Monday, 26 September 2011

The Alphabetical Tourist: Albania

My prior knowledge of Albania was so limited. I knew that you could get there from Italy on a ferry and that it was probably populated by old ladies in peasant costumes who looked like Mother Theresa, who was Albanian herself.  Tirana, the capital city has an international airport that is now named in her honour.  Wrongly I believed that it was governed by fierce Stalinists who dissuaded tourists because of the 'dodgy stuff' going on there. After all, who'd have the heart to dispose a royal family with brilliant names like Zog, Geraldine and get this, Her Majesty Queen Susan of the Albanians, a sheep farmer's daughter from Australia, the sadly departed wife of the current King Leka I.

No, Albania has been a democracy since 1991.   Although there was a bit of a fracas in the form of an uprising in 1997, all seems peaceful now.  However, from what I can gather blood feuds (Gjakmarrja)  which are governed by strict rules still occur in the north of the country.  Basically killings may be avenged in an eye for an eye type of way.  Women, children and the elderly are not targeted and the act of revenge is disallowed if the male target is accompanied by a woman.  This seems make dodgy blokes, who're a bit  bothered about reprisal, act like young meerkats and stick close to their mums.

The country has been undergoing change since communism although some aspects of its infra-structure such as healthcare may have suffered under the regime changes.  Now it is the world's fastest growing tourist destination voted number one top tip for travel by Lonely Planet in 2011.  At the moment it seems to have parallels to the unspoilt Greece that hippy travellers 'discovered in the 1960s'.  There's glorious unspoilt beaches, archaelogical remains, four of which merit UNESCO World Heritage Site status, part of the Alpine mountain range, friendly people and yes, that Boy's Own dream of old military hardware that you can climb about on.  I know this because, coincidentally Albania was featured on yesterday's Top Gear in the part of the programme where those uber-sensitive lads wreck cars on a roadtrip in distant climes.   Don't quote me on this but I think that I've sussed out  from a very helpful website called gearthhacks.com that there is a MIG graveyard beside the road  south of a town called Kucova and discarded rusty old submarines are to be found at Orikum.

What was I thinking? After researching this article I was all for booking the flights from Heathrow and going on a cheap backpacking tour with Louis at half term. Just the two of us mind, as Mr Lovelygrey has to work. This would neatly coincide with my hospital discharge advice which suggests that this is the time that I might like to think about resuming ironing. Luckily I'm aware of my tendency toward grandiose plans and reluctantly reined myself in.  But if I've whetted your appetite and you fancy a trip here's a couple more useful websites that might be helpful when trip planning.  All photos by the way have been gleaned from that wonderful resource Wikipedia, that I now would have difficulty living without.

http://www.albaniantourism.com:  Welcome to Albania - a great introductory tourist website
http://www.albania-hotel.com:: Does what it says on the tin!

1 comment:

  1. Hi, your virtual journey sounds wonderful. I think I fancy the beaches best. Hope the recuperation is coming along well.
    Love from Mum
    xx
    PS Thank you for becoming a follower of my blog. I hope you enjoy your visits. I've enjoyed visiting here.
    xx

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