I decided to bypass the capital Tirana
(concerns about the car's safety playing an important role in this decision)
and head to the coast and the city of Durres. Durres is an ancient city
- known in the past as Epidamnos. Its history stretches back at least to
625 BCE, and the port has long been its defining characteristic.
It was the beginning of the Via Egnatia
from Rome: the extension
of the Appian Way across the Balkans to Constantinople and a regional hub
of trade and commerce in every kingdom and empire since. There is an archeological
museum in town, and while the Byzantine and medieval exhibits were closed,
it was fascinating to see the maps of the reconstructed city from antiquity.
There is not much left extant of the
oldest settlements, but a threadbare amphitheater and some forlorn columns
along the seaside walkway hint at what the city used to be.
While photography was forbidden in
the archeological museum, the caretaker said I could snap a photo of this
For some reason, it really struck me. Here
are a man and wife, who had lives full of love, hate, happiness, pain,
laughter, anger, adventure, boredom - all the things that make us human.
He is looking lovingly at her, touching her knee, and she is gesturing
lovingly towards him.
Then I noticed that the faces are completely
weathered down. Not only are they gone, but they have been gone for a long
time. What then do all those experiences mean? Think of all the people
who have come before us and will come after we're dead.
Anyways, it brought a little feeling of
inconsequentiality to my life on a sunny day in Albania...
And speaking of inconsequentiality, heaped
among the broken columns and scattered rocks of 2500+ years of history
are pieces of gigantic Communist-era statues. The heroic worker no longer
waves his fist in the air, but instead is consigned to the weedpatch of
Luckily enough, at least this statue remains
along the boardwalk.
And what a boardwalk! Even though
there is no beach (or real way into the water) along the main promenade,
the walk itself is beautiful, as are the Miami Beach-ish apartments that
line the waterfront. These new buildings with bright pastel colors are
an indication of the revitalization of the area that is slowly but surely
People in Durres
As I walked around the town, I noticed
the signs of life that ebb and flow as they did in the past:
Old men gather for a morning chat (at
the local BB gun shooting gallery)
Fishermen clean out and mend their nets
along the garbage-strewn waterfront
A man baiting his line for the day's catch
Boys waiting for business at a children's
Preschoolers are taken for a walk (while
a man tries to read his paper in peace)
Cigarette salesman at water's edge
My waiter for dinner with the night's
menu on a platter - total cost for a heaping plateful of calamari and fries
with 3 beers plus tip - $8
Woman enjoys the sunshine at the end of
A tourist has his picture taken below
the statue and in front of the Albanian symbol
And a new restaurant reminds him of his
cabin in the woods...
Sights in the Albanian countryside
back to the Albania page...
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