Updated 02 Oct 2014
A week in Communist Albania
A week in a Stalinist country
I decided to retire at 50, and next day I was on my way
to the last Marxist-Leninist country in Europe. The way of life
would soon vanish, I had to see it for myself before it did.
It was a lovely country, ideal for walking, but was told there
would soon be a war with Kosovo (It happened from March 1998
to June 1999). Do you remember Albania in 1990? If so contact
the Author on Thanks to Rafail Luzi for
translations of photos.
20 Poole, Heathrow
21 Zagreb, Belgrade
22 Titograd, Shkodra
28 Mes, Durres
33 Fier, Apollonia
36 Patos, Gjirokaster
41 Sarandra, Corfu
51 Vlore, Berat
70 Belgrade, Dubrovnik
Daily Telegraph 14 Mar 1990.
"Albania has a wretched economic performance, lack
of incentives, economic and political isolation and national
pride. It has had 45 years of totalitarian rule since Enver
Hoxha dragged the country from feudalism to communism in
1946. The secret police - the Sigurimi - merit comparison with
Romania's Securitate and every third person is said to be a
Sigurami spy. Television beamed from Italy and Yugoslavia
makes most Albanians aware of the good life just beyond their
reach. Religion is banned and daily life has a dull monotony
impossible to escape. Meat and dairy products are rationed to
one kilo per household per week and there is a thriving black
market. Having broken ties with the Soviet Union and China,
it receives no substantial economic aid. Were it not for its
exports of chromium, the state would be bankrupt. The Elbasan
steelworks is probably the most inefficient steel plant in
the world. Albania looks like a museum, a Marxist-Leninist
theme park. But the vast majority of Albanians believe that
communism works, and Albanian communism works best of all."
Daily Telegraph 20 Apr 1990.
"Albania is Europe's last orthodox Communist
country. There was an ideological rift with Moscow in 1961,
since when there have been three decades of official
isolation but Albania will not abandon one-party Communist
rule. The 1967 constitution preaches self-reliance and bans
foreign credit but there are growing signs of serious
problems with the economy. These include corruption,
shortages of food and consumer goods, and resistance from
conservatives to cautious reforms in Europe's poorest state.
Collective farm and food distribution policy are almost in
shambles. Food is still in short supply and in places there
are signs of malnutrition bordering on starvation. Albania is
most in search of modern technology and has bought computers
from Greece and steel milling equipment from Sweden and
Canada. Ties with London have been suspended since the
sinking of two British warships in the
Corfu Channel in 1946."
Hard words indeed. Can a country where private cars
are not allowed be so bad? The way of life, not dedicated to
the consumerism which has become the curse of most of the world,
may soon vanish. It is necessary to observe before it is too late.
How things changed after 1990
"The People's Republic was dissolved in 1991-92 after protests
beginning in 1989 and reforms made by the communist government
in 1990, and the Republic of Albania was founded. The Communists
retained a stronghold in parliament after popular support in the
elections of 1991. However, in March 1992, amid liberalisation
policies resulting in economic collapse and social unrest, a new
front led by the new Democratic Party took power. The economic
crisis spread in late 1996 following the failure of some Ponzi
schemes operating in the country, peaking in 1997 in an armed
rebellion that led to another mass emigration of Albanians, mostly
to Italy, Greece, Switzerland, Germany and North America. In 1999,
the country was affected by the Kosovo War, when a great number of
Albanians from Kosovo found refuge in Albania. Albania became a full
member of NATO in 2009, and has applied to join the European Union."
Mural in centre of Tirana.....more
Skanderbeg Square, Tirana, from the top of the Tourist Hotel
Today we meet at London's Heathrow Airport
for our flight to Titograd in Yugoslavia. On
arrival we travel to the border at Han i Hotit and
thence to Shkodra, where we spend the night.
Warm sunny day. Drove to Mum's and chatted, then dropped
her & case at POOLE Bus Station & put Golf in Mum's garage.
Bus came on time, it was full to HEATHROW via M25. I booked
in at the wrong Jugoslav Airlines desk, & travelled on same
plane but not with the Group. Met a 56 year old bloke from
Manchester who had retired at 50 & had been to Albania
himself last year. He said there was an atmosphere of fear
among the older people. Had 2 sandwiches & we took off at 2.30
in a Boeing 727. Flight time 1 h 50, at 3,000 metres. I looked
round the Duty Free for sunglasses (at Heathrow) but found
nothing interesting. They charge huge prices (£40 or more)
We took off for Belgrade about 1 hour late, 1430 instead of 1340.
Stopped at ZAGREB on the way for half an hour. Got
off the plane at BELGRADE, met the rest of the party. 39 in all.
No-one really young. One person from Cardiff had got
half way to Heathrow when they realised they'd forgotten
their Passport. End of holiday. Tragic. Bit of a rumpus when
we were advised to change about £10 into dinars, to be
used for meals at Titograd on the way back. We decided to
beat the commission charge by pooling our money before
changing it. But then it was very difficult dividing out
the multi-coloured dinars properly. There are 2 kinds of
paper dinars at the moment. £1 = about 20, and also
200,000! You have to knock off 4 zeroes!
Took off for TITOGRAD at 9pm, after about half hour late.
Bus in the dusk to the frontier, ¾ drive. We went through
the Yugoslav frontier, then had to walk 100 yards through
no-mans land to the Albanian frontier post, then stand in rather
cool breeze, while a guard went through each of 39
passports comparing them with the Group Visa. Then walked
up stairs into a room, where we had to fill in 2 forms
with details of all the valuables we were bringing in. Then
customs looked through our suitcases (not very thoroughly
in my case). Books about Albania were confiscated, to be returned
on exit. We then drove ¾ hour along a very poor
road into SCKODRA, in the darkness, so we could see little.
They served us a meal at 1.15am
(12.15am England time). We had bread & soup, reconstituted
meat, peas, red peppers and a vegetable a bit like parsnips,
followed by a sweet, cool, empty affair like a Balkan sausage.
I had a bottle of mineral water which cost 2 leks. Bed about
2am, while my room mate has gone off for a walk round Schkodra.
Sun 25 Apr1990
Woke up suddenly to bright sunshine at 7am.
The eye mask is ideal. Went for walk. Palled up with a kid
(12) called Florentz
(his address is in the back of this log). He showed me round,
soon I had a collection of kids like the Pied Piper. The kids
are a bit ragged, but curious and friendly. The adults are
suspicious and one of them kicked Florentz, perhaps
for fraternizing with me. They learn French more than English.
There were large crowds in the Central Square, no cars in evidence,
a lot of people have bikes but most walk. Drove out
of town a short distance to look at an old bridge at MES.
The land is very stoney & dry. Small fields with crops. Poor houses.
Men dress in Western style, but shabbily, bit like the Irish.
Many women wear headscarves. They work a 6 day week. Green
uniforms=army. Blue=police, a lot of each in evidence. There
are very few shops and no adverts, except for political slogans,
which all begin with LAVDI.
We then drove to DURRES. The coach drive went fast along a very
bumpy road. I snoozed part of the time, but woke up occasionally to see the
Ottoman bridge at Mes......more
countryside. We drove over a large, arid plane. Attractive hills
rose to the East. The area was shabby and backward, the odd lorry
but no cars at all. Old farmhouses, with red tiles, surrounded by
vines on a trellis about 8 ft up. A lot of workers in the fields,
almost no machinery. One huge works, seemingly abandoned.
The outskirts of DURRES very shabby, flats with a lot of TV aerials
on the roof. We stopped to look at an amphitheatre (Roman)
excavated recently. Not a patch on the Colosseum of course.
Walked down the main shopping street in Durres. Quite a few
shops, almost nothing to sell inside, very unattractive
presentation. I can understand why tourists spend no leks at
all - the only slightly attractive goods are for sale in the
hotel hard currency shop.
Clocked in to the Hotel Adriatica. Nice room, had shower.
Huge common balcony with view over the beach & harbour in the
distance. All the kids (& there seem to be hundreds around 10 years old)
want "Steelos" ie pens. One kid even thrust a 1 lek note (10p),
very crumpled, into my pocket & sat back to see what happened.
We found him a pen.
Changed and had intellectual meal
chatting with our guide Mileni and my room mate Julian.
Mileni asked me how much I earned in U.K. & I told her. She
got rather angry about the amount. If I had told her about
In the evening I stayed and talked while a 5 piece band
played music rather loudly. Near us were sat 3 men, not
members of our party, maybe Sigurimi (secret police). They
did not seem to be enjoying themselves, were not smiling.
They left together eventually. Bed 10.30pm.
Woke at 7.00, good nights sleep. Julian is having a noisy
shower. The sea stretches to the horizon beyond my balcony.
Ships are on the horizon. It is blue and still, no wind. Below
our balcony 15 girls are sifting the sand with shovels
making sure it is clean for the use of the rich tourists.
Such are Albanian wage rates. The hotel (Adriatika) is literally
palatial. We ate breakfast under a ceiling 20 ft above us,
supported by huge pillars. Somehow this seems wrong in Albania.
Its another lovely day as we pile into the coach at 9am.
The atmosphere of the 2 Albanian guides on the coach is very
liberal. One of our lot is a train buff from Darlington, &
he was told he could take photos of any trains he wanted.
As we drove, the guides gave a very interesting talk about
the educational system and prices in Albania & wages. Wages
range 600-1200 L per month. TV sets cost 4000 L but, the blocks
of flats are covered in aerials. Food seems to be about 30% the
price in UK. Flats are cheap to rent. People are now being encouraged
their own. Children start kindergarten at 3, there is now a
University in Tirana. Lots more still.
We drove through plains of fields. Then reached FIER, all new
& rather scruffy. Wide streets, people walking everywhere, and
on bicycles. Progress is difficult because there is little
discipline among road users. Cars themselves are non-existant.
I've seen 2 jeep-like vehicles in 3 days, presumably owned by the
army. On the outskirts of Fier is APPOLONIA, an archeological
site. There is a very nice little monastery (deserted now of course)
and a small museum, which the Albanians are very proud of. I
did a hurried sketch of the monastery and then the Pantheon.
Drove to a Hotel in centre of Fier, & had a good meal. Walked
round centre of Fier, taking photos. They are preparing
Monastery at Apollonia, Albania
Remains of the Pantheon at Apollonia, Albania
for Mayday, which is tomorrow.
There are usually quite a lot of political
slogans in town centres, but even more
here. In particular, I stood in the centre
of the main road taking photos - no
traffic at all. We drove on to PATOS,
but a chap in our group was feeling
very sick & they decided to send him back
to Fier by taxi or mini-bus to sleep it off.
We entered some tremendous
hill & mountain country. Superb walking
hills, high & dry & covered in scrub. A great
wide river flood plain wound between the
hills, densely edged by woods & trees.
A marvellous place. I'd love to come
back here again.
Drove to GJIROKASTER
with a great range of mountains on our
left. A high ridge, with spectacular
Patos oil field. Primitive equipment
erosion gullies regularly in its side.
I think on mountain is called
Berretto or something like that.
Gjirokaster is a town of stone built on a
stoney hillside. Two main streets are old
and steep. There are lots of other narrow,
stoney & attractive streets.
We had a meal in the hotel,
then went exploring in the twilight. I
got lost in the winding streets, and ended up a
Mushroom House in Gjirokaster, Albania
long way from the hotel. In the evening,
we had a fourpiece band entertaining us.
Bruce (who looks like Augustus John with
his white beard) bribed them with Haig
whiskey and some of the local music was
fast & exciting. I danced in the Greek
fashion, hands held high. Bed at 11pm
Pete woke us at 5am with a quiet knock on the door.
We dressed and shot out,
intending to climb to the castle to see dawn.
However, although we got through the gate,
the gateman got angry and made us
understand that the opening time was 7 am.
We hung around, but Julian went
exploring and found a way in. However,
breakfast was at 8 am, so we went down
again. We visited the castle later, a
fine view over the town. Most interesting
thing was a US jet on display. It was
forced down in 1957 by the glorious
Albanian Air Force. Its a T-33a
(looks like a Shooting Star to me).
Afterwards visited Enver Hoxha's
birthplace, which was pleasant, with
"sofas" all round the walls of
several rooms. Some people then shot
up the hill to a house high on the
hillside, where celebrations of May Day
were going on. However, I went round
the houses trying to sketch, but the
perspective defeated me, and I feel very
Members of our group are very
widely travelled, and when they get talking
(which presents them no difficulty) they
are very interesting. I should guess that, as
a group, we must have visited up to
100 countries in the world. As I write this,
sat on a wall in the sun outside the hotel,
American spyplane forced down 23 Dec 1957
an elderly man tells me that he joined
An Oige in 1931, he was member number
1001. He met his wife hostelling in the
We set off from Gjirokaster,
heading South along a wide valley. Then we
turned right, and climbed up to a pass
along a well engineered road. The hillside
on both sides of the road is dry and
barren with very well marked lines
of strata in the limestone-like rock.
Eventually came to SANDRA and our first
view of the blue sea, with the
large island of CORFU about 2 miles
off and covered with haze, like Bali-Hai.
Straight to our Hotel, to one side of the
Costa-Brava-like development of
hotels and tower blocks.
We had lunch immediately,
at about 2 pm. All 39 of us sat at
a long table. Somebody (me) raised
the subject of Poll-Tax, and soon
there was a heated debate on all sides.
This settled down to a learned debate
of the Meritocracy and government
controlled organisations and supply
& demand and what people should
be paid. This soon polarized into
Utilitarians against Socialists. Interesting
but as usual it got nowhere.
After lunch, walked into
town and out the other side. The water
feels warm and in places there are
Purbeck limestone-like ledges. There
are practically no shops or anything
of interest. A conical hill behind the
hotel presents a possibility tomorrow,
but first I want to have a swim.
Walked back to the hotel,
collected my swim gear in rucksack, and
walked along the coast road the other way. After
10 minutes I was level with a small house
on the rocky slope down to the sea, covered with
masses of prickly pear cactus. Made my way
down to the limestone rocks jutting into the
sea, changed and launched myself. The water was
20°C, I've never seen it warmer in
Dorset. I swam for 15 minutes towards the
isolated new hotel. There was no kelp, the
bottom was covered with small limestone
rocks, which in turn had a large number
of spiney sea urchins attached. A few
fish of assorted size. If anything, not
as interesting as back home, but warmer.
Walked back and had a good hot shower,
changed into new clothes and went down
to the Foyer to wait for the evening meal.
Some facts which our guide
told us in the bus: Albania has no
diplomatic relations with America, Israel
South Africa or the UK. The reason
for the UK is that in 1946 2 British
ships were sunk in the Corfu channel,
presumably by German mines. Britain
held Albania responsible for not sweeping
the channel (International Waters). An
International Court found Albania
at fault, but they denied it, saying
their Navy was not large enough to do
Britain in consequence
has retained about $40 million
of Albanian gold, which was first
taken by the Germans, then by the
Allies, then by Britain. When I asked
"What can we do to help" the guide
replied "Write to Mrs Thatcher".
A couple of years ago, Albania
announced that they were keen to
have diplomatic relations with all
countries who did not interfere in
their affairs, and as a result they
have re-established diplomatic relations
with the US and Russia. They did not mention China.
Had a good evening meal,
at separate tables this time. Soup and bread,
meat on a skewer, side plate of salad including
olives and peppers. I decided to have a
bottle of red wine to myself. 7 leks
(about 75 pence), 70 ccs, very good and
made me pleasantly tipsy. Had a long
chat to the fellow who had spent a day
in hospital this trip. He said he had
been treated much better than in
the Health Service back home. He seemed
to be very interested in my travels,
so I bored him a great length.
A great fuss at 4 am
from a room opposite us. An Albanian
was trying to get out of his room,
and could not operate the door. I thought
I heard a lady inside as well. The couple
next door rendered assistance,
so I went back to bed.
Another perfect day. We
were told it never rains here for 6 months.
With the sun in the East, Corfu is
much clearer, & from the bedroom
window I can see a village, roads &
a TV mast over there. But its too far
to swim. Boats in the harbour are Lezha from Durres,
Kanina from Durres,
3 old fishing smacks: P.Papa, De Haqa, Zoio Paskaij,
what looks like a
Western pleasure boat, and a Customs or
military boat. We were told that Westerners who stray into
Albanian waters have their vessel
impounded and have to pay a lot of
hard currency to get it back.
Sally, our English guide is sick. She
says she thinks its a stomach ulcer,
caused by her continuous travelling in
different parts of the world & different diets.
But she smokes a lot too. She's been to
Albania 16 times. She says after a lot of travelling.
We drove to BUTRINT, within
sight of the Greek border, and looked
round the interesting archeological site of
the old Butrintum or something. The small
amphitheatre had impressive acoustics.
Then back a little way to a hotel near
Butrint, where we had lunch followed
by a fine swim. I changed on the rocky
coast and swam out to an island,
then across and round another small island.
The water was warm, the bottom bare
of most weed & having urchins, shapeless
black sponge-like things, many fish of various
sizes. Drove back to our hotel
at SARANDE. Then we went out looking
for shops. These are quite difficult to spot,
and within are much the same. All the
goods are on display at the back of the shop
on shelves behind the counter. One has to
stand at the counter & peer at the
miserable range of low quality goods. Prices are
printed on boring little notices. The
shop assistant makes no attempt to help
and almost dares you to ask for
something. There is no competition so
it is up to the buyer to find what he wants.
There is absolutely no attempt
to woo him. I later walked miles looking
for a bookshop I had seen earlier which
sold some English book. I found the
library in the meantime, which has
closed shelves. You cannot browse the shelves.
You must ask for what you want.
Had our evening meal all
together at a long table. I was at one end,
& four or five of us (Julian, Bruce, Pete?) had a long
discussion partly centring on the
"100 most influential people in history"
and my retirement. I was extremely
dehydrated, and drank 1 litre of
mineral water straight off. I have a
bit of a headache, & we must be up
early, so I will go to bed early.
Slept very well from
1030 pm to about 6 am. Slight headache
has now gone. We had breakfast at 7 am
& set out at 7.46 after waiting for
We drove along the
coast road to MIRAMARE, very mountainous,
dry, spectacular road, terrific hairpins,
up & down, above trees covering the
hillside, while the man guide answered
a whole lot of written questions very
well. Pity, but impossible to write
anything down in the bus, far too
bumpy. Aids, homosexuality, relations
with China, punishment policy and
many other subjects. Pity I didn't
have a voice recorder. The people
here seem more friendly. The sea is
extremely blue. Lots of people, but
difficult to take photos. As I write this,
teenagers are starting to gather round me
out of curiosity. Everyone seems fairly
well dressed. Took the address of a
schoolgirl who spoke very good
English. All the boys know Liverpool
football team: a postcard showing
the team with their signatures would
go down very well.
Continued to VLORE, over
a 1,000 metre pass, tremendous
hairpin road among towering
mountains, very dry & covered with
olive trees. Passed through a small
National forest. Had a meal at
Vlore in a posh restaurant on a
hilltop overlooking Vlore.
Drove on through flat
but interesting country to BERAT, where
we are all debussed at the castle. Not a
The Lead Mosque in Berat, Albania
completely fascinating place, but
had long chat with 2 doctors from
Albania & a young soldier. One of the
doctors was 44, and both smoked.
They said there were 400 patients
to 1 doctor in Albania. The soldier was
very young, maybe 18, and fancied my
watch. He offered to swop his hat with
red star for it. Two kids posed for a photo
on an arch & I said I would write
to him (address in back). We went slowly
down a steep, slippery cobbled street
& checked in at a 5 star hotel.
Then I went out about
200 yards and sketched the Lead Mosque
(see Page 52). I was pestered by
kids, who all want "stilos" which
means pen. Walked down the middle
of the main street, with all the other
hundreds of people taking their
evening stroll. This really is
very pleasant. Men, women, children,
families, courting couples, young
girls, youths, old people. They all
walk in the middle of the road, no fear
of traffic, the occasional bicycle bell.
The heat of the day fading into the
pleasant cool of the evening.
I walked & returned, in time
to get a wash & change into posh
clothes for evening meal. Sat with
the Wills (he's 61? & retired, both
tall & elegant, both have aristocratic noses & he has an
infectious laugh). Also the bank
manager & his attractive wife. She's
Protestant, he's Catholic. From
Cheltenham I think. Had a most
pleasant evening with them, eating,
drinking & talking.
I went to my room at
1030, feel like an early night
rather than walking round the dark streets
Had a good nights sleep,
& got up at 6 am to make a sketch of
the hill opposite the hotel. The view
from our bedroom was better, but I
felt I should get out, so I sat on
the wall along the river's edge.
We have no shower in our room,
or toilet, and the toilet across
the hall is pretty vile. There is no lift
and we are on the 4th floor.
I don't think its quite a 5-star
hotel after all.
Had breakfast with the
elderly couple & the Danish woman.
I started talking about the War, and
they were fascinating to listen to.
Their long-term memory seems to get better with
Its another bright sunny
Berat in Albania
day again. I expect it will be hot.
Looked around the Lead
Mosque (nothing much inside) & the
Mosque of the Batchelors (very fine display
of country crafts -carving, embroidery etc.)
I got a front seat on the bus
& we drove to TIRANA. Its a fine
city, not too big, clear air, backed
by mountains, no traffic (or very little),
wide straight streets. Much better
quality of buildings than anything I
have seen so far. Here are some
titles on buildings:
Lart Frymen Revoluciones
Banka E Shtetit Shqiptar
I am wandering round the
centre of Tirana. It is 3 pm, and very hot
in the sun, in a nearly cloudless sky.
There are lots of people walking around,
on wide pavements or on wide streets. Quite
a few bikes, buses (articulated), vans,
lorries, and the rare car (embassy, official
but not private). Many trees shade the
streets, & a lot of seats in the shade,
which is most pleasant. About the only
traffic lights in Albania are in Tirana. Shops
are very difficult to spot, and boring when
you go inside. Somewhere in Tirana is a
shop containing something I want to buy,
I went to look at 3 busts
just inside a wooded area off the main
boulevard. A clicking noise turned out to
be a guard with a rifle waving me away.
Not far away was a street with at least
6 armed soldiers, who waved me away
when I tried to walk down it. In the next road
I was waved onto the opposite pavement by
yet another armed guard.
I finally found the shops,
in a street going West from the hotel. One
of these, at the far end of the "shop", sold
a few "non-essentials". I saw an inlaid
wooden vase, poor quality back home, but
here very much a luxury piece. I bought
the one with horses on, not birds, the
last thing they had of this sort. People are
very friendly here. As I was sat on a wall,
a young man told me by pointing that
some money was falling out of my top
I have tried to buy
an ice-cream cone twice, but have
been refused twice, when thay are
selling it to children. Are they refusing
for the good of my health or what?
I don't think its a good idea to eat it
I came across 4 girls (who may
be gypsies) selling combs & small bottles,
but when I approached they ran away in
alarm. Maybe my appearance frightened
Found a hard currency
art shop, & bought a folk record
(for Rosie), a Terracotta bust &
a political booklet which I probably
shant get out of the country. I
gave them a £10 note, & they
knocked the price down a bit.
Did a bit more shopping,
then by lift up to 12th floor (top
floor) to our room No 8 & cleaned
up in the rather primitive shower.
Had evening meal with Skinhead Pete
& a middle aged lady. Later went
down to see the dancing & folk
costumes put on for the tourists.
The dresses were quite nice.
Bed at 11.35 pm
Yet another cloudless
day. Up at 6, & went out into the square to
sketch the clock tower. Apart from this, and the
old Mosque nearby (I've already done a Mosque)
all the other buildings, although very grand,
are not interesting to draw.
Clock Tower, Tirana, Albania
At 7.30 am, everyone is off to
work, walking, or packed tight into "concertinas"
(articulated single decker buses) or cycling.
From our bedroom on the 12th floor (the Hotel
Tirana is the tallest building in the city)
it looks like a Lowry painting, but
without the factory chimneys.
After breakfast, we first
went to look at an Ethnological Museum
next to Hotel Tirana. It is the one
with a very large, exciting mural on the
front showing all the various peoples who
have lived in Albania since historical
Skanderbeg Square, Tirana, from the top of the Tourist Hotel
Unfortunately, being 5th May and
Martyr's day, it was closed but they
let us in to have a quick look round.
The quality of the displays is very good,
up to the best Western standards.
Mural in centre of Tirana.....more
I saw the original of the bust I had bought in the museum
Later we stopped the coach
4th C, Durres.....more
again to see a museum about
Skanderbeg, an Albanian hero who
lived some 500 years ago, a huge
tough looking chap with a great beak of
a nose and a helmet with a horned
goat or deer on top. Some of the
realistic murals showing his
battles I thought very good.
1. Most want to develop heavy industry
(lot of minerals in Albania. Chromium
No 1 in the world)
2. A lot of soldiers we see are
people in military training.
3. We have seen no lawbreaking.
4. 2.5 million Albanians in osova
in Jugoslavia, & they are discriminated
against. They want to become a Republic.
Albania has no territorial claims
We stopped for lunch
at what we were told was a
hunting lodge used by Count Ciano,
who I think was the nephew of Mussolini.
We got to the border
about 6 pm. We handed our passports in
and walked through the Albanian customs.
I was first through, they didn't look
either in my suitcase or shoulder bag.
After collecting passports, we then had to
walk the 100 yards through No-mans
Land (a road) to the Jugoslav customs.
I was caught by the Greek woman,
who is a pain in the neck & had to
carry her suitcase as well, she pleading
a bad back. She had just blotted her copy
book by walking to the front of the
coach & trying to hand a tip to
the driver just as we had got to the
Albanian frontier and a soldier was
standing in front of the coach. Tipping is
explicitly forbidden in Albania and
we had already been warned no to
do this. She was told off by Sally,
and retired hurt and upset. She has
a knack of doing this sort of thing.
At the Jugoslav custom
post I was asked "Have you any
Albanian literature?" I said no &
was waived through. In fact I had a
booklet about the Anti-Albanian
policy of Britain in 1939-45, which would
have been confiscated had I been
caught. Most other people who had bought
similar literature posted theirs
to themselves, at considerable expense,
while still in Albania.
Once through to
Jugoslavia & in a new coach, first
impressions: Cars, prosperous and rubbish
around. We drove through the beatiful
evening to TITOGRAD & booked in to
a central Hotel.
Had a shower & changed &
went out with Julian to look at Titograd.
We failed to find a suitable restaurant,
instead bought coca-cola, rolls, salami
& tomatoes from a supermarket & ate these
on some seats we found. Compared to
Albania, this place is like "Sin-City".
Cars are everywhere, so are youths.
We were offered a girl by a taxi-driver
who spoke French, so does Julian.
The streets round here are crowded
with young people. Cafes and "dives"
abound. Pornography for sale, and all
the "luxury" goods expected in the
West. We filled our stomachs &
continued walking. A young Jugoslav
spat at the name of Albania.
We walked a long way
towards the outskirts of Titograd and
back. Finally got to bed about 11 pm.
There was a band blasting away
four floors below, next to the hotel,
but I went straight to sleep.
I'm 50 today! Poor John.
I was dreamng about doing a walking
tour in Northern Ireland, & was just
buying an Ordnance Survey map when
we got a wake-up call on our
phone at 5.40 am. I got ready slowly,
then we heard the news that we had to
be on the coach by 6.00 am instead of
6.30 am as we expected.
Set off to the airport,
which is small and not too crowded.
I had breakfast of bacon & eggs, but
because I was the only one at my table
with enough dinars, I lost
them all "contributing" to other people's
Bruce (with the gut and beard) &
Pat (very feminine) came up to me and
gave me a book of poetry, inscribed,
for my 50th birthday, which they had
managed to find out somewhere. How kind.
We took off at 7.15 & got to
BELGRADE, where we changed planes.
Lounged arond for a bit, then boarded
a Boeing 737 & reached DUBROVNIK
at 1150 am. The coast looks good
for swimming here - rock with islands.
Continued on towards London,
a flight of 2 k 45 minutes.
During this I either slept or read
from my v.interesting booklet
"From the Annals of British
Diplomacy" by Arben Puto",
(The anti-Albanian plans of Great
Britain during the Second World War
according to foreign office documents
of 1939-1944). King Zog was
used as a puppet by our Foreign Office. The
crucial question is "Can Albania
exist without the support of a
great power?" The British thought
not, so who would be the great power?
Descending now, SE of
LONDON - no cloud! Dozens of large
fields of yellow - presumably
oil seed rape. Sun glinting off
windows. Motorway snaking across
the landscape. Large reservoirs. Thousands
A grey haze at the horizon. Every
inch of the landscape flat & used, unlike
Jugoslavia or Albania.
Translation: "Thankful to our Working Class"
Translation: "Enver Hoxha the flag of war and
freedom for socialism"
Party of Labour of Albania
The Party of Labour of Albania (Partia e Punės e Shqipėrisė, PPSh in
Albanian, sometimes referred to as the Albanian Workers' Party) was
the vanguard party of Albania during the communist period (19451991)
as well as the only legal political party. It was founded on
November 8, 1941, as the Communist Party of Albania (Partia Komuniste
e Shqipėrisė), but its name was changed in 1948. In 1991, the party
was succeeded by the Socialist Party of Albania.
Enver Halil Hoxha, (16 October 1908 11 April 1985) was the leader
of Albania from 1944 until his death in 1985, as the First Secretary
of the Party of Labour of Albania. He was chairman of the Democratic
Front of Albania and commander-in-chief of the armed forces from 1944
until his death. He served as Prime Minister of Albania from 1944 to 1954
and at various times served as foreign minister and defence minister as well.
The 40-year period of Hoxha's rule was politically characterized by the
elimination of the opposition, prolific use of the death penalty or long
prison terms of his political opponents and evictions from homes where
their families lived and their internment in remote villages that were
strictly controlled by police and the secret police (Sigurimi). His rule
was also characterized by Stalinist methods to destroy his associates
who threatened his own power. Economically, during his period, Albania
became industrialised and saw rapid economic growth, as well as
unprecedented progress in the areas of education and health. He focused
on rebuilding the country which was left in ruins after World War II,
building Albania's first railway line, eliminating adult illiteracy and
leading Albania towards becoming agriculturally self-sufficient.
Hoxha's government was characterized by his proclaimed firm adherence to
anti-revisionist MarxismLeninism from the mid-1970s onwards. After his
break with Maoism in the 19761978 period, numerous Maoist parties declared
themselves Hoxhaist. The International Conference of MarxistLeninist
Parties and Organizations (Unity & Struggle) is the best known association
of these parties today.
People's Socialist Republic of Albania (1976-1991)
Throughout this period Albania was trademark for its Stalinist style of
state administration and policies stressing national unity and
self-reliance. Travel and visa restrictions made Albania one of the
most difficult countries to visit or travel from. It was the only
Warsaw Pact member to formally withdraw from the alliance before 1990,
which it did after the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968.
The first multi-party elections were held on 31 March, 1991 of which
the communists held a majority in an interim government. The People's
Socialist Republic was officially dissolved in 22 March, 1992 with the
first parliamentary elections.
At the time of the Albanian monarchy, the square was composed of a
number of buildings that would eventually be detonated during the
communist period. The square was composed of a roundabout with a
fountain in the middle. Tirana's Old Bazaar used to be established
on the grounds of modern-day Palace of Culture, the Orthodox Cathedral
at present-day Tirana International Hotel, while the former Municipal
building on the grounds of where the National History Museum is
located nowadays. A statue of Joseph Stalin was erected where today
Skanderbeg's statue is located. Besides the construction of the above
new elements during communism, the statue of Albania's leader Enver Hoxha
was erected at the space between the National History Museum and the
Bank of Albania. Following the fall of communism in 1991, the statue
would be removed amid student led demonstrations.
This mural is found above the entrance to the National History Museum of
Albania in the capital, Tirana. It dominates the city's central square,
making it one of the most recognizable images of Tirana. The mural
portrays proud and strong Albanians defending the territory of their
country against foreign invaders during every period of the nation's
history, including the ancient Illyrians, the resistance to Turkish
rule led by Skanderbeg, the partisan fighters of World War Two and the
communist era under Enver Hoxha. The only change that has been made
since the end of the communist period is that a red star has been
removed from the flag. The museum itself is equally fascinating and
makes a great introduction to the complexities of Albanian history.
A number of important artifacts were looted during the 1990's, but
there is still an impressive collection of exhibits on display.
Patos Marinza is an Albanian oil field that was discovered in 1928.
It is the biggest on-shore oil field in Europe, and with its 11,854
barrels (1,884.6 m3) every day the biggest oil producing field in
Albania. The Patos Marinza oil field is located 10 kilometres (6 mi)
east of the city of Fier in south central Albania. Its proven reserves
are about 2 billion barrels (320×10^6 m3). Patos Marinzas has only
heavy oil and is in production since the 1930s.
American Spyplane forced down during communist regime,
in Gjirokaster Castle grounds.
Picture of a derelict U.S. Air Force T-33A Shooting Star
(s/n 51-4413) at the "National Weapons Museum" in
Gjirokastra, Albania. The aircraft had been forced
down on 23 December 1957.
RT-33A 51-4413 of the USAF was forced to land in December 1957
at Rinas Airport (Albania) by a squadron of 2 Albanian MiG-15bis
- on display at Gjirokastra Museum
Mes Bridge (Albanian: Ura e Mesit "bridge in the middle") is a bridge
in the village of Mes, about five kilometres (straight line) northeast
of Shkodėr, in northwestern Albania. It was built in the 18th century,
around 1780, by Kara Mahmud Bushati, the local Ottoman pasha, and it
spans the Kir River. It is 108 m long, and represent one of the longest
Ottoman bridges in the region. It was built as part of the road that
goes up the Kir Valley, eventually to Pristina.
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