Immersion Trip: Day 4

For some reason, I was awake at 3:00 AM today and there was no going back to sleep, so I listened to the sounds of the Block waking up: someone in the apartment above us, trucks grinding their gears outside, dogs barking, and a truck picking up the garbage – although it being, Tirana, it’s just as likely the sound of a truck dumping garbage on a corner. You never know. This also was the first time I’ve noticed (and smelled) the fine dust covering everything.

A few things I forgot to put into the description of yesterday. First, I heard from my realtor (via a Vonage telephone number that acts as though you’re dialing Maryland instead of Tirana) that she had begun the open house at 1:00 PM and already had three offers. Also, Abby’s wallet grew legs after lunch and vanished. Maybe the waiter at our restaurant leaned over and slipped it out of her bag, maybe Abby dropped it in the minimart, or maybe it was lifted as we walked through the outdoor café Parku i Madh. Whatever: Abby began canceling her cards while I retraced our steps. While I was able to ask after the wallet in Albanian, in many cases the answer I got was a shrug and a grimace, which means the same thing in any language. Even though Abby is a Consular Officer and so is used to helping panicked Americans after they’ve lost their wallets and passports, she was amazingly calm about the whole thing. I’d have been nxjerrë zorrët jashtë në rrugën (throwing up in the street).

Now onto today: we visited Kruja (click on this link for a better history than I’m ever going to write), the mountain castle town where Skenderbeg and then Lek Dukajini defended Albania against the Ottoman invation until 1478. We then went into the “old market,” which is full of tourist shops but looks pretty. It began to rain soon thereafter, making the cobblestones incredibly slippery (how did they get up the mountain before there were 4x4s?) and giving us an excuse to leave. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to be parsimonious on the photos because Blogger only gives me 1GB for pictures. When I’ve set up a separate photo website, I’ll let you know.

We also saw our first bunkers. Enver Hoxha, the Communist Dictator from 1944 to 1985, believed that Albania would be attacked by its enemies (especially the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia) and so he caused to be built 600,000 concrete bunkers – some big enough only for a single soldier, others big enough for artillary – and covered the country with them. They lie a few hundred yards from the Adriatic Seashore, on the outskirts of Tirana, in the mountains, in the middle of fields, etc. The words “Enver Hoxha” and “dangerously paranoid” often appear in the same sentence. At the Skenderbeg Museum in Kruja, we saw exhibits showing the people of ancient Illyria and pre-Ottoman Arbenia (as it was known) as a fierce, sophisticated and noble people; you kind of have to wonder what happened that they ended up with Enver Hoxha.