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Showing posts from June, 2007


Since the arrival of an Apple store the good people of Tirana have an opportunity to buy over-priced, over-hyped electronic toys. I assume it is the real thing, even though no Apple website I have checked makes any mention of Apple in Albania.


There are quite a few concerts coming up in the next few days. There seem to be many more this summer than last. These three are the main ones for the next week. Tomorrow, 30 June, at the Dinamo stadium Schiller is playing with Alban Skenderaj. On 4 July there is a choice between Sean Paul at the Qemal Stafa stadium and Mustafa Sandal at the Dinamo stadium. I had never heard of either of these people so for anyone who is as uninformed as I was before I checked google, Mustafa Sandal is big in Turkey, and Sean Paul is, according to his website, 'the worldwide ambassador of dancehall reggae.'

In the News

An article by Erion Veliaj of Mjaft giving his - very critical - perspective on Albania under Prime Minister Berisha for an American audience. A couple of reports from the US and the UK concerning visa and immigration issues affecting Albanians.

Festa e Birres

We decided to visit the Beer Fest on Sunday to round off the busy weekend. After taking a walk up on Sunday afternoon to watch them setting up we went back that night with a few friends. A couple of things struck me. The youngest person I saw there was being carried around on his dad's shoulders; the oldest must have been about 70 or more, and there were lots of family groups out. The family whose table we joined, having heard us speaking English bought us a round of beer. Have I mentioned Albanian hospitality? The whole thing was managed by a handful of private security guards and 3 cops - very civilised. Getting ready for the evening session at Beer Fest on a very hot Sunday afternoon Open for business on Sunday evening Beer for only 50 Leke including Albania's best beer - Korca Dark Food Music

Another Hard Day at the Office

Last night after another fine dinner at King House - highly recommended - I ended up at Tirana's trendiest nightclub, Lollipop. There were five of us there and I think between us we raised the average age considerably. I'm not a nightclub person, but there was a live band playing and a friend arranged some tickets for us. We arrived just as the band were playing Gloria - a taste of home. For those who don't know, Gloria was a song by Them, whose lead singer was Van Morrison before he got famous all on his own. Van Morrison is a son of my own home town of Belfast - and is the person they should have named Belfast City Airport after instead of drunken wife beater George Best. Then we could have flown from Van Morrison airport to John Lennon airport. We also had The Monkees, Elvis, Robbie Williams and a few others I can't remember or didn't recognise. I thought it was interesting that all the songs were in English and the few words the singer spoke between songs were a

Travel Articles

The Inter Press Service news agency has published three articles on travel in Albania - one is a general overview , one focuses on Berat , and the third is an interview with Ylli Pango , the minister with responsibility for tourism. The new website the minister refers to is still under construction but should be ready soon. All five of the Economist's reports on Albania published at the time of the Presidential visit are now available together .


Tirana's excellent Indian restaurant, Ashiana, has deservedly outgrown its original location which was a little on the compact side. In ten days or so, it will be moving to much larger premises with a lot more space indoors and an outdoor area as well. The new place will be on Rr. Dervish Hima near Rr. Elbasan.

Drivers' Ten Commandments

Yesterday the Vatican published a Document of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People: "Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of the Road". It's a lengthy document - as Vatican documents tend to be - but wisely they came up with the Drivers' Ten Commandments for those who aren't regular readers of the Vatican website. Here they are: 1. You shall not kill. 2. The road shall be for you a means of communion between people and not of mortal harm. 3. Courtesy, uprightness and prudence will help you deal with unforeseen events. 4. Be charitable and help your neighbour in need, especially victims of accidents. 5. Cars shall not be for you an expression of power and domination, and an occasion of sin. 6. Charitably convince the young and not so young not to drive when they are not in a fitting condition to do so. 7. Support the families of accident victims. 8. Bring guilty motorists and their victims together, at the appropriate time, so

More Elections

In the soap opera of Albanian politics today's episode should be about the election of a new President. The first of up to five votes is scheduled for today, though there is no guarantee that it will go ahead. The two leading candidates are Bamir Topi who is the nominee of the ruling Democratic Party, and Fatos Nano who has the support of some members of the Socialist Party, which he once led, but not of current leader, Edi Rama. To win, one candidate must get the support of three-fifths of the members of parliament. The problem is that no one party or coalition can reach that target without outside support. If no candidate can get that support after the process is completed then, under the constitution, there has to be a general election. Previously the Socialists had considered boycotting the election in order to force early elections. This, in turn, gave rise to speculation that Berisha and Nano - old political enemies - had done a deal whereby the Democrats would back Nano. The

My Kind of Festival

Bektashi World Centre

The main building and tekke In the entrance to the tekke - Imam Ali and Haji Bektash The tombs of leaders of the Bektashi community Haji Bektash The future Bektashi cultural centre Haxhi Dede Reshat Bardhi

That UN Report

You can find the press release regarding the UNDP report on 'extra-legality' in the Albanian economy here . The report is being produced by the Institute for Liberty and Democracy .

Got Some Stamps

Albanian Hospitality

Some of you may be under the impression that I earnestly patrol the streets of Tirana and scan the newspapers daily for interesting stuff to post here, with occasional dog-related diversion. In fact, I spend a considerable amount of time sitting on the balcony drinking beer and reading detective stories. When I'm not doing that I'm often in restaurants, cafes and bars. On Monday afternoon I ended up at Floga with some friends. Ryan, Beni, Dritan and James James, a Peace Corps volunteer we know, was in town for a few days. We met up and headed out for coffee. Just before we left I got a call from Dritan. How about a drink later? Sure, but I've got a friend with me. No problem, bring him along. At the cafe James called Ryan, another Peace Corps guy in Tirana for the weekend. Dritan phoned. Where are you? We're downtown - there's another guy with us now. OK. See you soon. We met up. Introductions were made. You want a drink? How about something to eat? We made a few no

Lies and Leather Coats

Memories of a trip to Albania in 1989 from The Economist, and some photographs from the same era. Muslim evangelism is obviously going spectacularly well here, with today's Washington Times claiming that the population of Albania is 95% muslim!

Albanian Limbo

While searching for decent news stories about the President's visit - without success - I did come across one more interesting piece on the Uighers from Guantanamo (available in Albanian here ). It's a shame the media mob who follow the President can't come up with more interesting stories like this one. Yesterday, while sitting at the Opera House cafe waiting for the motorcade to arrive, an older man at the next table spoke to one of the friends I was with - an Albanian man in his twenties. My friend told me that the man had said that when he was my friend's age he had been thrown into prison by the Hoxha regime. Now as an old man he was sitting watching the American President visiting his country, driving through a square where the former site of the statue of Enver Hoxha was sheathed in banners bearing the American and Albanian flags, and proclaiming their partnership. Wouldn't that have made a great story? Perhaps by the time they get to be White House correspo

Follow Up

Yesterday we visited the Tirana International Hotel where the Press were holed up. In one room there were ranks of them sitting at their laptops but few of them appeared to be doing any work. Some were watching the television which was broadcasting most of the visit live, others were watching the other television which was showing a football match. On the balcony the TV people were sitting around in the shade of their umbrellas chatting. The unremitting lack of activity might explain why news coverage of the President's visit which I've been checking this morning is so relentlessly bad. The same set of quotes from Bush and Berisha - presumably taken from a press handout. The same predictable summaries about Albania - poverty, pro-American, corruption. The same voxpops, for which most of them seem to have found one person to talk to and then gone back to the hotel. In case you missed the press conference given by Bush and Berisha a full record is available at the White House we

Today in Tirana

The streets were empty, the air was clear, the city was quiet. Why can't every Sunday be like this? Waiting... Some of the barriers sealing off the road had an improvised look... The sun shines on the partners... Checking Skanderbeg Square before the President's motorcade arrives... The head... The tail... The very hand of President Bush, waving from the back window... Look closely: Could this ghostly image really be the legendary President? Or is it mysterious reflection?

I Think He's Arrived

It's just after 10am and we've been watching the gun salute from our balcony - I assume it was 21 but I lost count. None of that feeble blank ammunition here - this was the real thing.

Something's Up

Saw three military helicopters yesterday afternoon flying in line in that looping pattern that the always did when Tony Blair was coming to Belfast. I assume it was a practice run of some sort. Also yesterday it seems that the poor bloody infantry were performing the heroic and noble task of shoveling all the garbage from the side of the Tirana-Durres highway onto trucks - presumably to be dumped somewhere else. Presumably they also stopped when they got to the airport turn-off. The press are beginning to appear on the streets with their satellite dishes and big cameras, getting in everybody's way as they usually do.

Boom 2

More loud explosions today. I just happened to be out and saw a few flashes and plumes of smoke in the mountains as they were going off. I still don't know who it is or why they are doing it though. You can just see the smoke rising in the distance. Sorry about the quality of the picture - it was taken with the phone and then cropped tight.


I heard lots of booms this morning. I don't know whether it was the military practicing for an emergency, or practicing a 21 gun salute or what. I suppose it might have been someone doing some very intensive dynamite fishing. Either way, it was a little reminiscent of Belfast in the bad old days. I was almost nostalgic. Almost. Meanwhile, having missed week 3 somewhere along the way I'm happy to say that in week 4 Tirana's only fantasy cricked team put up a fine performance. While we haven't breached the 2000 barrier since the glorious days of two weeks ago we are now at 2745 - a jump of about 600 on week 3. A strong performance from my all-rounder Trego helped, but this week it was mainly a team effort. Unfortunately, on the strength of the first two days of the current round of matches I don't think we will be making any more progress this week. Indeed, unless some of my team start to come good in the next couple of days we will probably be slipping back down the

Getting Ready 3