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

TRAVELS IN EPIRUS AND ALBANIA

CHAPTER VI.
Route from Port Palermo by Delvino to Janina. Excursion from Delvino to Butrinto, the ancient Buthrotum.
 

On the 1st of February 1806, we arrived in the bay of Port Palermo, and on the following morning we commenced our journey to Janina, the residence of Aly. Our baggage was sent on before us, and at two in the morning we mounted our horses, accompanied by the boulouk-bashi, or commandant, heartily tired of his post, and in the hope of obtaining some mark of his master's favour, through our testimony of his good services and attention. Recommending therefore to the people of the place the care of the fortress, but in a special manner the care of his sheep and goats, he took the lead of our caravan. Climbing up the mountains which cover the bay on the south, we directed our course to the south-east; our horses, although bred to similar paths, having no small difficulty to pursue their course among the sharp rocks. The country seemed, as far as the moon enabled me to discover, to be wholly desert, only a few plants of the euphorbia, or prickly-pear, shooting up among the rocks. After an hour's progress we descended into a deep wooded valley, containing some sheep-folds, guarded by shepherds fully armed, and by dogs of the Albanian race, which assailed us with inconceivable fury. Our road then led for 200 yards through a gallery opened in the solid rock, and turned east, over a tract of land supported by ranges of dry stone-walls, to retain the water abundantly employed in the cultivation of maize. Soon after we came to the shore, at a vast height over the water, where was a watch-tower, inclosed by groups of shepherds round their fires.

Our guides foreseeing an approaching storm we pushed forward away from the coast, over a very rugged tract to the river Epari, which we luckily found low enough to be forded. The storm now in fact came on; the moon disappeared, and the lightning, which flashed with incessant vigour, alone


30

pointed out our path. Confused by the gleams, however, we missed our way, and wandered about until, by the dashing of the waves, we found that we were again on the brink of a precipice over the sea. The rain pouring down in torrents; we alighted for safety; but after some time we discovered the entrance of the valley of Borchi. Fording the river which the people call Hadgi-agas-potami, then hurrying along, trees torn off by the violence of the rain, we mounted up half a mile to a khan or inn, defendet by a tower occupied by a party of Albanians. After some questions we were admitted by people, who were Christians; and a plentiful wood-fire, lighted from the lamp always burning before the picture of the Virgin, with some maize-bread and brandy, soon restored us to a comfortable state. Notwithstanding all their attention, I could perceive that our guides and postillions seemed full of apprehension. Every motion and look of the Chimariotes was watched with peculiar care; and I concluded that we were in a post of the mountain-robbers. It must, however, be acknowledged that we received all attention and service with good-will from the suspected mountaineers, as far as their means enabled them. When day appeared I went out of the khan to view the country. The town of Borchi is placed at the west end of a fertile valley, which reaches east two leagues up the country, abounding in olive and other good trees. A torrent rushed down to the beach, where a number of fishing-boats lay a-ground. In front lay Corfu; to the west and north-west I saw Fano and Merlere, with three Russian men-of-war at anchor within a mile of the tower. Our whole night's journey had not exceeded ten miles; and it was our purpose to reach Delvino in the evening: we therefore set off early. Proceeding for a mile along the beach we came to the valley of Paron, but the village lies a league up the country; riding at times up to the saddle in the sea; and three miles farther we came to the valley of Pikerni. The intervening hills were covered with lentiscus or mastick-trees, laurel, vallona oaks, &c. From one eminence I observed a vast fall of water, forming a succession of five cascades, down the face of a mountain clothed with pines. The rain had now ceased, the air was clear, and our attendants made the hills resound with their songs, in honour of the high martial deeds of their master Aly. I observed, however, that their voices gradually fell as we drew near to Loucovo, a small town, of which the inhabitants might probably have answered in a manner any thing but complimentary to that hero. Loucovo is situated on the round summit of a well cultivated hill. The slopes towards the sea are laid out in terraces, ornamented


31
    Loucovo. Oudessovo. St. Basil.

with fruit-trees and other valuable vegetable productions; the whole appearing an Eden in the eyes of persons emerging from the rude barren wilds of Acroceraunia. The inhabitants forming 400 families of Christians, lately subdued by Aly, manifested an appearance of prosperity and comfort, far from common among the peasantry of Epirus. On the sight of Aly's people the Loucovians shut their doors; the peasants of Corfu, who pass over every year to labour on the continent, retired from the fields as we drew near; and we could bear, as we passed along the streets, certain expressions of vengeance, to which our guides thought it proper to yield a deaf ear.

From Borchi to Loucovo is a course of seven miles; and on leaving the last place we entered on a region offering a melancholy contrast with that we bad just left. Nothing is to be seen but a naked plain covered with stones and slate, intermingled with stunted bushes of kermes-oak and paliurus. To the north and east the view was bounded by ranges of lofty mountains loaded with snow: but our course was to the south-south-east for a league, following the tract of blood from animals recently devoured by the wolves. Half a league farther we descended to a deep torrent, a mile beyond which I saw a country-house of Aly just built, in the midst of Oudessovo, a village destroyed by him in 1798. The impression made by that destruction seemed unabated in the mind of a papas or Greek priest, who spoke to us on the subject. From this place we mounted four miles south by east, to the summit of a mountain, where we found a fountain, and a portion of a paved road, ascribed by the peasants to Bajazet Ilderim, but which may with greater probability be regarded as a work of the Romans; being a continuation of the way which, traversing Acroceraunia from north to south, passed by Phanoté and Cassiopia to Nicopolis, on the gulf of Prevesa, founded by Augustus, in memory of his final victory over Antony and Cleopatra. Four hundred yards farther we arrived near the ruined village Agios Vasili (Saint Basil). On the hill behind the village ruins are said to be discovered near the chapel of Panagia Kronia, (the Virgin of Cronia) a name which perhaps bears some allusion to a temple sacred to Saturn. There we found a sort of fortress, regarded by the Albanians, and for some time by Aly himself, as the key of the Ceraunian mountains. Seating ourselves in the sun against a wall, we dried our clothes, and took our repast, whilst our horses were refreshed. Round the fort a new village of fifty Christian families promised to become a place of importance. Two miles beyond St. Basil we saw on the right Nivitza-Bouba, a vil-


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lage reviving from its ashes; and the adjoining coast throws out a promontory, Kephali, into the channel of Corfu. From this place we followed an ancient causey, broken through in several places by the torrents, for a league and a half. The country around seemed deserted by the inhabitants, for we could discover only the pyramidal huts of the shepherds. When we had proceeded half a mile from this causey or paved road, repaired at different periods by the Turks, we went down into the valley of Delvino, in which we forded the Pavla (Paula) often very dangerous for passengers. This river, which descends from Mount Tchoraides, in tiie southern slopes of Acroceraunia, runs in general from north to south, and discharges its waters into the lake Pelois, now theVivari, at Butrinto. Nearly a mile beyond the river we saw, on our route south-south-east across a plain, an aqueduct of modern construction, but broken by the floods, and near it a ruined chapel; beyond which 400 yards, we halted under the shade of a plane-tree, reckoned to be one of the noblest trees of Epirus.

Aly's officer in our company desired us to halt there until he should procure information concerning the state of Delvino, and whether war or peace prevailed in the country; an advice in which we the more readily acquiesced, because we heard several smart discharges of musketry on the hills to the southward. About sun-set our spy returned with the information that Aly's troops were masters of the town, and that consequently we might go forward. To prevent, however, any possible inconvenience from those disorderly bands, he brought with him the country dresses in which M. Bessières and I disguised ourselves, and advanced to Delvino, distant a mile. There was still light enough to exhibit the beauty of the situation and scenery of the town: but on ascending an eminence on the north side I discovered, in a hollow below me, the devastation produced by the soldiers of Aly, who had set fire to the bazar or market-house, in order to conceal the thefts they had committed in it. The cries of the sufferers were heard at a distance, and the flames illuminated that part of the town where we were to be lodged, in the house of a bey, a partizan of Aly; a house destitute of furniture, and open to every wind. Supper was, however, provided for us, in which proper care had been employed that we should not be exposed to suffer from repletion; and our beds were duly adapted to our repast. Such a moment, it will readily be conceived, was far from favourable to my exploratory purposes: the following observations on Delvino, the river Pavla, and Butrinto, were therefore collected in the course of a posterior tour.


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    Delvino. Onchesmus. Phoenicè.

Delvino reckons scarcely 600 houses, scattered over a space of a league in extent, on the slopes of several hills, which, covered by plantations of olive, lemon, and pomegranate-trees, afford views of singlar beauty. In the midst is a hollow, containing the bazar and the varochi, or suburb of the Christians, in which is the humble mansion of the Bishop of Chimara and Delvino. The castle is seated on a detached height, accessible by a single very narrow path, bordered by precipices; it commands the hollow ground of the bazar, through which runs a stream, which above two miles off falls into the Pavla. The hills on the east of the town are adorned with a number of pleasant houses; but the adjoining plain is open and bare. Two leagues to the west, on the sea-shore, in the village Lycouria, are seen the remains of Onchesmus, or Anchiasmus, consisting of some ancient Greek tombs and fragments of architecture. The town was destroyed by the Goths under Totila about 552, along with many others on the coast of Greece. About a league to the north of Delvino, among the hills, is a place called Palæa-Avli (the old court) surrounded by olive-trees, of remarkable growth, on which account it is probably the successor of Elæus. For independently of the etymology of the ancient name, as alluding to olives, it has been remarked that those trees are never found at a greater distance than sixty geographic miles from the sea, or from some spacious lake. The fragments consist chiefly of foundations of walls of Cyclopian construction, without the least vestige of architecture, Greek or Roman. Elseus had never therefore been restored after the horrible devastation inflicted by the renowned precursor of the Goths, Æmilius Paulus, who, in one day plundered and laid waste seventy cities of Epirus, and carried off 150,000 of the inhabitants.

Four miles to the southward of Delvino the Pistritza flows under a bridge which rises like a triumphal arch in the midst of the plain. Near that part of the river, in December 1807, I had the fortune to discover an ancient city, for which, misled by the erudition of Meletius, I had in vain sought in other quarters. Driven by a hail-storm to shelter myself in a shepherd's hut, on the right bank of the Pistritza, from it I observed near me considerable remains of walls, which my landlord called Pheniki, a castle of the Hellenians, the name by which the ancient Greeks are constantly designated in modern times. Thus the position of Phoenicè corresponds with that assigned by Strabo, who places it above and not far from Buthrotum. Phrenicè is mentioned by Polybius (II. 5.) in describing the attack made on it by the Illyrians, and its rescue by the spontaneous exertions of the surrounding Epi-


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rates. It was situated on a river, and was one of the principal cities of the country. To judge by the present vestiges the town was built round an eminence crowned by the acropolis or castle, which commands the bridge seemingly of the age of Justinian, the centre arch being what is called Gothic. The town spread out from east to west as far as the river Pavla, which is probably the nominal Xantbus of the Trojans of Buthrotum. To the east the buildings seem to have been extended nearly a mile along the right or north bank of the Pistritza. The ruins in that quarter are an aqueduct, supported on brick arcades with buttresses. Among the ruins of houses are some probably public buildings, surrounded by columns not circular, but cut into eight faces. Similar octagonal columns I have never seen in any other part of Greece. Among the ruins are also found Gothic capitals, like those of Nicopolis, near Prevesa; evidences of the fixed abode of the nations from the north of Europe. According to the opinion of the monks of the adjoining monastery of St. Nicolas, founded on an ancient MS. history of Epirus on parchment, preserved at M....., Phrenice contained 60,000 people. The Pistritza, supposed to be the nominal Scamander of antiquity, rises in the hill called Condo-Vouni, five leagues east-south-east from Phoenicè. A league from its source it passes by Machaladez, a small town inhabited for a great part of the year by the principal beys of Delvino; and half a league lower down it receives on the right a stream from the salt-springs of Drovi, from which the Epirotes still extract salt by ebullition. Nearly four leagues still lower the Pistritza receives the Navaritza, from the valley of Gardicaki on the north; beyond which, three miles, it passes under the bridge of Pheniki; and thence running between south-west and south, for three and-a-fourth leagues, nearly parallel to the Pavla, both discharge their waters by separate mouths, into the lake Pelois, through a marsh, the common resort of numerous buffaloes nearly wild. This part of the lake is still called Laspes or the mud, a name of equalsignification with the Peloïs of antiquity. On the south side of the channel, communicating between that lake and the sea, is constructed the modern Venetian fortress of Buthrinto, and on the opposite side are the ruins of old Buthrotum, on the right bank of the Simoïs of the Trojans, at the point where it issues from the great lake. These ruins show an acropolis or citadel, and the Roman town inclosed within a double wall, containing fragments of both Greek and Roman architecture. But, in the walls of the acropolis are still preserved foundations of the highest antiquity, consisting: of vast blocks without cement.


35
    Buthrotum. Kardicaki, &c.

Between the hill Megalongi and the mouth of the Simoïs is the road-stead of Geroviglia, which, if we can depend on Appian, (Bel. Civ. v.) not always to be trusted in the topography of counties which he had not visited, was the lake Pelois of Antiquity. The road of Geroviglia, nearly two English miles broad and long, is cut asunder in the middle by a barrier of strong reeds, to inclose the fishing grounds, leased out yearly together with the lakes and the customs. In the bottom, on the north side, is the mouth of the Simois, often interrupted by a bar of sand, above which the depth of water in the river itself varies from twelve to eighteen feet, and the mean breadth of the channel is about fifty feet. The other fishing station of Armyros, probably the ancient Posideum, on the north of the river, is in length from south to north about one and-one-eighth English miles, and in breadth one-third of a mile. The Anchisa, or Pelois proper, now lake of Vivari, is in length two leagues from north to south, on a medium breadth of two miles. The air of these lakes, and consequently of Buthrinto, is now as pestilential as that of the famous Pontine marshes of Italy. The effects of this air are dreaded even across the sea in Corfu, when the wind blows from that part of the continent. The fish caught in the lakes are from the same causes unfit for food during the heats of summer. But to return. In continuing- our journey from Delvino for Janina, we set out early, lighted by the moon, but chilled by the wind from the snowy mountains to the north. The season was nevertheless advanced; for the almond-trees were already in leaf: but as we proceeded, we approached to the climate of Mount Pindus. Rising up a short way from Delvino, we travelled for half a league on a paved road, winding along the slopes of the hills. At last, at the end of three hours, we entered the valley of Kardicaki, in which we saw a very fine cascade on the side of a green hill. From a height beyond the valley, I took the bearing  west half a point north, of the castle of Delvino and the white tower of Santi-quaranta, erected on the summit of that part of the Acroceraunian range, which commands the port of Onchismos. Proceeding a mile farther, I discovered the whole course of the Pistritza, till it was lost in the marshy lakes of Buthrinto. Rising still higher on the mountains, we came in with several travellers, and Albanian women spinning with the distaff while they tended their sheep. Other women were on their way to their village bearing heavy loads of wood, and twirling their spindle with as much ease as if they carried no burthen whatever. Not in the least embarassed by our appearance, they answered our questions with great readiness. At last we arrived on a summit,


36

from which we looked down into the valley of Drynopolis or Argyro-castron, watered by the Celydnus, which flowing northwards falls into the Aous near Tebelen. Here we alighted to descend a winding road down the side of the mountain, with a deep torrent on our left hand, and arrived at a khan near the village of Graspi. Nearly opposite to us east-north-east, was situated Liboôvo, and to the north-west we saw Argyro-castron. Travelling towards north-east across the valley for about two miles, we crossed two rivers, and at last came to the Celydnus, a furious stream fertilising or laying waste by turns, the lands through which it pursues its capricious course. Ascending for half an hour the mountain on the east of the river, we reached the village and khan of Palæo-Episcopi, in the midst of a multitude of springs which burst out of the lower region of Mount Mertchica on the north. Here also I examined the snuff-manufactory and the mills in which it is pounded. Proceeding for one hour and-a-quarter east-south-east over uneven ground, we came to a fountain well kept up, at the highest point of the road. Here I was again convinced that the ranges of mountains rise as it were in stages, all the way from the shore of the Adriatic to the lofty central range of Pindus, which separates Epirus from Macedonia and Thessaly. This fountain is the limit between the country of Drynopolis on the north, and that of Pogoniani on the south. Descending into the valley of Xero Valtos, we travelled by the side of a lake half a league long, which, drying up in summer, furnishes excellent soil for a crop of maize. Passing over a succession of low hills, we came opposite to Delvinaki, a large village in the district of Pogoniani. On the right we saw vast ranges of forest, clothing the mountains which divide Chaonia on the north from Thes-protia on the south. Here again we found ourselves on the banks of the Celydnus, in its way down from Mount Mertchika. Over the river are the remains of a stone bridge, ruined by the current, which, as may be judged by the breadth of the channel, must at times be very violent, although here near its sources. Passing over into the valley of Pogoniani, we came to the lake of Dgerovina, the origin of the great river Calama, the Thyamis of antiquity, which, traversing Thesprotia, flows southward into the channel of Corfu. From the lake in half an hour we arrived at Monchari, a country-house and tchiflik or farm of Aly, where our lodging was fixed for the night. One of the apartments had been re-furnished for our use, and the oekonoma or house-keeper, an Albanian woman, lighted up an abundant fire, which was most acceptable, on account of the snow on the mountains. At the same time,


37
    Interview with Aly.

the soubashi, or magistrate of the village, appeared to receive our orders, which however were given of his own accord by the officer who accompanied us. We soon after heard a proclamation in the village, commanding that, " each family was to furnish a load of wood to the seraglio; that the village altogether was to supply two lambs, fowls, milk, cheese, butter, eggs, wine, bread." All of this provision, it is plain, was not meant for our use alone. A quantity of food for our horses equally extravagant was ordered, one-half of which was not employed. For supper we had a lamb roasted whole, bread baked under the ashes, and wine served up in a broken pitcher; table-cloths, napkins, glasses, &c. were not to be had in the village, nor in the palace. Sheets for the bed were equally unknown. When we were preparing for our repose, our fellow-traveller from Port Palermo set forward to Dzidza where Aly was, to enquire where we were to be presented to him. Next morning early I went over the palace, in which I saw but one good room, containing a basin of white marble twelve feet square, with a jet-d'eau in the middle. The ornaments consisted in arabesques and representations of Turkish towns, one of which we were told was Constantinople; for it exhibited the sea, and ships, and fish, and mosques, all in admirable confusion. At noon, our officer returned with the information that his master would admit us to his presence at Dzidza. Going down from Mouchari, we passed by the powder-mill of Crio-nero, and afterwards crossed by a stone bridge the Thyamis or Calamas, which bent round to the south, and then returning to the north, formed the cascade of Glizani, where it falls over a precipice thirty feet high. Night came on before we arrived at Dzidza: but people placed on the road conducted us to our lodging in the monastery of the Prophet Elias. Scarcely were we alighted, when we were invited to repair to Aly, without ceremony as we were. We accordingly went down from the monastery. The gates of the seraglio grated on their hinges: crossing a silent court we ascended a dark stair; a trap-door at the top rose up; a curtain was held aside, and we found ourselves in the audience-hall of Aly, who received us standing. Having saluted us and embraced M. Bessières, he fell backwards, as if by accident, in the corner of his sofa. Of me he took no notice; but a hideous spectre in black, with a white beard, told me by a slight motion of the head that I was welcome. A Greek secretary lay prostrate before the vizir in an attitude of terror. The hall was inlightened, if so it could be said to be, by a taper of yellow wax on the floor. The private drogman or interpreter of Aly being introduced, the conversation


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began by a series of questions on his side, pronounced with a volubility quite uncommon among Turks of quality. Gloomy as was the hall, I could remark the lightning of his eyes, his starting convulsive twitches; I observed his discourse apparently vague, but full of purpose and artifice. He was in continual motion, he laughed, he talked: yet, notwithstanding the abundance of his discourse, not one word fell from him without a meaning. From time to time he darted at me a look, to penetrate my inmost mind: at last he dismissed the spectre in black, and the secretary, and after two hours continued questions and answers through the interpreters, we were allowed to retire, and return to our monastery; where we were somewhat more kindly treated by the monks than we had been by their lordly master.

The monastery of the Prophet Elias occupies the rounded summit of a little hill, from which may be seen the upper valley of the Thyamis, and the narrow pass through which the river enters Thesprotia. On the north, the horizon is bounded by Mount Mertchica, and on the east by the range of Pindus. Below lie the vineyards and corn-fields of Dzidza. The monks placed their establishment only 400 years back; although its appearance led me to ascribe to its foundation a much earlier date: but the egoumenos, or prior, was amazed when I inquired concerning ancient MSS. in his possession. The worthy father, a man of excellent qualities, was much more addicted to the culture of his vineyard than to that of literature. His name was Gregory: but had it been Barnaby, he would not have been mis-named. To show, however, that he was a true Gregory, he would watch from sunset to sunrise, provided he had a boon companion to assist him in his lucubrations. His reputation as a jovial spirit was established for twenty miles round the monastery. His only rival was the hearty abbot of Patères, in the neighbourhood, of whom he always spoke with singular respect. The exploit on which, however, the egoumenos principally plumed himself, was the victory he had achieved over Mouctar Pasha, Aly's eldest son, who, in the matter of wine, is just as correct a mussulman as his worthy father. Very early next morning, we were summoned to a second audience of Aly; and the prior would accompany us. Armed with his long staff, bent down at the top in the genuine pastoral fashion; his snowy beard agitated by the breeze; his long flowing locks spreading over his shoulders and ample garments; the smile of benevolence on his countenance, all rendered father Gregory one of the most engaging figures I had seen. Passing by a large watering-place for cattle, the peasants requested their


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    Description of Aly, &c.

pastor to intercede for them with Aly, to obtain some alleviation of their burthens. "I will pray these strangers," answered he: "they are Frenchmen and Christians, for whom our master has great regard, to intercede for you. In the mean time let us trust in heaven for relief." When we had gone on a little; "my friends," said he, "let me beg of you to ask no favours of the vizir on our account. He will promise whatever you request, and afterwards he will punish us for disclosing our oppression to strangers." Drying up his tears, we all entered the palace. Two heads fresh cut off, and planted on two stakes in the middle of the court, drew attention from my friend and me alone: the spectacle was probably no rarity: yet the crowd was great of clients and petitioners to his highness, in anxious expectation of admission to his presence. A sort of ushers with long staves, speedily opened a passage for us through the multitude, and once more we stood before the tremendous Aly. He seemed to be then (in February 1806,) about his sixtieth year. His person, not exceeding five feet seven inches English in height, was deformed by his excessive corpulency. His features however, full of wrinkles, were not entirely effaced. The extreme suppleness of the motions of his countenance; the fire of his little blue eyes; impressed on me the alarming idea of deep cunning, united with ferocity. Notwithstanding his hoarse guttural bursts of laughter, his conversation was not destitute of grace. His avidity he was unable to repress, at the view of the presents laid before him by M. Bessières, and throwing off all constraint, he exhausted his powers in protestations of amity and good-will. We were his dear friends, his brothers, his children; and as if now for the first time I had been presented to him, be condescended to promise to me his special protection in the exercise of my public functions. Last of all, it was resolved that we should depart after noon for Janina. Being engaged in a hunting party, his highness set off before us; and in a moment we saw the neighbouring hills covered with Albanians on horseback, driving in the game and collecting it in the place where their master was stationed. Having beheld this amusement for some time, we proceeded on our journey for a league eastward to the village of Protopapas, which we left a little to the left, and entered a winding hollow ground, half a league in length. Coming out, we turned southward for a mile and-a-half, along the bank of the lake Labchistas, the lower lake of Janina, on to Kenourio Khan, from which the road leads along the plain, for two good leagues, to the city of Janina. Night was coming on, when our guides directed us to halt, at the head of the proper lake of Janina, within the barrier of the


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city, near the church of St. Nicolas. There we found a boat waiting for us, which rowed us over to the castle of Chatirwan, where our lodging was prepared. A large fire, pages, servants, the whole parade of eastern pomp, made abundant atonement for the many hardships we had sustained on our joumey; but by entering the castle, we in some measure ceased to be our own masters.

It had been settled that we should remain in that place until I should receive from Constantinople the usual barat or exæquatur, necessary for my entering on my duties as consul-general of France, within the territories of Aly. In the mean time, howerer, by assuming the dress of the country, we were allowed to make a few excursions on the borders of the lake, without being recognised by the public. My excellent friend M. Bessières, having obtained permission from his highness, left me on the 3d of March on his return to France, to proceed northwards through Macedonia and Romelia, to Boukarest and thence to Vienna.
 

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