Sunday, September 7, 2008

1-2 September – Albania

We were charmed by Albania already at the border (and that is usually where many countries place the most terrible civil servants they can find). So we kind of ignored the fact that we were harassed by street children in the major northern town of Shkoder, and instead decided that we really like Albania. Not because the country is lacking a garbage collection system (resulting in terrible garbage dumps everywhere). Not because of the 700,000 concrete bunkers built to defend the country against the enemy (meaning the rest of the world except China, and meaning that there is one bunker for every five citizens). Not because of the language which we do not understand even one word of (except perhaps ‘tungjatjeta’ which means hello but is pronounced in an incomprehensible way). But because of the extremely friendly people who approached us wherever we stopped and tried their best to make us feel at home. We will especially remember the young girl who brought us, newly picked, black and green figs in the morning; and the three young men who wanted us to take pictures of them as they returned from a failed bird hunt; and the tractor driver who stopped to show off his Lamborghini tractor from the umpteenth century and let Temba sit on the bonnet as he demonstrated how to start the engine with a screwdriver. Albania is dirt poor and still seems caught in a time warp – a kind of hangover from the extreme communist regime the country endured during the last half century. Challenging times lie ahead for the friendly Albanians.
The ever present garbage - Albania
One of Hoxha's many bunkers - Albania
Young friends hunting for birds - Albania
Curious farmer - Albania
Life in the slow lane - Albania

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