Old Homes of New Americans

Where Sea and Mountain Marry
Chapter 9

The Charming Adriatic Coast -- How to see it -- The Stertle Mountains -- A Theatre of Stirring History -- Pola and its Arena -- Diocletian's palace at Spalato -- The Ancicnt Republic of Ragusa -- Montenegro and its Brave People -- Bosnia-Herzegovina -- Sarajevo, its Capital -- Austria's Great Seaport.

IF my readers will furbish up their geographical knowledge, they will remember that the eastern coast of the Adriatic belongs largely to Austria, Hungary, and Turkey. It embraces Istria, Dalmatia, Albania, and a few yards, so to speak, of Herzegovina, and a few more of the Montenegrin coast-line, and there is outside the mainland, at a longer or shorter distance, a fringe of islands, running invariably north and south, while on the opposite Italian shore of the Adriatic there are no islands, and the wind-swept coast is very different from the safe, island-protected harbors of the eastern shore.

I fear that this is as far as the geographical knowledge of many of my readers extends, if I may judge them by myself, for until I visited the eastern shore of the Adriatic, it was a terra incognita to me. I had a vague notion of the facts above stated; but I did not know of the magnificent scenery, of the land-locked fiords, rivaling those of Norway or Iceland in beauty, of the rugged snowclad mountains, grand and mighty in their very sterility, that rear their heads along the whole route and wash their feet in the peaceful Adriatic. I did not know much about the many ancient cities, full of the memories and monuments of the Caesars, that line the shore, or of the possibility of making a journey into the heart of the little Kingdom of Montenegro, and of there seeing the bravest, most stalwart, and handsomest people in all Europe.

All these surprises were in store for me when I took passage on an Austrian Lloyd steamer at Trieste for Cattaro, the most southern town in Dalmatia and on the very edge of Montenegro. By preference, we chose a slow freight-steamer that dawdled down the Dalmatian coast, stopping at every little port to discharge huge boxes of Austrian merchandise and cans of American kerosene oil, and to take on, as a fair exchange great barrels of olive-oil, hogsheads of wine, sheep and goats and chickens, boxes of Dalmatian insect-powder, and anything else which the Dalmatians had to offer.

It is, in deed a wonderful journey. In and out, out and in, the steamer threads its way, almost always in still water, and sometimes apparently completely landlocked, with the islands on one side and the steep, sterile shores of Dalmatia on the other.

Strabo described Dalmatia as barren and rocky, and the country has not improved in any perceptible degree since Strabo's time. I had always supposed a New Hampshire hillside farm to be the synonym for rocks and sterility, and from my boyhood I have been familiar with the joke about the sheep that have to sharpen their noses before they can pick out the grass-blades from between the rocks, and about the farmers who have to plant their peas and beans by firing them out of a shot-gun. But the most sterile New Hampshire hillside farm I ever saw (and I lived among the New Hampshire hills for ten years) is a paradise of fertility compared with hundreds of miles of the Dalmatian coast. Yet here for thousands of years men have lived, and grown old, and died. Here battles have been fought, and dynasties have been overthrown. Here Caesars have had their palaces, and have built their temples and their coliseums.

The photo at the right shows two country folk from the neighborhood of Ragusa, Dalmatia.

Dalmatia, which is one of the crown lands of Austria, has been the theatre of much of the world's most stirring history, from the time of the Caesars to the day when Napoleon I incorporated it in his short-lived "Kingdom of Illyria." This was in 1810. But in 1814 it was handed back to the Austrians, who had possessed it for a few brief years, from 1797 to 1805, when they had ceded these coast-lands to Italy.

Dalmatia's history has, indeed, been a varied one. Since the days of Caesar Augustus, Goths, Avars, Slavs, Magyars, Turks, Venetians, French, and Austrians have fought for and successively ruled this stern and rock-bound coast, whose magnificent harbors have excited the cupidity of all these races.

Barren, rough, forbidding as it is, it has a beauty and a grandeur all its own. Splendid mountains, some of them snow-crowned, as I have said, tower up from the very edge of the water. Lovely fiords, as fine as anything In Norway, Alaska, or the Faroe Islands, pierce the land in every direction, affording scores of fine harbors for the navy,and the merchant vessels of the Austro-Hungarian fleet.

Charming islands shut away the boisterous Adriatic, and would allow the traveler to imagine that he is on an inland lake, did, not the large ocean steamer on which he is embarked challenge the idea.

But, above all, this is the land of romance and history. You can scarcely go ashore at any little, dilapidated, gone-to-sleep town without finding a beautiful Roman temple or arena, or at least a splendid Corinthian column, two thousand Years old, standing in the market-place. The arena at Pola, which is Austria's chief naval station, is finer and in far better repair than the Coliseum at Rome, and Diocletian's palace in Spalato is more impressive than most of the ruins that travelers rave over and that guide-books mark with two stars.

Yet who in America ever talks of Spalato? Who crosses the ocean to see Pola's coliseum, or its still more beautiful temple, built nineteen years before Christ and still in a fine state of preservation? Who is interested in Ragusa, the little republic which so long maintained its independence when all the rest of Europe was trembling at the advance of the Turk?

Yet there is no more picturesque spot in all the world than Ragusa, the bride of the sea and the daughter of the mountains, sitting regally on her narrow peninsula that the sea and the mountains allow her.

But the most interesting part of all the journey is the detour to Montenegro that one makes from Cattaro, the most southern town in Dalmatia,just over the Montenegrin border. Here the mountains assume their grimmest and most savage aspect. "Frowning mountains" is no name for them. They are hideously scowling mountains, these black hills of Montenegro, from which the country gets its name. Of solid dark-gray rock, so bleak, wind-swept, and precipitous that scarcely a green thing can find lodgment on them, they tower over the peaceful fiord of Cattaro, almost overhanging the water with their sullen, dark brows.

Up, up, up, by many zip zags we climbed these tremendous rocks, over a pass three thousand feet directly above the sea; then a little stretch of comparatively level but equally barren country; then up another mountain and over another pass four thousand feet high our road lay. For six hours we climbed and climbed, and it was quite dark before the twinkling lights of Cetinje, the capital of Montenegro, blessed our eyes. Here we found a country village of about three thousand inhabitants, where every man looks like a brigand, wearing his belt stuck full of pistols and daggers. yet most handsome and mild-mannered brigands they are,

I must say, trying to get the better of us in every bargain, as all Easterners do but plying their brigandage in no other way. In this almost inaccessiblemountain strong- hold the Montenegrins of a thousand years have defied the Turks and maintained their independence, and within a short time their beloved prince, Nicholas I, has of his own accord given his people a constitutional government and has summoned a parliament.

There are only two hundred and fifty thousand Montenegrins, all told, living in the barrenest corner of this round earth, so far as I have seen it. They are poor as poverty, too, living for the most part in mud or stone huts, with thatched roof and no chimney; but they are men for all that, free, brawny, brave, handsome, independent men, content with their lot and proud of their fearsome mountains and awful chasms, -- the finest race, as a race, that I have seen in this part of the world. And the reason is not far to seek. They have been to the School of Liberty. They have breathed the mountain air of freedom for a thousand years. Every man is a possible hero, every woman the mother of, a hero. Long live the freedom-loving Montenegrins!

This little digression concerning Montenegro may be forgiven, perhaps, since the Montenegrins, though they do not belong to Austria-Hungary, in their history and their traditions have much in common with the outlying sections of the Dual Monarchy. Few Montenegrins have come to our shores as yet but when we consider the attractions which America offers them over their own sterile mountains, it would not be surprising if the tide of emigration should set in, and a large part of the population eventually find homes in our hospitable land.


Bosnia-Herzegovina lie directly east of Dalmatia, separated from that seacoast province by the same sterile mountains that loom so threateningly above its rocky shores. On the side of Bosnia-Herzegovina, however, they smile more than they frown, and many a charming valley and fertile meadow is found on their eastern slope. The emigration from Bosnia-Herzegovina has heretofore been comparatively small; and yet, since these provinces are governed by Austria, and the tide of emigration from all of them has begun to set toward the United States, it is worth while briefly to consider them and their people.

Here the East and the West meet as in no other part of the Dual Monarchy. In the early days the Bosnians belonged to a sect of Christians called Bogomiles, which the Catholics regarded as heietical and which they tried with all their might to suppress. The common people, for the most part, resented this interference, and preferred the religion of the Turk to the kind of Christianity which the Franciscans would force upon them, so these provinces were ground between the upper and nether millstones of the Moslem and the Catholic; but much Oriental blood still runs in their veins, and there is little national or religious unity to bind the people together.

Divided as the people were in their religions, between the East and the West, their country was often the battle-ground of Turk and Christian. Over and over again it was overrun and laid waste, and the lot of the people was indeed deplorable.

Mr. Colquhoun, in "The Whirlpool of Europe," gives an interesting account of Sarajero, the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina: -

The five-and-twenty years of Austrian occupation has not, in Sarajevo, the capital, done more than place a surface crust over the lives of the people. Even here one may turn out of one's modern hotel and in a few steps enter the bazaar -- that labyrinth of lanes, flanked with wooden booths in front of stone buildings.

Here is no trace of the West. The barber plies his trade; the shoemaker displays his peaked slippers of red or yellow, and patches his customer's worn goods, spectacles on nose; the silver and copper smith has his little furnace and apparatus of primitive simplicity; the tailor sits cross-legged on his bench, and the sweetmeat-seller greets one's nostrils with the odor of ghee, to be smelt a long way off.

Most characteristic of all is the beturbaned old graybeard, seated cross-legged before his door, smoking sedately and imperturbably his cigarette or long hookah and surveying the world with the indifference of age-long philosophy. Through the murmur of sounds that fills the heavy air, laden with the many smells of an Oriental bazaar, comes a familiar clang -- the importunate jangling of the bell of an electric train which glides along near by in vivid contrast to this bit of old world.

The people have the virtues and the vices of the primitive races, for they are the least developed of all belonging to Austria. They are strong, vigorous, well-knit physically, with little intellectual enterprise, due very likely to their lack of opportunities; but theY have in them the making of a vigorous and useful people, and, with the facility of all Slavs, they are able to adapt themselves to circumstances, to make the best of their condition, and, for the most part, to endure their lot uncomplainingly.

Trieste, Austria's great seaport on the Adriatic coast, of which I shall speak in another chapter, is of particular interest to Americans, since from this port embark tens of thousands of would-be citizens of our republic. Not many months ago, as I was returning to my hotel from a late meeting in the town of Agram, the capital of Croatia, I met a long procession of men, women, and children, each with a bundle, or a carpetbag, or a tin can, or some article of bedding or household furniture, and each with a determined look and steady stride as though on some serious errand bent.

I soon found that their purpose was indeed a serious one, for they were bound for the happy land of freedom and prosperity, as they regarded it. There were at least five hundred of them in this band; and I was told by a resident of Agram that more than a thousand gathered in this little capital every week, and from here started on their long journey to America.

The next day, taking the train from Agram to Trieste, I found the third-class compartment crowded to suffocation with these same men, women, and children whom I had seen the night before. Doubtless many tears had fallen, as they left their homes in the country, but these were all receding into the distance, and good cheer had taken the place of the sorrow at parting from friends.

With many quips and jokes and songs they beguiled the long journey to Trieste, and a day or two after I embarked with them on the same ship, which was to take me to Greece and to take them to far-off America. Such scenes are common in a score of towns and cities throughout Austria-Hungary, and every one of them is loaded with significance for every American who loves his country and his fellow men who, from among these many races, are seeking our shores.

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