A cheery landlady came from the tiny box of a kitchen in the centre of the house and led us up two flights of steep and shining stairs. With conscious pride, throwing open the door of a spotless chamber, she preceded us to open a small compartment in the double windows and to watch our faces when, our veils being removed, the full splendor of her best apartment should burst upon us. For although we had sent no word it was evident that some one was expected. The immaculate sheets were turned half-way down the bed, over tufted satin quilts; the ruffled and embroidered pillow cases glistened; a vase of bright artificial flowers ornamented the columnar stove in the corner; and Dresden shepherdesses looked coyly down at more ordinary bric-b-brac upon the whatnot. A gracefully shaped glass pitcher stood in the porcelain-lined tin bowl on the washstand and plenty of fresh towels were brought. Only the landlady herself seemed to understand German, so all orders were given through her. With the big-eyed Croatian maiden we found gesticulations ample and sufficient. After all, our needs were few — something to eat and a clean bed. It did not seem exacting.|
We wandered out to the quay through the narrow winding streets and from the pier looked back beyond the warehouses to the Nahaj Castle [Fortress Nehaj] on the hill — a likely place indeed for a pirate band; but we saw nothing piratical on the slumbering sunlit shore, or even in the tortuous streets of the tiny town. A quiet good-nature seemed to prevail and everywhere we were sped on our way with the greeting, "Kiiss die Hand."
CHAPTER IVZENGG TO GOSPIC — OVER THE VRATNIK PASS
Very early the next morning our party is perforce awake for there are no shades or curtains or blinds to shut out the brilliant light. Already the city is astir, and at the fountain in the public square a girl is filling her wooden tub. How is she going to carry it away? To my amazement she lifts it lightly to her head, balances it deftly, and walks up the hill without spilling a drop. Before our breakfast is ready she is back again and as she trips along with a peculiar lilting motion the water dances in little pointed wavelets in the tub but it never dances out. Boys, great and small, many of them wearing the Croatian cap, crowd around the automobile intensely interested in every detail; but with a politeness of demeanor that reassures us.
We are susceptible to each new impression this morning and an unwonted air of excitement seems to pervade our party, for to-day we are to enter the promised land; — to-day we are to try strange routes and cross the mountain passes of Vratnik and Mali Halan. What knowledge we have been able to acquire is so meagre, so contradictory, that it really is with a thrill of prospective adventure that we leave our friendly Hotel Zagreb and set out at last for Dalmatia.
There is a coast road as far as Carlopago [Karlobag], thence to Gospic; but being assured that the better route lies straight inland we leave the sea and start up the valley where the blue hills overlap. On the southern slope the trees are already tinged with green and the sun shines in brilliant patches from a wind-swept sky.
It is indeed a day for adventures. Should one of the Frangipani, who were masters of this territory in the thirteenth century, appear, surrounded by his body-guard, to demand toll from this new invasion, it would not surprise us. Or should the Uscocs dart from any one of the many convenient ambushes, it would seem quite natural and fitting. The original Uscocs were honest men when driven by the Turks from Bulgaria, Servia, and Bosnia to find refuge, first in Clissa [Klis], and then in Zengg under the protection of Ferdinand of Austria [Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor]. Here, at first, they made an ideal frontier guard against the Turks; but after being checked in that direction they turned their attention to the sea, degenerating into lawless marauders, attracting to their number adventurers and outlaws, from all nations and "becoming the terror of Christian and Moslem alike." After unheard-of atrocities culminating in a three years' war between Venice and Austria, in 1618 the Uscocs were dispersed and Zengg occupied by German troops; but the pirate tales of barbaric bloodshed, of hideous crimes for gain, still create a background of darkness and gloom which enfolds the harbor of Zengg and its overhanging rugged heights.
Up these heights we crawl slowly for an unexpected detail delays us; — the sharp stones of the road are well worn down in two fairly smooth ruts and we might mount the somewhat steep incline with ease were it not for the cassis, or bumps, which at every forty feet or so force us to slow down or break a spring. We might almost as well ride in the dry bed of the torrent, so faithfully do we follow its capricious bends. Beside us a whitewashed chapel lifts its tiny belfry above the wooden crosses at its feet. Up and up we go by long windings on the mountain side until at length, far above us, we see a cleft in the crags.
"That," says the Leader, pointing to it, "is where our road goes through and over. The many white pyramids of stones which dot the mountain between us and that cleft show where the route lies, and are ready for repairing it."
Below us the inlets of the sea lie like crater lakes among the peaks. Although we have passed the last straggling pines and firs, we still hear bird songs above the hum of the machinery and catch occasional glimpses of the happy songsters. "Bransevina" we read on a sign-post and look down sheer two thousand feet to where the islands seem cut in ivory out of the blue water. Even far-away Cherso [Cres] conies into view and then —
Suddenly a loaded wagon drawn by two horses appears on the road ahead of us. Poor things! How frightened they are! And the teamster — how he trembles — how his teeth chatter! The predicament is not a pleasant one for either party, as there is no parapet to the road and the distance down that precipice is many hundred feet. We instantly stop on the outside and the chauffeur talks soothingly to the horses and rubs their noses until they consent to be led by the evidently harmless although terrifying monster. The man is grateful and smiles pleasantly as he pursues his downward course and we hope fervently that we may not meet many vehicles on this narrow pass.
Soon after, we stop at a wayside spring for the marvellous view below us. Beyond the heights of Veglia the island of Arbe [Rab] rises like a shimmering opal out of the turquoise sea. The play of color on her shining cliffs changes with each dimpling cloud. So unearthly is the vision it seems floating in ether and I half expect anything so lovely must soon vanish when — I hear a sharp click beside me and the motor continues its climb.
"This is the top of the Vratnik Pass [2326 feet]," remarks the Leader, as we slip through that cleft in the crags and turn away from the shimmering sea. "We have taken fifty-nine minutes to climb fifteen kilometers. At this rate we will have to make other arrangements for the night."
The road is very muddy from recent rains, the bumps are farther apart now for we are on a high plateau, a cultivated open country with wooded hills rising on either side. Cattle scramble up the steep inclines like goats to get out of our way, palisade-like fences take the place of stone walls, snow lies by the roadside. "Vratniku 25 K. Otocac," says a guide-post, and we feel encouraged, for Otocac is our first halt.
A walled-in well and a few scattered adobe huts constitute this settlement of Vratniku. The huts are shingled with five or six rows of long "shakes" and in lieu of a chimney have a pointed board placed at a slight angle from a hole in the roof. Neatly piled stacks of white birch-wood stand beside each door. We soon discover that this primitive shelter is the characteristic Croatian farmhouse, differing only in proportions.
"22 u Otocac" — and three horses abreast stand stiff with horror before the advancing monstrosity. Again we stop and the chauffeur quiets the frightened beasts. The language is totally unknown to them but the tones are soothing and comforting so they consent to be led by, and the strain is less intense since this time we are not on the ragged edge of a precipice. The wild hellebore grows rank among the stones, a hawk circles overhead, gayly marked small birds fly from the corniolo's yellow blossom, and primroses peep from beneath a tangle of dried clematis.
"Zatalowka," but the tiny hamlet is soon passed. We are on the great plateau of the Velebit and the road is drier in places. Men in picturesque costumes consisting of blue sleeveless coat, white woollen stockings drawn over the trousers to the knee, and gaiters above the string sandal, or opanka, pass us; on their heads is the inevitable red Croatian cap and they carry a flat bag woven of horsehair with red fringe.
A tumble-down chaise appears and the horses threaten to smash it in their struggles to get away from us; but nothing really happens. I will omit our further experiences with horses on this one day. There seems to be a certain monotony in the telling of them, which, however, did not pertain to the reality! At the time there were always elements of danger; but we successfully emerged from every one of our ten encounters. Cisasitch is passed, and here a road leads to Dabar; but there is no mistaking our own route carefully marked with guide-posts from the top of the Vratnik Pass.
Near Kompolje our exhaust has to be cleaned from the accumulated mud, and I welcome every stop, as there is always so much to see. Here the houses resemble Swiss chalets. From over the high-railed wooden balconies the mountaineers peer at us, reserved yet friendly, and seem less suspicious than the inhabitants of the coast.
Eager to test their hospitality, we go toward one of the simple dwellings, and as we approach every head disappears from the balcony, whether in dislike of my kodak or fear of ourselves, we cannot tell; but after a moment's delay the mystery is solved, for all the family have rushed down to open the door and welcome us. They stand in a huddled group, looking at us curiously, but not quite certain what to do. With the one word "voda" (water), uttered in an appealing tone and with a gesture of drinking, we throw ourselves upon their mercy. Their self-consciousness vanishes in flashing smiles, and the youngest runs inside while the older ones motion us to enter. An unmistakable odor of onions and soup rushes out through the half-opened doorway.
"We are so bundled up," the Gentle Lady explains; — "will they pardon us for not accepting their invitation?" I stare in amazement at the variety and lucidity of her gestures. When the girl returns with two cups of water all formality disappears. How good it tastes! How pleased they seem to be at our delight! They finger frankly our strange garments; my pongee mackintosh especially amuses them, and the one who discovers the rubber lining has to exhibit it to each in turn. They talk all the time, and we do the same, each in his own tongue; the tone, the inflection, the expression, are even more telling than language. By the time the Leader calls us, we have become good friends, and bid these kindly creatures a half-regretful "Au revoir."
Once more we surmount a forest-covered ridge, and from the top we see Otocac in the distance. It is nearly eleven as we stop at the "Oest Automobil Club Auto-Benzin und Oel Station" for supplies, and are immediately surrounded by a crowd in holiday attire.
"Oh, do take the kodak and go across the street," I beg the Leader, who, busy about his gasoline, looks up a bit annoyed. But one glance at the picture is enough for him, and he obediently seizes the kodak and crosses the broad street.
"If it would only take color!" I cry as he returns. "Do see this beautiful man at my side." By this time we speak our minds quite freely and aloud, for English is a tongue unknown in the interior of Croatia. The "beautiful man" is meanwhile devouring with his big eyes every detail of the mud-bespattered car.
"Isn't that white knit jacket becoming? And do you see each one has a different colored border and cuffs ? Are n't the brass-studded belts effective? And did you ever see such long pipes?" The women wear big black silk aprons trimmed with white lace and carry the gayest of tasselled bags, large enough for panniers on a donkey's back.
From the neat-looking inn across the way, from the feed store and the low houses, come slowly a gathering throng, who, — making the benzin seller their interpreter,— ask intelligent questions of our Leader as to our nationality, the distance made to-day, and our destination. The word "America" always brings a glance of pleased recognition. Is it not the dream of many a boy to some day visit that wonderful country and. of course, bring home a fortune? Scarcely a hamlet is so small that it has not sent at least one representative to the New World. So as we leave Otocac the people speed us upon our way with pleasant nods and smiles of friendly sympathy.
"That is the road to the Plitvica Lakes [Plitvice Lakes National Park]," calls back the Leader, as we pass a post which says " u Priboj." "If it were later in the season, we would go over there from here, but as they lie two thousand feet above the sea, I am afraid it would be too cold just now."
As we cross a tiny stream, we meet a cart, whose owner, fearing to pass us, turns about hurriedly and runs before us seeking shelter; in his anxiety he fails to notice the loss of one of his wheels! It is a comment on the usual roughness of the roads! We pick up the wheel and carry it to him where he is waiting in a hospitable farmyard and he receives it with a mingled expression of amazement and gratitude.
Past Lesce and a cross road to Ravljane, we climb into a charming dale where the Gacka River begins its gentle course. A mill is half hidden behind low falls; a group of men bow politely as we move by; the road becomes drier as we mount a long well-graded hill with pleasing views back over the grassy valley and the little stream meandering through its green length. We have time to enjoy it, for our poor engine cannot breathe, the radiator is so choked with mud. Farther on we enter pine forests and hills of spruce and cedar, — then snow by the wayside and many granite boulders.
We look about for water, to replace the loss caused by the overheating of the engine. Not a brook nor a pool anywhere! Finally at a turn in the road a house appears bearing the welcome sign "Gostiona," (inn) and the willing peasant, in response to our gestures, brings out a pitcher and a glass. We point to the engine, and pour in what he has brought; when, smiling at his own cleverness in comprehending these queer foreigners, he darts toward the well and soon reappears with a kerosene can full of water. This receptacle, fitted with a wooden bar for a handle, has usurped the place of the pail as a carrier of water throughout these regions.
"Gospic?" we ask — for we are growing hungry. "25 K.," he writes on a slip of paper. Luckily figures are alike in most languages!
The New York Times, May 14, 1922:|
A NATION ACTUALLY TOO PROUD TO FIGHTCroatia Wants to Be a Republic, But Will Not Use Force.
RESENTS SERB DOMINANCE
Memorializes Genoa Conference
in a Remarkable Document, Hitherto Unpublished.
On the eve of the Genoa conference the Croatian Deputies of the Jugoslav Parliament, from which body they seceded when, a year ago, it became evident that the Constitution of the monarchy of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes was to be for an autocratic Greater Serbia and not for a Federation of South Slav States, unanimously addressed a resolution to the conference praying that the intelligence and sympathy of the statesmen assembled at Genoa should prevent Croatia from being dominated by Serbia.
On May 9 the news reached Bari delle Puglic, on the Italian Adriatic coast, and was cabled to this country that the Croats had proclaimed an independent republic and that a Government had been inaugurated with Stephen Raditch as President of the Counsel. On the following day the Serbian Legation at Geneva informed the League of Nations that it was not true that an independent republic had been "established," although it admitted that the Croatian population had for some time resented the domination of Serbia "and ever since the union of all Jugoslavs have been trying to break away from the Belgrade Government, but without decisive results."
The memorial sent to Genoa throws a flood of light upon the subject. It is not known whether it ever reached its destination or, reaching it, was entertained by the conference, but is is here published for the first time. Diplomats consider it to be one of the most remarkable documents of its kind. Like the manifesto issued by M. Raditch, a year ago, it admits the common ethnic origin of the Croats and Serbs, but declares that the former received their education from Western and Central Europe and not from the East, which, by inference, makes their culture superior to that of the Serbs. Also like the Raditch manifesto, it solemnly declares that whatever their sufferings the Croats will not take up arms in defense of their inalienable rights, preferring to leave their case to the judgement of "enlightened democracies." The Raditch manifesto had said on this point:
"If a revolution broke out in Croatia it would be against my will, and the responsibility would rest with the people and not with me. I am also opposed to revolution, because we have no arms. If foreigners were to supply arms it would involve obligations on our part, and in that case we should be fighting for foreign interests."
Why Croatia will not fight against Serbia, although it does not wish her to subjugate Croatia, but why, to use M. Raditch's own words, "We do not fear this struggle, for we are stronger," is explained in the memorial unanimously adopted by the sixty-three Deputies of the Croatian bloc sitting at Zagreb, the ancient capital of the Crownland of Croatia. It relates many things which have been going on far behind the scenes, while the seemingly more portentous dramas were being staged by the great powers.
"We Croats entered European history as a civilized and self-conscious nation and founded in the second half of the ninth century an independent State, composed of the Croatian littoral on the Adriatic in the ancient Dalmatia of the Romans and of the Croatia on the Danube in a part of the ancient Upper Panonia of the Romans.
"The Croatian Nation and State received their political and literary education from Western Europe--from Italy and France--and their economic and social organization from Central Europe--from Austria, Germany and Bohemia. In this way the Italian Renaissance brought about a Croatian Renaissance in the course of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries; the French Revolution achieved a political and liberal movement either by its direct influence on the Croatian littoral and Danubian Croatia, or by the effect of its ideas, during which time ideas of economic and social progress were introduced into Croatia by means of an administration and an academic German system.
"Croatian nationalism, therefore, has its source in the humanitarian individualism of a universal Church (the Roman Catholic) and Croatian society is entirely a matter of European development, both in literature and education.
"The political independence of Croatia has never been legally interrupted and Croatia has always had the possession of a State possessing its own territory, Parliament and Government. During the World War the Croatian Diet at Zagreb was one of the few European Parliaments which never lost sight of the unity of European interests or of those of the world.
"The Croatian soldiers during the World War quickly revolted on the Russian front, and, even before the end of the war, these soldiers and the Croatian people became entirely inspired with sincere pacifism and democratic republicanism...
"This is why the Croat, led by Deputy Raditch, took part in the great demonstrations of the Bohemians at Prague on April 13, 1918; this is why, on Sept. 22, 1918, the Croatian Parliamentary opposition voted against the diplomatic note of Count Burian, then Minister of Charles I. of the Hapsburgs, and elected delegates to the Peace Conference on the distinct understanding that they should represent the Croatian Nation; this is why the National Council of Zagreb, in the beginning of October, 1918, grouped around independent Croatia all the Jugoslav countries of former Austria-Hungary in a free and prosperous federation similar to that of the American...
"The proclamation of complete independence of Croatia, unanimously voted by the Croatian Parliament on Oct. 29, 1918, was, therefore, the logical consequence of the politics and culture which Croatia had been developing for more than a thousand years, and all the more so because when it proclaimed the independence of Croatia the Croatian Parliament expressed the wish to found a Federal State with the Kingdoms of Serbia and Montenegro under conditions brought about by national groups and not by the votes of self-proclaimed leaders.
"Serbian politicians counteracted against all these designs by proclaiming the domination of the Monarchy of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes on Dec. 1, 1918, without even having asked the consent of the Croatian Parliament, much less of the Croatian Nation. The convention of the Croat Peasant party of Nov. 25, 1918, where 2,832 delegates, in the name of 50,000 constituents declared for the neutral Republic of Croatia; the extraordinary convention of the same party, held on Feb. 3, 1919, where the 6,872 delegates in the name of 150,000 constituents proclaimed their firm will to defend to the last the right of self-determination of the Nation and State of Croatia against the tyranny of the Belgrade Government; the petition of the same party covered with 167,000 signatures sent at the end of May, 1919, to the Peace Conference at Paris; the plebiscite of the republic itself which took place on Nov. 28, 1920 (the day of the electons for the Constituent Assembly of Belgrade), affirming the right, pure and simple, of self-determination for the Nation and State of Croatia--all these manifestations emphasizing the popular will counted as nothing with the politicians of Serbia so badly advised that they began to praise their regime already bearing down upon Croatian political and national individuality as well as upon its economics and culture.
"The magnificent proclamation of the neutral Republic of Croatia of Dec. 8, 1920 at Zagreb... did not prevent the Serbian Government of Belgrade from continuing its violent and savage policy against the people.
"The Balkanization of Croatia was the result, and this Balkanization is full of danger for the rest of Europe and for the peace of the world...
"The details of the program of the Nation and State of Croatia are contained in the Constitution of the neutral Republic of Croatia of June 26, 1921, and the Croatian Nation will omit no means, armed revolution excepted (the case of armed defense for the national existence is well understood by the people, however), knowing well that if they labor peacefully they will little by little gain the sympathy and moral support of all really enlightened statesmen and of all nations truly civilized.
"Zagreb, Capital of Croatia, Jan. 14, 1922."
(This memorial is signed by 63 Deputies of the Croatian Bloc).