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A trip to Albania begins when you start to say it around, to friends, acquaintances, to relatives.” In Albania??” depending on the tone most will express: terror. Outrage as if you were cheating on someone or something. Sarcasm : ) . Sense of superiority of one who knows to take the side of truth and others. After all, it is legitimate. We live by stereotypes. The ship takes you to Durres. When landing in Durres, there will certainly be people waiting for you. Usually university students are the ones that take the job of guiding tourists around. Sometimes they host them at home, take them around the country, let them see through their eyes, the history and traditions of Albanians.
My attendant took me on the beach in Durres. There I saw men with snakes entwined around their necks, men with bears on a leash, men with carts piled high with jackets, pools, balls, waterguns, and police cars along the shore. If you wish, the man let’s snake cling to your neck in order to take a picture.
From Durres to Tirana we took a van as private transport traveling at the speed of light making multiple trips a day possible. We met up with the rest of the tourists and were guided towards our hotel. It was the first day we spent in Tirana. Our guide instructed us on how to change euros into Leke and accompanied us to the Museum of Albanian history. Near it was a fast food restaurant for lunch.
In the afternoon we were welcomed at the Social Centre. The Centre is managed by the Social Bathori Catholic Church, Father Patrick. The activities were among the most diverse, from welcoming kids of the neighbourhood, the organization of recreational sports and activities for them, the organization of training courses for women at job placement. Children who arrived this afternoon to follow the activities were so many: first catechism, then volleyball.
The next morning it was time to leave for the south. Another person from the agency appeared who would be our faithful guide within the south of Albania. Albania is strange, but little by little, it gets inside you. Is it because they, the Albanians, are presented with passion and sense of belonging? Berat is a city of a thousand and one windows. I was tempted to count them but gave up almost immediately, there were so many. Almost all towns had a castle on top of a rock, from which you can enjoy spectacular views and see the Turks, the event never to return.
On the road to Saranda, we stoped at the spring called the Blue Eye. It was really blue. The Eye is there and it looks at you. If you like it you wink. Saranda appealed to us in all its Albanian beauty. We stayed for two nights at the home of one of the guides in Xamil, a village not far from Saranda, near the sea.
After two days at Ksamil, deep south, came the time to leave. We had our lunch break on a beautiful pebble beach with turquoise water but very cold. Our guide explained that Albania, geographically speaking, is the throat to the sharks. Like a door to west or a door to the east, depending on where one looks. It controls who enters the Adriatic and who comes out.
In Shkodra you can see a magical place, within a few tens of meters there is a mosque, an Orthodox church and a Catholic church. When one of the three churches celebrated the other two participate. They join the three places of worship together. It’s not something that happens often in the world. Probably only in Shkodra. After the party, it’s the time of the final meeting. It closes the circle. We greeted each other. I held back my tears. Everyone felt they had to return to the beautiful and crazy land of Albania. Like any land, Albania is beautiful thanks to the people who live here.
By Elsi H