Monday, October 13, 2008

Monday, October 13, 2008

Wars and dictatorship

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:01 PM
To understand Albania was to know its wars. There were bunkers (we dubbed them mushrooms because they were round) everywhere. While other post-communist countries built roads and resorts for tourism, Albania built bunkers. First was the Romans. Then Byzantine. Then came the Turks. And after WWII, communism. The country saw nothing but occupation and war. No wonder they built bunkers and neglected the roads. The roads were bad. Broken. We visited the weapons museum and a former political prison. In the war museum a statue of a women pointed her finger gesturing 'out' to a priest and a soldier. Women were in the military. Everyone from 14 to 60 must spend 3 months out of each year to be trained for war. No one liberated Albania. She gained her independence all by her own sweat and blood.

On our way to Gjirokastra, we passed by a town with petro fields and saw many old pumps that were still in operation. Didnt know Albania had oil.

Gjirokastra, the birthplace of the dictator Enver Hoxha (good looking but very bad dude) was a quaint town perched on the hill, all cobblestoned. The citadel had black rocks. We also visited the house Hoxha was born and it's now a museum. It's a big house with never ending rooms. The dude was lucky. I've enjoyed walking up the narrow cobblestoned streets lined with shops. Wanted to take more shots of the town but Kathleen kept talking to me. She showed me how to use different settings in a digital camera for different shots. Trouble was, she talked and I couldnt take any pictures!

Everywhere we drove we saw mountains of garbage, plastic bottles and bags, piled up on the side of the roads, on the side of the hills.

Saranda (means 40 in Greek. Was named for the 40 Ottoman soldiers who were executed because they've converted to Christianity and wont convert back to Islam) was a resort town. Mussolini called this town Porto Eda, after his daughter because he liked it so much. The weather was hot. Our 5 star hotel was sea front. From my hotel room I could see Corfu. Never knew the island was so big. It looked so close I could reach out and touch it. I told Gert I wanted an ocean front room. He corrected me saying the Corfu channel was a sea. Guess only Californians would make that mistake. We're so used to the ocean. We had wanted to go to Corfu. It's only a 25 euros ferry. But we didnt have time. Tons of tour buses brought crowds to the hotel. One group was in a tour of 1 city per country. They flew in their private jet to Corfu and ferried over to Saranda.

We had a delicious seafood dinner in front of the Corfu channel. My seafood risotto had a fantastic tomato based sauce. Squid, shrimp and lightly battered fried calamari kept coming with free wine. Best meal I had on this trip. After dinner, Chantal, Bill and I had a leisure stroll along the Ionian sea. Pleasant weather. I liked Saranda very much.




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