WITH THE SEVEN CHURCHES OF ASIA MINOR. 81
. THE CASTLE OF ARGYRO-CASTRO, ALBANIA.
TURKEY IN EUROPE.
Among the wild and almost inaccessible mountains of Albania, the traveller is
often astonished to enter suddenly on beautiful and fertile plains, where he expected
nothing but a continuation of those rugged and sterile rocks, over which he had been
painfully and perilously clambering. Of these the magnificent plain of Argyro-Castro is
one of the most remarkable. It extends in length more than thirty miles, and varies from
six to eight in breadth. It contains nearly one hundred villages, either hanging on the
sides of its alpine barriers, or hidden in the recesses of the shadowry glens that cleave
their sides. Through the centre winds the limpid stream of the Druno, imparting freshness
and fertility to its verdant banks. Vast flocks of sheep whiten the plain below, and
picturesque herds of goats hang on the crags above; and the whole scene, instinct as
it were with life, gives to the wildness and majestic aspect of nature a singularly beautiful and interesting character.
At one extremity of this place, perched upon the summit of a precipice, stands the
town of Argyro-Castro. The rock on which it is built is cleft into various fissures, so that
the streets are divided by deep and yawning chasms, which separate it into various districts, and give it a character singularly different from any other town. The houses are
of a size and structure superior to those in Albanian towns. They are not contiguous, or
in the form of streets, leaning on one another for support. They stand single and
independent, sometimes on the summit of a crag, sometimes on the side of a precipice,
and sometimes concealed in the fissure of the rock. The greater number, however, are
on level ground at the bottoms of ravines, and the street is the natural chasm of the
mountain. The sides are lined with fruit-trees, flowing shrubs, and hanging gardens, so
that every lane is a romantic mountain-glen. These picturesque streets, however, have
their disadvantages. On the sudden solution of snows, or deluges of rain, the torrents
from the higher ground rush with fearful impetuosity through them, devasting them from
one end to the other, and leaving nothing behind, but torn-up trees, submerged houses,
and drowned bodies.
The present population is estimated at 150,000 : the greater and more opulent part
are Turks; the rest Albanian Greeks, and Jews. Many of them were lately engaged
extensively in commerce, and the town contains a spacious bazaar, well supplied with
every species of merchandise; but its prosperity has greatly declined : the ruthless
hand of AH Pasha fell on it, in common with all its neighbouring towns; its inhabitants
were massacred, its merchants plundered and scattered, and its prosperity, with its commerce, greatly reduced.
Our illustration presents the castle or fortress of the town impending over its beautiful plain. This fortress is one of the most extensive and important in Albania. It con-