To say NO, albanians move the head as we move to say YES; to say YES, they move the head as we move to say NO.
Before leaving Albania, I stopped for a while at the train station in Durr?s. A very poor man asked me if I?d like a glace. I said No moving my head, but he understood YES in Albanian. I was very shamed when he came to me to offer a glace. Unfortunately I only had the money to pay for the exit visa (I think 10 USD), and I gave nothing to the man.
While I was working at the site of Diaporit, we occasionally had to drive the long way around, through the villages of Vrina and Xarra and past Lake Bufit. On one of those occasions, winding through the foothills, we passed a flock of sheep and goats herded by a couple of very picturesque shepherds; an elderly man and a youth riding ponies with no saddles, but fleecy saddle blankets instead. About an hour later, working hard on site, we heard the clonking of the sheep bells, and around the hill the flock came - the shepherds were curious and wanted to see what we were up to!
Why didn't I have my camera that day?!
Well, sadly I didn't get a photo, but I found this one that shows what I mean.
It used to be the case that in Albania, a nod of the head meant 'no' and shaking one's head meant 'yes', and this custom still prevails in more rural areas, particularly with the older generations. However, younger people have adapted to the western practice of nodding for yes and shaking your head for no, which means that if you are only going on head gestures, things can get a bit confusing as you never know which one means which! Best to ask them to say 'po' (yes) or 'jo' (no).
One elderly Albanian man we were working with at Butrint asked a friend of mine through gestures for some of her tobacco. She also offered him a cigarette paper, and he shook his head, so she started to put it away, but then he started reaching for it, so she offered it again... after this was repeated a few times, we finally caught on that he was using the older method!
I'm not sure if feminism has reached Albania or not. The women seem to do a lot of the heavy labour, while the men sit around a lot. We saw one fairly elderly woman, a widow by her dress, using a mattock to dig a small trench, while a man of about the same age looked on, occasionally gesturing as if directing her.
New and half-finished buildings are ubiquitous in Southern Albania - the owners do as much as they can, and then often go abroad to work in order to make enough money to come back and do the next bit. And wherever you see a less than complete house, you'll also see a doll hanging somewhere. It might be small, it might be life-size, but it'll be there. These often elaborately dressed dolls (dordolece) are said to be used to protect the house until its completion against the 'syri i keq', the evil eye.
The Albanian currency is the lek - 100 leke is currently worth about 1 US Dollar, 0.82 Euro and 56p (UK). Some prices may still be shown in old leke, which is 10 times the current price, so be careful when buying. Apparently, the currency changed in 1969. More than thirty-five years later, people still haven't switched over to "new leke."
There are coins for 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 leke, and notes for 100, 200, 500, and 1000. Some of the notes are very beautiful indeed, but you're not supposed to take them out of the country, so be careful if you try.
I was introduced to this drink in Tani's bar in Ksamili. It's a clear brandy made from grapes (rrushi), and is completely different to Turkish and Greek raki which tastes of aniseed - this doesn't. It's pretty strong, and does take a bit of getting used to. The major problem for me was that an Albanian 'shot' is about 3 or 4 times the amount you get in a British shot measure, and once you've had a couple you forget that. So after about 6....
...let's just say the morning after was quiet!
In 2005, from what I have seen in Shkodër (limited experience!) cafes sell Tirana beer, a local beer and Niksicko beer, coming from Montenegro. We have tried Tirana beer. It is a light beer, not unpleasant to drink when it is hot outside but I preferred the Niksicko that has more flavor.
The money of Albania is the lek. The international abbreviation is ALL, for ALbanian Lek.
One Euro is worth around 140 lek
One US Dollar is worth around 120 lek
There are certainly other banknotes but I have in 2005 seen notes of 100, 500 and 1000 lek.
The 100 lek bears the figure of Fan S. Noli, 1882-1965.
The 500 lek bears the figure of Naim Frasheri, 1846-1900.
The 1000 lek bears the figure of Pjeter Bogdani, 1625-1689.
The 100 and 1000 lek are of the same set while the 500 is of an older issue. This is even more evident when looking at the other side of the notes (second photo)
Both in the city or in the country, there are often vine rooted in front of the houses and growing on top of the roof. In 1988, our Albanian guide explained us that the people could not own privately more than 100 m2 of land, including the house and that, like that, even with a 1m strip of land around the house, they could make their own "raki" anyway!
As in many places in the Balkans, Turkish coffee is traditionally done in pots of the shape shown on the photo. I do not know if in Albania it is still called Turkish coffee or if it has been renamed in the same way then the Greek that call it "Greek coffee"! Finely ground coffee is added with water and sugar, brought to the boil for a few minutes and poured delicately in a glass or a cup. You must then wait a few minutes to allow the powder to settle at the bottom. You can also add some cold water that will sediment faster. Anyway, never drink the bottom or you would not "drink" but "eat"!
Field writing was in 1988 widely practiced.
First photo :
6-Dershor Kongresi 10 BGSH
In the foreground, an older inscription is hardly visible. The stones must have been used for the new one.
Second and third photo (enlargement) :
In 1988, the communist red star was everywhere.
The first photo shows it built on the soil with pebbles, framed by hammers. In the center, this is not the little red book but its Albanian equivalent, the works of Comrade Enver.
The second and third photo shows a 8 meters high standing star that commemorates the liberation of the country in 1944. There was a celebration for May 1st and I shot the photo from our bus.
In the 50s, Albania was more and more isolated. Enver Hoxha feared an invasion either (or both) by its neighbors and by the Allies. He initiated the building of hundred of thousands of small bunkers, growing like mushrooms everywhere in the country, built by the people of each village on almost the same plan. They are estimated between 100,000 and 600,000.
Most of them are remaining today and are either just staying in the landscape or used as a shelter for animals, when they are close to a farm. The photos show various aspects and various situations.
Photos 1 to 4 were taken in 1988, the last one in 2005.
Old cars especially Mercedes and German cars are very welcome in Albania.
If you want to go to Albania to sell your old car on a high price this could be possible.
But you have to put in mind that your car number is written in your passport.
If you want to leave the country without your car you need an allowness from the ministery.
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