a. It’s the very end of January and I’m trying to blog more (I think this is going well)
b. I went to Albania over 4 months ago,
c. I owe my rug a backstory, and
Be warned, this is a long post.
The West coast of Albania is lapped by the waters of the Ionian and Adriatic Seas across which lies mainland Italy. From north to south and by way of the east, Albania is wedged in by Montenegro, Serbia, Macedonia and Greece. After 46 years of xenophobic Communist rule ended in the early 90’s, the Albanians set about establishing democracy. The 90’s were a difficult time for Albanians as successive governments endeavoured to deal with unemployment, widespread corruption, a dilapidated physical infrastructure and organised crime networks. Sporadic violence in the face of being one of the poorest countries in Europe led to a large informal economy and a nearly non-existent tourism industry. Mass migration from rural to urban areas has left a huge dent in Albania’s agricultural sustainability and created a mass of unemployed but well educated public. Enough background – Google whatever else you need to know. I was in Tirana for 9 days and although entire days would pass without us seeing daylight we were always out in the evening, schmoozing or just sitting collapsed over plates of pasta. These are just my own observations:
1. Tirana is an interesting city. Its buildings are all mainly squat square communist blocks, built to last. The post communist mayors gave individual buildings money to jazz themselves up, to remove the greyness/ plain-ness and lift the gloom, and as a result many of the buildings have been used as blank canvasses and painted with shapes and bright colours, like a great big city of pieces from different jigsaw puzzles. I really enjoyed this look. It made for interesting walking and comparing the adventure of one building compared to its neighbours. I hear the older generation was most disapproving.
2. There is a long canal that runs through Tirana with a one way road in opposite directions on either side. It’s less canal, more drain with banking slopes on either side of sludge water, dumped garbage and tree saplings. There are thin and quite unsteady looking bridges at various points along the ‘naala’ besides a few proper sized car roads traversing it to allow change of direction. We stayed some way away from the centre of Tirana but along the famous canal and our modest mid-level hotel proudly gave us canal facing rooms. I felt so wanted.
Albania was a trip of amazing discovery. It’s more ‘Rough Guide’ than ‘Luxury holiday’ but its real, grounded and poised for a future of opportunity. I never thought I would enjoy it as much as I did.
There will be pictures. Soon. I promise.