We made our way to Petrit’s house for breakfast. It was another trip into the mountains, but not as far.  His house was stunning. It was near the top of a mountain, so the view was incredible. We had burek, eggs, and salad, all tasting incredibly fresh. He showed us his plans for the house. He had built the infrastructure of a second floor and would develop it when needed. It was interesting how there was the view, the great food, the ability to develop your property in Albania, but there was no electricity in the house at that point. It made me consider that Albania is clearly a prosperous place, or at least will be, when basic needs are met and can be trusted. Nevertheless, it didn’t seem to matter that there was no electricity. It was 30 degrees and we ate outside.

The person to shake hands with was an auntie back in Burrel who showed her affection through hitting people, scrunching up their face, and slapping their arms. We watched as Sid received some facial reconstruction for about 30 seconds until my attention was turned to the tiny shop she had as an extension to her house. I say shop, but it was more a metal shed with a hole in it to pass through bread, cigarettes, and all the other stuff people can buy from metal sheds.

She treated us to some dhalle, which seemed to be a standard offering at people’s houses. Lucky I liked it. She was a lively lady and seemed like good fun. Again, worn fingers and hard skin. These people worked hard. We said our goodbyes and headed back to the hotel.

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I thought I was going to get an hour or two of relaxation as Ednora and the group of girls went of for their bridesmaids preparations, but no, it was more or less a time for me to run errands. The dresses needed to be ironed, refitted, and keys needed to be picked up and dropped off. At one point I walked into the hairdressers where all the girls were having their faces painted, and their hair glued into a certain shape. As I walked in I felt myself walk into a wall of stress. The least I could do was open the prosecco and then I got the hell out of there.

I met up with Lorenc, Dashimir (Ednora’s Uncle), and Esat for a coffee. Coffee was becoming a regular theme in Albania. It seemed that wherever you went, you would always find lots of men outside coffee shops drinking coffee. This generally didn’t include women. This was a customary thing men did all day, put the world to right over coffee while the women are at home looking after the children and house. As we had our drinks, Dashimir was telling me about the cleverest man in Burrel. Apparently he could not be taught anything by any of the teachers in Burrel because he knew already knew everything. I said that he sounds like a very wise man. I was taken to the local park and 20 seconds later, what were the odds, there he was. Who would have thought…

He came scrambling over to say hello. He shook my hand excitedly as Esat and Dashimir stood ready for their next lesson from the cleverest man in Burrel. These were his facts:

  • Sheffied United are the oldest football club in England, formed in 1870.

  • Nottingham is the oldest city in England. The source taken from Robin Hood.

  • Edinburgh is in Scotland.

  • For the last 400 years, Germans have been arriving to the UK.

  • Anglo-saxons

A few tweaks and he was bang on.

Both Esat and Dashimir looked at me with hopeful eyes which said to me, ‘he’s the man, isn’t he? Isn’t he!?’ The genius’ eyes looked at me saying, ‘if you correct me, I’ll hunt down your unborn children.’ Lorenc’s eyes basically portrayed laughter. We left the man in the park to continue on with whatever legends in the park do. He was a lovely moan, and clearly a big reader of things outside of Burrel, which was a rare thing to do because of how everyone hung off of his word. He was so eager about telling me too. Imagine if he ever set foot in England, he would have heart attack with excitement.

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Then it was time to get the glad rags on for the wedding. Weddings are always hosted in restaurants; however, restaurants in Albania are different to England. They’re much bigger because they are usually event venues, such as weddings. As it was my first Albanian wedding, it was just too much to take in all at once, so have broken out the key takeaways:

  • There are 5 dishes of food. The final dish was given at 3am. It was meat and chips which basically felt like the kebab you get on the way home from a night out after a big one with the lads. The food was lovely, but there was far too much. A lot was thrown away.

  • Raki is served in random bottles – the percentage would never be known.

  • Different members of the family dance at certain times. Each family get a chance to strut their stuff and present themselves to everyone at the wedding. It kind of reminded me of West Side Story where two camp ‘gangs’ do dance-offs in front of each other.

  • The singer got money slapped on his head. And in general, money was thrown about all over the place I guess to signify wealth/good luck.

  • Certain family members, namely the bride’s dad, goes around to each table at some point to do cheers with you. Other men come around with a sack where you give money. Sid aptly named these the debt collectors.

  • About 3 hours into the wedding, the groom arrives. That’s right, the groom hasn’t even been there this whole time. Like some kind of posse from the neighbouring town, they rock up and are welcomed on ceremony. They are given their table and the groom goes and sits with his bride. The principle being that he’s been at his village (down the road in a hotel), chilling with the lads at the pub (desperately nervous with his family in the hotel room), then rocks up with his crew (family) whenever he wants (completely all planned to the second with the bride’s family), everyone spontaneously (planned) welcome the family in.

  • The best dance of the night is two men showing what they’ve got, and everyone throws money at them. It’s great fun and one of the men was a really old guy, and he could swing those false hips like nobody’s business.

The wedding had finally come to an end and it was a great night. I only had one gripe…she was there again, that bully, bogging me out. She was all ‘look at me’ as well in her illuminous orange dress and colourful Velcro trainers, trying to upstage the bride. Who does she think she is? And still, she stared at me like a piece of shit. She spent most of the wedding strolling around like she was drunk, sitting where she wanted, on people’s laps sometimes. Disgraceful. And this entire time knowing full well she had no interest in making me feel any less uncomfortable around her. Yes she is three years old, but this doesn’t change my feelings.

We got back to the hotel and as we climbed the spiral staircase to our room, thank god, the dog turned up again and barked its heart out.

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