Travels in Epirus, Albania, Macedonia, and Thessaly
F. Pouqueville
 

TRAVELS IN THESSALY

CHAPTER XIII.
Route from Janina by Metzovo over Mount Pindus, and down the Valley of the Peneus towards Larissa. Meteora. Gomphi. Trikala.
 

It is impossible to hear the name of Thessaly without our being reminded of many events and circumstances, the most attractive in early fable and tradition, or the most interesting in authentic history. To have it in my power to travel in Thessaly, with some peculiar advantages over the greater number of strangers who pass through it, was consequently to me a subject of singular gratulation.

By former excursions from Janina I had become sufficiently acquainted with the grand trunk of the Pindan mountains, and with some of its principal branches. The course of the Aous I had pursued with particular care: the Achelous and the Inacnus in their commencement had been frequently under my eye; the Rhedias and the Haliacmon I had also visited: the Peneus alone now remained to be traced; an operation which promised peculiar satisfaction: the general result of that operation I now proceed to lay before the reader.

From Janina, for the third time, I ascended the deep valley of the Inachus to Metzovo; and no sooner did the morning dawn, after my arrival in that curious place, than I commenced my journey, and in two hours had gained the summit of that part of Pindus, called Mount Zigos, now Policies or Politzi. In the first two miles I crossed both the branches, which united compose the Pindan Inachus. The sun had just begun to raise his head above the waters when I reached the highest part, called Anilion. Every circumstance announced a brilliant morning of the spring. The air rising from the vallies below were loaded with the rich perfumes of


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the pine and the humbler shruh. The feathered choiristers were sweeily attuned: the shepherd, with his rustic pipe, led his flock to the field. We heard the tread of a caravan climbing up from the vale of the Peneus, on its way into Epirus, while we turned round a line of rooks which, like a rampart, six hundred feet in height, block up the approach to Thessaly. For my entertainment my guides fired a few shots, which brought from amidst the crevices of the rocks flocks of eagles and vultures, which directed their solemn flight to some neighbouring pinnacles. The course we took led us aside from the common road, leaving on the left the khan of Zigos, the refuge of the caravan when the tempest threatens to overwhelm it in the midst of the precipices. Around me I observed naked masses of primitive rock; and I discovered, in certain stratifications, beds of sea-shells inserted in masses of soft lime-stone. Shells of the same kind I there found petrified in clusters, as I had on Mount Copanez, not far off, found them petrified, but separate. We were now on an insulated spot where the goat-herd fears to be caught by the driving snow; a spectacle of which I could only imagine the horror: for the "youth of the year," as the spring is finely styled by the shepherds of Pindus, had dissipated all apprehension on that head.

Mounting up northwards, we turned round the grand platform of Zigos, and scrambling up for half-a-inile a very rugged path, we went down, by a steep declivity, into the bason of Thessaly. It was now half-an-hour past five in the morning; the sun began to pierce into the dense gloom of the cedar and the pine; but the air was sufficiently sharp to compel us to alight and walk to excite warmth. Of this delay our guides availed themselves to turn aside to the principal source of the romantic Peneus. Having performed their prescribed ablutions, they prostrated themselves towards that land where all religions, true or false, have had their birth. For my part I set myself down by the urn from which the Peneus flows, through a wooden pipe, from the middle of a wall of masonry. My eyes wandered over Thessaly, where the mountains seemed lo shoot up as the sun displayed more and more of their sides and their interstices. Such appearances did they first exhibit to the eyes of Deucalion and Pyrrha; when the waters subsiding, hills and plains, until then unknown, were gradually unfolded.

A mile beyond the secret retreat in which the Peneus hides his source, you pass the mother-branch to travel on the base of Zigos Pros-ilion, which sends to it a number of rills. My intention, in deviating from the common route over Pindus, was


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    Zigos Pros-ilion. Peneus.

lo obtain as many fixed points as possible, for establishing the topography of the country, and in as far as my mode of observation could be practiced I was not unsuccessful. I rejoined my guides at the khan of Malacassis, distant from Metzovo four hours; that is two hours and a half of ascent to the west of the Zigos, and thence a mile and a half of descent to Metzovo. The khan of Malacassis, on the bank of the Peneus, is environed by mountain and forest-scenery of great grandeur, in which is also involved the village of Malacassis half a league to the northward. It is curious that the Valachians of this village, and those of several others in the same quarter of the mountains, always affirm themselves to be of Italic origin; contrary to the general opinion of writers, who assert them to have proceeded from the northern bank of the Danube.

On leaving the khan you cross over the Peneus, on a stone bridge, below the influx of a stream from the Zigos Pros-ilion, and going down the left bank of the Peneus, richly shaded by planes, in half-a-league you come to the khan of Mocossi, situated a mile and a half below a village of the same name, in the mountains. A mile lower down, towards the south-east, you come to the great river of Zigos Pros-ilion, which rises four miles south from Milias at the bottom of the descent from Jan-Catara to the Venetico.

From the materials I observed in the gravelly channel of the Peneus, it contains, I am convinced, as rich stores for the mineralogist as any river which has ever come under my examination. Through openings in the mountains the dazzling snows on Mount Copanez, eight miles south-west from Zigos An-ilion, and some other lofty summits might be seen. From Clinovo, on the Pindus side of the Peneus, it receives a stream, which I take to be the Anaurus, "never troubled by the winds." In the valley of Clinovo are two places in ruins, which may, perhaps, correspond to Palaephatus and Eretria; the last an Acropolis on a Cyclopian base. That valley and passage over Pindus was at all times the regular channel of communication between Thessaly and Epirus; but no discoveries to be expected in it would, I fear, compensate for the difficulties of conducting researches in a district so forbidding.

The banks of the Peneus are in several places marshy, in which rice and maize are raised; and at their lower extremity the valley begins to widen, and the traveller enters on the alluvial soil which is spread over all the plains of Thessaly; but is frequently encroached upon by promontories, from the mountains on both sides, as low down as Keracha. From the khan of Keracha, the traveller arrives in two miles at the bridge of Lozecti, over the river Cachia, a principal branch of


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the Peneus, which, a little lower, assumes the name of Salembria. The Cachia, which seems to be the Ion of antiquity, descends from Mount Flamouristi, a wild tract of country, on the east of which commences the district called Clefta-choria. robbers' villages. Such was the designation of a region long occupied by bands of warriors, who, even down to our own tiroes, strove in arms to defend the remains of that freedom which the tyrant of Epirus at last succeeded in tearing from them. The names and the exploits of those heroes are still cherished in Thessaly; and their adventures are still chaunted all over Albania and Macedonia, and even in Constantinople itself. Their leaders are now no more; but the mountaineers are still able and ready to vindicate their independence, if a fit occasion shall ever present itself. In their encounters with their oppressors, many a Leonidas, many a Spartan band, have fallen; but they fell unsung, except by their rude companions, and their noble deeds have perished with them.

The Ion, now the Cachia, rises in the southern slopes of the Pindus, in that branch which running eastward, along the right bank of the Venetico, forms the mutual frontier of Thessaly and Macedonia; and, it was by ascending the course of of that river, that Philip escaped into his own country, after his failure at Pheræ. From the bridge of Lozesti, in three-quarters of an hour you come to the river of Meteora, and nearly a mile farther on you enter Stagous-Calabak.

Long before I arrived at Stagous I perceived the Meteora; my eyes were fixed on those lofty pyramids, some resembling the obelisks of the desart, otbers truncated cones, others colossal statues. I actually doubted whether I beheld real objects, or was deceived by some optical illusio : nor was it until I entered Stagous that my doubts, not my amazement, vanished. Leaving to my attendants the care of procuring lodging and provisions, I hastened on to have a close inspection of those extraordinary natural objects, which shoot up in the air to a prodigious height. Cut down as if by art into pyramids, cones, and obelisks, the rocks of the Meteora, (well so named from their loftiness, by which the convents on their summits seem to be suspended in the air,) it was a considerable time before I was able to examine them with composure. But I was particularly struck with the obelisk which supports the monastery of Josaphat. The rope and the net were lowered to convey us to the summit; but my visit to the worthy inhabitants might have been misinterpreted by Aly, who watched all my motions, and I declined their invitation. I knew, besides, from two English gentlemen. Dr. Holland and Mr. Ramsay, who had together visited those retreats, that the li-


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    Meteora. Thessaly.

brary contained nothing of importance. The ascent in the net was particularly described to me in a letter from Dr. Holland, contained in the following note. [*]

The Meteora are mentioned by Homer, when speaking of the rugged Ithomé, near to Tricca, which Strabo places on the river Curalius, above its confluence with the Peneus, in the territory of Metropolis.

Stagous-Calabak is situated a mile from the left bank of the Peneus, but near the base of the Meteora. The population consists of about two hundred Christian families, governed by a bishop, suffragan of Larissa. The civil government is conducted by two Turkish magistrates, who seem to make it their study to harass the inhabitants, whose trade consists chiefly in silk and cotton, which they sell to the Jewish merchants in Larissa. Round the town were fields well cultivated, and mulberry-trees planted in regular order, forming a prospect pleasing in itself, and still more so when contrasted with the shaggy sides and rugged summits of the opposite Pindus.

Advancing on the vast plain of Thessaly, we saw the country people, as I had before seen them in other parts of Greeqe, with their little carts, called as of old amaxis. At a league from Stagous; a name introduced by the Byzantine writers, who call the town Stagi, the saints, in respect of the monasteries on the Meteora; we passed by Castraki, a name used by the Greeks to denote an ancient town. Consulting the inhabitants, I found that, in fact, at some distance to the eastward
 

*. "We arrived at the foot of the rock of Varlaam, after passing along a narrow path, between two rocky piles, two hundred feet in height. On the top of one of these pyramids we perceived, over our heads, the monastery of Varlaam, to which we wished to ascend. We stood below the perpendicular face of the rock, at the top of which projected a sort of wooden shed for the purpose of drawing up, without touching the rock, the net attached to the end of a rope by which we were to be hoisted up. By means of a block this aerial car was lowered down to us, which our Tartar opened, placing in it his surtout, on which ray companion and I seated ourselves. As we were drawn up from the ground the net closed round us, and we ascended rapidly, squeezed against each other by our own weight, not without a degree of alarm, to the height of two hundred feet, in less than three minutes. When hoisted up to the level of the shed, we were draw in, packed together as we were, into a room, where the monks opened the net and set us at liberty. From the composed looks of the monks I was satisfied that they consider this aerial journey as an operation devoid of all danger. Our servant, who had climbed up the lofty pinnacle, through crevices in the rock, by means of rope-ladders, issued from an opening in the midst of the monastery where we were." See Travels in the Ionian Isles, Albania, Thessaly, &c. in 1812 and 1813, by Henry Holland, M.D. F.R.S. &c. London, 1815, 4to.


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were found ruins named Cleisoura, a term used by the Byzantine writers to express aditus angustarum vallium, the entrance into deep narrow vallies, such as that of the Aous formerly mentioned. This term, so much in comformity with Gomphi, which signifies a key, induced me to conclude that I had discovered the Gomphi of Cæsar, and other historians, at all periods considered as the rampart and key of Thessaly, towards Epirus. Such is the situation of Cleisoura at the present day that, if it were properly fortified, it would still be the maini key of Mount Pindus, and of the passes across the mountains into Macedonia.

As it was not in my power to spare time for the examination of the inclosure, which I supposed to be that of Gomphi, I took the positions of the principal villages of Petchouri, which reckons among its ruins, the Cyclopian inclosure of Pali, formerly Pialia. From that ancient city, I concluded that the hill before me, now Cachias, was the Cercetius of antiquity, often mentioned in the history of the Roman operations in Thessaly. Half-a-league from the caravanserail of Castraki, passes a river which comes down from the heights of Libotchovo, the Ascuris of history, if, as I was assured, it proceeds from a lake in the mountains of Cachias or Cercetius; Libofchovo lies two leagues east from Stagous. Two miles east from the river of Libotchovo, you come to that of Vaivoda, which has its springs in the mountains, four miles to the north-east, between Touloupista and Catiri, a village near a Hellenic inclosure or rampart, supposed to be the site of Callitera. This last town, in connection with Piala, and the position of Meteora, near which Strabo places a town of no great importance, confirms the position of Gomphi at Castraki, and also the sites of the four chief towns of Hestiaeotis. From Vaivoda, in twenty minutes, you arrive in Trikala, a town which, by its name, leaves no doubt of its having succeeded to the antique Tricca.

Among the disciples of Esculapius, Tricca will alwnys be held in veneration; for in that city was born the patron of their profession, the son of Apollo, sovereign of Perrhaebia. In the same city were born Podalirius and Machnon, skilled in charming away pain and disease. The territory of Tricca was, from the most remote antiquity, renowned for its race of horses, generous coursers, of which the descendants still exist. From its position, Trikala has always attracted towards it the various armies which, either to defend or to desolate the country, have traversed Thessaly. During the lower empire it was still known by its ancient name. By the Turks it has been erected the capital of the sangiak (standard) of the Mou-


103
    Trikala.

lalik, the name by which they designate the original country of the Greeks; it is situated twenty-five leagues south-east from Janina, thirteen leagues west from Larissa, and, at the distance of twelve hours journey in a right line across the plain from Pharsalus. In approaching Trikala from the westward, the traveller is enchanted by the prospect of its wooded hills, and its river advancing majestically through a cultivated plain. The eye embraces the citadel, overturned and rebuilt by every succeeding conqueror; the groupes of trees, encircling ten Christian churches, seven Turkish mosques, and the Jewish synagogue. In proportion as the exterior of the city exalts expectation, so does the interior fill with disappointment. For, with the exception of the bazar, covered with an arbour of vines, which preserves an agreeable coolness under a burning climate, in every other respect Trikala is the fellow of the other towns of Turkey, irregular, aukward, and dirty. I went to the citadel or castle, where I was assured antiquities would be seen; there, however, I saw only an inscription in Greek, recording the grief of a spouse, inconsolable for the loss of her husband, snatched away by fate. As I was coming away disappointed, a dervish, of much more taste and knowledge than could have been expected from one of his tribe, pointed out to me the true position of the antique Tricca, to the northward of the present town. He procured for me some medals of the city, the most remarkable of which bore the word Triccaiôn reversed. On the anterior part a horse running: on the reverse a man naked, his hat hanging on his back, endeavouring to hold by the horns a demi-bull.

Returning to my lodging we supped in the open air, and one of my Albanians, having accorded his rustic lyre, bewail the famous national song in praise of Boucovalas, the terror of his Mahometan countrymen. The Greeks formed the chorus, accompanying the music by dances martial and animating; this was an usual evening entertainment; but on this occasion religion was brought on the tapis, on which topic, as might be expected, the only point on which the Christians and the Mahometans, alike probably well-informed, could accord was to condemn, without mercy, the poor Jews.

Before I should quit Trikala, I resolved to visit the right or southern bank of the Peneus, now the Salembria, bounded by the country of Agrapha. Half-a-league south-west from the town I saw Agia-Môni, and at an equal distance, the confluence of the Peneus with the Veternico, probably the ancient Phoenix. A mile north from Agia-Moni, lay Beretzi; and at an equal distance, in the same direction, Lestina. On a line in the middle between these two villages, my guides led


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me in an hour to a place of ruins, now almost effaced, which I thought might indicate the position of Metropolis, which by a prudent submission to Cæsar avoided the fate of Gomphi. By its situation this town, one of the bastions of Thessaly, blocked up towards the north-west the passage over the mountains, still frequented by Agrapha, and the bridge of Coracos on the Aspropotamos or Achelous. Hence we generally find Gomphi, Metropolis, and Tricca, mentioned together, as defended or assaulted in the history of the wars of Thessaly. Having to no purpose searched for inscriptions in the nameless ruins of Metropolis, and even to trace with accuracy the form of the walls, I was obliged to content myself with a single medal bought from a peasant. This piece, now in the royal cabinet in Paris, is of silver, with the words Ainianôn Euxenos: a man with a quiver but adjusting a sling. On the reverse, the head of Pallas to the right: the helmet adorned with five horses abreast.

I returned to Trikala with great repugnance; for the plague was then raging in the eastern parts of Thessaly, and might already perhaps be ready to manifest itself in the town. Trikala is besides annually visited by agues from the rice-grounds, especially when the winds blow from the marshes in the plain, extending for fourteen leagues from the town to Pharsalus. Larissa, Tournovo, and other principal towns to the eastward, were then desolated hy the pestilence: many of the villages in the plain were also infected. A gold sequin of Venice (ten shillings,) had been refused by a labourer, to assist in bringing in the corn which was wasting on the field. Veli Pasha, Aly's second son, governor of Thessaly, had withdrawn from his capital Larissa into the mountains of Magnesia, the Pelion of antiquity, where he suffered none but his own family to approach him.

Leaving Trikala early in the morning, we proceeded down the valley of the Peneus for two hours and-a-quarter to Plocovo, where the river bears very close under the bills of Ardam, which rise to the northward. Ardam, itself a small place, lies three hours' journey east-north-east from Trikala. At Plocovo I was induced to suppose myself at no great distance from the site of Pellina, which commanded the narrowest part of the passage along the Peneus, between Tricca and Larissa; and such was the position of Plocovo. For it is not to be supposed that the ancients would in that part have chosen a route through the marshes and mud of the south side of the river. At a league's distance from Plocovo, travelling along the slopes of the hills, amidst cotton-fields, vineyards, and mulberry-plantations, we came to the river of Liberysso, which


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    Zareo. Coutzochero.

rises near Megalo-Tzigoto, two leagues to the northward. Here the Peneus bears still closer on the roots of the hills, and the banks destitute of trees are dull and tiresome. The plain, which expands on the south side of the river, similar to the broad open plain of Beauce in France, between Paris and Orleans, displays only a few villages situated at great distances asunder, on small insulated eminences like the sandhills on the sea-shore. The nearest villages within our view, since we left Placovo, opposite to which falls into the Peneus, on its right bank, a river probably the Pamisus, were carefully observed and laid down in my draught of the country. Near one of the villages on the south side of the Peneus, an hour and-a-half south from Plocovo, called Toutchicos, or rather Tichos, are an assemblage of ruins; but I had no distinct account of them. A league beyond Lyberisso, I discovered the ridges of Olympus, the craggy summits exhibiting themselves distinctly above the region of the snows. Two miles farther east, the Peneus receives on the left the river of Micro-Tzigoto, which I conceive to be the Atrax. At the end of four miles more we arrived in Zarco. This town, situated eight leagues and-a-half from Trikala, and four hours and-a-quarter from Larissa, is inhabited by 200 Greek families, employed in agriculture and the care of sheep. Being a place of much passage, Zarco contains also several Valachian dealers in great-coats and cloaks, and some Jews engaged in the silk-trade. The fear of the plague kept me out of the bazaar, so that I could procure no medals. For hitherto, on our route from Trikala, we had an Albanian at some distance before us, who directed the people to remove from the road, an order with which they complied with ready submission. Laying in a stock of bread in Zarco, we pushed forward along the north brink of the Peneus, in a north-east direction, for six miles to Coutzochero, a village of thirty houses, from which a road leads across by Alassona into Macedonia. The plain of Thessaly, on the opposite side of the Peneus, exhibits a succession of low hills, which inclose the Apidanus or river of Pharsalus and its tributary rivulets. Below the influx of the Apidanus, we passed over the Peneus by a ferry, eight miles from Larissa, and almost in front of the village of Alif-Aga. From the ford of the caravans near to Alif-Aga, the road to Larissa goes through Hassan-Tatari, Hadgi-Alari, and Seid-Keu, a tchiftlik or farm of Veli-Pasha, half-a-league from the suburbs of the city.
 

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