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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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 19 of 31)
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which belongs to Turkey, a green tract of low land in the
recesses of the first bay, which might form a sort of out-
let for the Herzegovina, if the Turks had taken the
trouble to make a port there. A little way beyond this
is the town of Castelnuovo, where we landed a number
of Austrian officers — agreeable men, as they usually are
— who had been our fellow-passengers, together with a
number of Dalmatian gentlemen bound for Cattaro, two
young Albanians from Berat, who had been studying at
a college in Trieste, and a young Montenegrin, dressed

236 Montenegro. Chap. XI.

in the uniform of one of the French Lycees, where he was
at school, who was returning to his native country on a
visit, together with a Parisian friend, whom he had in-
duced to accompany him. After the departure of the
Austrians, the Montenegrin became more communica-
tive, and spoke depreciatingly of the numerous Austrian
forts which guard the entrance to the Bocche, saying
that they could stand but a very short time before a few
French or English ships. About this, however, I have
considerable doubt, as the Austrians are good engineers,
and the forts with which the whole coast of Dalmatia
bristles are generally strong. Indeed this very fact, and
the great number of soldiers that are stationed in this
district, show how vulnerable the Austrian government
feels itself to be in this quarter. Of the state of political
feeling in these parts I shall have to speak further on,
but, if the doctrine of natural boundaries is worth any-
thing, the position of a country which for some hundreds
of miles possesses the seaboard of a great neighbouring
country is wholly indefensible, particularly when this is
backed up, as it is in Dalmatia, by an extensive system
of prohibitive duties, which prevents the adjoining pro-
vinces of Bosnia, the Herzegovina, &c., from having any
outlet for their exports. It has been cleverly said that
Dalmatia without Bosnia is a face without a head ; the
converse also is true, that Bosnia vvithout Dalmatia is a
head without a face. In the case of a general European
war, nothing could be more likely than that this point
should be attacked, either by some power desiring to
rectify the map of Europe, or by some assertor of the
cause of the Southern Slavonians ; and if that should
happen, it is as probable as not that Austria by some
false move would neutralize all the benefit that had been
gained by years of preparation.

Chap. XI. TJic Black Mountain. 237

The entrance of the Bocche, and the first bays through
which you pass, are bounded at the sides by sloping
hills, partly covered by vineyards and brushwood, and in
general there is more vegetation than is commonly seen
on the coasts and islands of Dalmatia. In the back-
ground at some distance off rise the wild mountains,
conspicuous among which from many turns in the wind-
ing strait is the lofty peak of Lovchen, the highest sum-
mit in these parts, and, as we shall see, almost a sacred
spot. As we approach nearer to these, the inlet divides
into two branches, and at the point of separation lies the
town of Perasto, in a picturesque position, running up
the mountain side from the water's edge, and adorned
with elegant campaniles and numerous trees interspersed
among the houses. Just off the point lie two islets, one
of which is occupied by a small fort, the other by a
church, the tower of which and a campanile hard by are
crowned by green metal domes, which have a very Rus-
sian aspect. The branch which we followed from this
point runs for some little distance due east, and then,
turning at right angles, bends to the south, forming the
Bay of Cattaro. The scenery of this part is of the wildest
description. On both sides are lofty mountains ; but those
towards Montenegro rise very steeply to the height of
4000 and 5000 feet, in precipices of a whitish-gray colour,
with bold outlines, though they are but little broken into
sharp peaks. They are utterly bare, except here and
there on the slopes of some of the higher summits, where
patches of dark forest are seen, from which, Vv'hen they
were more general, the Black Mountain got its name. It
was strange to think that on the other side of these, and
in the heart of the wild mountains, a civilized district was
to be found. At the foot of these precipices, and formed
apparently from their debris, is a narrow strip of vegetation.

238 Montenegro. Chap. XI.

and at many points along the shore flourishing villages
appeared. This part belongs to Austria. When I asked
the young Montenegrin where was the boundary-line
between the Austrian and Montenegrin territory, he
pointed significantly enough to the place where vegeta-
tion ceased and the steep rocks began to rise. At the
head of the gulf is a sloping cultivated valley, and on
the left as you approach, jammed in between the sea and
the foot of a buttress of rock, which here projects from
the mountain side, lies Cattaro, surmounted at a height
of 900 feet by a Venetian castle. From this, lines of
walls descend to the sea in innumerable angles, following
the broken edges of the cliff on both sides in the most
curious manner, while, between these, other interior walls
run across in different directions in extremely steep posi-
tions. By the side of this, along the face of the preci-
pices, may be traced the zigzags of the famous Scala of
Cattaro, the ladder of Montenegro.

Over the sea-gate of the city stands the Lion of St.
Mark, giving evidence of the days " when Venice was a
queen with an unequalled dower," for nowhere is her
former influence more clearly traceable than along this
coast, where Ragusa is the only place that maintained
its independence against her. The same thing is testified
by the numerous specimens of Venetian palatial archi-
tecture which attract the eye as you pass through the
streets — white marble balconies, balustrades and win-
dows with twisted pillars, or otherwise richly and deli-
cately ornamented. The city itself, which is larger than
it appears from the sea, is a labyrinth of tiny squares and
excessively narrow streets, the effect of which is that
there is hardly any circulation of air, and the atmosphere
is close and oppressive. Add to this its position at the
foot of a steep cliff facing the west, and it may easily be

Chap. XI. Scala of Cattaro. 239

supposed that Cattaro is anything but an agreeable
residence in the month of July. After a terribly hot
night we were thankful to escape at an early hour, and,
after threading the tortuous streets, found the horses
which we had hired to take us to Cetinje, the capital of
Montenegro, waiting for us outside the land-gate. Here,
as in all the other Dalmatian towns, in consequence of
the narrowness of the streets and their being universally
paved with flags, no beasts of burden are allowed to
come within the walls.

In a few minutes we reached the foot of the Scala, and
began to ascend its zigzags. It is in every respect a
most remarkable pass, from the steepness of the moun-
tain-wall, and the narrowness of the sort of gully in
which it lies, at the side of the buttress of rock on which
stands the castle of Cattaro. It resembles the Gemmi
more than any other of the Swiss passes, but is far better
engineered and more carefully built than that rough
road. On our way we met some of the Montenegrins,
who wore rather a poverty-stricken appearance, on their
way to the town with milk and other saleable articles.
The commercial relations of the Cattarese and Monte-
negrins seem to be regarded from somewhat different
points of view by the two peoples. When we were talk-
ing to the Austrian officers on board the steamer about
Montenegro, one of them observed, "Ah! poor things,
they lead a hard life : it is lucky for them they have
a market at Cattaro to sell their products in ; if it were
not for that, they would be starved." At Cetinje, on the
other hand, we heard the following story. Not long ago,
when some political refugees from Montenegro, — one of
whom murdered the late Prince, Danilo, — had taken up
their quarters at Cattaro, the present prince, Nicolas,
sent to demand their removal. No notice being taken of

240 Mofitencgro. Chap. XI.

this, recourse was had to another mode of action. The
Prince requested his people — and his request is of equal
force with a law — that they should take no provisions
into the town for several days. The consequence was
that the place was starved ; and when the authorities
sent to expostulate, and were told in return that the
exiles must be removed, they professed themselves ready
to do anything that was wished, provided they might
have food ; so the obnoxious persons were sent to Zara,
where they are still.

During the first part of the ascent our views over the
Bocche did not extend beyond Perasto, but these were
extremely pretty. The water was perfectly smooth, ex-
cept where a light breeze passed like a warm breath over
its glassy surface ; little promontories, which from below
had hardly been seen, now came out distinctly to view ;
and when the sunlight reached the level of the bay, the
villages which fringed the shore, with their tall campa-
niles, formed conspicuous objects in the scene. For the
first thousand feet the steps of the ladder had been so
steep, that when we were above the level of the Venetian
castle, we could look right down into the town itself;
higher up, where the ascent was more gradual, and the
area wider over which the zigzags extended, one could
see them, like a loose rope, flung about the mountain
side below us, and at last we reached a point where
the more distant bays of the Bocche came in view, and the
broad expanse of the Adriatic reaching far away to the
west. After an hour and twenty minutes we found our-
selves at the summit of the Scala, and then entered on a
rugged mountain-path, at the top of which is the frontier.
Just as we entered the territory of the Black Mountain,
we overtook the young Montenegrin, together with his
Parisian friend, whose polished leather boots looked

Chap. XI. Approach to Monteitegro. 241

rather out of place in this wilderness of rocks. They
were followed by a woman carrying a heavy trunk, which
she did good-humouredly enough : but though female
porterage is the custom of the country, there was some-
thing unpleasant in seeing a box marked with a number
of European luggage-labels on a woman's back. The
Montenegrin was mounted on a handsome pony with
elaborate trappings, which had evidently been sent to
meet him ; this, together with his foreign education, led
us to conjecture that he must be of some consequence in
his country, and we afterwards found that he was a
cousin of the Prince, and son of Voyvode Mattanovitch,
one of the chief men in Montenegro. He is not the first
of his countrymen that has been sent abroad for instruc-
tion ; and, among others, the Prince himself studied at
Paris : but, on the whole, the experiment has succeeded
but doubtfully, as one or two have since joined the
Austrian service in preference to a retired life within
their own narrow boundaries. It is a difficult question,
for at home they can get no education that is worth the
name. Perhaps the most sensible suggestion was one
which I heard at Cetinje, viz., that only those should be
educated abroad who were intended for some special
office in the State, but that they should provide them-
selves in this way with at least a good lawyer, a good
tactician, and a good financier.

From the frontier we descended into a stony basin in
the midst of the bare grey mountains, which is well culti-
vated in parts ; maize, oats, and barley being grown, and
a great quantity of potatoes, which are largely raised in
Montenegro, though hardly known in the surrounding
countries. But the most remarkable thing (and it is
at the same time a striking proof of the industry of the
natives) was the way in which every available inch of

242 Montenegro. Chap. XL

gTound had been turned to account. Cuplike hollows
had everywhere been scooped out in the mountain sides
and carefully cleared of stones, leaving a beautiful black
soil, in which tiny crops were grown ; and their sides were
built round and banked up to prevent stones from falling
in, and probably also because in this way they collect
more moisture. In this valley lies the village of Niegush,
where we stopped an hour at a little wayside inn to rest
our horses. The houses here, and universally in Monte-
negro, are built of stone, thus forming a marked contrast
to the wooden buildings which are so characteristic of
Turkey : there were also two stone churches, unpre-
tending edifices, hardly distinguishable from the secular
buildings except by the cross which surmounts them ; and
a new school was in process of erection. At this place
we saw our first group of Montenegrins ; for a great
number had assembled to welcome our young com-
panion, many of them probably being his relations, as
the present royal family came from Niegush, to which
place they had migrated at an earlier period from the
Herzegovina. They were fine, tall, muscular men, with
a grand independent bearing ; and though their belts were
full of pistols and yataghans, they had nothing of the
wild and fierce look to which we were accustomed among
the Albanians. One of them had the medal of Grahova,
the last great battle in which they defeated the Turks :
two others w^ere shown to belong to the National Guard
by their wearing on their caps the arms of Montenegro
in silver, the lion and double eagle, the original emblems
of Servia, from which country they have inherited it, as
its rightful representatives. The handsome Montenegrin
dress was well represented among them. It consists of a
long white cloth coat with sleeves, reaching nearly to the
knees and open in front ; an ornamented red waistcoat,

Chap. XL Montenegrin Dress. 243

and jacket of the same colour ; a thick red sash, and belt
for arms ; full blue trousers down to the knee, and white
gaiters below, while the ankle is covered by a thick
worked sock, and the foot by a shoe of hide, fastened by
innumerable cords, Avhich run across up to the instep.
This is the full dress, but the waistcoat, coat, and jacket,
are seldom worn together. The cap is peculiar, and has
a symbolism attached to it by the people. Its shape is
round, with a flat crown, and it is covered with black,
except the top, which is crimson, with a star and other
ornaments in gold in one corner. The symbolism was
thus explained to me at Cetinje by the Prince's Secretary,
who took off the cap of one of the senators who was sit-
ting near us, for the purpose. "This black," he said,
pointing to the band that ran round it, "is worn in
mourning for the kingdom of Servia, and the golden
ornaments in the corner of the crown signify our suc-
cesses over the Turks, and the freedom of Montenegro :
when we have obtained perfect liberty for the Slavonians
of Turkey, the whole of the crown will be ornamented in
the same way." The priests in this country, or popes, as
they are called, wear the same dress as the laity, and are
only distinguishable from them by wearing a beard, while
the others shave all except the moustache. One of them
had joined our company outside the inn.

Leaving Niegush we mounted on the other side of the
valley in a southerly direction, until we found ourselves
in the midst of dwarf beeches, which here in many places
cover the mountain sides. After passing several flocks
of small sheep and goats we reached the highest point of
the road, where was a spring of water, a rare treasure in
this thirsty land. In the neighbourhood of this the trees
were being felled by woodcutters ; when I afterwards
noticed this to the Prince, and asked him whether the

R 2


Montenegro. Chap. XI.

destruction of the forests did not tend still further to
diminish their supply of water, he replied that it was a
cause of considerable anxiety to him, and that he did his
best to stop the practice, but found great difficulty in
doing so. It is a question of the very first importance
in the southern countries of Europe, especially in Greece
and Spain, how to restore the trees which have suffered
from centuries of merciless devastation ; but as wood
and water are mutually dependent on one another, the
one requiring moisture, the other shade, their restoration
will be a tedious process, even with care and the use of
artificial appliances. Yet until this is done the progress
of those countries will be materially retarded. As we
descended on the other side of the pass a superb view
opened out before us. In the foreground was a succession
of broken limestone ranges ; beyond these, to the south-
east, the wide blue expanse of the Lake of Scodra, and
at its head a level plain, intersected by the stream of the
Moratza, and bounded by the lofty snow-capped moun-
tains of North Albania : to the south and south-west
appeared some very striking peaks, the highest of which
is called Rumia, being a continuation of the chain
which passes through Montenegro, and separates the
lake from the sea. Near to us, on our right, was
the lofty beech-clad mountain of Lovchen, on whose
summit is the chapel, conspicuous from all parts of the
country, where Peter II., the last Vladika or Prince-
Bishop, the predecessor of Danilo, lies buried. The
young Montenegrin described to me how this remark-
able man, at once a poet, a warrior, and an administrator,
and one of the greatest benefactors of his country from
the civilization and order which he introduced, used to
pass days together in a tent on this romantic spot,
writing poetry and communing with nature ; and so

Chap. XL ■ Plain of Cctinjc. 245

great was his affection for it that he expressed a wish
that his body should rest there after death.

The path continues to wind steeply down among
the rocks, about which the sage plant grows in such
quantities as to fill the air with aromatic fragrance
all around, until at last the narrow plain of Cetinje
appears below you — running north and south — about
three miles long, and deeply sunk in the heart of
the mountains, though itself 2472 feet above the
sea. The rocky character of this whole district is
illustrated by a strange legend in one of the popular
songs of Montenegro, that when the Almighty was
passing over the face of the earth to sow it with moun-
tains, he chanced to let fall in this land the bag which
contained the rocks, and the boulders rolling out covered
the surface of the country.- The town, which lies on the
western side of it, not far from its southern end, is hardly
seen until you are close to it ; we were apprized, how-
ever, of our approach by the appearance of another
relation of the Prince, an elaborately dressed youth
mounted on a caracoling grey pony, who came along the
plain to meet and greet our companion. But, in order
to make what follows more intelligible, it may be well,
before we enter the capital, to give a brief sketch of the
history of the country up to the present time.

The history of Montenegro as an independent state
dates from the Battle of Cossova (A.D. 1389), when the
Servian kingdom was overthrown by the Turks under
Sultan Amurath I. Previously to that time it had
formed a part of that empire, and was governed by a
local Ban ; but after the subjugation of Servia the Ban
of that period, who v/as called Balcha, and had married
the daughter of Lazar, the last Servian king, proclaimed
- Cyprien Robert, 'Slaves tie Turquic,' i. p. ii6.

246 Montenegro. Chap. XL

himself independent, and succeeded in maintaining him-
self in freedom in his stronghold of the Black Mountain.
Thenceforward this country became the representative of
Servia among the Slavonic races, and from its defensible
position formed a place of asylum for refugees from that
kingdom and from the neighbouring districts. Its
history may be conveniently divided into three periods :
(i) from the Battle of Cossova to the union of the
secular and ecclesiastical powers in the same person
(a.d. 1 5 16): (2) from that event to the accession to
power of the present reigning family, that of Niegush
(a.d. 1697) : (3) the remaining period to the present day.
During the first period the nation was ruled by the
descendants of the first prince, Balcha, who received the
family name of Tsernoivitch. The most distinguished
personage of this race was Ivan, surnamed the Black,
whose memory still lives among the people in a variety
of legends. According to one of these he is not dead,
but only sleeping, and is expected to return at some
future time — like Arthur and other heroes of romance —
for the salvation of his people. In his time the country
was exposed to a series of violent attacks on the part of
the Turks, who had previously been kept at bay by the
successes of Scanderbeg in the neighbouring parts of
Albania. After the death of that hero in 1467, the
invaders began to press the Montenegrins hard ; and at
last, after vainly endeavouring to obtain succours from
Venice, Ivan found himself obliged to withdraw from
Jabliak, the original capital, which was situated in the
plain to the north of the Lake of Scodra, and to establish
his head-quarters at Cetinje in the heart of the moun-
tains. From that time to the present that place has
continued to be the capital, and though it has on several
occasions been captured by the Turks, yet they have

Chap. XI. History of Mojitencgro. 247

almost always been forced speedily to evacuate it, for
a barren and rocky country like Montenegro is almost
impossible to hold, and the invaders have usually suffered
severely in their retreat. Though the Venetians on this
occasion refused to help the Prince of the Black Moun-
tain, having just before concluded a treaty with Sultan
Bajazet, yet they soon perceived the importance of an
alliance \vith that hardy race, which might prove a
barrier to arrest the westward progress of the Maho-
metan power. Accordingly, in the course of time,
intimate relations were entered into between them — a
connection which continued, more or less, for a long
period with mutual advantage : but the first fruits of it
were highly injurious to the Montenegrins. George
Tsernoivitch, the son and successor of Ivan, had married
a Venetian lady of high rank ; and being discouraged by
the continued advances of the Turks, at length yielded
to the solicitations of his wife, and, after abdicating the
supreme authority in his native country, retired to end
his days in the midst of Venetian civilization and luxury.
At the same time, many of the chief families left the
Black IMountain, and the anarchy which ensued opened
the way to the invader.

It was at this period that the secular and ecclesiastical
power was united in the hands of the same person, an
arrangement which has continued almost to the present
day. When the last prince of the house of Tsernoivitch
left the country, German, the Vladika, or Bishop, re-
fused to follow his example, and remained at his post.
At the request of the people he undertook the adminis-
tration of the civil government ; and though the offices
thus combined could not become hereditary, as the
bishops in the Eastern Church are never married, yet
.the system was perpetuated, and it was arranged that the

248 Montenegro. Chap. XL

Vladika should be appointed either by popular election,
or, as was afterwards the case, by the nomination of his
predecessor. The two centuries that succeeded witnessed
a continual struggle with the Turks, and were a time of
great depression for the Montenegrins ; for though from'
time to time they obtained help from Venice, and were
enabled to reassert their independence, yet their territory
was frequently occupied by Turkish armies, and they
were forced to pay tribute to the Sultan. During this
period many Montenegrin families apostatized to Maho-
metanism, though afterwards, when the Montenegrins
regained their independence, their descendants were
forced to return to Christianity ; so that even now there
are names in the country denoting the Mussulman origin
of those that have inherited them, such as Alich, Husseyn-
ovich, that is, the sons of Ali and Husseyn.

It was not until the year 1703 that the Black Moun-
tain was once more completely free : in that year
occurred the Sicilian Vespers of Montenegro. Danilo
Petrovitch of Niegush, who in A.D. 1697 had been
elected Vladika by the people, was shortly afterwards
taken prisoner by the Turks by means of a treacherous
artifice, the Pasha in the neighbouring parts of Albania

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 19 of 31)