Our first trip out with our new travel crew of Leda, Petrit and Tia was to the seaside town of Shengjin, North-west Albania. We strolled along the beach then went to a restaurant without a menu. You went up to the big ice box and they presented to you all their fish and you picked what you wanted. Heaven. The fish looked so fresh. Accompanying the fish were two huge pasta and risotto dishes and a salad to share. The succulent pasta dish, mixed in with prawns went down perfectly with two bottles of wine. For the best, freshest fish food I have ever tasted, even I was surprised when the bill came to around £10 each. Nuts.
We then headed to Shkoder to check out the castle there. Again, the views were too good to be true and Ednora and I stroked a tortoise, which is a box ticker. This castle was slightly more developed than the last, it had a museum too:
The Tale of the legend of the castle of Shkoder called Roazafa Castle:
Its legend, archeology and history testify to its early existence. The legend is about the initiative of three brothers who set about building the castle. They worked all day, but the walls fell down at night. They met a clever old man who advised them to sacrifice someone so that the walls would stand. The three brothers found it difficult to decide whom to sacrifice. Finally, they decided to sacrifice one of their wives who would bring lunch to them the next day. So they agreed that whichever of their wives was the one to bring them lunch the next day was the one who would be buried in the wall of the castle. They also promised not to tell their wives of this. The two older brothers, however, explained the situation to their wives that night, while the honest youngest brother said nothing.
The next afternoon at lunch time, the brothers waited anxiously to see which wife was carrying the basket of food. It was Rosafa, the wife of the youngest brother. He explained to her what the deal was, that she was to be sacrificed and buried in the wall of the castle so that they could finish building it, and she didn’t protest.
Rozafa, who was predestined to be walled, was worried about her infant son, so she accepted being walled on condition that they must leave her right breast exposed so as to feed her newborn son, her right hand to caress him and her right foot to rock his cradle:
When you wall me
Leave my right eye exposed
Leave my right hand exposed
Leave my right foot exposed
for the sake of my newborn son
so that when he starts crying
Let me see him with one eye
Let me caress him with one hand
Let me feed him with one breast
Let me rock his cradle with one foot
May the castle breast be walled
May the castle rise strong
May my son be happy
I asked Ednora if she’d make the same sacrifice for my castle. She said no.
Half way back down the hill we stopped off for coffee, of course. There’s so much coffee drunk here. We found ourselves cruising along the coast in a nice part of Albania. There were lots of big houses here, local cyclists (the first ones I’d seen) and fully equipped with cycle paths! The further we got lost along the coast the more people stared at us. It looked as though we’d stumbled across a little village which clearly didn’t get many visitors - we were stared at like aliens. Now I know what Sting was saying. The roads were so narrow that at one point we had a cow more or less licking the car window.
On our way back to Tirane we used the road where, statistically, there are the most accidents in the country. It must have been every 50 yards we saw flowers dedicated to a victim of the road, yet no one seemed to care. They still overtook as though they had that really important meeting to get to. Most notably, there was a mini-bus full of people which weaved and dodged past lorries and trucks through impossible gaps. No amount of discount would have got me in one of those. Just outside Tirane we stumbled across a music festival. We stopped and jumped out to check out. There was a performance of traditional Albanian dancing, which seemed a much faster pace to my moves. Perhaps they were all being nice to me and slowed it right down to amateur level.
We went for dinner at Durres, which was probably the most touristic place I had been to yet, not to say that any beauty had been scrubbed away. There were lots of people selling their goods along the beachside. A little Albanian woman (all the old women in Albania seem to be little) had two copies of Mein Kampf. Coincidence? Or agenda? You decide. At dinner discussion turned to Albania’s economy, its development and potential. These topics were to become a theme of the trip.