Albanians celebrate the new year with fireworks and firecrackers, and at 300 lekë for 100 of the cheap ones, Tirana was awash in them. The crescendo had been building since Christmas, and it led to a 2-hour explosion of fireworks at midnight, 1 January. We were unable to see the main square from our vantage point, but it didn’t matter – fireworks were exploding from nearby rooftops, balconies, and alleys, some very close to our window, and unlike what the little kids were throwing on the streetcorner the night before (and almost every night before that), these were the real thing – quite spectacular.
The orgy of gunpowder and magnesium dust has subsided, but we’re still hearing discrete explosions as late as 8.00 PM tonight as some neighborhood kid finds a package of firecrackers that had fallen under the bed, or – less charitably – as some malcontent 20-something sits in his dingy apartment and onanistically shoots one bottle rocket after another out his window. (As you might guess, after two weeks I’m tired of hearing fireworks.)
The temperature has been ranging from a low of minus-five degrees to a high of four degrees Centigrade (23 to 39 degrees Fahrenheit), and it is painfully cold, even indoors. Houses and apartment blocks are constructed from brick and concrete, without insulation, and so are unable to hold the heat except during the summer, when that’s precisely not the goal. Abby and I are bundled up, but still our fingers are icy to the touch. It doesn’t seem to bother the dog, and I’m actually glad to take him for his nightly walk as it seems warmer outside than in.