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Showing posts from January, 2006

And Now Sport 2

Despite dominating the game Dinamo lost 1-0 to Partizan on Saturday. Dinamo's lack of imagination up front and Partizan's very strong defence kept them out. Partizan scored in the first half and came out in the second half committed to defending their lead. Their 11-man defence killed the game. Elsewhere, Elbasan won again to maintain their lead at the top, beating Skenderbeu 2-1, and Tirana drew 1-1 with Besa to move ahead of Dinamo, who now lie fourth. Apologies for the poor quality of these photographs but my little digital compact isn't quite up to sports photography.

A Block of Granite

At dawn on 9 October 1944, 40 Commando Royal Marines launched a raid on the Southern Albanian town of Saranda. They landed on ‘Sugar Beach’ where they encountered strong resistance from German forces. Having managed to fight their way off the beach they joined up with local partisans and continued their assault, eventually subduing the Germans. With the port of Saranda liberated, German forces on the Greek island of Corfu found their escape route blocked and capitulated to the allies. 40 Commando was then redeployed to Corfu to hold the island until the Greek government could take control. 40 Commando Royal Marines led the raid but was backed up by 2 Commando. Between them they lost thirteen men in the first two days of the fighting – 7 from 40 Commando and 6 from 2 Commando, including their chaplain. These were not the only British and Commonwealth servicemen to die in Albania. The Special Operations Executive worked with Albania’s communist partisans, led by Enver Hoxha, during the o

And Now Sport...

'It's a far cry from small boys in the park, jumpers for goalposts. Isn't it? Mmmmm. Marvellous.' Ron Manager Things are a little tighter among the chasing teams at the top of the Albanian Premiership after this weekend's games. Leaders Elbasan drew with third place Dinamo, second place team Partisan lost to mid-table Besa, while fourth place Tirana beat lowly Shkumbini. As a result Elbasan increased their lead by 1 point to 4 points, but the three Tirana teams now hold the next three positions with only three points separating them. I watched the Dinamo - Elbasan game from the relative comfort of a VIP box at the Qemal Stafa National Stadium, courtesy of a friend of a friend. Someone told us it was the box that had been used by former Prime Minister, Fatos Nano. I'm not sure if we were supposed to be impressed. The game began with one minute's silence in memory of Ibrahim Rugova, leader of the Kosovar Albanians who died that morning. It was loosely observe

The Consolations of Whisky

Doctor Dritan tells me that most of the whisky on sale in Tirana is produced locally and packaged in counterfeit bottles and cartons. This is disappointing news. I was surprised to find whisky – including some good malt whisky – for sale in many stores across the city. At first glance it looked real enough, but I think I am going to have to look more closely now. Thankfully, I had worked on the assumption that good whisky would not be available here and brought my own supplies. On the way here I picked up a Lagavulin Double Matured in London and a Highland Park 12 year old in Milan. In Prague I visited Kratochv√≠lovci , a great little whisky shop, and brought back a Laphroaig Quarter Cask and an Abelour a’bunadh. Vienna airport duty free also had the outstanding Glenfiddich Gran Reserva – a 21 year old Glenfiddich finished in Cuban rum casks. I exercised some iron discipline and did not buy it. Next time though. I gave Doctor Dritan some of the Lagavulin when he visited recently and he

Bunker Art

Thanks to Arminda who sent me this picture of a painted bunker taken in Llaman bay, near the city of Himara in the south of Albania.


Our first encounter with Albanian roads took place on the drive from the airport to the city when we arrived. The roads were bad but not as bad as I had expected, until we reached Tirana. At one junction our car lurched and bounced across what appeared to be a construction site masquerading as a road. As it turned out it was a construction site, for we had just passed Zogu i Zi. Zogu i Zi is in the west of the city on the road from the port of Durres, which also carries traffic from the airport. The idea was that by reconstructing this junction with an overpass, the flow of traffic into and out of the city would be improved. Construction began, and as you can see from the photograph, a lot of work has already been done. Then, a new government was elected, promising to investigate the awarding of major contracts by the previous government. An investigation was launched into the building of the overpass at Zogu i Zi and - no surprise to anyone - the new government decided that the contra

Dream On...

Albanians seem to be blessed with an optimistic streak. Given their past that is probably a blessing. Unfortunately, optimism can obscure reality and a recently published survey suggests that when it comes to membership of the European Union, some Albanians have abandoned reality entirely. The Albanian Institute for International Studies recently published the 2005 edition of their annual survey, Rethinking European Integration: Perceptions and Realities . Asked how long they though it would be before Albania joined the EU 53.4% opted for ten years. Amazingly, another 11.1% thought it would take only five years. Together, nearly two-thirds of those interviewed believe Albania will be a member of the EU by 2015 at the latest. This is fantasy. Membership of the EU is only open if a country meets the Copenhagen criteria . Any aspiring member country must be a stable democracy, respecting human rights, the rule of law, and the protection of minorities; must have a functioning market econom

50 Ways to Make Some Money

The death of communism in Albania brought a flourishing market economy to life just as it did across Central Europe and Russia. On the streets of Tirana people are buying and selling, trading goods and services in predictable, or sometimes novel, ways. The shops are the most obvious expression of this. The streets are lined with little stores selling almost everything you could want. Freed from the choking grip of state bureaucracy Albanians are now at liberty to buy whatever they can afford. No matter how absurd the demand, someone will create the supply. Hence the preponderance of shoe stores in this city of muddy streets and torn up footpaths. Especially outlandish is the fashion for high heeled white boots - about as impractical a style of footware as could be imagined. Dotted across the city are the market stalls, sometimes just one person selling bananas, elsewhere a whole street lined with sellers of fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, fish and spices. Those who cannot bring the

Random Pictures

My collection of pictures is growing rapidly and only a few make it onto the blog. So here are some more pictures of Tirana that I have taken over the last couple of months.

One Team in Tirana...

There are actually three teams in Tirana playing in the Albanian First Division, but I have adopted Dinamo because we live in the Dinamo area. From my balcony I can watch the team train, while the main stadium is five minutes walk away. Dinamo are the unfashionable team in Tirana (think Everton, Atletico, Torino), but still managed third place last season and are lying third this season. That third place last year came despite having had no fewer than five coaches during the season. Coaching changes continued throughout the summer break. Ramon Cabrero, from Argentina, was brought in to boost Dinamo's chances in the Intertoto Cup, a competition as silly as its name. The team won 2-1 at home to NK Varteks of Croatia, then lost 4-1 away. Cabrero was sacked after 25 days in charge. Presumably impressed by the calibre of Croatian football, Dinamo brought in a Croat coach, Luka Bonacic, for the 2005-06 season. He was less than impressed with his new charges. 'The players are comple

Petrela Castle

This is Petrela Castle near Tirana. The site has been fortified since the 4th century, but the oldest surviving parts are from the 13th century. Today the castle is a restaurant where you can enjoy lunch while taking in the views.