After three days and a mix of meetings, I left for, finally, after several years of trying and Covid blocking my way, to my 80th different country in the world, once which I truly believe is a hidden gem and one which has a rich, albeit unknown history. That country, tucked in the Balkans north of Greece and south of Kosovo and Montenegro, is Albania, and while most Americans don’t have a real clue about this fascinating country, as for 50 years, after WWII, it was under communist rule and so isolated from the outside world, like North Korea. As close as it was to Italy and Greece, nothing got in or out and the history of the time was tragic, and everyone spied on everyone even with the secret police. When Albania came out of Communism, it took awhile to transition to the western way of life and today, while still a way a way, looks forward facing and western facing and has many signs of being ready to share its treasures with the world. I was reminded of when I first went to Croatia some 20 years ago and said that it was, at the time, a hidden gem and then the likes of Conde Nast and Travel & Leisure said the same. For the record, I said it first.
The same can be said for Albania and while it still has a way to go, the three days there both in and out of Tirana were wonderful. The people are extremely friendly and the cost to experience this up-and-coming destination is very inexpensive. The currency is the Lek, and it is about 100 to one, be it the Euro, the dollar, or the pound, and that means a 1 ½ liter bottle of water natural or frizzante is about 5 cents, give or take. The food is also wonderful, and it shares a lot of common history with Italy across the Adriatic, some good, some bad and the connections go all the way back the Roman Empire and that was what impressed Rosa. Oh, by the way, did I forget to mention she met me there and the three days were wonderful. We saw the excavation of a Roman Amphitheater, drove along the Adriatic Coast, enjoyed classic Albanian food including the pickle salad and some wonderful seafood. We hiked up to a castle and was hosted by a wonderful lifelong resident of Tirana named Genti for the three days.
Albania also has several national parks and if you want to go skiing, you will have to go to neighboring countries even though the country is 75% mountainous. No worries, as these experiences can be arranged for you as well. As it is on the coast of the Adriatic, it too has its beaches and some never having been explored or developed in the south. Who knows, as other places have had these and within a few years, they were developed and there are signs of that, as well, but for now, the opportunity is there for the cultural, foodie, historical, activity and as importantly, meeting a truly wonderful people that want to share their home with you. Three days was a sample and as it is only a hour and 10 minute flight from Rome, I see myself returning to this country to see what else it offers with its 1000’s of years of history.
After returning to Rome, just the other day, it was time to shut down the apartment where Rosa and shared time this summer and fall. It was with a sadness that this chapter was ending, packing everything up, bring things to momma’s house for the time being and taking what I needed until I return again in the spring, but I will see Rosa before that as she is returning to America on the 1st of February, so we have time share together and with you and our lives, in fits and starts get closer and closer and they will. In a few short months, we have known each other for 4 years, as crazy as that sounds and that chapter will bring more new experiences for us to be shared with all.
Once again, I thank all of you for your comments and considerations about the death of my birth father and know that he is in a better place, and I can move forward at peace knowing that my future life, to be shared in my blog will be brighter, having had the 40-year friendship with Kenn. As always, I look forward to your comments, questions, concerns and continuing the discourse through whichever means you read my posts!!!
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Weathering the Storm with the Wandering Puffin