Thursday, March 12, 2009

Albania

Back from a short visit to Albania, some reflections on that country. For starters it was my first visit and I have not been in the Balkan region for over 20 years. Well before they decided (or whatever happened) to disintegrate Yugoslavia into x number of midget states during a terrible war in other words.

For those who know their history Albania was a communist state post second world war, ruled most of that time by Enver Hoxha. It broke away from the Soviet Union infuense though. The "post-Hoxha" time was chaotic and I remember seeing the movie Lamerica mid 90s sometimes, a not very positive movie presenting a country in chaos.

So I was most pleasantly surprised to find this small country (roughly 3 million inhabitants) being fairly "modern" and inhabited by very friendly, helpful and hospitable people. Everyone tries to help, tries to speak English and as a matter of fact I was barely left alone to eat.

Food is a story in itself, mixture of Italian, meditteranian and more robust "farm cooking". I am NOT used to eating 3-4 courses for lunch and felt rather stuffed a lot of the time.

An especially memorable meal was a late lunch by Lake Pogradec on our way back from Korca to Tirana. We stopped at a very empty restaurant (low season) and was treated the best grilled lamb I have ever eaten. Full stop.

That was one day when I simply skipped dinner. Another time I had to leave the better part of a pot of lovely pork suckling baked with potato. Too much food in short - but great food.

It was a bit chilly, I have not been in Europe during that season for many years. And strange - some offices and houses are actually colder inside than it is outside! The office in Korca in particular, brrr.

We (I was with a colleague, P G Skog) found that no meeting was held without coffee "espresso style" and rarely without being served Raki. Maybe to keep the warmth? And most of the time "farm" Raki from someone's relatives rather than from the shop. That includes the acting Director General of NES that the mission was focused on.

Here some Albania photos
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