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

. (page 28 of 31)
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 28 of 31)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

map — the loftiest of which, standing like a keystone at
the point where this offset meets the main chain of the
Scardus, rises far above the others. Though the Liu-
batrin and Kobelitza are generally considered higher,
yet in Kiepert this is given as the highest elevation in
the whole range, and certainly, when seen from the plain
of Calcandele, it has that appearance, and bears far
more snow than any other.

The descent of the pass is considerably more rapid
than the ascent, and before the valley is reached the
path, as it winds over the rocks and broken ground in
rough zigzags, is extremely steep, and would be very
difficult for any except mountain horses. At one point
we caught a view of the peak of Kobelitza between the
nearer summits ; and at 5300 feet the beeches re-
appeared, 100 feet higher than we had seen them on the
other side, which may perhaps be accounted for by this
side having a more southerly aspect. Along with the
first of these there stood a solitary stunted fir, the only
one we saw on our whole route, for, as Grisebach has
observed,* the class of coniferous trees is almost un-
represented on the Scardus. Shortly after reaching the
valley we crossed to the other side, along the steep
slopes of which the track is carried some distance above
the river all the way to Calcandele. The scattered
villages which appeared here and there are inhabited by
Albanians, and so in part is the plain below : there,
however, they are mixed with Bulgarians, and beyond

■* 'Reise,' ii. 259, 334. The same writer remarks that on Mount Nidje
the beeches cease at the height of 5544 feet — ii. i68.

VOL. I. 2 A

354 Prisrend to Uskiuh. Chap. XVL

that no regular Albanian population is found, but only a
few scattered villages. Thus in this more northerly
district, also, as we have already seen in the neigh-
bourhood of Ochrida, the Scardus is, roughly speaking,
the line of demarcation between the two races, though
there the Bulgarians extend over it for a little distance
to the west, as here the Albanians to the east. We met
a number of the inhabitants of one of these villages
returning from Calcandele, where it had been market-
day. They were mounted on mules, and most of them,
with the true imperturbability of Mahometans — though
probably they had never seen a Frank before — hardly
lifted their eyes to look at us ; but one humorous-looking
old fellow at the tail of the party turned round after we
had passed, and shouted to us in his native Albanian,
which was afterwards translated for our benefit — " What
are you come to Albania for, you Franks .'' To see our
country, eh .? Ah ! 'tis a barren country, not worth your
visiting, O Franks — a good-for-nothing country ! "

Seen from above, as you descend from the termination
of the pass into its streets, Calcandele is an exquisite
place — a mass of trees, principally willows and fruit
trees, from amongst which only the house-roofs and
minarets emerge, together with a picturesque clock-
tower, the upper story of which is of wood. Within, all
is decay, filth and misery, and a large part of the popu-
lation have a most unprepossessing look : it was the
only place in all Turkey where we ever had stones
thrown at us in the streets, or were called by the oppro-
brious name of Giaour. It is a very small place as
compared with Prisrend, though, like that city, it is
rendered important by its position at the exit of the
j)ass. The information which we received as to the num-

Chap. XVI. Calcandele. 355

ber of inhabitants was quite untrustworthy ; but, ac-
cording to Grisebach, it counts 1 500 houses.^ The rapid
stream which we had followed during the latter part of
our day's journey, and which is a tributary of the
Vardar, passes through the town. The khan is the
foulest place of the kind I ever saw. In the middle of
the narrow court is a large cesspool, and the two
sleeping-dens are on the ground floor and close to the
stables, the only window having iron gratings open to
the court. When we had taken up our abode in this
mansion we almost regretted that we had not instead
applied to the governor to quarter us on some family ;
a plan which many travellers in Turkey, especially
Germans, adopt, but which we had always been reluc-
tant to practise. As it was, we passed the night better
than usual.

The governor of Calcandele is a mudir, or official of
the third class, while Uskiub is under a kaimakam : both
these, as well as the kaimakam of Prisrend, are subordi-
nate to the Pasha of Monastir. We were forced to
appeal to him in the morning, for the proprietor of our
lordly residence, a Wallach, demanded double of the fair
amount for our entertainment, and, when we offered him
the usual sum, closed the gates of the khan to prevent
our departure. On our telling him that the matter must
be referred to the mudir, he assented with a readiness
that surprised us ; accordingly my companion set off
with him, taking our dragoman as interpreter, while I
remained behind to guard the baggage. I was sitting on
horseback just within the gates, in the same position in
which I had been when they were slammed in our faces

^ Boue says, four or five thousand souls, of whom one-half are Christians
— i. p. 307. The height of Calcandele is 1740 feet above the sea.

2 A 2

356 Prisrcnd to Uskmb. Chap. XV I.

— for, to say the truth, the resting-places within the
khan were not such as to make me wish to dismount —
and was intent on writing my journal, wholly unaware
of the presence of company, when, on my friend's return,
I looked up, and found the gates open, and in front of
me a double semicircle of crimson fez caps, covering the
heads of two rows of boys and men, who were watching
my proceedings with the greatest curiosity. As to our
suit, it had been settled without much difficulty. The
mudir required the kJianji to enumerate the articles with
which he had supplied us, together with their prices.
When he had done this, and, notwithstanding a liberal
estimate in his own favour, failed to make up more than
half the sum he had demanded, he was ordered to receive
what we had offered ; after which the mudir announced
his intention of putting the knave in prison. My friend,
however, interceded for him, and obtained the remission
of that part of the sentence, knowing what sort of a
place the interior of a Turkish prison is said to be.

The difference between the existing state of this part
of the country in respect of its government, and that
which Grisebach describes when he passed through it in
1839, is strikingly great, and serves to explain much
both of the former condition of many provinces of the
Turkish empire, and of the changes that have lately
taken place. In his time Uskiub and Calcandele, with
all the adjacent districts for a considerable distance,
formed a hereditary Pashalik in the hands of one great
family, the head of which, Afsi Pasha, resided at the
former place, while the dependency of Calcandele was
governed by his brother Abdurraman Pasha. Their
family had held this important position for about 200
years ; and so well established was the power in their
possession, that when Afsi's predecessor succeeded to

Chap. XVI. Hereditary Pashas. 357

the office as a child of three years old, the administration
was carried on during his minority by his relations, and
he continued to rule from first to last during eighty years.
The nature of their relation to the Sultan was one of
practical independence, though they paid tribute and
acknowledged themselves as his vassals. At any moment,
if it suited their plans, either to promote their private
interests or to counteract what seemed an offensive move
on the part of the Porte, they were ready to rise in
revolt ; and though in some similar cases the central
Government succeeded in overthrowing the power of the
local chiefs, and substituting a governor of their own, yet
after the lapse of a few months they found it politic to
reinstate them on account of the authority they exer-
cised over the population, and the powerful opposition
they were able and ready to offer. On the other hand,
if treated with favour and confidence, they were usually
ready, as we have seen in the case of the Mirdite Prince,
to assist the Sultan in his wars, and were especially
serviceable from the number of men whom their private
influence could bring into the field. This state of things,
however, which Grisebach compares to the relation of
the Princes of the Empire to the Emperor in Germany,
was feudal rather than Oriental ; in fact, it was wholly
alien to the Ottoman system, in which, as in that of the
ancient Persian empire, which was in almost every point
its prototype, the central authority is in theory supreme
and absolute, and the assertion of independence by a
Satrap or Pasha an unpardonable crime. In consequence,
it is not surprising that the Turks should have taken the
first opportunity of abolishing the rule of these families,
and substituting in their place their own immediate
agents. Sultan Mahmoud, with his usual wily policy,
endeavoured to effect this, in the case of Afsi Pasha, by

35 S Prisrend to Uskinh. Chap. XVI.

offering him high office in the State with a view to
withdraw him from the scene of his hereditary influence ;
but that chieftain was wary enough to refuse the bait,
and succeeded not only in excusing himself, but even in
obtaining an enlargement of his Pashalik. Ultimately,
however, the system of centralization prevailed, and
along with it the Porte has obtained a firmer hold on its
dominions, greater freedom of action, and increased
facilities for carrying out reforms if it will. To travellers
like ourselves the gain is considerable, as the authorities
are always ready to facilitate one's progress as far as
their power extends, while Grisebach seems to have had
to rely in some measure on his skill as a physician for
the favour of the native governors, and during his stay at
Calcandele describes himself as in the position of a
favoured member of the Pasha's household, who was
expected to be at any moment at his beck and call.
But to the people at large, in all probability, the change
has been decidedly for the worse. Under the former
governors, who seem on the whole to have exercised a
beneficent rule, their wants were cared for, and there
were persons on the spot to Avhom they could make
complaints or apply for redress : besides this, under
their influence the animosities produced by difference of
nationality and creed seem to have been softened or
forgotten. The effect of the present state of things
is the very opposite of all this, since officers appointed at
the most for a few years have no interest in the country
or acquaintance with the inhabitants, and have every
temptation to fill their own pockets by extortion and
oppression. Centralization may be highly valuable,
within certain limits, in a country whose vitality is
strong, and where the administrative power is active
and vigorous ; but in an empire like Turkey, where

■Chap. XVI. The Tettovo. 359

neither of these conditions is present, the necessary
effect of it must be what we see everywhere — neglect,
stagnation, and decay.

The Tettovo, as the district of Calcandele is called, is
a long elevated plain lying under the eastern side of
Scardus, and contrasted by its perfect level with the
undulating tableland of Ipek. It is drained by the
Vardar, which rises in the mountains at its southern end,
and after flowing through it towards the north-east, on
the opposite side to Calcandele, at last bends round in a
great arc to the city of Uskiub, from which place it
pursues its course in a south-easterly direction to the sea.
The soil is extremely rich, and produces well, notwith-
standing the bad cultivation ; it has also a good fall
of water from the foot of Scardus to the river, and is
intersected by numerous streams which descend from
that range, so that it possesses every requisite for drainage
and irrigation, and with proper care would be magnifi-
cently fertile. It was now harvest-time, and we could
at once discover that we were in the midst of a Bulgarian
population, from the industry with which they were
working in the fields, especially as the men were the
principal labourers, an unusual sight to persons coming
from Albania, where such tasks are left almost entirely
to the women. Where the land was not cultivated,
large herds of cows and buffaloes were grazing ; some of
these, which we counted, comprised from 150 to 200 head
of cattle. The property mostly belongs to a native Bey,
probably a member of the old ruling family ; some of
these Beys, it is said, got the lands into their own pos-
session by the natives of the villages putting themselves
on various occasions under their protection for the sake
of security, on which they stipulated that they should
hand over both their property and themselves unre-

360 Prisrcnd to Uskinh. Chap. XVL

servedly to them. It took up an hour and a half to cross
the plain to the Vardar, whose waters we had not seen
since we passed its red and turbid current to the west of
Salonica on our former journey ; we found it already
a muddy stream, and near the bridge by which we
crossed it, it was about 1 30 feet in breadth. From this
point the Scardus presents a magnificent aspect, stretching:
in a long massive unbroken line until it is abruptly
terminated by the grand pyramid of the Liubatrin,
which slopes at once from its summit to the level country
towards the north-east ; its form, as it would seem,
suggesting its name, which signifies in Slavonic Lovely
TJiorn. Almost behind Calcandele Mount Kobelitza
was visible, another striking summit ; but it is especially
noticeable in this chain, and must be taken into account
in estimating the height both of the passes and of the
summits themselves, that the elevation of the peaks is
not great in proportion to that of the range from which
they spring.

After crossing the river, our route lay eastwards along
stony valleys, which cut successively through the two low
mountain chains which we had seen from the Scardus
pass lying on the hither side of the Karadagh : we thus
cut off the chord of the arc that the Vardar is forced to
describe in order to avoid these mountains, which are
offsets from the great Babuna range which forms the
eastern boundary of the districts of Monastir and Perlepe.
In the second of these valleys lies a watershed, where
the Vlainitza rises, which joins the Vardar a little distance,
above Uskiub : this we followed by a gradual descent
throughout the greater part of its course. Near the
point of junction stands a mosque, in the burial-ground
of which are pieces of white marble columns, no doubt
remains of antiquity, for hard by is seen a ruined wall^

Chap. XVI. Uskinb. 36 1

part of a building of mixed stone and brickwork, which
probably belonged to some Roman baths, or similar
structure. On the opposite side of the w^ay some gypsies
were encamped in black tents. We then crossed two
rivers successively ; first the Vardar, over which a wooden
bridge is thrown ; and then the Lepenatz, which we
forded — a considerable tributary, flowing from the
northern foot of Liubatrin, and the plain of Cossova.
The towers of Uskiub had for some time been visible as
we rode along the plain ; but as we approached nearer,
they were hidden by the slopes of a long spur of low
undulating ground which is thrown out by the Karadagh,
and at its extremity, where it descends steeply to the
river, bears the castle, which overlooks the fever-breeding
sw^amps that extend below. We crossed the level ridge
at a point behind the castle hill, and shortly aftenvards
entered the upper part of the city.

The original name of this place was Scupi, but, in
accordance with the practice so common among the
Greeks of adapting an old name to a new meaning, it
was altered by the Byzantines to Scopia, or " the look-
out place," which is the name still in use among the
Christians ; this was corrupted by the Turks to Uskiub.
Its later name was happily given, as it explains the
secret of the importance attached to it in all times. It
w'as the watch-tower that commanded the passes of the
Scardus, through which the barbarian tribes descended
to the more level and fertile lands of Macedonia, while
at the same time it dominated the great artery of com-
munication with the country nearer the sea. In Roman
times it formed a central station on the great road which
led from Thessalonica to the Danube. Under its w^alls
Samuel, the Bulgarian monarch, was defeated with great
loss by the emperor Basil. At a later period it was

362 Prisrend to Uskiub. Chap. XVI.

taken from Michael Palaeologus by the king of the
Servians, who made it for a time his place of residence.
Finally, the city was captured by the Turks ; and Sultan
Bajazet, seeing the importance of the position, brought
thither a number of Turkish families both from Europe
and Asia, and planted them there as a colony. "This
he did," says Chalcocondylas, "that he might have a
starting-point from which to ravage Illyria."'^ From the
Turks the place received the name of "The Bride of

As we have now passed out of the mountain system
connected with the Scardus and the highlands of Albania,
and from this point almost until we reach Salonica shall
be descending the valley of the Vardar, it may be well
here to take a retrospective glance over the part of Turkey
we have traversed in this and our former journey, in
order to get a clearer idea of its somewhat intricate
geography. The course which we have followed in our
route from the Adriatic has lain throughout at some
little distance south of the great watershed of European
Turkey, which is formed by the northern heights of the
mountains of Montenegro and the Bertiscus, by the plain
of Cossova, and after that by a succession of low hills,
following a direction generally north-eastwards until they
reach the Balkan. To the northward of these all the
rivers flow towards the Danube ; to the southward
they find their way on the one hand into the Adriatic, on
the other into the yEgean. Nearly at right angles to this
line runs the great central chain of Scardus, the back-
bone of the western and more mountainous half of the
country, rising at its northernmost extremity to almost
its greatest elevation in Mount Liubatrin, and stretching

^ 'De rebus Turcicis,' p. 31.

Chap. XVI. Country East of ScardiLS. 363

first to the south-west, and afterwards directly south,
until it is terminated by the Clissura of the Devol some
distance beyond Ochrida. Here commences its con-
tinuation, the Pindus, which runs in a lofty and well-
defined range between Albania on the one side, and
western Macedonia and Thessaly on the other, until it
reaches the lofty peak of Veluki (Tymphrestus), near the
head waters of the Spercheius, at the south-west angle
of Thessaly, which forms a central point of divergence for
the mountains of Greece — for Othrys and CEta to the east,
for the mountains of ^tolia to the west, and for those
wdiich may be regarded as the most lineal descendants of
the main chain, the successive heights of Parnassus,
Helicon, and Cithzeron. The ground on the two sides
of this great barrier is wholly different in its formation.
That to the west is made up of a number of irregular,
deep, and for the most part narrow river-valleys, divided
from one another by rugged mountains : that to the east
of a succession of valley-plains, generally elevated them-
selves, though deeply sunk amid the rocky walls that
surround them. To take the eastern side first : the
characteristics of these valley-plains are the well-defined
basins in which they lie, their rich alluvial soil, and the
river which waters each of them respectively, and in each
case makes its exit through a narrow passage, which
is its only means of escape. Some valleys there are,
indeed, such as those which contain the lakes of Ostrovo
and Presba, which have no outlet for their waters ; but
in the four great valley-plains which succeed one another
from north to south, divided by lateral spurs which run
off" at intervals from the central chain, all these charac-
teristics are found. The northernmost and smallest of
these is the Tettovo, the features of \\'hich we have
already noticed, except the defile through which the

364 Prisrend to Uskiiib. Chap. XVL

Vardar passes between the mountains on its eastern side
and the hills that descend from the foot of the Liubatrin.
At the southern extremity of this a branch detaches
itself from the Scardus, which, bending southwards, be-
comes the important chain of the Babuna, and forms the
eastern boundary of the second great valley-plain, that
of Monastir, after w^hich it is continued southward in
other systems, such as that which runs behind Vodena,
and lastly in Mount Bermius, on the western side of the
plain of Salonica, the furthest offshoots of which
approach the landward declivities of Mount Olympus.
This second plain is enclosed on the west by another
branch, which leaves the Scardus not far above Ochrida,
and runs parallel to its parent chain, leaving room for
the valley and lake of Presba between them : its highest
summit is Mount Peristeri, behind Monastir, not far
south of which place an offshoot from it bends round
in a semicircle, bounding the southern side of the plain,
and at last throws up the lofty mass of Nidje, which
overlooks Ostrovo. Between this mountain and the
termination of the Babuna, the river of the plain, the
Czerna, forces its way to join the Vardar. South of this
ao-ain. and close to the side of Pindus, is another ex-
tensive plain, not touched by our route, from which the
Vistritza (Haliacmon) draws its waters, and ultimately
breaks through the Bermian range behind Verria (Berr-
hoea), and flows into the Thermaic gulf The fourth
and largest valley-plain, that of Thessaly, is divided from
this by the Cambunian chain, which connects Pindus
with Olympus, and, being similarly hemmed in by moun-
tains, emits its waters into the ^Egean through the Vale
of Tempe. All these four districts may vie in fertility
with any other part of Turkey.

Turning from this to the western side, we find the

Chap. XVI. Country West of Scardiis. 365

•greatest possible contrast. Extensive level plains are
here entirely wanting, for even that of Prisrend and Ipek
is hardly more than an undulating plateau ; and instead
of well-defined systems of mountains, we see such con-
fused masses and irregular lines of divergence, that the
plan of the country is better traceable in the rivers.
Between Montenegro and the Bertiscus we have noticed
how the land is drained by the Moratza flowing into the
lake of Scodra, whose waters are carried into the sea by
the Boyana. Further inland, the White Drin, rising near
Ipek, and flowing southward through the plain between
Scardus and Bertiscus — and the Black Drin, which carries
off the waters of the lake of Ochrida, and in its north-
ward course separates Scardus from the mountains of
the Mirdites — combine their waters, and run westward
through the deep gorge so often mentioned to the
Adriatic, near Alessio. South of this the masses of the
Mirdite mountains and the contiguous groups of Tyrana
and Croia fill up the whole country as far as Elbassan,
where the Skumbi intersects it from near the lake of
Ochrida to the sea. Nearly parallel to this, though with
a longer course, rising on the further side of Scardus,
is the Devol, with which in the plain westward of Berat
the Usumi joins its stream, thus forming the Beratino.
Between the upper waters of these two rivers stands the
solitary mass of Mount Tomohr, which hardly shows
any sign of connection with Pindus, or any of the neigh-
bouring ranges. In this part of central Albania some small
inland plains occur, such as those of Elbassan and Bcrat,
but those that run in from the sea form the richest land
in all Albania, especially that of Avlona, which at an
early period attracted the notice of Greek settlers. The
hills which approach the coast at intervals in this part
are low, but immediately to the south rise suddenly

366 Prisreiid to Uskiiih. Chap. XVI.

to a great height, and form the stupendous precipices of
the Acroceraunia. From this point the conformation
of the country becomes extremely intricate, and the
most important starting-place from which to examine
its plan is the Zygos pass over Pindus, above Metzovo,
where the head-waters of the Peneius run down into the

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 28 of 31)