Updated 02 Oct 2014

A week in Communist Albania

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April 1990

A week in a Stalinist country

I decided to retire at 50, and next day I was on my way to the last Marxist-Leninist country in Europe. The way of life would soon vanish, I had to see it for myself before it did. It was a lovely country, ideal for walking, but was told there would soon be a war with Kosovo (It happened from March 1998 to June 1999). Do you remember Albania in 1990? If so contact the Author on Thanks to Rafail Luzi for translations of photos.

Page index

20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 |
30 | 31 | 32 | 33 | 34 | 35 | 36 | 37 | 38 | 39 |
40 | 41 | 42 | 43 | 44 | 45 | 46 | 47 | 48 | 49 |
50 | 51 | 52 | 53 | 54 | 55 | 56 | 57 | 58 | 59 |
60 | 61 | 62 | 63 | 64 | 65 | 66 | 67 | 68 | 69 |
70 | 71 | 72 | 73 | 74 | 75 | 76 | 77 | 78 | 79 |

Place Index

20 Poole, Heathrow
21 Zagreb, Belgrade
22 Titograd, Shkodra
28 Mes, Durres
33 Fier, Apollonia
36 Patos, Gjirokaster
41 Sarandra, Corfu
47 Butrint
48 Sarandra
50 Miramare
51 Vlore, Berat
58 Tirana
68 Titograd
70 Belgrade, Dubrovnik
71 London

Subject Index



Daily Telegraph 14 Mar 1990.
"Albania has a wretched economic performance, lack of incentives, economic and political isolation and national pride. It has had 45 years of totalitarian rule since Enver Hoxha dragged the country from feudalism to communism in 1946. The secret police - the Sigurimi - merit comparison with Romania's Securitate and every third person is said to be a Sigurami spy. Television beamed from Italy and Yugoslavia makes most Albanians aware of the good life just beyond their reach. Religion is banned and daily life has a dull monotony impossible to escape. Meat and dairy products are rationed to one kilo per household per week and there is a thriving black market. Having broken ties with the Soviet Union and China, it receives no substantial economic aid. Were it not for its exports of chromium, the state would be bankrupt. The Elbasan steelworks is probably the most inefficient steel plant in the world. Albania looks like a museum, a Marxist-Leninist theme park. But the vast majority of Albanians believe that communism works, and Albanian communism works best of all."
Daily Telegraph 20 Apr 1990.
"Albania is Europe's last orthodox Communist country. There was an ideological rift with Moscow in 1961, since when there have been three decades of official isolation but Albania will not abandon one-party Communist rule. The 1967 constitution preaches self-reliance and bans foreign credit but there are growing signs of serious problems with the economy. These include corruption, shortages of food and consumer goods, and resistance from conservatives to cautious reforms in Europe's poorest state. Collective farm and food distribution policy are almost in shambles. Food is still in short supply and in places there are signs of malnutrition bordering on starvation. Albania is most in search of modern technology and has bought computers from Greece and steel milling equipment from Sweden and Canada. Ties with London have been suspended since the sinking of two British warships in the Corfu Channel in 1946."
Hard words indeed. Can a country where private cars are not allowed be so bad? The way of life, not dedicated to the consumerism which has become the curse of most of the world, may soon vanish. It is necessary to observe before it is too late.
How things changed after 1990
"The People's Republic was dissolved in 1991-92 after protests beginning in 1989 and reforms made by the communist government in 1990, and the Republic of Albania was founded. The Communists retained a stronghold in parliament after popular support in the elections of 1991. However, in March 1992, amid liberalisation policies resulting in economic collapse and social unrest, a new front led by the new Democratic Party took power. The economic crisis spread in late 1996 following the failure of some Ponzi schemes operating in the country, peaking in 1997 in an armed rebellion that led to another mass emigration of Albanians, mostly to Italy, Greece, Switzerland, Germany and North America. In 1999, the country was affected by the Kosovo War, when a great number of Albanians from Kosovo found refuge in Albania. Albania became a full member of NATO in 2009, and has applied to join the European Union."


321. Mural in centre of Tirana.....more

320. Skanderbeg Square, Tirana, from the top of the Tourist Hotel .....more

318. A guard.....more

213. Stalin.....more

208. .....more

207. Enver Hoxha.....more

130. .....more

201. .....more

204. .....more

212. .....more

211. .....more


Today we meet at London's Heathrow Airport for our flight to Titograd in Yugoslavia. On arrival we travel to the border at Han i Hotit and thence to Shkodra, where we spend the night.

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Sat 28apr1990
Warm sunny day. Drove to Mum's and chatted, then dropped her & case at POOLE Bus Station & put Golf in Mum's garage. Bus came on time, it was full to HEATHROW via M25. I booked in at the wrong Jugoslav Airlines desk, & travelled on same plane but not with the Group. Met a 56 year old bloke from Manchester who had retired at 50 & had been to Albania himself last year. He said there was an atmosphere of fear among the older people. Had 2 sandwiches & we took off at 2.30 in a Boeing 727. Flight time 1 h 50, at 3,000 metres. I looked round the Duty Free for sunglasses (at Heathrow) but found nothing interesting. They charge huge prices (£40 or more)
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We took off for Belgrade about 1 hour late, 1430 instead of 1340. Stopped at ZAGREB on the way for half an hour. Got off the plane at BELGRADE, met the rest of the party. 39 in all. No-one really young. One person from Cardiff had got half way to Heathrow when they realised they'd forgotten their Passport. End of holiday. Tragic. Bit of a rumpus when we were advised to change about £10 into dinars, to be used for meals at Titograd on the way back. We decided to beat the commission charge by pooling our money before changing it. But then it was very difficult dividing out the multi-coloured dinars properly. There are 2 kinds of paper dinars at the moment. £1 = about 20, and also 200,000! You have to knock off 4 zeroes!
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Took off for TITOGRAD at 9pm, after about half hour late. Bus in the dusk to the frontier, ¾ drive. We went through the Yugoslav frontier, then had to walk 100 yards through no-mans land to the Albanian frontier post, then stand in rather cool breeze, while a guard went through each of 39 passports comparing them with the Group Visa. Then walked up stairs into a room, where we had to fill in 2 forms with details of all the valuables we were bringing in. Then customs looked through our suitcases (not very thoroughly in my case). Books about Albania were confiscated, to be returned on exit. We then drove ¾ hour along a very poor road into SCKODRA, in the darkness, so we could see little. They served us a meal at 1.15am
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(12.15am England time). We had bread & soup, reconstituted meat, peas, red peppers and a vegetable a bit like parsnips, followed by a sweet, cool, empty affair like a Balkan sausage. I had a bottle of mineral water which cost 2 leks. Bed about 2am, while my room mate has gone off for a walk round Schkodra.

Sun 25 Apr1990
Woke up suddenly to bright sunshine at 7am. The eye mask is ideal. Went for walk. Palled up with a kid (12) called Florentz
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Rozafa Castle doorway..more

(his address is in the back of this log). He showed me round, soon I had a collection of kids like the Pied Piper. The kids are a bit ragged, but curious and friendly. The adults are suspicious and one of them kicked Florentz, perhaps
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for fraternizing with me. They learn French more than English. There were large crowds in the Central Square, no cars in evidence, a lot of people have bikes but most walk. Drove out of town a short distance to look at an old bridge at MES.

131 Ottoman bridge at Mes......more

The land is very stoney & dry. Small fields with crops. Poor houses. Men dress in Western style, but shabbily, bit like the Irish. Many women wear headscarves. They work a 6 day week. Green uniforms=army. Blue=police, a lot of each in evidence. There are very few shops and no adverts, except for political slogans, which all begin with LAVDI. We then drove to DURRES. The coach drive went fast along a very bumpy road. I snoozed part of the time, but woke up occasionally to see the
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countryside. We drove over a large, arid plane. Attractive hills rose to the East. The area was shabby and backward, the odd lorry but no cars at all. Old farmhouses, with red tiles, surrounded by vines on a trellis about 8 ft up. A lot of workers in the fields, almost no machinery. One huge works, seemingly abandoned. The outskirts of DURRES very shabby, flats with a lot of TV aerials on the roof. We stopped to look at an amphitheatre (Roman) excavated recently. Not a patch on the Colosseum of course.
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Walked down the main shopping street in Durres. Quite a few shops, almost nothing to sell inside, very unattractive presentation. I can understand why tourists spend no leks at all - the only slightly attractive goods are for sale in the hotel hard currency shop. Clocked in to the Hotel Adriatica. Nice room, had shower. Huge common balcony with view over the beach & harbour in the distance. All the kids (& there seem to be hundreds around 10 years old) want "Steelos" ie pens. One kid even thrust a 1 lek note (10p), very crumpled, into my pocket & sat back to see what happened. We found him a pen. Changed and had intellectual meal
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chatting with our guide Mileni and my room mate Julian. Mileni asked me how much I earned in U.K. & I told her. She got rather angry about the amount. If I had told her about Robert.... In the evening I stayed and talked while a 5 piece band played music rather loudly. Near us were sat 3 men, not members of our party, maybe Sigurimi (secret police). They did not seem to be enjoying themselves, were not smiling. They left together eventually. Bed 10.30pm.

Mon 30apr1990
Woke at 7.00, good nights sleep. Julian is having a noisy shower. The sea stretches to the horizon beyond my balcony. Ships are on the horizon. It is blue and still, no wind. Below our balcony 15 girls are sifting the sand with shovels
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making sure it is clean for the use of the rich tourists. Such are Albanian wage rates. The hotel (Adriatika) is literally palatial. We ate breakfast under a ceiling 20 ft above us, supported by huge pillars. Somehow this seems wrong in Albania. Its another lovely day as we pile into the coach at 9am. The atmosphere of the 2 Albanian guides on the coach is very liberal. One of our lot is a train buff from Darlington, & he was told he could take photos of any trains he wanted. As we drove, the guides gave a very interesting talk about the educational system and prices in Albania & wages. Wages range 600-1200 L per month. TV sets cost 4000 L but, the blocks of flats are covered in aerials. Food seems to be about 30% the price in UK. Flats are cheap to rent. People are now being encouraged to build
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their own. Children start kindergarten at 3, there is now a University in Tirana. Lots more still. We drove through plains of fields. Then reached FIER, all new & rather scruffy. Wide streets, people walking everywhere, and on bicycles. Progress is difficult because there is little discipline among road users. Cars themselves are non-existant. I've seen 2 jeep-like vehicles in 3 days, presumably owned by the army. On the outskirts of Fier is APPOLONIA, an archeological site. There is a very nice little monastery (deserted now of course) and a small museum, which the Albanians are very proud of. I did a hurried sketch of the monastery and then the Pantheon. Drove to a Hotel in centre of Fier, & had a good meal. Walked round centre of Fier, taking photos. They are preparing
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Monastery at Apollonia, Albania
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Remains of the Pantheon at Apollonia, Albania
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for Mayday, which is tomorrow. There are usually quite a lot of political slogans in town centres, but even more here. In particular, I stood in the centre of the main road taking photos - no traffic at all. We drove on to PATOS, but a chap in our group was feeling very sick & they decided to send him back to Fier by taxi or mini-bus to sleep it off.

219. Patos oil field. Primitive equipment .....more

We entered some tremendous hill & mountain country. Superb walking hills, high & dry & covered in scrub. A great wide river flood plain wound between the hills, densely edged by woods & trees. A marvellous place. I'd love to come back here again. Drove to GJIROKASTER with a great range of mountains on our left. A high ridge, with spectacular
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erosion gullies regularly in its side. I think on mountain is called Berretto or something like that. Gjirokaster is a town of stone built on a stoney hillside. Two main streets are old and steep. There are lots of other narrow, stoney & attractive streets. We had a meal in the hotel, then went exploring in the twilight. I got lost in the winding streets, and ended up a
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Mushroom House in Gjirokaster, Albania
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long way from the hotel. In the evening, we had a fourpiece band entertaining us. Bruce (who looks like Augustus John with his white beard) bribed them with Haig whiskey and some of the local music was fast & exciting. I danced in the Greek fashion, hands held high. Bed at 11pm

Tue 01may1990
Pete woke us at 5am with a quiet knock on the door. We dressed and shot out, intending to climb to the castle to see dawn. However, although we got through the gate, the gateman got angry and made us understand that the opening time was 7 am. We hung around, but Julian went exploring and found a way in. However, breakfast was at 8 am, so we went down again. We visited the castle later, a fine view over the town. Most interesting thing was a US jet on display. It was
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forced down in 1957 by the glorious Albanian Air Force. Its a T-33a (looks like a Shooting Star to me).

302. American spyplane forced down 23 Dec 1957 .....more

Afterwards visited Enver Hoxha's birthplace, which was pleasant, with "sofas" all round the walls of several rooms. Some people then shot up the hill to a house high on the hillside, where celebrations of May Day were going on. However, I went round the houses trying to sketch, but the perspective defeated me, and I feel very frustrated. Members of our group are very widely travelled, and when they get talking (which presents them no difficulty) they are very interesting. I should guess that, as a group, we must have visited up to 100 countries in the world. As I write this, sat on a wall in the sun outside the hotel,
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an elderly man tells me that he joined An Oige in 1931, he was member number 1001. He met his wife hostelling in the Wicklow mountains. We set off from Gjirokaster, heading South along a wide valley. Then we turned right, and climbed up to a pass along a well engineered road. The hillside on both sides of the road is dry and barren with very well marked lines of strata in the limestone-like rock. Eventually came to SANDRA and our first view of the blue sea, with the large island of CORFU about 2 miles off and covered with haze, like Bali-Hai. Straight to our Hotel, to one side of the Costa-Brava-like development of hotels and tower blocks. We had lunch immediately, at about 2 pm. All 39 of us sat at
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a long table. Somebody (me) raised the subject of Poll-Tax, and soon there was a heated debate on all sides. This settled down to a learned debate of the Meritocracy and government controlled organisations and supply & demand and what people should be paid. This soon polarized into Utilitarians against Socialists. Interesting but as usual it got nowhere. After lunch, walked into town and out the other side. The water feels warm and in places there are Purbeck limestone-like ledges. There are practically no shops or anything of interest. A conical hill behind the hotel presents a possibility tomorrow, but first I want to have a swim. Walked back to the hotel, collected my swim gear in rucksack, and
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walked along the coast road the other way. After 10 minutes I was level with a small house on the rocky slope down to the sea, covered with masses of prickly pear cactus. Made my way down to the limestone rocks jutting into the sea, changed and launched myself. The water was 20°C, I've never seen it warmer in Dorset. I swam for 15 minutes towards the isolated new hotel. There was no kelp, the bottom was covered with small limestone rocks, which in turn had a large number of spiney sea urchins attached. A few fish of assorted size. If anything, not as interesting as back home, but warmer. Walked back and had a good hot shower, changed into new clothes and went down to the Foyer to wait for the evening meal. Some facts which our guide told us in the bus: Albania has no diplomatic relations with America, Israel
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South Africa or the UK. The reason for the UK is that in 1946 2 British ships were sunk in the Corfu channel, presumably by German mines. Britain held Albania responsible for not sweeping the channel (International Waters). An International Court found Albania at fault, but they denied it, saying their Navy was not large enough to do the sweeping. See Corfu-Channel-Incident. Britain in consequence has retained about $40 million of Albanian gold, which was first taken by the Germans, then by the Allies, then by Britain. When I asked "What can we do to help" the guide replied "Write to Mrs Thatcher". A couple of years ago, Albania announced that they were keen to have diplomatic relations with all countries who did not interfere in
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their affairs, and as a result they have re-established diplomatic relations with the US and Russia. They did not mention China. Had a good evening meal, at separate tables this time. Soup and bread, meat on a skewer, side plate of salad including olives and peppers. I decided to have a bottle of red wine to myself. 7 leks (about 75 pence), 70 ccs, very good and made me pleasantly tipsy. Had a long chat to the fellow who had spent a day in hospital this trip. He said he had been treated much better than in the Health Service back home. He seemed to be very interested in my travels, so I bored him a great length. A great fuss at 4 am from a room opposite us. An Albanian was trying to get out of his room,
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and could not operate the door. I thought I heard a lady inside as well. The couple next door rendered assistance, so I went back to bed.

Wed 02may1990
Another perfect day. We were told it never rains here for 6 months. With the sun in the East, Corfu is much clearer, & from the bedroom window I can see a village, roads & a TV mast over there. But its too far to swim. Boats in the harbour are Lezha from Durres, Kanina from Durres, 3 old fishing smacks: P.Papa, De Haqa, Zoio Paskaij, what looks like a Western pleasure boat, and a Customs or military boat. We were told that Westerners who stray into Albanian waters have their vessel impounded and have to pay a lot of hard currency to get it back.
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Sally, our English guide is sick. She says she thinks its a stomach ulcer, caused by her continuous travelling in different parts of the world & different diets. But she smokes a lot too. She's been to Albania 16 times. She says after a lot of travelling. We drove to BUTRINT, within sight of the Greek border, and looked round the interesting archeological site of the old Butrintum or something. The small amphitheatre had impressive acoustics. Then back a little way to a hotel near Butrint, where we had lunch followed by a fine swim. I changed on the rocky coast and swam out to an island, then across and round another small island. The water was warm, the bottom bare of most weed & having urchins, shapeless black sponge-like things, many fish of various
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sizes. Drove back to our hotel at SARANDE. Then we went out looking for shops. These are quite difficult to spot, and within are much the same. All the goods are on display at the back of the shop on shelves behind the counter. One has to stand at the counter & peer at the miserable range of low quality goods. Prices are printed on boring little notices. The shop assistant makes no attempt to help and almost dares you to ask for
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something. There is no competition so it is up to the buyer to find what he wants. There is absolutely no attempt to woo him. I later walked miles looking for a bookshop I had seen earlier which sold some English book. I found the library in the meantime, which has closed shelves. You cannot browse the shelves. You must ask for what you want. Had our evening meal all together at a long table. I was at one end, & four or five of us (Julian, Bruce, Pete?) had a long discussion partly centring on the "100 most influential people in history" and my retirement. I was extremely dehydrated, and drank 1 litre of mineral water straight off. I have a bit of a headache, & we must be up early, so I will go to bed early.

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Thu 03may1990
Slept very well from 1030 pm to about 6 am. Slight headache has now gone. We had breakfast at 7 am & set out at 7.46 after waiting for Skinhead Pete. We drove along the coast road to MIRAMARE, very mountainous, dry, spectacular road, terrific hairpins, up & down, above trees covering the hillside, while the man guide answered a whole lot of written questions very well. Pity, but impossible to write anything down in the bus, far too bumpy. Aids, homosexuality, relations with China, punishment policy and many other subjects. Pity I didn't have a voice recorder. The people here seem more friendly. The sea is extremely blue. Lots of people, but
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difficult to take photos. As I write this, teenagers are starting to gather round me out of curiosity. Everyone seems fairly well dressed. Took the address of a schoolgirl who spoke very good English. All the boys know Liverpool football team: a postcard showing the team with their signatures would go down very well. Continued to VLORE, over a 1,000 metre pass, tremendous hairpin road among towering mountains, very dry & covered with olive trees. Passed through a small National forest. Had a meal at Vlore in a posh restaurant on a hilltop overlooking Vlore. Drove on through flat but interesting country to BERAT, where we are all debussed at the castle. Not a
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The Lead Mosque in Berat, Albania
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completely fascinating place, but had long chat with 2 doctors from Albania & a young soldier. One of the doctors was 44, and both smoked. They said there were 400 patients to 1 doctor in Albania. The soldier was very young, maybe 18, and fancied my watch. He offered to swop his hat with red star for it. Two kids posed for a photo on an arch & I said I would write to him (address in back). We went slowly down a steep, slippery cobbled street & checked in at a 5 star hotel. Then I went out about 200 yards and sketched the Lead Mosque (see Page 52). I was pestered by kids, who all want "stilos" which means pen. Walked down the middle of the main street, with all the other
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hundreds of people taking their evening stroll. This really is very pleasant. Men, women, children, families, courting couples, young girls, youths, old people. They all
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walk in the middle of the road, no fear of traffic, the occasional bicycle bell. The heat of the day fading into the pleasant cool of the evening.

315. .....more

I walked & returned, in time to get a wash & change into posh clothes for evening meal. Sat with the Wills (he's 61? & retired, both tall & elegant, both have aristocratic noses & he has an infectious laugh). Also the bank manager & his attractive wife. She's Protestant, he's Catholic. From Cheltenham I think. Had a most pleasant evening with them, eating, drinking & talking. I went to my room at 1030, feel like an early night rather than walking round the dark streets

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Fri 04may1990
Had a good nights sleep, & got up at 6 am to make a sketch of the hill opposite the hotel. The view from our bedroom was better, but I felt I should get out, so I sat on the wall along the river's edge. We have no shower in our room, or toilet, and the toilet across the hall is pretty vile. There is no lift and we are on the 4th floor. I don't think its quite a 5-star hotel after all. Had breakfast with the elderly couple & the Danish woman. I started talking about the War, and they were fascinating to listen to. Their long-term memory seems to get better with age. Its another bright sunny
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Berat in Albania
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day again. I expect it will be hot. Looked around the Lead Mosque (nothing much inside) & the Mosque of the Batchelors (very fine display of country crafts -carving, embroidery etc.) I got a front seat on the bus & we drove to TIRANA. Its a fine city, not too big, clear air, backed by mountains, no traffic (or very little), wide straight streets. Much better quality of buildings than anything I have seen so far. Here are some titles on buildings:
Lart Frymen Revoluciones
Banka E Shtetit Shqiptar

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I am wandering round the centre of Tirana. It is 3 pm, and very hot in the sun, in a nearly cloudless sky. There are lots of people walking around, on wide pavements or on wide streets. Quite a few bikes, buses (articulated), vans, lorries, and the rare car (embassy, official but not private). Many trees shade the streets, & a lot of seats in the shade, which is most pleasant. About the only traffic lights in Albania are in Tirana. Shops are very difficult to spot, and boring when you go inside. Somewhere in Tirana is a shop containing something I want to buy, but where? I went to look at 3 busts just inside a wooded area off the main boulevard. A clicking noise turned out to be a guard with a rifle waving me away. Not far away was a street with at least
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6 armed soldiers, who waved me away when I tried to walk down it. In the next road I was waved onto the opposite pavement by yet another armed guard. I finally found the shops, in a street going West from the hotel. One of these, at the far end of the "shop", sold a few "non-essentials". I saw an inlaid wooden vase, poor quality back home, but here very much a luxury piece. I bought the one with horses on, not birds, the last thing they had of this sort. People are very friendly here. As I was sat on a wall, a young man told me by pointing that some money was falling out of my top pocket. I have tried to buy an ice-cream cone twice, but have been refused twice, when thay are selling it to children. Are they refusing
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for the good of my health or what? I don't think its a good idea to eat it anyway. I came across 4 girls (who may be gypsies) selling combs & small bottles, but when I approached they ran away in alarm. Maybe my appearance frightened them. Found a hard currency art shop, & bought a folk record (for Rosie), a Terracotta bust & a political booklet which I probably
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shant get out of the country. I gave them a £10 note, & they knocked the price down a bit. Did a bit more shopping, then by lift up to 12th floor (top floor) to our room No 8 & cleaned up in the rather primitive shower. Had evening meal with Skinhead Pete & a middle aged lady. Later went down to see the dancing & folk costumes put on for the tourists. The dresses were quite nice. Bed at 11.35 pm

Sat 05may1990
Yet another cloudless day. Up at 6, & went out into the square to sketch the clock tower. Apart from this, and the old Mosque nearby (I've already done a Mosque) all the other buildings, although very grand, are not interesting to draw.
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Clock Tower, Tirana, Albania
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At 7.30 am, everyone is off to work, walking, or packed tight into "concertinas" (articulated single decker buses) or cycling. From our bedroom on the 12th floor (the Hotel Tirana is the tallest building in the city) it looks like a Lowry painting, but without the factory chimneys.

320. Skanderbeg Square, Tirana, from the top of the Tourist Hotel .....more

After breakfast, we first went to look at an Ethnological Museum next to Hotel Tirana. It is the one with a very large, exciting mural on the front showing all the various peoples who have lived in Albania since historical times.

321. Mural in centre of Tirana.....more

Unfortunately, being 5th May and Martyr's day, it was closed but they let us in to have a quick look round. The quality of the displays is very good, up to the best Western standards.
I saw the original of the bust I had bought in the museum

4C. 4th C, Durres.....more

Later we stopped the coach
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1. Most want to develop heavy industry
(lot of minerals in Albania. Chromium No 1 in the world)
2. A lot of soldiers we see are people in military training.
3. We have seen no lawbreaking.
4. 2.5 million Albanians in osova in Jugoslavia, & they are discriminated against. They want to become a Republic. Albania has no territorial claims
again to see a museum about Skanderbeg, an Albanian hero who lived some 500 years ago, a huge tough looking chap with a great beak of a nose and a helmet with a horned goat or deer on top. Some of the realistic murals showing his battles I thought very good.
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We stopped for lunch at what we were told was a hunting lodge used by Count Ciano, who I think was the nephew of Mussolini. We got to the border about 6 pm. We handed our passports in and walked through the Albanian customs. I was first through, they didn't look either in my suitcase or shoulder bag. After collecting passports, we then had to walk the 100 yards through No-mans Land (a road) to the Jugoslav customs. I was caught by the Greek woman, who is a pain in the neck & had to carry her suitcase as well, she pleading a bad back. She had just blotted her copy book by walking to the front of the coach & trying to hand a tip to the driver just as we had got to the
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Albanian frontier and a soldier was standing in front of the coach. Tipping is explicitly forbidden in Albania and we had already been warned no to do this. She was told off by Sally, and retired hurt and upset. She has a knack of doing this sort of thing. At the Jugoslav custom post I was asked "Have you any Albanian literature?" I said no & was waived through. In fact I had a booklet about the Anti-Albanian policy of Britain in 1939-45, which would have been confiscated had I been caught. Most other people who had bought similar literature posted theirs to themselves, at considerable expense, while still in Albania. Once through to Jugoslavia & in a new coach, first
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impressions: Cars, prosperous and rubbish around. We drove through the beatiful evening to TITOGRAD & booked in to a central Hotel. Had a shower & changed & went out with Julian to look at Titograd. We failed to find a suitable restaurant, instead bought coca-cola, rolls, salami & tomatoes from a supermarket & ate these on some seats we found. Compared to Albania, this place is like "Sin-City". Cars are everywhere, so are youths. We were offered a girl by a taxi-driver who spoke French, so does Julian. The streets round here are crowded with young people. Cafes and "dives" abound. Pornography for sale, and all the "luxury" goods expected in the West. We filled our stomachs & continued walking. A young Jugoslav
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spat at the name of Albania. We walked a long way towards the outskirts of Titograd and back. Finally got to bed about 11 pm. There was a band blasting away four floors below, next to the hotel, but I went straight to sleep.

Sun 06may1990
I'm 50 today! Poor John. I was dreamng about doing a walking tour in Northern Ireland, & was just buying an Ordnance Survey map when we got a wake-up call on our phone at 5.40 am. I got ready slowly, then we heard the news that we had to be on the coach by 6.00 am instead of 6.30 am as we expected. Set off to the airport, which is small and not too crowded. I had breakfast of bacon & eggs, but
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because I was the only one at my table with enough dinars, I lost them all "contributing" to other people's eats. Bruce (with the gut and beard) & Pat (very feminine) came up to me and gave me a book of poetry, inscribed, for my 50th birthday, which they had managed to find out somewhere. How kind. We took off at 7.15 & got to BELGRADE, where we changed planes. Lounged arond for a bit, then boarded a Boeing 737 & reached DUBROVNIK at 1150 am. The coast looks good for swimming here - rock with islands. Continued on towards London, a flight of 2 k 45 minutes. During this I either slept or read
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from my v.interesting booklet "From the Annals of British Diplomacy" by Arben Puto", (The anti-Albanian plans of Great Britain during the Second World War according to foreign office documents of 1939-1944). King Zog was used as a puppet by our Foreign Office. The crucial question is "Can Albania exist without the support of a great power?" The British thought not, so who would be the great power? Descending now, SE of LONDON - no cloud! Dozens of large fields of yellow - presumably oil seed rape. Sun glinting off windows. Motorway snaking across the landscape. Large reservoirs. Thousands of houses
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A grey haze at the horizon. Every inch of the landscape flat & used, unlike Jugoslavia or Albania.


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Translation: "Thankful to our Working Class" [Rafail Luzi]

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Translation: "Enver Hoxha the flag of war and freedom for socialism" [Rafail Luzi]

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Party of Labour of Albania
The Party of Labour of Albania (Partia e Punės e Shqipėrisė, PPSh in Albanian, sometimes referred to as the Albanian Workers' Party) was the vanguard party of Albania during the communist period (1945–1991) as well as the only legal political party. It was founded on November 8, 1941, as the Communist Party of Albania (Partia Komuniste e Shqipėrisė), but its name was changed in 1948. In 1991, the party was succeeded by the Socialist Party of Albania.

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Enver Hoxha
Enver Halil Hoxha, (16 October 1908 – 11 April 1985) was the leader of Albania from 1944 until his death in 1985, as the First Secretary of the Party of Labour of Albania. He was chairman of the Democratic Front of Albania and commander-in-chief of the armed forces from 1944 until his death. He served as Prime Minister of Albania from 1944 to 1954 and at various times served as foreign minister and defence minister as well. The 40-year period of Hoxha's rule was politically characterized by the elimination of the opposition, prolific use of the death penalty or long prison terms of his political opponents and evictions from homes where their families lived and their internment in remote villages that were strictly controlled by police and the secret police (Sigurimi). His rule was also characterized by Stalinist methods to destroy his associates who threatened his own power. Economically, during his period, Albania became industrialised and saw rapid economic growth, as well as unprecedented progress in the areas of education and health. He focused on rebuilding the country which was left in ruins after World War II, building Albania's first railway line, eliminating adult illiteracy and leading Albania towards becoming agriculturally self-sufficient. Hoxha's government was characterized by his proclaimed firm adherence to anti-revisionist Marxism–Leninism from the mid-1970s onwards. After his break with Maoism in the 1976–1978 period, numerous Maoist parties declared themselves Hoxhaist. The International Conference of Marxist–Leninist Parties and Organizations (Unity & Struggle) is the best known association of these parties today.

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People's Socialist Republic of Albania (1976-1991)
Throughout this period Albania was trademark for its Stalinist style of state administration and policies stressing national unity and self-reliance. Travel and visa restrictions made Albania one of the most difficult countries to visit or travel from. It was the only Warsaw Pact member to formally withdraw from the alliance before 1990, which it did after the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. The first multi-party elections were held on 31 March, 1991 of which the communists held a majority in an interim government. The People's Socialist Republic was officially dissolved in 22 March, 1992 with the first parliamentary elections.

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At the time of the Albanian monarchy, the square was composed of a number of buildings that would eventually be detonated during the communist period. The square was composed of a roundabout with a fountain in the middle. Tirana's Old Bazaar used to be established on the grounds of modern-day Palace of Culture, the Orthodox Cathedral at present-day Tirana International Hotel, while the former Municipal building on the grounds of where the National History Museum is located nowadays. A statue of Joseph Stalin was erected where today Skanderbeg's statue is located. Besides the construction of the above new elements during communism, the statue of Albania's leader Enver Hoxha was erected at the space between the National History Museum and the Bank of Albania. Following the fall of communism in 1991, the statue would be removed amid student led demonstrations.

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This mural is found above the entrance to the National History Museum of Albania in the capital, Tirana. It dominates the city's central square, making it one of the most recognizable images of Tirana. The mural portrays proud and strong Albanians defending the territory of their country against foreign invaders during every period of the nation's history, including the ancient Illyrians, the resistance to Turkish rule led by Skanderbeg, the partisan fighters of World War Two and the communist era under Enver Hoxha. The only change that has been made since the end of the communist period is that a red star has been removed from the flag. The museum itself is equally fascinating and makes a great introduction to the complexities of Albanian history. A number of important artifacts were looted during the 1990's, but there is still an impressive collection of exhibits on display.

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Patos Marinza is an Albanian oil field that was discovered in 1928. It is the biggest on-shore oil field in Europe, and with its 11,854 barrels (1,884.6 m3) every day the biggest oil producing field in Albania. The Patos Marinza oil field is located 10 kilometres (6 mi) east of the city of Fier in south central Albania. Its proven reserves are about 2 billion barrels (320×10^6 m3). Patos Marinzas has only heavy oil and is in production since the 1930s.

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American Spyplane forced down during communist regime, in Gjirokaster Castle grounds. Picture of a derelict U.S. Air Force T-33A Shooting Star (s/n 51-4413) at the "National Weapons Museum" in Gjirokastra, Albania. The aircraft had been forced down on 23 December 1957. RT-33A 51-4413 of the USAF was forced to land in December 1957 at Rinas Airport (Albania) by a squadron of 2 Albanian MiG-15bis - on display at Gjirokastra Museum

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Mes Bridge (Albanian: Ura e Mesit "bridge in the middle") is a bridge in the village of Mes, about five kilometres (straight line) northeast of Shkodėr, in northwestern Albania. It was built in the 18th century, around 1780, by Kara Mahmud Bushati, the local Ottoman pasha, and it spans the Kir River. It is 108 m long, and represent one of the longest Ottoman bridges in the region. It was built as part of the road that goes up the Kir Valley, eventually to Pristina.

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