Daughter Suzi liked this town, only a few miles from the Greek border, when she visited it last spring. Now it is cold and icy, but still interesting. We are staying in one of the few registered historic buildings in the city, Ottoman in its design, tucked on an icy lane behind the huge Orthodox cathedral. We arrive at 9:00 am, in time for free cappuccinos by the roaring fire in the breakfast/common room. No problem with checking in a bit early.

Our place to stay

Our place to stay

We warm our bones by the fire.

We warm our bones by the fire.

With bags stashed in our generous size, wood beamed rooms, we head out to visit the largest brewery in Albania. We almost achieve our goal but are sidetracked by a nearby restaurant, which like so many other places, offers huge meals for few bucks. Actually, the US dollar goes far in this country. Food and service are always top notch. We don’t have to mess around trying to find some upscale restaurants. I’m not sure they even exist in this former Communist country.

Restaurant next to the brewery

Restaurant next to the brewery

The salad course - a meal for three

The salad course – a meal for three

After a huge lunch, we'll pretty much skip dinner.

After a huge lunch, we’ll pretty much skip dinner.

Now off to the brewery. It closes at 1:00.

The brewery, our goal, closed early.

The brewery, our goal, closed early.

Off to the left are some fine mountains.

Snowy mountains surround Korce.

Snowy mountains surround Korce.

The brewery is expanding. The old plant is left to fall apart, not unlike a lot of industrial plants we have seen from our bus windows.

Ruins of the old brewery

Ruins of the old brewery

Generally speaking, no one seems to care about clearing the sidewalk in front of their homes and businesses. People just slip and slide. Here’s an older generation woman with different values.

Short handled brooms, shovels and picks are the weapons of choice against the elements, when they are used at all.

Short handled brooms, shovels and picks are the weapons of choice against the elements, when they are used at all.

It’s easy to find our way home once we sight the cathedral. But is there such a thing as zoning regulations? The pizza parlor outdoor seating extends right to the steps of the cathedral. Curious.

Orthodox cathedral we forgot to enter.

Orthodox cathedral we forgot to enter. Note the pizza parlor next door.

Our really first-rate hosts suggest we see a few things around town, such as the new viewing platform. They say it was the biggest waste of money in quite a while, since people can climb a nearby mountain and get as good a view. To my eye, it fits into the cityscape about as well as all the lifeless concrete slab buildings of Communist times. Much of the modern architecture is awful, or worse. How is bizarre?

Viewing tower in the heart of town

Viewing tower in the heart of town

As daylight is beginning to wane about 3:00, we decide to go to the nearby old Ottoman section of town. To be truthful, I would never send a tourist there expecting much beauty. There are lots of mansions, though, so let’s see a few.

The family dentist patriarch will this place to his three   children, one in the USA.

The family dentist patriarch willed this place to his three children, one living in the USA.

IMG_5093 IMG_5092 IMG_5094
Imaginative front porch, but does it work?

Imaginative front porch, but does it work?

IMG_5111
Holiday lights

Holiday lights

We get near home as the decorative lights are being switched on.

IMG_5112

Suzi can't keep her curiosity under control.

Suzi can’t keep her curiosity under control.

IMG_5122
Good lighting job

Good lighting job

Today we will visit the downtown market where you can buy almost anything. I pick up a couple of electrical conversion plugs for 10% of what they cost in the US.

A small part of the market

A small part of the market

Want shoes?

Want slippers?

Maybe jeans?

Maybe jeans?

Perhaps a bra.

Perhaps a bra.

Certainly olives

Certainly olives

Maybe it's time for coffee. No?

Maybe it’s time for coffee. No?

How about a Pit Bull drink?

How about a Pit Bull drink?

Here are a couple of buildings from not so many years ago.

Some fine view apartments here, for sure

Some fine view apartments here, for sure

The outdoor bus station with convenient apartments behind

The outdoor bus station with convenient apartments behind

There’s always time for a bit of leisure, or lots of it.

Game time, with plenty of watcher-on

Game time, with onlookers.

We spy a horse attached to a wagon. We snap a few photos. Well and done, except that Suzi sees more to it. She finds the owner and talks away in her best Albanian. Before it’s over we’re almost good friends.

Horse and wagon. OK.

Horse and wagon. OK.

The owner is engaged.

The owner is engaged.

Time for a group shot of all participants.

Time for a group shot of all participants.

We get a bit lost and find ourselves on the fringe of town. We pass a mosque and a few interesting sights as we find our way to a diner for lunch.

Neighborhood mosque, simple, well balanced

Neighborhood mosque, simple, well balanced. Renovation money coming from Turkey.

A bit of color

A bit of color

Dumpsters are dumped maybe now and again.

Dumpsters are dumped maybe now and again.

A right curious house, Albanian style

A right curious house, Albanian style

Another fine lunch for few coins - salad and wine

Another fine lunch for few coins – salad and wine

Typical sausages as the main course

Typical sausages as the main course

Now it’s time to leave again. We are served standard Albanian items for our last breakfast.

Lots of sour cream and fried things

Lots of yogurt and fried things

Parting is such sweet sorrow. We surely did like this place and our hosts were such wonderful people.

Our final moments

Our final moments

Today we cross another border, with its own set of adventures. Onward to Macedonia.

Notes on Albania –

To me as a traveler with limited experience in lesser developed lands, Albania is a curious country. Over the past decades it was the most rigid and sealed off of the various Communist countries. This has had an effect on both the appearance of the country and the mental attitude of the people over a number of generations. There is a lot to do there to modernize the situation. Unfortunately the people do not seem to be particularly motivated to lift a shovel and get going. A large fraction of the population has voted with their feet and left the country for Italy and other lands.

Under the prolonged dictatorial reign of Enver Hoxha, borders were sealed. Fear and suspicion of the outside world was encouraged. Because of dysfunctional economics, drug smuggling and corruption was widespread. This continues today.

With a semblance of a free market functioning today, Albania is on the road to modernization. Unfortunately, corruption remains in place, unemployment is very high, the people lack the sense of what it takes to get the job done. They rely a lot on outside aid. City planning, zoning regulations and a sense of aesthetics to me seem to be lacking.

Despite all this, I hear that the beaches to the north are quite attractive.

Advertisements