It is Thursday 24 March, 2022. I have been here in Durres, Albania for almost 3 weeks. As with any new place, it took a bit of time to acclimate to the surroundings and the culture. I can say now with total conviction that I am glad I chose Albania. Aside from the near high-jacking I experienced on my ride from the airport, everyone I have come in contact with has been nothing short of warm, kind, and friendly. It is almost 11am here now, and since I have had my meditation/chant, a walk down the beach, and my 2nd cup of coffee…I will spend the rest of my day on my ballkon (Albanian for balcony..ok, you’ve got it). I want to dedicate this post to get some of my friends that aren’t quite familiar with where I am exactly. Albania, much like Slovakia, is not on everyone’s lips, and hasn’t been in the news for anything outstanding.
As you can see, Albania rests NW of Greece, and directly across from the “bootheel” of Italy. It has a population of almost 3 million. It’s about the size of Maryland in the US. Albania’s biggest exports are footwear products, followed by crude oil, and ferroallys ( iron ore with other metals mixed in). The main trading partner is Italy, followed by Spain, Germany. and Greece. On some days, I can see as many as 5 or 6 ships come into the port of Durres from my ballkon here on the 9th floor. Durres is pronounced : Du-ruhs.
I have a fly-fishing rip planned for mid-May that will take me to the Northwest of the country near Montenegro… A six hour ride to Valbohne, into the Albanian Alps. We will then come back down Southwest into the Central Highlands and end up in Tirana. I will stay in Tirana for the rest of my trip as I will be leaving on june 5th/6th to fly back to Bratislava. By that date, I will have been out of the EU for 93/94 days. Staying in Tirana for my last week or so, will give me a good chance to see Peter, my friend the Slovak Ambassador to Albania.
Durres is the oldest city in what is now Albania. It was established by Corinthians from Corfu. They pushed the Illyrians out in 623 B.C.E.. The Illyrians would then push other tribes out and settle the inland regions of the Balkans. Their area would range from the coast of modern-day Croatia and east to Serbia. They would constitute what would become the Albanians of today. I have stated in previous posts about the tumultuous nature of this particular region. Durres itself would be ruled by (in order)…the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Venetians, and the Ottomans. “Prior to the Ottoman conquest of Albania in the 15th century, the Albanian resistance to Ottoman expansion into Europe led by Gjergj Kastrioti Skanderbeg won them acclaim over most of Europe. Albania remained under Ottoman rule for nearly five centuries, during which many Albanians (known as Arnauts) attained high-ranking offices in the empire, especially in the Southern Balkans and Egypt. Between the 18th and 19th centuries, cultural developments, widely attributed to Albanians having gathered both spiritual and intellectual strength, conclusively led to the Albanian Renaissance. After the defeat of the Ottomans in the Balkan Wars, the modern nation state of Albania declared independence in 1912.” [ taken from “A History Of The Balkan Cultures] I superimposed that last bit to save time.
As things sit now for Albania, they are next in line to join the EU. I for one, would applaud it. I think with an infusion of EU money, this country could be a force on the world stage. The Albanians I have come in contact with are independent and faithful to the idea that their country could overcome the past. It is a bit poor on the edges and they would benefit from involvement in the EU, if for the funding and not the overall politics. I had some trepidation about coming here for the reason that I thought “it was just another poor Balkan country with nothing to offer”; I have been astonished by what I have seen. Somehow they have kept the “old world” feel while becoming modern in many ways. I would happily return, if I my visa doesn’t come through this summer.
Although I have never though of myself as a “beach guy”, I am starting to dig the lifestyle. It is strange to sit in the sun on a 18C (64F) day and get absolutely scorched. The wind has been consistently out of the North, Northwest, and West; it is the only thing keeping me out of the water, which is still quite cold. I can’t imagine what it will be like here in there summer, although I am moving up the beach (north-ish, toward town) on April 8th and will be there until May 7th. I will be able to see what spring will foreshadow for early summer. The sun is beginning to come around to cover my ballkon and I will head in for a change of clothing. T-shirt and shorts will suit me better in this sun. I hope I cleared up any misconceptions about where I am. I thank you all for following me on this journey. I wish you well. Please, take care of each other