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Showing posts from April, 2007

Trade Fair

We were walking by the river in Tirana on Sunday and noticed a group of stalls that had been set up by the road. It turned out to be a trade fair organised by Oxfam who have been working with farmers in rural Albania, and had set up this fair as a way for those farmers to get their goods to the public. There was a lot of wine on sale and plenty of raki too, including a very vivid green example made from mulberry. Cheese, honey, herbs and woven goods made up the rest. I was briefly tempted by the mulberry raki, but in the end decided against it.

You Are Here

Some new signs have appeared in the park recently. I'm not sure who is behind the signs but they have a pleasantly amateurish look - as if they were part of someone's woodwork project in school.

Albania and the Perils of the 21st Century

Another article on religion in Albania appeared yesterday. Patrick Poole, writing in the American Thinker , argues that Saudi funding for the construction of mosques and the training of imams is a threat to Albania, since these mosques and imams reflect the fundamentalist interpretation of Islam dominant in Saudi Arabia.


Watching... ...waiting... ...still waiting... ...success.

English Lessons

Tired and Emotional

More changes in government, this time in response to the resignation of the foreign minister, Besnik Mustafaj. Lulzim Basha will take over at the MFA and Sokol Olldashi, who resigned as Minister of the Interior to run for mayor of Tirana will come back into government replacing Basha at the Ministry of Public Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications. According to the report in SETimes , the minister announced, "I'm tired and this is a sufficient reason to quit." It's a less than convincing line - especially given that President Bush is on his way to Albania in a few weeks - and inevitably there has been much speculation about conflicts within the government. Coming on top of recent dissent within the ruling coalition following the municipal elections, and disputes over the nomination of candidates for President, it does seem that the government is not exactly at peace with itself. The opposition has been making much of Mustafaj's decision, claiming that it demon


Having de-cluttered a while ago I'm now re-cluttering the right hand column. I have added some travel sites for Albania. If there are other good ones let me know. The hotels listed are there because either I have stayed in them or someone I know has stayed in and recommended them. As a matter of courtesy I have also added a list of non-Albanian blogs that link to this blog. I think I have found them all but, again, if anyone knows of others let me know.

Jailed, starved, no trial...

In a previous post I linked to a story from the Scotsman about David Brown who had been arrested on suspicion of child abuse while running an orphanage in Tirana. Yesterdays' Scotsman carried a follow up story to this piece with glimpses of life in an Albanian prison.

Just Dropping In

It looks like Albania will be having a Presidential visit in June. President Bush will be stopping off for a day after the G-8 Summit in Germany. I remember these visits in Belfast. President Clinton dropped in a couple of times to offer support for the political negotiations that were taking place in the late 1990's. His security people insisted on shutting down most of Belfast and it was almost impossible to move. Clinton made a number of public appearances - including turning on the lights on Belfast's Christmas tree, so people got a chance to see and hear him. There are no details of President Bush's schedule, but I doubt he will be meeting the public. All in all a good day to sit on the balcony with some beer, some ice-cream and a good book.

New Restaurants

The turnover in restaurants continues. Sadly, Eastana, having moved a little while ago to bigger premises has now closed down. On the other hand, these three have all opened recently and overall it seems that there are more opening than closing. La Cantinella is in an alleyway off Rr. Brigada VIII. It has a reasonable Italian influenced menu and a nice setting. Austria is in Shesi Austria, near Skenderbeg Square. Decor is a little over the top for my liking. The menu looks good, though I haven't eaten there yet. It is pricier than most restaurants in Tirana. I assume, given its location that it is aimed at politicians, lobbyists and the like. Vila Logoreci is in Rr. Lek Dukagjin near the Macedonian Embassy. This one is already a favourite. Like so many restaurants in the city the main influence is Italian. You can eat on the patio, or in an airy glassed in section, or in cosier rooms at the back of the restaurant. The owners put a lot of thought into the design and the decor. The m

While I've Been Away...

...there have been protests over alleged government attempts to restrict press freedom; there was an earthquake that caused some panic; former prime minister Nano confirmed that he intended to run for President this year and continued to criticise his key rival, Edi Rama; the Prime Minister asked the EU to allow Bulgaria to restart two dodgy nuclear reactors ; an ostrich farm opened near Tirana.

The OSS in Albania

In some earlier postings I mentioned the British Military Cemetery in the park and some of the military operations British forces were involved in during the German occupation of Albania. Now an American journalist, Peter Lucas, has published a book on the role of the American forces in the same period. I have not yet read the book but judging from the description - reproduced below - its sounds like an interesting read. World War II found the country of Albania fighting a war within a war. In addition to the threat all of Europe faced from the Germans, Albania was engaged in a civil war between the Nazi-sponsored Ballists and the Communist Partisans led by Enver Hoxha. While America was reluctant to get involved in the civil conflict, the United States was naturally inclined to lend support to whoever fought the Nazis—even if that meant an alliance with the Communists. On a cold November night in 1943, Dale McAdoo (code named Tank) secretly landed on the Albanian coast with a team of

In the News

Two stories caught my eye this morning. According to the IHT authorities here have started an investigation into a Jordanian suspected of funding terrorism. He is alleged to be an associate of Yasin al-Qadi , a Saudi who part owned Tirana's 'Twin Towers' (right) and was on both US and UN watchlists. It's good that the authorities here are acting against these people. Albanians generally are very complacent about the risks these people pose. Believing that religion is not important to Albanians, they think that there is no possibility of extremist organisations gaining a foothold here. The second story comes from the the Southeast European Times which reports that the government plans to introduce a flat tax system from 2008. The flat tax system has been adopted by a number of former communist countries. Most significantly, from Albania's point of view, it was introduced in Macedonia earlier this year. The efficacy of flat tax systems is debated by practitioners of

This Old House

Tucked in behind the main streets in our neighbourhood are a few rows of old houses. I don't know when they were built, but I imagine that when they were new they must have looked well. Now they look terrible. When I first saw them I thought they were derelict, until I noticed the obvious signs of occupation like the washing hanging in the windows. In an ideal world, houses like these would be sympathetically modernised and preserved. Or a good architect would design replacements that were in keeping with the style of the originals. But it's probably only a matter of time before they are demolished and replaced with another concrete apartment block.

EU Graft

The European Commission used to have its Albanian headquarters in Rr. Donika Kastrioti, right in the heart of the city. So it was a surprise when a while ago they moved to an anonymous building on the edge of the city on Rr. Durresit. Now we have an explanation. OLAF , the Commission's anti-fraud unit has been involved in a lengthy inquiry concerning "suspicions of corruption, the manipulation of tender procedures and fraud in the context of the leasing and procurement of EC delegation buildings and their security installations in countries outside the EU." The website of the EC delegation in Albania carries the press release from which this quote is taken, but what it doesn't say is that the circumstances surrounding the delegation's change of headquarters is at the heart of this inquiry. Last Wednesday, in co-ordinated raids across Europe, three Italians were arrested. One of those arrested is Giancarlo Ciotto, an official at the Commission. According to the It

Spotted Today

Since the sun was shining this morning and spring seemed finally to have arrived I went for a walk round the neighbourhood and spotted a few places I hadn't see before. The first is Pappasito's Mexican House. There are two restaurants I know of in the city that offer mexican style food - the Stephen Center and Serendipity. This is the first one I've seen advertising itself primarily as a Mexican restaurant. It will go on the ever lengthening list of restaurants to be tried. On the same street I noticed this shop - L'Angelica. It seems that we can now get our herbal remedies and treatments right here. Worth a look. Finally, Pita Pan. I'm assuming the word play here is deliberate, but I wonder how many people get it? Being an English speaker often I don't notice just how much English there is - especially in advertisements. I'm not sure where this place actually is since the shop beneath seems to deal in bikes and scooters. Now I'm looking out the window a