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Showing posts from November, 2005

Lights Out

Balkan Shinners First, he rejected Yugoslavia, then the Soviet Union, then China . Tito had been a disappointment from the start. Stalin and Mao showed promise, but their successors abandoned the faith. In the end Enver Hoxha and the Albanian communist party stood alone – the world’s only true communists. Like their Irish counterparts, these Balkan Shinners believed that they alone lived by the true faith, maintaining it in all its purity. So they chose to journey along the path to communism alone. Naturally, maintaining this ideological purity was not without its difficulties. Dependence on others always risked the possibility of compromise so, as far as possible, Hoxha tried to make Albania self-sufficient. Red Green Energy was obviously key to the plan and despite an unfortunate lack of coal, oil or gas, the communists decide to utilise something Albania does have – mountains and lakes. Hoxha went hydro. Sadly, following the collapse of communism, someone forgot to


We took our first trip out of Tirana yesterday to the town of Kruja. Its 30 minutes away by normal road; 90 minutes away by Albanian road. It's in a beautiful setting in the mountains and we got the last of the summer sun. Here are some pictures.

Armistice Day

While Allied armies were fighting their way across Europe in the Autumn of 1944 a small force of Royal Marines and Army commandos was preparing to land in the Albanian city of Saranda . Their task was to help the Albanian partisans, under the leadership of Enver Hoxha, harass German forces as they retreated from Greece . They landed in September 1944 and spent the next month fighting with the partisans, who eventually liberated Tirana in November of that year. They were not the first British soldiers to fight in Tirana. Following the occupation of Albania by the Italians, the Special Operations Executive helped finance, train and arm Albanian resistance movements. Eventually most of this support went to the partisans under Hoxha simply because theirs was the most effective force. However, Hoxha often chose to use his forces to fight against the nationalist resistance movement rather than to fight the Italians or Germans. During the course of the Second World War 52 British


So. Tirana. Looks nice from the air. Some people think that’s probably the best way to see it. Not me. Only one way to know a city – walk. I’ve been walking. Everywhere. Tirana is compact – twenty minutes and you’re there. Wherever. Unless your driving – make that an hour, at least. We came expecting the worst – maybe it was a cunning ploy, but it’s not as bad as ‘they’ told us. Yes there is rubbish everywhere. Yes the roads are falling apart, caked with mud, the footpaths disintegrating. The air is bad. Nobody seems to have a job. There are beggars in the streets. The electricity goes off at nine, so does the water. Minor details. I grew up in Belfast in the seventies – it wasn’t that much better. And at least in Tirana no-one is blowing things up or shooting people – not very often anyway. The people are friendly – not effusive, but accepting. This is probably the most non-threatening city I’ve ever been in. The bread is fresh – baked ever morning in dozens of little bak