e shtunë, dhjetor 15, 2007

Wood burning stove.

Due to the lack of central heating, air conditioning, fan heaters or any kind of electrical or gas heating, the Albanians under communism relied on a stove in the kitchen to heat the room and also to cook. (Many families still do – especially in private houses)
This means a number of things.
1) The balcony in the apartment or the yard in the house was usually full of wood, and each summer you have to buy more. (In fact in very cold winters, sometimes you have to stock up on more wood during the winter period, which is always more expensive!)
2) You have to chop up the wood and store it in piles of blocks small enough to go into the wooden stove. This means chopping the wood up with an axe (hopefully sharp) in the yard or at the bottom of the apartment. ( Not being used EVER to chopping up wood, this proved to be difficult for me. It usually resulted in me getting the axe stuck in the wood!)
3) The wood needs to be taken to the balcony or yard and stored neatly in a pile. This is usually the women’s job. (It is at this point you have to hope that you do not live on the 5th floor of an apartment and have to climb up all the stairs carrying the wood! It is only the modern apartments that are being built that have elevators.)
4) Some wood needs to be chopped up into tiny little pieces in order to start the fire.

When I first arrived in Albania I was told to light the stove in the very cold winter morning when I got up, as all the Albanian family that I was staying with were at work or school. I lasted till the 10 year old came back from school and we lit the fire together. Well that’s not quite true!
I took 2 large blocks, stuffed newspaper underneath them and lit the newspaper….but of course the newspaper burned, but the wood was too big and never caught fire. We tried this until the newspaper was almost finished. It was then the 10 year old produced a bottle of “vaj gurit”( kerosene) and told me that his mother lit it sometimes with this. We tried again, but still no success. The boy took the bottle and threw some kerosene into the stove with the newspaper on fire. However, this just succeeded in lighting the bottle.
We were standing in the kitchen with no fire in the stove and a bottle of kerosene lit at the top and burning…and some drops which had landed on the floor and were alight were burning marks on the floor!
I managed to put the flames out on the floor and on the bottle and we sat for the rest of the afternoon in the cold.

However, I will say this.
Nothing beats coming home on a cold winter night to a room with a fire burning wooden logs.
Nothing beats the smell of the logs burning.
If you stock the stove just before you go to sleep…it can keep the room warm ALL night!

7 komente:

Anonim tha...

Ah yes, I remember the ritual of carrying woods up to our apartment as a child. It wasn't fun, but at least we lived on the second floor. You're right about people living on the 5th floor, everything was more difficult for them. 2nd and 3rd floor apartments were always more desirable. You also had to clean the stove every year, along with the exhaust tubes. That wasn't fun either. There were stoves using vaj guri as well (the wood ran out at some point I guess). I remember the queues/lines that had to be formed to get it as it was rationed. They would stretch for several blocks (one for men and one for women). A pleasant ritual on the other hand was toasting bread on the stove and eating with cheese and olives. Very cheap meal, but I still crave it now.

Eralda tha...

Carrying wood to our 3rd floor apartment was always a late summer ritual for my family. For some reason it was never too much of a problem. I think all of the kids of the apartment building (who were my friends) helped carrying the wood into the apartments, and that made it easier to get the job done for everybody.

You're right, I still can smell the burning wood and taste the yummy bread toasted on the stove and eaten with olives and "djathe te bardhe" (feta here in the states). Good times! Thanks for reviving such warm memories :)

Eralda tha...

Hahaha...I just read the comment from "anonymous," and it's funny that he/she mentioned the toasted bread with cheese and olives. Some things are too magical to be forgotten.

DAI tha...


you brought back memories of my youth in northern Italy during WWII - the wood burning stove was the only provider of heat and hot water for the whole family that lived mainly in the huge kitchen. In the evening, the still burning ashes were used to heat the beds (thru a funny looking gadget too long to describe here) in the icy cold bedrooms - slept beautifully for 12 years that way!

Thanks for your blog's entries and pictures - am enjoying them a lot, since I've a particular soft spot for Shkodra, where I also have very good friends. Look forward to visit it again next year. Meantime, best wishes for the holidays to you and family.


Anonim tha...

Hello, for a geo project i am researching shkoder. I am wanting to know what kind of holidays you celebrate? Thanks you

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