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Bob's peregrinations

Di Robert Lambert Martedi 14 Agosto 2012 alle 12:52 | 0 commenti


Dear Students and VicenzaPiù friends and readers, it seems a long time since I was in Niksic, Montenegro, where I had a dental bridge installed. The bridge is still there, and I've had a few tasty steaks since then, so it seems to be in good nick.
I left Niksic on a hot morning, and travelled along the Montenegrin coast by bus, crawling through the little seaside resorts, where the main road twists along beside the sea, ther small hotels, and tourists in beachwear, down to the frontier town of Ulcinj.

Some tired taxi drivers sitting in the shade outside the bus station tried to convince me to take a taxi to Skodra in Albania, but I already had a bus ticket. I had a coffee, and read the paper in a nearby cafe' waiting for the bus. There was a pall of summertime laziness overhanging the frontier bus station, people sitting around aimlessly, resigned to economic hardship and the heat.
The bus entered Skodra, metropolis of Northern Albania, and the Ulcinj lethargy was replaqced by a frenetic shouting and shoving and pushing as the minibuses competed to get passengers to Tirana. There was only one regular bus parked at a street corner, and somewhat a loss, in the heat and buzz of voices, I got on. Fortunately, there was an ageing gentleman who spke English, and insisted on buying my ticket to Tirana. He was an interesting man, who after the fall of Communism in the 1990's had become a politician, and had been ambassador to Turkey for a time. He asked me if the British liked Tony Blair. No, I replied. Blair is revered there for having unleashed bombs on Serbia, killing a large number of civilians in the process, purportedly to help the Albanian population of Kossovo.
I was en route to Thessaloniki, and hoped to get an evening bus from Tirana, but it wasn't to be. Tirana seemed like an enormous shanty town. My companion pointed out some small blocks of flats away from the main road. Communist period, he informed me. One feels that the city must have exploded over the past twenty year. He explained to the driver that I wanted to go on to Thessaloniki, and I was left in a relatively quiet tyree-lined street in the centre of Tirana outside a travel agency. Hauling around my luggage, I soon discovered there were no night buses for Thessaloniki. Seeing a sign indicating a hotel, I looked for it, seeking help from the waiter of a cafe' called London. He did speak a few words of English! It was a squat modern building - there appear to be no old buildings in Tirana - and after saying 25 euro was too much, I was offered a 15 euro room in the basement. With air-conditioning to boot.
The centre of Tirana is like Place de la Concorde in Paris - a criss-cross of wide avenues. There is a theatre, a few museums, and not a lot of traffic.Down one of the boulevards is the newly consecrated Orthodox Church - a large number of Albanians are Christians, at least nominally - a shiny affair of white marble and dazzling stainless steel doors. Strangely, the faithful were not allowed to venerate the icons on the iconostasis, cordoned off with red rope.
By this time, I felt in need of a beer, and began walking around the smaller strteets. Two or three times people dashed out of cafe's to try and pull me inside. I finally found a little neighbourhood bar near the hotel, and sipped at a beer, surrounded by men of my age, seeking a moment of relaxation on a hot summer evening. I could see the TV screen inside, with a programme of Albanian folk dancing.
I took another beer to the hotel, tried to watch the TV, which didn't work, slept, had the hotel breakfast of rolls with pre-packed measures of jam, cream cheese and butter, before setting off for Thessaloniki.
There was only one other passenger to begin with, and a lanky lad called Mario who was the steward, oddly wearing a sort of plastic bow tie. We stopped beside motorwar, and he threw a large bag of rubbish into a field. Mario, the driver and the other passenger had an interminable discussion about sunglasses.
The bus crawled through the Albanian countryside, stopping at the towns ewn route to pick up more passengers. It rarely travelled at more than 25 kms an hour. I spent my last Albanian money on a very tasty kebab, after we had gone round the beautiful southern banks of Lake Ohrid, an enormous lake brought to fame by Saints Cyril and Methodius who evangelised the Slavs, gave them an alphabet, and built the first church in the town of Ohrid, on the Macedonian side of the lake. The Albanian side seems mostly made up of small hotels and cafe's for summer guests.
We fianally reached the frontier, and I reached Thessaliniki at about sunset. What can be more beautiful than a Thessaloniki sunset? I moved into the same flat I had stayed in at Christmas, and my landlady Nora had been thoughtful enough to give me a little food to get started. That was at the end of June, and I stayed in the flat until yesterday morning.
Well, finally the torrid, humid heat has been broken by thunderstorms. I'll tell you a little about Greece in the next letter. It's easier to write about a place from a distance, and now I am in a small town in Bulgartia, Harmanly, about thirty kilometers from the Greek and Turkish borders, guest of English teacher Emilia and her family. Her nine yearold son Val is silently waiting for me to finish, as he wants to resume his computer game I so rudely interruptede to write this!
All the best, more soon, Bob

Leggi tutti gli articoli su: Robert Lambert, Montenegro, Skodra


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