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.