ROHILAS IN EUROPE-VA
September 27-October 14, 2007
Following our breakfast, we left Ohrid, Macedonia, at 8:30 a.m., on our westward journey toward Tirana, the capital of Albania.
Located in the western part of the Balkan Peninsula, Albania is a mountainous country, and not easily accessible.
For more than 600 years, until 1912, Albania was a part of the Ottoman Empire. Currently about 70 percent of its people are Muslim in origin. And there are mosques everywhere.
In 1946, Enver Hoxha deposed King Zog. He made Albania a communist country. To counter the increasing influence in the neighborhood of Marshal Tito, who came to dominate Yugoslavia by 1953, he aligned with Soviet Russia. As a part of his resistanceagainst, he built thousands of concrete bunkers, which were never used for the purpose they were intended.
After breaking off relations with Russia in 1961, Hoxha flirted with China, and initiated a Mao-style cultural revolution. Administrative workers were transferred to remote areas, and younger people were installed in positions of leadership. Also agriculture was collectivized and organized religion was banned.
After remaining a closed communist country for about 45 years, Albania had a democratic revolution in 1990. But in 1996, collapse of a private pyramid scheme, in which about 70 percent of Albanians lost their savings, led to nationwide disturbances and violence.
In 1999, about half a million refugees poured in from the neighboring Kosovo. A substantial amount of international aid money flowed in to assist the refugees. The money helped stimulate Albania’s economy. Situation has continued to improve since then.
On the way we came across closed factories and many roadside fruit and vegetable vendors.
For lunch we stopped at the industrial city of Elbasan, located in central Albania.
There was nothing grand about the Grand Hotel, where we had lunch. But it was a clean place to eat and use toilet facilities.
Across the street were some fruit and vegetable shops.
Also we saw children returning from school. Being a Friday, probably the school was out early
today. On the sidewalk two adults were playing a table game.