27-28 June

Shkodra, Albania, is away from the coast, but connected by a short stretch of navigable river, which made it an important trading town in days of old. I got off the bus from Ulcinj, Montenegro, at the main intersection, with a fountain in the middle. It is called something like 5 Heroes of Communism roundabout, and there was supposed to be a sculpture of the famous five, but it wasn’t there any more. I read that someone tried to blow the monument up a few years ago, so maybe they eventually succeeded. First thing I did was head to the “Red Brick Cafe-Bar” (you can spot it in the pic) for a coffee and to get my bearings. I decided to take a taxi to my guest house (for only the second time, the first time was in Taranto, Italy). My directions said it was 2 km north of town (but from experience I assumed that meant 4-5 km). Also there was no precise address, with a number, just a string of Albanian words. Apparently Albanian street addresses don’t work quite like ours. Instead of some ugly numbers, they use poetic phrases like “The stone house with the red roof opposite Ardi’s nameless bar in the lane running off the street with the big tree near where the police station used to be”. It turned out the guest house (or pension) was nearly 4km just off the road leading straight to the main roundabout. I usually walked into town but also took the minibus (furgon) once. The location was quite charming, seemingly very rural, with horse-drawn carts and also goats and cows being led along the road and down the lane past my lodgings. Lots of grape vines here too. My host was introduced to me as the Minister of Police in the last years of the Communist government, before it collapsed in 1991. That piece of information was a little disconcerting, I have to say. Apart from walks around town, I also took a taxi (but walked back) to the Rozafa Fortress (first founded by the Illyrians, prior to the Romans, Venetians and Turks). Albanians are proud of their Illyrian heritage, a people who put up stiff resistance against the Romans (led at one stage by Queen Teuta) before eventually succumbing. The Albanian language may well be descended from Illyrian (it is certainly not from the Slavic language family). On the walk back to town, I stopped at a bar for a beer (it was a very hot day). I got chatting (in a fashion – a little Italian is more useful than English here) to some other customers, working men from their appearance, not terribly well off. They left first and when I went to pay for my beer I learned they had already paid for me. I have had other similar experiences of local hospitality.



About middleeuropeanmelancholy

64 year old Australian born male. Into travel, poetry, philosophy, music, popular physics, mathematics (especially topology)...
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