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Logbook to the middle ages. III

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I was led to believe that I would be traveling to a land where episodes of Game Of Thrones would be solely anecdotal, a place where, save for the dragons, the slaughter of the enemy would be a daily matter. This, of course, was because of the information I got from the web. Albania is described as not very developed, one of the poor countries of Europe. As I approach the airport, I start to believe that to be true.
You see, one thing about developed countries is the amount of lights in their cities. Approaching Houston at night all you can see is a blanket from horizon to horizon of yellow light, the sodium lamps of a modern city. Frankfurt is another modern spectacle, the shiny Autobahns clearly marked. Bogota is not so much so because you approach from the north of the city, squirreling through the northern mountains while the city lies to the south. So it is only at the last few miles that you get the sight of the impressive city below you.
As I approach Tirana, I see a few patches of lights here and there. I do not know the terrain or the area so I don’t know if I am flying over deserted area or simply that Albania is like that: minuscule towns and hamlets where the light from kerosene lamps is what keeps people at night from bumping into each other or being eaten by a hungry Albanian wolf. Then the blue lights of the landing strip catch on to the plane and we touchdown. The plane carries down the strip and we pass the main building, which is on the right and we stop.
It is a single runway airport, which is a bad sign. The plane makes a U turn and we taxi up to the main building. These are bad signs of under development in most countries I have flown into. And it gets no better when we disembark from the plane and the dreaded bus picks us up, to deliver us to the main building.
Which is named after the sole famous person from Albania. The Nene Teresa airport is named after that most backwater nun ever, the angel/devil of Calcutta and friend not of the poor but of poverty. I wonder what destitute and desolate quarters await for us in the main building. My imagination jumps quickly into overdrive: will there be drab cement booths at customs, will the luggage be brought to us on donkey powered conveyor belts, will the sole food in the terminal (I will depart eventually, after all) be maize porridge with vermin grub to be eaten with your bare hands off rusted pewter plates?
But my fears are completely unfounded. The Nene Teresa airport is by no means a hostel for lepers. What I find is a small but well kept building, spacious and well lit. Four lanes for customs can easily take the small influx of passengers and we clear immigration easily. I have a bit of bad luck and my bag is the last one to come out but it is not terribly long before I get it.
Outside the famous anonymous driver with the white board with my name on it awaits and leads me to a comfortable Audi A6, and we drive into town on a smooth road with no holes or bumps. The city, as it turns out indeed, is south of the airport and since we flew from the north I never saw it. And when I cross the city center I see several nice buildings and people on the streets, enjoying the night life on a Tuesday. Café’s, bars, discos are open and there is a sense of lightness on the air.
I had it all wrong. This is not a country sunk into the middle ages. And it will take me a while to confirm this but there is a clear chance that the barbarian, the Visigoth, is me.

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Tags: albania, berat, work


  1. suliso's Avatar
    You have a lot of imagination

    I'd love to visit Albania as well, albeit on a vacation.
  2. GlennHarman's Avatar
    Ditto what Suliso said. I have never been there either, and I'd love to go. How long will you be there?

    I'm enjoying your blogs.....keep it up!!

  3. ponchi101's Avatar
    At least one more month here. Then a second turn further south.
    Totally worth visiting. Not super European in the sense of development but for Northern Euros, cheap and different.