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Bejtullah Destani and Robert Elsie

Edward Lear in Albania:
journals of a landscape painter in the Balkans

Edited by Bejtullah Destani and Robert Elsie,
with a preface by Vivien Noakes

ISBN 978-1-84511-602-6
I.B. Tauris in association with
the Centre for Albanian Studies, London 2008
xvii + 225 pp.

FROM THE PREFACE

Edward Lear’s travels through Albania and Macedonia in 1848 came about when an outbreak of cholera closed off all other routes out of Salonica - the port in which he arrives as these journals begin - setting him off on this unusual venture. His meticulous journals offer a unique insight into the Balkans in this period; the difficulties and romance of travelling in Albania - especially as an Englishman, visiting placed never previously seen by foreigners; and the profound effect of the landscape and its people on an artist’s mind.

Lear was already well known for his fine ornithological illustrations when he embarked on his travels in the Balkans but he was increasingly drawn to landscape painting, especially following his extensive travels in Italy. Despite the difficulties caused by his own ill health and the acute dichotomy between luxury and hardship throughout the region, Lear found the environment of the Balkans both productive and stimulating.

Lavishly illustrated with the artist’s own paintings and suffused with a unique charm, “Edward Lear in Albania” catalogues his idiosyncratic observations of this beautiful and unknown land. Including vivid insights into the environment, culture and politics of the period, these Journals offer an intimate portrait of a wild yet captivating corner of Europe.

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Preface by Vivien Noakes

Introduction

Chapter I

Resolutions to see Albania, Mount Athos, &c. - The Austrian steamer and its passengers - Last hour at Constantinople - Gallipoli - Athos - Arrival at Saloniki - Enthusiastic Jews - The Inn - Alarm of cholera, and state of the city - Impossibility of proceeding to Mount Athos or to Ioánnina - Plan of travelling through Macedonia to Skódra and Upper Albania - A day at Saloniki - Its gloomy streets, &c. - Start on the northwest road - Plains of the Vardhári - Variety of birds - Midday halt - Beauty of the country near Yenidjé - Arrival there - Description of the town and of my lodgings.

Chapter II

Turkish politeness - Departure from Yenidjé - Giorgio, the dragoman - The village of Arnaoutlik and its picturesque environs - Approach to Vodhená - Its extreme beauty of situation - The town and its accommodations - View of Olympus - Dervishes’ tombs - Sketching in the streets – “Scroo, scroo!” - A wet morning’s ride to Ostrovo - Its lake and scenery - The slender comforts of its khan - Another start for Monastir - Uninteresting day’s journey - Tilbeli and halt for the night - Jackdaws and geese - Dreary hills - The gipsy guide - Approach to Monastir or Bitólia, the capital of modern Macedonia - Lively appearance of the city - Its traffic and streets - Its military aspect - Description of its characteristic scenes - Tolerable accommodation.

Chapter III

Costume of Greek peasantry - I come to grief from the want of a passport - Difficulty of sketching in the streets of Monastir - View of the city from the great cemetery - Dogs - Objection of the Mohammedans to artist occupations - Vain attempts to make drawings - Visit to the Seraskier Pashá - Return to sketching with a guard and consequent success - Great picturesqueness of the city and environs of Monastir - Albanians and their mode of passing time - Muezzins or callers to prayers - Departure from Monastir - Mountain roads to Peupli - Its village and lake and uninviting khan - Increasing wildness of character in the scenery and people - Magnificent mountain range above Akhridha - Exquisite views over the lake and plain - Descent to the shores of the lake, and arrival at the town of Akhridha - Mohammedan salutations and the want of a fez - Description of costumes of the Ghéghe Albanians - Streets of the town - Khan, &c.

Chapter IV

Exploring Akhridha - Its fortress - Serái - Visit to the Governor - His reception-chamber, &c., described - Sketching pursued under the care of a guard - Night companions - Revisit the mountain above the Lake of Peupli - Another day in Akhridha - The shores of the lake - Their ornithological tenants - Objections to drawing unaccompanied by a guard - Exquisite beauty of the evening hours at Akhridha - Zoology in the streets - Albanians and their fashions - Attentive ducks - Departure from Akhridha - Gipsies - The lake - War between hawks and coots - Village of Istruga - Solitary and unsatisfactory khan - Valley of the Skumbi - Magnificent scenery - The khan of Kukues - Wilds of Albania, and new night-scenes - Mule-tracks on the banks of the Skumbi - Extraordinary mountain scenery - Dangerous paths - Approach to and arrival at Elbassán - Its disagreeable streets and filthy khans - The dark cell.

Chapter V

Sketching in Elbassán - Desolate appearance of the city - Its picturesque walls - Annoyances from its inhabitants – “Shaitán scroo!” - The guard Bekir and the angry Elbassániotes - Rebellion in Albania - Gloomy and dirty streets - Music of the Albanians - Departure from Elbassán - First view of Mount Tomóhr - Winding torrent-bed - Magnificent landscape from the heights between Elbassán and Tyrana - Descent to a midday halt - Giorgio’s lecture on snakes - Beautiful distant view of Tyrana - Its disagreeable interior and disgusting khans - The ‘Clarendon’ of Tyrana - Reasons for not going to Bey’s houses - Abominations of my dormitory - Visit to the Governor - Difficulty of drawing in the town - The mad dervish - Beautiful environs of Tyrana - Costumes - The khan and the twirling dervish - Departure from Tyrana - The excited dervish and his audience - Valley below the Króia mountains - Ascent to the town - Magnificent scenery - Grand position of the castle - Alí Bey’s palace - His hospitality - Description of his rooms, &c. - Overmuch Albanian attendance – “Tik-tok, tik-tok” - Intellectual intercourse.

Chapter VI

Splendour of the environs of Króia - Majestic rook-scenery - Alí Bey’s dinner - An untimely fit of the cramp – “Tik-tok” - The silent hareem - Muezzins and their musical call - Parting interview with Alí Bey - His ambition for starched shirt-collars - Departure from Króia - Descent towards the sea - Obstinate Soorudji - The midday khan and its inhabitants - Beautiful journey over the plains - Tangled glades of underwood - Arrival at Aléssio on the banks of the Drino - Miserable village - Tomb of Scanderbeg - Lodging at a Greek Christian’s house - Roman Catholic population - The convent and the Capuchin friar - His happy state of mind - Repose at Aléssio - Rainy weather - Journey along the banks of the Drino - The ferry - Costume of Ghegheria - The position of Skódra - The river Boyána - Lake and castle of Skódra - Its bazaars and gardens - Search for the English Consul - Provoking Soorudji - Signor Bonatti - The apothecary’s house - Limits of my Albanian tour.

Chapter VII

Wanderings in the village-town of Skódra - Visit to the Pashá - The Roman Catholic Bishop - Pipes and coffee - Skódra merchants - Bridge over the Boyána - Wondrous picturesqueness of Skódra - Storm and rain - The Pasha’s dinner - Endless repast and odd varieties of custom - Pavement of Skódra - Costume of Scutarine bride - Hospitable family of Signor Bonatti - The merchant and his portrait - The apothecary’s household - Disagreeable character of Skódra as a place of residence - Departure for the south - Bank of the Drino and arrival at the Capuchin Monastery of Aléssio - The angry monk - Rain, and delay in starting for Tyrana - Slow progress through the plains - Views of the Króia mountains - Moonlight and the forest - The khan and its night-scenes - Ill-omens - Forest scenery - Pouring rain and arrival at Tyrana once more - A better khan.

Chapter VIII

Departure from Tyrana - Osmán and his property - Barren hills - The seashore - Arrival at Durázzo - Its castle and bay and narrow town - Sclavonian musician - Sketching in the environs of Durázzo - Departure for Kaváya - Route by the shore - Vast plains of the Mizakia - Last town of the Gheghes - Greek priest and his house - Visit to the Governor - A new map - Departure from Kaváya - Immense plains by the sea - Goose-herds - The bride - Recross the Skumbi - Tóskidhes - Their poverty and squalor - Grand view of Mount Tomóhr - The khan of Tjermí - Bad weather - Start once more for Berát - Deluge of rain - Bad horses - Wretched journey over the plains - Cross the Beratino and take refuge in the khan of Tchúka - Arrangements for a night’s rest in the fire-place - Another start for Berát before dawn - Accidents - Philosophy and anger - Approach to Berát, the capital of Central Albania - Magnificent situation of the town and castle - Gorge of the Beratino - White costume of the Tóskidhes Albanians - Excellent new khan - Picturesque market-place - Sketching with a careful guard.

Chapter IX

Visit to the Pashá of Berát - Energetic guardian and castigation of the populace - Dress of the women - Pine views of Mount Tomóhr - Interesting character of the scenery of Berát - Singing of the Tóskidhes - A day on the banks of the Beratino - Departure from Berát - The Greek Ecónomos and his house at Kadipashá - Meadows of the Mizakia - The hill and Monastery of Ardhenitza - Its interior and hospitable priests - Sunrise from the convent - Mount Tomóhr and the plains of Apollónia - Descent to the plain of the Beratino - Greek church and school of Kosma - Papa Zacaria of Khimára - The repast - Route continued across the plains - High wind - Arrival at the Monastery of Apollónia - Its melancholy and ruined condition - Ancient walls - Bad accommodations, goats and Albanian melody - Remains of ancient Apollónia - The solitary column - Beautiful flat green fields of the Mizakia - The enraged shepherd and his dogs - Ferry over the Viósa - Flocks and dogs - Scenery of Avlóna - Arrival at the town and accommodation at Herr J.’s plan of visiting the Khimáriote villages - Beautiful position of Avlóna - The accursed bit of Indian-rubber and the two Gheghes - Landscape in the neighbouring hills.

Chapter X

Departure from Avlóna - Ascent to Kánina - Its ruined fortress - Anastásio Kasnétzi - Quiet cove of Kria Néra - Wild Khimáriotes - Ugly paths along perpendicular precipices - Beautiful view of the approach to the Khimáriot, or Acroceraunian mountains - Warnings concerning the dogs of Khimára - Magnificent wild scenery on the ascent to Draghiádhes - Arrival there at dusk - Extraordinary dress of the women - Wonderfully savage appearance of the town and people - First evening in Khimára - Zinani’s house - The supper and arrangements for sleeping - Precautions against dogs - Anastásio’s remonstrances - Departure from Draghiádhes - Storm of wind - Mountain pass - First view of Dukádhes - Its singular position - Arrival there - Labourious life of the women - Wild scenes in the valley - Life in a loft - A “soirée” in Khimára - Select society - Harmonious blacksmiths - The idol-gipsy - Unveiled Mohammedan ladies – “Bo, bo-bo-bo, bo-bo-bo, bo-bo-bo, BO!”

Chapter XI

The horrors of a night in Khimára - The murder - Shrieks for the dead - Departure from Dukádhes - The mountain of Tchika - Its pine forests - Descent towards the sea - Distant view of Corfu - The Strada Bianca women considered relatively - Village of Palása - Anastásio and his history - Marriage among the Khimáriotes - Magnificence of the village of Dhrymádhes - A visit to “my aunt and uncle” - Village of Lliattes - Sunset, and arrival at Vunó - Superior accommodations of the Casa Kasnétzi - Anastásio’s family - The marine bishop - Beautiful situation of Vunó - Its church and priesthood - Present circumstances of the Khimáriote villages - Customs of the Khimáriotes - Crying for the dead - Kasnétzi cousins - Marina Kasnétzi - Visit to the town of Khimára - Village of Pilieri - Acuteness of sight and hearing among the Albanians - Approach to Khimára - The eagles and fowl - Ascent to the town - The exile - Life in Khimára - Papa Nestore - Departure from the town and return to Vunó.

Chapter XII

Shrieks and waging - Set off from Vunó - Arrival at Dhrymádhes - Anastásio’s philosophy – “My aunt’s” skill in crying - The old man and his lamentations - Night-halt at Palása - Fortina - Ascent of the Strada Bianca mountain - Magnificent scenes in the Pass of Tchika - Return to Dukádhes – “second Asoirée” - More wailing for the dead - Fortina’s return - Return to Kria Néra, Kánina and Avlóna - Sketching in the environs of that town - Visit to the monastery of Aghia Marina di Svernez - Margiánn, the black slave - Bottasga and pelicans - Beautiful scenery - Overmuch political enthusiasm - Difficulty of obtaining horses - Departure from Avlóna - Villages of Karbonára, &c. - Valley of the Viósa - Villages and hamlets of the mountain of Kúdhesi - Gorge of the Viósa - Wretched appearance of the inhabitants of these districts - Mountains of Trebushín and Khórmovo, and first view of Tepeléni - Mournful character of the ruined towns - The lonely mosque - The deserted palace of Ali Pashá - Reflections on the Tepeléni of today, and that of 1809 - Impression and melancholy characteristics of all around - Departure from the town - Valley of the Drino - The khan Subáshi - Hills of Gardhiki, and vale of Derópuli - Arghyró Kastro - Wailings for the dead - Picturesque position and buildings of the town - Its castle and streets - Visit to the Governor - Extraordinary costume of the women - More wailing - Departure from Arghyró Kastro - Route through the valley of Derópuli - Village of Episkopi - Water-cresses and grasshoppers - Custom House officers - Beautiful scenery near the khan of Xerovaltó - Night-halt at the khan of Tzerovina - Life in a stable.

Chapter XIII

Scenery in the valley of the Kalamá - Cold and rain - Visit to Zitza under unfavourable circumstances - The monastery - Cloud and rain - Route along the plain to Ioánnina - First impressions of the picturesqueness of its position - Signor Damaschinó - Hospitalities and luxuries - Plan of discontinuing Albanian tour for the present and to reach Malta as soon as possible - Departure from Ioánnina - Ascent to Pende Pigadhia - Uninteresting morning’s journey - Squabble at the khan - Descent to the plains of Arta - Arrival at that town - Signor Boro, the vice-consul - Land Turks and water Turks - Magnificent position of Arta - Departure for the sea-coast - Paved road through the marshes - Arrival at Salágora - Embark for and reach Prévyza - Home and kindness of Sidney S. Saunders, Esq. and his family - Reach Santa Maura - Farewell to Albania.

Chapter XIV

Plan to re-enter Albania and visit Suli, Athos, &c. - Andréa Vrindisi, the guide - Quit Patrás and sail to Corfu - Land at Prévyza again - Remains of Nicópolis - Its theatres, &o. - Leave Prévyza - Pleasant route to Kamárina - The rock of Zálongo and the Suliotes - Rain - The village home at Kamárina - Delightful prospect towards the south - Woods and glades of Kamárina - Nightingales - Descent to the plains - Lúro, Kanzá, Rogús - Exquisite landscape - Beautiful foliage - Vultures and tortoises - Arrival at Arta once more - Its magnificent aspect - Hellenic walls - Orange groves - Departure from Arta - Infinite variety of birds - Immense flocks of vultures - Pleasant scenery of that part of Epirus - Pasheená’s bridge and its valley of oaks - Beauty of Lake Zeró - Village of Sélovo - Freshness of early morning - Village of Kragná - Difficulties of mountain tracks - Arrive at the village of Zermi - The Primate’s house and reception - Valley of Tervitzianá, and approach to the Gorge of Suli - Note on the disastrous history of Suli and its brave people - Fall of baggage-horses - Fearful glen of the Acheron - Danger, and tedious process of passing through the ravine - Arrival at the hill of Thunderbolts - Castle of Suli - The Governor - Wild and impressive scenery.

Chapter XV

Sunrise at Suli - Tremendous grandeur of its gorge - Descent to, and passage across the Acheron - Endless views of Suli - Village of Potamiá - Perplexing paths - Andréa loses his way - Arrival at nightfall in the hamlet, of Splántza - Moonlight, frogs, and fireflies - Route along the cliffs - Vast olive-grounds - Beautiful appearance of Párga - Its most melancholy history - Italian character of its scenery - Route to Margariti and Paramythia - Magnificent position of the latter town - Its unsatisfactory accommodations - Uninteresting route in a river bed - Arrival at Bagotjús - Unpropitious weather - Great theatre of Dhramisiús - Arrival at Ioánnina once more - Three days in that capital - Beauty of the surrounding scenery - Description of its variety and of the streets, &c. - Unsettled state of the weather in these lofty mountains at this season - Resolution to visit Thessaly and Athos.

Chapter XVI

Kastritza or Dodona - Ascent of Mount Dhrysko - View of the Lake of Ioánnina - The midday khan - Tedious ascent of the Métzovo branch of the Arta - Gorges of the Métzovo ravine - Arrival at the villages of Métzovo - Vlákhiotes and their habits - Scenery about the town - Upper Pass of Métzovo, or the Zygós - Scenery of the Pindus range of mountains - Khan of Malakássi - The river Salympria, and its banks - Plane trees - Albanian frontier passports - Amazing rock of Metéora - Kastráki and its crags - The monasteries of Metéora - Their inconceivable strangeness and picturesqueness - Arrival at Trikkala - Half-and-half costume of Thessaly - High road halting-places - Plains of Thessaly - Their innumerable beauties and objects of interest - Village of Nomi - Immense extent of meadows - Distant views of Pindus, Olympus, Ossa and Oeta - Ornithology - Increasing heat - Want of beauty in the wilder plains towards Lárissa - Arrival there.

Chapter XVII

Visit to the Pashá of Lárissa - Hassán Bey’s house and family - Excursion to Tempe - Village of Babá and house of the Dervish - The Dervishess and the little Dervish - Life in a Mosque or Teké - Ambeláki - Monsieur Hippolyte - Vale or gorge of Tempe - Its exquisitely beautiful scenery - Route towards Platamóna - English park scenes - Distant view of Mount Athos once more - Perverse little camel - Return to Babá and to Lárissa - Storks and their mode of life - Visit to Férsala, Armyró and Volo - The woes of Thessaly - Rain and discomfort - All idea of visiting Mount Athos finally given up - Return to Nomi, to Métzovo, to Ioánnina, to Philates and Corfu - Farewell to Albania and Greece.

Notes

Bibliography

Index of Placenames

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