The Albanian in His Own Habitat. A Dated Portrait
Viorel Stănilă
 

?The most savage are the Ghegs. Handsome men, black eyes full of pride, the regularity of the features, the short and strong teeth, the thick beard announce their Caucasian origin, as Chopin says; their face is of the same shade as that of the Greeks. They are sound, five and a half feet tall generally, they wear red garments, their gaze and their gestures are proud and grand, while their bodies are large, which makes of them the finest cavalry. They are valiant at war. The catholic Mirdit Albanians are more judicious in manners, yet not as imposing. The Tocsids are more obedient than the Greeks. They are wealthier and more open to foreign civilization. Their attire is of heroic posture: the coturna, the clamida, the belt, the girdle, the knee-long tunic, and the long hair. They are the most handsome and the most elegant. The Iapids dwell in the Acrocerauni Mountains, they are the laziest of all Albanian tribes. The Macris, grim, small, with grave looks. They wear the same attire as the Tocsids and fezzes. The Himariots and the Arghirocastrits are less barbarian and their garments are exceptionally clean. The Hamids live on the shores of the Ionian Sea, amid the forestal valleys of Tesprota. Their hair is a light chestnut, their figures are pleasant and their look endearing.

The Albanian women are different from one another and resemble mostly the folks of their tribe. The wives of the Ghegs are remarkable by their proud look, by their prancing, and by the pistols worn at their belts. M. Chopin says that these overconfident women do not search for avengers, but retaliate themselves the evil one has done to them, and apprehension seems to be unknown to children that were raised by these women. They follow their men in battle with other tribes. They do not wear veils. Their courage seems sufficient to shield them from all passion. The Tocsid women are the most fine-looking and refined. The women of Acroceraunia are ugly, while the Hamid women have beautiful hair and eyes, being of a dark complexion and delicate.? (Bolintineanu, 1985, p.348-349)

A description of the children is suggested by Tache Papahagi: ?We are crossing the Muslim Albanian village Ceprat: some forty houses, their majority one-storied, built in stone, with small windows. Some little Albanians, as black as crows, a bag to their necks, with bread crumbs instead of books, would attend school, as it were.? (Tache Papahagi, 1920, p.18)

And since there is word of villages, on the plains, in the bey?s cifliks, one could find unhygienic cottages, similar to the cottages of Romanian slaves. In the mountains, villages were composed of one-storied stone houses, with narrow windows and loggias over the entrance, so one could fire guns from there. The distance between two such cottages always exceeded a gunshot (see Neniţescu as well, p. 479). The stone houses were neither clean nor comfortable.

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