Sunday, May 29, 2011
things are about to get interesting..
in Tirana, Albania last night i found myself in a great conversation with a new friend from germany. the conversation highlighted something my friend said that made me shake a little. 'our grandparents killed each other, yet we eat and drink together.' i guess, for now we toast.. it was one of those moments that made me realize the true blessings of being a traveler of the world. we sank together and shared our stories of travel from each point of this globe and its conversations like these that strip me of any form of knowledge i once thought i had and replaces them with true life encounters.
i was reminded of several conversations i found myself involved in last summer in Tbilisi, Georgia. i sat (and ate and drank) with several georgian people alongside several russians. all grievances are set beside when you sit at a table. this is why you look each other in the eyes when you toast your cup. its a subtle way to say that you are not ashamed to look in the eyes of someone whose family's blood was once traded for the blood of your family.
its so humbling.
i never thought i'd be here.
i left ohrid, makedonia with a big toothy grin on my face. i absolutely love makedonia and will dedicate so much of my spoken words to fellow travelers in favor of that great country.
then i find myself at the makedona/albania border. it goes something like this:
first you are dropped off in from a crowded minibus on the far south side of lake ohrid (provided you are going south - the other option is to go north and arrive in albania's capital city at 4:30am). you are nudged out of the vehicle and you find yourself at this completely desolate yet beautiful area between two great countries. there is one man sleeping in a chair and he stamps your exit visa without much consideration. then there is an absolutely beautiful 2km walk across the cliffs that connect the two countries. for a half hour you are alone on international soil and the surroundings are magnificent. next you find yourself at the entry border where another sleepy man in uniform awaits your stamping. i asked in the best albanian i could muster where the next city was and he told me its an easy 6km walk. no 6km walk is easy while carrying a backpack and facing the eyes of the inhabitants from creepy border towns (all border towns are creepy for some reason). so you pull out your thumb or wave your hand to the road. that is how i met my first albanian friend who accepted my 200 makedonia denar offering to take me to Pogradec. from there i easily found another crowded minibus who uncomfortably drove me to Tirana.
i really think i'm going to enjoy albania however as i've promised i will save it for another chapter. for now i have one hell of a journey ahead of me. look to the map i've provided at the top of this entry. that is the story of my life for the next 30-some hours bus, boat or hitchhike. but the rewards are sweet. by the time most people read this i'll be tucked away in the beautiful village where my own blood comes from in southwest sicilia called mazara del vallo.