Economically you are clearly in a place that has it a lot harder than many. Not only that there is such a ton of baggage that comes from its history, from the centuries of it being occupied by either one power or another, by the recent history of the Communist regime of Enver Hoxha and the incredible waste of resources he imposed on the company. Looking only at the modern and vibrant capital of Tirana one can come away with a very distorted view of the country. Going out into the countryside brings a whole different light to the socio-economic condition.
You learn as you travel the world that the external friendliness that Americans assume is just good manners is completely out of place most other parts. But there is a real reserve here in the countryside...until you can do something that proves you are genuine. Then you get these most incredible smiles as if they are coming directly from the people's souls. Migen says this is because Albanians are naive. They don't know how to play social games like they do in the modern cities. So the emotions are genuine. If someone doesn't know who you are or you seem out of place, that is going to show clearly on their face. But when you show you are interested, care, have respect, the happiness is equally clear. Anyway on to pictures.
Morning in Berat
The breakfast room in our hotel was on the third floor and offered a view of the city
Walking a bit before we started driving we saw what our guide told us was the separation of the town into Muslim section
And Christian section by the Ottomans
Divided by the Gorica Bridge
Looking at the fortress wall
And other scenes around town
Then we went by a demobilized Hoxha era air base where we played spy
Taking forbidden pictures of aircraft and field
We next drove through a Albania's oil producing area.
Looks like West Texas in the 1920's
Albania produces enough oil to serve its needs but has not refineries
So all the oil is sent to Italy and finished product is brought back - not the best situation economically
I tried to take pictures of the countryside and towns from the car as we made our way to give you a real feel for the country.
Rather nondescript Communist era building
With a really nicely done interior...much like we saw in Tallinn
Then it was on to the Orthodox Monastery at Ardenica
Founded in the 13th century it was added to in the 18th century
Happily it avoided the fate of many religious sites destroyed by Enver Hoxha
Photography is not allowed inside
This made me very sad as it had the Orthodox style of frescoes I love
But we were the only people there and Migen got the keeper to okay our taking pictures
Work done by two famous brothers from the 18th century renovation
My preference is on the older stuff
At this point it is a little past Noon and there is much more to come...
But in the next post