The defensive walls of the Byzantine city of Dyrrachium were immense. It was said that along the walls four horsemen could walk abreast. They needed to be. The city came under repeated attacks from barbarians, especially the Bulgarians, to whom the city eventually fell. Today there is little of the original defences left, but there are still some significant stretches, particularly in the area near to the amphitheatre.
Durrësi, Major Lodewijk W.J.K. Thomson
During the first Balkanic war, Major Lodewijk W.J.K. Thomson was in mission of peace in Albania. He was the first Dutch soldier to die in this peace mission and his death lead to the withdrawal of the entire peace corp. In the Netherland a monument reminding his memory was built in 1918 in Groningen, The monument was a bust carved first by Charles van Wijk and, after his death, by Prof Arend Willem Maurits Odé. In 2002, it was relocated to Den Hague. The goal of the Thomson Foundation is to remind the almost forgotten Dutch peace mission in Albania.
A monument had also been erected in Durrësi where LWJK Thompson died. This monument was later destroyed. A wild guess would be that this occurred during Enver Hoxja regime, when a monument to a foreign military should have been considered as an offence to the nation.
Thomson was made honorary citizen of Durrësi in 2000 and awarded from the Albanian government the country’s highest honor, the Golden Eagle. His grandson received this honor in belief of his grandfather. The Albanian parliament approved that the new military academy for junior officers in Durrësi would be named after him. This Albanian academy has a cooperation with the Royal Military Academy in Weert (Netherlands).
In Durrësi, in may/june 2003 a bronze replica of the Groningen monument has been erected to replace the destroyed monument. However, what I do not understand well is that the Groningen/Den Hague monument is a bust while the “replica” in Durrësi is a carved bronze sheet written in Albanian affixed on an ancient Roman’s column! Strange!
Plazhi i Currilave (Currila Beach)
Past "Baywatch", close to the university, a long sandy beach stretches off into the distance. Not the cleanest of sands, I was a bit disappointed, although it is right in the centre of a port city, so you can't expect miracles. Still, it was nice enough, backed by cafes and more than a few half-built projects, and overlooked by King Zog's villa on the hilltop. Maybe in the summer months, the sands are cleaned and it is a lot nicer?
Underwhelmed by Tirana? How about a daytrip to the coast? Durres? Take the Tirana-Durres Express...it's quicker than walking, but only just!
I thought Tirana was quirky. Well, so too is Durres. An ancient city, not much survives from the Roman era, but it does mean that you stumble across relics from the past all over the place...amphitheatres and forums surrounded by dilapidated yet colourful century old houses inside mediaeval city walls, within spitting distance of a few Communist monuments, a backdrop of modern glass-fronted high-rise blocks.
Continuing the trend that Tirana had set, all the attractions were shut. The Roman Amphitheatre looked quite impressive from outside, although I'm told that exploring the tunnels underneath are well worth entering for...unfortunately the caretakers had decided to ignore their opening hours and go for a siesta somewhere. The Archaeological Museum was under lock and key too. Frustrating really. But I did spend a full day wandering the streets, marvelling at the sheer number of trampolines in the streets (is it a national trampolining training centre?), sunning myself on a deserted beach (well, it was very much out of season and not that warm), and generally enjoying the relaxed atmosphere.
Lots more photos to come, but let me unpack first!
"Photigraphs from my time in Albania"
I think all I'll do here is put up a load of random photos, that probably won't make any sense, but there you go.
First photo is of an Italian military helicopter taking part in fire fighting drills, whilst there I made friends with quite a few of the pilots, so it was always fun to watch my friends go flying in their 'birds'...
This is the view down the beach from the hotel 'Majestic', which was situated next door to the camp, surprisingly (to me at least) the hotels there were all fairly new and catered to quite a high standard, the people who worked there generally spent their summers working in Greece and so were fluent in several languages.
This is just a street scene from Durres.
This ISO container was my home for the entire time, it was cosy but didn't stop me having a good time, got a bit crowded for parties though.....