Our halfway town was Vodena, which seemed, after the heat and dust of the journey, like an oasis in the desert. Scores of streams, issuing from the steep slopes of the encircling hills, race through the town in a network of little canals and fling themselves from a cliff, in a series of superb cascades, into the wooded valley below. Philip of Macedon was born near Vodena, and there, in accordance with his wishes, he was buried. You can see the tomb, flanked by ever-burning candles, though you may not enter it, should you happen to pass that way. He chose his last resting-place well, did the great soldier, for the overarching boughs of ancient plane-trees turn the cobbled streets of the little town into leafy naves, the air is heavy with the scent of orange and oleander, and the place murmurs with the pleasant sound of plashing water.
Beyond Vodena the road improved for a time and we fled southward at greater speed, the telegraph poles leaping at us out of the yellow dust-haze like the pikes of giant sentinels. At Alexander’s Well, an ancient cistern built from marble blocks and filled with crystal-clear water, we paused to refill our boiling radiator, and paused again, a few miles farther on, at the wretched, mud-walled village which, according to local tradition, is the birthplace of the man who made himself master of three continents, changed the face of the world, and died at thirty-three.
Then south again, south again, across the seemingly illimitable plains, until, topping a range of bare brown hills, there lay spread before us the gleaming walls and minarets of that city where Paul preached to the Thessalonians. To the westward Olympus seemed to verify the assertions of the ancient Greeks that its summit touched the sky. To the east, outlined against the AEgean’s blue, I could see the peninsula of Chalkis, with its three gaunt capes, Cassandra, Longos, and Athos, reaching toward Thrace, the Hellespont and Asia Minor, like the claw of a vulture stretched out to snatch the quarry which the eagles killed.
[Footnote A: Portions of this sketch of the Albanians are drawn from an article which I wrote some years ago for The Independent. E.A.P.]
UNDER THE CROSS AND THE CRESCENT