Albania - you hidden pearl on the European continent
Here I am now, on the terrace of the stone house in Kukel, a small town in the north-west of Albania, and write as I always wanted to write. The desire was always to sit on a terrace and look at the sea. Now I am looking into a beautiful tree garden. The ash trees bloom all around, as well as the roses, the clover, the lady’s herb, the mallow and the herbs, which grow in a rich variety in the garden of the stone house, are so diverse that it is difficult to enumerate them all.
Am I sitting in paradise? It is warm and the sun is heating the country to almost 30 degrees in May. All around me I hear the residents of the small village that seem to have stopped in ages and so busy in their everyday life. But mostly I hear the animals that surround me. There are many animals in Kukel, more animals than people and they have all accompanied me during the weeks that I was allowed to spend here. Coincidence, or rather, lucky fate, brought me here. To a world that still seems okay. In an everyday life that I had already forgotten in Austria when I left in the Corona crisis.
There are still people who meet. People who sit together, laugh, work and you see faces. Indeed. You can see mouths and wrinkles in the eyes, faces drawn by life with deep furrows and bright children's faces. If you listen carefully, even if you don't understand the language, and open your eyes even when the sun is shining on your face, you can see the joy of life of these people, who often deny a simple existence. Their day is long and they are persistent people. They are forced to walk into old age and I have made a habit of stopping when they show with a hand on the side of the road that they are asking to be taken away. They beam at me, the old people and can't understand what I want here.
Unfortunately I don't speak Albanian yet. But it seems to me that this is a language that I still want to learn. Albania, you lovely country. A pearl on the European continent. Hidden and mistreated for so long. And that is exactly what it is. It's not that spoiled yet. Culture, ancient knowledge, handicrafts, handicrafts and people still count. With those who have little or nothing. They don't want to owe anything and one has to be careful with giving gifts. Once you start, you keep getting something in return. Milk, eggs, cheese, meat, fig jam, butter, clarified butter, yogurt. Everything made by the women themselves. Almost every woman still knows the secrets of these ancient traditions. I'm one of the few who still want the milk like that, says my neighbor. The other tourists prefer the sterilized milk from the supermarket. For weeks I've only been eating things that don't come from the supermarket. They all come from the farmer next door. The sheep with their long fur, the goats, curiously looking at my dog and always ready to defend their young with their long horns, the cows that go for a walk with their master and forage, they are all around all the time me. In the morning the roosters that announce the day wake me up and in the evening a mystical bird, whose scream I don't know, warns me into bed. When I smoke the hundredth last cigarette in the evening, the stars shine in my face and the moon shines on me with all its size. As powerfully as the roosters scream, the sun shines brightly on me in the morning and gives me the energy to get up. I imagined getting up with the sun and going to sleep with the moon.
The warmth is good for my bones and my body. It's nice not to be cold. The cold in the mountains, the constant rain and snow is good for nature, but not for me.
The house belongs to a tree protector and a pioneer in this region. The others burn the trees to make more pasture for the sheep and goats. My landlord implements them or sets them up separately. Is it a coincidence that I'm here? I don't believe in coincidences anymore.
As I write this blog, I can see the mountains in the far distance. When I came there was still snow on the mountains. Now only the highest peaks are covered with white.
Immediately in front of me are the 10 to 15 year old ash trees that are currently in bloom and create the romantic image that defines this house, no matter from which perspective you look at it. Behind the house is a hill that the sheep and goats inhabit and take their siesta in the midday sun. Then it becomes very quiet in the village and the people take a break to be fit again for work in the evening. There is a lot to do when the animals come home. They should be milked, fed and cared for. Often the children and olders take over who the herding of the animals. You spend hours with them in the pasture. The women sometimes go to the animals in the fields to milk them.
In the morning, when I manage to get away from the house before noon, I see people waiting with their milk containers until it is collected. This is done by a small van. People bring a few liters to the collection point or wait on the side of the road for the van to stop. Some bring things in a donkey cart. The brave men stand on the cart that is pulled by a donkey, mule or horse. The animals are good and obedient, they know that they are needed and what task they have to do. Every day a donkey stands stubbornly in the middle of the street. If I come by car, I have to evade. He doesn't move. He only looks after me when I drive past him. What is he thinking?
The streets are full of people in the morning. There is gossip in the coffee houses, the children go to school. People buy, trade, carry, work, repair, dispose of, walk, build and the traffic is brisk. So many sensory impressions delight my eyes, I don't know where to look first. I think it's best to go out onto the street, because there is also a hustle and bustle there. Lots of bicycles, mopeds, donkeys, old rusty bowls and fat Audis, BMWs and Mercedes. It's not uncommon for a Masserati or a Porsche Jeep to overtake me. While some are spreading their flea market on the street, very well-dressed and extremely attractive men appear from the shops.
The church bells ring the residents for worship, while the muezin sings from his pulpit and invites them to the mosque. Colorful religious goings-on. Nice that there is. This is called religious freedom. What is it like? My friends ask when I tell them about it. For me personally, this diversity is nice, I answer the question. I also like singing from the pulpit. The constant monotonous ringing the bells can also be quite annoying, I think.
"Take a lot of photos". With these words my friends try to encourage me to take more pictures and videos. And I think so. Not all of that can be reproduced with photos. Where to start and where to stop. Every corner offers new impressions for me. Should I photograph the donkey that helps the farmer with the wood, or the gypsies (again you can't say that, that's again an insult according to our laws, the only question is how you can phrase it right now before the Legal situation changes again) who sell their goods on the roadside. Or should I photograph every millimeter of the city of Shkoder, where the picture changes every meter? Perhaps it is better to go to the beautiful, romantic beaches, which are embedded in nature reserves and invite you to romance and kissing? The fishermen, who stand or sit for hours in many corners with the most varied of techniques from mussels to crabs to fish, while the plastic waste that washes up in the sea piles up in some places. I could still photograph the burning of the garbage dumps, I think to myself, while I see a woman in her costume and can no longer decide what to record.
Then there are the Greek turtles in the family's garden. At the moment the babies have hatched, I have to photograph them and the salamanders who come to visit me. I can't stop being amazed. There is so much new and great to see.
Albania, you are a wonderful country. As diverse and as colorful as life can be. I have decided to put you better into words to make it palatable to people to visit you, to get to know you with their own eyes. When they get to know your lakes, your mountains, your plants, your lifestyle and the joie de vivre that you can even hear on the radio (I haven't heard as much radio for a long time as here), let your soul dangle on your beaches and with the Binoculars observe the paradisiacal birds, explore the modern and the old side by side, observe the traditions and culture, only then they will really understand you. It is difficult for me to part with you and it is with a heavy heart that I am going back to a calculated, tricked country, to a masquerade that is not good for people, and will come back here as soon as possible and stay longer to improve my vocabulary expand. Faleminderit.