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 26 of 31)
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slopes of the mountains facing the north, from which
there was a glorious view of the serrated, and in some
places snowy, peaks of Jacova, which stretch along in
that direction in a magnificent chain. These summits
are described by Grisebach, who saw them from several
points much nearer than this — on the road from Scodra
to Prisrend — as presenting a superb spectacle, not easily
surpassed in the Alps, from the aignillcs and pinnacles of
limestone rock to which they rise. These, he says, form
a striking contrast to the lower and less strongly marked
shapes of the mountains of the Ducadjini, which, like
those of the north and west of the Mirdita, are composed
of greenstone, porphyry, and other igneous rocks. The
long deep gorge of the Drin is caused by the meeting of
these two different formations ; and the limestone
masses which tower above its northern side he regards as
the termination of that system of mountains which,
under the name of Carnian, Julian, Dinaric, and Turkish
Alps, runs south-eastward from the end of the main
Alpine chain. Here it is broken off and thrown up into
lofty jagged peaks, exactly in the same way as the
dolomite peaks of the southern Tyrol have been formed.

330 Orosch to Prisrend. Chap. XV.

and the mountain system terminated in that direction by-
volcanic upheaval.^ This range, together with the other
mountains which intervene between Montenegro and the
plain of Ipek, and are separated by the latter from
the Schar-dagh, form the Bertiscus of Strabo,^ and by

' Grisebach, ' Reise clurch Rumelien,' ii. 341, 342, 351, 352.

- In a passage which has caused great confusion — though rather, perhaps,

from error in its interpretation, than actual mistake on the part of the

author- — he says : ' ' Macedonia is bounded on the north by what may be

conceived of as a straight line formed by Mounts Bertiscus, Scardus,

Orbelus, Rhodope, and Hcemus; for these mountains, commencing from

the Adriatic, reach in a straight line as far as the Euxine ['H Ma/ceSoi'ra

irepiopi^iTai — f/c fiop^a rfj voovfj-ivr] euOeia ypafififj rrj 5ia BeprlcTKOv opovs Kal

'2,KdpSov Ka\ 'OpPijAov kol 'PoSotttjs koI A'ijxov to yap opr) ravra, apx^P-^va.

airh ToO 'ASpiov, 5i7}K€i Kara evOelav ypafifxr^v eus rov 'Ei/^eipov." — Stfabo,

vii. fragm. 10]. It must always be remembered that this passage, though

valuable as giving us the names of the mountain ranges that form this

chain, is from the epitomizer of Strabo, and not directly from the author

himself; it ought not, therefore, to be intei-preted independently of a

passage in the text of Strabo bearing on the same point, in which the

statement about the "straight line" is given in a much more qualified

manner: — "The mountains of Illyricum, Paonia, and Thrace, are, in a

certain way, parallel to the Ister, fomiing, as it were, a single line, which

reaches from the Adriatic as far as the Pontus \Tp6i:ov yap riva rcf "la-Tpor

■jrapaWrtXa. icrri to, te 'IWvptKo, Kal to, TlaioviKa Kal ra QpaKia opt], fiiav irus

ypa/xjxriv airoTeXovvra, SirjKovaav airh rod 'ASp'tov fxixpi- '"'p^^ '''^v TlSprov." —

Strabo, vii. 5, § i]. From these passages it was long supposed — and until

lately the error was introduced into all modern maps of Turkey — that the

country between the Danube and the yEgean was divided in the middle by

a lofty range of moiuitains, which formed a continuation of the main chain

of the Alps as far as the Euxine, and that the Scardus in particular formed

part of this transverse range, and ran from west to east. Now, however, it

is known that along one important portion of this supposed line, namely, to

the south-east of Sei-via, the hills do not rise to any considerable elevation.

To persons ignorant of tlie interior of the country the mistake was perfectly

natural, for the "straight line " of Strabo is apt to mislead ; and it does not at

once approve itself to our minds that a chain running directly north and south

should form part of a series of mountain ranges whose course is from west to

east. Such, however, is in fact the case. The Bertiscus, with which the

line commences towards the Adriatic, can be none other than the chain

which lies before us in this view, reaching to the north of Ipek and the

sources of the White Drin ; but here the direction changes, and the next

link is formed by the Schar-dagh, which, as its name would lead us to

Chap. XV. Mirdite ShcpJierds' Encavipmcnt. 331

that name, as they have no distinctive modern appella-
tion, we will in future call them.

Our resting-place was a rude hut, whose roof and
sides were constructed of boards roughly put together,
through the interstices of which the smoke from the fire
escaped. This was divided by a partition into two
rooms, one of which served for a dairy and nursery, and
for the women's apartments generally, while the other, a
corner of which was given up to us, was appropriated to
the men. Outside these was a kind of summer-house,
roofed with branches and dead leaves, as a shelter from
the sun ; near this a number of calves were tethered ;.
and all around extended a large enclosure, within which
at nightfall the goats were driven, and milked and
folded. While we were making our supper off the
remains of the lamb which we had brought with us,
the shepherds crowded round the wood fire which was.
lighted in the middle of the room to see us eating, which
gave me the opportunity of observing that most of them
had blue eyes. When we had finished they took up the
transparent shoulder-blade and divined through it. This
is done by observing the light and dark spots, which
respectively denote good and bad fortune : a groove on
the outer edge of one side is said to denote the death of
the owner of the animal. I had often heard of this

suppose, is the ancient Scardus, and stretches first to the south-west as far
as a point some way to the south of Prisrend, and then directly southwards
to the plain of Monastir. This, again, is connected by the Nidje and other
mountains north of the lake of Ostrovo, and afterwards by those that fomi
the Stena, or Iron Gate of the Vardar, with the Perim-dagh, or Orbelus,
between Seres and Philippopoli, from which the irregular line of mountains
which bore the name of Rhodope, leads in a north-easterly direction to the
Balkan. See Grisebach, 'Reise,' vol. ii. pp. no foil., where the whole
subject is learnedly discussed, and Colonel Leake's supposition, that the
Scardus or Scordus of the ancients represents the mountains on both sides.
of the united Drin, is completely refuted.

332 Orosch to Prisrend. Chap. XV.

custom, and by several writers on Albania it has been
brought forward as a proof of the gross superstition of
the people : in the country, however, I was assured by
more than one person that it was merely a fancy or
amusement, and such it appeared to be on this occasion.
When I asked one of the fellows what he divined, he
answered, "that the Christians were stronger than the
Turks " — a tolerably safe piece of augury in the moun-
tains of the Mirdita. Still there can be no doubt that
formerly great faith was placed in omens derived from
this source, and it is probable enough that, in some parts
of the country, it is so now. In Dr. Grisebach's account
of his visit to Afsi Pasha of Uskiub, a native hereditary
governor, in 1839, he relates that he found him in great
dejection because a fortnight before he had discovered a
groove such as I have described, and believed it to
signify his impending death. Shortly after, however,
when intelligence arrived of the death of Sultan Mah-
moud, he cheered up, because he argued that, while the
sheep had belonged to himself, both he and his were
the property of the Sultan, and thus the omen had been
satisfactorily fulfilled ! In this view he was confirmed
by the fact that the time of the Sultan's death closely
coincided with the day on which he had observed the

The number of the inhabitants of this rustic dwelling
amounted in all to thirty-five, but only twelve, including
ourselves, occupied our apartment. The fire was kept
up all through the night ; and what with the keen moun-
tain air, the smoke, the noise made both by sleepers and
watchers, and other causes easily intelligible,-'' to get to

^ We are apt to suppose that the natives of these countries are not much
annoyed by these troublesome visitors ; there is, however, a modern Greek
proverb which seems to imply the contrary. It is intended to ridicule those

Chap. XV. Black and White Drin. 333

sleep was no easy matter. At one period of the night
there was a sudden barking of dogs, and two of the
party outside came in to fetch their guns, as if they were
going to reconnoitre ; after a quarter of an hour, how-
ever, they brought them back again. The following
morning was damp and chilly, and we pursued our way
in the midst of the clouds over the mountain tops, at a
height of 5000 feet, or through the thick forests of beech
and fir which clothe their sides. The path was rendered
intricate by the tangled roots of trees and fallen trunks,
but our guide showed extraordinary sagacity and know-
ledge of the country. At last, after following a north-
easterly direction for several hours, during which all the
surrounding country was concealed from our view, we
began to descend to the valley of the Drin, at a point
just below the junction of its two branches, where its
waters are spanned by a lofty bridge. As we emerged
from the clouds we saw before us, to the east, the upland
valley of the White Drin which leads to Prisrend, while
at some distance off to the south the Black Drin escapes
from the mountains of the Dibra, as the district is called
through which it flows from the Lake of Ochrida. The
people of this district are the most famous carpenters in
Turkey, and a large number of them make annual
migrations in search of work. Notwithstanding that
we obtained from this point an extensive view over
mountains and valleys, what impressed us most was the
apparent openness of everything as compared with

who inflict on themselves a great evil in order to get rid of a small one, but,
at the same time, it implies that the lesser of the two is a very real evil. It
runs thus : —

" Aia TOVTO tKa^a rr^v KuXv^a jxov,
5ia va fiT] jxe cpuv ol \pi/Woi."

" I burnt down my cottage ; my reason was this,
That the fleas might not eat me alive."

334 OroscJi to Prisrend. Chap. XV.

the narrow valleys of the Mirdita. As we descended,
the oaks, which we had not seen since leaving the valley
of the Fandi, began to reappear, and the ground was
covered with low box shrubs. The heat of the low
ground, too, soon made itself felt, in contrast to the cold
which we had experienced in the morning. Close to the
bridge is a khan, called the Kiupri Khan, or " Bridge
Hotel," where we rested in the middle of the day : the
height of this place is about 980 feet above the sea,
which shows how considerable the rapids of the river
must be in its descent through the gorge of which I have
so often spoken. Here we took leave of our friendly
Albanian, whom we with difficulty persuaded to receive
a present of money.

Once more in Turkish territory, and on the main road
between Scodra and Prisrend, we crossed the bridge,
which is supported by two high arches of unequal size,
with other smaller ones between them. It is extremely
steep, like most of the bridges of the country, and as
the stones with which they are paved are slippery, and
the parapet hardly worthy of the name, and the horses
are accustomed to mount them in zigzags, it is more
pleasant to cross on foot, even for persons accustomed to
precipitous places. This appears to be the custom
among the natives, from the mounting stones which are
placed at either end. For some distance the road follows
the water upwards, until the meeting of the two rivers
comes in view, when it cuts off the angle at which the
White Drin flows in, and after reaching that stream,
crosses its rapid torrent by a similar two-arched bridge.
Here the valley becomes narrow, and the scenery Swiss-
like and pretty, especially at a point where a tributary of
some size — the Luma— flows in, and is surmounted by

Chap. XV. A Nocturnal Visitor. 335

an arch of single span. The occurrence of so many-
bridges within so short a space is very unusual in
Turkey, but they are rendered necessary by the amount
of traffic, for we met a surprising number of carriers
with strings of mules and horses. In most cases these
men, not being themselves the proprietors of the goods
they were carrying, did not know what their bales con-
tained ; but we learned that the principal exports are
wane, wool, and resin. From this place we continued to
ascend the bank of the White Drin in the midst of fine
alders, with fertile land in the foreground, and moorland
in the distance, resembling parts of Devonshire, until,
after three hours and a half from the Kiupri Khan we
arrived at our resting-place, which was pointed out by
the unanimous consent of the persons we met as the
best on the way to Prisrend. Bad, indeed, was the best,
for it was nothing but a spacious stable, with no accom-
modation for human beings except the floor — the earth,
I mean — where they were allowed to lie ct discretion.
Outside this I noticed a curious granary, in which the
lieads of the maize was stored ; it was circular, and
about ten feet in diameter, formed of branches plaited in
and out of upright poles, and thatched at the top with
maize stalks. During the night, while I was asleep on
the bed of hay that had been made for me in the middle
of the stable, I became aware of some movement p-oing-


on near me, and, on waking up, felt that my bed was
being gradually pulled from under me. At first I was
too sleepy to resist, but when I summoned sufficient
energy to kick out, my leg encountered the head of a
horse, who had broken loose, and having finished his own
allowance of hay, had come to poach on mine. I
believe I suffered most from the concussion, for he con-

336 Orosch to Prisrend. Chap. XV.

tinued to feed on placidly until I called up Nicola with
loud shouts, and he was at length reconducted to the

The next day we continued to ascend the Drin until
it makes a bend to the north in the direction of Ipek ;
here we left it, and crossed some low hills that descend^
from the mountains, near which is the village of Djuri,
the first place surmounted by a minaret which we had
seen since leaving Scodra. So completely had we been
in Christian lands, and so different is the condition of
the Mirdites from that of the other Christians of Turkey!
From the foot of these hills the wide plain slopes
gradually upwards towards Prisrend, backed by the
mighty range of Scardus, which appeared close at hand
in one long line, though its summits were shrouded by
the clouds. At last the city itself became visible —
first, the castle on a buttress of Scardus, with the houses
of the Christian quarter creeping up its side ; and after-
wards the wide extent of buildings which cover the lower
ground, from among which the spiry forms of twenty-
minarets rise conspicuous.

On entering we found it quite a city of waters. It is
divided in two parts by the rapid stream of the Maritza,
which, issuing from a deep gorge in the side of the
Schar-dagh, pours down through the place with a steep
descent ; and the eye is refreshed by runlets of limpid
water flowing in many of the streets. When first we
reached the river after following the main street, which
runs through the heart of the town, its stream was clear
and bright, but a heavy storm of rain having fallen
shortly after our arrival, in the afternoon it was swollen
to a violent and turbid torrent. The bridge by which it
is crossed in this part, from its arched roof and the
booths at its sides, reminded us of the Ponte Vecchio at

Chap. XV. Prisrend. 337

Florence, though it is entirely of wood, and on a much
smaller scale. The singularly picturesque bazaars, of
■\\hich these booths form a part, have a gay appearance,
from the bright-coloured handkerchiefs, waistcoats, and
calicoes, which are hung about them ; and the effect of
this is increased by the costume of their occupants, for
the dresses at Prisrend surpass in magnificence all that
I have seen elsewhere, even in Turkey. They are of two
different sorts ; the one the richest form of the Albanian
costume, — \}i\&\\'\\\X.Q fiistanclla (kilt) and white shirt, with
fez cap, gold-embroidered jacket, and broad belt, all
of crimson ; while the other substitutes for \.\\q fustanc/la
full purple trousers reaching to the knee, with leggings
of the same colour below. To our eyes they appeared
truly superb, after having been accustomed to the simple
dress of the Mirdites. Our khan, too, which lay near
the opposite bank of the river, though not superior to
the better style of khans which are found in the large
cities of Turkey, appeared to us a luxurious abode, as it
was provided with private rooms, or dens, opening out
from the wooden gallery which runs round the whole
of the inside of the building, and lighted from it through
a grating of strong iron bars ; furnished also with the
usual rush mats, and arranged so that the door may be
fastened with a padlock, which the experienced traveller
carries about with him to ensure the safety of his
property when he goes out. The scene which this place
presented at all times of the day, but especially in the
morning and evening, was one of truly Oriental somno-
lence. All about the gallery were people sitting cross-
legged on carpets, either singly or in groups, smoking
their pipes, and staring at the Frank strangers with large
eyes of languid curiosity, while the plashing fountain at
the further end of the court diffused a sense of repose

538' Orosch to Prisrend. Chap. XV.

over the whole place. It was exactly one of those scenes
which Lewis represents so inimitably in his pictures of
Eastern life.

Shortly after our arrival we paid a visit to Nazif
Pasha, the governor of the district, to whom we had a
letter of introduction from Ismael Pasha of Scodra.
Though he bore the title of Pasha, we found that in
respect of his office he is only a Kaimakam, or governor
of the second rank, and is under the Pasha of Monastir,
to whom the authorities at Calcandele and Uskiub are
also subject. His house was on a rising ground in the
outskirts of the city, and we found him in the midst of
bricks and mortar, for he was building himself a new
and commodious Serai. He was a weak-looking young
man, and wore a blue silk overcoat trimmed with swans-
down ; but he appeared to be an observer of the good
old customs, for he regaled us with chibouques of
jasmine, instead of the inexpensive and almost universal
cigarette. He spoke a few words of French, and pro-
fessed to have known that language once, but excused
himself for having forgotten it by long disuse since
leaving Constantinople. Like most Turkish officials, he
lamented the present state of things, and professed an
ardent desire for improvement, propounding at the same
time large schemes of his own, such as making the Drin
navigable by a system of locks to counteract the rapids.
When not even a caiTiage-road exists in the country, it may
easily be understood how little such expressions mean. "A
Turk in action," Mr. Palgrave has truly said, "has rarely
either head or heart save for his own individual rapacity
and sensuality ; the same Turk in theory is a Metternich
in statesmanship, and a Wilberforce in benevolence.
Video mdiora proboque; Detcriora scqnor, should be the

Chap. XV. Tlie Castle, 339

device of their banner ; it is the sum total of their
history." •* What traveller in Turkey has not often had
occasion to feel what these words so forcibly express ! One
improvement, however, to which Nazif drew our atten-
tion, — namely, that the population under his jurisdiction
were disarmed, — if fully carried out would be a real
reform. This is the first requisite for an established
order of things in Turkey, and a sine qua 11011 for securing
the Christians from ill treatment ; for while they are
forbidden and the Mahometans allowed to carry arms,
the necessary consequence is that the weaker party are
exposed to continual outrages. As to this district, the
Roman Catholic Archbishop afterwards told us that
it is only within the city that the system of disarming
has been carried out, and that in the neighbourhood the
insecurity is so great, as to cause large parts of the
country not to be cultivated. As he said to us, when
speaking of this very point — "The Turkish theory is
good, but nothing can be worse than their administra-

Under the guidance of one of the Pasha's attendants,
we next proceeded to visit the castle. Though it con-
tains a few Turkish soldiers, yet, like most of these old
castles, it is useless for purposes of defence, being com-
manded by a number of other heights from behind. In
one part we noticed two Venetian guns, stamped with
the lion of St. Mark, though whether they were brought
here as trophies, or whether the Venetians ever occupied
the place, we could not learn. Anyhow, considering the
difficulty of transport from the coast, it must have cost
no little trouble to brinfr them here. The view from this

■* Palgrave's ' Arabia, ' i. 299.

Z 2

340 Orosch to Prisrend. Chap. XV.

point is extensive, and extremely fine. The whole city-
lies extended below you, with the Maritza rushing
through it in a winding course, bordered at the sides
by willows and other trees, and spanned by half-a-dozen
bridges, one of which is of stone. About the lower part,
where the houses are larger and less closely built, the
trees are thickly clustered ; and beyond this the open
country extends in a sea of green vegetation, which gives
way after a time to uncultivated land, but reappears
again in places, as the eye sweeps over the undulations
of the vast plain that reaches as far as Ipek. The smoke
of that place may be seen at the foot of the mountains
to the north-west, more than forty miles off. The green
appearance of everything, so striking a sight at this time
of year, was accounted for partly by the height of this
place above the sea, — 1577 feet by the barometer, — and
partly by the large rainfall there had been throughout
Turkey during the previous spring. Above Ipek, and
stretching for some distance along the far horizon, are
the magnificent peaks of the Bertiscus : directly opposite
to you towards the west, rising from the right bank of
the White Drin, stands the grand conical form of
Mount Bastrik ; and to the south-west, on the opposite
side of that river, just where the valley by which we had
approached begins to close in, is Mount Koraphia (called
Coridnik by Grisebach), part of a vast spur which is
thrown out from Scardus at a point south of Prisrend,
and bounds the plain in that direction. Again, as you
look backwards the deep gorge is seen, through which the
Maritza issues from the heart of Scardus, and rising from
the middle of it an isolated rock, on which stands the
castle built by the kings of Scrvia at the time when this
district, which is now called Old Servia, formed part
of their kingdom. At that period Prisrend was the

Chap. XV. Clmrches. 341

Servian capital. The Archbishop informed us that it is
thought this castle is on the site of the old Roman town
of Ulpiana; but this view is probably erroneous, as that
place seems to have been in the neighbourhood of the
modern Pristina, which lies between thirty and forty miles
to the north-east of Prisrend.^ It is not impossible that
Theranda, wdiich is mentioned as being on the ancient
road running to Lissus (Alessio), from a point to the
north of Scupi (Uskiub), may have been the same as
Prisrend ; and the partial similarity of name lends some
probability to the supposition. But here, as elsewhere,
the absence of Roman remains to the west of the Scardus
shows how slight a hold either the dominion or the
civilization of Rome had on these parts, and how com-
plete a barrier the mountains formed against external

As we descended from the castle, we passed through
the quarter of the Greek Christians, which is situated
on the steep hill-side. So irregularly were the houses
built in the upper part (for streets or lanes there were
none) that even our Turkish attendant had some diffi-
culty in finding a passage between them. In the midst
of this district was a small and very ancient-looking

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 26 of 31)