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

TRAVELS IN MACEDONIA

CHAPTER IX.
Route from Janina, by Mezzovo, over Mount Pindus into Macedonia. Sources of the Aous and the Inachus. Pass of Jan-Catara. Rivers Milias and Rhedias, or Venetico. Greveno. Phila. Route from Phila to Trikata, in Thessaly.
 

Passing from Janina round the southern portion of the lake, by Castritza before described, the road runs eastward for a league to the beginning of Mount Mitchikeli, which is ascended on the vestiges of a way paved with broad stones, but broken up by the torrents; and after a course of an hour and a half the traveller arrives at a narrow defile, separating Mitchikeli Proper on the north from the portion of the chain, called Driscos, oh the south. Soon afterwards you have a view of Perrhaebia or Zagori, and of the lofty Mount Panesti, seven leagues to the northward. Descending the eastern side of Mitchikeli, you arrive at the khan of Kyra, four hour's journey from Janina. This is one of the most frequented stations in all Epirus, from the routes which pass by it to Macedonia and Thessaly. Near it is a handsome fountain of eight runners, anil a pavilion erected for the accommodation of travellers unable to pay for the use of the khan. The road then follows the side of the hill, and the course of a current which falls into the


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Inachus, near the khan of Baldouna. The number of places of accommodation for merchants and travellers on this route evinces the great traffic carried on in this tract. Farther on is the bridge of four arches called Dipotami, because it stands on a stream composed of the two rivers of Perrhaebia, at the meeting of Mitchikeli with Tchoucarouca, or the red mountain. This united stream forms the Perrhaebian branch of the Inachus from Mount Lacmon, which a little lower combines with the Inachus from Mount Pindus, to flow in a conjunct bed through the Athamanian country to the southward. After some time I observed the influx into the Inachus of Pindus, of a small stream proceeding from the north face of Mount Codjaca, from the south face of which issues the Aspropotamos, (white river) the modern name of the famed Achelous, and at hist we arrived in Metzovo, a town in a very picturesque position towards the central range of Pindus, and at no great distance from the sources of the principal rivers of the country, the Inachus, the Achelous, the Peneus, the Haliacmon, and the Aous. Metzovo, founded in the tenth century, by a colony of shepherd-valachians, is built in stages on the banks of the Inachus, which divides it into two positions, pros ilion towards the sun, and an alion away from the sun. When I first passed through Mezzovo, in the beginning of June, 1806, the snow had disappeared only ten days before. The whole of the route from Janina to this town possesses all the attractions for the traveller of taste which mountains and vallies, woods and streams, can produce. One day, when the atmosphere was very favourable, I was able to ascertain, by means of certain well known summits of the surrounding mountains, that a parallel of latitude drawn over Mezzovo would pass one mile to the southward of the position of Janina, over the farm of Bonila; and that the towns bear east and west, distant nine leagues and a quarter.

The Metzovites are all concerned in merchandize; and the most active kiradgis or muleteers of Turkey in Europe, belong either to Mezzovo, or to its neighbour Zagori beyond the mountains. Proceeding in ascent from Mezzovo for half an hour north-east, I came opposite to Mount Politzi, from whose bosom issue several rivulets,which, uniting before they traverse Mezzovo, form the Pindan or principal branch of the Inachus. Turning now to the east, I proceeded for a quarter of a league across a tract of pasturage, enamelled with violet and white narcissus, exhaling a rich perfume. Here I occupied the centre of a circle, formed by the most prominent summits of the Pindus of the poets; and I sat down on a grassy knoll to take observations of the bearings of the most noticeable ob-


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    Mount Pindus.

jects. A day more serene and delightful never enlivened nature in those lofty regions. I was now on the broad summit of Mount Lingos, on which halted Phïlip, when escaping from Flamininus, after his surprise at the strait of the Aous. Over the same plain must have passed Cæsar and his legions, on his way from Apollonia, up the valley of the Aous, into Thessaly. The same ground was afterwards trodden by the barbarous bands of Alaric.

The position of Lingos is thus well described by Livy, (xxxii. 13,) "After the defeat on the Aous, Philip came on the first day to the place called Pyrrhus's camp. On the day following, by great exertion, for terror instigated the activity of his troops; he arrived on the summit of Mount Lingos, a mountain of Epirus, situated between that country, Macedonia, and Thessaly. That part which regards Thessaly looks eastward, but Macedonia lies northwards. Lingos is clothed with frequent woods; but the highest ridges present broad open fields and never-failing springs of water." The scene in which I was placed brought to my mind many an interesting recollection. History, poetry, romance: the past, the present, the future, offered themselves to my imagination. I walked on the carpet of Pindus; and the balsamic atmosphere of the broad pasture around me inspired fresh exstence. It seemed as if I occupied that position from which the mountains had been spread out, and the streams commanded to flow toward the four winds of heaven. Before me ou the east rose up the Mavro-vouni (black mountain) a sublime range encircled by pines, and now beginning to cast off its burthen of snow. I could see it stretching from the north, and terminating abruptly on the south. At that extremity I saw Jan-Catara, a wooded ridge, sweeping round from north-west to south, to unite with Mount Zigos, bending towards the south-west. This last mountain, clothed with beech, pine, larch, and fir, is distinguished at a distance by two round summits, above all the aspiring pinnacles of Pindus. To the western side of Zigos, over which is carried the road into Thessaly, from the bason of the Inachus and Mezzovo, without traversing the elevated level of Mount Lingos, is attached Dokimi, a mountain which preserves almost the whole year its snows, from which it distributes rivulets to the three great rivers of Greece.

On the west domineered the Peristera-Vouna, mountains naked and gray, constantly charged with snow and ice, of which Polyanos, a spur running westward, confines the Pindan Inachus, on the route from Mezzovo to Janina. To the north-west I beheld Mount Padédimouli, the natural nursery


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of the cedar. From the central spot where I was placed, th« summit of Mavrouvouni bore east, two hours and a half distance; the base of Jan-Catara south-east half-an-hour; that of Zigos south one hour and three-quarters: the Peristera-Vouna south-west four hours; and Fago-Scripton north-west three hours.

The sun was sufficiently elevated when I arrived on the summit of Mount Lingos; but the cold was very sharp: I therefore completed my remarks, and joined my escort. We bent our course south-west for half-a-league to a plentiful spring, in the midst of hillocks of blackish sand, which my guides pointed out to me, repeating that there was the source of the Voioussa or Aous. It is affirmed by Strabo (vii. 316.) that "one and the same mountain sends forth both the Aous and the Inachus." Of this fact I now had ocular conviction; for from the west sides of Mount Politzi issues the Aous, and from the east sides the Inachus. When it leaves its grotto, as was before-mentioned (Chap. VII.) the Voioussa forms a stream similar to that of the Doria when it flows from the lake on Mount Cenis, in the way between Chambery and Turin; and trout are caught in the Pindan, as in the Alpine river. Quenching our thirst at the spring, we forded another branch of the Aous two-thirds of a mile farther on, coming down from a spot midway between Zigos and Jan-Catara, about a league to the south-east. Again, a little farther, we crossed the third branch proceeding from Mavro-vouni, and ascending for a mile through a forest of lofty firs, we alighted at the caravanserail of Jan-Catara, the point where the waters take opposite courses, and where, consequently, is fixed the boundary between Epirus and Macedonia.

At this inn, what was my surprize and my joy, to hear applied, by the rude boors of the place, to the mountains on the north of Mavrovouni, and in front of Fago-Scripton, the terms Ora Liaca (the Liac mountains) which instantly pointed out the Lacmon, or the Haliacmon of antiquity. To be still better acquainted with this imporlant region, we went down again into the valley of the Voioussa, traversing a second time the elevated plain of Lingos, at this time enlivened by philomela and the naiades, but in winter the abode of storms, tempests and hurricanes. On this plain we travelled for four leagues down the Voioussa, through fields of rye, the only production of Ceres which that lofty region affords, scattered groupes of trees and tall firs. In this manner we attained the extremity of the Liac-mountains. Turning round to the westward, we descended to the Lacmic sources of the Inachus, and were fully satisfied of the accuracy of Strabo's account of


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    Pass of Jan-Calara.

the two opposite rivers. Here again, I had the pleasure to hear the western branch of the Inachus, known among the peasants by the name Ou-arda, from the Albanian ou water; that is to say, the river of Arta.

Being required by business to return to Janina, I took the earliest opportunity of leisure to resume my tour in Macedonia. Returning, therefore, to the caravanserail of Jan-Catara, near the springs of the Aous, in the Pindan mountains, I there perceived the strata of the rocks, declining in the direction of Thessaly and Macedonia. I was now at the crossing of the routes between those countries and the northern and southern quarters of Epirus. While on this commanding station I clearly comprehended how Demetrius of Macedon, and Pyrrhus of Epirus, might pass within a short distance, the one from the other, with opposite hostile purposes, without mutual discovery. It is, besides, ascertained from the accounts of ancient warfare, that armies contented themselves with very limited exploratory operations, even when they knew the enemy to be at hand. Of this fact a striking example is afforded by Polybius, in his description of the curious action on the Cynoscephalæ hills, (xvii. 1, &c.)

I had not proceeded far from the caravanserail of Jan-Catara, when the view opened to me across the waving plains of Macedonia; we went first up the course of a brook shaded by larch-trees, a sure indication of our elevation above the plains and the sea. The snow was fast melting away, for the summer was at hand, uncovering beds of flowers enamelling the tender turf. We came to a post of Christian dervendgis, (keepers of passes in the mountains,) encamped by the side of an altar of dry stones, in which was fixed an image of the Virgin, the protectress of travellers, who now in the defiles of Pindus supplants the Hermes of ancient times. Bestowing a slender present on those guardians of the way, we penetrated a forest of larch and fir, which extended to a great distance on each side of our route. Here our guides began their melancholy chants, which seemed to animate our cattle pleased with the well-known sound. I was struck with the appearance of the trees, which are absolutely bare of branches on the side exposed to the biting winds from the north. The guides pointed out to me circles on the trunks of the trees, of a noble growth, indicating the effect of the frozen surface of the snow on the bark. In general the snow seemed to have been about eighteen feet deep. Passing from west to east across the region of resinous trees, we entered that of beech, which conveyed us to the hawthorn and other shrubs of warmer climates. At last, after a descending course of an hour and-a-half, in which


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we were several times obliged to alight, and to lead wilh great care, we found ourselves on the bank of the Milias, a limpid stream which rises in Mount Sdriliani, in the secondary range of Catara, a league west-north-west from its highest point. Proceeding along this stream to the southward of east for a league, we arrived at the khan of Milias, distant two and-a-half hours in a right line from that of Jan-Catara. Our arrival in this solitary abode was expected by the commandant of the guards of the pass, who with his party showed us every hospitable attention. We feasted on a roasted lamb, as did the heroes of Homer: for the animal was soon torn in pieces and devoured, and abundant libations from the skin of wine were poured forth; but not on the thankless ground. Then the exploits of the renowned Moré Bouco-Valas, the chief of the principal band of Thessalian plunderers, were sung with lungs worthy of a Stentor, and the entertainment closed with the Pyrrhic dance, or the dance of the robbers, described by Athenaeus, (I. 13). After hearty embraces of the invigorating skin, the performers acquitted themselves to a marvel in the dance, which, as it was explained to me, consisted in hunting out the robber, in fighting with him when discovered, and in carrying off in triumph the spoils. Having with no small difficulty obtained leave to proceed on my journey, before the ensuing morning, we crossed to the left bank of the Melias, escorted by the songs, the harp, and the firing of the guards. Travelling for an hour through a forest of pines, we came to a wooden bridge over another stream from Mount Sdriliani, and a league still lower we crossed over by a stone bridge to the right bank of the Milias, now much increased by various tributary currents. The weather threatening some change, we steered south-east to take refuge in. the khan of Crania, where my guard of honour, now about to leave me, set in as usual to a serious drinking-bout, till the storm should be pasf. Another skin was therefore soon disposed of, while I was engaged in observing the bearings, and learning the distances of the several visible summits of the Pindus range, to serve to guide me in my farther progress. From my station I observed Mount Smolica, twelve leagues from Conitza formerly mentioned, (chap, vii.), to bear nine leagues north-west: the base of that mountain, which is on that side called Ora Liaca, came within nine miles of my position. Half-a-league to the east were the wooded slopes of Crania on the Milias; but the village founded in 1507, and still inhabited by Valachians, was hidden. Two leagues to the northward of Crania, the Milias is crossed on a stone bridge of three arches below Cosmati; and soon afterwards it unites with the Rhedias or


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    Mount Olympus, &c.

Venetico. Down this defile, and by the bridge of Cosmati, is the common route of couriers and caravans, from Janina by Greveno to Monastir, the seat of the government of Romelia. Before me were peasants employed in burning pines, to clear the ground, a blackish slaty soil, in order to sow rye or maize. The route by the bridge of Cosmati we might also have pursued: but as one of my objects was to explore the range of hills which divides Macedonia from Thessaly, we took their direction eastward. The storm had ceased, and my mountain-escort returned to their post in the best humour imaginable. Our road led east-north-east for half-a-league to the top of Cranias-vouni, on which stands the khan of Dervendista, an inn for travellers and a post for the guards. The environs of this khan, to a great extent, are thickly covered with noble oaks, indicating our approach to the interior slopes of Pindus. Proceeding on for a mile, the horizon brightened up, displaying to view a vast field of Macedonia. Below me to the southeast, lay the tops of Mount Crachovo, stretching east and west, and in the back-ground appeared the Meteora of Stagous-Calabak, and Mount Cotzica, four leagues west-north-west from Trikala, in the plain of Thessaly. About east-northeast appeared the rugged sides of Mount Olympus, which our guides saluted with some of their old songs, by its antique name corrupted into Olymbos or Elymbos. On issuing from the woods, they pointed out to me, two and-a-half leagues off to the south, the village Boltimo, near which are the remains of some ancient city. At a league from Crania, from an eminence I saw the village of Zalovo, in the valley of the Peneus, which was soon hid; and turning off for above a league northreasf, we entered Kyprio, where I alighted at the door of a papas or Greek priest, who invited me to accept of his hospitality. From Kyprio we travelled east-north-east, for half-a-league to the left bank of the Aias, which rises above the villages Guergiathes and Chitovo, situated a league to the southward. The bank being too steep to allow us to cross the stream, we turned northwards for a mile to its influx into the Rhedias or Venetico, near to which we forded the Aias. At the end of half a league of cultivated fields, interspersed with clumps of oak, we came opposite to Pigadista, a village above which is a teket or convent of dervishes, dancing, howling, Mahometan monks. The chief of this convent was at this moment a French soldier, who, to relieve himself from his imprisonment after the recapture of Nicopolis in 1798, had embraced Mahometism. He met us accidentally, together with another young Frenchman from Poitou, who, to every question put to him, answered only, "the blues (the revolutionary


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troops,) murtliered my father and my mother." The chief dervish, who showed every mark of shame at meeting with a countryman in such circumstances, would ouly say that he was a native of Pau, in the south of France. These unhappy men, for unhappy they evidently were, although living in idleness and plenty, soon parted from me, turning up their eyes in an agony of shame and remorse. At the end of another half league, we came to a khan, filled with a most joyous company of beys and other Mahometans of distinction from Romelia, on their way to Janina, to assist at the wedding of one of Aly's nephews. Seated under a tuft of trees they merrily sent round the goblet, in the midst of deafening noise and riot. As a stranger, I was obliged to do honour to the wine, and as their expences were to be defrayed by Aly, in return for the presents they carried with them, they spared no cost, entertaining liberally all who passed their way. The master of the caravanserail, however, had the air of apprehending that Aly would not be so ready to discharge, as the company were to enlarge his bill. The wine was like all the wine of Greece, mingled with resin, necessary, it is said, for its preservation, and stomachic, but disagreeable to foreigners. On this account it was, probably, that the pine-cone was sacred to Bacchus. A little way beyond this inn, we came northward to the Rhedias or Venetico, where remained five arches of a very long stone bridge, constructed by Bajazet Ilderim, or the Thunderbolt, the conqueror of Epirus, in the end of the fifteenth century. Below the bridge we forded the river, which was about ninety yards in breadth; and although the waters were considered to be low, the current was still deep and strong enough to carry down our sumpter-horses, which with difficulty gained the bank a good way lower down. From the bridge rising gently for three miles north-east, we saw at the distance of an hour and-a-half west-north-west, Mavron-Oros, (black-hill,) a village famous for its fair held at the vernal equinox; and nearly a league farther we entered Greveno, where I was cordially welcomed by the archbishop.

Greveno, or Gribania, of the Byzantine writers, was founded by a colony from Castron-Bouchalistas, a place situated on the Rhedias, supposed to be the Europus of the ancients. The Cyclopian rampart, still partly existing, shows that ancient town to have been erected by a colony under Europus, son of Macedo and Orithya. Greveno, called by the Turks Guerebené, contains 150 clay-houses, divided in two by an occasional torrent. Thirty years ago, the town contained upwards of 2,000 families, who mutually destroyed each


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    Greveno, Shila, &c.

other by their internal feuds; so that when Aly gained possession of it, ruins and tombs were nearly all that remained. The Christians occupy the upper portion of the town, where stand the humble cathedral and archbishop's residence, and a Greek school under his inspection. The torrent of Greveno loses itself in the Rhedias two leagues below the town; and six miles farther down, are seen the antique remains of Phila, founded by Demetrius, the son of Antigonus Gonatas, a town erroneously placed by Stephen of Byzantium on the Peneus. Circumstances hindered me from descending to the bridge on the great mercantile route, through Servitza to the Axius now the Vardar. On another occasion I was enabled to ascertain from stage to stage the distance between the rivers Rhedias and Peneus of Thessaly. This was done along the valley, watered by the Bonatchi, which descends from Mount Natchovo through the defile of the Meteora; the same defile, I am convinced, by which Philip led his armies into Thessaly and Epirus. The several distances on this route are the following. From Phili, a village at the ruins of Phila, on the south bank of the Rhedias, the distance is two leagues south-south-east to Demenitza, situated on the slope of the hills leading down into Thessaly. Then an equal distance to Velenitchi: four leagues to the Meteora of Stagous-Calabak, and seven more to Trikala. From the environs of Phili I sketched that portion of Mount Bermius called Boureno-Vendgia, of which the base is distant three leagues. Notwithstanding the pestilential air of Greveno, I remained there four days, and then continued my course northwards for Castoria.
 

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