
of the cleanest in this part of the country, and in every
respect superior to that at Kukus. The room which
opens out from the gallery on the upper story has the
advantage of a clay floor and stone walls, which, as I
have before remarked, are preferable to wood from their
not harbouring vermin. The gallery itself, where we had
our meal, was fitted all round with hooks for the recep-
tion of the long metal-bound guns without one of which
an Albanian rarely moves. Some four or five of the
owners of such weapons sat and smoked meanwhile, and
eyed our proceedings with the utmost curiosity. When
we resumed our journey, in many parts we passed

Chap. IX, Wild Mountain Road. 201

Mahometan cemeteries, placed, as they often are in
Turkey, by the road-sides, and the graves marked by
ovals of stones ; their number might almost lead one to
suppose that these parts were once more thickly popu-
lated than they are now. The mountain masses in this
district are much more confused than in the country
eastward of Ochrida, and the scenery, both here and
throughout a great part of the route which I am
describing, though it is broad and wild, yet wants
grandeur in its mountain forms and delicacy in its
outlines. It is quite surprising to read the rapturous
epithets in which Mr. Lear indulges in describing it,
when one considers how very inferior the landscape is to
that of many parts of Europe. For a considerable
distance the road was carried along the heights far above
the Skumbi, penetrating from time to time into the
mountain side to round a gorge, while in some places
the slopes below shelved away in a manner not seriously
dangerous, but such as to require caution in passing.
At last we descended by a steep and tortuous path to
that river, the ancient Genusus, a considerable stream,
which seems to have taken its modern name from the
town of Scampae on the Via Egnatia. Just at this
point, where the Skumbi emerges from the deep valley
in which its upper course lies, its waters are spanned by
a fine stone bridge of three arches. After fording it a
little way below the bridge, and following its stream for
some distance through softer scenery, we made our way
through a picturesque wooded gorge into a plain, and,
after passing a sheikh's tomb with a tiled roof, threaded
the olive groves which skirt the city of Elbassan.

This place probably represents the ancient Scampae,
which seems in the middle ages to have been replaced
by a city called Albanon, from which the modern name

202 OcJirida to Elbassan. Chap. IX.

may be derived.'^ It holds an important position, as it
commands the entrance to the mountain passes, and is
the point where the road from Scodra, Durazzo, Berat,
and Ochrida, converge. The population is said to be
about ten thousand ; by far the greater number of these
are Albanian Ghegs, a few of whom are Christians, the
rest Mahometans ; besides these there are a few Walla-
chians, and the keeper of the khan at which we stopped,
like so many of his trade, was a Greek. The Christians
of this part of Albania are mostly Roman Catholics, but
they have been so persecuted of late years that a large
number of them have become Mussulmans ; some also
have joined the Greek Church ; but the light way in
which religion hangs on an Albanian is shown by their
proverb, " Where the sword is, the creed is also." Thus
a Mahometan of this race who once accompanied us
maintained stoutly that all good Mussulmans ought to
drink wine, and that those who abstained were unfaithful
to their creed. It is said, however, that the oppressive-
ness of the conscription for the Turkish army is so great
that many who have embraced the religion of the
Prophet, would be glad enough to be Christians again.
The old city is square in form, and enclosed within

^ The identification of these places is anived at in the following way.
Amongst the many difficulties about the places on the Egnatian Way,
arising from the variation of numbers in the Itineraries, one point seems to
be well established, namely, the Trajectiis Getnisi, or crossing of the
Genusus, which corresponds with the place where we forded the Skumbi
between Kukus and Elbassan. Now both the Jerusalem and Tabular
Itineraries give the distance from Trajectus to Scampce as nine miles, which
just corresponds to the distance from the ford to Elbassan. Again, we
learn from Anna Comnena (xiii. p. 390), that the mediaeval Albanon com-
manded the passes {tols irepl rh ''Ap^avov KXeiaovpas) which lead from the
neighbourhood of the lake of Lychnidus to the plains by the coast ; and
Farlat, in his ' Illyricum Sacrum,' shows that Elbassan was the seat of the
bishopric of Albanon. See Hahn's ' Albanesische Studien,' i. pp. Si, 135.

Chap. IX. Elbassan. 203

walls, the circuit of which cannot be more than a mile.
From the brickwork which is in them they would seem
to have been built by the Venetians ; but both the walls
and the towers which rise out of them at intervals are in
ruins, having been dismantled when the town was taken
by Reschid Pasha, in the time of Sultan Mahmoud.
This was during the events which succeeded the massacre
of the Beys and the fall of Mustapha Pasha, when almost
all the fortified places in Albania were destroyed. The
suburbs seem now to form the most important part of
the place. After paying a visit to the governor of the
city, in order to get permission to visit the walls, we
climbed up into one of the ruined towers, which com-
manded a view over the city and surrounding country.
The minarets and a large clock-tower, sheathed in glit-
tering tin, form conspicuous objects ; and the trees that
environ the houses, among which the fig, cypress, and
poplar, are the most remarkable, are more numerous than
is usual even in Oriental towns. Among these the towers
and walls appear here and there, and around the whole
city is a circuit of olive-groves. Close by, to the north,
beautiful wooded hills descend into the plain, beyond
which rises a high mountain, separating us from Tyrana
and the country of Scanderbeg. To the south appears at
a great distance, rising above the nearer mountains, the
magnificent triple-crested peak of Mount Tomohr, quite
a relief in this land of common-place mountain outlines.

We were amused to find that the Governor (or rather
his deputy, for he himself was absent, and had left a
loaiin tennis to discharge his office) had given strict
orders to the guard who accompanied us to the tower in
the walls, that we were not on any account to be per-
mitted to find hidden treasures. It is a fixed idea in the
minds of all Orientals, that the object of antiquarian

204 OcJirida to Elbassan. Chap, IX.

research in their country is to discover hoards of money,
and this suspicion has frequently proved a fatal bar in
the way of excavations. On a subsequent occasion,
when we were performing quarantine on a small island
off the shores of the Gulf of Volo, near the Greek and
Turkish frontier, an old woman, who was the only per-
manent inhabitant of the place, firmly believed that we
were searching for treasure, and, what is more, that we
should probably discover it. She had heard that some
time before, a band of robbers (this is a common form
for the story to take) had been hunted down by the
soldiery on the mainland, and after taking refuge in
the island, had concealed their valuables in some secret
spot ; and when she saw us reading and writing in the
hut we occupied, and in the intervals walking about
the rocks, she took it into her head that we were prac-
tising magic arts, in order to discover the locality of the
deposit. Captain Spratt'' has suggested with consider-
able probability that the frequent occurrence of the
name " Jews' Castle " in the islands and on the continent
of Greece (there is an Ebraio-Castro on Mount Pelion),
may be accounted for by this same idea : that is to say,
that ruins are regarded as likely places for finding trea-
sures, and hoarded money is, or was in former times,
associated with the Jews. It must have been from some
notion of this kind that the name arose, for the fortresses
themselves cannot be supposed to have belonged to
members of that despised race. In Albania such deposits
are supposed to be guarded by snakes or negroes, both
of which are mythological representations of the powers
below. From time to time these guardians bring them
to the daylight, to preserve them from rust and mould ;

" 'Travels in Crete,' i. p. 315, 316.

Chap. IX. Concealed Treasiires. 205

and the following story is told of the way in which a
shepherd possessed himself of such a treasure. This
man once found a snake asleep, coiled round a large heap
of gold pieces ; and knowing how to set to work under
the circumstances, placed a pail of milk by its side, and
waited in a hiding-place until it should wake. It came
to pass as he expected. The snake took to the milk
with avidity, and drank its fill. On this it returned to
the heap of gold, in order to go to sleep again, but the
thirst, with which snakes are attacked after drinking
milk, prevented it from doing so. It became restless,
and moved irresolutely round and round the heap, till
the burning within forced it to go in quest of water. The
water, however, was far off, and before it had returned,
the wary shepherd had carried off the whole heap of gold
into a place of safety.*

The inside of the city, as you pass through the streets,
has a poor appearance, from the low wooden houses with
rickety tiled roofs : the bazaars, however, have a gay
look, from the bright dresses of their occupants, the red
jacket and white kilt being common among the Ghegs,
under which they have loose white trousers, girt in below
by leggings, while their belts are filled with a variety of
richly ornamented arms. Most of the Ghegs are finely
made men ; their most marked characteristics are their
long necks, long narrow faces, with sharp features, often
aquiline, and frequently light hair ; they have a stern look,
as if they were a daring, unmerciful people. In the even-
ing we had a visit from a young Turk, who has charge of
the telegraph here, on the line between Salonica and
Scodra ; for this civilized institution has penetrated even
to these barbarous regions, though it is viewed with some

^ Hahn, ' Albanesische Studien,' i. p. 164.

2o6 OcJirida to Elbassan. Chap, IX.

jealousy by the people of the country, and is kept up
with considerable difficulty in the mountain passes during
the winter. He was an educated and intelligent man,
spoke French, and, as a Government official, was dressed
in European costume, except for the fez cap. He ex-
pressed great delight at seeing us, for with the exception
of a young Greek, his coadjutor, he had seen no traveller,
nor any person with whom he could have any ideas in
common, during the nine months that he had been sta-
tioned there. He spoke bitterly of the barbarism of the
natives, and confirmed all that we had heard about
the frequency of robberies and murders, and the danger
that the people incurred if they ventured a few miles
away from the place. " The Mahometans here," he
impressively declared, "are not real Mahometans, and
the Christians are not real Christians."

As far as this point, our route from Salonica has lain
in a north-westerly direction : here we change our course
and go south.^ It is a proof of the small number of
Turks in this part, that the stork, the sacred bird of
Turkey, is not found here : their place, however, is sup-
plied by flocks of geese, which are numerous in the
neighbourhood of the towns and villages. The country
districts leave a most melancholy impression on the
mind ; broken bridges, and roads almost impassable on
horseback, evidently show neglect and decay ; and here
and there your horse will start aside at the sight of a
carcase left to rot where it has fallen. The land is mostly
covered with tamarisk-bushes, prickly palluria, and ferns.
Very little of it is cultivated, owing to the laziness of the
people, and the contempt in which agricultural labour
is held ; the consequence of which is frequent scarcity of

" On the Egnatian Way, which we leave at this point, see Appendix D.

Chap. IX. Illtreatnient of Women. 207

bread, and there is a sad look of poverty and misery
about the lower classes. Much of this has resulted from
the centralizing policy of Sultan Mahmoud, which has
paralysed the outlying portions of the empire. In ancient
times, both this plain, and that of Berat, further to the
south, were cultivated at a very early period ; and the
prosperity of the Greek colonies of Epidamnus and Apol-
lonia was mainly attributable to their being the points of
export respectively for the products of these two fertile
regions. It roused one's indignation to see the way in
which the women were treated. At one place on the
road we passed a number of men, w^hose wives were
walking by their sides, staggering under the weight of
huge boxes. The position which the female sex occupies
in these parts may, perhaps, be well illustrated by a
story which I heard some years ago from the late Sir
Henry Ward at Corfu. As he was riding, one day, into
the country, he overtook a man who had laden his wife
with a very heavy bundle of faggot-sticks ; he remon-
strated with him, and said, " Really, my good man, it is
too bad that you should load your wife in that way ;
what she is carrying is a mule's burden." "Yes, your
Excellency," the man replied ; " what you say is quite
true, it is a mule's burden : but then, you see. Providence
has not provided us with mules, and He has provided us
with women."

Shortly after leaving Elbassan we again forded the
Skumbi, which is here a broad and shallow stream. As
we proceeded along the plain we met a considerable
number of ill-looking fellows, whose occupation was suffi-
ciently shown by their arms and long pipes : guards they
may have been, or robbers, or both, — for the line of de-
marcation between these two classes is sometimes rather
fine. It was amusing to notice the curious mixture of

2o8 Ochrida to Elbassan. Chap. IX.

pride and poverty that showed itself in some of these
men ; you might see them swaggering along in their dirty
fustanellas (white kilt) with erect carriage, twirled mous-
tachios, and the fez set on one side of the head, looking
far too fine gentlemen to take any notice of passers-by
like ourselves ; yet everything about them betokening
the utmost indigence. The way, too, in which an Alba-
nian often carries his gun across the back of his neck,
with both arms extended over the two ends, gives an
additional nonchalance to his air. Our siiriidji, or pos-
tilion, of the day before had warned us strongly against
the robbers of these parts, and had stories to tell of the
Pasha's baggage having been plundered ; the moral of
all this was that we should take guards, but this we
always refused to do, unless they were almost forced
upon us, because we knew that they w^ould take to their
heels if there was any real danger ; but the truth is, that
a western European is exposed to very slight risk in tra-
velling here, for he is generally not worth robbing, and if
anything happens to him, a considerable stir is sure to be
made about it, and some one or other will probably be
hanged. Thus the Frank comes to be regarded in the
light of a sacred animal, and we used to ride along
through the country unarmed and unguarded, with a feel-
ing of security which was hard to analyse.

After some hours' riding we forded the swift stream of
the Devol, near a picturesque ruined bridge, two arches of
which alone remain, and some way further on made our
midday halt by a fountain, in the neighbourhood of which
some trees afforded a refreshing shade. Here we had an
example of the value that is set on water in these parched
countries. The fountain was an erection of masonry
built against a bank, with a small spout in the centre of
it. (Colonel Leake believes that some of the great foun-

Chap. IX. Valine set on Water. 209

tains of antiquity were of this unpoetical character : cer-
tainly that of Aganippe, on the side of Mount Helicon, is
now represented by one of this sort, and there is an
ancient inscription over it.) We expected to find water
here, but alas ! there was none. So, at least, it appeared
at first sight, but the surudji who accompanied us knew
better, for he went up to the spout, and pulled out a small
plug of linen or paper, on which there gushed out a thin
crystal stream. When we had all drunk, the plug was

Online LibraryHenry Fanshawe TozerResearches in the highlands of Turkey; including visits to mounts Ida, Athos, Olympus, and Pelion, to the Mirdite Albanians, and other remote tribes (Volume 1) → online text (page 16 of 31)