border crossing albania, honking, pushing, getting out, getting in. there is a lot of hustle and bustle, things going haywire. everybody is in a hurry to get into the country.
at once tense and tentative, we follow the scenario. paul stubbornly stays in lane, wow albania has us.
in the next weeks you will rob us of our breath, surprise us and impress us.
liberated from enver hoxha’s communism/command economy a few years ago, you know how to enjoy life to the fullest. you love loud music. you cruise through the streets with mercedes and g classes. you drink espresso by the liter and there is no shortage of italian spoken. you celebrate weddings on a grand scale and you never give up good food. the “restaurant legendja” is heaven on earth for that. in the fairy-tale garden, excellent cuisine at star level awaits you.
we hang out in shkodra for a few days behind, roam the streets and get a feeling for the first muslim country on this trip. elderly gentlemen sit in coffee houses, young families with several children are on the move. i immediately notice the stylish women. they master the cobblestone pavement with their high heels straight out the pages of vogue.
at sunset, the valley turns gold and the rivers drin, buna and kir glisten, which can best be observed from the crumbling city fortress.
tirana, the vibrant capital of the country, is well worth seeing. besides a lot of new buildings, she has the ability to translate the “prefabricated building” in a modern way, she sets it in scene with colour-changing fountains. the litte ones jump through these and you can tell their heartfelt joy from their laughing faces.
on the “free walking tour”, we learn that the country is now actively working on joining the european union and is looking to the future. on the other hand, the past, marked by oppression and isolation, has in no way been dealt with yet.
as a symbol of freedom, a piece of berlin wall, a concrete column from the spaçi work camp and a former bunker are placed in the centre of the building. together they form a gripping art installation.
about 170,000 concrete mushrooms were distributed throughout the country and are the result of hoxha’s schizophrenic fear of an invasion by all hostile neighboring states, including the people’s republic of china.
most of the bunkers lie abandoned in the countryside, some have been painted or converted into museums.
with a heavy heart, we continue on the partly bumpy roads towards the south. the sun is burning and we want to swim.
along the adriatic coast of albania we find quiet relaxing beaches and bathing bays. here and there you meet large families and couples. huge sheets are stretched around parasols for plenty of shade, children play and bathe with their fathers and the women let the day end with a picnic. a relaxed sight.
the waste produced looks just as relaxed, you stand up and leave. unfortunately, there is an omnipresent waste problem.
since there are no waste disposal facilities, everything that has accumulated is left lying around or burnt. for us, this is a strange picture.
time will bring enlightenment and a rethink, we hope.
we set off for ohrid lake via berat, the city of a thousand windows. a wide rugged mountain landscape opens up for us. reddish rock, abandoned factories and an old railway line with rusty trains cross our path.
as we swim in the lake in the evening, thousands of fish inspect us, nibbling and tickling our feet.
albania you are a wonderful country. to visit you is absolutely worthwhile. your cordiality is stunning and your scenery unbeatable.