25 JUL


It felt odd that we were the only people in the café, we joked around that Spartak had arranged a special westerners breakfast room for us both. Which had a real toaster. Was great to finally have brown barley toast with fetta cheese for brekky.

Bashkim met us for coffee in the Hotel Iliria café next door. His friend Nick was to take us out driving today. After a quick intro and coffee Nick drove us to the Dion Travel Tirana branch to meet Migena and Elidon at their modest office which was part of a row of shops. I took a quick moment to venture around the block.

It was time to head north for Krujë Castle, home of Skenderbeg. Its a castle built in the mountains of Krujë over looking Tirana. As we approached, from a distance the castle looked old, ominous, strategic!

The winding roads led us near the main center of Krujë Castle. Nick parked in a construction site nearby. Walking towards the castle from car park we past a bazaar where I found a retro shop filled communist period items. I just wanted to buy everything in the place. I eventually purchased an Army jacket (for Jeff) and Russian winter hat (for Zenep). Fatos the owner and I bargained down to $50AU.

Left the items with Fatos and headed for Skenderbeg’s castle along a newly built pathway, amazing to see. There is a newly built section atop the old original castle – it houses frescoes and statues. An amazing (strategic) view of the entire city.

As is the case in most institutions, no photos were aloud in the museum itself. The artifacts – documents, armature, clothing, furniture etc were incredible. Though this didn’t stop Bashkim, and in turn Rohan and I as we took his lead. No problem was the catch cry of defiance in typical Musaka style! So I made sure I got a picture sitting in Skenderbeg‘s throne and next to the flag of the Musaka Coat of Arms. A map showed the region ruled by the Musaka clan.

Waiting for us at the entrance of the castle as we were departing was Director of the Museum, Mehdi Hafazi. He was obviously there because of our photo taking throughout the museum. He ended up taking a photo with Rohan and I at the castle entrance. And even more bizarre, after I explained we were Musaka’s retracing our roots, he guided me to some documents behind a locked glass display. He unlocked the display and presented me with these documents to photograph, which I did, on the floor! The pages of a book with the oldest known written references to the Musaka name ie. Gjoni Musachi (Musaka) c1339, from Kosovo. He wrote about Musaka’s of the time. I felt honored that Mehdi let me take photos ‘inside’ the museum.

I picked up the jacket from retro store. Rohan was thinking of buying a old 35ml communist spy camera, which he refused in the end as the cost was on the high side.

Onward toward the city of Lezhë. Its considered the site of the League of Lezhë, where Skenderbej united all the Albanian Lords in the fight against the Ottoman Empire.

Driving along the highway Nick pointed out a factory in the distance, when I asked what it was he said sarcastically ‘Concrete’. After a few moments of silence he said ‘Its a uranium mine owned by Israeli’s and the Bush family’. Nick also said everyone locally says its a concrete factory, because people who have publicly spoken out about it have simply… disappeared!

Not long after we stopped at Nick’s villa to pick up his brotherThen taken to a little place called Hoteli i Gjuetisë, now a public hotel and café it was once a Communist Party private hotel. Apparently there was/is a basement, but the hotel was closed so I couldn’t have a look at where the possible debauch parties may have been. The movie Salo came to mind.

From there we had a huge fish feast in a packed local restaurant in central Lezhë. Kept on driving after our late lunch, bloated, tired, next stop the National Museum of Scanderbeg‘s Grave. It was a haunting cold place. Aparently his actual sword and arms are in the Vienna Museum. His bones were collected by the Ottoman soldiers and used as jewelery (Talisman). 

Unfortunately Nick drove straight past the city Shëngjin. Rohan and I wanted and had asked Nick to take us past Shëngjin for a quick photo of the Port that both our dads exited from in c1928 and c1939. Instead Nick made a b-line straight to Tirana. It was really cramped in the back seat of the BMW. I was very tired and several hours from Tirana. I slept part of the way.

We parted ways from Nick and his brother when he had dropped us off at Spartak’s office. Somehow, somewhat inappropriately, we ended up in a meeting with Spartak presenting (to Rohan really) his consortium’s hospital project in Durrës. They were looking for investors.

I was more interested in organizing my ride to Macedonia, which seemed like such a task! Bashkim would just repeat ‘No problem’! This happened all the time, I (we) could not not pin down most people with details about anything. Details were always ambiguous at best.

I just wanted to go home, I was shagged – Rohan looked pretty worn as well. We eventually made it home. But by that time Rohan and I could feel a fever coming on, badly.

Had a shower and straight to bed feeling very very sick. Rohan had it worse though. Wasn’t hungry. Hard to keep fluids down. Sweating profusely. Shaking with cold/hot flushes. Nasty stuff. Eventually slept like babies.