National Geographic : 1931 Feb
EUROPE'S NEWEST KINGDOM sleep amid the monastic peace of their surroundings. Next morning we found that no re muneration was expected. Hospitality and tolerance center the Bektashites' code of simple pieties. "It is evil to be full when others are empty," runs one of their say ings. And again: "It is evil to boast self righteousness, denying the good in others." The Baba gave us his blessing. Then we left him in contemplation, lifting up his eyes to the hills. Somehow an old Bible verse stirred within us. Hebrew psalmist and Mohammedan monk-are they, in their searchings, so very far apart? That day we skirted intensifying tracts of olive groves terraced on the hillsides, down which we motored seaward. When almost within view of Saranda (Santi Quaranta) we encountered a rustic bower, sheathed entirely in leaves and perched 15 feet in air on sapling stilts. We ventured up its ladder, much to the surprise of the lonely watchman who inhabited the leaf house. It was his job, he explained in ac cents contracted long ago in some Massa chusetts shoe factory, to watch over the olive-clad valley from this airy nest (181). SIX YEARS IN JAIL FOR BEING "RUDE" Then he grew confidential, saying that it was a safe retreat for one who had just been released from jail. "You see," he confessed, "I got six years for being rude to a man." "Six years for being rude!" we ejacu lated. "Yes," said the leaf-dweller simply, "for being rude, with a knife. And, now that I'm out, his widow's brother wants to get rude with me !" Northward along the Adriatic, between the ports of Saranda and Vlona (Valona), runs a road of arresting interest and beauty. High over the sea, it zigzags around cliff profiles throughout Ioo miles of olive groves, pine woods, sandy beach strips-outstretched panoramas as seen from an airplane. Now we half-circled some perfect port site which awaited com merce to redeem it from sheer nature. Now we halted for wayside lunch amid the gnarled olive trees of some red-roofed village, somnolent under July noontide, with the Adriatic far below us, pale blue, inert, lacking even the "painted ship" that lay in doldrums "upon a painted ocean." At last came longed-for sunset ; the mass ing of parched humanity around roadside springs; the filling of kegs; and the "water line" of scores of women, the kegs strapped across their shoulders, ascending to their hill villages. We climbed the outposts of Himara's (Khimara) coast-skirting range, only to find ourselves at the base of its rugged promontory, Mount Glossa, the Acroce raunia of the ancients. Now, Himara was the classic Chimaera, and certainly the hor rendous, fire-exhaling monster thus named in Greek fable had nothing on our car as it snorted smokily up the countless hairpin turns laid by war-time engineers. At last we achieved the summit. Be yond, we coasted down through cool pine woods and out upon a seashore drive that brought us to Vlona. WATER IS WEALTH IN ALBANIA In two more days we made Berati and Elbasani. The mountains had distanced, yielding to scenes of unbroken plain land, dotted with cattle, bowered with fruit trees, and crossed by two small but active rivers-a refreshing sight. Assuredly water is wealth in Albania. She has but two navigable rivers, and these are only partially and seasonally so. Wasted torrents from the mountains in winter and bone-dry stream beds in sum mer-these are the extremes in the water problem of a country where the creation of storage lakes would be an economic boon. We had just been ferried across a river and were proceeding on our way when a youth appeared in mid-road and gave us the "Stop" signal. Unceremoniously he demanded that we convey him to Berati, some four hours distant. "Why?" we asked him, for he could have had a free ride in any passing oxcart. "Is your case urgent ?" "Why?" he echoed haughtily. "I am the son of a bey-that's why !" Nick Carter yelled something at him, then stepped on the gas. Later he con fessed, grinning: "I just told that fresh guy how you are the son of President of U. S. A.!" Such was our first contact with a social caste, privileged and powerful, which has survived the centuries of Turkish rule in Albania.