Thursday, April 30, 2009

Faces of rural Albania


Faces of rural Albania, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

It has bene an interesting couple of days as we have driven from Shokdra in the north back down to Lezha and across east to the mountains on the border with Macedonia. In doing so, we have crossed incredible terrein and travelled back in time to rural Albania, where the fields are dug by hand or with a horse drawn plough. It could be Africa if the people were black.

The roads are terrible, worse than in the African countries we travelled in adn it took more than four hours to travel the 127 kms from Lezha to Preshkopi and the same on the way back, although this does not count for the time spent stopping and taking photos of the magnificent scenery. The roads pass through river valleys, the river water a bright turquoise, turning brown when it rains, over some hills into another valley, past rustic farmlands, with characteristic hay stacks and lots of wild flowers, every so often a relic of the communist industrial age, such as a (disused) coal mine or phosphate factory. Then over some more mountains and into another valley adn another, finally ending up against the steep snow topped peaks of Macedonia.

Preshkopi, our destination seemed a bit of an anti-climax, full as it was of dreary Communist-built apartment blocks under a grey sky, but we managed to have a nice time there, staying in and having dinner at the hotel restaurant served by a charming waiter who could not stop winking at us;)

This morning we walked around town, to the market, up to the old Ottoman houses and along to the main street where the local men were having their morning passegiata. It looked am lot better in the sunlight.

We drove back on the same road as we had come, recognising many of the places we had stopped on the way up yesterday, whilst stopping also to wander around a local village just outside Preshkopi, listening to the birds singing, the water rushing off the mountain, a man bringing logs back on the back of his donkey, the swallows nesting under the eaves of the old wooden shed, everywhere covered in beautiful wild flowers, hens running around and children playing.

Later on, we would run into a major thunderstorm, the sky had been black for awful long time. The rain came down, turned to hail, the roads became rivers, thunder clapped and lightning struck and all the time there were big gaping holes in the tarmac but on we went, struggling to get back to Tirana before nightfall.

We made it back OK, many hours after we had left. The city is preparing itself for a National Day holiday tomorrow, so hoping to see a lot of flag waving, as long as it doesn't rain too much. We have had a bit of rain the past few days and it was the rain which dissuaded us from going further north from Shkodra to Thethi, but it was a good decision as we had such interesting drives to and from Preshkopi. we are just left thinking that it is a pity that the Albanians did not learn more from the Turks about cooking and from the Italians about road building...

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