Wednesday, 19 August 2015

A postcard from Lin


I am in Lin, a tiny village on the Albanian shore of Lake Ohrid. It has one tiny hotel where village boys drink beer. It has four rooms on the first floor and on the second floor lives the owner and his family. I am the only guest. The lake view from my terrace is as lovely as you can imagine. Sitting by the lake I have it to myself except for a lilting ballad or some folk-pop on the radio and chatter from locals at a table . A fisherman strenuously rows a boat across the dark blue, pellucid water.

Apart from the hotel there is one other place which has six rooms. One narrow street makes up the village and the lake is hidden behind the cottages, coming into sight only for moments.

Tomi said before we got here that Lin was a tourist village. Nothing could be less enticing but it scarcely is. Tourism is just starting and this is actually, I'm ashamed to say, an advantage. It means it has this one restaurant-hotel-bar, opened last summer. Three other places at least are being built. A coach party stopped here and passers by come here for lunch. Like the lovely bays I saw in 2008 that are now ruined this place will lose its charm in five years.

Tomi took me to Podradec a pleasant, well-mannered lakeside resort, Broadstairs not Margate, and then the nearby village of Tushemisht, where we ate fish and drank rakia and some good wine. After lunch Tomi showed me Hoxha's villa, one of three he had in the area, set where a mountain river enters the lake. Newly weds are being photographed. A restaurant with two handsome stuffed bears, one clapping. 

Tomi believes in 'enjoying the life' as he has done since he went AWOL while on a cultural delegation to Athens in the late 1980s and took advantage of perestroika to bed a young Russian girl. No doubt there was much more life to be enjoyed in Pogradec but I do not like resorts and prefer a couple of nights in Lin instead.

I went for a long walk along the lake this morning. Braying donkeys drawing carts full of hay, men picking dates, The whole bourgeois dream of authenticity. Poverty and tradition.

Lake Ohrid has the great advantage of not being warmer than the early 20s Celsius in August and the great advantage, on the Albanian side, of being some where unmediated, uncooked, where one can find oneself. There may be lakes equally beautiful in Sweden but they do not appeal. I am listening to folk music, the jazzed up kind that young Albanians like.

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