We overtook or met several parties of Montenegrins, and even Turks, for the border is not far distant, travelling from place to place. We were viewed with obvious interest, and invariably greeted with respect, though there is nothing of subservience in a Montenegrin’s salute. He feels himself in no way your inferior as a man until you have proved your superiority in shooting or physical strength.
In this part of the country Dr. S. always told the peasants that we were engineers, as a road is being contemplated.
About seven p.m. we branched off from the main path, and descended on foot a steep path into a thickly wooded valley. In a clearing of the trees stood a collection of wooden huts, a summer village of shepherds, called Raskrsnica.
It was our halting-place, and as our visit had been notified, we were received by a schoolmaster and taken to his hut, which was placed at our disposal.
No schools are held during the summer months, and the teachers often turn shepherds, as in this case, and migrate with their flocks to the mountains.
A typical mountain hut—Costume of the north-eastern borderers—Supper and a song—We go out hunting, and cause excitement—The Feast of Honour—We ride to Andrijevica—Andrijevica and our inn—The Voivoda—We go to church—Turkish visitors—Alarums.
[Illustration: OUR HUT AT RASKRSNICA]
It was nearly dark by the time that we were unloaded and had got our traps into our hut. As half our time was spent in similar constructions during our mountain tour, it may be as well to describe them now.
They are usually built entirely of wood, rough, irregularly hewn planks, and no attempt is made to make them air-tight; often great crevices gape, through which a hand can be put. The roof is generally fairly water-tight. A man can stand up-right in the middle, but the roof slopes steeply down to the sides. The word “can” is used advisedly, i.e. if one is able to breathe the densely smoky atmosphere at the top. Chimneys or outlets in the roof to permit the smoke to escape are unknown, and when cooking is going on, or at night when a roaring fire is kept burning, the appearance of the hut from outside gives a stranger the impression that it is on fire, and that the flames must burst out at any moment. It leaks smoke at every crevice.
Inside is an open space reserved for the wood fire, and a primitive arrangement, often a chain suspended from the roof, for hanging the cooking pot. A few blocks of wood serve as easy-chairs, beds there are none, an armful of rushes or grass, which is usually damp, serving their purpose. On entering, the new-comer will first cough violently, then choke, and finally make a hurried exit to the fresh air. Summoning courage and with a fresh supply of oxygen, he dashes into the hut again, and throws himself on his heap of rushes. As the smoke rises, the atmosphere on the ground is less dense, but the penetrating smell of the burning wood is sufficiently strong to make his eyes pour with water. These are first impressions; later on, he can even sit up, and after a few days will be able to walk comparatively slowly in and out of the hut.