Odds And Ends Of Albania
-Albania has been the most backward country in Europe for over 500 years
-King Zog was their only king. He is still venerated even though he left the country with much of their national treasury
-Albania is the only country that was first Stalinist, then Maoist
-Albania was officially an athiest country
-Albania had its own Cultural Revolution sending city bureaucrats and intelligentsia to the fields to become farmers
-As part of their national defense system, they built 700,000 cement bunkers around the country with gun slits. This is one bunker for every 5 people. To put it in perspective, the US would have to build 60,000,000 bunkers to have as many per capita. I am considering buying a lot of these bunkers and turning them into time shares before real estate here booms. I dream of becoming a hole mogul.
-Tirane is the most polluted capital in Europe and the 9th most polluted in the world.
-Their biggest exports are their people (20% of the work force works abroad) and stolen cars(see below)
-Their biggest import is stolen cars. It has been estimated that the Albanian mafia has stolen over 300, 000 cars bringing them to Albania and then sending them to E. Europe and the Mid East. Even though it is a very poor country, it seems as if 75% of the cars are Mercedes.
-Parts of the country still live by the Korun (The Code). It has nearly 1300 separate rules, but honor, family and hospitality are paramount. If a member of their family is injured or insulted a blood-feud can result. The feuds can last until there are no male members of the family left alive. The good news is they are compelled to shower their guest with food, drink and other displays of hospitality. Unfortunately, that means I get all of the goat entrails I can eat washed down with moonshine made from mulberries. If I am killed while a guest, a blood feud must ensue. At least, I will be avenged.
-To make things particularly confusing, they shake their heads side to side for yes and nod it up and down for no. Until I got used to this, I bought 3 cartons of cigarettes, 10 cds of Albanian folk music, and 6 large helium filled Sponge Bob balloons.
Albania Is Worth The Visit In Any Case
Despite all of this, I find the place very amusing. The people are very friendly and are well disposed towards Americans. When I checked into my hotel yesterday, the front desk staff insisted upon looking at my house on Google Earth. Few people speak English, but those that do seem very excited when they find out I am an American. They get very few tourists here, let alone Americans. In fact, I have not identified another tourist here in Tirana. There were a few on the coast, but mostly day trippers from Greece.
They have nice beaches by Euro standards on the coast and things a very cheap. Hotels are $10 to $15 on the water. Transportation is practically free. A bus from one end of the country to another is around $15, although the buses are slow and uncomfortable. The limited train system is even cheaper and more uncomfortable.
That being said, I have planned my escape to the relatively civilized Montegro in the morning. I can’t get any bus info, but I can take a train to a town in the north and then if am lucky a bus to Bar, but no one knows for sure. At least, I will be able to take bus, furgon (overloaded mini bus) or taxi to the border and improvise from there.
(More on furgons soon)