THE LAND OF THE BLACK MOUNTAIN
THE ADVENTURES OF TWO ENGLISHMEN IN MONTENEGRO
REGINALD WYON AND GERALD PRANCE
WITH FIFTY-ONE ILLUSTRATIONS
"SOME GLIMPSING AND NO PERFECT SIGHT"
NEW AND CHEAPER ISSUE
METHUEN & CO. 36 ESSEX STREET W.C. LONDON
First Published March 1903 New and Cheaper Issue 1905
DEDICATED BY KIND PERMISSION
H.R.H. PRINCE NICOLAS OF MONTENEGRO
Montenegro's geographical position—Character of the people—Their honesty, patriotism, and love of arms—Likeness to the Homeric Greeks—The women—Montenegrin manners, vices, heroism, lack of privacy, police—Goodness of the Prince—The national costume—Religion—Hatred of Austria—Russia's friendship
History from first conquest by the Romans, 300 B.C., down to the present Prince—Fruits of the last campaign—Education—The military system—Legal administration—Crime—Government—The educated classes
The journey to Montenegro—Arrival in Cattaro—Beauty of the Bocche, and the drive to the frontier—First impressions of Montenegro—Njegusi—The national troubadours—Arrival in Cetinje
Cetinje and its sights—Prince Nicolas—The Archbishop—The barracks—The princes—A visit to the prison and its system—Our departure for Podgorica
The view from Bella Vista—New scenery—Promiscuous shooting—The market in Rijeka—The shepherds—Their flocks—Wayside hospitality—The plain of the Zeta—The Moraca—The Vizier bridge—Old war-marks—First and last impressions of Podgorica
Podgorica—Its central position—Our headquarters—Easter in Montenegro—Our experience of it—We view the town—The prison and its inmates—Christian and Mahometan friction—The modern town—The market and the armed buyers—The Black Earth—Easter customs—Montenegrin methods of doing business
Medun—Voivoda Marko—His life and business—His part in Montenegrin history—Our ride to Medun—His widow—We visit his grave—The Death Dirge—Montenegrin customs at death—Target practice—Our critics—The hermit of Daibabe—We visit Spuz—A typical country inn and a meal—The Turkish renegade gives his views on warfare—Dioclea
Achmet Uiko tells his story—Sokol Baco, ex-Albanian chief—Shooting on the Lake of Scutari—Our journey thither—Our frustrated nap—Arrival at the chapel—The island of Vranjina—The priest—Fishing and fishermen—Our visitors—We return to Podgorica
Stephan our servant—Virpazar—The drive over the Sutormann Pass—Antivari and Prstan—The beauty of the bay—We are delayed by contrary winds—We are rowed to Dulcigno—We make the acquaintance of Marko Ivankovic—A story concerning him—We shoot together—An episode on a lake—Vaccination—The Turkish inhabitants
We ride to Scutari—The Albanian Customs officials—We suffer much from Turkish saddles—Arrival at Scutari, and again pass the Customs—"Buon arrivato"—Scutari and its religious troubles—The town and bazaar—A slight misunderstanding, Yes and No—We return to Rijeka by steamer—The beauties of the trip—Wrong change—The prodigal son's return, when the fatted calf is not killed
Preparations for our tour in the Brda—We start—Where it is not good to be giddy—A trying ride—Our inn—Nocturnal episodes—The journey continued—Pleasant surroundings—The Montenegrin quart d'heure—Arrival in Kolasin—We meet the Governor—Visiting—The Band of Good Hope—The Crown Prince's birthday—We are ashamed
Montenegro's oldest building—The ride to the Moraca Monastery—A perilous bridge and ascent—The Abbot's tale—We inspect the Monastery—The health of the King is drunk—The relative merits of Boers and Montenegrins—The Abbot makes us presents—We visit a peasant's house and a Homeric feast—A feu-de-joie—Departure from Kolasin—We are mistaken for doctors again—Raskrsnica
A typical mountain hut—Costume of the north-eastern borderers—Supper and a song—We go out hunting, and cause excitement—The Feast of Honour—We ride to Andrijevica—Andrijevica and our inn—The Voivoda—We go to church—Turkish visitors—Alarums
The Voivoda's invitation—Concerning an episode on our ride to Velika—The fugitive from a blood-feud and his story—We arrive at Velika—The men of Velika—The menu—Border jurisdiction—A shooting-match—The Kom—Pleasant evenings—A young philosopher—Sunset
We leave Andrijevica—Our additional escort—The arrival at our camping-place—In an enemy's country—The story of one Gjolic—Our slumbers are disturbed—Sunrise on the Alps—We disappoint our escort—"Albanian or Montenegrin?"—A reconnaissance—The Forest of Vucipotok—The forbidden land—narrow escape—We arrive at Rikavac—Rain damps our ardour—Nocturnal visitors
More memorial stones—We get wet again—Unwilling hosts—A fall—The Franciscan of Zatrijebac—The ravine of the Zem—Methods of settling tribal differences—A change of diet and more pleasant evenings—A fatalist—Sunday morning
A modern hero, and our sojourn under his roof—Keco's story—The laws of vendetta and their incongruity—We return to Podgorica—The Montenegrin telephone—An elopement causes excitement—The Sultan's birthday—The reverse of the picture—A legal anomaly
S. Vasili and Ostrog—Our drive thither—Joyful pilgrims—Varied costumes—We meet the Vladika of Montenegro—The ordeal of hot coffee—A real pilgrimage—The shrine of S. Vasili—The ancient hermit—A miracle—Niksic—The gaudy cathedral and the Prince's palace—We are disappointed at Niksic
The Club and its members—Gugga—Irregularities of time—The absence of the gentle muse and our surprise—The musician's story and his subsequent fate—The Black Earth—A typical border house—The ordeal of infancy—A realistic performance which is misunderstood—Concerning a memorable drive—A fervent prayer
We reconsider our opinion of Cetinje—A Montenegrin wake and its consequences—A hero's death—Montenegrin conversation—Needless appeals to the Deity—We visit the hospital
The Law Court in Cetinje—The Prince as patriarch—A typical lawsuit—Pleasant hours with murderers—Our hostel—A Babel of tongues—Our sojourn draws to a close—The farewell cup of coffee and apostrophe
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
H.R.H. PRINCE NICOLAS OF MONTENEGRO Frontispiece
THE GRAF WURMBRAND, IN THE BOCCHE DI CATTARO
THE BOCCHE DI CATTARO
THE VLADIKA AT THE MONASTERY OF IVAN BEG
THE PRINCE'S PALACE
GENERAL VIEW OF CETINJE
THE FEMALE PRISONERS
THE PRISONERS DANCING
THE VIZIER BRIDGE
GENERAL VIEW OF PODGORICA
THE GRAVE SCENE AT MEDUN
SIMEON POPOVIC AND HIS CHAPEL
THE POP OF VRANJINA
AN ALBANIAN GIRL
ANTIVARI OR BAR
THE BRIDGE AT RIJEKA
BAZAAR LIFE, DULCIGNO
THE CONSULAR QUARTER, SCUTARI
A TYPICAL ROAD
THE MORACA MONASTERY
OUR HUT AT RASKRSNICA
THE FUGITIVE OF VELIKA
THE VASOJEYICKI KOM
ALBANIANS AND MONTENEGRINS AT ANDRIJEVICA
THE RAVINE OF TERPETLIS
THE PATH THROUGH THE VUCIPOTOK
AFTER MASS AT ZATRIJEBAC
THE LOWER MONASTERY, OSTROG
THE UPPER MONASTERY
THE CHURCH, NIKSIC
THE CHURCH AND THE PALACE
A REALISTIC PERFORMANCE
AN ALBANIAN HOME ON THE CRNA ZEMLJA
"What a terrible country!" said a lady tourist to me once in Cetinje, "nothing but barren grey rocks; and what poverty! I declare I shan't breathe freely till I am out of it again."
This is a common opinion of travellers to Montenegro, and one that is spread by them all over Europe. And yet how unjust! A fairly large number of tourists take the drive from beautiful little Cattaro up that wild mountain-side and through the barren Katunska to Cetinje. A few hours later they return the way they came, convinced that they have seen Montenegro. A few, very few, prolong the tour to Podgorica and Niksic, returning with a still firmer conviction that they have penetrated into the very fastnesses of that wonderful little land. These chosen few have at least seen that all is not bare and rocky, that there are rich green valleys, rushing mountain torrents, and pleasant streams.
If they are very observant they will likewise notice that the men of these parts are more wildly clad and fiercer-looking than their more polished brethren of the "residence." Rifles are carried more universally the nearer lies Albania, and in Podgorica itself they will have seen—particularly if chance has brought them there on a market-day—crowds of savage-looking hill-men, clad in the white serge costume of Albania, standing over their handful of field produce with loaded rifles; stern men from the borders with seamed faces; sturdy plains-men tanned to a mahogany tint by the almost tropical sun of the valleys; shepherds in great sheepskins, be it ever so hot; and haughty Turks, hodjas, and veiled women, all in a crowded confusion, haggling and bartering. Quaint wooden carts drawn by patient oxen, their huge clumsy wheels creaking horribly; gypsies with thunderous voices acting as town criers; madmen shrieking horribly; blind troubadours droning out songs of heroes on their guslars. If the tourist has witnessed and understood all this, then he has seen something of Montenegro. But beyond those lofty mountains which rise on either side of the carriage road, live these same people in their rude villages. There are towns far away, unconnected by any road, to reach which the traveller must journey wearily by horse and on foot, over boulder-strewn paths, by the side of roaring torrents, through the cool depths of primeval forests, and over the snow-clad spurs of rugged mountains. There he will find men accustomed to face death at any moment, who delight in giving hospitality, and who talk of other lands as "the world outside." These are the Montenegrins to whom we owe some of the most pleasant reminiscences of our lives.
Our book does not describe the whole country, as unfortunately we were unable to visit the northern districts and the lofty Durmitor, but we certainly saw the more interesting half, namely, the whole of the Albanian frontier.
Amongst those hardy borderers we made many warm friends, but it would be invidious to mention names amongst so many. We came to the country with a single introduction, to Dr. Stefanelli, the companion of many of our journeys, and we left at the conclusion of six months with a host of friends. Still to two we wish humbly to express our gratitude for many acts of, at the time, unknown courtesy, namely, H.R.H. Prince Nicolas, and the Metropolitan of Montenegro, Mitrofanban. As a slight token of our thanks to, and admiration of, that true father of his people, Prince Nicolas, we respectfully dedicate this book to the soldier-poet and prince of the Land of the Black Mountain.
Since we finished the story of our travels, I have had the honour of speaking long with Prince Nicolas and of seeing him on many occasions; for during our first travels in the land we were always strangely unlucky in this respect. I then learnt how our progress through Montenegro had been watched over, and contingencies provided for, which we had taken as a matter of course.
Some, alas! of our friends are now no more. The Governor of Podgorica was shot down in broad daylight a short while ago whilst taking his midday promenade in which we so often shared. Others, too, have fallen on the borders. Friends are easily lost in Montenegro, where a charge of powder and a bullet settle differences.
Disagreeable episodes happened to us—they happen everywhere—but these we have rightly or wrongly omitted. The good that we experienced certainly outweighed the bad, and that shall be our reason for so doing.
And again, throughout the book we have given our first impressions, much of it was written during our actual progress through the land. It may be that our feelings will thus be more interesting than a cut-and-dried treatise of the land and its inhabitants.
In conclusion, it will not be amiss to add an explanation of the Serb names which appear throughout the book in the original spelling. The names have often an unpronounceable appearance, and look harsh and forbidding. This is far from the case, for the Serb language is full-toned and musical.
In common with the Slav languages it has a sixth vowel, viz. "r"—hence such words as "Srb" (Serb), "trg" (place or square), and "Trst" (Triest). It is only necessary to roll the "r" to overcome this seeming anomaly of a collection of consonants. The language is spoken exactly as it is written, as for instance Italian, but the consonants s, c, and z vary according to their accents.
"s" is our sharp s; but with inverted circumflex
"s" it becomes "ssh," as in "show."
"c" is pronounced "tz": thus Cetinje is spoken Tzetinje; Podgorica as Podgoritza.
"c" and "c" are accentuated "tsch": as Petrovic, Petrovitsch; Moraca, Moratcha.
"z" is soft, as "s" in "rose."
"z" is sounded like the French "j" in "journal."
"dz" is sounded like the "j" in "James."
"nj" is sounded like the "gn" in French "campagne": Tzetigne (Cetinje), and so on.
We are fully aware of many shortcomings, and for these we crave pardon, but if we benefit little Montenegro by the publication of our work, then we shall not have written it in vain.
England has once before proved the friend of Montenegro; the fighting instincts of that brave race, their love of freedom, and the possession of their most glorious of histories appeal to all of us.
I fear there are troublous times ahead for that gallant little nation, perhaps another bitter disappointment is in store for them, when they will need a friend.
Times have changed now, personal valour avails but little against overwhelming armies and modern artillery.
"We little nations must beseech the Almighty to give us peace," said Prince Nicolas to me not so very long ago.
May it be His will!
VIENNA, February, 1903
THE LAND OF THE BLACK MOUNTAIN
Montenegro's geographical position—Character of the people—Their honesty, patriotism, and love of arms—Likeness to the Homeric Greeks—The women—Montenegrin manners, vices, heroism, lack of privacy, police—Goodness of the Prince—The national costume—Religion—Hatred of Austria—Russia's friendship.
Roughly Montenegro is diamond-shaped, with its points towards north and south, east and west. To the north-east it is bounded by the Sandjak of Novipazar, held by Turkey and Austria jointly, and dividing it from its parent country, the kingdom of Servia. To the south-east lies Albania, while Austria again borders Montenegro in Bosnia and the Hercegovina in the north-west and in Dalmatia to the south-west. Dalmatia and a narrow strip of the Adria complete the circuit, so Austria practically surrounds Montenegro on three sides.
The land may be said to possess three distinct belts of vegetation, each of an entirely different character. It is divided from north to south by the River Zeta, and the low-lying plains are fertile and rich, and this district also comprises the sea coast. To the west is the Katunska or "Shepherds' huts," those barren and rocky mountains of old Montenegro, from which the country derives its name; while to the east lies the Brda, mountains vying with Switzerland in beauty, rich grazing grounds and densely-wooded hills abounding with game, and the streams well stocked with fish.
The plains are the granaries of Montenegro, unfortunately too limited in area to give an abundance, but there is a mine of wealth in the Brda, when that part shall be opened up by connecting roads. The vast primeval forests and mineral products will be an important source of income in the times to come. Even at the present day the district constitutes the chief source of revenue from the export of cattle, sheep, and horses which flourish on the magnificent mountain pasturages. Montenegrin wool, greatly famed, comes too from the Brda.
It is chiefly in the Katunska, the cradle of the Montenegrin nation, that the most interesting geological formations are to be found, and in these formations lay its former strength. The most prominent features of the Karst region are imperfect valleys which have no outlet. As a consequence of this, the water cannot escape by an overground bed, so it forces itself through the porous surface to reappear in a lower valley, undermining the subsoil, which in time collapses, and forms the oases of this otherwise barren land. The rain washes down the little earth that there is on the hillside, the chemical action of the limestone oxidises the same, and the so-called "terra rossa" is formed in these depressions, sufficient to give nourishment to the trees and bushes which grow there. The frugal peasant cultivates these tiny patches of earth and derives enough crops to subsist on, the goats and cattle living on the bushes and smaller trees.
In olden times the little nation found barely enough substance for themselves, consisting as they did of but a few thousand, but an invading army starved. It was in truth a land "where a small army is beaten, a large one dies of hunger."
The character of the people has been formed by their surroundings. Hardy and frugal, capable of subsisting on the smallest amount of nourishment, lithe and active, and open and fearless as their native mountains.
Their food consists of a piece of maize bread at daybreak, and they eat nothing again till sunset, when bread and a little milk form their evening meal. Meat is eaten but rarely, and then they feast. The athletic feat of crossing rock-strewn surfaces, bounding from rock to rock at a great pace, rivalling their goats in sure-footedness at dizzy and precipitous heights, has lent their gait that perfect grace of motion which characterises the mountaineer, and in particular the Montenegrin. The danger in which they have perpetually lived, accustomed to look death in the face at any moment, has stamped upon them that open and fearless look which most forcibly strikes the stranger.
Their blood is of the purest and noblest in the Balkans, for they are largely descended from the noble families of the old Servian Empire who fled to the Katunska after the bloody field of Kossovo, which destroyed the might of the Serbs for ever. It is probably from these ancestors that their noble bearing and perfect manners, in even strange and unaccustomed surroundings, are derived. Their notion of honour is of the highest, and thieving and robbery are practically unknown.
Prince Nicolas, like King Alfred, trusts his subjects in this matter of thieving implicitly. Should a man drop a case of banknotes on the road, the law says that the finder shall pick it up and place it on the nearest stone, so that the loser has but to retrace his steps, glancing at the wayside stones. This law is invariably followed.
The Montenegrins are still an armed nation, and the following proverbs illustrate their love of weapons. One says, "A man without arms is a man without freedom"; the other says, "Thou mayest as well take away my brother as my rifle."
Their patriotism and unswerving loyalty to the reigning Prince have ever been their most brilliant virtues.
The famous traveller Kohl has likened the Montenegrins to the ancient Greeks of Homeric times, and the comparison holds good to this day.
"Love of freedom and pride of weapons, simplicity of life—remember the love of mutton and wine, as described by Homer—hospitality, the superiority of man over woman, all these features, together with the fact that the heroes are themselves the singers of their deeds," says Kohl, "are to be found in the Montenegrins, as well as in the Greeks of Homer."
Woman takes a very inferior position in Montenegro. She is respected in a sense, and her position has improved greatly in recent times, chiefly owing to the example set by the Prince himself. At the official reception held on New Year's Day, when the humblest peasant can go to Cetinje and kiss the Prince's hand, Prince Nicolas places his wife to his right, and every man must first kiss her hand. Thus in the highest classes woman takes very nearly the same place as in civilised lands, but as the social scale descends, so does the position of woman.
In the lowest classes she is still not much more than a beast of burden, given to man to ease his lot. She carries heavy burdens to market, while her lord rides; she may not walk at his side, but a few paces to the rear; neither may she sit at table in the presence of strange men. The kiss with which men salute each other is not allowed to her, and she must kiss the hand only of the man. Likewise, she must rise to her feet when men pass by, and in some districts, should she meet a man on the way, she must stop and remain standing meekly at the side of the path; also, she must leave the room backwards. Neither of these last-mentioned customs is universal, but are to be found largely in the Brda.
The men are handsome and often of immense stature. Giants of 6 feet 8 inches are by no means uncommon; in fact, a few such men will be seen in every town. The average height is quite 5 feet 10 or 11 inches, broad-shouldered and deep-chested, with pleasant faces.
The women are often strikingly beautiful, especially when young, but hard work ages them very quickly; in the upper classes, however, middle-aged and elderly women of regal appearance can often be seen. It is the manners of such women and universally of the men which comes as the greatest surprise, when it is remembered that none or very few have ever seen anything of the outside world.
The faults of the nation are inordinate vanity in their appearance, causing them to impoverish themselves for the sake of gorgeous clothes, and gambling. They gamble to an excessive degree, heaping debt after debt upon their heads. Both these vices have caused an active legislation. Gold embroidery has been abolished on the uniforms of the army officers, and Prince Danilo has already declared that on coming to the throne he will abolish the national costume altogether, i.e. amongst the officials and the upper classes.
They love money and will do a good deal to get it, but when they have money, they spend it in a reckless and freehanded manner. Thus they will overcharge a stranger in an exorbitant fashion, thinking, in their simple minds, that travellers are possessed of unlimited means. Tourists are largely to blame for this, and pay, without audible comment, what is asked. If a strong remonstrance is made, the charge will be reduced in most cases. The dawn of civilisation has brought the love of money, the frugal Montenegrins are now awakening to what money will procure them, and they take as much as they can get without thought, and without swindling intentions. Perhaps the lack of banks or any institute where money can be saved up, may account for this. Merchants buy houses or increase their stock. The peasant, as often as not, gambles it away or buys fine clothes, a few thrifty ones purchasing an extra cow.
No doubt the influence of civilisation, and in particular the long-delayed prosperity of the land which is now slowly raising its head, will alter this.
They very rarely quarrel, never brawl, and are hardly ever to be seen in a state of intoxication.
On the other hand, they are merry, convivial, boon companions, and are never happier than when dancing, singing their war songs and love romances, or listening to the "guslar"—the national troubadour.
The characteristic bravery is still manifested in reckless deeds of "derring do" on the Albanian borders. Shepherds will deliberately drive their flocks across the frontier, thereby courting instant death. Many instances have been given illustrating their love of danger.
Privacy of dwellings is non-existent. Men walk in and out, seating themselves in the room and talking. In the evening the men will congregate, stand and squat in a large ring, and solemnly discuss the events of the day, or in towns will walk majestically up and down the main street swinging the graceful "struka" or shawl from their shoulders. Likewise, the drinking-houses are used as common meeting-places, and there is no need to order refreshment.
Marriages, baptisms, deaths are occasions for great feasting, when the national sheep is killed and roasted whole, and wine and spirits consumed in appalling quantities, without however affecting the heads of these iron people.
To keep order, there is a ridiculously small force of police or gendarmes, and their object is more to preserve the peace in places where different races meet, animated with fanatical hatred of each other. But during the whole time of our sojourn in Montenegro, we never witnessed a single case of men arrested for petty offences, or for breaking the peace by common brawling or drunkenness. The only cases that we did see were connected with the vendetta, which still flourishes. In the course of our travels in the land we have sufficiently illustrated this lamentable feature that no further comments are necessary.
Prince Nicolas is said to know the name of every one of his subjects, and will accost him by it. This is doubtless a great exaggeration, and probably means that he knows personally all those who fought under him in the last war, when the nation was considerably smaller than it is now.
No man is too humble but that the Prince will stop and speak to him, and ask him how the world is using him. The man rarely goes empty-handed away. In these latter days the Prince is not so open-handed as formerly, neither does he make so free with his presence, but still it is no difficult thing for any of his subjects to obtain an audience. He will stop a man at haphazard on the road and examine his weapons, and woe betide him if his revolver is carried empty. Every chamber but one must be loaded.
A characteristic instance of the Prince's observancy was once given in Cetinje. An incongruous habit is creeping into the country of carrying a huge cotton umbrella in the great heat. The Prince met a man carrying one open, and promptly broke it over his head, saying—
"Art thou a hero, to carry a woman's sunshade?"
For even to-day the youngest man will maintain that he is a "hero" by right of ancestry, and has no doubt of his capability to act up to the traditions of his country in the event of war.
The national costume is worn by all, and in the richer classes is very gorgeous. The combination of colour is in exquisite taste. There are many variations, but a description of the gala uniform will suffice.
The cap, or "kapa," is the same for Prince and peasant. It is red with a deep black border, which only leaves a small crown of the foundation colour. On this crown in one corner are the letters "H.I." (in Latin characters "N.I." or Nicolas 1st) and five semicircles in gold. The explanations as to the meanings are slightly different. Both say the black border is symbolic of mourning for the losses at Kossovo, while the five lines are explained either as signifying the five centuries which have elapsed since that terrible battle or as symbolic of a rainbow—the sign of hope that one day the glories of the old Serb empire will be restored. The red crown signifies "the field of blood," as the Hebrews have it. Furthermore, the different insignia of rank are worn on the rim of the cap, from the double eagle and lion of the senator in brass, the different combinations of crossed swords of the officer, to the simple star of lead of the corporal.
The costume consists of a "dzamadan," a red waistcoat, embroidered with gold or black silk—the former on gala occasions—over which the "gunj" is worn, a long, white or very pale blue coat, cut so that the breast is left open and free. Another sleeveless jacket is worn, again, over the gunj, called the "jelek," and is a mass of heavy gold and silk embroidery, quite stiff in fact, and a marvel of beautiful tracing and patterns.
Round the waist are three separate belts, the first a common belt, then the leather "kolan" for the support of the weapons, and over all a silk sash, the "pas," sometimes twenty yards long, wound round and round many times and of brilliant colours.
Below, knee-breeches of dark blue material and voluminous proportions, called "gace," bordered round the pockets with gold-work, and high, patent-leather boots. This latter is merely modern dandyism; the still invariably worn "dokoljenice" are white gaiters, fastened at the back with hooks and eyes, which reach to the "opanki"—shoes made of a flat leather sole, bound over with a thick network of whipcord.
The ordinary costume of the better classes for everyday wear (and this is the uniform of the officers) is a short red jacket, embroidered like the waistcoat in black silk, with sleeves carried either hussar fashion, hanging behind, or over the sleeves of the waistcoat.
Then there are green gunj and even dark blue. The peasant wears usually a coarse white serge gunj for every day and an ordinary shirt.
In the mountain districts and borderlands of the Brda the Albanian costume of tight-fitting white serge trousers, bordered with black braid, is largely worn.
The women wear a somewhat modified array of colour. The girls wear the kapa, without the letters or rainbow; the married women a lace mantilla over their shoulders. The hair is worn, in the case of the married women, in a heavy crown-like plait.
A white, slightly embroidered bodice, silver girdle, and silk skirt, over which is worn a similar open coat to the gunj. And again over this comes the "jecerma," a jacket of red, blue, or violet velvet, according to the age of the woman.
The effect in both men and women is tasteful and picturesque in the extreme.
The struka, or shawl, is greatly worn by men, and the sweeping, swinging effect is most pleasing. It is a shawl of sufficient length that when folded to a narrow width and worn over the shoulders the tassels just touch the ground.
Some of the poorest peasants wear huge sheepskin jackets, even in hot weather.
At the head of the Greek Orthodox Church, which is the religion of the land, is an Archbishop, or "Vladika." Hardly more than half a century ago, the Vladika was Prince and Bishop in one. To-day the Vladika is absolute spiritual head of the Church in Montenegro, and only in matters pertaining to divorce are his rulings reversible by the Prince.
The hatred of the Roman Catholic religion is most marked. The term "Catholic" is an epithet of opprobrium. Hence the hatred of Albania, which on the borders is entirely Roman Catholic. The hated Catholics also, in the shape of Austria, hem in Montenegro on three sides, and this factor, added to the unfriendly part that Austria played at the Berlin Congress, may account for the growing animosity which is now slowly making itself manifest against her in Montenegro. Turkey is no longer feared; in fact, friendly relations are cultivated and steadily increasing; but against Austria very different feelings are held. Austria holds the Bocche de Cattaro, which the Montenegrins took possession of in the Napoleonic wars, commands Antivari, and has edged herself in between the kingdom of Servia and Montenegro in the Sandjak of Novipazar. The inhabitants of the Bocche and a large part of the population of Bosnia and the Hercegovina look to the Prince of Montenegro as their lawful ruler.
It is the oft and open stated dream of Prince Nicolas to see the great Serb-speaking nations re-united, and much as Russia has helped and is fostering this wish, Austria relentlessly checkmates every move in this direction. Austria is even striving to gain influence in Albania through the means of the Roman Catholic priests, who are said to be largely in her pay.
Thus Austria, surrounding Montenegro as she does at present, and enlisting the sympathies of the Albanians, can command every inlet to that brave little country. A "Schwab," as every German-speaking foreigner is termed, is consequently viewed with no friendly eyes; while the Russian is welcomed openly as a friend.
Russia, however, can never hope to buy the allegiance of the Montenegrins; for while appreciating friendly assistance, the faintest attempt to obtain undue influence of power would be sharply resented.
Montenegro will yield her absolute independence to none.
History from first conquest by the Romans, 300 B.C., down to the present Prince—Fruits of the last campaign—Education—The military system—Legal administration—Crime—Government—The educated classes.
The district which corresponds most nearly to Montenegro of the present day comes first into notice when the Romans attacked Queen Teuta and drove her back beyond the modern Podgorica in the third century B.C. From this time onwards Roman influence made itself felt strongly in the Praevalitana, an outlying province of Illyria, and the city of Dioclea—whose ruins still exist in the neighbourhood of Podgorica, and which was to play such an important part in the germ state of Crnagora, or the "Land of the Black Mountain"—rose into being. Diocletian, the famous divider of the Roman Empire, was born there, and the city became the capital of the district to which it gave the name. The triumvirs placed the border-line of the Eastern and Western divisions at Skodra, or Scutari, as the Europeans call it. Under the early empire, the land was perpetually changing from East to West, but when the Western division fell under the weight of barbarian invasions Uin 476 A.D., it was finally incorporated in the East. This was a momentous decision, for the manners and habits of the people still remain tinged with Eastern life, and in the ninth century it secured their adhesion to the Eastern Church, which influences their policy to the present time. The principality of Dioclea, or Zeta, as it soon became called, was one of the confederate Serb states formed by Heraclius in 622 A.D., to act as a buffer state against the inroads of the Avars. Each state was ruled by a Zupan or Prince who owed allegiance to the Grand Zupan, the head of the heptarchy. But the confederation was very loose, the rival chieftains fighting amongst one another for the supremacy, for the Serb race has ever been noted for its lack of unity and corresponding love of freedom. The famous Bulgarian Czar Samuel, circa 980, who had overrun the rest of the Serb states, and made for himself a great empire, found that he was powerless to conquer the warlike John Vladimir of the Zeta; and again, nearly a century later, in 1050, we find the Zeta Zupa so powerful that their Prince assumes the title of King of Servia, and is confirmed in his right by Gregory VII., the famous Pope Hildebrand. Dissensions then broke out again, and for the next hundred years the land owned the sway of the Greek Empire. The two most celebrated Serb kings—Stefan Nemanja (1143) and Stefan Dusan (1336-1356)—both ascended to the head of the confederation from the principality of the Zeta. The latter raised the Serb kingdom to its zenith, and formed an ephemeral empire which bears many a resemblance to that of Napoleon. Montenegro had all this time been steadily growing, and on the accession of Dusan to Servia, the district of the Zeta fell to the Balsic, who proved themselves to be a strong and competent race of rulers. They increased their territories to such an extent that, at the time of the battle of Kossovo, they could boast to ruling over all the land from Ragusa to the mouth of the Drin, including the present West Montenegro and Southern Hercegovina, with Skodra as the capital. After the overthrow of the great Servian Empire on the field of Kossovo, Montenegro became entirely independent of outside suzerainty, and from the year 1389 to the present day, is the only Balkan state which has successfully defied the invasions of the Turk. The Balsic engaged themselves in several fruitless wars with Venice, by which they lost Skodra, so that, when their line died out and the succession fell to Stefan Crnoievic (the name Crnoievic, Black Prince, is supposed by some to be the origin of the name Crnagora or Black Mountain), a new capital must perforce be built, at the northern end of the lake, called Zabljak. Stefan Crnoievic allied himself with Skenderbeg, the King of Albania, and within twelve years is said to have fought over fifty battles with the Turks who, in their impotent rage, poured army after army into the land, but entirely failed to break the courage of this brave little people. His people gave him the title of Voivoda of the Zeta, but the limits of his principality seem to have been very undefined. The position of his son Ivan was, however, of greater danger, for in 1444 the kingdom of Hungary had fallen before the Turk, and they captured Constantinople nine years later; after this Servia, Bosnia, Albania (on the death of Skenderbeg), and Hercegovina were overrun in quick succession. In 1484 Ivan found himself obliged to burn his capital of Zabljak, and retire into the more inaccessible mountain fastnesses of the Katunska, the district round Cetinje. Cetinje itself was chosen by Ivan as his new centre, and though hardly pressed, he inflicted many severe defeats upon the Turks. Arrived in his new capital, he called his braves together, and told them that if they would surrender to the foe, they must find a new Prince, for, as for himself, he preferred death. So this little band of warriors, and they could not have numbered more than eight thousand fighting men, swore to resist this almighty foe to death—not to attack, but to resist. It must have been an impressive scene, this compact between Prince and people, and later history bears out fully how nobly the descendants of these mountain warriors have kept to their oath. For they, alone, of all the Balkan states, have successfully repulsed the Turk, who, though often seemingly victorious, has returned home with shattered armies and full of impotent rage.
In their need they applied to Venice for help, quoting the great assistance that they were rendering her in occupying the Turks; but the Queen of Cities, who was at that moment occupied in patching up a treaty with the Sultan, turned a deaf ear to their entreaties. Montenegro found then, for the first time—and all through her history she was destined to find the same—that she must fight her battles alone. Allies have used her always for their own ends and then shamefully deserted her. Yet all through the spirit of indomitable courage has never deserted the children of Crnagora, for they could never forget the oath which their forefathers had sworn for them.
Ivan, after several great victories, was left to end his days in peace. He spent his years well in strengthening the land, both in the arts of war and peace. In Obod, which is close to Rijeka, he erected a printing press, some twenty years after Caxton had set up his in Westminster, and though it was afterwards burnt by the Turks, still the remembrance of it remains right glorious in Montenegrin memory.
The last Crnoievic relinquished his home for Venice. He had married a Venetian wife, who, among the bleak mountains of the Katunska, was pining for the sun and warmth of her native city. But before leaving he laid down the lines for a powerful regime. A Prince-Bishop, or Vladika, was placed at the head of affairs, but, to help him in his difficult task, there was created a second office, that of Civil Governor, who was to hold a subordinate position. This office was abolished in 1832 by Peter II., on the treachery of the Civil Governor Radonic, who was found to have intrigued with the Austrians.
From 1616 to 1696 the Vladikas were elective, and under their quarrelsome rule Cetinje was twice burnt and phoenix-like rose again from its ashes. The Turkish armies, though partially victorious, usually met with disaster and ruin before reaching their own territory again; and we read of one notable occasion when Soliman Pasha, with an army of 80,000 men, had sacked Cetinje. On his way home he was surprised by the two tribes of Kuc and Klementi, and annihilated. But as time went on it became necessary from political reasons to change the system of government from election to heredity, and the choice fell on the Lord of Njegusi Danilo Petrovic, whose reign (1696-1735) is chiefly memorable for the Montenegrin vespers of the Turks and Turkish renegades, who had rendered so much assistance to Kiuprili Pasha in one of his terrible invasions. But a crushing defeat of the Turks in 1706 gave the land peace for thirty years.
In 1767 an adventurer named Stefan Mali sprang himself upon the land. He claimed to be the murdered Peter III. of Russia, and easily imposed himself upon the gullible Montenegrin. But he had the interests of Montenegro sincerely at heart, and proved an excellent ruler. His imposture was exposed by Catherine II., but owing to the weakness of the Petrovic heir, the people determined to keep him as their ruler. He fell a victim to the assassin's knife at the instigation of the Pasha of Scutari. His successor, Peter Petrovic, the famous St. Peter of Montenegrin history, was a firm and courageous ruler, who made his influence felt throughout the courts of Europe. Austria, Russia, and England did not scruple to avail themselves of his help and then, as seems to be the Montenegrin fate, left him in the lurch. He defied the armies of the great Napoleon, who came to fear him and his warlike clan insomuch that he was even offered terms of friendship. But the proud mountaineer would have none of it. He now turned his hand, under the influence of Russia, which was then very real, to the consolidation of the land, and slept in peace with his fathers.
His successor, Peter II., carried on the struggle with the Turks, who proposed an increase of territory and a Turkish title in return for the acknowledgment of suzerainty. "As long as my people defend me," was the proud answer, "I need no Turkish title to my throne; if they desert me, such a title would avail me little." War was the effect of this retort, but the Turks gained nothing by it, and peace was soon made.
The danger of the power of Austria came now to be fully recognised. After the Napoleonic wars, Austria had retained Cattaro and Spizza, and trouble now broke out over some land near Budua. The Montenegrins fell upon the Austrians, and fierce conflicts ensued, but Peter, who had gained an extraordinary hold over his subjects, forbade them to continue. Hostilities, however, continued in a desultory fashion for some time.
Peter was followed by Danilo II., a weak ruler, but his reign is famous for two events—the cession of the spiritual authority of the Prince-Bishop to an Archbishop and the "Great Charter" of Montenegro. Danilo's reforms, however, led the Turk again to attack his invincible foe, only again to end in great disaster. But in the Crimean War Montenegro, greatly to the disgust of the people, did not participate, and in the Congress which followed Danilo was offered a Turkish title and the hated Turkish protectorate. His willingness to accept this led to the formation of a strong opposition party who demanded war. Fortune was on their side, and the Turks invaded Montenegro. The command fell to Mirko, who from his former exploits had gained the name of the "Sword of Montenegro." A battle was fought at Grahovo, which will ever live in memory as the Montenegrin Marathon. The Turks were completely crushed by a small force of Montenegrins, and peace followed. His brief reign was brought to a close at Cattaro, in 1861, by an assassin's bullet, and Nicolas, his nephew, reigned in his stead.
War broke out again on the Hercegovinian insurrection of the following year, the results of which were disastrous in a high degree to Montenegro. Even the famous Mirko, the father of Prince Nicolas, after sixty battles, could do no more, and the Convention of Scutari (1862) brought the war to a close. It was settled that Mirko, as the firebrand, must leave the country, and various other clauses appear in the Convention, few of which seem to have been strictly adhered to. It needed another war to settle the Turco-Montenegrin border.
The land now enjoyed the blessings of peace for fourteen years, which included a severe famine and an outbreak of cholera. Help was now, however, forthcoming from all sides in the shape of corn and money. In 1869 it was with great difficulty that the Prince could restrain his warlike subjects from aiding the revolted Krivosejans. The Emperor of Austria fully recognised the harm which Montenegro could have done him, and signalised his thanks by the gift of an Austrian Order. But the Montenegrins could not be restrained at the outbreak of the Hercegovinian revolt, and flocked to the standards of their brothers. The Porte's remonstrances were met with a curt demand for the cession of Hercegovina, and Prince Nicolas published at the same time an offensive and defensive alliance with Servia.
Immediately after this (1876) he declared war. Success followed his arms everywhere. A short armistice was concluded, but nothing further came of it, and the war proceeded. The Prince in person stormed the town of Niksic. Podgorica and its fertile plain fell into the hands of the conquerors, and then in quick succession Antivari and Dulcigno were forced to yield. He was about to commence the siege of Scutari when news came of the armistice between Russia and Turkey. The war had shown that no deteriorating element had sprung up among the people; they had fought as their ancestors had fought before them, and covered their name with glory and renown. Montenegro had gained a European reputation from this war, and the Porte, bowing to force of circumstances, finally recognised her independence. For five weary centuries had this struggle continued, and it is owing to the talent of their present ruler that the consummation of their hopes has been brought about. Free they always have been, but an acknowledgment of their freedom has ever been set aside. At last they have attained their object. The Turk no longer regards them as an insubordinate province, and it is more than likely that their former hatred of the Turk will pass away, for they have another enemy, who is pressing at their doors on three sides. The terms of the Berlin Congress granted to Montenegro Zabljak, Spuz, Podgorica, and Antivari. Dulcigno was to be restored to the Turks, and in exchange Gusinje and Plava were to be added to Montenegro. But the Albanian communities refused the lordship of Montenegro, and Dulcigno was granted to the Prince after a great naval demonstration of the Powers in 1880.
The result of this campaign was that Prince Nicolas found his little kingdom increased from an area of 2,580 square kilometres, containing a population of 178,000 inhabitants, to over 9,000 square kilometres and a population of at least 240,000. In the last twenty-five years it has increased to quite another 100,000 inhabitants.
War has never again seriously threatened Montenegro, and Prince Nicolas has been enabled to devote all his energies to the improvement of the land.
There is now no district, however wild and cut off it may be, without its school, attendance at which is purely voluntary. Right well have the people availed themselves of this chance of education, and a sliding scale of school fees permits even the poorest peasant to send his son as well as his more wealthy brother.
The teachers have a seminary at Cetinje, which they must first attend, and a gymnasium on the German and Austrian system can be visited, for those boys who wish to extend their education to an European standard. The same boys usually visit some Russian University, occasionally Vienna or Belgrade, and return to their native land as doctors, engineers, or lawyers, and supply the learned professions.
At Cetinje there is a further High School for Girls, founded by the Empress Marie of Russia in 1869.
As the older men have not enjoyed in their youth the advantages of an education which is now placed within the reach of all, lecturers are sent round the country, and on Sundays, in wild and cut-off districts, a man can be seen lecturing to a group of rough mountaineers who are listening intently. These Government lecturers teach the shepherds how to safeguard their sheep and cattle from disease; the lowland peasants are initiated into the mysteries of vine-growing (every Montenegrin family must plant a vine and attend to it) and tobacco-planting, and general information is given to all.
The Army has been thoroughly reorganised, and is now, thanks to the gift of the Czar, armed with the most modern magazine rifle and officered by men who undergo a training in the armies of Russia, Italy, or France.
The army system is of the simplest. The actual standing army consists of one battalion and a force of artillery, but during the year 4,000 men pass through its ranks and receive a most efficient training. The men return to their homes at the end of four months' training, but drill weekly continues, on Sundays, till the age limit of sixty is reached, when their arms have to be returned to the Government, who again serve them out to the next recruit. Thus the recruit comes equipped for his four months' training, and takes his arms home with him at the conclusion, and is responsible for their good condition. Each man receives a certain number of cartridges, for which he must always be able to account, so that every able-bodied man is an efficient and well-armed soldier capable of taking the field at any moment.
The smartest men become non-commissioned officers, and carry the insignia of their rank on their caps back to private life, where they become again the instructors of the local militia companies. There are two classes of commissioned officers—the officer of the standing army, trained in a Continental army, and who wears a distinctive uniform, and at least one of these is detailed for service in all the militia centres; and the militia officer, who receives his training with the standing battalion or batteries.
Thus at a preconcerted signal, by trumpet and bonfires at night, and in some districts by a salvo of rifles, the whole Montenegrin Army can be mobilised at any given spot within the time that the furthest detachment can travel to the place of rendezvous. An example of the rapidity and ease of this mobilisation was once given to the late Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria, at Cetinje, when an army, drawn from every part of the country, equipped and ready for the field, was assembled within thirty-six hours of the first alarm. There is no commissariat, for each soldier supplies his own food, or rather his wife will keep him supplied in a lengthy campaign; no cavalry, for they are useless; and no heavy artillery.
Law is administered by district courts for the more serious cases, with a Supreme Court of Appeal at Cetinje. There are no lawyers or costs; each man brings his own case and witnesses in civil matters, and criminals are dealt with summarily—that is to say, his district captain sends him in chains to Podgorica, where he receives his final sentence. The smaller district captains and "kmets," or mayors, have a limited amount of jurisdiction, and can inflict punishments, either in fines or short terms of imprisonment. They also settle all minor cases of dispute.
The central, and soon to be the only, prison is at Podgorica. The majority of prisoners are undergoing different sentences, with and without chains, for murders in connection with the vendetta, according to the circumstances. A man who defends his honour, who kills his slanderer, is very lightly punished.
Against only one class of offender does Prince Nicolas exercise his autocratic powers, i.e. the political offender, with whom he is relentless. Such men are thrown into prison, interred in dark cells without trial, and can languish till death sets them free. In this respect the Prince is harsh, and according to Western ideas barbaric, though local circumstances fully excuse his seeming cruelty. The smallness of the prison at Podgorica shows more forcibly than anything else the remarkable lack of crime in the land. At present (1902) dangerous lunatics are confined in the common prison, but an asylum is rapidly nearing completion.
The government is autocratic. A senate, composed of the different ministers, exists in Cetinje, but all powers are jealously held by the Prince. He appoints the ministers and all the higher officials of the land, and only recently have the people been granted the right to elect the kmets.
Montenegrin engineers now build the roads in place of Austrians and Russians, and the difficulties that they meet with and surpass at every turn are sufficient evidence of their capabilities. Foreign doctors and professors are yearly becoming more rare. In fact, Montenegro is rapidly becoming self-supporting and self-educating.
Literature, always in olden times in advance of the surrounding lands, is fostered by the Prince, himself a scholar and a poet of no mean order. Two weekly papers in Cetinje and Niksic have a large circulation.
Under Prince Nicolas' fatherly care the country improves in a wonderful manner from year to year. Roads are planned to connect the whole land, which only lack of funds are hindering from completion, and a railway is projected to connect the towns of Niksic, Podgorica, and Rijeka with Antivari and the sea.
When Prince Nicolas shall be called to his fathers his son, Prince Danilo, will worthily carry on the work so nobly begun by his father, for he is a man imbued with the ideas of Western improvements and civilisation.
The journey to Montenegro—Arrival in Cattaro—Beauty of the Bocche, and the drive to the frontier—First impressions of Montenegro—Njegusi—The national troubadours—Arrival in Cetinje.
The simplest way of entering the Land of the Black Mountain is via Cattaro in Dalmatia. The sea-trip from Trieste, which takes a little over twenty-four hours, is a revelation of beauty, for the Dalmatian coast is sadly unknown to the traveller. The journey can also be made from Fiume, whence the "Ungaro-Croata" send a good and very frequent service of steamers. But the idler should take a slow boat and coast lazily down the Dalmatian archipelago, visiting all the smaller towns and islands, which the fast line is bound to avoid. It is one of the most beautiful sea-trips in Europe, each little port possessing gems of old Roman and Venetian architecture, unrivalled, perhaps, in the world and set in a perfect framework of lovely country and dancing seascape.
It was a glorious morning in May when the Graf Wurmbrand, the Austrian-Lloyd's fast steamer, left Trieste, bearing us to Cattaro. The Gulf of Trieste is very beautiful, for the green hills, all dotted with villas, the busy harbour life, the Julian Alps rising up majestically far away on the starboard, and directly behind the town, gaunt and grey, the naked Karst, of which we were to see so much in Montenegro; all made a picture that it would be difficult to forget.
At midday we arrived at Pola. The entrance to the harbour is well covered by islands, and on each of these frowns a great fort, some of which, however, are so carefully hidden that their locality is only betrayed by a flagstaff. A narrow channel leads to the inner harbour, Austria's naval dockyard and arsenal. Here are the warships and building yards, and away to the left, as a strange and unfitting contrast, the Arena, one of the best-preserved specimens of Roman work, rises seemingly from amongst the houses. Pola is full of Roman remains. All is so green and peaceful, in spite of the countless fortifications which render the harbour well-nigh, if not quite, impregnable, that Nature and War seem for once to go hand-in-hand.
At twilight Zara looms up into view, and another short stay is made. The town turns out en masse for the coming of the Wurmbrand or the Pannonia—the fast boats from Trieste or Fiume are the events of the week. There is no railway here. Unluckily Dalmatia's finest scenery is passed in the night. Trau, with its splendid loggias and churches; Spalato, with the grandeur of Diocletian's palace, are denied to the traveller; Lesina, proudly calling itself the Nice of Austria; Curzola, whose mighty Venetian bastions stand out into the sea, and many another delightful little town and island, only show a twinkling light or two in the darkness as the steamer ploughs by. At daybreak we are nearing Gravosa, Ragusa's modern port. As we leave again, and round the peninsula of Lapad, glorious in a mass of semi-tropical vegetation, Ragusa bursts upon our view. Seen on a sunny morning it is a sight for the gods. Built well into the sea on inaccessible cliffs, surrounded by lofty walls, with a great hill as a background, it has well been called the prettiest bit of Dalmatia. It possesses a magnificent winter climate and a good hotel, so that people are forsaking the Riviera for this comparatively unknown paradise.
Far too soon Ragusa fades away, and now the approaching mountains grow higher and wilder. Those lofty peaks, towering above the others, black and forbidding, are Nature's bulwarks of the land which we are visiting. It is from a distance that the name "Black Mountain" seems so aptly given to this fierce little state, though some historians wish to explain the derivation otherwise.
The Bocche (or mouths) di Cattaro, three in number, are a consummate blending of the Norwegian fjords and the Swiss lakes, and so lofty and steep are the surrounding mountains that the sun can only reach the bottom for a few hours at midday.
Away at the end of one fjord lies the village of Risano, an idyllic spot, whence a road is in the course of construction to Niksic. All the worthy Bocchese are absolutely Montenegrin in sympathy, and Austria has had much trouble with these equally warlike Serbs.
A curious conical hill rises out of the town, a high wall zigzags up to the fort above, showing Cattaro's strength of former days. Now, a few insignificant mounds of earth far away on the mountain-tops are all that is to be seen of the military might of modern Cattaro. Yet how powerful are those forts only the Austrian authorities know. Cattaro and the Bocche are impregnable from sea or land, though this array of strength against land attack seems almost unnecessary, as Montenegro possesses no heavy cannon at all. However, Austria is not reckoning in this case with Montenegro alone. But these are political questions.
We were fortunate in securing a carriage of the Montenegrin post, which has good drivers, and what is still better, a fixed tariff, over which there can be no dispute. The drivers of Cattaro ask, and often get, twice the legal fare from ignorant strangers.
Cattaro affords no comforts to the traveller; more is the pity, as it is one of the most magnificent spots in the world. The town itself is tiny and a perfect maze of little Venetian streets, in which it is easy to lose oneself if it were only larger. To walk upon the Riva and gaze upon those precipitous mountains which tower above the town and its militarily guarded walls is a sight which at first is hardly to be comprehended. It is too stupendous. Such a masterpiece of Nature can never tire.
Montenegrins crowd the streets, and the little market is full of peasants who have wearily staggered down those steep paths in the early dawn with their enormous loads of field produce. Stately men wearing the insignia of their rank on their little caps pace up and down majestically and contrast strangely with the dapper Austrian officers. Their belts yawn suggestively, something is missing to complete the attire. It is the revolver, which Austrian law compels them to leave behind on entering her land. They are obviously ill at ease without that familiar weapon, for ever and anon a hand strays unconsciously to the empty belt seeking its wonted resting-place on the butt.
Strolling one night on the Riva, we involuntarily held our breath as we came in sight of the huge lake, for it is easy to forget that this is the Adria. The waters lay unruffled before us, not a ripple disturbed those glassy depths which reflected every tree and cottage on the opposite bank. Each star found its double twinkling in that placid mirror, and mountain frowned back on mountain. It was almost unreal, so marvellous was the reflection. Behind us, at the top of the great ridge, a silvery effulgence proclaimed the coming of the moon. Her brilliant light silhouetted the grim and rocky ridge in startling clearness, though it was four thousand feet above us. Through a gap rises a peak, round which a filmy cloud had lovingly wrapped itself like a lace shawl upon the snowy shoulders of a beautiful woman. We took a turn down the quay, and at the end we turned our back on this witching view. Hardly had we retraced our steps a few yards when we and all our surroundings were bathed in a glorious white light. We turned again, and were almost forced to shield our eyes as we gazed on the gentle orb which had now surmounted the intervening ridge. The whole fjord was now transformed into a sea of silver almost as bright as midday. Each nestling village was distinct, even to the tiniest window; each tree and shrub on the wall-like mountain, and even the grim forts, were softened in that sweet radiance. The little paths which zigzag up the hills to the forts above look like great white snakes turning and twisting up those rugged cliffs.
At four o'clock on the following morning we made a start, and were well up the mountain by the time that the sun began to make his presence felt.
The high road to Cetinje was built by the Austrians, and it is a marvel of engineering skill, particularly the ascent of the almost perpendicular wall of mountain rising abruptly from Cattaro. In series of serpentines and gradients, which often permit the horses to trot, the road winds up and up, every turn giving a still finer view of the lake below. Cattaro remains in view practically the whole ascent. The view from the top is magnificent and unsurpassed in Europe. The grand bays look like miniature glass ponds, fringed with white toy villages, and far away in the distance the deep blue Adria sparkles and glitters in the sunshine.
Montenegro is entered some little distance from the top, but, as only a row of paving stones indicates the spot, it is not till the carriage dashes through a rocky gorge and out into the open Karst beyond that the traveller realises that he has crossed the border. The sudden change is startling, from the blue sea and green valleys to grey masses of limestone rock and barren mountains. It is the Katunska, the original stronghold of the Montenegrins, within which they defied all comers.
At the first house, solidly built of stone, our carriage halted, and the driver entered it, emerging with the revolver which he had to relinquish on entering Austria. It is a formidable weapon specially manufactured in Vienna for Montenegro, a foot and a half long, firing an enormous cartridge. The revolver is always worn, by all classes alike, and carried loaded by order. The upper classes carry a much smaller and handier weapon, but a revolver must be carried by prince and peasant alike.
Njegusi is the first town or village reached, and here an hour's rest is always made. It is interesting, since it was once the temporary capital, and as the home of the Petrovic family, the reigning dynasty. It lies in a great hollow of fertile ground, and on the southern side the historical Lovcen ascends. On the top the great prince and hero, Peter II., is buried, and his mausoleum brings large numbers of pilgrims yearly.
As our carriage drew up before the little hostelry, a crowd of boys were standing in front of a house opposite, which is half telegraph office and half school, for economy in buildings is practised in Montenegro. They saluted us smartly in military fashion. The born soldier is noticed at once, even in the small children; many generations of fighting ancestors have bequeathed a smartness and accuracy of movement which can be envied by many a Continental trained conscript.
The traveller meets with little attention either here or in Cetinje. It is not till he gets well off the beaten track that he sees the hospitable and courteous Montenegrin as he really is.
During our frugal breakfast of raw ham and goat's cheese, our ears were assailed by the singing of the guslar, or Montenegrin troubadour. The guslars, we noticed, are invariably blind, and as no previous musical education seems necessary, it would appear to be a monopoly of those so afflicted. Their singing is execrable according to Western notions, a range of four or five notes in a wailing minor key making up their register, and they accompany themselves on an instrument (the gusla) from which they derive their name. It is hand-made, resembling a cross between a violin and a mandolin. It possesses one string, and is played with a short curved bow. With careful handling, a series of discordant notes of wearying monotony can be produced. The performance is altogether most doleful.
Yet they are the history books, the legend tellers of the country. They fan the fire of patriotism and loyalty by songs of the deeds and accomplishments of their Prince, of dead heroes and past glorious battles, and form another link with the mediaeval world of which the traveller is so strongly reminded at every step in Montenegro.
As we left the village we passed the birthplace of Prince Nicolas I., though the palace appears to have been entirely rebuilt. In nearly every town or village of importance the Prince has a house, varying considerably in size, but of equally unpretentious exterior.
The road still climbs and reaches the maximum height of three thousand five hundred feet. From this altitude it steadily drops into Cetinje, which lies about two thousand feet above the sea-level. The scenery is unvarying, but not without beauty. It is essentially wild, but the light colour of the rocks and the numerous shrubs which find a footing in the crevices minimise the forbidding character of the country. The land is magnificently adapted for guerilla warfare, where every foot can be contested. Little patches of earth, washed down the hillsides, lie in every hollow, and have been utilised by the careful peasant to grow his tiny crops.
After about seven hours' driving, Cetinje appears in sight, at the end of a long valley, and completely surrounded by the characteristic naked and rugged rocks. The road descends by another series of serpentines, and a long straight drive brings us into the town. The valley is about four miles long and three-quarters of a mile broad and absolutely flat.
The effect is most odd at first sight, a long main street, an open market-place, and a few side streets constituting the capital of an important European principality. The town, on entering it, bears a strong resemblance to a South African township, where, as is the case here, space is no object, and the houses are rarely more than one story high.
We stayed at the Grand Hotel during our first visit. It is the only really good hotel in Montenegro, and in consequence expensive. Here all the tourists stay for a night or so during a hasty visit to the Crnagora, and it is to be avoided by those who wish to see the country.
Cetinje and its sights—Prince Nicolas—The Archbishop—The barracks—The princes—A visit to the prison and its system—Our departure for Podgorica.
There is not much for the tourist to see in Cetinje; a day is quite sufficient to do the sights, such as they are.
Unfortunately for the country, the tourist usually contents himself with a look round the little capital and returns the way he came to Cattaro, only a few prolonging the tour via Rijeka to Scutari. Thus a very erroneous impression is gained of Montenegro and its people. Firstly only a small part of the Katunska is seen, which is the most uninteresting district of the whole country; and, secondly, no idea of the sturdy inhabitants can be formed from the handful of more or less well-to-do officials and merchants, all intimately connected with the outside world, round the proximity of Cattaro.
Cetinje, with its four thousand inhabitants, is simply the residence of the Montenegrin Court, it is not even a trading centre, which the absence of the Turkish element sufficiently proclaims. It is only the question of expense which has hitherto prevented the transference of the capital to another site, viz. Nikzic. Cetinje was chosen as the capital some hundreds of years ago—1484, to be pedantically correct—when a defensible position was the most important factor, which even to-day is a point to be reckoned with.
We will first go round "the sights."
It possesses two historical buildings in the monastery and the Billard, the rest being all of quite modern origin. The monastery is a picturesque pile of grey stone, nestling under a lofty rock, on which is perched the identical round tower, or "kula," to give it its local name, on which the heads of Turks slain in battle were exhibited on spikes. It was not so very long ago that the last grim trophies of war graced its battlements. The monastery contains the burying vault of the reigning house, and is the residence of the Vladika or Archbishop of Montenegro. Prince Nicolas can be found any morning worshipping at the tombs of his ancestors by the visitor who is willing to rise at daybreak. Very often he is the only "faithful" present with the officiating priest at an hour when the sun has hardly peeped over the rocky ramparts of the town.
Prince Nicolas, the lord of this warrior nation, is a man of imposing stature, so broad-shouldered that his height seems far less than it really is, walking with head erect and firm tread and clad in the rich national costume. The stranger involuntarily doffs his cap and receives in return a short military salute, but accompanied by such a piercing glance from a pair of cold grey eyes that he wonders if he is not an intruder in the land. This is, however, far from the case. Under that austere exterior beats a warm heart and an affability of manner to which the lowliest of his peasants will gladly testify. Prince Nicolas likes to see visitors to his land, and many are the little acts of kindness and courtesy that the traveller receives, all unknown, from his hand, for he knows the coming and going of everyone who makes a longer stay than usual.
Sixty years ago Prince and Bishop were united in one person, and though the Bishop or Vladika has to-day no temporal power, yet in spiritual matters he is absolute. A very kindly man is the present Vladika, Mitrofanban. By an odd coincidence his was practically the first house we visited in Montenegro, and with him we drank our last cup of coffee when we left many months later.
The other building is the old palace of the Princes of Montenegro, which won its odd name of Billard or Biljar from the fact that a former Prince was so addicted to the game of billiards that the principal room of the palace was devoted to the game. It is now used for State purposes. The upper floors are occupied by the Government offices, and at one corner is the Supreme Court of Justice and Appeal, whose judgments are only reversible by the Prince himself. Further, the school and printing works are to be found within its quaint old red-brick walls and bastions.
Opposite to this picturesque old building stands the modern and uninteresting one-storied palace of Prince Nicolas. It shows the simplicity of his nature in perhaps a more marked degree than anything else, for little or no privacy from his people is possible. He walks from his house down a short flight of steps into the street. The small courtyard at the back is surrounded by a low wall, the entrances having no gates.
The recently erected palace of the Crown Prince Danilo, which stands on the outskirts of the town, is a somewhat more pretentious building. It has a large garden completely walled in, which is at any rate an apology for privacy and seclusion.
To obtain a comprehensive view of the town, we climbed a small hill immediately above the monastery, on whose summit stands the gilded cupola erected to the memory of Danilo Petrovic, the Lord of Njegusi, founder of the present dynasty. Very pretty the simple little town looks from here, its red roofs giving a pleasing touch of colour to the otherwise severe landscape of grey rock, dazzling white streets, and sparsely vegetated valley.
One afternoon we visited the barracks, which are quite new, and the quarters of the battalion of the standing army. The barrack rooms are spotlessly clean, and the order and neatness unsurpassed, which, together with the smart drilling and superb physique of the soldiers, would delight the heart of the severest martinet. Everything connected with the military training of the Montenegrins is up to the standard of Continental excellence. All the officers undergo a long course of training, either in Russia, France, or Italy, and right well have they utilised this privilege. No wonder that the warlike Montenegrin drills as well as his Continental brother. The standing army wear uniforms, and at a distance remind one of our own troops, with their tight-fitting, short red jackets and tiny caps.
Other conspicuous buildings are the theatre, where performances are given in the winter in the Serb language and where Prince Nicolas' famous drama, The Empress of the Balkans, was first performed; the house of the Austro-Hungarian Minister, which is the best in Cetinje, and the hospital. It is the only hospital in Montenegro, and is used almost solely for serious surgical operations. Here Prince Mirko, the second son of Prince Nicolas, spends much of his time, for his tastes run to bacteriology, and his skill with the microscope is acknowledged. He is also a musician of no mean order, and the march which he composed in honour of the city of Rome, and which was performed there under the leadership of Mascagni, will be in the memory of all. He has none of the tastes of his elder brother, who, true to the traditions of his country, is a mighty hunter, and whose prowess with rifle, gun, and revolver is acclaimed by the people who understand these gifts better.
[Footnote 1: The Russian Minister has now an equally imposing edifice.]
By far the most interesting episode of our sojourn in Cetinje was a visit to the prison, which we were enabled to do with our camera, by the kindness of the Minister of Justice. It was the first time in the annals of Montenegro that strangers had been allowed to take photographs in a prison.
At the appointed hour we approached the plain building, surrounded by no wall of any kind, which does duty as the prison. It is soon to be done away with, and all the prisoners will be transferred to the central prison at Podgorica. Smiling warders welcomed us and conducted us to their living-room, barely furnished and with an array of revolvers—the property of the prisoners—hanging on the walls. A female prisoner prepared us coffee, and while we were sipping the inevitable beverage a glance through the window showed us men busily sweeping the courtyard of the prison.
First of all a warder showed us the fetters—heavy, cumbersome irons, which are riveted to one or both ankles, according to the sentence. But it is only in exceptional cases of aggravated crime that this severer sentence is meted out to the offender. Then we were conducted by the main and only entrance into the courtyard, two sides of which contain the cells of the prisoners. These gentlemen rose with alacrity to their feet as we entered, evidently much pleased at the honour of our visit. Only three men were chained, and of these one remained moodily seated, staring indifferently on the ground before him. He formed such a contrast to his fellow-prisoners' smiling faces that we observed him closer, noticing that his clothes were such as the officials and better class wear.
"Who is he?" I asked.
"A Government clerk convicted of embezzlement," was the answer. "Six weeks in chains is his sentence."
"And what have the other criminals done?" was our next query.
"Oh, they have mostly quarrelled amongst themselves. They are not criminals. We have very few thieves and robbers in Montenegro. This youth," went on our informant, pointing to a young man with a pleasant face, and who grinned with joy as he noticed the attention with which we favoured him, "has a ten years' sentence for quarrelling."
"But quarrelling," we repeated. "Is it punishable to quarrel?"
"Yes, too many lives are lost," was the laconic reply.
"Oh," we exclaimed, a light breaking in upon us, "you mean murder! They are all murderers?"
"We have no murderers," came the indignant response. "Our land is as safe from murder as any other in the world. No one kills to rob or steal in Montenegro. But we just quarrel amongst ourselves. We are hot-blooded and shoot quickly, that is all."
P. and I looked at each other, but neither of us felt inclined to venture any further remarks; so we examined a dark cell with interest, without furniture or light, and one of six used for the worst kind of offender, viz. the political. They were all untenanted. We had all crowded inside, our warders as well, and as we emerged again into the strong light, I noticed the gate wide open and no visible guard.
"You have left the gate open!" exclaimed P., as he saw it.
Our warders laughed. Afterwards we understood.
Then we inspected a common cell, where about a dozen men sleep. Each man brings his own bedding and nicknacks, with which he decorates the wall above his bed and makes the place as much like home as possible. Loss of liberty is the only real punishment, and even that is not carried to an excess. The Prince has said that the restraint that they suffer is enough, and thus the prisoners have comparatively free intercourse with the outside world, plenty to eat, and on festivals wine and even spirits and a dance with their friends outside. This latter scene we witnessed some time afterwards on another visit to Cetinje. The only real severity is the chains, but these sturdy mountaineers soon accustom themselves to these thirty-pound trinkets, and when photographed take good care to arrange them tastefully and prominently. When we lined them up for a picture, we demanded a front place for the chained men, to their intense delight and the chagrin of the others who cast envious glances at their more favoured brethren. No doubt in that moment the unchained men wished they had gone just a little further in their "quarrel."
After a pleasant half-hour with these quarrelsome gentlemen, we went round to the ladies who occupy a wing of the prison, with all windows and doors facing outwards on to the open ground. Again no fence or wall marked a limit to their prison, and they walk in and out of their cells at leisure. However, there is a boundary marked out by posts and trees, beyond which they may not go. As we appeared they were sitting about, singly and in groups, knitting peacefully in the warm sunshine. We again inspected their quarters, and learnt that the odd score of women represented the total crime of the land.
A blushing and gratified array of staid matrons and coquettish girls faced the camera, again only one young maiden of fifteen or sixteen showing any sense of shame, and she fled into her cell, only to be ruthlessly ordered out by a warder.
Soon afterwards we took our leave, and as we crossed the small unenclosed square before the men's prison we found it crowded by the late inmates of the courtyard, walking merrily up and down or chatting with friends on the outskirts, over which neither party may step. Only the dismal clanking of a chain here and there proclaimed to the casual observer the fact that they were prisoners. Lithe, active, and athletic men, none of whom fear death, and guarded by four warders in the loosest possible fashion, yet they never attempt a dash for freedom up the rocky slope which reaches down to their very promenade ground. Flight would entail their escaping from their country altogether, never to return, and that no Montenegrin has ever been known to do. Even though they work for years in strange lands, they invariably return to their rugged native mountains and end their days in peace. And so they serve their time in patience, and go home at the expiry of the sentence "without a stain on their character."
Many months afterwards we chanced to arrive in Cetinje on the occasion of a great feast. A stranger happened to be with us, a German, and we were showing him the sights. Naturally we also wended our way to the prison, hoping to be able to give him the unique spectacle of the prisoners strolling freely up and down their garden. As we neared the square sounds of singing and music assailed our ears, and in front of the women's quarters a large ring was swaying to and fro in the national dance termed "kolo." Men and women were performing together, otherwise the sexes are kept severely apart, while others sat around in groups partaking of wine and food which their friends or relations had brought them, and they all sat chatting and laughing together as though this were their natural state of existence.
"The prisoners," I said, pointing to the dancers.
"Nonsense," said the German.
"Come nearer and listen," I answered, for even I had my doubts for the moment; but my ear had caught the clanking of chains above the wild music.
They were the prisoners right enough, and many of the men moved heavily and awkwardly to the slow rhythm of the motion. It is not easy to dance with such ornaments as are provided free and gratis by the paternal Prince to curb an exuberance of spirits.
A great trial that the photographer has to undergo, be he professional or a strolling amateur, is the immediate demand for the picture. The mysteries of dark rooms and developing are not to be lightly explained, and the refusal to show the picture, for which the vain Montenegrins have so willingly stood, is accounted churlish. They are only appeased with a promise of a picture a few weeks later. Their names and addresses are hurriedly scribbled and handed with many peremptory requests for the picture to be sent as soon as possible.
Just before we left Cetinje, on our way to Podgorica, during our first visit, a bowing and deeply humble individual accosted us in the hotel. When he had straightened himself up a bit, and we could see his face, we recognised one of the prison warders. After many expressions of sorrow for disturbing us, we gathered that on the occasion of our visit to the prison only three of the four warders had been present. The fourth—and it would appear the head warder—had arrived after our departure, and learning of the photographs and his omission, had made things a bit hot for his three favoured confreres. Therefore would we of our goodness come and photograph him, and thus make life worth living again? Would we restore the peace and harmony of that little community?
With sorrow we declined, our carriage awaited us, and the day was hot. Some other time, we said. And with that uncertain comfort he was forced to be content.
"But," he said, "the money which you have so generously given us and the prisoners has been expended on 'raki' (local spirits). We and the prisoners will pray for your souls for many nights ere we sleep."
As we drove up the ascent from the town towards our new destination, we glanced back at the red-roofed little capital and noticed the low, grey stone building of the prison.
"We ought to sleep well to-night," remarked P., nodding towards it.
It is something to be prayed for, even if only by criminals of the quarrelsome type.
The view from Bella Vista—New scenery—Promiscuous shooting—The market in Rijeka—The shepherds—Their flocks—Wayside hospitality—The plain of the Zeta—The Moraca—The Vizier bridge—Old war-marks—First and last impressions of Podgorica.
The drive from Cetinje to Rijeka, and from thence till the final descent to Podgorica, is quite as fine as any other part of Montenegro. For about twenty minutes after leaving Cetinje the road climbs and attains its greatest altitude on this tour, and at its highest point—only half an hour's walk from the town—possesses one of the most striking and beautiful views. It is rightly called "Bella Vista," and a shelter hut and chairs are thoughtfully provided for the visitor.
A wonderful panorama meets his eye as he suddenly reaches the top. A fantastic sea, as it were, of hills, like the waves of a storm-tossed ocean, encircles him, and at his feet, green and wooded, lies a long fertile valley. Stretching far away into the gates of distance in its vast expanse, glitters the Lake of Scutari. Round a small dim spur of land running into the lake, lies Scutari itself, which is, however, not visible. To the left a forbidding chain of magnificent mountains, dwarfing the intervening hills into insignificance, fascinate him by their repellent grandeur. Snow-clad, except in the height of summer, these mountains seem symbolical of the land they border, that savage and unknown Albania. A glimpse of a green valley below can just be caught, there lies Podgorica, our destination. At our feet a long, low-lying plateau ends abruptly in a wall of rock, through which the road vanishes, and which can be traced white and threadlike on the overhanging hillside. Beyond is the valley and town of Rijeka. The mountains to the right are the Rumija, behind whose naked comb is the deep blue Adria, and which we must climb to reach the port of Antivari. The lake is dotted at the near end with islands, distinguishable amongst which is a conical-shaped hill crowned by a fortress. That is Zabljak, the whilom capital of Crnagora, and home of its ancient rulers, the Black Prince dynasty. The whole view is like a map in bas-relief.
Gone now are the barren rocks and sparsely vegetated hills of the Katunska, and we are now in the fertile middle zone of Mediterranean vegetation, which includes the valley of the Zeta right up to Niksic.
As we careered along, we were closely followed by another carriage, in which were crowded five Montenegrins and Albanians, who were evidently bent on making the pace. The Montenegrins are ever reckless drivers; they dash round sharp corners at full gallop, with a precipice of several hundred feet below—and there is never sufficient parapet to prevent a carriage dashing over—so that one involuntarily leans to the inner side of the carriage with that uncomfortable sinking feeling which can be experienced at sea. With a shout to warn anybody coming up the hill, the driver cracks his whip and dashes round each corner with a sublime indifference to danger.
Whenever we slackened, our pursuing carriage came up at a rush, and its occupants emitted wild yells and vociferated polite requests to pass. Off we tore again, and at last reached that point where the descent begins in serpentines to Rijeka. When we were tearing along a lower level of the road, but a few yards below our rivals, we noticed with momentary misgivings that they had drawn their long revolvers and were holding them in their hands.
Suddenly they began to fire, for no apparent reason, which habit is apt to be startling to a nervous traveller on his first journey. But our youthful driver let fly an answering shot; on inquiring he told us that it was to encourage the horses. Afterwards we never rode or drove any distance in the country without our revolvers, so that we too might help in the encouragement.
That afternoon Rijeka presented a brilliant picture. On entering the town hundreds of peasants were congregated round the cattle-market on the outskirts, but it was on the broad street by the river bank that the most animated scene was to be witnessed. Every Montenegrin town should be seen on a market day, for then the peasants from far and near, in their best clothes and rifles over their shoulders, flock to the town with cattle and sheep and field produce. Rifles are usually carried when going on a long journey, particularly in the vicinity of Albania. This is partly as a sign of allegiance to their Prince, but chiefly because Montenegro stands ever before a sudden mobilisation. Should the soldier peasant hear the alarm, he must make his way at once for the rendezvous as speedily as possible, without detour. Further, hundreds of armed Albanians from the borders are always in their midst, as was the case to-day.
Rijeka is a very busy little place, being the half-way village between the capital and Podgorica, and is still more important as the starting-point of the little steamer which plies twice weekly down the lake to Scutari. The river runs between lovely green hills rising straight from its banks, wooded and luxuriant, reminding one not a little of the Thames at Cookham.
The Prince has a small palace just beyond the town, and spends the coldest winter months here, where he escapes the rigours of the climate in Cetinje. About half-an-hour's walk is the ancient fortress of Obod, famed in history as the site of the first printing-press (destroyed very soon by the Turks) in the Balkans, and indeed one of the first in the world, for Caxton was only a few years ahead. The fact speaks for the ever forward striving spirit which has animated Montenegro's rulers since its very foundation, and which only the rigours of pitiless warfare have hindered.