What on earth was this to do with village life in lovely rural Writtle, I
hear you ask?
More to the point, where the hell is Albania, may well be your first
answering the 2nd question first, Albania is situated on the
eastern side of the Adriatic Sea, opposite Italy; its southern border is
shared with Greece and to the north lays Montenegro and Kosovo.
Round to the east lies Macedonia, a small country by any standard,
with a population of less than 4 million.
In recent years it made the news as a result of political unrest that
it shared with other Communist and Balkan States.
Civil war, as such, did not touch Albania, other than when it
received the many thousands of displaced persons that were fleeing the
ethnic cleansing in Kosovo in 1999.
lot of the illegal immigrants currently trying to enter the United Kingdom
are either native Albanians or are transmitting through the country.
Enough of the history and geography lesson, what is Albania like? Should I
include it on my holiday itinerary?
Well having been resident in the capital Tirana since March, I do
have a view.
I stress it is a personal view, so please don’t sue me if the 18-30’s
trip is not quite what you had expected.
In keeping with much of that part of the world the scenery is
spectacular and contrasting, wide lush green glacial valleys give way to
rugged mountains on either side.
Snow topped until well into May.
The coastline is equally inspiring and the coast road from Tirana to Soranda,
in the far south, is pretty impressive.
Once you clear the mountains in the National Park, four hours drive from
Tirana, you are greeted with the wonderful views of the deep blue Ionian
Sea, and the locals say this is where the south begins.
of you will have seen Soranda when on your holidays in Corfu.
Standing in the north shore of that Greek island you are just and
hour and a half ferry trip away.
The whole journey from Tirana to Soranda takes about eight hours, allowing
for plenty of stops for photo’s etc.
Now the catch.
It is only 200 miles in distance but the roads are so bad.
People regularly remove the drain and culvert covers for the scrap
It does not matter if it was covering an eight- foot or an eight-inch drain.
Sometimes the side of the road has just subsided and slid off down
the mountain, so strict attention to the road when driving is and absolute
itself, as a European capital less than four hours flying from the UK defies
dust and smog that envelop the city on hot days can leave you with sore eyes
and a bad chest.The atmosphere is not helped by the burning of rubbish at
night on the side of the street (refuse collecting is only just starting as
an organised enterprise).
The rubbish obviously attracts the many wild dogs that roam the
streets, scavenging for food.
Talking of wild life.
I have seen rats climbing out of one culvert and disappearing down
the next. It
is not difficult when someone has taken the covers.
The gaping holes also make a handy receptacle for rubbish as well.
The amount of building being undertaken is the largest contributor to the
blocks are going up by the dozen.
My concern is are they making provision for the influx of residents
by improving the sewer, electricity and water supplies.
I suspect not.
The gunshots I heard on Easter Sunday evening did not attract any news
being a tadge inquisitive I asked if there was anything to worry about.
I was informed that Sunday is the usual night for culling the roaming
dogs (I told you it was different)!
This is supposed to be the poorest country in Europe and I am not arguing.
Beggars and street kids are all too frequent sights.
I could not count the number of cafés/bars and they all have a steady flow
Unemployment supposedly is high, but the black economy thrives.
Perhaps you would like to know more?
Does this require a next instalment?
suppose I had better close by introducing myself.
I am a serving Essex Cop who is currently seconded to the
multi-national advisory police element (MAPE).
Our role in Albania is to advise and train the local police in the
many aspects of Western European policing.
Nineteen nations contribute to MAPE and Essex has been represented
since 1997 when it all began. My
short time there has opened my eyes to a totally different way of life.
People ask if I am enjoying it.
My reply is that enjoyment is not the most apt adjective.
I have found it intriguing, interesting and totally fascinating.
A land and people of contrasts.
And for those who know me well – no you cannot get a decent pint in
next time Doug the Diver