Sunday, 23 August 2015

Finding the open coast in Albania


I stayed three or four miles away from where this picture was taken, in the beach at Durres, a place which was empty coastline in 1998 and now is the great Albanian seaside place, the equivalent in Romania of Mamaia. Why do I hate seaside resorts so much? Because I grew up in one?Yes. Because I hate the masses, because I can't stand families, because I dislike battery farms, because I want hidden obscure things? Because I dislike modern unintellectual unironic normal life?

I came here to escape the heat of Tirana. My desktop tells me it's 19 degrees Celsius in Bucharest which reminds me I came to Albania to escape the heat of Romania.

The hotel I stayed kin one of thousands is full and gimcrack but next door but one was a black of luxury flats with a swimming pool and a nice restaurant. Pasta or risotto with fresh seafood cost less than ten euros with wine and the use of the pool was three euros. Not expensive but I had it almost to myself all day. In case you decided to stay in Durres beach (I don't recommend it unless you like beach resorts full of families) it's name is Alibi.

At 5.30 Tomi picked me up and took me south until the buildings petered out. 85% of the buildings along the coast are illegal. Not only do they not have planning permission but the owners often do not have title to the land which belongs to the state. All along the coast are tunnels and military installations. Albanians when they go to the coast prefer the Ionian sea where the sea or clearer and there are no mosquitoes. The coast south of Durres is popular with middle aged foreigners and the owners of the improvised restaurants and hotels do not advertise them in the Albanian media for fear of attracting the evil eyes of the authorities.
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A solitary fisherman with a net caught nothing, he said.

I had promised Tomi and Osman dinner in Tirana but instead we had a much better one than the best restaurant could have afforded back in town. Freshly caught fish, eaten outside a shack on the beach, a mile from the nearest village - simply delicious. Eaten with good Montenegrin wine. 

We stayed until the mosquitoes arrived and then fled. Tomi never sleeps on the coast here because of the mosquitoes. The hotels in Durres have netting on the windows but eating after dark outside is not a good idea,

I wanted to go to Albania very much in 80s when the whole coast was untouched - of course it was only possible in guided tours watched carefully by secret police but that would have added to the fun. A friend of mine who did this in 1979 said that only very interesting people took such tours - interesting people and Stalinists but Stalinists were interesting too. Albania until 1991 had statues of Stalin dotted around, of course. I left it very late but it is still in this year of grace 2015 an exciting strange place. As Romania was ten or fifteen years ago.

And like Romania ten years ago it has wonderful food, Everything is bio - the tomatoes and onions are poems - the fish and meat is wonderful. 

And people think and talk and behave like human beings in the way they did in Western Europe forty or fifty years ago. How Albanians manage it so close to Greece and Italy I don't know.

1 comment:

  1. I love this last paragraph. Perhaps that is what I miss most about Albania.