The beginning of the project and first trips around by Matteo

Our organization introduced us, after a week from our arrival, the local volunteers: a pleasant introduction meeting, with the people actively involved in the association. The general spirit is serene and determined, and makes me feel motivated.

After a period of training in the middle of February, where we knew the specific targets of the project as well as some interesting persons, we were ready to start.

In the middle of March we’ve been personally contacted by another association that fervently desired our participation as European volunteers, for a course regarding the defense of the environment, to be carried out on “Dajti” Mountain: 1,600 meters of altitude, with quite a rigid climate even in March. We arrived there through the “Dajti Express”, a very long cable car built in 2005, that starts from the east side of Tirana and arrives directly inside the ultra-sophisticated Hotel Belvedere. The view from there, along the way, is quite impressive!

In that site we spent a couple of days, while the course we were asked to participate turned out to be, at least for me, not so interesting as I expected.

With my colleagues we went away before the end of the course. However, we were pretty content: that is because the second day arrived to Dajti the special guest, Mister Prime Minister Sali Berisha, a long-haul sea captain of Albanian politics (he was in charge for the first time in 1992 and he survived to many deep political crises in the country).

He personally explained to me, after a question, why in Albania there’s such an intense love for United States, that I’ve never seen anywhere else (Berisha himself dedicated a street to George Bush Junior in Tirana).

To come back to the feature of this country, another peculiarity of Albania are the so-called furgon:

basically, they’re old school minivans, alternative means of transport often quicker and more frequent than traditional buses.

The drivers of such kind of vehicles, usually, wait to leave only until they overfill it. Alternatively, whoever wants to, can even buy all the seats of the furgon and travel alone, in practice renting it all!

Furthermore, you can catch it on the way, along his route, without any specific “minivan stop”.

The first travel I made with this magic vehicle was in Kruja, birthplace of the national hero, Skanderbeg (a really outstanding character in whole human history, suffice it to say that were dedicated to him over 1000 books!): I visited both the museum inside his castle and the ethnographic museum hosted in a big house of a well-to-do Albanian family, during the Ottoman Age. All these sights give you an idea of this country some centuries ago, with admirable accuracy. Indeed a nice place, with a bazar along the way to the castle that, as well, brings you back to another era. Great atmosphere for sure.

After this, we went to Berat (“the city of one thousand windows”, very lovely and picturesque) and Elbasan (a small University city, with a castle right in the center, also base of a huge factory of Chinese-maoist technology now mostly no longer in use), right in the center of Albania.

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