Some weeks ago my knuckle had an involuntary and unpleasant encounter with the edge of a table. Swollen to twice its normal size and still painful I set off for the Glob clinic yesterday to have some X-rays carried out.
Like most poor countries, Albania struggles to provide an effective health service for its people. The Glob is one of a number of private clinics that have been established in Tirana to meet the growing demand for better medical care. While treatment at the Glob is, by Western standards, very cheap it is still a lot more than most ordinary Albanians could afford.
As it turned out no bones were broken and I now have three fine pictures of the inside of my hand.
Apart from the excellent care and good facilities, one of the main reasons for using the Glob is that a number of the doctors who run the clinc are friends. So, after the formalities of the treatment were completed, they took me out for dinner.
We ended up at a rather nondescript but extremely good restaurant some miles out on the Elbasan Road. The restaurant 'Pusi' is the kind of place I would have driven past without noticing. Without the benefit of local knowledge I would never had stopped, even if I had noticed it.
Largely anonymous from the outside apart from one small sign, and pleasant without being in any way special inside, the real reason to stop there is the food, which was excellent. Simple starters of salad, cheese and mixed vegetables prepared us for a huge platter with a variety of grilled meats - tender, juicy and very tasty. All this was washed down with good German beer. Later, it was time for one of the house specialties - spleen. I had never had spleen before and to me it tasted like a slightly more delicate version of liver.
Doctor Dritan had an animated conversation with the owner/manager - I never did find out what his actual role is though he was definitely in charge - and I recognised the words 'whisky' 'raki' and 'Ireland'. Evidently few foreigners visit the restaurant since the owner/manager then brought two glasses of raki - one for him and one for me - on the house. I imagine we were drinking to eternal Albanian-Irish friendship.
Later, he brought two more, and this together with the one I had had to start and the beer was a little more than I was used to. Thankfully, he stopped after two rounds.
While I was still able to stand, the manager/owner invited me to look out the back where raki production was in full swing. The yard was lined with crates of green and purple grapes brought in by local growers. Alongside these were large plastic barrels packed with grapes undergoing an initial fermentation. After something like three weeks these will be ready for distillation and the end result will be more raki.
Our own grapes, which have now ripened, have yet to begin the journey to raki. Tomorrow, Doctor Dritan and a friend are arriving with a large barrel to harvest our crop. After some 20 days these too will be transformed into good raki by Doctor Dritan's father.
I plan to be there on distilling day to sample the first drinkable drops of our freshly made raki.