Wow, I’m already two months into my six month adventure in Albania. Time flies, and so on.
As I’m the prototype of Norwegianism I have spent a fair amount of time hiking. This has resulted in a severely sunburned body numerous times, and it’s a miracle that I have not yet succumbed to dehydration or sunstroke.
On one of my travels I ventured deep into the Albanian countryside (about 1 hour drive from Tirana), along gravel roads and eventually on roads I would only deem fit for tractors (nonetheless I met no less than four 1990s Mercedes’ trudging along). I arrived at my parking destination, a small village called Priskë e Vogël, and set out for a mountaintop I had discovered while browsing Wikiloc. It was a beautiful hike with breath-taking views and wild nature all around. Nearing the top I could hear people talking, and to my astonishment there were three Iranian men cooking lunch there. I talked, had lunch with them, and enjoyed the nature with them. Turns out they were refugees from Iran, as they were part of the Mujahedin movement. One of them had been to prison for 17 years! If you want to read more about why they were in Albania of all places, check out this link.
This experience of course only enticed me into further adventures, so the next day I went to the Erzen gorge. I climbed a mountain and made my way down into the gorge, using a path I would not advise anybody else to try. Walking along the gorge I suddenly saw a pack of goats. I immediately stopped, as I have been told tales of angry, big dogs that look out for these packs. Luckily a farmer appears and waves me towards him. I do as requested and he walks with me for a couple of hundred meters. While walking I can hear noises from the forest next to us, clearly something is following us. Two pissed off Yugoslavian Shepherd dogs appear right in front of us, and the farmer grabs one of them by the neck while he yells at the other one. He urges me to go past him and continue on for a bit. I can do nothing but hastily comply. The farmer catches up to me and makes me a stick – and kindly show me how to beat the dogs with it (swinging it through the air) if they should reappear. Surely I must have experienced Albanian hospitality at its best. Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of the stick, but it still happily resides in my apartment in Tirana.
Hiking in Albania is wonderful, but I’ve also done some other discoveries. I have become well accustomed to downtown Tirana, and I’ve been to Kruja to see “the castle”, but the most interesting was going to Instituti Kulinar Neranxi. By mere happenstance I found an event on Facebook and drove out to what I thought was some kind of food market. I went in, did not understand the concept, and walked around like a dumb Norwegian would without talking to anybody. There was a lot of food, people eating the food, but nowhere to pay. In the end I found somebody to talk to and asked them what this was. It turned out to be the local chef school having an open day, and everything was free. Imagine my Norwegian mind trying to fathom this. Free! Let’s just say I tasted what I could get my hands on that day. Cakes, ice cream, pizza, chocolate in every form, sea food, meat, and the list go on. Happy day!
Oh, and work: I’m now stationed at Moglicë, where I will work mainly with the penstock, draft tube and spillway. It will be quite a big change, as I will live at the camp Monday to Friday. I’m sure it will be a good learning experience.