|About the Book|
PREFACEALBANIA, once a Roman highway to the East, has been for many centuries the wildest and most inhospitable of European countries. The mountains that had echoed to the tramp of Roman legions, and had witnessed the culmination of the struggleMorePREFACEALBANIA, once a Roman highway to the East, has been for many centuries the wildest and most inhospitable of European countries. The mountains that had echoed to the tramp of Roman legions, and had witnessed the culmination of the struggle between Caesar and Pompey, became some fifteen centuries later the scene of one of the most glorious struggles for liberty of which we have record. For nearly a quarter of a century Scanderbeg, the national hero of Albania, with a few thousands of his mountaineers, stemmed the advancing tide of Turkish conquest. When at length the gallant Prince and his people were borne down by sheer weight of numbers, and Albania became a Turkish province, this mountain land, which had been a principal bulwark of Christendom against Islam, served to buttress the unstable empire of her new masters. It has been the settled policy of the Turk to keep the Albanian in a condition of semi-independence and complete barbarism, as a kind of savage watchdog at the gate. From time to time the dog has turned upon his master, and in many a fierce struggle the mountaineer has shown that he has not lost the fine qualities of courage and love of liberty that inspired Scanderbeg and his followers.To the few Europeans, including J. G. von Hahn, Edward Lear, H. A. Brown, and E. F. Knight, who at no little personal risk have made a study of this romantic land and people, I am indebted for many interesting particulars, and especially to Miss M. E. Durham for the stories of The Man and the Ass, and the Dismembered Cow. The opening up of the country under the new regime in Turkey may soon render the visit of a motor- or gyro-car not more perilous there than in other parts of Europe, at present of better repute. But it will be long before the Via Egnatia, once the eastward continuation of the Appian Way, becomes as good a highway for motor or other traffic as it was two thousand years ago.My young friend, George Buckland, is at present the sole possessor of a gyro-car, and he looks forward somewhat ruefully to the day when his scamper across Europe will no longer have the charm of novelty.