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ponchi101

Logbook to the middle ages. XV

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Bierfest in Albania is a nationwide holiday.
A small brewery called ELBAR sets up tents and tables and benches around the country and in all towns people sit down to wolf down lousy beer and eat unhealthy food. In Fier, Tirana, Gjirokaster and Durress, the people are getting ready to say goodbye to the warm days of summer and during the days from August 21st to the end of the month, debauchery Albanian style takes a hold of the nation.
In Berat the main street that I know so well is taken over and Elbar does its thing. The central square is filled with makeshifts tables, all of them with two or three games sketched on the top. I can see chess boards, backgammon layouts, Parcheesi and Pente, and if you bring your own pieces you are welcomed. The square is made up with more lights and the ubiquitous modern music you can hear in all countries booms from loudspeakers, the monotonous rhythmic bangs of music that is the artistic equivalent of McDonalds to anybody’s ears. It is the only downside.
We get some tokens and buy a few beers and sit at one table. One small booth sells Bratwurst Pikant, hot sausages which are hot in the same sense that sweet and sour sauce is spicy. Used to real spice I find them mild and non flavorful but that is not the point to be made. The entire town is here, the same people that I see almost every night I come here but they are a bit better dressed, the girls prettier, the men perhaps shaved just a few hours ago.
We do not understand the protocol of the location and some men sit next to us. The issue is simple: you cannot reserve a table. If there are spaces on your bench people will seat next to you. We, being the exotic, are toasted by this group when they hear our linguistic porridge of English and French and Spanish, and through some broken English and Italian (we have mastered a bit of it) we explain our presence here. The French proudly announce their origin, my Argentinean buddy explains his but I am immediately mistaken for an American. Explaining my birthplace simply elicits an exclamation of “Veniezuila”, the name disfigured in perhaps the same amount that I am unable to properly pronounce Shqiptire.
We bought the wieners but the men bought kofta’s and they insist we share their food with them. The thick yogurt that comes with everything is shared, we toast several times with our plastic cups filled with foamy ales and we laugh at the few things we can understand. One man takes out his smartphone and snaps a selfie, signaling to us that he is immediately uploading up into cyberspace, a binary fragment of our presence going both into insignificance and forever space. I wonder what will the man tell his friends, those not here, about this shot: “there we were, at the plaza, when this bunch of foreign lookalikes sat next to us and we had a jolly good time”.
In between beers and sausages we spend the time together, we listen to the music, we look at those all others around us. It is an enjoyable summer night and a simple thought goes through my head: it is so difficult to be angry or quarrelsome when you are sharing food with strangers. We finish our drinks, the men ask us to stay but we have to wake up early like always and there is a lot of handshaking as we bid goodbye.
Summer is almost gone. My shift is about to end. I will be gone soon.
I am going to sillily miss this place.

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  1. GlennHarman's Avatar
    You have a real gift for painting a picture with your words.....I felt like I was there just now. GH