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Logbook to the middle ages. V

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I am later told that the real Berat is just simply down the road. We, the company, have done what so many times I have seen before. We have taken a hotel in town and rented almost all of its rooms, converted their conference areas into our offices and have started to work. We are working for the Dutch giant SHELL, one of the most anally retentive companies in the world. Examples of their obtuse ways abound. We are in a town, in a hotel, well away from any danger but yet we have to wear high reflective vests while at work, to protect us from some astray meteorite or that most dangerous of high speed dangers, a cleaning person with a mop.
The problem is that in Albania, only people in the “lowest” jobs wear these vests. The street sweepers (it makes sense), the guy in the bus that collects the fare (there is one), car washers or other lowly employed people. So the hotel has as an issue with our presence. They do like our money but don’t want our presence, lest the other guests in the hotel think they are staying at Le Hotel Du Clochards (I am working for a French Company so pardon my French, indeed). The Salomonic solution is that we can wear our stuff while we are in our offices but not while we are in the common areas (restaurant, halls, etc) but after a few days of putting these things on and off we just gave up. If the Albanian guests think we are cleaning personnel so be it. Even the real cleaning girls laugh at us so who cares.
Berat is therefore just one small bus ride away from our premises. We take the bus (which Shell forbids us to do but it is after hours that we do that) and the French built machine crawls towards town, a one way route that goes through the northern portion of town heading south. The Shell guys are not allowed to go into town because… well, we really don’t know why because Albania has ridiculously low crime rates, but since we do not work for the Dutch directly we can. And doing so, we get off in the middle of the Old Town, the medieval jewel of Berat and stroll around its cobblestone streets and along the promenade that borders the river. Mountains here and there line the city and I find that, if I stand between two of the old houses, I am indeed back into the XVII century, lost in a place where the signs should not read “For Sale”. They should say “Come in and plunder”.
We do that for a few hours and then decide to eat. Time for a surprise.

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  1. GlennHarman's Avatar
    I love the story about the vests. And also, I have personal love for the concept that the other guests think they were staying at "Le Hotel du Clochards" when they saw you folks in the vests. My trail name on the Appalachian Trail (as I was saying in some forum thread recently) was "Oboe Hobo". In French that is "Hautbois Clochard"........not quite the rhyming thing that made me pick it in English. So as a backpacker, I would have fit right in. And, I wore a blaze-orange sweatshirt at times on the Trail during the autumn hunting season, so there was even a time I would have especially looked the part.

    Thanks for these stories.......the Old Town of Berat sounds delightful and a lot of fun. I hope you continue to get to enjoy excursions that you can share with us!!