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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the gateway, are remains of Hellenic masonry, which pro-
bably mark the site of the ancient Antipatria.^ The view
to the north is striking, comprehending the plain, inter-

* ' Slawische Alterthiimer,' ii. p. 227.
' Leake, 'Northeni Greece,' i. p. 361.

222 Berat to Corfu. Chap, X,

sected by the river, and diversified here and there by
groves of trees, beyond which in the extreme distance
rise the high serrated mountains of Croia. After what
we had heard of the upper town being occupied by Chris-
tians, I was surprised, in descending, at meeting on the
steep path, which forms the approach, a woman on horse-
back, wearing the close veil and black cloak, the usual
costume of Mahometan women in these regions ; but I
was informed of the curious fact, that the Christian
women in this place have adopted Mahometan dress.

The castle of Berat is celebrated in history as the
scene of an important siege conducted by Scanderbeg,
against whom it was defended by the Turks, at the com-
mencement of the reign of Mahomet II. Emboldened
by a succession of victories over his opponents, the
Albanian hero resolved to make himself master of that
important position. Accordingly he invested it closely^
at the same time arousing the ardour of his followers by
reminding them of the famous defence of the Servian
Belgrade by his great contemporary Hunniades. At last
the place was reduced to such straits, that its garrison
were forced to agree to a surrender, unless relieved within
sixteen days. But before that period had expired, the
Turkish General Sewali appeared with a large force in
the plain to the north of the city, and there gave battle
to the besiegers. After a severe struggle, Scanderbeg was
defeated with the loss of 5000 of his best troops, and
of Musachi, one of his firmest friends and ablest captains.
On this occasion, his biographer tells us,* from vexation
at his ill-sucess, his under-lip split open and spurted
blood, which used to be the case whenever he was vio-
lently excited in the council or the camp : and when he

* Barleti of Scodra, 'De Vita et Gestis Scanderbegi,' p. 142.

Chap. X. Malaria Fever. 223

saw the Turks cutting off the heads of his dead com-
rades on the field, he gave orders to 7000 of his men,
notwithstanding the presence of the victorious enemy, to
go and bury the slain at all hazards. The effect of this
repulse, however, was but temporary, for before long we
find Scanderbeg pursuing his victorious career elsewhere.
At Berat the Turkish menzil or post-system comes to
an end ; in consequence of which, as we could find no
other means of transit, we were forced to impress horses
from the country. In order to do this, we had to pay a
visit to the Pasha to show him our firman. His name
was Abdurrahman, and he was a young and heavy-
looking Osmanli. Seated on the divan near him was
a white-turbaned mollah, a personage who may often be
met with in the audience chamber of a pasha. In the
centre of this room stood a table, an unusual article
of European furniture, and on it were ranged conical
rifle bullets of various sizes. After the usual cigarettes
and coffee, and an interchange of compliments, he offered
us guards, which we declined, but accepted the services
of one of his retinue, as a guide to conduct us over the
wild and intricate pass that leads to Tepelen. This man
was a gay and vain Albanian, but lively and good-
humoured. Poor fellow ! he was suffering from malaria
fever, which made him very low-spirited at times ; but
we relieved him considerably by doses of quinine, so that
he expressed a fervent wish that it was to be found in
Albania. This malady is a terrible scourge in many
parts of Turkey : the man who accompanied our horses
from Salonica to Monastir, was so ill with it that some-
times he could hardly ride, and moaned piteously ; and
in other places we saw persons in the khans miserably ill,
and obtaining apparently no relief from the treatment of
the native doctors. It is to the prevalence of this com-

224 Berat to Corfu. Chap. X,

plaint that Hahn attributes the very small number of
travellers that venture into Central Albania ; he himself
had a bad attack of it, and Leake was obliged to turn
back, and leave the country unvisited. In the afternoon
our horses arrived, accompanied by their owners, two of
whom were Wallachs, of which nation a considerable
number lead an agricultural life in the neighbourhood of
Berat. In this they differ from their countrymen of the
Pindus, who are settled at the foot of the passes which
lead from Yanina to the plains of Thessaly, and mono-
polize the carrying trade of that part of Turkey. Here
they are called Rumuni or Romans, which is the only
national name that they acknowledge, that of Wallach
having been given them by foreigners. Their language
is a corruption of Latin, very similar to Italian in its
pronunciation, and this they speak among themselves,
though they are compelled in self-defence to know the
Albanian also. We proceeded southwards along a tri-
butary of the Usumi, to which our guide gave the name
of Planasnik, up a clayey valley, from various parts of
which rose remarkable pyramidal heights. Late at night
we found ourselves scrambling up a steep mountain side,
on which we lost our way, and were obliged to dismount
and lead our horses as well as we could, until at last,
after wandering into a village by mistake, alarming the
dogs and awaking the inhabitants, we reached a country-
house of the Bey of Tepelen, to which the Pasha had
ordered us to be conducted. In the absence of the Bey
we were entertained by his cousin — a sort of country
cousin, or humble relation, he appeared — and for one
nio-ht we slept on cushions instead of hay. It was a
small, neat, and solidly-built residence, situated at a great
height above the valley : one-half of it was shut off from
the rest, and appropriated to the Bey's harem ; the room

Chap. X. Slavonic Names. 225

on the other side, in which Ave were lodged, was large
and clean, garnished round the walls with long guns, and
lighted by very small apertures for windows.

The village in the neighbourhood of this place was
called Jabokika, a name derived from Jabuka, the Sla-
vonic for "an apple." The frequent occurrence of Sla-
vonic names throughout Albania (we have just noticed
Berat as an instance of this, and Goritza and Planasnik
are others) points to the time when a large Slavonic
element existed in this country. Nevertheless at the
present time this element in the population has entirely
disappeared, and while Wallachs are found in several
districts, we look in vain for Bulgarians. For the ex-
planation of this phenomenon we are left altogether to
conjecture ; and though the probability is that here, as
in Greece, the Bulgarian settlers were after a time assimi-
lated by the earlier inhabitants of the land, yet in this
case the problem is a more difficult one. For whereas
the superiority of the Greek race, both in respect of
intellectual power and of national institutions, rendered
it comparatively an easy task for them to hcllcnizc
others ; the Albanians, on the other hand, were not so
advanced in either of these respects, when compared
with the Slavonic peoples, as to account for their over-
powering their nationality, and amalgamating them with
themselves. Yet this would seem to have been the case,
for that they were either exterminated or expelled there
is no reason to believe.

The track which led from this mountain eyrie to the
top of the pass was, as our Albanian companion
described it in delightful Greek, "all ups and downs
and chokefuU of stones" {o\o avi](popo KaT7](f)opo koX
ryef^dro uiro ireTpai^;). The ridge bears the name of
Glava. The view from the summit is strangely wild.


226 Berat to Corfu. Chap. X.

Vast barren mountains rise in every direction, and on
both sides of the pass sloping grey clayey hills are seen,
seamed with watercourses ; to the north some very
distant mountains appear, even beyond those of Elbassan
and Croia ; to the south the eye rests here and there on
scattered stone houses, scarcely distinguishable in colour
from the soil on which they rest, and showing the wild
life of the inhabitants by their resemblance to fortresses,
the windows being few and high up in the building ;
to the west we obtained our first glimpse of the Adriatic.
After a long and bad descent, about midday we reached
a khan, pleasantly situated in the midst of plane trees,
by the side of the stream of the Luftinia, a tributary
of the Viosa. The building itself was of solid construc-
tion, but its occupants were clad in rags, and showed
signs of great poverty ; the same was the case with the
people whom we met at very rare intervals as we con-
tinued our course down the valley ; and this, even more
than the dreariness of the scenery, impressed us with
a strong feeling of loneliness and desolation during this
part of our journey. At the distance of three hours
from the khan we reached the banks of the Viosa, the
largest and swiftest river of Albania — " Laos, fierce and
wide," as Byron calls it — which flows in a north-western
direction. The path which we followed from this point
along the river side was the only place in our whole
journey which could really be called dangerous. In
some places it was carried along the edge of a precipice
nearly overhanging the water, and at some of the turnings
the ground was so much broken away that the horses
had difficulty in finding any footing. Fortunately we
passed it before nightfall, and forded the river just below
Tepelen. The process of fording was not altogether
easy, owing to the swift current of the stream ; the

Chap. X. Tepelen. 227

baggage horse required to be supported across by our
four attendants, two of them keeping him up on either
side. The distance from Berat is twelve or thirteen

Having on a former occasion visited Yanina, the centre
of AH Pasha's power, and the island in the lake, where
he met his death, we were naturally anxious to see Te-
pelen, his birthplace and favourite residence. It was a
fortified city of small extent, occupying a triangular
plateau which runs out from the foot of a steep and
lofty mountain, so that its base is washed by the Viosa.
The fortifications, which follow the line of the cliffs in
a rude triangle, on one side overhang this river, on
another the Bendscha, a smaller stream, which flows into
it. Though part of them are ruined and the battlements
broken, yet they are well and strongly built, and the
angles are defended by polygonal towers. The interior
is a place in which to moralise over the fall of human
greatness. Hardly one house is inhabited, and a scene
of more blank desolation can scarcely be conceived, for
the ruins being comparatively new, are unrelieved by
weeds and creepers, and have nothing of the venerable
look which time bestows. At the angle which overlooks
the junction of the rivers is All's palace, the scene of all
the magnificence and display which Byron describes in
' Childe Harold.' Now the arched halls are bare, — except
here and there, where the frescoes still remain upon the
walls, — and all is ruinous and dismantled. A few white-
kilted Albanians were grouped upon the western wall,
but elsewhere we rambled about without meeting a soul.
The surrounding views are in harmony with this scene of
destruction, — above, huge, wild mountain heights, as
barren as can be imagined ; below, the shingly riverbeds,
through which in winter the water must rush in an

Q 2

228 Berat to Corfu. Chap. X.

immense volume, and the piers of a fine bridge which
has been destroyed by the river. On one occasion, we
were told, a ferry-boat was upset here with forty-five
persons and three horses ; the latter swam ashore, but all
the human beings perished. Outside the walls, close to
an aqueduct, which conveyed water into the city from
the mountain side, is a small Albanian village of fifty
families, who now form the entire population of the place.
It is at first sight extraordinary that a barbarous chief-
tain like Ali should have so much attracted the attention
of Europe, and have become an important historical
personage ; and it would be curious to trace how much
of the interest which Englishmen have felt in him may
be referred to Byron's visit, and the magnificent verses
in which he has described it. But, if we put out of
sight All's own character, a disgusting mixture of cruelty,
perfidy, and selfishness, there is a strong romantic and
dramatic element in his history. Still, no doubt Mr.
F'inlay is right when he says, "that the reason why he
has merited a place in history is, that circumstances
caused him to be the herald of the Greek revolution."

The road from Tepelen to Argyro-Castro follows the
left bank of the Viosa as far as its junction with the
Dryno. At this point we saw, on the opposite side of
the valley, a deep gorge between lofty mountains, from
which the Viosa emerges. This, which is now called
Stena, was in old times the Fauces Antigonenses, near
which Philip, son of Demetrius, who was defending the
pass, was defeated in a great battle by the Romans.
The Dryno, along the banks of which we ascended, is
a clear rushing stream of green water, and, with the trees
Avhich clothe its steep banks in many places, presents
some beautiful scenery. The mountains on the opposite
side were terraced and cultivated below, but terminated

Chap. X. A rgyro- Castro. 229

above in bare grey ridges furrowed by gullies and water-
courses. After about three hours we reached the khan of
Su Bashi, hard by which a picturesque ivy-clad bridge
of one steep arch spanned the stream. Here the head
of the valley opens out into a plain of some size, running
from north-west to south-east, on the western slopes of
which stands the town of Argyro-Castro. The neighbour-
hood appeared populous from the numerous villages
upon the mountain sides which enclose it, but the ranges
themselves resemble gigantic ridges of brown sand. The
town, which is said to contain 10,000 people, has a scat-
tered look from a distance, but as you approach its
appearance is striking, as it is situated partly on spurs of
the mountains running into the plain, partly on the semi-
circular slopes which intervene between them. Many
of the houses here are of stone, and strongly built,
having been intended to serve as private fortresses, for
the system of vendetta raged nowhere more furiously
than here. Though it has ceased now, it even survived
the time of Ali Pasha, who in other places was so
successful in putting down the local feuds and local
chieftains, that he may be said to have first brought
Albania into subjection to the Porte. The inhabitants
of these large dwellings form the nobility of the district,
and are the proprietors of the farms which are scattered
over the plain.

At this place we meet with a new element in the popu-
lation. To the northward of Argyro-Castro the inha-
bitants, as we have seen, are almost entirely of the
Albanian race ; to the south, however, Greeks are found
in considerable numbers, especially in the more inland
districts. Even if we had not heard the Greek language
spoken all round us at the khan, there was no mistaking
the quick, lively, inquisitive people whom we met. Strange

230 Bcrat to Corfji. Chap. X..

to say, the line of demarcation runs across the centre of
the plain, and is so sharply drawn that the northern half
is Albanian, and the southern Greek, and the two popu-
lations do not intermingle with one another. The city
itself is inhabited by Albanians, and the Greeks who are
found there are regarded as strangers. The women here
wear a white veil or towel, wound round the head, and
hanging down behind. The morning after our arrival,
having sent our dragoman to the Pasha to ask for horses,
we thought it right to pay him a visit in his serai, which
is situated within the castle built by Ali on the highest
of the spurs on which the town is placed. From this
castle the people of the neighbourhood seem usually to
call the place "the Castro" {to KciaTpo), omitting the first
part of the name, as Constantinople is called " the city."
The fortifications here, as elsewhere, are dismantled ; the
Pasha has a few guards in his service, but with the excep-
tion of a very few small bodies of this kind there is no
military force nearer than Scodra or Monastir, to main-
tain the authority of the Turkish Government throughout
Central Albania. He received us with profuse civilities,
and complained of our not having taken up our abode
with him, instead of going to the khan. It is quite pos-
sible for an English traveller, especially when provided
with a firman, to be entertained in state at the houses of
the Turkish dignitaries ; but, if he is wise, he will content
himself with a humbler style of travelling, for otherwise
he will lose much time in not being his own master ; he
will greatly increase his expenses, from the numerous
presents he is expected to make to the great man's
servants ; and last, not least, he will have far fewer
opportunities of intercourse with the people of the

The Pasha offered to provide us either with horses or

Chap. X. Pass of Mount Sopoti. 231

mules, but recommended the latter, on account of the
steepness of the road over Mount Sopoti, which intervenes
between this place and Delvino. We followed his
advice, and, mounted on these, made our way up a
blinding pass, partly through a river bed, partly among
fragments of broken limestone, over the mountains which
rise behind the town. When at last we reached the
summit, we obtained an extensive view, though the
atmosphere was hazy, over the level country below,
the lake of Butrinto lying close to the sea, and the shores
and headlands of Corfu, divided from the mainland by a
winding strait, while to the right the mountains of
Chimara rose conspicuous. A rugged zigzag path along
the mountain side brought us, after a steep descent of
some hours, to a grove of chestnut and other trees, which
afforded most grateful shade. Below this was a foun-
tain, where we saw a scene that reminded us of patri-
archal times ; a number of women from a neighbouring
village, picturesquely dressed in the costume of the country,
with high head-dresses, white veils, and the hair in large
braids at the sides of the face, were disputing with some
men of another village about the right of drawing water ;
and they upheld their rights manfully. From thence
again we descended through more cultivated country to
Delvino, a scattered and somewhat decayed town, pret-
tily situated on verdant slopes, in the midst of plane-trees
and running streams.

The last day of our journey was occupied partly in
wading for several hours through streams and marshes,
by the side of the river Vistritza, which flows into the
lake of Butrinto, partly in making a detour to avoid
the lake, over low hills, thickly covered with thorn-
bushes, and thistles, often rising to the height of ten feet.
The palluria, which grows all about here, is a most for-

232 Berat to Corfu. Chap. X.

midable bush, as it is covered all over with tenacious
hooked prickles ; it is said that if a sheep gets regularly-
entangled in it, it can never be extricated. The river is
bordered throughout a great part of its course by rich
woods of alder and willow, the shade of which, together
with the abundance of water, was refreshing and pleasant ;
occasionally, however, the watercourses were worn into
holes, which had an awkwardly adhesive bottom. In
one of these our dragoman's horse lost his footing and sub-
sided into a mud bath, in which his rider and the saddle-
bags partially shared. Further on, when we reached the
hisfher <jround, we found a village called Kinurio, or New-
place, where we halted for some little time. The appear-
ance of the people whom we met in these parts bordering
on the coast, and especially the straw hats they wore,
were decidedly of an Ionian character, and betrayed the
influence of the neighbouring islands. The farms, how-
ever, as elsewhere in Albania, are built with a view to
defence, being massively constructed of stone, with no
windows in the lower portion, and those above of small
dimensions. An aperture also appears sometimes above
the entrance, opening downwards from a projecting piece
of masonry, as in feudal castles, whereby communication
may be held with a visitor before admittance, and some-
thing warm dropped upon him if need be. We proceeded
for some distance through thick undergrowth, but, not-
withstanding the excellence of the cover, we saw no
game. Towards evening we arrived at a village called
Livari, a corruption, it is thought, of Vivarium, from the
fisheries in the lake, which here finds an outlet into
the sea by means of a river. By the people of the place
the lake is also called Boidoporos, or Oxford. At Corfu
the village is known as Butrinto or Vutzindro, but in the
country itself we found these names unknown, a source

Chap. X, Departure for Corfu. 233

of confusion which caused us much difficulty. On the
opposite side of the water is a rocky height, with remains
of walls, which mark the site of the ancient Buthrotum,
the celsam Buthroti urbern of Virgil.

As we were embarking to cross to Corfu, I said to a
Turkish official who was standing by, "Now we are
leaving Turkey." " Yes," he replied, " now you are going
to Europe." He spoke the truth ; Turkey has no claim
to be reckoned among European nations.

( 234 )



Journey in 1865 — Coast of Dalmatia — Bocche di Cattaro — Austrian
Defences — Views of the Black Mountain — Cattaro — The Scala —
Approach to Montenegro — Niegush — Laborious Agriculture — Monte-
negrin Dress — Destruction of Forests — Mount Lovchen — Plain of
Cetinje — History of Montenegro — The Vladika or Prince-Bishop —
Sicilian Vespers of Montenegro — Episode of Stephen the Little — The
Two Last Vladikas.

The next opportunity which we had of visiting Turkey
was in the summer of 1865. On this occasion we deter-
mined to cross the country from the Adriatic to the
^gean by a more northerly route than we had hitherto
taken, passing through Montenegro and the border tribes
of independent Albanians, and then by one of the upper
passes of the Scardus range and the valley of the Vardar
to Salonica. It promised to be an interesting journey,
from the important geographical features of the country,
the remarkable cities of the interior, and the variety of
races to be seen on the way ; but the information to be
had was very scanty. On Montenegro no doubt much
had been written, but of the greater part of the remainder
of the route, as far as I could discover, only one account
had been published, viz., that of Dr. Grisebach, the cele-
brated German botanist, who crossed this part of Turkey,
though in an opposite direction, in 1839.^ The fullness

' Since the above was written, the 'Travels in Turkey in Europe,' of
Miss Mackenzie and Miss Irby, has been published; the route taken by
those adventurous and accomplished ladies intersects mine at several points.
Some other parts have been described by the French geographer Ami

Chap. XI. Bocche di Cattaro. 235

and clearness of his account left nothing to be desired for
the parts which he saw, though even there, from the state
of things which he described, we were prepared to find
that great changes had taken place since his time ; but
in several places the route which we had marked out
diverofed from his, and here we had to look forward to
getting information on the spot. In order to reach our
starting-point we made our way from England to Trieste,
where we had appointed our old dragoman from Con-
stantinople to meet us, and from thence coasted along
Dalmatia, stopping to see the principal cities, such as
Zara, Spalato, and Ragusa, and threading the numerous
islands which fringe its shores, until on the afternoon of
the 1 8th of July we found ourselves rounding the Punto
d'Ostro, the headland which protects the entrance of the
Bocche di Cattaro.

The piece of water that bears this name is a narrow
winding inlet, resembling rather a Norwegian fiord than
any of the harbours of Southern Europe. Its length is
computed at 24 miles, and it opens out from time to
time into bays somewhat less than a mile across, while
in the narrowest parts it may be a quarter of a mile
in breadth. The whole of the seaboard is in the hands
of Austria, except one small strip of the northern shore,

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 18 of 31)