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ponchi101

Logbook to the middle ages. IX

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Along the promenade there is the Piazza Café. It will certainly not win any points for originality nor for accuracy. It is not in the piazza and it is not a café but a pizzeria. It has some charming tables facing the boulevard and I can sit there and enjoy an Albanian beer.
There are two main brands. Tirana, named after the capital city, and Korca, named after another city. They are close to identical, simple pilsners that will not impress anybody but will satisfy most. In the balmy Beratian afternoons sitting close to the boulevard is refreshing, as the owners have a spray system that bathes you in a fine mist of cool water falling from the ceiling.
As the night falls, the entertainment begins. An older than middle age man sits in front of a small organ and starts singing what I assume are Albania’s Greatest Hits. The organ sounds downright from a circus, but not Du Soleil. At any moment you expect a monkey on a unicycle or a clown spewing fire from his mouth to stroll in front of you. Samson the strongman will parade holding a ballerina on the palm of his hand and the Scallopini Brothers will defy death on the high wire, but it is just the beer working its wonders on your frontal lobes. The man sings and the people are oblivious of him until the song ends, when polite applause comes from those that do not have a cigarette in between their fingers at the moment.
The man is a classic Mediterranean old man, with a lifetime tan covering him from neck to balding head. It is the tan that identifies affluent men like Julio Iglesias or that greatest Italian singer of all times, Nicola Di Bola (sorry, Di Bari). Wearing a white linen suit he would look like an Italian magnate getting off his yacht, but instead, he is playing monkey songs at the Piazza café in Albania. Perhaps the songs are ancestral and have names like “My ancestors slaughtered yours”, “Me and my donkey”, “The mold on the goat cheese” or something more profound that speaks of lost loves and glory in the battle field, but I can’t make it out. And in the end, he seems happy as the Albanian Piano Man, the people are entertained, the afternoon is wonderful and the beers are cold.
I enjoy it. Yes, it might be circus music, and maybe I am the monkey. I should be dancing.

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  1. GlennHarman's Avatar
    Ponchi, I love these blog entries, by the way! Anyway, about your first paragraph. It is not only in Albania where the naming of cafés and restaurants can be a bit off. My little vignette is about Italy:

    As I think you know, I have a very close friend who has lived in or near Milano her entire life. She is over 80 years old now. So, though she is a very progressive thinker, she is also a bit of a traditionalist about some things, like the Italian language. Nowadays in Italy, you will see many places that are referred to as "Ristorante Pizzeria", a fact that has never bothered me. But that drives my friend crazy, especially when she sees what is inside one of them. We were in one once to get pizza, and she kept going on about how "this is a 'pizzeria'.....it is by no means a 'ristorante'. Things must be one or the other." When I read your first paragraph, I could just hear her saying, "this is not in a piazza and it isn't a café."

    GH