Focus on : ALBANIA ( I )

Next in line (after Aghanistan) is Albania…and, following my “voluntas” of writing about a country’s craftsmanship and artistry on a monthly basis, …I am undertaking the enormous task of trying to learn all about beautiful and ancient ALBANIA  in only 6 days! before the end of July… As an English major,  I should have thought of Lord George Gordon Byron’s (1788-1824), poem “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage,” especially the second Canto…!!!

“Land of Albania! where Iskander rose, Theme of the young, and beacon of the wise,  And he his namesake, whose oft-baffled foes Shrunk from his deeds of chivalrous emprize; Land of Albania! let me bend mine eyes On thee, thou rugged nurse of savage men! The cross descends, thy minarets arise, And the pale crescent sparkles in the glen, Through many a cypress grove within each city’s ken…” But I did not….

Lord Byron, in traditional Albanian garb painted by Thomas Phillips, 1835


I have never traveled  to Albania, but my sister Barbara spent some time in the country… In fact, she co-drafted “the Law on Mortgages, Pledges and Liens adopted by the Albanian government …and was part of a three-member legal team acting as special counsel to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in connection with the structuring and negotiation of documentation required to implement private sector investments in Albania,” sometime in 1993.  (From Wikipedia: “The modern-day territory of Albania was at various points in history part of the Roman provinces of Dalmatia (southern Illyricum), Macedonia (particularly Epirus Nova), and Moesia Superior. The modern Republic became independent after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in Europe following the Balkan Wars.[8] Albania declared independence in 1912 (to be recognised in 1913), becoming a Principality, Republic, and Kingdom until being invaded by Italy in 1939, which formed Greater Albania, which in turn became a Nazi German protectorate in 1943.[9] In 1944, a socialist People’s Republic was established under the leadership of Enver Hoxha and the Party of Labour. In 1991, the Socialist Republic was dissolved and the Republic of Albania was established…”) In December 1994 “she did a ‘needs assessment’ for the banking industry…” and, as she recounts, living conditions   in Albania, at the time, were difficult…” we had no running water at the hotel,… I bathed with Greek bottled water.  Only ate chocolate bars, because there was a cholera epidemic in the city (Tirana), and every evening when I got to the hotel the concierge would hand me a candle, because there was no electricity. .. Used to sit on the bed wearing my coat and hat and gloves, while I wrote my report –by hand, because I could not use the computer- by the light of the Albanian candle.  Fond memories of those days…  Ah! and the first introduction to Albania was at the airport, when the plane landed, and hit numerous pot holes …  That’s when I learnt that planes actually have springs and can bob up and down.. . Such exciting times…” 

…”Albanians refer to themselves as shqiptarë, meaning “sons of eagles,” and to their country as Shqipëria. They are descendants of the ancient Illyrians, who lived in central Europe and migrated southward to the territory of Albania at the beginning of the Bronze Age, about 2000 BC…” Encyclopaedia Britannica…   (Map, National Geographic)

More on  modern Albania in the CIA’s Fact Book,  the Encyclopaedia Iranica (a project of Columbia University) and multiple other sources...  What interests me are traditional arts & crafts…  To be continued…

I can not end this little piece without mentioning Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, of Albanian descent …