Ioannina, though an inland city, and surrounded by mountains, has long had much commercial importance; and the traveller will be surprized to find here, merchants who have large connections, not only with the different parts of Turkey, but also with Germany, Italy, and Russia. The direct traffic, indeed, through Ioannina is small, compared with that in which the Greeks of the place are engaged, through their connections in foreign countries. The general origin and nature of these connections may be explained in a few words. The active spirit of the Greeks, deprived in great measure of political or national objects, has taken a general direction towards commerce. But, fettered in this respect also, by their condition on the continent of Greece, they emigrate in considerable numbers to the adjacent countries, where their activity can have more scope in the nature of the government. Some branches of the migrating families, however, are always left in Turkey, either from necessity, from the possession of property in the country; or from the convenience to both parties in a commercial point of view. Thus by far the greater part of the exterior trade of Turkey, in the exchange of commodities, is carried on by Greek houses, which have residents at home, and branches in various cities of Europe, mutually aiding each other; and by means of the latter, extending their concerns much more variously than could be done in Turkey alone.
This description is entirely applicable to the commerce of Ioannina. Many of the merchants here have extensive continental connections, which are often family ones likewise. An instance at this time occurs to me of a Greek family, with which I was intimate, where, of four brothers, one was settled at Ioannina, another at Moscow, a third at Constantinople, and the fourth in some part of Germany; all connected together in their concerns. Many other examples of the same kind incidentally came to my knowledge. A circumstance tending to maintain this foreign relation, besides the interests which are often answered by it, is the system of Ali Pasha, never to allow a family to quit his territory, unless leaving behind some principal members of it, and their property also, to be responsible for their final return. This method of preventing emigration has the effect of retaining in Ioannina branches of all the ancient families of the place, and thereby of keeping up commercial connections, which otherwise might be transferred elsewhere.
Most of the merchants here are men who have travelled much in Europe, are well instructed in European habits, and speak several of the continental languages. Their principal connections are with Germany and Russia, an intercourse which has been maintained for a long period. The port of Trieste has generally been a great channel of Greek trade, and many Greek houses are established there, with relation to other houses in Vienna, Leipsic, and various places in the interior of Germany. The connection with Russia depends partly upon the relative situation of Greece; in some degree perhaps on the similarity of religion, and the political relation which Russia has had at times with this people. The principal branches of several Ioannina houses resided at Moscow previously to the destruction of that capital, and probably have since resumed their situation. A large amount of Greek property was lodged in the bank there, including the funds of several public institutions, schools, & c. We were in Ioannina at the time the news of the burning of Moscow arrived; and living chiefly among merchants, could judge of the great sensation this event excited among them. The losses sustained by some individuals in the destruction of their magazines were very great; and Ioannes Mela, the young Greek already mentioned, estimated his at some thousand pounds. I had the satisfaction of afterwards learning that it was less than he at first supposed.
A considerable part of the cottons and cotton yarns of Thessaly, as well as the coarse woollen manufactures of the country, have generally been transmitted through Ioannina for exportation to Italy and Germany. Of late years, owing to the impediments to trade on this side, a larger proportion of these cottons has been forwarded by overland carriage, from Salonica and other places.
Albania, and the neighbouring districts, are in great measure supplied with articles of commercial demand through the merchants of Ioannina; this city therefore forming a depôt of much importance in the country. The commerce, adapted to the wants of the population, is of course of a very miscellaneous kind. Each merchant pursues his trade in a variety of articles, which he obtains through his connections in Germany and Italy; or latterly, to a greater extent perhaps from the island of Malta. The nature of these imports I have detailed in speaking of the commerce of the gulph of Arta, which is in fact intermediate to that of Ioannina. […]
The general export trade of Albania, consisting of grain, timber, tobacco, wool, oil, & c., is conducted in part by the Ioannina merchants, in connection with their import trade. Of grain the Vizier himself is the great monopolist for exportation. The plains, adjoining the city, are rich in their produce of wheat and maize, which are sent down to be shipped at Salaora. The tobacco grown in this and other districts further to the north, is chiefly collected at Ioannina for export, and both in quantity and quality forms a commercial article of some value.