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Logbook to the middle ages. VIII

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A few days later I travel to Fier, a small town (is there any other kind of town in Albania?) northwest of Berat. It is only 45 minutes and we need to source some equipment from there so I am in charge of inspecting them. I leave Berat and in about 15 minutes am transported in time.
I have tried to paint Berat as a medieval town, a castle on top, the streets of cobblestones, the time placid and basically immeasurable. But as I leave it this time, my time machine, a Japanese pick up truck, starts bringing me into the future. Berat remains medieval and wants to do so because its economy is based on tourism and tourists donít want to go there to see mediocre new stuff. But on the way to Fier I see a different Albania. The towns and constructions become more modern and it is not just houses where at least 8 generations have been born, raised and died. New houses, more opulent and larger in size, spring from the countryside, resembling more and more other places from the Mediterranean. I enjoy the scenery, vast fields where I can see corn and other grains, and orchards here and there where people grow olives, apricots and pears. Albania seems to be an amalgam of small towns connected with single lane roads, a place where the towns are small because everybody wants to live spread apart.
Approaching Fier I see more signs of industrialization. The buildings are taller and I see silos, factories and those dreaded oil facilities, where the product of what we do will eventually be stored. There is more glass and concrete and some houses have the temerity of rising over two stories. These ones, or at least some, are pretty, with vineyards in the front, stone walls as part of the decorations and wooden gazebos to sit in later in the afternoons and enjoy the refreshing breeze.
But as we approach the city I can see the blocks. Not everybody has the resources to buy one of the pretty chalets I have seen and certainly many people have to live in buildings. These are not pretty at all; they have the same look as the entrance of Berat and are of Soviet design, boxy utilitarian blocks that are downright penitentiary in style. They remind me of another city and it takes me a while to remember which one. In a sense, the outskirts of Fier are like some areas of Alexandria, in Egypt.
Fier is also surrounded by a few oilfields. The smell from the wells permeates the air and gives it that heavy, sour, acrid fragrance, a mix of burnt rubber and metal works. We go by these fields and enter the city which from the east is the industrial side, the place where the economy of construction and building resides. Garages, gas stations, warehouse stores and industrial yards are our backdrop and, although it is clean and ordered, it is not the place to set a home.
I carry on my inspections and we finish surprisingly fast. The person with the equipment wants to do business with such a large oil company and he had everything ready. So we can get back in our truck and return, reversing our trip through distance and time. Fier is more modern and developed than Berat and I am told that had I kept going and seen the west side of the city I would have seen the nice side of the city. It also boasts fabulous ruins and a colonial side worthy of a visit. But today I just saw how every country, regardless how picturesque it wants to be, must have a modern side to it. Berat is in the middle ages but Fier, larger and more developed, has moved more in time.
It is not medieval, at least what I saw. But it is not 2019 either. Fier, and I guess that many other parts of the country, have moved in time. All the way to 1984. With better cars.

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Tags: albania, berat, fier
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