During one of the halts on the line of march, I found the mouth of what must have been a coal-pit of large dimensions. The entrance of this was on the bank of a dry stream, and several masses of what appeared to be a concrete of lignite and coal betokened the existence of the latter in a purer form within the bowels of the surrounding country. This I showed to Omer Pacha, who said that he would adopt my suggestion of having it worked by military labour for the purpose of consumption during the winter months. In several places, I subsequently came across the same characteristics, which convince me of the existence of a spurious description of coal in large quantities in the province. In Bosnia it is plentiful, and of a very superior quality.
Some miles before we reached the camp we were met by Omer Pacha and his staff.
As may be supposed, the most extravagant reports of the extent of our disaster had preceded us. The most moderate of these involved the death of Ali Pacha (no great loss by the way), and about 1,000 men put hors de combat. Omer's face wore a grave expression when we met, and his 'Eh bien, Monsieur, nous avons perdu un canon sans utilite' boded ill for the peace of Osman Pacha. It was a pleasing duty to be able to refute the assertion that this last had lost his head on the occasion in question. Although guilty of grievous error of judgement, the other more pitiful charge could hardly be laid to his account, since he never for a moment lost his habitual sangfroid and self-possession.
The subsequent operations during 1861 were scarcely of a more decisive nature than those in the early part of the campaign. They consisted for the most part of slight skirmishes, which, though unimportant in themselves, tended to establish the Turks in their occupation of the country, and produced a good moral effect.
One event, however, deserves notice, as giving fair evidence of the respective merits of the belligerent parties. In pursuance of the plan which he had originally devised, Omer Pacha established a permanent fortified camp in Piwa. Twelve battalions under Dervisch Pacha were concentrated at this point; and at the time of the contest which I am about to describe, Omer Pacha was himself present. Reduced to the greatest straits by famine and the presence of the Turkish troops, and inspired doubtless by the knowledge of the Generalissimo's presence in the camp, the rebels resolved to make a desperate onslaught upon the entrenchments.
On the morning of October 26, a strong force was despatched from camp to procure forage, wood, and other necessaries. While thus employed, the enemy, favoured by the formation of the surrounding country, made a sudden and well-sustained attack upon this force, in conjunction with a consentaneous assault upon the entrenchments. With more judgement than is generally found amongst Turkish commanders, the foraging party was brought back to camp, though not before it had suffered a considerable loss. In the meantime charge upon charge was being made by the half-naked savages who formed the Christian army, against the enclosed space which was dignified by the name of an entrenched camp. Three times they forced an entrance, and three times were they driven out at the point of the bayonet, while the guns mounted on the works made wide gaps in their retreating columns. After several hours' hard fighting, in which both sides displayed exemplary courage, the assailants were compelled to withdraw, leaving many hundred dead upon the field. The Turkish loss was something under a hundred, owing to the advantage they derived from fighting under the cover of their guns and walls.
Shortly after this event Omer Pacha returned to Mostar, contenting himself with holding the various passes and other points on the frontier, which enabled him to keep an unremitting watch over the disturbed district.
Early in the spring of 1862 he returned to the frontier, which he will doubtless pacify before the extreme heat and drought shall have forced him to suspend military operations. With this view eighteen battalions of infantry and 3,000 irregulars have been concentrated at and about Trebigne, which he has this year made his base of operations. The judicious disposal of his troops, which he has effected, have driven Luca Vukalovitch and his band of hornets to take refuge in Suttorina, adjacent to the Austrian territory. This circumstance caused the Austrians at the end of last year to enter that district for the purpose of destroying certain batteries, which were considered to be too close to the Austrian frontier. The legality of this measure is doubtful; yet it may be believed that the step was not taken with any view to promoting hostilities with Turkey.
The final success of the Turkish arms can scarcely be long delayed, since starvation must inevitably effect all in which the sword may fail. The armed occupation of the country during the past year has at any rate so far worked good, that it has effectually prevented the rebellious Christians from getting in the crops which belonged to themselves or their weaker neighbours, while it has enabled such of the Mussulmans as chose to do so to reap their harvest in security. Should these expectations, however, not be realised, the result would indeed be serious to the Ottoman empire. In such case either her already rotten exchequer must receive its death-blow, or she will be compelled to evacuate the Herzegovina, a course which would be gladly welcomed by her enemies, since it would probably be but the first step towards the dismemberment of the whole empire.
Before quitting the army, I would fain pay a passing tribute to the good qualities of the Turkish soldiers. Having seen them under circumstances of no ordinary difficulty and privations, I found them ever cheerful and contented with their unenviable lot. Uninfluenced by feelings of patriotism—for such a word exists not in their language—unaffected by the love of glory, which they have not sufficient education to comprehend, the only motives by which they are actuated are their veneration for their Sultan and the distinctive character of their religion. It would be well for their Sultan did he appreciate the sterling military qualities of his people. With good management and honest reform, an army might be created which, if inferior in materiel to those of certain European powers, would in the matter of personnel be sufficiently good to render the Turkish dominions perfectly secure from hostile invasion, which is now very far from the case. At present, unfortunately, his whole attention is devoted to the manning and equipment of the navy, for the amelioration of which large sums of money are paid and heavy debts incurred. The visionary character of his ambitious projects on this head is apparent to all but himself, since the Turkish navy can scarcely be expected ever to attain more than a fifth or sixth-rate excellence. The recent changes in the dress of the army betoken that some attention has been devoted of late to the subject. Nothing can be more desirable than an assimilation of the uniform to the natural style of costume; and the loose Zouave dresses of the army of the Turkish imperial guard[R] are not only better adapted to soldiers who do not indulge in the luxury of beds and the like, than the tight-fitting garments heretofore in use, but present a far more workmanlike appearance, for the simple reason that they understand better how to put them on.
After a month's sojourn in the tents of the Osmanlis, the rapid shortening of the days warned me of the necessity for pushing on if I wished to see the more peaceable portion of the country, before the snows of winter should render travelling impossible. Already the day had arrived when the first fall of snow had taken place in the previous year.
Despite the hardships indispensable from the kind of life we had been living, it was with much regret that I bade farewell to my hospitable entertainers, and started once more on my solitary rambles. For the first day, at least, I was destined to have company, as the Pacha of Bosnia's private Secretary was about to return to Bosna Serai, having fulfilled a mission on which he had been sent to the camp of the Commander-in-Chief. My object was to return to Mostar by way of Nevresign, which, as well as being new ground to me, forms a portion of the projected line of defence. After waiting no less than five hours and a half for an escort of Bashi Bazouks, who, with true Turkish ideas of the value of time, presented themselves at 12.30, having been warned to be in attendance at 7 A.M., we at length got under weigh. These irregulars were commanded by Dervisch Bey, one of the principal Beys in that neighbourhood. Some twenty years ago his father, a devout Mussulman, and a cordial hater of Christians, whom, it must be acknowledged, he lost no opportunity of oppressing, built for himself a large square house flanked with towers, and otherwise adapted for defensive purposes. This is situated about six miles from Gasko, and here he lived in considerable affluence. Taken one day at an unguarded moment, he was murdered by the Christians, and his mantle descended upon his son, who, if he has not the same power or inclination to oppress, shows himself perfectly ready to do battle on all occasions against the murderers of his father. This individual, then, mounted on a good useful-looking horse, and loaded with silver-hilted daggers, pistols, and other weapons of offence, was destined to be our guide. Our road lay through a long narrow defile, which, like most parts of the Herzegovina, abounds with positions capable of defence. After five hours' travelling we arrived at Zaloum, a small military station situated at the highest point of the pass. I did not see any attempt at fortifications; but, as all the villages are built quite as much with a view to defence as convenience, these are hardly necessary. Every house is surrounded by a court-yard, in most cases loopholed. Taking up our quarters at the only house capable of affording the most ordinary shelter, we passed the evening, as far as I was concerned, pleasantly enough. The Secretary, a middle-aged and very affable Slave, was also somewhat of a bon vivant, and, with the help of sundry adjuncts which he carried with him, we made a very good meal. The habit of drinking rakee, eating cheese, and other provocatives of thirst before dining, is quite as rife in these parts of the empire as at Stamboul, and it frequently happens that the dinner-hour of a fashionable man is later than in London during the height of the season. Breakfasting at twelve, they do not touch food again till dinner-time, and even then their repeated nips of rakee taken in the hour previous to the repast renders them little disposed for eating. Shortly after we had commenced dinner at Zaloum, a great chattering and confusion in the court-yard proclaimed a new arrival. This proved to be Asiz Bey, an aide-de-camp of Omer Pacha, who was on his road to Mostar. Snatching a hurried meal, he once more mounted, and pushed on in the darkness, with the intention of not pulling rein again until his arrival in Mostar. Later in the evening an excited agriculturist made his appearance, and with much humility demanded the return of his pack-saddle, which he affirmed that one of my servants had stolen. It fell out in this wise: I had engaged a certain youth of the Greek faith, named Giovanni, to look after my baggage-ponies, which he invariably allowed to stray whenever most required. On the occasion of our leaving Gasko one of these was, as usual, absent without leave, and on his being discovered, the pack-saddle in which these long-suffering animals pass their existence had been removed. Giovanni, whose pilfering habits were only equalled by his disregard of truth, replaced the missing article in the simplest way, by doing unto others as they had done unto him, and appropriated the first saddle he came across. To allow the saddle to return to Gasko was impossible, as I could not have proceeded on my journey without it; so I induced the owner to part with it at a considerable profit, mulcting Giovanni of the same. The following morning we descended into the plain of Nevresign, one of the seven or eight large plains in the province.
The road approaching the town passes between two cemeteries—that of the Mussulmans on the right being the most pleasantly situated, for thus it was that, even in death, they were more regarded than their less-favoured Christian brethren. On the outskirts I noticed a very primitive movable house, strongly characteristic of the kind of life led by the people: it consisted of two skates, with a hurdle laid across for flooring and others for walls, the whole being thatched. In this the shepherd sleeps when he pens his cattle: this he does in a very small space, shifting his position every night, and thus practically manuring the country. The town itself has little worthy of notice, save the new fortified barrack which the Turks are constructing. No labourers were, however, engaged upon it at the time of my visit: it consists of an oblong work, with bastions at the angles, on each of which it is intended to mount three guns. It was proposed to build accommodation for 1,600 men, but the size of the work did not appear to me to warrant the belief that it would hold so many. There will be no necessity for the townspeople to take shelter within its walls in the event of an attack, as it immediately overhangs the town, and is itself commanded by the hills in its rear. The engineer officer who conducted me over it informed me that an earthwork would be thrown up on the most commanding position, and two block-houses built at other points. The arrangements for obtaining a supply of water appeared simple; and as it is the only attempt at modern fortification which I have seen in Turkey, I shall be curious to hear of its completion.
Leaving Nevresign one crosses two mountains, which, with the exception of about an hour and a half distance, are traversed by a road. Save one in course of construction from Mostar to Metcovich, it is the only attempt at road-making in the province. It is bad enough, as all Turkish roads are, their engineers having not the slightest idea of levelling. They take the country as they find it, apparently thinking that a zigzag, no matter at what slope the angles may be, is the highest triumph of their art. Until our arrival at Blagai, six miles from Mostar, an escort was deemed necessary, though it was really of not the slightest use, since the rebels, if so inclined, might have disposed of the whole party without once showing themselves. On nearing Mostar I looked with curiosity for any signs of progress in the new powder magazine or barracks, which are situated in the plain outside the town. They both appeared in precisely the same condition as when I left, save for the absence of some hundreds of ponies, which were at that moment eating mouldy hay at Gasko and its vicinity. In the barrack square several block-houses which Omer Pacha had ordered appeared to be in a state of completion. These are made of wood and have two stories, each house being capable of containing about two companies of infantry. The walls are loopholed and of sufficient thickness to resist musket balls: the use to which they were to be applied was the protection of working parties and small detachments during the construction of more permanent defences; and as the rebels are without carcases or liquid fire-balls or other scientific implements of destruction, it is possible that they may answer their purpose well enough.
At the British Consulate I found Mr. H., the Consul at Bosna Serai, who was on his road to Ragusa, where the European Commission for carrying out reforms in Turkey was about to reassemble, with the view of watching the progress of events. Little good could be expected to result from their deliberations, for matters had not been in any way simplified since their adjournment two months before. The sincerity of the individual members of the Commission cannot be called in question; but what avails that, when other agents of the governments so represented apply themselves with assiduity to stultify the very measures which their colleagues are endeavouring to effect. As might have been anticipated, their sittings at Ragusa proved as ineffectual as those at Mostar, and in three weeks' time they once more adjourned, and have not since reassembled. Whatever difference of opinion may have existed amongst the members on this point, at any rate they professedly agreed that it is for the interest of these provinces that the Turkish rule should remain inviolate, but that this rule must be very decidedly ameliorated. Of its sincerity in wishing to bring this about the Porte will find it difficult to convince the Christian malcontents, so deeply rooted is their mistrust. Secret agents are not wanting to check any spirit of wavering which may show itself in the insurgents. In the meanwhile both Bosnia and Herzegovina are being rapidly exhausted. Even in peaceable times, the people of the Herzegovina had to draw their supplies of grain from Bosnia, while the import trade of both provinces more than doubled the export in value. The demand for horses for military purposes has of late still farther crippled commercial enterprise, as the people are thereby deprived of the only means of transport in the country. At Mostar, even, it was impossible to buy coals, as the peasants were afraid of exposing their horses to the probability of being pressed, with the certainty of remaining unpaid.
The foregoing remarks may appear to corroborate ill my oft-repeated assertion of the immunity of the Christians from persecution by the constituted Mussulman authorities. A distinction should be made between oppression and misgovernment, the existence of which last is fully admitted on all hands. It applies in an almost equal degree to the professors of all religions in Turkey; and when the Christians have been induced by designing minds, as has sometimes been the case, to pour out to the world a torrent of grievances, these have been proved in almost all instances to have been as much imaginary as real; such at least was the opinion of the Grand Vizier, after his visit of enquiry through European Turkey in 1860; and his views, which might otherwise be deemed prejudiced, were supported by Mr. L——, the Consul-General at Belgrade, who was deputed by the British Ambassador to attend the Ottoman functionary. That gentleman's opinion—concurred in, as it is, by almost all British officials—is especially worthy of attention, since the greater part of his life has been passed in the Turkish dominions, and a large share of his attention devoted to this particular subject. At Widdin, a petition was presented, signed by 300 persons, complaining of the local authorities. These names were mostly forgeries, and even the alleged grievances were of a trivial nature; outrages, and forced conversion to Islamism, could nowhere be proved. The source whence the petition emanated may be shrewdly guessed, since M. Sokoloff, the Russian Consul at Widdin, was removed to Jerusalem only a few days before the commencement of the enquiry. One subject of complaint was the appointment of the bishops by the patriarch at Constantinople, which strongly confirms the supposition of its Russian origin. The petition was moreover presented by one Tuno, a Rayah, who had been turned out of the Medjlis for corruption, and was at the time a hanger-on at the Russian consulate. Those few who acknowledged to having signed the document, stated that they believed it to have been a remonstrance against the pig tax.
The second ground of complaint was that the Cadi had interfered in the affairs of the Christians; i.e. in matters of inheritance, and in the administration of the property of minors. This also proved untenable, although, in the course of the enquiry, it transpired that something of the sort had occurred at Crete, which was ingeniously perverted to suit their purpose on the occasion in question.
Thirdly, it was alleged that the Christian members of the Medjlis were allowed no voice in its deliberations. This the Bishop even denied. Had they said that their opinions were of little weight, it would have been nearer the truth. Nor can we wonder at this, since it is in vain that we look for any spirit of independence among the Christian members; and this not more in consequence of the domineering spirit of the Turks, than from the natural disposition of the Christians, which is cringing and corrupt. Time and education can alone effect a change for the better. The government may, by the promulgation of useful edicts, and by the establishment of schools common to all religions, materially hasten this desirable end; but in the present condition of the Christian population, it is questionable whether more harm than good would not result from the proclamation of social equality.
The veritable grounds of complaint, on which the petition in question did not touch, it is within the power of the government to remove; and this, we may confidently anticipate, will be done.
Equality before the law is the principal and first thing to be established, and such at present is not the case. Christian evidence, for example, is received in criminal, but not in civil causes, i.e. in questions concerning property. Moreover, even in criminal causes of any importance, the decision of the inferior courts, where Christian evidence is admissible, is referred for confirmation to superior courts, where such testimony is not accepted. In defence of this it is urged, that Turkish property would be endangered, if, in the present demoralised state of society, Christian evidence were admitted. But, while advancing this argument, it is forgotten that this state is traceable to the lax and vicious system pursued in the Mussulman courts, where, as the only way of securing justice for the Christians, Mussulman witnesses are allowed to give false evidence.
Another abuse, of which the most is made by the enemies of Turkey, is the forcible abduction of Christian girls by Mussulmans. The practice has, however, almost died out, except in northern Albania; and yet it is this alone which formed the groundwork of the most important of Prince Gortschakoff's charges, viz. the forced conversion of Christians to Islamism. It would, doubtless, fall into disuse in that part of the country, were the offence dealt with as an ordinary police affair; but the clumsy machinery of Turkish law, however sincere may be its object, has done little to diminish the evil. Many schemes have been devised for its prevention. One was to make the girl appear before the court which rejects Christian evidence, and declare herself a Christian or Mussulman. If she confessed her faith, she was returned to her friends, and the ravisher nominally punished; but, as they almost always declared themselves to be Mahomedans, the Christians complained that fear or other undue pressure had been put upon them. To obviate this, it was decided that the girl should be sequestered in the house of the Bishop for three days previous to her making her profession of faith. This has, however, been discontinued, as it produced much scandal; and the question remains undecided.
Instincts of race are far stronger in Turkey than is generally supposed. In Albania, where the Mussulmans are deemed more fanatical than elsewhere, these are more powerful than even the instincts of religion. Thus, while other Christians are looked down upon and treated with severity, the Miridits, who are of Albanian blood, are allowed to wear their arms, and admitted to equal privileges with their Mahomedan fellow-countrymen. In Bosnia, more than anywhere throughout the empire, the question has been one of feudal origin, that is to say, of a privileged and unprivileged class, analogous to that which now occupies the Russians; although in Bosnia the former class has been gradually losing importance, and sinking into a lower position.
To the demoralised condition of the Christians themselves, then, combined with Turkish misgovernment, resulting from their semi-civilisation, may the existing unsatisfactory state of affairs be attributed, and not to any systematic oppression. It is the want of this, which renders it difficult for the Porte, now that the central power has been strengthened at the expense of the local, to take any decided steps for improving the position of the Christians; all that it can do is to place all upon a footing of legal equality, to encourage education, and to promote everything which shall have for its object the developement of the natural resources of the country.
[Footnote R: The 1st Corps d'Armee of the empire.]
Excursion to Blato—Radobolya—Roman Road—Lichnitza—Subterraneous Passage—Duck-shooting—Roman Tombs—Coins and Curiosities—Boona—Old Bridge—Mulberry Trees—Blagai—Source of Boona River—Kiosk—Castle—Plain of Mostar—Legends—Silver Ore—Mineral Products of Bosnia—Landslip—Marbles—Rapids—Valley of the Drechnitza.
The week following upon my return to Mostar was devoted to excursions to different spots in the vicinity of the town. In one instance the pleasure was enhanced by the anticipation of some duck-shooting; for, as the event will show, the expectation was never realised. Our destination was Blato, a plain about nine miles distant, which all maps represent as a lake, but which does not deserve the name, as it is only flooded during the winter months. The party consisted of M. Gyurcovich, the Hungarian dragoman of the British consulate; the Russian Consul; his domestic, a serf strongly addicted to the use of ardent drinks, of which he had evidently partaken largely on the occasion in question; a French doctor, who had many stories of the Spanish war, in which he had served; two other individuals, and myself.
About one hour from Mostar, we arrived at the source of the Radobolya, which flows through Mostar and falls into the Narenta near the old bridge. The road was sufficiently well defined, although needing repair in places. The walls on either side, as well as its general construction, proclaim its Roman origin. It was doubtless a part of the great main road from the east to Dalmatia. It is only at occasional points that it is so easily discernible, but sufficient evidence exists to show that on quitting the Albanian mountains it passed Stolatz, crossed the bridge at Mostar, and continued thence by a somewhat circuitous route to Spalatro. On emerging from the defile through which we had been marching, the plain of Blato lay extended before us, some nine or ten miles in length and four in breadth. The land, which must be extremely fertile, is cultivated in the spring, but only those cereals which are of the most rapid growth are produced; such as millet, Indian corn, and broom seed, from which a coarse description of bread is made. The Lichnitza, which runs through it, is a mere stream. It takes its rise near the Austro-Bosnian frontier, and loses itself in the hills which surround Blato. The plain is porous and full of holes, from which, in the late autumnal months, the waters bubble up. This continues until the river itself overflows, covering the entire plain to a considerable depth, in some parts as much as thirty-six feet. The original passage under the hills, by which the water escaped, is said to have been filled up at the time of the Turkish conquest. If such be true, it might be reopened with little cost and trouble, and the plain would thus be rendered most valuable to the province.
Arrived at the scene of operations, we lost little time in getting to work. A still evening, and a moon obscured by light clouds, promised well for sport; and we should doubtless have made a large bag had ordinary precautions been taken. These, however, were not deemed necessary by the majority of the party, who walked down in the open to the river's edge, smoking and chattering as though they expected the 'dilly-dills to come and be killed' merely for the asking. The result, I need not say, was our return almost empty-handed. Late in the evening we assembled round a large fire, to eat the dinner which our servants had already prepared; after which we courted sleep beneath the soothing influences of tales of love and war as related by our AEsculapian friend, who undeniably proved himself to have been a very Don Quixote. Early the following morning we were again afoot, and a few partridges, hares, and quail rewarded our exertions. Amongst the hills, where most of the game was shot, I noticed several old Roman tombs. Many of these were merely large shapeless blocks of stone, while others were of the proper sarcophagus form, ornamented with sculptures of considerable merit. On some were depicted men in armour, with shields and long straight swords, while others had two men with lances aimed at a deer between them. The absence of anything like moulding on the sides proves their great antiquity. In its place we find a rather graceful pattern, vines with leaves and grapes predominating; or, as in other cases, choruses of women holding hands and dancing. In no instance did I detect anything denoting immorality or low ideas, so prevalent in the sculptures of intermediate ages. Amongst these tombs, as also on the sites of the ancient towns, curiosities and coins are found. Of the last, small Hungarian silver pieces, and large Venetian gold pieces, are the most numerous; although Roman copper coins are by no means rare. Stones engraved with figures of Socrates and Minerva were shown to me, as having been found in the province, and it is only two years since, that two golden ear-rings of fifteen drachms weight, and about the size of pigeons' eggs, were dug up in the neighbourhood of Blato. About the same time a ring was found, of which the Pacha obtained possession. It was of iron, set with a stone only three tenths of an inch in diameter, on which were most beautifully engraved no fewer than nine figures of classical deities.
The ensuing day I devoted to a double expedition to Boona and Blagai. The former of these is about six miles distant, on the plain from Mostar. It consists of a few houses built by the rebellious Ali Pacha, who was Vizier at the time of Sir Gardner Wilkinson's visit to Herzegovina. That functionary's villa, which is now the country-house of the British Consul, is a moderate-sized yellow house, with little to recommend it save its situation at the confluence of the Boona and the Narenta. The former is spanned by a large bridge of fourteen arches, upon one of which is a Turkish inscription, from which it appears that it was repaired by the Turks in the year of the Hegira 1164—that is to say, 113 years ago.
The bridge is in all probability of Roman construction, though the Turkish habit of erasing all inscriptions, and substituting others in Turkish in their place, renders it impossible to fix precise dates. Near the villa stands a square house intended for the nurture of silk-worms, while a garden of 30,000 mulberry trees shows that Ali Pacha had pecuniary considerations in view as well as his domestic comfort. From Boona to Blagai is about six miles, and here also is a bridge of five arches across the Boona. Leaving the village, which stands on the banks of the river, we proceeded to its source. Pears, pomegranates, olives, and other fruit trees grow in great luxuriance, and two or three mills are worked by the rush of water, which is here considerable. The cavern from which the river pours in a dense volume, is about eight feet high, and situated at the foot of a precipitous cliff, under which stands a kiosk, the abode of our fighting friend the Affghan Dervish. Thence we proceeded to the castle, which stands on the summit of a craggy height, overlooking the village on the one side, and the road to Nevresign on the other. Speaking of this, Luccari says, 'Blagai stands on a rock above the river Bosna, fortified by the ancient Voivodas of the country to protect their treasure, as its name implies, Blagia (or Blago) signifying treasure.'[S]
It was governed by a Count, and the Counts of Blagai performed a distinguished part in the history of Herzegovina. Some of them, as the Boscenovich and the Hranich, are known for their misfortunes, having been compelled to seek refuge in Ragusa at the time of the Turkish invasion; and the last who governed 'the treasure city of Blagai' was Count George, who fled to the Ragusan territory in 1465.[T] The view to the southward over the plain country is extremely picturesque, but this portion of the battlements are completely ruined. On the north side they are in good preservation, and there wells exist, the cement of which looked as fresh as though it had been recently renovated.
In one of the batteries a brass gun was lying, of about 9lbs. calibre, with vent and muzzle uninjured. In the interior of the fort, shells of dwelling-houses, distributed angularly, denote the part of the building which was devoted to domestic purposes. In these the woodwork of the windows may still be seen, as well as stones projecting from the walls, on which the flooring of the upper stories must have rested. At the main entrance an oak case is rivetted into the wall to receive the beam, which barred the door. At the foot of the hill is a ruined church, in which some large shells of about thirteen inches diameter were strewed about. One of these was lying on the road side, as though it had been rolled from the castle above.
Having now seen all the lions of the neighbourhood, I bethought me of leaving Mostar once more, but this time with the intention of working northward. The ordinary route pursued by those whom business calls from Mostar to Bosna Serai is by Konitza, a village situated on the frontier, nearly due north of Mostar. To this course I at first inclined, but was induced to change my plans by the prospect of some chamois-hunting, in the valley of the Drechnitza. Having laid in a supply of bread and other necessaries, we, i.e. M. Gyurcovich and myself, made an early start, in hopes of reaching our destination on the same night.
Following the right bank of the Narenta, our course lay for a short time through the northernmost of the two plains at whose junction Mostar is situated. These, from the smooth and round appearance of the stones, with which their surface is strewed, lead to the supposition that this at one time was the bed of an important lake: this idea is confirmed by the legends of the country, which affirm the existence of rings in the sides of the mountains, to which it is rumoured that boats were moored of old. Whether this be true or not, the appearance of the place lends probability to the statement.
Shortly after leaving the town, there is a small square tower close to and commanding the river, which is here fordable. As we proceeded farther north it becomes rocky and narrow, and some small rapids occur at intervals. The bad state of the roads, and the ill condition of our baggage horses, rendered it necessary to halt several hours short of the point which we had intended to reach that night. Having, therefore, cleared out an outhouse devoted in general to looms, green tobacco, hens, cats, and the like, we made our arrangements for passing the night. While thus engaged a peasant brought me a tolerably large specimen of silver ore, which he stated that he had found in the hills on the Bosnian frontier, where he assured me that any amount was to be obtained. His veracity I have no reason to doubt, although unable to proceed thither to confirm his statement by my own testimony. It is certain, however, that the mountains of Bosnia are unusually rich in mineral products. Gold, silver, mercury, lead, copper, iron, coal, black amber, and gypsum, are to be found in large quantities; silver being the most plentiful, whence the province has received the name of Bosnia Argentina. The manifold resources of the country in this respect have unfortunately been permitted to remain undeveloped under the Ottoman rule, while the laws laid down relative to mining matters are of such a nature as to cripple foreign enterprise. In this proceeding, the Turkish government has committed the error of adhering to the principles and counsels of France, which is essentially a non-mining country. In three places only has any endeavour been made to profit by the secret riches of the earth, viz. at Foinitza, Crescevo, and Stanmaidan, where iron works have been established by private speculation. The iron is of good quality, but the bad state of the roads, and the difficulty of procuring transport, render it a far less remunerative undertaking than would otherwise be the case. Good wrought iron sells at three-halfpence the pound. Were a company formed under the auspices of the British government, there is little doubt that they might be successfully worked, since there is nothing in the nature of the country to render the construction of a road to the coast either a difficult or expensive operation. Continuing our course on the right bank of the Narenta, we arrived at a lofty mound, evidently of artificial construction, situated at a bend of the river. Traces of recent digging were apparent, as though search had been made for money or curiosities. It was just one of those positions where castles were built of yore, its proximity to the river being no small consideration in those days of primitive defences. A short distance from its base were two tombstones, sculptured with more than ordinary care and ability. One of these represented a man with a long sword and shield, faced by a dog or fox, which was the only portion of the engraving at all effaced.
At a spot where a spring issued from the rocks, we were met by a party of Irregulars, shouting and firing their matchlocks in a very indecorous manner. They were doubtless going their rounds, bent on plunder, as is their wont; and living at free quarters. The place where we encountered them was wild in the extreme, and well adapted for deeds of violence. It was indeed only in the preceding spring, that a murder was committed on that very spot. Nor was it the first murder that had been done there. Some years previously two Dalmatian robbers concealed themselves behind the adjacent rocks, with the intention of murdering two Turks, who were carrying money to Bosna Serai. These Turks, however, detected the movements of the assassins, and as one of the Christians fired, one of the Turks returned the shot, each killing his man. Sequel: the second Christian ran away; the surviving Turk carried off his companion's money in addition to his own.
At one part of our route a landslip of large dimensions had taken place, covering the slope to the river with large stones and blocks of red marble. This, as well as white, black, and gray marble, are found in large quantities in the surrounding hills. The river at this point is turgid and rocky, and there are two or three rapids almost worthy of the name of falls. The narrow rocky ledge, which constitutes the only traversable road, immediately overhangs the water, having a sheer descent on the right of nearly 200 feet. The edge of this precipice is overgrown with grass and shrubs to such a degree as to render it very dangerous. Indeed it nearly proved fatal to my horse and myself: the bank suddenly gave way, and but for the fortunate intervention of a projecting ledge, which received the off fore and hind feet of the former, we should inevitably have been picked up in very small pieces, if anyone had taken the trouble to look for us.
Having now journeyed about ten hours from Mostar, our road wound to the left, leaving the Narenta at its confluence with the Drechnitza, which waters the valley of the same name. Close to its mouth, which is spanned by a neat two-arched bridge, a Ban is said to have lived in former days; and a solitary rock projecting from the hills on the left bank is pointed out as his favourite resort. The summit of this is smoothed off, and traces of an inscription still exist, but too much defaced to be deciphered.
[Footnote S: Luccari.]
[Footnote T: Gardner Wilkinson, vol. ii.]
Wealthy Christians—German Encyclopaedia—Feats of Skill—Legend of Petral—Chamois-hunting—Valley of Druga—Excavations—Country Carts—Plain of Duvno—Mahmoud Effendi—Old Tombs—Duvno—Fortress—Bosnian Frontier—Vidosa—Parish Priest—National Music—Livno—Franciscan Convent—Priestly Incivility—Illness—Quack Medicines—Hungarian Doctor—Military Ambulance—Bosna Serai—Osman Pacha—Popularity—Roads and Bridges—Mussulman Rising in Turkish Croatia—Energy of Osman Pacha.
The family with whom we purposed spending the succeeding days were reputed to be the wealthiest of the Christians in that part of the country. It will perhaps convey a more correct impression of their means, if we say that they were less poverty-stricken than others. A few cows, some half-dozen acres of arable land, and a fair stock of poultry, constituted their claim to being considered millionaires. The household consisted, besides father and mother, of two rather pretty girls, two sons, and their cousin, who cultivated the land and hunted chamois regularly every Sunday. Besides these there were some little boys, whose only occupation appeared to be to bring fire for the pipes of their elders. Our arrival, and the prospect of a bye day after the chamois, threw all the men of the party into a state of great excitement. Minute was the inspection of our guns, rifles, and revolvers, the latter receiving much encomium. An old Turk, who had been summoned to take part in the morrow's excursion, eyed one of those for some time, and at length delivered himself of the following sentiment: 'They say there is a devil: how can this be so, when men are so much more devilish?' I am afraid the salvation of Sir William Armstrong, Mr. Whitworth, &c. &c., would be uncertain were they to be judged on the same grounds. While waiting for our dinner of fowls made into soup and baked potatoes, the sons brought a book, which the priest, with more regard for preserving his reputation for learning than veracity, had told them was a bad book. It proved to be a German Encyclopaedia. On hearing this one remarked, 'Oh, then it will do for cigarettes.' While regaling ourselves on wine and grapes, which one of the hospitable creatures had walked twelve miles to procure, we received visits from the male population of the village, who, like all the people of the valley, are much addicted to chamois-hunting. Their conversation, indeed, had reference exclusively to sport, varied by a few feats of skill, hardly coming under the former name. One villager asserted positively that he had seen a man at Livno shoot an egg off another's head. This was instantly capped by another, who affirmed that he had witnessed a similar feat at the same place. His story ran thus: 'At the convent of Livno, all the Roman Catholic girls of the district are married. On one occasion a young bride was receiving the congratulations of her friends, when a feather which had been fastened across her head became loosened, and waved around it. A bystander remarked that he would be a good shot who could carry away the feather without injuring the head. The girl upon hearing this looked round and said, "If you have the courage to fire, I will stand." Upon which the bystander drew a pistol and shot away the truant feather.'
The valley of Drechnitza is wild and rocky, but sufficiently wooded to present a pleasing aspect. The timber is in many places of large girth, and might easily be transported to the sea. It is invested also with more than common interest by the primitive character of its people, and the legends which associate it with the early history of the province.
At present only four villages remain in the valley; that where our hosts lived being the most ancient. They indeed spoke with pride of having occupied their present position since before the conquest, paying only a nominal tribute of one piastre and a half until within the last thirty years, since which time their privileges have been rescinded.
On the left bank of the Drechnitza, about half-way between its confluence with the Narenta and the house of our hosts, is a small valley named Petral; it derived its name from the following circumstances:—For seven years after the rest of Bosnia and the Herzegovina had been overrun by the Turks under Mehemet II., the people of this valley maintained an unequal combat with the invaders. The gallant little band were under the orders of one Peter, who lived in a castle on the summit of a height overlooking the plain; this plain could only be approached by two passes, one of which was believed to be unknown to the Turks. In an evil hour an old woman betrayed the secret of this pass, and Peter had the mortification one morning of looking down from his castle upon the armed Turkish legion, who had effected an entrance during the night. Like a true patriot, he sank down overcome by the sight, and died in a fit of apoplexy; whence the valley has been called Petral to this day.
A few ruins mark the spot where the church stood of yore, and four tombstones are in tolerably good preservation. Beneath these repose the ashes of a bishop and three monks; the date on one of them is A.D. 1400.
Early the following morning we started for the bills, where the chamois were reported to be numerous. After about three hours' climbing over a mass of large stones and rocks, the ascent became much more precipitous, trees and sand taking the place of the rocks. In course of time we reached a plateau, with an almost perpendicular fall on the one side, and a horizontal ridge of rock protruding from the mountain side beneath. Four of the party, which numbered eight guns in all, having taken up positions on this ridge, the remainder, with a posse of boys, made a flank movement with the view of taking the chamois in reverse. The shouting and firing which soon commenced showed us that they were already driving them towards us from the opposite hills. The wood was here so thick that occasional glimpses only could be obtained of the chamois, as they came out into the open, throwing up their heads and sniffing the air as though to detect the danger which instinct told them was approaching. Two or three of the graceful little animals blundered off, hard hit, the old Turk being the only one of the party who succeeded in killing one outright. The bound which followed the death-wound caused it to fall down a precipice, at the bottom of which it was found with its neck dislocated, and both horns broken short off. If the ascent was difficult, the descent was three-fold more so. The rocks being the great obstacle to our progress, the mountaineers managed well enough, jumping from one to another with the agility of cats; but to those unaccustomed to the kind of work, repeated falls were inevitable. How I should have got down I really cannot say, had I not intrusted myself to providence and the strong arm of one of those sons of nature.
The strong exercise which I had taken rendering me anything but disposed for a repetition of the sport on the ensuing day, M.G. left me on his return journey to Mostar, while I proceeded on my solitary way. This, however, was not so cheerless as I had anticipated, as the two sons of the house expressed a wish to accompany me as far as Livno on the Bosnian frontier, where their uncle, a village priest, held a cure. For several hours we remained on the left bank of the Drechnitza, which we forded close to its source. On the heights upon our right, fame tells of the existence of a city, now no more; and it is certain that a golden idol weighing 23 lbs. was found in the locality. Buoyed up by hopes of similar success, fresh gold-diggers had been recently at work, but with what result I am unable to say.
Bearing away now to the W. we entered the valley of the Druga, a little rocky stream. Two roads were reported practicable, the longer taking a winding course past Rachitna, the other, which I selected, being more direct, but far more rocky and difficult; the ascent at one point was more severe than anything I ever recollect having seen.
Leaving Druga we descended into the plain of Swynyatcha, a small open space, which is again connected with Duvno by a pass. The hills on the left of this pass are called Liep, those on the right Cesarussa. Here, too, report speaks of the existence of a city in former days, and the discovery of a large hag of gold coins, like Venetian sequins, has induced some speculative spirit to commence excavations on a large scale. But these, I regret to say, have not as yet been attended with any success. A very fair road has been recently made through this pass, and the traffic which has resulted from it ought to convince the people of the utility of its construction. We met many ponies carrying merchandise from Livno to Mostar, while long strings of carts drawn by eight bullocks were employed in carrying wood to the villages in the plain of Duvno. These carts are roughly built enough, but answer the purpose for which they are intended, viz. slow traffic in the plains. The axle-trees and linch-pins are made of wood, and indeed no iron at all is used in their construction. The plain of Duvno is one of the largest in the province: its extreme length is about fifteen miles, and villages are placed at the foot of the hills, round its entire circumference. The most important of these is the seat of a Mudir, to whom I proceeded at once on my arrival. Although afflicted with a hump-back, he was a person of most refined manners. His brother-in-law, Mahmoud Effendi, who is a member of the Medjlis, was with him, and added his endeavours to those of the Mudir to render my stay at Duvno agreeable. Having complimented the great man upon the appearance of his Mudirlik, he laughingly replied, 'Oh, yes, they must work because it is so cold'—a statement which I felt anything but disposed to question. The wind was blowing down the plain at the time in bitterly cold blasts, and I understand that such is always the case. The vegetation appeared good, in spite of a seeming scarcity of water.
The people of the district are nearly all Catholics, which may be attributed to its proximity to Dalmatia and the convents of Bosnia. They are orderly and well-behaved, according to the Mudir's account; but I also gathered from some Catholics to whom I spoke that this good behaviour results from fear more than love, as the few Turks have it all their own way. In the centre of the plain are some old tombs, some of a sarcophagus shape, others merely rough flat stones, whilst here and there interspersed may be seen some modern crosses—a strange admixture of the present and the past. After a somewhat uncomfortable night in the one khan which the town possesses, I presented myself with early dawn at the house of the Mudir. Although not yet 8 o'clock, I found him with the whole Medjlis in conclave around him. Thence the entire party accompanied me to inspect the fort, or such part of it as had escaped the ravages of time. It was rather amusing to see the abortive attempts at climbing of some of these fur-coated, smoke-dried old Mussulmans, who certainly did not all equal the Mudir in activity. The fort is a quadrilateral with bastions, and gates in each of the curtains; in two of the bastions are eight old guns, dismounted: these are all of Turkish manufacture, some having iron hoops round the muzzles.
In the SW. corner is a round tower, evidently copied from the Roman, if not of genuine Roman origin. For what purpose the fort was built, or by whom, I was unable to learn. It is said, however, to have been constructed about two centuries ago[U], and there is a Turkish inscription on it to that effect; but, as I have said before, no reliance can be placed upon these. There are many buildings within the walls, and one mosque is reputed to have existed a hundred years before the rest of the fort.
Shortly after leaving the village we arrived at the frontier line of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is, however, unmarked. Already the country presented a greener and more habitable appearance, which increased as we continued our journey. Towards evening we stopped at a little village named Vidosa, where the uncle of my hunting companions held the post of parish priest. Having sent one of his nephews in advance to warn him of my arrival, he was waiting to receive me, and invited me to stay at his house with great cordiality. Notwithstanding that the greater portion of it had been destroyed by fire a few months previously, I was very comfortably housed, and fully appreciated a clean bed after the rough 'shakes down' to which I was accustomed. That the kitchen was luxuriously stocked, I am not prepared to say; but the priest was profuse in his apologies for the absence of meat, proffering as an excuse that Roman Catholics do not eat it on Friday, a reason which would scarcely hold good, as I arrived on a Saturday. Of eggs and vegetables, however, there was no lack. Vegetable diet and dog Latin are strong provocatives of thirst, and the number of times that I was compelled to say 'ad salutem' in the course of the evening was astonishing. The old priest appeared more accustomed to these copious libations than his younger assistant, who before he left the table showed unmistakable signs of being 'well on.' Both vicar and curate wore moustachios, and the flat-topped red fez, which distinguishes their profession. The curate had received a certain amount of education at one of the Bosnian convents, whence he had been sent to Rome, where he had, at any rate, attained a tolerable proficiency in Italian, and a few words of French. Another occupant of the house, who must not be allowed to go unmentioned, was the priest's mother, a charming old lady in her ninety-seventh year. Age had in no way impaired her faculties, and she was more active and bustling than many would be with half her weight of years.
In the evening the nephews made their appearance, having dined with the domestics. The remaining hours were devoted to singing, if such can be termed the monotonous drawl which constitutes the music of the country. In this one of the brothers was considered very proficient: the subjects of the songs are generally legendary feats of Christians against the conquering Turks, which, however little they may have conduced to bar the progress of the invaders, sound remarkably well in verse. Sometimes, as in the present case, the voice is accompanied by the guesla, a kind of violin with one or three strings.
The priest, although a man of small education and strong prejudices, appeared to be possessed of much good sense. He deplored the state of things in Herzegovina, and said that much misery would ensue from it, not only there, but in all the neighbouring provinces. As an instance of the severity of the government demands, he mentioned that 1,400 baggage-horses had been recently taken from the district of Livno alone, as well as more than 400 horse-loads of corn, for all of which promises of payment only had been made. For the accuracy of his statements I am not prepared to vouch, but I give them as they were given to me. He did not, however, complain so much of the quantity, as of the injudicious mode of proceeding, in making such large demands at one time.
A few hours took me to the town of Livno, on the outskirts of which is the Catholic convent. Mass was being performed at the time; but I found the Guardiano, 'Padre Lorenzo,' and one of the Fratri disengaged. After keeping me waiting for some time in a very cold vaulted room, these two came to me, though their reception of me contrasted very unfavourably with that of the simple village priest. The convent is for monks of the Franciscan order, of whom there were five besides the Superior. It is a large, rambling, and incomplete building of white stone, and in no way interesting, having only been completed about six years. After mass came dinner, which was provided more with regard to quantity than quality, and at which the holy men acquitted themselves a merveille. Excepting a young priest of delicate appearance and good education, the brethren appeared a surly and ill-conditioned set. So ill-disguised was the discontent conveyed in the ungracious 'sicuro' vouchsafed in reply to my petition for a bed, that I ordered my traps to be conveyed forthwith to the best khan in the town, and, having failed to find favour with the Christians, sought the aid of the Mussulman Kaimakan, from whom at any rate my English blood and Omer Pacha's Buruhltee insured me advice and assistance.
The Austrian Consul also received me with much civility, and most obligingly placed his house at my disposal, although compelled to start for Spolatro on business. For some reason best known to himself, he begged of me to return to Mostar, insisting on the impracticability of travelling in Bosnia in the present state of political feeling. This, coupled with the specimen of priestly civility which I had experienced in the convent of Goritza, inclined me to alter the route which I had proposed to myself by Foinitza to Bosna Serai. In lieu of this route, I resolved upon visiting Travnik, the former capital of Bosnia, before proceeding to Bosna Serai (or Serayevo, as it is called in the vernacular), the present capital of the province. In fulfillment of this plan, I started on the morning of the 21st, though suffering from fever and headache, which I attributed to a cold caught in the damp vaults of the Franciscan convent. With each successive day my illness became more serious, and it was with difficulty that I could sit my horse during the last day's journey before reaching Travnik. At one of the khans en route, I put myself into the hands of the Khanjee, who with his female helpmate prescribed the following remedies:—He directed me to place my feet in a basin of almost boiling tea, made out of some medicinal herbs peculiar to the country, the aroma from which was most objectionable. He then covered me with a waterproof sheet which I carried with me, and, when sufficiently cooked, lifted me into bed. Though slightly relieved by this treatment, the cure was anything but final; and on my arrival at Travnik I was far more dead than alive. There an Hungarian doctor, to whom I had letters of introduction, came to visit me, and prescribed a few simple remedies. One day I hazarded the remark that stimulants were what I most required; upon which the learned doctor observed, with proper gravity, that brandy would probably be the most efficacious remedy, as he had often heard that English soldiers lived entirely on exciting drinks. Ill as I was, I could scarcely refrain from laughing at the drollery of the idea.
After a few days' stay at Travnik my medical adviser began, I fancy, to despair of my case; and on the same principle as doctors elsewhere recommend Madeira to hopeless cases of consumption, he advised me to continue my journey to Bosna Serai. The difficulty was to reach that place. Here, however, the Kaimakan came to my help, and volunteered to let out on hire an hospital-cart belonging to the artillery. I accepted his offer, and after a few days' stay at Travnik set forward on my journey to Bosna Serai. The carriage was a species of Indian dak ghari, with side doors, but without a box-seat; it was drawn by artillery horses, ridden by two drivers, while a sergeant and gunner did escort duty. Fortunately the vehicle had springs, which must have suffered considerably from the jolting which it underwent, although we only proceeded at a foot's pace.
After three days' journey we reached Bosna Serai, where I was most kindly received by Mr. Z., the acting British Consul, and by M.M., the French Consul, with whom I stayed during the three weeks that I was confined to my room by illness.
Bosna Serai, or Serayevo, is probably the most European of all the large towns of Turkey in Europe. It is not in the extent of the commerce which prevails, nor in the civilisation of its inhabitants, that this pre-eminence shows itself; but in the cleanly and regular appearance of its houses and streets, the condition of which last would do credit to many a Frankish town. This happy state of things is mainly attributable to the energy and liberality of the present governor of Bosnia, Osman Pacha, who, notwithstanding his advanced years, has evinced the greatest desire to promote the welfare of the people under his charge. In the nine months of his rule which had preceded my visit, he had constructed no less than ninety miles of road, repaired the five bridges which span the river within the limits of the town, and introduced other reforms which do him honour, and have procured for him the gratitude and goodwill of all classes of his people. The system which he has introduced for the construction of roads is at once effective and simple. By himself making a small portion of road near the capital, he succeeded in demonstrating to the country people the advantages which would result from the increased facility of traffic. By degrees this feeling spread itself over the province, and the villagers apply themselves, as soon as the crops are sown, to making new portions of road, which they are further bound to keep in repair. This is obviously the first and most indispensable step in the developement of the resources of the country. It would be well for the Sultan were he possessed of a few more employes as energetic, able, and honest as Osman Pacha.
I regretted that the rapidity of his movements prevented my taking leave of him and his intelligent secretary. But, a few nights before my departure, an express arrived bringing intelligence of a rising in Turkish Croatia, near Banialuka. The news arrived at 9 P.M., and the energetic Pacha was on the road to the scene of the disturbance by 6 A.M. the following morning. The emeute proved trifling; not being, as was at first reported, a Christian insurrection, but a mere ebullition of feeling on the part of the Mussulmans of that district, who are the most poverty-stricken of all the inhabitants of the province.
[Footnote U: This can scarcely be correct, as everything implies far greater antiquity.]
Svornik—Banialuka—New Road—Sport—Hot Springs—Ekshesoo—Mineral Waters—Celebrated Springs—Goitre—The Bosna—Trout-fishing—Tzenitza—Zaptiehs—Maglai—Khans—Frozen Roads—Brod—The Save—Austrian Sentry—Steamer on the Save—Gradiska—Cenovatz—La lingua di tre Regni—Culpa River—Sissek—Croatian Hotel—Carlstadt Silk—Railway to Trieste—Moravian Iron—Concentration of Austrian Troops—Probable Policy—Water-Mills—Semlin—Belgrade.
The shortening days, and the snow, which might now be seen in patches on the mountain sides, warned us of approaching winter, and the necessity for making a start in order to ensure my reaching Constantinople before the Danube navigation should be closed. My illness and other circumstances had combined to detain me later than I had at first intended, and I was consequently compelled to abandon the idea of visiting either Svornik or Banialuka, two of the largest and most important towns in the province. The former of these places is interesting as being considered the key of Bosnia, in a military point of view; the latter, from the numerous remains, which speak eloquently of its former importance. The navigation of the Save, too, having become practicable since the heavy rains had set in, I resolved upon the simplest route of reaching Belgrade, viz., that by Brod. In coming to this decision, I was influenced also by my desire to see the valley of the Bosna, in and above which the road lies for almost the whole distance. No site could have been more judiciously chosen, than that in which Serayevo is built. Surrounded by beautiful hills and meadows, which even in November bore traces of the luxuriant greenness which characterises the province, and watered by the limpid stream of the Migliaska, its appearance is most pleasing. As we rattled down the main street at a smart trot on the morning of the 16th November, in the carriage of Mr. H., the British Consul, it was difficult to believe oneself in a Turkish city. The houses, even though in most cases built of wood, are in good repair; and the trellis-work marking the feminine apartments, and behind which a pair of bright eyes may occasionally be seen, materially heightens the charms of imagination. The road for the first six miles was hard and good. It is a specimen of Osman Pacha's handiwork, and is raised considerably above the surrounding fields, the sides of the road being rivetted, as it were, with wattles. At the end of that distance, and very near the confluence of the Migliaska and the Bosna, I separated from my friends, who were bent on a day's shooting. From the number of shots which reached my ear as I pursued my solitary journey, I should imagine that they must have had a successful day. The love of sport is strongly developed in the people of these provinces, and nature has provided them with ample means of gratifying their inclination. Besides bears, wolves, boars, foxes, roebucks, chamois, hares, and ermines, all of which are plentiful in parts of the country, birds of all kinds abound; grey and red-legged partridges, blackcock, ducks of various kinds, quail, and snipe, are the most common; while flights of geese and cranes pass in the spring and autumn, but only descend in spring. Swans and pelicans are also birds of passage, and occasionally visit these unknown lands. The natives are clever in trapping these animals. This they do either by means of pitfalls or by large traps, made after the fashion of ordinary rat-traps.
Before continuing my journey, I visited the hot springs, which rise from the earth at a stone's throw from the main road. Baths were built over them by Omer Pacha, on the occasion of his last visit to Bosnia, for the benefit of the sick soldiers, and such others as chose to use them. Besides two or three larger baths, there are several intended for one person, each being provided with a kind of cell, as a dressing room. The waters are considered most efficacious in all cases of cutaneous diseases, and were at one time in great request for every kind of disorder, real and imaginary. From what I could gather from the 'Custos,' I should say that they are now but little frequented. Leaving the Migliaska, which is here spanned by a solid bridge of ten arches, we crossed the Bosna in about half an hour. Scattered along the river bank, or in some sheltered nook, protected by large trees alike from the heat and the eyes of curious observers, might be seen the harems of various pachas, and other grandees connected with the province. After four hours farther march, we arrived at Ekshesoo, where 1 located myself in the khan for the night. My first step was to send for a jug of the mineral water, for which the village is famous, and at one period of the year very fashionable. The water has a strong taste of iron, and when fresh drawn, effervesces on being mixed with sugar, wine, or other acids. It is in great repute with all classes, but the Jews are the most addicted to its use. No Hebrew in Serayevo would venture to allow a year to elapse without a visit to the springs; they generally remain there for two or three days, and during that time drink at stated hours gallon after gallon of the medicated fluid. The following night I arrived at Boosovatz, where I left the Travnik road, which I had been retracing up to that point. The water of the Bosna is here beautifully transparent; and at about an hour's distance is a spring, the water of which is considered the best in Bosnia. The Pacha has it brought in all the way to Serayevo, yet, notwithstanding this, I saw many persons in the village suffering from goitre, a by no means uncommon complaint in Bosnia. The cause for the prevalence of this affliction is difficult to understand, unless we attribute it to the use of the river water, which is at times much swollen by the melting snow.
10th November: rain fell in torrents, much to my disgust, as the scenery was very beautiful. The road, which is a portion of the old road constructed by Omer Pacha, skirts the banks of the river, which winds sometimes amongst steep wooded hills, at others in the smooth green plains. At one point we were obliged to ford it; the stream was rather deep and rapid, and I certainly experienced a sensation of relief when I saw my baggage pony fairly landed on the opposite bank, without further injury to his load than a slight immersion. The fishing of the Bosna is not so good as that of the Narento and some other rivers of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Let me not be accused of a partiality for travellers' tales, when I say that trout of 60 lbs. have been killed in the latter province. In external colour these are veritable trout, the flesh, however, having a yellowish appearance, something between the colour of trout and salmon; the smaller fish are of excellent quality and are very abundant. Three hours after leaving Boosovatz we reached Tzenitza, a small town where a little trade is carried on. While sitting in the public room of the khan, the post from Brod arrived en route to Bosna Serai. The man who carried it came in wet and mud-bespattered, and declared the road to be quite impassable; a bit of self-glorification which I took for what it was worth. Had I not been pressed for time I should have myself been inclined to give way to the importunities of all concerned, to postpone my journey to Vranduk until the following day; but seeing no prospect of any improvement in the weather, I deemed it prudent to push on.
Another difficulty, however, here presented itself. The Tchouch of Zaptiehs positively declined to give me a guide; and it was only by sending for the Mudir, and threatening to write a complaint to the Serdar Ekrem, that I succeeded in obtaining one. This escort duty is the principal work of the mounted Zaptiehs. Ten piastres a day, or twenty pence, is what is usually paid them by those who make use of their services. They, of course, pay for the keep of their own horses out of their regular official salary. The rain now gave place to snow, which fell in considerable quantities for two or three days. The cold was intense, and it was only by halting at every khan, generally about three hours apart, that it was possible to keep the blood in circulation. On the morning of the 20th the sun shone out bright and comparatively warm, although everything bore a most wintry aspect. Beautiful as the scenery must be when spring has clothed the trees with green, or when the early autumnal tints have succeeded the fierce heat of summer, the appearance of the country clad in its snowy garments might well compare with either of these. The hills, rugged in parts, and opening out at intervals into large open plains, trees and shrubs groaning with their milk-white burden, or sparkling like frosted silver in the moonlight, and above all the river, now yellow and swollen, rushing rapidly along, produced an effect characteristic and grand.
About ninety miles from Serayevo the river becomes much broader, and swollen as it was by the recent rain and snow, presented a very fine appearance.
On its right bank stands the town of Maglai, which is prettily situated in the side of a basin formed by the hills, a craggy eminence apparently dividing the town into two parts. Behind these, however, the houses meet, sloping down close to the river's edge. On the very summit of the central mound is an old fort mounting five guns, which command the river, but would otherwise be of little use. The only means of communication between either bank, is a ferry-boat of rude construction. After leaving this town there still remained four hours of my journey to be accomplished, before arriving at Schevaleekhan, where I intended passing the night. Unaccustomed as I was to anything like luxury, I was positively staggered at the total absence of even the commonest necessaries of life. At Maglai I had endeavoured without success to buy potatoes, fruit, and even meat; but here neither bread, eggs, nor chickens, which are nearly always procurable, were to be found. Having received the inevitable 'Nehmur' to every one of my demands, I could not help asking what the inhabitants themselves eat; and being told that they lived upon vegetables, asked for the same. Judge, then, of my astonishment when told that there were none. Fortunately my kind friends at Bosna Serai had not sent me away empty-handed, or assuredly I should have felt the pangs of hunger that day.
At all times a khan is a painful mockery of the word hotel, as it is often translated. Picture to yourself a room about eight feet square, with windows not made to open, a stove which fills one-third of the entire space, and a wooden divan occupying the other two-thirds; the whole peopled by innumerable specimens of the insect creation, and you have a very fair idea of an ordinary khan. If there be a moment when one is justified in the indulgence of a few epicurean ideas, it is when inhabiting one of these abodes of bliss.
About an hour from Schevaleekhan we crossed an arm of the Bosna by means of a ferry-boat; a little farther on the left bank stands a town of 300 houses, built very much after the same principle as Maglai. Like that place it has an eminence, around which the houses cluster. This is also surmounted by a fort with three guns, two small and one large. The Mudir told me with no little satisfaction that it was the last place taken by the Turks, when they conquered Bosnia. Profiting by my experience of the previous day, I took the precaution of buying a chicken, some bread, and a few more edibles, on my way through the town. Provisions were, however, both scarce and execrable in quality. Meat is indeed rarely to be obtained anywhere, as sheep are never killed, and bullocks only when superannuated and deemed unfit for further physical labour. Chickens are consequently almost the only animal food known. The method of killing them is peculiar. The children of the house are generally selected for this office. One secures a very scraggy fowl, while another arms himself with a hatchet of such formidable dimensions as to recall in the beholder all sorts of unpleasant reminiscences about Lady Jane Grey, Mauger, and other historic characters. The struggling bird is then beheaded, and stripped of his plumage almost before his pulses have ceased to beat. The first occasion on which I saw one of these executions, I could not help thinking of a certain cicerone at Rome, who, albeit that he spoke very good French and Italian, always broke out in English when he saw a picture of a martyrdom of any kind soever; 'That one very good man, cut his head off.' The man had but one idea of death, and the same may be said of these primitive people, who look upon decapitation as the easiest termination to a half-starved life.
Leaving Kotauski, where I passed the night of the 21st, at 7 A.M., I reached Brod at 8.30 in the evening. The distance is considerable, but might have been accomplished in a far shorter time, had not the country been one sheet of ice, which rendered progression both difficult and dangerous. Each person of whom I enquired the distance told me more than the one before, until I thought that a Bosnian 'saht' (hour) was a more inexplicable measure than a German 'stunde' or a Scottish 'mile and a bittoch.' At length, however, the lights of Brod proclaimed our approach to the Turkish town of that name. On the left bank of the Save stands Austrian Brod, which, like all the Slavonic towns near the river, is thoroughly Turkish in character. Late as it was, I hoped to cross the river the same night, and proceeded straight to the Mudir, who raised no objections, and procured men to ferry me across. But we had scarcely left the shore when we were challenged by the Austrian sentry on the other side. As the garrisons of all the towns on the frontier are composed of Grenzer regiments, or confinarii, whose native dialect is Illyric, a most animated discussion took place between the sentry on the one hand, and the whole of my suite, which had increased considerably since my arrival in the town. My servant Eugene, who had been educated for a priest, and could talk pretty well, tried every species of argument, but without success; the soldier evidently had the best of it, and clenched the question with the most unanswerable argument—that we were quite at liberty to cross if we liked; but that he should fire into us as soon as we came into good view. There was therefore no help for it, and unwillingly enough, I returned to a khan, and crossed over early the following morning. At his offices, close to the river, I found M.M., le Directeur de la Quarantine, and general manager of all the other departments. He accompanied me to the hotel, which, though not exactly first-rate, appeared luxurious after my three months of khans and tents. I was somewhat taken aback at finding that the steamer to Belgrade was not due for two days, and moreover that the fogs had been so dense that it had not yet passed up on its voyage to Sissek; whence it would return to Belgrade, calling at Brod, and other places en route.
It therefore appeared the better plan to go up in it to Sissek, than to await its return to Brod. By this means I was enabled to see many of the towns and villages on the Bosnian, Slavonian, and Croatian frontiers. Leaving my servant and horses at Brod, I went on board the steamer as soon as it arrived. The scene I there found was curious. In a small saloon, of which the windows were all shut, and the immense stove lighted, were about thirty persons, three or four of whom were females, the remainder merchants and Austrian officers. The atmosphere was so oppressive that I applied for a private cabin, a luxury which is paid for, in all German companies, over and above the regular fare. I was told that I might have one for eleven florins a night. To this I demurred, but was told that any reduction was impossible; it was the tariff. At length the inspector came on board; to him I appealed, and received the same answer. After a little conversation, he agreed to break through a rule. I might have it for seven florins. No! well, he would take the five which I had originally offered; and so I got my cabin. That it was the nicest little room possible, I must admit, with its two large windows, a maple table, a large mirror, and carpeted floor; and a very much pleasanter resting-place than the hot saloon. The night was rainy and dark, and we lay-to throughout the greater part of it, as is the invariable rule on the Save, and even on the Danube during the autumn months. At eight on the following morning we touched at Gradiska. There are two towns of the name, the old one standing close to the river, and embellished with a dilapidated castle; the new town being about an hour's distance inland.
About noon we reached Cenovatz, which, like the other towns and villages on the frontier, might be mistaken rather for a Turkish than a German town.
The Castle of Cenovatz is an irregular quadrilateral, with three round and one square tower at the angles. It is now occupied by priests. It is interesting from its connection with the military history of the country. There, on a tongue of land which projects into the river, waved the flag of France during the occupation of the Illyrian provinces by the old Napoleon, while on the main land on either side the sentinels of Austria and Turkey were posted in close juxtaposition. Hence it has received the name of "la lingua di tre regni."
At six o'clock the same evening we entered the River Culpa, at the mouth of which is the town of Sissek.
It has a thrifty and cleanly appearance, and possesses two very fair inns. The saloon of one of these appeared to be the rendezvous of the opulent townspeople. Music, chess, billiards, and tobacco-smoke, appeared to be the amusements most in vogue; the indulgence in the latter being of course universal. Here I took leave of my companions of the steamer, whose loss I much regretted, especially M. Burgstaller, a gentleman of much intelligence, who requested me to examine his silk, manufactured at Carlstadt, for the International Exhibition. On the ensuing morning, I crossed the Culpa, and inspected the works connected with the new railway to Trieste. It is intended to be in a state of completion by the end of the coming autumn. Several Englishmen are employed on the line, but I did not happen to come across any of them; every information was, however, given me by a Croatian gentleman, who has the superintendence of one-half of the line. Moravian iron is used in preference to English, although its value on delivery is said to be the greater of the two.
Sissek was in ancient days a place of no small importance. There, Attila put in to winter his fleet during one of his onslaughts on the decaying Roman empire. Traces of the ancient city are often dug up, and many curiosities have been found, which would delight the heart of the modern antiquarian. The return voyage to Brod was not remarkable for any strange incident, the passengers being almost entirely Austrian officers. The number of troops massed by that power on her Slavonian and Croatian frontier would infer that she entertains no friendly feelings to her Turkish neighbours. These amount to no less than 40,000 men, dispersed among the villages in the vicinity of Brod, and within a circumference of fourteen miles. At Brod itself no fewer than 4,000 baggage-horses were held in readiness to take the field at any moment. It requires no preternatural foresight to guess the destination of these troops. They are not intended, as some suppose, to hold in check the free-thinking Slavonic subjects of Austria. Nor is that province used as a penal settlement for the disaffected, as others would infer. The whole history of Austria points to the real object with which they have been accumulated, viz. to be in readiness to obtain a footing in Bosnia, in the event of any insurrection in that province of sufficient importance to justify such a measure. The utility of such a step would be questionable, as climate and exposure have more than once compelled the Austrians to relinquish the idea, even after they had obtained a substantial footing in the province. The motives which would induce them to make another attempt are palpable enough; for, besides the advantages derivable from the possession of so beautiful and rich a country, Austria sees with alarm the increase of revolutionary principles in a province in such close proximity to her own. And yet she has small reason for fear, since no single bond of union exists between the Slaves on either bank of the Save.