The Art Of Being Fluid In A Static World

The old saw about “as much as things change, they stay the same” is a reality for me at this point. I have still not heard a word in regard to my residency visa. At this point, 5 August, leaves me with 28 days left in the EU. I will have no choice but to return to Albania in early September. This is quite definitely not the scenario that I was hoping for when I arrived back home in Bratislava in June. Being hopeful, but not expecting any expedience by the Slovaks, I knew I was up against a system that has been overwhelmed by the Ukraine/Russia War (yes, despite what Mr. Putin says – it is entirely a war); in many ways the system works much as it has since the Cold War days…slowly and mostly at the whim of whomever has your application. Earlier on in June there was some feedback, but the line has gone silent.

The feelers have gone out to my friends in the Balkans, and thankfully they are excited about my return. As it is, I am grateful for the ability to have them to draw on. Going away from my new home and the friends that I have here will be a little less daunting. The thought had occured to me to try another location for three months. but I am still possessed by the beauty of Theth Valley and the wild river winding along its floor. My soul is reinvigorated by simply existing in the mountains. The still scent of the air after a sudden rainshower hangs onto me even now, after two months away. There is clarity in my breath, in my heart and in my mind.

Any meditation reveals the lucency the mountains have attached to me and I’m thankful for it. Each morning when I go through my meditation/chant cycle, I can hear the river and cast myself upon it. Therein lies my great secret: I refuse to succumb to fretting about the visa situation. Knowing it could be a “long haul” process allowed for a bit of fore-planning. Thinking back to 2017 when I was planning my first trip here to Slovakia, I can still hear the words of my dear cousin Elena…”everything is fluid, and we will go with the flow of it”. For a devout Protestant to utter something so clearly “Eastern” has been with me since. If this going to be my path, so be it. At one point I stated that I didn’t want to be on the move every 3 months, but perhaps the universe is at work here, and in order to be at peace with it – I have to be fluid.

Not being in control is deeply liberating, and I have decided to embrace it. At nearly 63 years of age, perhaps all of this motion will keep me from getting complacent, from taking this life for granted, and most certainly aiding the maintenance of my physical well-being. This is about being whole, and I’m beginning to feel it with each passing day. When this odyssey began last December, I wasn’t quite sure what might transpire, or how it would all work out. It is working out, and works better yet when I stay out of the way and go with it.

At this point, I have set 15 August as my deadline. By then I will begin making plans to head back to Albania. There will be very little time spent in the cities on this trip, and if I must, it will be in transition to get to the airport – coming home. If it all works out, I will be back home in my apartment here on Grosslingova 3 December. The “upsides” are many; I am able to actually save money while in Albania. A visit won’t rupture the wallet. It is a country that I truly believe should be on the radar of more travelers. Albania is the total package; the history, the culture, and the people…they are some of the warmest I have ever met. I will be blogging from there, especially to bring to light the phenomenal natural treasures that Albania contains. With any luck, I will be able to visit Alfred in Valbonne again, and try my hand at fly fishing that liquid gem. In the fall, with the water speed far lower than my Spring trip, I should have a better chance against the wily trout in both rivers. We knew that going in last Spring and I was more scouting for my friend Elton, the owner of Albaniantrip.com: he and my guides were intrigued by my idea of opening Albania to fly fishermen.

Knowing that I have not posted since my visit with a dear friend from the US, I felt compelled to let you all know that I am still doing well, I am healthy, and I am happy. Simply put, I am responsible for my own happiness, this is what my Buddha tels me. Although I miss my Son and Daughter, along with my beloved family and friends, I am still more content than I was in the US. Staying in Slovakia might not be a reality, perhaps it might be Albania, or someplace I haven’t been to yet. Who knows? I am still fluid, and just at the onset of my journey. In this short time I have been to Vienna twice, and to our own Male’ Carpaty (Small Carpathians) that wrap around this part of Slovakia. If I were to stay, I would travel to the North and visit my family; I have chosen to stay close in case I was called for my visa interview.

Closing now, I wanted to give you an idea of what is going on, and if there is nothing pressing I will post again before the start of the trip to Albania. Please know that I am thinking of you all in my chants and most are on my mind and in my heart. Please take care of yourselves, and each other. Thank you for following me. I will leave you with something that indicates where my head and heart are at; it has been my go-to for a while now. “My heart is at ease knowing what is meant for me, will never miss me, and that which misses me was never meant for me.” Bob Marley

“It’s Been A Long Time”…In Short Time

Sunday 10,7,2022

It has been roughly 3 weeks since my last post. Time passes here like the Danube flowing steady and sure. Regarding my residency visa. There has been little word since Danka and I went to the “Office of Foreign Police”. She has been diligent, and even with her contacts and political pull, it has been a slow process. The Slovaks are still trying to catch up from the pandemic and the flood of Ukrainian refugees. I am not worried. My residency will happen, and if it doesn’t I will be heading to Albania again. I have had many walks through the Stary Mesto (Old Town), and worked on sharpening my language some. It will be a process. So, with nothing to share with you all, I have abstained from this blog altogether for a few weeks or so.

The one bright spot was a short visit from a dear friend. She had planned to stay nearly 2 weeks, but decided that she needed to be home to help her Sister with her elderly parents. I am thankful for the time together. It was good to see an old friend, especially one with a “deep” shared history. We spoke of many things, and spoke truely. We spent the time walking through the Stary Mesto, along the Danube, and sometimes just sitting on a shaded bench. There was time for her to decompress from her earlier trip around Spain, Portugal, and France. She spent that portion of her trip with her husband,sister, and brother-in-law.

The beauty of my apartment lies in the doors. Every room has one, and they availed her the privacy that she required at her choosing. The weather here in Bratislava had been very pleasant toward the last few days of her stay, and granted a respite from the heat of her past travel. At one point we were caught in a sudden shower, and ran soaking wet like care-free teenagers. Water pooled under the table and around us as we sought refuge in a restaurant. From my standpoint, it was important to do as she wanted, we did so. She went out on her own (it’s very easy to walk here and not get lost), and rested on the bed when it struck her. Being my “first” visitor, I made sure that there was enough room for both of us, and plenty of time to just relax (for her). On the last night of her stay, we intended to have dinner at one of the many rooftop skybars, but ended up with just a couple drinks and gravitated to one of the Asian/Thai cafes that we enjoyed earlier in the week.

Thursday was her last day here, and we agreed to squeeze every last second until I put her on the bus for Vienna Airport later in the day. Since the bus station is located under a massive shopping mall (it’s only a year old), I figured I would go to Lidl and shop for the next 3 or 4 days. I fought back tears as she cried when it was time for her to board the bus. I watched her board the bus and headed for the store. It didn’t take long for me, and I began crying while shopping. I tried to be the “tough guy” and failed. Not much later, I was standing on the corner to cross the street, her bus went past and I waved. Returning home to a now empty house, the silence was deafening. Rooms once filled with her bold laughter and silkened voice now held only the breeze pushing through the open windows. It has taken some time to let it all go… more than I expected.

For now, I return to my study of language and the depths of the past. I have poured myself back into research for my paper. Today Vlad insisted that we get out for lunch, as his wife and kids went up to the Tatras. We parted after a massive bowl of Vietnamese soup, and I roamed back through the Stary Mesto. There has been headway in my research, and I have begun to understand the circularity of history in a fuller manner. I will write here again soon, when there is something to share. I am “home” and everything will work out in its own way and in its own time. If I go back to Albania, I will have a much better base there since I have friends that will help me stay. I would probably end up in Theth with my buddy Pavlin.

My apologies for the shortened length of this missive, perhaps there will be more to share soon. Until the next post, please take care of yourselves and take care of each other. I am incredibly thankful for those following me. I wish you all the good things this life can avail you.

Zlaty Jelen, An Art Exhibit, and Royalty…Of Sorts

Above: Slavo speaking at his art exhibition. Two of his pieces can be seen over his right shoulder

Today 21 June,2022 is a Tuesday and that means that I was back with the “Tuesday Night Club”. It was incredibly comforting to see my friend Prof. Martin Homza, Vlado (owner of Zlaty Jelen) and Karel, among the first when I arrived. I was informed that we were going to an art exhibition by our friend and member Slavomir Gibej. Slavo is a modern sculptor that works with resin casts of the human form. I met him last winter at Jelen and was struck by his warmth and patience in explaining his art, and what he thought art should be. It is worth it to Google him and take a look at his work; it can be found under the Saatchi Art title. The exhibition was held on the 2nd floor of a sleek Audi dealership. We piled out of Vlado’s ancient Mercedes, all five of us, and were met with stares. Along the way we picked up Janosz Palfey. More on him later. The entire crowd was a bit upper crust, but we enjoyed ourselves, drinks and snack were free and some grazed after greeting Slavo.

I was moving very slowly from piece to piece and they looked even better in real life. Slavo came up and in spite of the obligation to meet and greet the upper crust, he took a few minutes with me to explain what he was attempting with certain pieces. It was a nice gesture on his part. Martin came by and started introducing me around the room, and many people were astounded that I was making my home here in Slovakia. After Slavo spoke, I turned around to look at the large crowd and met Vlado’s eyes gesturing to me to gather, as the large was nearly full. We took our leave and shoe-horned ourselves back into Vlado’s Mercedes and returned to Jelen.

On the way, Martin had me recount my day with our dear friend Danka, who has been my greatest benefactor for the residency visa. It goes as follows: Danka and her husband Paul picked me up this morning at 9am and we dropped Paul at the doctor. We came back across Bratislava to one site of the “Office of Foreign Police”. Danka was determined that they had been making it too hard for me to apply. While being told by the intake guard that today wasn’t the day for this kind of application. [ Note; Since the “war” next door, the Slovak goverment split the days of the week for Ukrainians applying for visas and everyone else. There is no clear schedule, it’s hit or miss..typical.] As we were turning to leave, we ran into a man that Danka had once worked with in the government. Danka quit her job as Deputy Minister of Finance for the Slovaks some time ago, but her contacts are wide-ranging. They were speaking in Slovak and I had a difficult time catching what was being said. At one point the gentleman looked at me and nodded. They exchanged numbers, and as he left, Danka’s voice took on a sing-song lilt. I asked what just happened and she said that she would explain in the car.

Once in the car, she told me that he was the head of the Foreign Police and told her that he would be glad to help me stay. She was to send him a text later and he would “arrange things” so I could remain in Slovakia with out having to leave. They worked together when they were doing a case with the Chinese some years ago. I really did not know what to say, and she demanded that I don’t thank her anymore. It is simply not part of the culture. She said, “when I ask you for a favor, you will help me… that’s how it works here”. Recounting this to Vlad, Martin, and Janosz they laughed and agree. From the back seat, Janosz patted my shoulder and said, “welcome to Slovakia, you’re getting a first-hand look at how things really get done”

I am bolstered by the news that I won’t have to pack up again in September and go somewhere for 90 days. In one day I have turned 180 derees and feel a bit more at ease. To boot, it was a great night with my dear friends at Jelen. One of the members of our group is Janos Palffy. He is a direct descendent of the Palffy family that held many estates in what is present-day Slovakia and Hungary. A Palffy Palace is here in Bratislava, on the hill behind Bratislavsky Hrad (Bratislava Castle). As we discussed the length and breadth of Slovak history last night, Jano’s insights were enlightening. he has no pretensions or airs about his family from the past. His ancestor, perhaps the most well-known, was Miklos Palffy. Miklos not only defeated the Ottoman Turks in 26 battles (!), he was also married to Maria Fugger. The Fuggers were a family of merchants and bankers, most powerful in the 15th and 16th century in Europe. This union, plus Miklos’ military prowess, allowed him to gain many estates in Hungary at the time; this included various holdings in Slovakia (then called the “Upper Kingdom”), castles/fortifications, lands, and mines (gold and silver). The Palffy family would go on to wield enormous power in the Upper Kingdom, some entombed in Castles and churches such as the stunning Bojnice Castle. There are 4 Palffy Palaces in Bratislava alone, 3 I have not seen. The significance of the palaces, in so great a number will be something that I will write about in the future. I have a bit more research to do on this matter. The greatest factor is that this phenomena is connected with the fact that St.Martin’s Cathedral on the western end of the Old Town , was the coronation church of the Kindom of Hungary from 1563 to 1830.

It is nearly impossible to speak of Slovak history without speaking of Hungary (and Poland in the North). The Slovaks as a nation did not exist until 1919. Hungary held a near-1,000 year sway over what was to become modern Slovakia. There will be more of this complex history, and as well, the intricate webbing of other nation-states that influenced history here in Central Europe. As an amateur macrohistorian, I am endlessly curious and fascinated by the depth and wide sweep of our history. This land that is swathed by the Carpathian Mountains has a past that emerges from beyond the thick mist of time. It has been my joy to discover it. As I progress in my study of history, I realize that I only know a small sliver, of a vast tree…humbling.

I am happy to say that my odds of staying here have increased exponentially. Being able to stay, will allow me to branch out from here and discover yet more of our past, and in doing so, perhaps come closer to my own ancestry. There is also a plan afoot to see Western Europe as well. I have many trips planned to see my own family in Orava, and still yet to see the east with Kosice (co-seech-say), and to my landlord’s (and good friend) home town of Bardejov. A return to to Spis (speesh) Castle, and Levoca (lev-o-cha) will do some good as well. I will make a ppint of including the Central/Southern portions too. Also, I have the natural in my sights. I wish to fly fish our rivers coming off the Tatra Mountains. The most important aspect of being rewarded with a visa card (it resembles an id card/driver’s license) will to be the ease and ability to travel through the rest of Europe and return to my home here. Language classes will be a large part of that plan, and my friends are already helping me with pronunciation, phrasing, and syntax. I will write again soon, and hopefully have the news that I will be able to be more permanent. Until then, thank you for following me. Please take of yourselves and take care of each other.

Last Thoughts On A Fortnight Past

It is feels very comforting to be back home now in Bratislava. I arrived last Monday 6, June in the early evening. To say that I had to “dig deep” to get here would be putting it mildly. My last 4 days In Tirana were spent in sickness. In the early morning of Friday, 3 June, I woke with an intense pain on my right side. From my shoulder to my hip, whenever I would move. It worsened if I had to cough, or get a quick breath. I had fallen twice in the mountains, both times on my right hip. I thought that by this time I had “walked it out” and wasn’t feeling any discomfort. It had been nearly 3 weeks to this point and I was feeling only mild discomfort. From nowhere this had spread up to my rib cage and continued to my shoulder. I could not figure out what was causing this.

An attempt to calm myself and breathe easy brought more pain. I began walking around my flat and didn’t feel anything in my hip. Pressing and prodding it, looking in vain for a site that was affecting this disturbance. In my mind I was running down a checklist; water?..yes; I had been eating, I had been moving – daily walks af good length. I sat and tried to relax everything, I began to meditate slowly – away from the distrubance inside of me – into a place that I found comfort. At once I hiccuped, and the pain shot through me like an eletrical current. Okay…”calm down”, I told myself. This went on most of Friday morning and into the day. I wasn’t hungry and couldn’t force myself to eat, only water.

On Saturday morning, the pain was more than I could bear. I phoned my host Dafne and explained what was happening. She was a complete angel;she was very quick to act. In a matter of minutes I was dressed and down on the street where a taxi was waiting to take me to the hospital. I was preparing myself for a 2 hour wait in the ER, paperwork…all the hoops like back in the US. I couldn’t have been more wrong. There was hardly anyone there at 8am. The young doctor met me at the door and immediately began grilling me about my condition. Into an exam room and all the precursory signs showed I was normal. She drew blood, and then ordered an x-ray. Within minutes I was on the table, and it was over. She met me in the exam room, and explained that she was truly baffled. There were no signs of trauma, except my right hip (on which I fallen) showing a bruise that was nearly healed. I denied pain meds, as I was in recovery and she understood. She gave me her personal phone number and asked me to call her on Sunday (the next day) and let her know how/what I was feeling.

She gave me a hug and sent me to checkout and see the nurse for payment (it was the same person who did the x-ray!). The total bill came out to almost $300. I nearly fell off my chair. I paid it upfront with a card, a cost that am getting back from insurance…no questions. There was a taxi waiting to return to my flat, and once there I sat and fell asleep sitting up. I awoke late in the afternoon feeling refreshed and with very little pain…I was just tired. At this point I was wondering what my trip home was going to be like. Saturday evening laid me down to sleep unquietly until mid-morning Sunday, without pain. Feeling better, I took a warm shower and began to pack for my flight on Monday. I called the young doctor and let her know that I was feeling better, with no appreciable pain, and only that I was still not hungry. She suggested something light, expressed her thanks and wished me well.

I sat on Monday morning and relected on my time in Albania. The first 2 months on the Adriatic were fun, but not my best time. My trip really began when I became engaged in the mountains with Alfred in Valbonne, and then with Pavlin and his family in Theth. I met more people of interest in those places than my whole time in Durres, on the Adriatic. There were some highlights there too, but everything turned dramatically after contacting Elton and Alda at Albanian Trip. For me to exist in the mountains again was refreshing. I am excited at the prospect of getting fly fishing onto those two great Albanian rivers, and to awe people with the breathtaking landscape. I am eternally grateful to Alfred, Pavlin, and most importantly Elton. I was gifted with a few moments of his time and wisdom. He, and Pavlin, and Alfred have becomes Brothers to me in this spirit of adventure and forging ahead with new ideas. I will grasp those notions firmly. The history alone is stunning, and to stand in some of the places were it occured was humbling. I shall not soon forget my experience there.

My checkout time on Monday at the flat was 10am. I was up early, and ready to leave by 9. I checked into my 3pm flight, and everything was go. My strength was beginning to flag by this point, but I still had no interest in putting anything in my body when it didn’t want it. I’ve been there many times before and was not prepared any “accidents”…in either direction. I heaved my over-stuffed duffel onto my body, which by now was considerably lighter as I had lost some weight over the last 3-4 days. Luckily for me there was a cab stand just a few meters from my flat entrance and I staggered up to get to the airport. It was a quick ride to the airport, inexpensive and my driver was a nice middle-aged Albanian that liked to listen, as well as talk. He gave me a hug and wished me a safe trip. I reeled into the airport and it was just the opposite of what I was hoping for on a Monday. To call it a beehive would be a misnomer. I had 3 hours before boarding, and was lucky enough to find a New York Times to do a puzzle to pass some of the time.

I heard a pair of US tourists before I saw them. You know the type: loud, complaining, and acting as if they were the only ones there. Mixed into this were a few boys playing football in the waiting hall, some on 3-wheeled scooters zipping around, and your usual crying babies…we had it all. Funny though, with all of this going on, in a stream of people moving, and the heady miasmic atmosphere…the security guards (not TSA – these guys and gals had military everything on them) were concerned with the crying kids. They would walk by and kindly ask the parents to the “quiet room” until their flights were called. Bravo!, I thought it was brilliant. We loaded more than 45 minutes late, and then had to sit and wait as there was “a problem with the airspace” over Vienna Airport. I didn’t care, at this point I was starting to flag and decided to take a nap. Before I can recall we were off and after what seemed like a very short flight were landing in Vienna. I went right through passport control, claimed my bag and waddled out to catch the bus to Bratislava. I would take it to Nivy, our new shopping mall built over the bus station. It is hardly a 4 block walk to my apartment on Grosslingova. I had already planned on a taxi. I was done dragging this duffel any further. I was about text my landlord Vlad that I was at Vienna. He beat me to it and offered to pick me up at NIvy. I took it. By 6:30pm I was in my apartment and talking to Vlad. I was a few yards away from tears of joys to be back in my space finally.

It took a few days to recover, I’m eating again, and have gotten out to walk. I feel no pain, and I am leaving that mystery lie in Albania. Mysteries….there are so many in this life. I had checked in to let those that I know and love that I was home and safe. I was informed that my dearest niece and her husband had lost their child early in pregnancy. Maybe the trial of traveling in a weakened state, maybe having been worn down mentally after living by myself, or perhaps simple grief had me crying for quite some time over the last days. All the memories of the birth our daughter Ana flooded down the canyons of my past. It was a girl, and they were going to name her Charlotte Rae. I connected with her during my meditation yesterday as she went skyward. I am beginning to tear up now as I push this recollection to memory. Our time here is incredibly fleeting. Our lives and the time we are given with those we love is truly “given” and can be taken from us at any moment witout any explanation. The past fortnight has re-affirmed this notion, as I too felt like I was “close to the edge” at times during my ill health. If I have learned anythingfrom my voyage over the last 3 months, I have garnered the truth that I am a social being with an obligation to be connected to those that I meet…a social animal, if you will. Being entirely alone is perhaps not what I’m built for. I derive profound spiritual strength from human interaction. I know also (and have known), that we are spiritual beings having a human experience… not the other way around. (Thank You Sean O’Keefe) Once again, I thank all, or any, who are following me on this trip, and I wish you well. Please take care of yourselves, and take care of each. I will post again soon hopefully with news of my visa search.

Summertime. Football, & Hooligans

Everyday after breakfast I walk up to Skanderbeg Square to the bookstore Adrion It’s about a 4.4km (2 3/4mi) roundtrip and I look forward to it. I try to get up there to get a New York Times and walk back to my flat before the hottest part of the day. Lately, it seems like summer has set in here in Tirane. This week past has been in the upper 80’s/low 90’s. On Wednesday there was a presentation of the trophy for the first-ever UEFA Europa Conference League. The teams were AC Roma and Feyenoord (The Netherlands). I knew it was a big deal because many of the streets were blocked off and the entire area where I ived, called Blloku, was a “pedestrian zone.

There were far more people than I am used to seeing. I heard Italian and Dutch spoken at Tony’s as I ate breakfast in the usually quiet space. My waiters were hopping, and stopped to caution me to make sure that I was back at home here in Blloku before 4/5 that evening. After I left and began my walk up to Skanderbeg, I understood perfectly. At each major intersection that wasn’t blocked by fencing were at least a dozen policemen and women. It was actually nice to walk down and cross the tree-lined streets without traffic. Traffic here is a major problem, especially in tighter neighborhoods like Blloku (or Bllok…locally). I’ve mentioned that it’s like Lincoln Park without the threat of the inner city problems… I still stand by that statement. The square was full of both fans and Albanians celebrating the opportunity to see the trophy. A carnival had sprouted, and a huge screen as well. Air Albania stadium has a seating capacity of nearly 23,000, and it was reported that there were more than 100,000 fans for both sides in Tirane.

The Tuesday night prior, I read that Albania “deported” 48 Italians and 12 Dutch fans for being hooligans. I looked toward the stadium after I crossed the bridge over the Lana River at Bajram Curri Blvd, and noticed glass and debris still on the street. I’m glad I was invited to watch the game at Tony’s. My walk home is less than 5 minutes from there. As I walked through the shade, I marveled at how intense the heat from the sun became, even through the trees! My usual m.o. is to get my walk to Adrion in and maybe stop at the supermarket before 11;30, and be in my flat from Noon until 5/5:30. After that I’ll take a walk through the park (in the shade still) and end up at Tony’s for dinner around 6:30/7. Wednesday night was still a bit warm at 7 but I brought a long sleeve shirt because it cools off quickly ( nearly 70F) always with a nice breeze.

Last week I looked into tickets for this match, wanting to see real football from the stands. It would be my first since watching Ruzomberok vs. Zilina on my 2017 trip to Slovakia. I nearly fell off my chair at the price. I decided it would be best to watch it from a coffee house, with a macchiato in one of my haunts. I met “Tony” from Tony’s cafe last Sunday and he invited me to watch it there. It’s my “go-to”. The waiters there are great and I’m totally at home. Tony as it turns out, is actually Albanian, but has a sister in Idaho. He loved the bar and grill setting so much that he gave up his job running a large hotel kitchen and opened up a few years ago. I ate a late dinner and settled in with my New York Times until kick-off. I should point out that I was skeptical when it showed up on my phone for close eateries. I had checked into my flat and was hungry, it was the closest restaurant. When I walked in, there were old New York Times from 2019, and I quickly scoured them to see if the puzzles were done. After nearly three months of doing the puzzle online, I was ecstatic to actually write on paper.

At 9 o’clock, the game started, and I had a perfect seat on the patio. Owing to the fact that my dear friends the D’Amatos were Italian, I checked to make sure it was alright to root for a team that wasn’t their “house favorite”. I was worried from the beginning as the Dutch were always in the Roma pitch. A 1-0 start to the first half had me jump at the goal and hope that Feyenoord could be held at bay. Late in the second half I was seriously flagging and prayed that AC Roma would keep the Dutch away. I trundled back to my flat, with the roar of the stadium, less than a half-mile away, floating through the starry sky above me.

I awoke yesterday (Thursday 25 May) to check the score before my meditation and chant. I was happy to see that AC Roma held. It was already warm when I began my walk to Adrion, so being a “sissy” to the heat, I turned back and walked under the trees back to flat. Dripping wet already, I jumped into a cool shower and sat down to read for the afternoon. It was a smart move as it was 34C (94F). Today I thought about my coffee meet-up with Calvin. We met at Rilindja in Valbonne, as he was staying there as well. Calvin – a Canadian, is here as an educator. A more gregarious fellow would be hard to meet. He is well seasoned here in Albania, and offered some tips about living here full time. Our 2 hours at Tony’s went by quick, but we agreed to meet again as his schedule allows.

In the end, this afternoon I am writing from a cool space. It’s 5:30, for me, and I most likely will be going out for a late dinner. The temperature should be a “cooler” 26/27C (78/80F). Looking through the news from the US (I shun the news online), I see that there was another school shooting, and I’m not surprised. I don’t know when people in the US will stop talking and start listening. Everybody has an opinion, from poilitcians to movie stars, and people famous for doing nothing but staying in the news cycle. Most, if not all, offer no creative solutions and more of the same is going to be the order of the day. The answer lies between the Left and the Right. It’s a complete shame. More kids are dying from guns than disease. I still think the US has more potential than most nations in the world, but I also believe that potential has eroded sharply. Nobody wants to listen. I hope and pray that this violence is not visited upon my family and friends. There are moments that I feel like a coward for not staying. There also moments when I am glad that I made this move. There is no replacement for the safety I feel here in Europe. I have some decisions to make when I return “home” to Bratislava; returning to the US isn’t on the board.

I want to thank you all for following me. I wish for your safety, and hope you are well. Please take care of yourselves.

The Road Through Trees And Rocks

My time in Tirana in the last near week has been an education in itself. It doesn’t mater what the day of the week you are here, this city is on the move; people are what makes this place so electric to me. The young seem to power it now. Monday nights are just like Saturday nights. The cafes are packed with people drinking coffee, with some smoking – some not. During the day older men sit in the shade of a tree or awning talking through the hottest part of the day, and it’s countrywide. Everywhere I went I would see it.

If I had briefly touched on Skanderbeg, I would like to just give a short look at him here. Gjergj Kastrioti, also known to the world as Skanderbeg, was born in what is now the central portion of Albania. I pored over maps from the period of his birth and many were difficult to divine as being an accurate. Many early polities and most modern countries claim him as one of their sons. Even cultures as far away as Serbia and Greece have tried to co-opt Skanderbeg into their historical narrative. One thing is clear, myths and legends aside, Skanderbeg was the real thing. Just as the US has George Washington in myth, and legend, so does Albania. Skanderbeg most certainly makes Washington look like a chicken farmer with a sword.

In those early days of conquests and empire building renewed. The Ottoman Turks were THE force to be reckoned with. The Church in Rome was feeling the threat from the Ottomans, not only in the realm of religion, but politcally as well. The two (religion and politics) were deeply intertwined during this period. He was born to a father who was a vassal to the leader of the Ottomans. Albania at this time was a shifting sand of two rivers; one being the powerful Republic of Venice, and the other was Ottoman Turkey. At birth, Skanderbeg was given to the Sultan to make sure of his father’s allegiance to the Turks. In his late 30’s, during battle he deserted and went back the Albanians. He would lead a resistance to the Ottomans that would make Robert E. Lee seem like a mere checker player. For many years he would fight against overwhelming numbers, and thus held back the Turks from completely covering the rest Europe in blood.

It has taken me about 4 hours of reading to feebly attempt to winnow truth from fiction, and with Albania’s national hero it is an impossible task. His exploits are real, as countless historians can attest; where the myth-making comes from…well that’s history! Skanderbeg died in Kruja (Krew-ya), not far from Tirana. He was 63 years old and passed of old age. I would encourage anyone to Wiki this man and take a cursory look at what he did, and why Europe owes him a debt of honor. Indeed there are statues in Belgium and Italy. There are operas and poetry to pay homage; Lord Byron wrote one to honor Skanderbeg. The Turks would eventually extend to Hungary, across the east to Ukraine and surround the Black Sea, and the Sea of Azov. The siege of Vienna in the fall of 1683 would call an end to Ottoman expansion into Central Europe. The players are too numerous to count, and the politics too complex for an overview of this nature. The Balkans would remain in the hands of the Ottomans for another 230 years, bringing their grand total in the Balkans to 500 years…give or take.

My point here, dear reader, is that this ancient place is finally free of the rulers with their own agendas. From the Greeks, Romans, Venetians, to the Ottomans, and guys like Enver Hoxha, whose despotic rule has abated; there is a strong sense of culture and hope here in Albania. I have seen it and heard it from the Albanians that I have been graced to have met…and it will carry on for another two weeks. I really like this city in the south of Europe. We will see what the “grand plan” has for me. Add this wonderful country to your travel plans. It is important to remember that I have only seen a rather small portion of what Albania has to offer. There is the south, Berat and the crystal waters of of the Vlora area. I still have much to see to properly asses this country overall.

So, I continue my road through the trees and stones. I have to give a mention to the shops and cafes that I frequent. I bought a new pair of eyeglasses at Lux Optika on Rruga Ibrahim Rugova. I was warmly greeted and taken care of like I was the only customer that mattered…I can’t wait to put them on and not squint in the sunlight. The doctor who gave me my eye exam nearly scolded me for waiting so long to get new glasses. The pair that I have are from 2017/18…can’t remember. The transition is no longer darkening, and I am pushing my eys through the bottom of my progressives. I was just passing by, and curious to see what they would cost. The glasses will cost me less than 1/3 of what I would payed (with my union insurance, I shouldered 10% of the cost…$900) in the US. Since my watch band fell apart, the young man at Lux Optika directed me a few doors down to Tuffina. The wonderful young lady there jumped right on it, attached the new band, and it was very, very inexpensive. Conversely, all of the watch shops prior wanted to sell me a new watch. Also, I have settled into a coffee shop rotation. I have a sumptious breakfast and dinner at Tony’s right around the corner from me. I met “Tony” yesterday and he is the best! I have “my guys”; Lawrence, Donald, Ulie (Yuly), and Ares are simply the at the pinnacle of service. They are very good about directions to a place I am looking for, and never hesitate to be tableside when needed. In the end, during my walk after dinner, I end up at Dua. There are always football matches, and yesterday I went to watch The Spanish Grand Prix there. It was a disastrous day for Ferrari, but I enjoyed the coffee and comradery.

I have offered only a thumbnail sketch of my time here in Tirana. I will post again soon. With more photos, and more events, it will be easier for you to grasp why I like it here so much. Thank you for following me, and I wish you well.

Theth In A Fleeting Breath

As Pavlin and I pulled through the gate, we were met by Pavlin and Vlora’s daughter Era. She was so happy to see her Daddy she jumped on the step hanging on the side of the Cruiser. Bujtina Polia is a mountain hotel, stout and soaring. I was struck firstly by the activity around it. There are 4 dogs attached to it and they always present. After meeting Pavlin’s wonderful wife Vlora, I dragged my gear to my room. I tidied myself and went down to the main room. It serves as a the main dining hall, a meeting place, and the coffee outlet. Pavlin and I sat at a table on the patio and talked about the fishing, the mountains, and the tourism to this valley.

The mountains climb up from the valley floor on three sides. This valley has a defined “U-shape”, unlike Valbonne which were complete walls going up on both sides. Theth valley has a more defined glacial-finished profile. Our conversations were so varied and touched on some many things…mountain life. history, sustainability, gear, the change of the seasons, and fly fishing. I was anxious to see what the river offered in terms of access, and flow. In spite of everything that Pavlin was shouldered with he found the time to give me the attention that I needed. I am forever grateful to him. Just like Alfred at Riindra, Pavlin was very attentive to what his guests needed. There are very few men like this. The children would come and go as we talked, and Pavlin didn’t even miss one beat; he would answer their questions, and see to their needs – returning to our conversations as if we were not put out.

Vlora was no different, as her patience seemed a bottomless well. The children, Era – the oldest and a sweet near- preteen, followed by Tom, and the youngest Arian; were a delight. Also, as we talked, people stopped by to visit, it was a busy hub of action. We had a nice supper and I retired early. Saturday, 14th/May was my only full day. We had great breakfast and headed out to some of Pavlin’s best spots to fish. It is important to remember that the Theth River was no different than the Valbonne. Wherever you are in the village, you can hear the sound of the tempestuous waters rolling down the valley. I slept with my window open to fall asleep and to arise to the rhythmic count of the waters; not a 4/4 beat – more like some ancient Gheg folk ballad.

Saturday was an education in just-plain-fishing for me. Pavlin took me down a rocky track above the river, and as we descended to the valley floor we could see areas where the rush had slowed. We parked across a river channel from an inn and restaurant hidden entirely from everything. Here the Theth was fed by water emanating from a single source in a grotto-like gorge.

From this gorge/grotto the crystal clear water washed down to the Theth. There were two footbridges that spanned the channel to the hidden inn and cafe. Pavlin set a course down the banks and I tripped and skidded behind him, still sore from my mishap in Valbonne. It didn’t take long to find pools and low-rapid flats.

I noticed what looked like Mayflies, so I switched to a ragged Adams Wulff that I had in the only flybox I brought along. I found a nice poolwith some aerating riffle sending water into it. I kept putting on the edge to drift into swirling pool. I wasn’t rewarded with a flash, or any movement to make out. Pavlin was using a casting setup, much like Alfred earlier in the week. I retied a Chubby Chernobyl terrestial to see if I could get anything to come up. Both flies were the smallest in my box, #14/16 hooks…small. The harder I worked the more I realized the merciless Balkan sun was cooking my head. I decided to have a sit in the shade and watch Pavlin, and to eyeball the other pools to see if there was anything moving.

I marveled at the scenery, the intense color color of the sky… a dome of uncut lapis lazuli above me. In the shade the breeze cooled me. After quite some time of changing location, my hip pushed me to relent my search. Pavlin and I headed back to see his friends at the cafe near the grotto. In all honesty, I couldn’t figure how people walked on this carpet of rocks and talus, and as I bucked and skidded behind Pavlin, I tried to imagine a conquering army moving up this valley. Sheer madness.

We sat with Pavlin’s friends for a bit, cooled off, and headed back to Bujtina Polia. Still discussing how to bring fishermen in from the outside without turning this valley into “Disneyworld-with-rocks”..my words, not his. I have been to a few rivers in our Western US where it looks like a hallway of grade-schoolers between classes. Too many people in one place with intentions that are opposite to what this endeavor is meant to be. To the uninitiated, fly fishing seems like a chemistry class with the casting, and entomology involved. That might be a half-truth; what is the most important is the connectedness with your surroundings, the water, and of course – the fish. Trout can be the wiliest fish to cast for, and require you to be a bit “plugged-in”. The wilder the river, the least a chance to have a fish that is going to be a pushover. I believe that would be true here in Theth (and Valbon as well)

Later on Saturday the weather changed drastically, as it often does in the mountains. Rain came down in buckets, as we retreated from the bench outside of the bujtina to the main hall, Pavlin and I weren’t sure we would get one last shot as we had hoped. When fishing it is sometimes better to fish in the rain – most species become more active. The rain slowed down enough after a few hours for us to go out and try our luck. Again I was given a few polite nibbles. Pavlin was gifted with a beautiful Brook trout. I had to chuckle as we leap-frogged around each other, and he with a fish tail sticking out of his jacket pocket. We headed back to Bujtina Polia to help Vlora and crew set up for a large dinner crowd. Bouncing along in the Cruiser with the fish tail hopping nad bopping as it stuck out of his jacket…a memory that I will not give up anytime soon.

I sat with Kristina for dinner. She was lovely young lady from Hamburg, Germany travelling by herself. She reminded me of my own daughter in many ways. We had a great talk as we ate our way through a very generous dinner. I bid her a good night after coffee and dessert. I was completely done at that point, and looking over at Pavlin still serving the big group of Italians (I think), he made everything look effortless. Oh to be a younger man!

Kristina and I were seated together for breakfast, as the group took up all of the other tables, and why not? Our conversation was spirited and sunny like the morning we looked out at. We bid each other a safe trip after breakfast, replete with kisses on both cheeks,,,yeah, I’m so continental now! I headed to my room to finish packing as Pavlin and I would leave for Tirana as soon as we could. Our drive would take some time to Tirana. I felt honored and grateful that Pavlin would take a day away from his duties to drive me.

Back up and over the mountains we went, winding our way down and out of Theth to Shkoder and into the flatlands to Tirana. As we neared the capital the traffic increased in volume. In the 3 1/2 – 4 hour drive we spoke of many things, and I felt some inner calling to get in the mix here and do what I could to keep the Albanian Alps wild by introducing the world to them. Our conversation always returned to the same point; how to bring the world in on our terms. There are no easy answers, and to be involved in the growth here would be an opportunity I’d invite at this stage in my life. I have the utmost respect for Alfred and Pavlin fir doing what they do.

Pavlin drove me right to my hotel, and made sure I was all set; and the hardest part of ny trip arrived. I was in near tears at departing, we became “brothers-in-soul”…at least I felt that way, I won’t speak for Pavlin. I owe Elton, Alda, and Vilma my wieght in gold for arranging my trip. Albanian Trip is THE tour operator here in Albania, as far as I am concerned. I had a day to let the week behind me bounce around in my head as I would debrief Elton, and in turn, be debriefed. I will post again right away to bring you all up to speed on my past week here in Tirana. All I can say is that this town is electric.

I will, in turn, touch on the last few remaining ideas about fly fishing in Albania. I appreciate any and all of you who are following me on this odyssey…yes there have been many changes in fortune so far. I have many tough decisions to make upon my return to Bratislava. Until that time, I’m going to wring every last drop from this cloth wrapped around me here in Albania. Please take care of ourselves, and take care of each other. I will post again very soon. Thank you…many times over.

Rebirth and The Alpine Continuum

Rilindja is Albanian for rebirth. Alfred chose the name wisely; I came alive again. For all of the situations and events that occured in Durres, it seemed like I was biding my time. Sure, the history of that area was great, but without some means of my own transport, I was a prisoner to the Sun and sand. From Tuesday afternoon, until Friday at 13:00 (1pm) when I parted with Alfred, my whole sense of self became re-oriented toward those mountains.

As we wound down to Fierze to meet the ferry at Lake Koman, Alfred and I talked of many things. I would like to turn around and come back here (and Theth) in July/August. I have plans to meet dear friends from the US elsewhere in Europa. I told Alfred how thankful and fortunate I felt for meeting him, and in turn having Alda and Elton take care of this trip. If I haven’t mentioned Albanian Trip, I will now. The story behind the origins and the end product of this trip is the result of the great work that Alda and Elton do at Albanian Trip. This happened because “god’s hand” is involved here. I was actually looking around to see how difficult it would be to go fly fishing here in Albania. I found Rilindja and was so impressed with its nearness to the Valbon (right across the road) and I emailed them to see what their rates were. I recieved an email from Elton, and we began a dialogue. Although it is named in my tags at the bottom of my blogs, google/search for Albanian Trip, let them know what you have in mind, and you will be taken care of very well. I’m going to end this paragraph with their accolades; They were chosen as a Conde’ Nast Travel Specialist for the 2nd year in a row. I am very fortunate to call Elton and Alda my friends. I will refer to them and their endeavor going forward.

It was with a heavy heart that I said farewell to Alfred…calling him “Albert” was running joke. The ferry was nearly full as we headed out of Fierze for the 4+ hour trek to Diga e Komanit. It was a liquid spectacle riddled with little side channels, and a sky framed by stone and greened inclines.

I sat in the shade and reflected on my short time in Dragobi and Valbona National Park. I went to see how this near-wild river could be fly fished, knowing full well that even nymphing was out of the question. Alfred and I tried going down after them in the roaring cataracts racing down the canyon. I tried to lay flys gently on top of them in the few pools we were graced with and only recieved a polite nibble in return. Alfred was “blessed” with 3 caught overall. Call it a “home team advantage”. The Valbon was not ready yet and Alfred was still determined to show me a good time. The unforgiving terrain wrenched my knee and did some “Balkan Voodoo” on my hip, but we did the best we could. I recalled the cool,crisp sheets in Hotel Rezidenca, and the breeze slipping through my window on the back of the muffled river roar…. and the coffee, always the coffee! I close my eyes and I see Maja Jezerce above me (top photo on this page), and the way the sunrise made the snow shimmer on the shoulder of the limestone redoubt.

Sitting in the shade of the upper deck, I tried to commit every vantage point to memory, and along with the sights, sounds, and smells to retain as much as possible. Here I was at the halfway point to this trip that Elton and Alda painstakingly put together, and so far it was nonpareil. I turned my attention to the watery rampart we were chugging through. I let my eyes linger on all of it. I watched as we motored past small fishing camps where the landscape allowed. Further down the sides would widen and spread out to reveal tilted fields with cows, sheep, goats, and a horse here and there. The grazing stock moved on the abrupt green carpet like humans walking a level surface.

We docked at Diga e Komanit and I met Kristian. A young Albanian with a quick smile and a can-do attitude, he was Pavlin’s driver. We began our trip down to Shkoder to meet Pavlin. At this point in my retelling I must reveal my attitude toward the road from the dock to Shkoder. It amounted to an over-wide goat path. There were potholes and gullies that would scare away the boldest Chicago drivers. Kristian held his frustration in and waited for his oppotuntities to pass. We descended, at times behind a gaggle of campers, and some very high-end Mercedes that had to creep in most places. The striking part of the roads in the highlands here in Albania is that they are just wide enough for their cars to pass slowly. I really enjoy the engaging talks I have with the young here. The young Albanians are excited about their future and happy to speak to someone fron the US; Kristian was no exception. Kristian’s English was very good; he would speak in halting rhythms only when he searched for the proper word or term. I asked if he had English in school, and he replied with a sly smile that he learned from watching “American movies”…especially action movies. That began a short row of he and I doing impressions of Stallone, Schwarzenegger, and Chuck Norris.

We rolled along out into the open valley toward Shkoder to meet Pavlin. Driving through little hamlets where the sway of time has left these people nearly untouched. The “ancient” is still here in the countrysides. This rock-ridden land slowy unfolds to the newer and more modern houses, and then we were in Shkoder. This is a bustling town on the shores of the largest lake in Southern Europe. Lake Shkodra ( or Shkoder in Albanian), and this city has a flavor entirely all of its own. Krisian navigated the crowded streets like a New York cab driver and swung around to park right in front of a man with with Ray Bans and the most imposing beard I have seen since David Brown from Rock Island Public House. Pavlin Polia was my host, and soon to be a kindred soul. We stopped at a patisserie to get some sweets to take to Bujtina Polia in Theth.

We swung by a place to drop Kristian, and of course, a short cup of coffee. Kristian was adept at coffee as well; he served Pavlin and I and pulled up a chair to join in our chat. Again, the pace of life here is on another plane. Pavlin and I got back in the 4-wheel drive Toyota cruiser and began the drive up to Theth Valley. We talked about everything on the spectrum. Stopping at a little market, I picked oranges the size of 12-inch softballs, and Pavlin took some yogurt and a few items. The climb up and over to Theth is not for the weak-hearted, especially with Pavlin at the wheel. We swung around hairpin curves, and through the stones that had tumbled, fallen, and came to rest right in the road. When I say “road”, I’m being very generous. This surface was paved as recently as 2 years (or so) ago, and it is verily wide enough for the European cars, let alone the mini-buses and campers that use it. Pavlin knows every turn, every meter, and I was never ill-at-ease.

We crested the mountain, with snow laying here and there, and stopped at a point to talk to a journalist that Pavlin knew. Here I must point out that we never just drove by people that he knew. There was always time to stop and chat…always. Pavlin is as affable as any man I have ever known. He carries himself with a quiet resolve, an behind what appears to a facade of strong bearing, he is as warm and inviting as they come. Now heading down the sharp incline into Theth Valley, I could see the town spread out along the Theth River. Nearing it, I was struck by its resemblance to the tiny mountain towns in Montana. As we wound through the village, there were so many waving, we bounced and careened to Bujtina Polia – Pavlin’s place. “Bujtina” means inn, or hotel.

I will end this post here in order to get a better photo of Bujtina Polia. For some reason my photos will not download to this site. I will have to ask Pavlin for a photo. I promise that rest of my journey will be as full of recollections as the past posts. I am in Tirana now and anxious to convey my experience here. I am always in deep appreciation for you that are reading and giving me feedback. I will post again very soon. Until then, please take of yourselves, and each other.

Corrections & Connections

Dear reader, in my last blog I made two statements that need to be emended. Number One: Alfred started Rlindja in 2004 (not 2012) Number Two: The name is RILINDJA (as you can see from the above photo). My Thanks to Alfred for pointing these errors out to me.

I am a bit later than planned to post this. Since Alfred dropped me off at Fierze to take the ferry down to Lake Koman, the whole tenor of my trip took on a much different feel. Alfred and I did our best to find pools and places that the trout might sit out the rushing mountain torrent. As I might have mentioned previously, we knew at the onset that I was still early for any productive fly fishing. There were portions of the lower Valbon that ran gray-white with silt and sediment. Alfred and I agreed and he was undaunted in finding productive water. Alfred has a very easy manner about him, laughs easily, and doesn’t seem to get upset about the little speed bumps in life. I am not saying this because he will be reading this, I am writing what I have experienced. We traveled to and from Rilindja, there was always a history lesson. There were questions from me to Alfred and he answered every single one. The subjects varied as we talked, and he was always patient as we would swing through culture and politics, family and religion, and somehow finishing with the river valley and existence in those mountains.

The section we spent a good deal of time in was called Dragobi, and this was the home of Alfred’s family going back many years. I must discuss Bajram Curri. Here in the mountainous north of Albania, just a short leap from Kosovo, is land that has been won and lost for the entirety of human history. You name them and they have tried to hold this place in conquest. The Illyrians were conquered by the Romans in the 2nd century bce, and that held until the 4th century when the forerunners of Albanians had become dance partners of the Byzantine Empire. Long before this time, at the beginning of the Bronze Age (2000bce), the Illyrians dwelt in this stone fortress provided by the Dinaric Alps. They were aided and protected further by many factors that worked in their favor…complex social and cultural practices. This peninsula has always been a bridgehead for conquering nations. After centuries of a revolving door of invasions (Visigoths, Huns, Bulgars, and Slavs), the Ottoman Turks found the combination to unlocking the gate and ruled the Albanians from the 15th century until the late 19th.

Bajram Curri (By-rahm Tsurry) was born in what is now Kosovo (16 January, 1862). He would become a hero for standing up for the Albanians against the Ottomans. He was prominent in gaining independence for the Albanians and in some circles holds the same status as Skanderberg. Alfred pointed out the area above us while we walked along the river looking for a suitable place to fish. Curri had by early 1925 been defeated in revolution and forced to hide in a cave in Dragobi. He was killed by his own friends so their lives would be spared by Zogists (Albanian nationalists). I stood there for a few minutes and marveled at how impossible it would be find someone in this valley of sheer rock torsos and girdles of trees along its waist above the rushing Valbonne i Lumi.

Alfred’s nephew Reuben is the waiter/houseman/gap-filler for Rilindja, and he made a great cup of macciato for me. Reuben did many things and he did them well. He certainly deserves a mention and I am thankful to have crossed his path. He is an affable and sweet soul that I hope I get to see on my next visit. Our meals were nothing short of perfect. Breakfast was my favorite meal of the day. As you can see there was never a shortage of food for a good start. It seemed like I started to lose some of that weight I gained from all the seafood risottos and pizzas I ate on the beach. The photo above was my last breakfast at Rilindja and so my next blog will cover Friday 13 May through to today.

From Durres To Kosovo, & Into Valbonne’

Tuesday 10 May, 2022. My driver Denis picked me up at the Hotel Adriatic at 9am this morning. We began a 5 hour drive from the coast northward into the mountains. Denis is 24 year-old who works for Albanian Trips. He just drives. He is bright young man who understands the realities of Albania’s growing pains, and the path to the EU. We drove to near Tirana, the capital, before veering off toward Kosovo. The other routes were a 1 1/2 hour ferry ride (which I will do on my trip back), or a gravel road that would wind up and down through the mountains and take its toll on our bodies and Denis’ car. Kosovo!! I was incredibly excited to see even a bit of this fabled country, and get another stamp in my passport. It would seem that the only difference between Albania and Kosovo was in the construction of their houses. Outwardly, they looked much like Albanians, and Kosovo seemed like Albania.

The route wound through some interesting towns. In one town, name unknown, we drove right through what seemed like a flea market, or an open bazaar. The street was shaded, and packed with anything you could think of. At the end, about two or three blocks down were chickens, sheep, goats, and a few cows. This is truly an experience I will find hard to forget, and it is just my first day! As we left the open plain-like areas of Kosovo and began to climb back up into the mountains, the landscape became a bit more closed and not so wide open. The immense panoramas were giving way to tighter canyons and steep stone walls. Denis and I arrived at the border again to head back into Albania.

We continued winding slowly upward, as the roads twisted and turned, crossing the Valbon river on narrow bridges that bore the weight of concrete trucks. I was gobsmacked at the thought of that much weight going over such a little bridge. Denis didn’t think it was a big deal as we continued on way until we found Rezidenca Hotel (hostel is used also). 1 kilometer through the the trees was Rilindra restaurant where I am writing from as the wifi is here. Between Rilindra, and Rezidenca is where my stay will be. Alfred and Skender are two Albainian brothers that run this outfit. Alfred started it ten years ago, and now they are a full-service hotel and restaurant. People from all over the world are here right now. From Australia, Germany, Brazil, Switzerland, and Denmark… the world is slowly starting to discover this stunning area. I am staying in the mid-point of the upper valley and I am struggling to find words to describe this place. The scenery is beyond anything I’ve seen in my travels. I was sitting at a table this morning and heard bird songs that I’ve never heard before.

Wednesday 11 May, 2022. Alfred picked me up this morning to fly fish and we were off down the valley to go to a shop to get flies that are specific to this place. I am finishing this blog today and will write more about the fishing today, and tomorrow on Friday. I am focusing this blog on Albanian tourism, and fly fishing, as much as I want to inform my readers what I am up to. This trip is possible through Alda and Elton at “Albanian Trip”. They will be a frequent reference in this blog until next week. I want the world to know what is possible here in Albania.

Alfred and I will be fishing this late afternoon into the evening. The river is still moving very fast and we are going dow-valley to where it widens out and slows a bit. I am heading out to sit under the trees and re-rig my fly line. I thank you all for following me. Talk soon.