'WE found Florina one of the most interesting towns in the Balkans. Long under the rule of the Turk, it possessed a distinctly Oriental aspect which gave it charm. It nestled at the foot of some high hills which had been the scene of heavy fighting in the dispute for its possession. The town itself had suffered little, if any, in the fighting. Its long main street followed a valley, turning and twisting. Booths and bazaars lined the thoroughfare and in places vines had been trained to cover it. There were innumerable tiny Turkish cafés, yogart shops, little shops where beaten copperware was hammered out, other booths where old men worked on wooden pack-saddles for burros. There were artisans in silver and vendors of goat's-wool rugs. The streets were always alive with "the passing show," for the normal population of fifteen thousand souls had been greatly augmented by the influx of refugees from Monastir. There was an air of unreality about the place, an indefinable theatricalism which gave one the sense of being part of a play, a character, and of expecting, on rounding a corner, to see an audience and then to hear the playing of the orchestra.
It was while on duty at the hospital at Florina that I made the first run into Monastir. My journal for December 2 reads:
"At one o'clock this afternoon received orders to proceed to Monastir en raison de service. My passengers were two corporals. It has been a cold, overcast day, the clouds hanging low over the snow-capped mountains. A cold, penetrating wind hit us in the face as we drew away from the hospital.
"Where the Florina road joins the main caravan road to Monastir, we passed from Macedonia into Serbia. Here we turned sharply toward the north. The flat fields on either side were cut up with trenches, well made, deep ones, from which the enemy was driven less than a fortnight before, and shallow rifle pits which the French and Serbs had used in the advance. Even now, so soon after their evacuation, they were half filled with water. Everywhere there was evidence of big gun-fire and in one place where we crossed a bridge the ground for yards about was an uninterrupted series of craters. For the first time in the war I saw piles of enemy shells and shell cases showing that his retreat had been unpremeditated and hasty. In one place stood a dismantled field piece.
ROBERT WHITNEY IMBRIE*
*From Behind the Wheel of a War Ambulance. Courtesy of Robert M. McBride & Company of New York.