This month was a great introduction to a part of Europe I had very little knowledge about. Albania’s got so much history, but I mainly focused on 20th-21st century history – WWI, WWII, the Cold War with it’s bunkers and propaganda and Albania’s isolation even inside the Communist world, followed by the pyramid scheme-fuelled civil war in the 90s and the tensions with Albania’s neighbours even today, even as it looks to join the EU.
Albania’s architecture was also a theme that came up this month – from beautiful old mosques, to modern urban beautification, as well as the darker side of modernization. Similarly, the contrast between ancient traditions in remote regions and hypermodern pop culture in the urban cores (with great drill and trap beats) is interesting, and I’m glad I got a brief introduction to Albanian literature – Kadare being a natural starting point, but there are so many other good authors and poets.
The food was great too, there were some Mediterranean staples like byreks, qofte, and meze (I’m still really proud of that pic of the spread), plus some regional specialties like tavë kosi and boza…and I finally got to try Fanta Exotic!
I had no idea just how beautiful the beaches were in the south of the country, but if I got to go to Albania, it would definitely be for a hiking trip in the mountains – those are jaw-dropping.