Friday, June 10, 2005

Oh the places you'll go...

One of my favorite Dr. Seuss books is entitled, "Oh the places you'll go."
One of our most recent countries we visited is Albania. It is hard to really describe Albania, you really do have to visit it- especially the capital, Tirana.
Most of Europe is easy to travel through, there is an incredible train system that can route you through most countries, everyday and any time. Once you choose to travel through the Balkans however, travel is usually done by what we would call a minivan- you buy a seat and may travel with a variety of people to your location. But even minivan wasn't an option getting from Belgrade, Serbia to Tirana, Albania- so we flew. Our first introduction to Tirana was driving from the airport at 11 pm at night by taxi- Tirana is definitely a city of lights but a bizarre combination of lights and strutures, small walking bridges are lit up on the underside by bright blue lights, buildings in the downtown square are illuminated by a yellow overall glow. By daylight we saw even more interesting and unusual things- it really felt like we were in a Dr. Seuss book- the city seems random, a bit our of sorts and a living version of someone's imagination. Various buildings are colorfully painted- blue, green, yellow- sometimes in blocks of color or patterns. Most buildings have different design structure and the layout of the city is unusual. So, what is it about Albania that makes it such a random place? Here is what I've learned- it wasn't until 10 years ago that Albanians could own cars, western and outside influence had been cut off. Albania has been conquered and controlled many times-they have both European and Eastern influence- Ottomans to Communism. Religion is seen as an adoption of the religion in power. It is said that Albanians are 10% Catholic, 20% Orthodox, 70% Islamic and 100% Aethesist- there is a sense of nationalism in Albania. The color of buildings is a gift from the mayor to brighten up the dim, bland communistic buildings many people live in. Also, there are few people who seem like visitors from other places, especially from America.
Overall, I'm glad I was introduced to Albania- Tirana is one intriguing place and is a great contrast to the beautiful mountains of the countryside we rode through on our way to cross the border into Macedonia. -Krista