e martë, dhjetor 30, 2008

The sunset of another year

Some sunsets this past week.

e enjte, dhjetor 25, 2008

Genc Tukiçi - variation on an Albanian Theme (Video)

Saw the Christmas concert tonight on TVSH. At least I watched some of it...

I was very impressed with Genc Tukiçi's version of the Albanian National anthem. I thought it was absolutely fantastic.

Unfortunately I can't find a version of it on the internet, but here is another he did for TV Klan. This is also very, very good...but I still like the Albanian national anthem one better.

e mërkurë, dhjetor 24, 2008

Natë e Shenjtë! Natë e qetë!

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas!

here is one of my favourite carols sung at Christmas time. And here is a couple of translations into Albanian.

Natë e shenjtë! Natë e qetë!

Natë e shenjtë! Natë e qetë!
Janë në gjumë njer'zit krejt
Vetëm Jozefi edhe Maria
Janë të zgjuar me të shenjtin fëmijë
Fli me paqen qiellore!
Fli me paqen qiellore!

Natë e shenjtë! Natë e qetë!
Ç'dashuri! Zoti vetë
Si një foshnjë na u zbulua
Plot hare për të na shpëtuar
Ja, Jezusi u lind
Ja, Jezusi u lind

Natë e shenjtë! Natë e qetë!
Ca barinj me të shpejtë
Lajmet e engjëjve i dëgjuan
Edhe në Bethlehem vrapuan
Shpëtimtari u lind!
Shpëtimtari u lind!

Shetja natë (ALBANIAN - Gheg dialect)

Shetja natë e lumja natë
krejt janë fjetë veç kanë mbetë
shën Jozefi dhe Zoja Mri
rahatojnë te bukrin Fmi:
Flej me t’ambël gjum,
flej me t’ambël gjum.

Shejtja natë e bukra natë
Krishti Fmi Zojës Mri
qe, në prehen sa mirë po rri,
ejtë këndojnë me brohori:
Erdh i lum Mesi,
Erdh i lum Mesi!

Shetja natë e lumja natë
me shpejti vin bari
me shique ket bukuri
me adorue njiket Fmi:
Krishtin plot dashni,
Krishtin plot dashni.

Shejtja natë e bukra natë
o njerzim plot gëzim
heq mjerimin ti me shpejtim
kqyr ket Fmi, qi me ngushllim:
mbushi botën mbar,
mbushi botën mbar.

e hënë, dhjetor 22, 2008

All I want for Christmas is.....?

Well I certainly do not want these gifts!

1) An Albanian Christmas present.
Sound good?
Not according to Urban Dictionary.
It is described as an "unwelcome present"...as well as something else, which is not in my vocabulary!!

(Surely there is an e-mail address that I can write and complain to Urban Dictionary...or even better, a postal address, and I can send them an Albanian Christmas present!!)

2)A Merry Christmas Yard Sign

The hosts at Parking Site Corner certainly hope we all rush out to buy a yard sign wishing all our friends and neighbours a Merry Christmas.

It can be yours for $18 + post.

They also seem to be hoping that all our friends and neighbours ( and maybe us as well) are so drunk we don't notice that both words are misspelt.

3) An Albanian Christmas T-shirt

Here is what is advertised...
"Check out this great Albanian christmas T-shirt design from DustBuster Tee's collection of incredible gifts "
Unfortunately, they seem to think we are stupid enough to buy anything that is written in Albanian.

I mean it really is a bargain at only $24.85!!!! + post.

Come on, seriously - get a decent design!!

At least it is spelt correctly!
(Oh wait a minute....what is that funny squiggle above the "e" in Gëzuar. Oh no...we live in Albania NOT France!! That should be an "ë" not an acute accent!)

And so the winner is...
and I am not being sarcastic now, I would really like this for Christmas!

A Bottle of Skenderbeg Beer.

" Skenderbeg. Provo një birrë të fortë për burra të fortë:"

With directions to not put it in the fridge, and to not shake the bottle, and pour it with great care...it sounds like a great beer!

More information here.
Only problem is that it appears the beer is only available in the U.K.

Video Kejsi Tola - Me Merr Ne Enderr Eurovision 2009

Winner of Festivali i Kenges 47 in Tirana yesterday.

Good luck in Moscow for Eurovision 2009.

It's quite a catchy tune, and I think it has a chance of getting quite a few votes.

e hënë, dhjetor 08, 2008

Salloni i Vjeshtes - Art Show

Visited the recent show at the art gallery - "Salloni i Vjeshtes"

It was a collection of paintings from some Shkoder artists and also from the "Nentor" group in Tirana.
I'm not that qualified as an artist to give you a run down of all that was on display, but I will show some photos I took -especially of some paintings that I really liked.

This one of Father Zef Pellumbi.

Another of a typical street in Albania.

And my personal favourite, of a street scene in the mountains.

Apologies for the quality of the photos, but I took them with the mobile phone.

e martë, dhjetor 02, 2008

Festivali #47 TVSH

The festival is due to take place on 19th, 20th and 21st December.

The presenters this year will be Elsa Lila and a couple of the members from the group "The SHBLSH" - Julian Deda(right in photo above) and Gentian Zenelaj(left in photo above).

I must admit, I am not too keen on seeing Elsa Lila as presenter (again). I did not think she was very good last year, and I don't know why she doesn't just enter a song rather than be presenter.She's a far better singer than presenter.

They should have just left the guys to be presenters...

Anyway, not much information on the go, although we are less than 3 weeks away from the festival.

Of course the winner will go forward to represent Albania in the forthcoming Eurovision Song Contest.

This appears to be the line up...


Again I will go for my pick, before I even hear the songs...and as usual my pick will be nowhere near the final 3.
So my pick is...Adelina Thaçi.
Because Adrian Hila wrote her song, and his songs usually win.

It will be interesting to see if Soni Malaj wins...especially after she accused Serbia of stealing one of her songs when they won Eurovision in 2007.

e premte, nëntor 28, 2008

Gëzuar Ditën e Pavarësisë (Peaks of Shala - Rose Wilder Lane)

I am reading a great book just now called "Peaks of Shala" by Rose Wilder Lane.( Published in 1923)
I will post something when I finish.
But I found this part interesting -and by coincidence, I just happened to read it last night!

Mrs Lane has pneumonia, and is struggling to get back to Shkoder from Shala.
She is led by two Albanians and sheltering from the torrential rain in a cave, they find they are sharing the cave with a bandit. The bandit tells them this story...

"It was at this time that the chiefs of Kossova came secretly by night through the Serbian lines to the house of Ahmet Bey Mati, and I was called by Ahmet to take them to Valona. He said that a word would be spoken in Valona to make Albania free. I said to Ahmet:
"The Montenegrins hold Scutari and the seacoast even to San Giovanni, the European Powers are in Durrazo, the Serbs have Kossova and the Dibra, the Greeks are in the south. What is talk of freedom? This is not a time to talk; it is a time to fight."
Ahmet said
"Before the war cry, the council of chiefs."
Ahmet is chief of the Mati, head of the family that has ruled the Mati since the days of Scanderbeg. He was a boy of sixteen, newly come from the court of Sultan Abdul Hamid; he did not wear the clothes of the Malisori and the chiefs of the Mati laced his opangi before every battle, because he did not know how to lace opangi. Yet it must be said that it was his coming that saved the Mati from the Serbs. He came quickly killing seven horses between Monastir and Borelli and he told the chiefs what to do, and they saved the Mati. It was hot fighting. For five months he had been fighting and sleeping on rocks. His chiefs loved him.
"I said, "I am killing Serbs, and have no wish to go to Valona."
Ahmet said,
" When my father died, my older brother sent me from my country to the Turks, I do not know the trails. The chiefs of Kossova are my guests, and they do not know the trails. We must go to Valona through Elbassan where the Serbs are. There is a meeting of all the chiefs of Albania in Valona. If we are killed by the Serbs, there will be no chiefs of Malisori at the meeting. There will be only Toshks - men of the plains."
I said,
"Tonight the moon will be dark. We must start as soon as we can see the small stars."

" In three nights we were at the house of Asif Pasha in Elbassan. No, nothing disturbed us on the way, except that we were obliged to kill with our hands the dogs that sometimes came upon us from the villages. The Serbs were everywhere and we could not use our guns. When we came to the house of Asif Pasha, the chiefs of Kossova with Ahmet slept in one room, and I sat with Asif Pasha by the fire in another room. Elbassan was held by many hundred Serbian soldiers. At midnight five officers with thirty soldiers came to the door. They came in, and would not take coffee. They stood and said,
" Who are the twelve men who sleep tonight in this house? Do not lie for we know that they are here."
"Asif Pasha said,
"This is one of them"
I said,
" I will tell you who they are, but I beg you not to let them know that I have told. I am only a servant, and they are great chiefs. They are byraktors of five villages of the Mati, three villages of Shala and Shoshi. They have come to Elbassan to talk with the Serbs. They have come secretly, hiding from the other chiefs. I do not know why. I beg you not to tell them that I have told, for they are tired and dirty, and they are sleeping while the women clean their clothes so that they will be clean tomorrow when they go to speak to your chiefs."
"The officers sat down then and one of them wrote. He wrote the names of the chiefs as I gave them to him, and he wrote what I said, that the Malisori were tired of fighting, and had little ammunition, and did not like their chiefs that made them fight. While he wrote, Asif Pasha gave them rakejia, and more and more rakejia but no coffee. When the Serbs had become foolish I went to the other room where the chiefs were listening with their rifles in their hands, and I took them all by a way I knew, out of Elbassan.
" So we came to Valona, the the house of Ismail Kemal Bey Vlora, the same who had been Grand Vizier of Abdul Hamid. He had come on an Austrian warship to Durrazo, and there they had tried to kill him, and he had come secretly, as we had come to Valona. Valona was the only free village in Albania then, except our mountain villages. There was a council in his house. Chiefs of all the tribes from Kossova to Janina were there, and when the council was ended Ismail Kemal Bey brought the flag of Scanderbeg, which had always been hidden in his house, and with a rope he made it run to the top of as pole in his house. It was the red flag with the two headed black eagle on it. I stood in the street and saw it go to the top of the pole. The chiefs were on the balcony, and Ismail Kemal Bey wept. Many men had tears on their cheeks. In the street they cried, "Roft Shqiperia!" and embraced one another. They said that the spirit of Scanderbeg lived, and that Albania was free"

e enjte, nëntor 13, 2008

Dhori Qiriazi

I should have included this in the last post. To be honest i forgot I had this information, and only discovered it today, but still the last post was long enough without this!. Here is some information on Dhori Qiriazi.

( I find it interesting that he has written "Krishterimi në Shqiperi: botohet me rastin e 2000 vjetorit te Krishterimit në Shiperi". I wonder if he is any relation to Gjerasim Qiriazi. That I have not found out yet!)

from the Irvine Burns Club

A special item is the Works of Burns, translated into Albanian, by Dhori Qiriazi, who sent us two copies, one of which is in our library, the other of which we have presented to the Mitchell Library, Glasgow, to include in its excellent Burns section.
Robert Bërns, Poezi, dhe një ese nga T. Karlajli ne shqip nga origjinali: Dhori Qiriazi (Poems: The essay of Thomas Carlyle and Translations from the orginals by Dhori Qiriazi)
Dhori Qiriazi inscribed the volumes: "To Irvine Burns Club - In admiration for my most beloved poet and the most sincere poet in the world. 9 March 2003".
When we sent him booklets, he wrote back: "I saw the photo of the Irvine statue of Robert Burns and I think this is the best statue of the poet that I have seen till now. Also I wish to compliment Colin Hunter McQueen for his album of the life of Robert Burns. My translation of the verses of Robert Burns into Albanian lasted fifteen years and it is the first - and only - translation in Albanian of him from the original language. I am glad to say the poet has lost nothing of his flavour in Albanian. To the crown of world poetry Robert Burns, I am sure, is the brightest jewel. He is very sincere and wrote in an unaffected way the truth and only the truth."
For a flavour of Albanian, here are the lines from Tam O'Shanter, which start "O Tam, had'st thou but been sae wise" where lines 3-6 are telling Tam off for being a "drunken blellum":
O Tam, ti s'mbajte në rradake
asnjë këshillë të Kates sate:
"Një grosh nuk vlen, të thotë, lum miku,
kur flet me grahma pijaniku,
se të gjithë vitin, gjer në fund,
çdo ditë pazari bëhesh thumb!"

I was born on 16 December 1932 in the village of Lëngëzë near the Erseka town in the region of Kolonja in south-eastern Albania. I have studied at the Faculty of History and Philology of the University of Tirana. In 1958 I'm graduated in Albanian language, literature and history. I have worked as a teacher of Albanian language and literature in Erseka and in the region of Kolonja from 1958 till 1988.
I began publishing in the 50' s in varying kinds of publications. From 1958 I have published several verse collections: Kur zemra rreh së pari ('When the heart first beats') 1958, Ballada intime ('Intimate ballad') 1963, (second edition in 2001), Poema e ushtarit ('A soldier's poem') 1968, Pishat me kristale ('The crystal torch') 1971, Vitet ('Years') 1982, Kukuli dhe shigjeta ('Kukul and the arrow' - satires) 1984.

I have also published several short stories. After 1982 I began to focus more on translation work. I know Russian language and I have translated several authors as well as Pushkin, Esenin, Necrasov, Tolstoy, etc.
In the 70's I began to learn English. In 1984 I had translated the book you have now with selected poems songs and ballads of Bums. Some of them are: Tam 0 'Shanter, The Jolly Beggars, The Twa Dogs, The Brigs of Ayr, Poor Mailie's Elegy, Scotch Drink, To a Mouse, Holy Willie's Prayer, John Anderson, My Jo, Mary Morison, My Love is like a Red Red Rose (My Luve's like a red red rose), Afton Water, Duncan Gray, Scots Wha Hae, etc. This book was published only in 1998 with the title: Poetry and an essay by Thomas Carlyle. I have also translated from English George Byron, John Keats, John Cam Hobhouse (A Journey through Albania), etc.
I have translated from Italian language the Italian classical poet Petrarca (The Book of Songs), the poet Salvatore Quasimodo, Leopardi, etc.
I have written a few historical research books: Krishterimi në Shqipëri ('Christianity in Albania'), Dhimitër Kamarda (an Albanian-arbëresh linguist) and I have translated also from Italian language a historical book of Gjon Muzaka (Remembrances) a prince and a general of our national hero Scanderbeg.

I include Qiriazi's translation of the classic "A red, red rose" again by Robert Burns.

Dashuria ime

Si trëndafil më je, moj dashuri,
që hapet në qershor
dhe kaq e ëmbël rrjedh si melodi
që derdhet nga një kor

Si ty moj çupë kurrë nuk kam hasur,
të dua, dot s'përmbahem,
do të të dua ty gjithmonë, e dashur,
gjer detet krejt të thahen.

E dashur, gjer të thahen detet
gjithnjë do të të dua,
gjer guri copa-copa të tretet,
të bjerë baltë mbi mua.

Ah, lamtumirë e vetmja dashuri
ah, lamtumirë për pak
nga fundi i dheut do vija përsëri
tek ty, po t'isha larg.

Burns Original

O, my luve's like a red, red rose,
That's newly sprung in June.
O, my luve's like the melodie,
That's sweetly play'd in tune.
As fair art thou, my bonie lass,
So deep in luve am I,
And I will luve thee still, my Dear,
Till a' the seas gang dry.
Till a' the seas gang dry, my Dear,
And the rocks melt wi' the sun!
O I will luve thee still, my Dear,
While the sands o' life shall run.
And fare thee weel, my only Luve,
And fare thee weel a while!
And I will come again, my Luve,
Tho' it were ten thousand mile!

e mërkurë, nëntor 12, 2008

Tam O'Shanter

This is a long post, so I hope you have the patience to read it!

I recently found a book that I have been wanting to read for some time.
“Poezi” dhe nje ese nga T. Karlajli në Shqip nga origjinali by Dhori Qiriazi.
The book is a collection of (translated) poems by Robert Burns.

I found this interesting as I am interested in Dhori Qiriazi.
I still am on the lookout for his book on Christinaity in Albania, but back to his Burns translations.
What really interested me, was not the fact that the Irvine Burns Club have made him an honarary member for his translations of Burns poetry, but what struck me was the fact that he had translated my favourite of all Burn’s poems, maybe even my favourite poem – Tam O’Shanter.

As a young lad at school we were taught Scottish history, and Scottish poems, and although it must be over 30 years ago, I can still remember the teacher’s joy as she taught us the delights of Burns’ writing – especially Tam O’Shanter.

There is something about this poem that connects with me....
I cannot explain it.
Maybe it is the rhythym of the poem, building up slowly till the chase takes place. (Please watch the you tube video- even though you may not understand it - to get an idea of the change of speed in the poem).
Maybe it is humour in the poem – there are some really good “auld Scots” words in the poem.
(O Tam! had'st thou but been sae wise,
As taen thy ain wife Kate's advice!
She tauld thee weel thou was a skellum,
A blethering, blustering, drunken blellum;
Maybe it is the fact that we all have drunk too much and done something stupid….
But, this is a favourite of mine.

I was very interested to read how Qiriazi had translated the poem, and I must be honest, that although it is not word for word – a very difficult task indeed. His translation is absolutely fantastic. He really gets across the spirit of the poem.

When I first came to Albania in 1994, I remember passing a shop with some books on sale. An Albanian with me told me that they had translated Burns into Albanian. I refused to believe him, I told him that there was no way an Albanian could first of all understand the Scottish language, and secondly, there was no way of conveying the picture into Albanian.
I was wrong!
Dhori Qiriazi has proved that it can be done – and it can be done very well!!

This poem is an absolute delight.

I have included it here, and also after a video of the poem in Scots, and also the text.
I hope you enjoy it.

( You must realise that Burns is commenting on Scottish life – there is much humour, and social comment in this poem. His patient wife Katie waiting at home for the drunken Tam to return. Tam with his friend Souter Johnnie drinking buddies. B
ut still there are some of the most beautiful poetry ever written.
But pleasures are like poppies spread,
You seize the flower, its bloom is shed;
Or like the snow falls in the river,
A moment white--then melts for ever;

You must also realise that witches cannot cross running water – so a safe place for Tam was to cross a bridge over the River Doun)

Tam O’Shentër

Kurçertexhitë lënë rrugën shkret
Dhe shoku shokun përshendet,
Pazari shuhet, afron nata
E nisen njerëzit nëper fshatra,
Të bëjm’ orgji, seç na vjen mirë,
E na ndez flakë një kriko birrë,
harrojmë të Skocisë udhë
Me gardhe, ura, ujra shumë
Që na ndajn’ ne edhe shtëpinë,
Ku zonjat tona kanë selinë
Dhe tok me vetull ngrehin shqotë,
Sikur t’i mbajë inati ngrohtë.

Kështu u ndodh në Er, në qendër,
Një nat’ i ndershmi Tam O’Shentër,
(megjithse Eri i lasht’ me ura,
Nuk shquhet shumë për gra dhe burra).

O Tam, ti s’mbajte në rradake
Asnjë këshillë të Kates sate:
“Një groshë nuk vlen, të thotë, lum miku,
Kur flet me grahma pijaniku,
Se të gjithë vitin, gjer në fund,
Çdo ditë pazari bëhësh thumb!”

Me një mullis u bëtë shokë
E pit’ të dy sa ratë në tokë,
Po ti çdo nat’ ia shtroke mirë
Me farkëtarë u frytë në birrë,
Në kabare na hyn të shtunë
E del të hënën, ti, o lumë!
Siç parasheh ajo e mjerë
Në Dun do mbytesh ndonjëherë,
O se te kish e Alloisë
Djajt do të zënë në netët pisë.”

“Ah, xhan, o grua, shpirt, o xhan,
Me ç’porosi më bën derman!
Si ta përçmoj qortimin tënd
Që burrin do të sjellë ndër mend ?!”

Mirëpo një natë, ç’ta përmend,
Ky Tamiynë e pa me vend
T’ia shtronte prapë me të pirë...
Valonte shkumba përmbi birrë,
Dy miqt e vjetër pranë një zjarri:
Ai dhe Jani këpucari
Që donte Tami porsi vëllanë,
Të dy ia shtronin jave për javë.

Po këtë nat’ u bënë shumë,
Si pinë bënë dhe rrëmujë
Dhe kabaresha mërmliste
Me Tamin ëmbël diçka fliste.
Për bëma fliste këpucari
Të tjerët qeshnin, ah, qyqari
Dhe Tami s’mori vesh më shumë
Qe vërshëllimë, apo furtunë.

A kini parë ndonjëhere mirë
Kur marinarët na gjejnë birrë?
Si bletër mblidhin, zhuzhullojnë,
Me krahë minutat fluturojnë,
M’i fort nga mbreti në nj’oborr
Këtu del Tami triumfator!

Mirëpo dëfrimi si lulukuqet
Që bien fletët sapo këputet,
O si dëbora që bie në lumë
Që sa zbardh pak e bëhët ujë,
A si gushkuqi që kund s’qendron
E mer në shenjë, të fluturon,
O si ylber me ngjyrë të qartë
Që shkrin në qiellin me shtërngatë,
Ah, koha ikën, s’mund të ndalet,
Për Tamin erdh një çast të ndahet,
Po nata ish e zezë, pisë,
Mërzija sillej si një bishë;
U nis ai në natën varr,
Në rrugë gjëkund s’kish udhëtar.

Po frynte erë e shfrynte tepër,
Kërciste trendafili i egër
Dhe larg rrufeja shkrepëtinte,
Dhe thellë e rëndë bubullinte,
Në net të tilla, lemeri,
Veç djalli del bën tregëti.

Shaloi Megin, pelën gri,
Që kush s’ia del për shpejtësi
Dhe fluturoi me të për pakë
Nuk pyeti për shi, për flakë.
Kapuçi blu nga pas i mbet,
Me mend po thoshte një sonet
Dhe tek po ecte pa merak,
I ngjau se e kapi një lugat,
Si kukuvajk’ u ndje një klithmë
Aty të kish e Alloisë.

Aty ish shkëmbi, o lum miku,
Ku qafën theu Çarl Pianiku,
Ku në mes ferrash, në gërmadhë,
Ish gjetur një ferishte e vrarë
Dhe ku nën degët në çinar,
E ëm’ e Margos na u var;
Në vah sa kishte kapërcyer
Kish ngar’ e fryma i qe rrëmbyer.

Shkumbonte Duni përmbi gurë,
Shtërngata çirrej nëpër drurë,
Rrufeja qiellin mbushte zjarr,
Gjëmimi mblidhej si vilar,
Kur ja, mes drurësh zu të ndritë
Kjo kishëza e Alloisë.
Nën atë dritë, atë mazgalle
Dikush kërcente, hidhej valle.

“më jep guxim, o Xhon fisnik* * i flet birres
Tani që ndodhem në rrezik!
Pse pimë pak birrë ne nga halli
Një pikëz visk, të na marrë djalli?”
Kështu ky Tami na tha broçkull
Nga birra mend’ i vinin rrotull,
U ndal kjo Megi me dinjitet
Desh të qertonte të zotn’ e vet
E bëri para me trimëri,
Kur Tami vetë pa një çudi:

Skelete kërcisnin, magjistare,
Një kotilon nga Franca marrë,
I binin bririt hidhëshin rëndë, sikur të shkelnin dhe ty me këmbë.
Mbi një dritare, në ca parvazë,
plakushi Nik* u shfaq si shtazë *djalli
si qen i zi po turfullonte
atë muzik’ ai drejtonte,
pastaj ktheu bririn, fryri fort,
u mbush çatia me shpirtra plot.
Zun’ e rrethonin me ulurimë
Të gjithë të veshur qenë me qefinë,
Si djalli vetë bënin dredhi
Në duar mbanin nga një qiri.

E cili Tam, cili qyqar
S’do kthente syt’ përmbi altar
Të shihte varur dy ferishte
Me dy si gremçe, hekurishte,

Dhe një kaçak me thikën gjak
Me to po qeshte si torollak!
Pesë me ndryshk, kishin ca shpata
Dhe pesë në duar kishin spata.

Një fashë llastiku foshnjën mbyste,
Një thik një bab’ po e përmbyste,
Ish biri i tij qe e shkelmonte
Atë flokëbardhë që po mbaronte.
Ah ç’poshtersi, në shpirt të ther
Sa keq, sa vaj, sa tmerr!

Sa pa ky Tami, sa qe përmendur,
Shpertheu një çast një klithm e çmendur
Një fyell çirrej si një i marrë
Me shpejt vraponin gjith kërcimtarët,
U bënë gardh, zën krah për krah,
Në udhë i dolën përball’ ca gra,
I flakën leckat ato mbi kishë,
Mben lakuriq, veç nder këmishë.

He, Tam, o Tam, pse ta bësh hasha,
Ato s’qenë gra, po ishin vasha,
në ca këmishë në ngjyrë jëshile,
si top dëbore, gargi, bandille!
Të brennëshmet mbanin përmbi vithe
Dhe flokët blu, të butë, kadife.
Ti mer e jep, kush ta di hallë,
ato me sy, fët me qepallë
edhe sakaq na qenë zverdhur,
tamam si mëzet që sa kanë zvjerdhur.
Pickojnë, të ngasin nga meraku,
Çudi, të dridhet vetë stomaku!

Po Tami zgjodhi. Kish dëshirë
Atë që ishte yll, e mirë,
Që dinte nder t’i bënte mikut
(u ndodh në vahun e Kërrikut
Kur ajo vëtë iu kthye bishe
E zu përqark gjithçka të prishë
Po shkelte elb, e bimë, e drithë)
Këmish’ e saj na ishte endur
Atje në Pejzlin e përmendur
Që i bëjn çupat lozonjare
Edhe për to të jenë krenare.
Atë këmishë, ta themi ndryshe,
Asaj ia bleu e gjora gjyshe,
Po Nënit nuk i vajti mbarë,
Kërcen tani me magjistarë!

Po këtu Muza ime e ngratë
Lë të pushojë, të çlodhet pak,
Mjaft tha për Nënin si kerceu
(si xhinde ish, s’e mbante dheu)
Qysh Tami griu si me magji,
Ç’mendoi e ç’pa me syt e tij,
Si fryu e ç’ndodhi pas kësaj,si e përqeshi satanaj,
Që nga fillimi në mbarim,
Kur humbi çdo arsyetim
Dhe thirri: “Rroft këmish e shkurtër!”
Dhe erdhi ai çast i bukur,
Kur ia dha vrapit Megi i tij,
Sikur ta ndiqte një ushtri!

Siç ngrihen bletët me potere,
Kur djali i prap’ godit kosheren,
Si ther një lepur me xigua,
Kur brrof e ndjek pas një langua,
Siç turret cubi nëpër treg,
Kur “kapeni” gjithkush thërret,
U sul kjo Megi, ngriti bishtin,
Dhe djaj e shpirtra pas e ndiqnin.

Ah, Tam, o Tam, ç’shpërblim po merr,
Si peshk do thekesh ti në ferr,
dhe vajit Katja do t’ia mbushë,
do mbetet kaq e re vejushë!

Tash fluturim, moj Megi, merr,
Të kalosh urën mbi qemer
Dhe ngrie bishtin, qimeshumin,
Me aq guxim, si kërcen lumin!
Por ah, ku kulmi i urës hapet
Vetë satanaj pas bishti kapet!
E mira Meg terheq një çast
Dhe Nënin vetë e le nga pas
Më larg guximshëm po vraponte
Mbi të dhe Tami fluturonte
Të zotin jasht’ rreikut qiti,
Kur “frrap” u ndje, iu këput bishti,
Kjo shtig iu hodh pas mizorisht,
Të gjorën Meg e la pa bisht.

Kush këtë ngjarje të lexojë
Bir nënë qoftë të mos kuptojë,
Kur pi e birrës i përkulet
Atë këmishën mbetur çule
Dhe Tam O’Shentrin, sigurisht
Të tijën pelë që mbet pa bisht.

Here is the original version....and followed for the less fortunate , by a translation into English.! :-(

Tam o' Shanter (Original)
When chapmen billies leave the street,
And drouthy neibors, neibors meet,
As market days are wearing late,
An' folk begin to tak the gate;
While we sit bousing at the nappy,
And getting fou and unco happy,
We think na on the lang Scots miles,
The mosses, waters, slaps, and styles,
That lie between us and our hame,
Where sits our sulky sullen dame.
Gathering her brows like gathering storm,
Nursing her wrath to keep it warm.
This truth fand honest Tam o' Shanter,
As he frae Ayr ae night did canter,
(Auld Ayr, wham ne'er a town surpasses
For honest men and bonie lasses.)
O Tam! had'st thou but been sae wise,
As ta'en thy ain wife Kate's advice!
She tauld thee weel thou was a skellum,
A blethering, blustering, drunken blellum;
That frae November till October,
Ae market-day thou was nae sober;
That ilka melder, wi' the miller,
Thou sat as lang as thou had siller;
That every naig was ca'd a shoe on,
The smith and thee gat roaring fou on;
That at the Lord's house, even on Sunday,
Thou drank wi' Kirkton Jean till Monday.
She prophesied that late or soon,
Thou would be found deep drown'd in Doon;
Or catch'd wi' warlocks in the mirk,
By Alloway's auld haunted kirk.
Ah, gentle dames! it gars me greet,
To think how mony counsels sweet,
How mony lengthen'd, sage advices,
The husband frae the wife despises!
But to our tale:-- Ae market-night,
Tam had got planted unco right;
Fast by an ingle, bleezing finely,
Wi' reaming swats, that drank divinely
And at his elbow, Souter Johnny,
His ancient, trusty, drouthy crony;
Tam lo'ed him like a vera brither--
They had been fou for weeks thegither!
The night drave on wi' sangs and clatter
And ay the ale was growing better:
The landlady and Tam grew gracious,
wi' favours secret,sweet and precious
The Souter tauld his queerest stories;
The landlord's laugh was ready chorus:
The storm without might rair and rustle,
Tam did na mind the storm a whistle.
Care, mad to see a man sae happy,
E'en drown'd himsel' amang the nappy!
As bees flee hame wi' lades o' treasure,
The minutes wing'd their way wi' pleasure:
Kings may be blest, but Tam was glorious.
O'er a' the ills o' life victorious!
But pleasures are like poppies spread,
You sieze the flower, its bloom is shed;
Or like the snow falls in the river,
A moment white--then melts for ever;
Or like the borealis race,
That flit ere you can point their place;
Or like the rainbow's lovely form
Evanishing amid the storm.--
Nae man can tether time or tide;
The hour approaches Tam maun ride;
That hour, o' night's black arch the key-stane,
That dreary hour he mounts his beast in;
And sic a night he taks the road in
As ne'er poor sinner was abroad in.
The wind blew as 'twad blawn its last;
The rattling showers rose on the blast;
The speedy gleams the darkness swallow'd
Loud, deep, and lang, the thunder bellow'd:
That night, a child might understand,
The Deil had business on his hand.
Weel mounted on his gray mare, Meg--
A better never lifted leg--
Tam skelpit on thro' dub and mire;
Despisin' wind and rain and fire.
Whiles holding fast his gude blue bonnet;
Whiles crooning o'er some auld Scots sonnet;
Whiles glowring round wi' prudent cares,
Lest bogles catch him unawares:
Kirk-Alloway was drawing nigh,
Whare ghaists and houlets nightly cry.
By this time he was cross the ford,
Whare, in the snaw, the chapman smoor'd;
And past the birks and meikle stane,
Whare drunken Chairlie brak 's neck-bane;
And thro' the whins, and by the cairn,
Whare hunters fand the murder'd bairn;
And near the thorn, aboon the well,
Whare Mungo's mither hang'd hersel'.--
Before him Doon pours all his floods;
The doubling storm roars thro' the woods;
The lightnings flash from pole to pole;
Near and more near the thunders roll:
When, glimmering thro' the groaning trees,
Kirk-Alloway seem'd in a bleeze;
Thro' ilka bore the beams were glancing;
And loud resounded mirth and dancing.
Inspiring bold John Barleycorn!
What dangers thou canst make us scorn!
Wi' tippeny, we fear nae evil;
Wi' usquabae, we'll face the devil!--
The swats sae ream'd in Tammie's noddle,
Fair play, he car'd na deils a boddle.
But Maggie stood, right sair astonish'd,
Till, by the heel and hand admonish'd,
She ventured forward on the light;
And, wow! Tam saw an unco sight
Warlocks and witches in a dance;
Nae cotillion brent-new frae France,
But hornpipes, jigs strathspeys, and reels,
Put life and mettle in their heels.
A winnock-bunker in the east,
There sat auld Nick, in shape o' beast;
A towzie tyke, black, grim, and large,
To gie them music was his charge:
He scre'd the pipes and gart them skirl,
Till roof and rafters a' did dirl.--
Coffins stood round, like open presses,
That shaw'd the dead in their last dresses;
And by some develish cantraip slight,
Each in its cauld hand held a light.--
By which heroic Tam was able
To note upon the haly table,
A murders's banes in gibbet-airns;
Twa span-lang, wee, unchristen'd bairns;
A thief, new-cutted frae a rape,
Wi' his last gasp his gab did gape;
Five tomahawks, wi blude red-rusted;
Five scymitars, wi' murder crusted;
A garter, which a babe had strangled;
A knife, a father's throat had mangled,
Whom his ain son o' life bereft,
The gray hairs yet stack to the heft;
Wi' mair o' horrible and awfu',
Which even to name was be unlawfu'.
Three lawyers' tongues, turn'd inside out,
Wi' lies seam'd like a beggar's clout;
Three priests' hearts, rotten, black as muck,
Lay stinking, vile in every neuk.
As Tammie glowr'd, amaz'd, and curious,
The mirth and fun grew fast and furious;
The piper loud and louder blew;
The dancers quick and quicker flew;
They reel'd, they set, they cross'd, they cleekit,
Till ilka carlin swat and reekit,
And coost her duddies to the wark,
And linket at it her sark!
Now Tam, O Tam! had thae been queans,
A' plump and strapping in their teens,
Their sarks, instead o' creeshie flannen,
Been snaw-white seventeen hunder linnen!
Thir breeks o' mine, my only pair,
That ance were plush, o' gude blue hair,
I wad hae gi'en them off my hurdies,
For ae blink o' the bonie burdies!
But wither'd beldams, auld and droll,
Rigwoodie hags wad spean a foal,
Louping and flinging on a crummock,
I wonder did na turn thy stomach!
But Tam kend what was what fu' brawlie:
There was ae winsome wench and waulie,
That night enlisted in the core,
Lang after ken'd on Carrick shore;
(For mony a beast to dead she shot,
And perish'd mony a bonie boat,
And shook baith meikle corn and bear,
And kept the country-side in fear.)
Her cutty-sark, o' Paisley harn
That while a lassie she had worn,
In longitude tho' sorely scanty,
It was her best, and she was vauntie,-
Ah! little ken'd thy reverend grannie,
That sark she coft for he wee Nannie,
Wi' twa pund Scots, ('twas a' her riches),
Wad ever grac'd a dance of witches!
But here my Muse her wing maun cour;
Sic flights are far beyond her pow'r;
To sing how Nannie lap and flang,
(A souple jade she was, and strang),
And how Tam stood, like ane bewitch'd,
And thought his very een enrich'd;
Even Satan glowr'd, and fidg'd fu' fain,
And hotch'd and blew wi' might and main;
Till first ae caper, syne anither,
Tam tint his reason ' thegither,
And roars out, "Weel done, Cutty-sark!"
And in an instant all was dark:
And scarcely had he Maggie rallied,
When out the hellish legion sallied.
As bees bizz out wi' angry fyke,
When plundering herds assail their byke;
As open pussie's mortal foes,
When, pop! she starts before their nose;
As eager runs the market-crowd,
When "Catch the thief!" resounds aloud;
So Maggie runs, the witches follow,
Wi' mony an eldritch skriech and hollo.
Ah, Tam! ah, Tam! thou'll get thy fairin'!
In hell they'll roast thee like a herrin'!
In vain thy Kate awaits thy commin'!
Kate soon will be a woefu' woman!
Now, do thy speedy utmost, Meg,
And win the key-stane o' the brig;
There at them thou thy tail may toss,
A running stream they dare na cross.
But ere the key-stane she could make,
The fient a tail she had to shake!
For Nannie, far before the rest,
Hard upon noble Maggie prest,
And flew at Tam wi' furious ettle;
But little wist she Maggie's mettle -
Ae spring brought off her master hale,
But left behind her ain gray tail;
The carlin claught her by the rump,
And left poor Maggie scarce a stump.
No, wha this tale o' truth shall read,
Ilk man and mother's son take heed;
Whene'er to drink you are inclin'd,
Or cutty-sarks run in your mind,
Think! ye may buy joys o'er dear -
Remember Tam o' Shanter's mare.

Tam o' Shanter (Translation)
When the peddler people leave the streets,
And thirsty neighbours, neighbours meet;
As market days are wearing late,
And folk begin to take the road home,
While we sit boozing strong ale,
And getting drunk and very happy,
We don’t think of the long Scots miles,
The marshes, waters, steps and stiles,
That lie between us and our home,
Where sits our sulky, sullen dame (wife),
Gathering her brows like a gathering storm,
Nursing her wrath, to keep it warm.
This truth finds honest Tam o' Shanter,
As he from Ayr one night did canter;
Old Ayr, which never a town surpasses,
For honest men and bonny lasses.
Oh Tam, had you but been so wise,
As to have taken your own wife Kate’s advice!
She told you well you were a waster,
A rambling, blustering, drunken boaster,
That from November until October,
Each market day you were not sober;
That instead of milling with the miller,
You sat as long as you had money,
For every horse he put a shoe on,
The blacksmith and you got roaring drunk on;
That at the Lords House, even on Sunday,
You drank with Kirkton Jean till Monday.
She prophesied, that, late or soon,
You would be found deep drowned in Doon,
Or caught by warlocks in the murk,
By Alloway’s old haunted church.
Ah, gentle ladies, it makes me cry,
To think how many counsels sweet,
How much long and wise advice
The husband from the wife despises!
But to our tale :- One market night,
Tam was seated just right,
Next to a fireplace, blazing finely,
With creamy ales, that drank divinely;
And at his elbow, Cobbler Johnny,
His ancient, trusted, thirsty crony;
Tom loved him like a very brother,
They had been drunk for weeks together.
The night drove on with songs and clatter,
And every ale was tasting better;
The landlady and Tam grew gracious,
With secret favours, sweet and precious;
The cobbler told his queerest stories;
The landlord’s laugh was ready chorus:
Outside, the storm might roar and rustle,
Tam did not mind the storm a whistle.
Strange to see a man so happy,
Even have drowned himself in his ale.
As bees fly home with loads of treasure,
The minutes winged their way with pleasure:
Kings may be blessed, but Tam was glorious,
Over all the ills of life victorious.
But pleasures are like poppies spread:
You seize the flower, its bloom is shed;
Or like the snow fall on the river,
A moment white - then melts forever,
Or like the Aurora Borealis rays,
That move before you can point to where they're placed;
Or like the rainbow’s lovely form,
Vanishing amid the storm.
No man can tether time or tide,
The hour approaches Tom must ride:
That hour, of night’s black arch - the key-stone,
That dreary hour he mounts his beast in
And such a night he takes to the road in
As never a poor sinner had been out in.
The wind blew as if it had blown its last;
The rattling showers rose on the blast;
The sspeedy gleams the darkness swallowed,
Loud, deep and long the thunder bellowed:
That night, a child might understand,
The Devil had business on his hand.
Well mounted on his grey mare, Meg.
A better never lifted leg,
Tom, raced on through mud and mire,
Despising wind and rain and fire;
Whilst holding fast his good blue bonnet,
While crooning over some old Scots sonnet,
Whilst glowering round with prudent care,
Lest ghosts catch him unaware:
Alloway’s Church was drawing near,
Where ghosts and owls nightly cry.
By this time he was across the ford,
Where in the snow the pedlar got smothered;
And past the birch trees and the huge stone,
Where drunken Charlie broke his neck bone;
And through the thorns, and past the monument,
Where hunters found the murdered child;
And near the thorn, above the well,
Where Mungo’s mother hung herself.
Before him the river Doon pours all his floods;
The doubling storm roars throught the woods;
The lightnings flashes from pole to pole;
Nearer and more near the thunder rolls;
When, glimmering through the groaning trees,
Alloway’s Church seemed in a blaze,
Through every gap , light beams were glancing,
And loud resounded mirth and dancing.
Inspiring, bold John Barleycorn! (whisky)
What dangers you can make us scorn!
With ale, we fear no evil;
With whisky, we’ll face the Devil!
The ales so swam in Tam’s head,
Fair play, he didn’t care a farthing for devils.
But Maggie stood, right sore astonished,
Till, by the heel and hand admonished,
She ventured forward on the light;
And, wow! Tom saw an incredible sight!
Warlocks and witches in a dance:
No cotillion, brand new from France,
But hornpipes, jigs, strathspeys, and reels,
Put life and mettle in their heels.
In a window alcove in the east,
There sat Old Nick, in shape of beast;
A shaggy dog, black, grim, and large,
To give them music was his charge:
He screwed the pipes and made them squeal,
Till roof and rafters all did ring.
Coffins stood round, like open presses,
That showed the dead in their last dresses;
And, by some devilish magic sleight,
Each in its cold hand held a light:
By which heroic Tom was able
To note upon the holy table,
A murderer’s bones, in gibbet-irons;
Two span-long, small, unchristened babies;
A thief just cut from his hanging rope -
With his last gasp his mouth did gape;
Five tomahawks with blood red-rusted;
Five scimitars with murder crusted;
A garter with which a baby had strangled;
A knife a father’s throat had mangled -
Whom his own son of life bereft -
The grey-hairs yet stack to the shaft;
With more o' horrible and awful,
Which even to name would be unlawful.
Three Lawyers’ tongues, turned inside out,
Sown with lies like a beggar’s cloth -
Three Priests’ hearts, rotten, black as muck
Lay stinking, vile, in every nook.
As Thomas glowered, amazed, and curious,
The mirth and fun grew fast and furious;
The piper loud and louder blew,
The dancers quick and quicker flew,
They reeled, they set, they crossed, they linked,
Till every witch sweated and smelled,
And cast her ragged clothes to the floor,
And danced deftly at it in her underskirts!
Now Tam, O Tam! had these been queens,
All plump and strapping in their teens!
Their underskirts, instead of greasy flannel,
Been snow-white seventeen hundred linen! -
The trousers of mine, my only pair,
That once were plush, of good blue hair,
I would have given them off my buttocks
For one blink of those pretty girls !
But withered hags, old and droll,
Ugly enough to suckle a foal,
Leaping and flinging on a stick,
Its a wonder it didn’t turn your stomach!
But Tam knew what was what well enough:
There was one winsome, jolly wench,
That night enlisted in the core,
Long after known on Carrick shore
(For many a beast to dead she shot,
And perished many a bonnie boat,
And shook both barley corn and beer,
And kept the country-side in fear.)
Her short underskirt, o’ Paisley cloth,
That while a young lass she had worn,
In longitude though very limited,
It was her best, and she was proud. . .
Ah! little knew your reverend grandmother,
That skirt she bought for her little grandaughter,
With two Scots pounds (it was all her riches),
Would ever graced a dance of witches!
But here my tale must stoop and bow,
Such words are far beyond her power;
To sing how Nannie leaped and kicked
(A supple youth she was, and strong);
And how Tom stood like one bewitched,
And thought his very eyes enriched;
Even Satan glowered, and fidgeted full of lust,
And jerked and blew with might and main;
Till first one caper, then another,
Tom lost his reason all together,
And roars out: ‘ Well done, short skirt! ’
And in an instant all was dark;
And scarcely had he Maggie rallied,
When out the hellish legion sallied.
As bees buzz out with angry wrath,
When plundering herds assail their hive;
As a wild hare’s mortal foes,
When, pop! she starts running before their nose;
As eager runs the market-crowd,
When ‘ Catch the thief! ’ resounds aloud:
So Maggie runs, the witches follow,
With many an unearthly scream and holler.
Ah, Tom! Ah, Tom! You will get what's coming!
In hell they will roast you like a herring!
In vain your Kate awaits your coming !
Kate soon will be a woeful woman!
Now, do your speedy utmost, Meg,
And beat them to the key-stone of the bridge;
There, you may toss your tale at them,
A running stream they dare not cross!
But before the key-stone she could make,
Not a tail she had to shake;
For Nannie, far before the rest,
Hard upon noble Maggie pressed,
And flew at Tam with furious aim;
But little was she Maggie’s mettle!
One spring brought off her master whole,
But left behind her own grey tail:
The witch caught her by the rump,
And left poor Maggie scarce a stump.
Now, who this tale of truth shall read,
Each man, and mother’s son, take heed:
Whenever to drink you are inclined,
Or short skirts run in your mind,
Think! you may buy joys over dear:
Remember Tam o’ Shanter’s mare.

e martë, nëntor 04, 2008

Value for Money

Where do you get true value for money?
It's got to be Albania.

Went to Elbasan today. We didn't have a good start, as we never got as far as 5 Heronjte without the second car running out of diesel. So off I set to get some bottles of diesel. I found a garage and filled up 3 x 2litre bottles of diesel.

Neither of the 3 x 2litre coke bottles were full. They would have been at a level just about less than full. Yet the reading on the petrol pump was not under 6 litres, but was almost SEVEN litres.

So, what conclusion can I make?
That the Coke company in Albania actually give you more than 2 litres of coke in their 2 litre coke bottle!

I mean, surely that is the only reasonable conclusion, is it not?
Surely, the petrol pump was right, and not cheating me!
Next, someone will tell me that the diesel was watered down!

e enjte, tetor 30, 2008

Hear, Read, Taste

Just updates the Hear, Read and taste links....

Hear - Texas, "Prayer for you". Just love the acoustic guitar on this song!

Read - A poem from Ndre Mjeda "Kujdesi Hyjnuer"

Taste - another menu from Albtranslators other (excellent) food blog - Groshe. What can be better than a plate of groshe on a cold winter's day! - yes, I know....2 Plates of groshe are better :-)

Just click on the photos to go to the sites.

e hënë, tetor 27, 2008

Doorway to the real Albania

I have been out running this past month. I really need to get fit AND lose some weight :-( ... at least that is what the doctor said.
I may post more about me running another day for anybody interested.

I have been running through the streets and lanes of Shkoder….and my longest run so far has been 5km….which isn’t bad, because I couldn’t run for 1 minute when I started.

Anyway, I have been enjoying running around the streets and seeing “normal” Albanian life. Yes, I do get LOTS of really strange looks and a “jogger” seems to be a strange sight in Albania. But there are some things I really like, and I am enjoying running.

One of the things that has struck me is some of the old Albanian doors to private houses. There are many of these and one street could have about 20 different kinds of doors. It is the old wooden doors that I really like.

I think to myself, what kind of story could these doors tell us if only they could speak.
What kind of joys or sorrows as people have come to celebrate weddings or attend funerals in the yard outside the house. Children leaving to go to school, or a bride leaving her family to start a new life with her husband.

I wonder who might have lived there, and when was the house built. It is funny, an open door always seems to be so inviting! As though it is saying, come inside and share a meal with us!

e premte, tetor 17, 2008

Edi dhe nota

Cartoon from Albanian television 1980

e mërkurë, tetor 15, 2008

Tirana - Milan - Goals

Video of SK Tirana 's win over Milan 2-1 yesterday.

e shtunë, tetor 11, 2008

Too close a shave?

This does not inspire me to visit this barber shop!

Just imagine going in for a shave and as you are all lathered up and waiting for the barber you lean back and see the sign!

He is a barber but also an ambulance service?!

e shtunë, tetor 04, 2008

Paris Hilton to run for President (of Albania)

See here

Well I just can imagine that!

The presidential website would get more hits than normal I would imagine!

e enjte, tetor 02, 2008

Nexhmije Hoxha ne bardh e zi flet per 100 vjetorin e Enverit

Anything is possible in Albania!

Took this photo today when i was in Koplik.

A man selling sheep from his car boot.

Then by chance I saw this on another website.

e hënë, shtator 29, 2008

Time of the Comet (Trailer)

Saw this film yesterday.
Based on a book by Ismail Kadare ("Viti i Mbrapshte")
Thoroughly enjoyed it. It was in Albanian with English subtitles.
Told the story of 5 men in 1912, wanting to fight for freedom in Albania on the arrival of Prince Wied.

I don't want to "spoil" the film for any that have not already sen it, but if you get the chance it is well worth seeing. Certainly tells a lot about the confusion within Albania at that time, and also the difficulty in coming to terms with independence.

Some good humour in the film.
Enjoyed the part that they realise the map they are using is of the Ottoman Empire and not of Albania. They react badly to being shown Albania on a map of Europe, as they refused to believe that Albania was so small. " It's not possible Albania to be as small as my shoe!"

Shkoder makes an appearance, near the end with a scene from the Lead Mosque.

More information on the film here or here.

e diel, shtator 28, 2008


A recent article from the "LA Times".

THETH, ALBANIA -- The "Accursed Mountains" tower high above the Shala Valley, snow clinging to their summits even in the summer. Their jagged peaks hide one of Europe's most remote areas, where tribal culture lives on even as the modern world encroaches.

For about half the year, Shala, a protected national park, is cut off by heavy snowfall that blocks access to the two rock-strewn dirt tracks snaking through the mountains. The only way in or out is a seven-hour trek by foot to the nearest road, if the snow is not too deep.

Here a rapidly vanishing way of life lingers in the traditions of the Kanun, the code of 15th-century prince Lek Dukagjin. But fewer and fewer locals are willing to endure the harsh winter in Theth, a Catholic village of roughly whitewashed stone houses scattered along a valley where snow piles so high that even visiting a neighbor can be impossible. Less than two decades ago, about 200 families lived in Theth year-round. Now there are 10 or 15.

"Everybody leaves during the winter," says Dilda Dednoja, a lively 69-year-old who stopped spending winters in her home in Theth's Okol area about seven years ago.

"In the winter you got stuck in the snow and you really wanted to leave," she said, describing a life of privation and toil where food was stockpiled in autumn to last until spring, firewood had to be dragged into the house and villagers were isolated even from each other. "There would be 4 meters (13 feet) of snow outside the door; there was no doctor, no school."

Agetina Carku lives on the valley's slopes, in the first house on the dirt track leading from the mountains into Theth. At 76, she has been shuttering her home in the fall and moving into the northern city of Shkodra for the last two winters. But she'd still rather stay in the mountains.

"When I come here, I am reborn," she says, watching fireflies flicker in her garden on a summer night.

"I still wanted to stay, but the young generation doesn't want to work so hard. I can't stay here alone, I have to follow the family. It is a practical need, but it's also the tradition."

It is in isolated pockets such as these that Albania's traditions are strongest.

Many still live at least in part by the Kanun, a code handed down through the centuries in which "besa" -- loosely translated as word of honor or sacred promise -- is paramount. The code was adhered to by Albania's Muslim majority and Catholic and Orthodox Christian minorities.

The code covers everything from inheritances and the rights of the church to the treatment of livestock. Disobeying the Kanun could lead to harsh penalties that might include banishment or the transgressor's household being burned. A slight could lead to a blood feud that lasted for generations.

In Theth, nobody will sell land to an outsider, or even to another villager. Brides must come from outside the valley, a tradition that follows along the lines of the Kanun's rule that marriage within the same clan is forbidden.

"The Kanun is the law. Just like the state law," explains Gjovalin Lokthi, 39, a gruff "kryeplak," or elected chief of the village.

"With the Kanun you can get killed over honor," he says, sipping homemade raki in what was until recently Theth's only bar -- a wooden shack he converted from a goat shed. "But it's better to get killed, because what good is your life [if you spend] 100 years behind bars?"

Theth's "kulla," or tower, is a reminder of the devastating legacy the blood feuds can have. Now a tourist attraction, the windowless stone building was where the men of a feuding family could take refuge -- for months or even years. Easily defendable with sheer walls and slits for windows, the men survived on livestock kept on the ground floor and food brought by the family's women, who were not targeted.

Kullas are no longer used. But there are still families in northern Albania forced into isolation because of feuds, unable to walk out their front door for fear of being killed. And sometimes these days it's not just men but whole families who fear for their lives.

The Kanun has survived despite four decades of communist rule after World War II, with hardships such as mass imprisonment in labor camps and attempts to stamp out tribal practices.

"What the people went through here is pretty amazing," says Michael Galaty, associate professor of anthropology at Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss., who led a four-year anthropological and archaeological research project in the Shala Valley that also studied the effects of isolation. "You go from this isolated tribal culture to one of the harshest totalitarian dictatorships the world's ever known, and from there straight into the globalized community."

But many in Albania -- particularly in the rapidly modernizing capital, Tirana, -- now perceive the Kanun as brutal and arcane, with its dictates that blood be paid for blood and that a woman is "a sack made to endure."

The Kanun "has been repeated for centuries and is deep in the conscience of the people," says Ismet Elezi, a retired professor of criminal law at Tirana University who spent 50 years studying the code. But "the young generation is interested in rock and pop, not in the Kanun, although they apply it. . . . It's usually the older people who push youngsters to apply it, though they don't know how."

Even in an area as isolated as Theth, it's clear the outside world is creeping in. Now satellite TV dishes are visible, and a cellphone relay antenna erected recently ensures near perfect coverage in an area where the country's landline grid is still out of reach.

Increasing numbers of tourists are willing to endure the bone-crunching journey by four-wheel drive to get into the valley. The villagers have started taking paying guests into their homes, and it is not clear how much tourism they will be able to accommodate.

For now the villagers of Theth still greet visitors with raki and small cups of thick, sweet coffee. After all, under Albanian tradition and the Kanun, you cannot turn away a guest.

e shtunë, shtator 27, 2008

Albania - The Foundling State of Europe#3

The women of the mountain tribes were sturdy and powerful and often beautiful as children, but the hard, rough, life they led destroyed all their good looks as soon as they arrived at womanhood. In Albania and Montenegro woman was the beast of burden of the poorer families; she did the household drudgery of the hut, and all but the very roughest work in the field while her husband or brother sat upon a stone with his rifle between his knees and a cigarette between his lips.when the fruits of the little farm were taken to the bazaar, the husband stalked ahead while the old horse limped along behind him with bursting saddle bags, urged on by the women of the family, whose backs bent double under a towering load of firewood.
Page 41,42

The blood-feuds which used to be so common in Scodra and the mountains were gradually dying out, for the authorities and the priests had set their faces against the practice for many years past. But the factors which had the greatest influence in putting down the practice were the poverty from which Albania had suffered for years and the enforcing of the edict against carrying arms in the city.
Page 49

Well, not entirely dying out.
Unfortunately there are many families still involved in blood feuds today, almost 100 years later!

To the casual observer the Albanians seemed to be always rebelling and fighting for no reason whatever. But it must not be forgotten that they were never really conquered by the Turks and that in the mountains they did very much as they liked.
But the Turk, the latest intruder in Albania has now gone from the land, and the city of Scodra will return to the position it occupied nearly three thousand years ago when it was chief town of the Illyrian tribes under their native kings. Many conquerors have passed over it, but the stubborn race which is now known as Albanian has survived them all. It now only remains for the people of Scodra to justify the trust which Europe has reposed in them as leaders of the new kingdom, and if the doggedness, independence and the vital force which can live through all vicissitudes of fortune, count for anything in modern Europe, they should not be found wanting.
Page 51

In the summer it was the custom of the European colony to postpone the afternoon walk until the late afternoon when the tall trees began to throw a pleasant shade, and a gentle breeze usually cooled the heated atmosphere. When the wide-eaved houses shadowed the width of the streets. Scodra gradually roused itself from its afternoon's doze. The day was almost unendurable indoors even with all the blinds drawn down on the sunny side of the house and with all the windows open, but at last the faint rustling of the leaves outside told that a little breeze had come to cool us, and that the hour for the evening promenade had arrived.
Pages 62,63

Not much has changed in the last 100 years then!

The book includes some strange stories of a dog recovering from a snake bite by applying a nearby plant on the wound and in its mouth.
A man that had a bath every day for 10 days then no more for a year !

Description of being served with coffee, cigarettes, a syrupy drink and sweetmeats which I take it were lakum. One man bit on one and got his teeth stuck and could not free them for a good 5 minutes.
Page 91

Yes, there is nothing worse than taking a piece of "lakum" during a visit and find that it is not fresh, and it is like someone has glued your teeth together.

We English are too given to thinking that all foreigners see us as we see ourselves; not merely as the inhabitants of two little islands...
Page 133

Hmmm...English are inhabitants of 2 islands. My geography was never any good, but I was sure that little island to the left of GREAT BRITAIN(on a map) was actually called Ireland, and was full of Irish people. I also thought that England was not an island as they border on 2 other countries, Wales and Scotland!

Blood feuds
Went to Shkrel and there spoke with a man who was in a blood feud having killed his brother-in-law from Hoti for sending his wife(this man's sister) away.
"and your sister? She in the city? Has she married again?"
"married? Oh no! She begs; she has her child---------- then seeing my look of astonishment he added; "what is she to do ? We cannot support her; she does not belong to us now; and the Hoti will not keep her.But I have avenged the insult ; I have shot her husband"
Page 136

"It is an extraordinarily difficult language for a foreigner to speak, and the Shkypetars claim that none but the native born can pronounce their queer consonantal sounds correctly. The difficulty of learning the language is increased by the want of a suitable alphabet. The Jesuits and Franciscans of Scodra use the Latin alphabet; in the South the Orthodox priests use Greek letters. But neither system is satisfactory, and consequently some grammarians have introduced diacritical marks or have mixed up the two sets of characters but probably with even less success, and it is a proof of the marvelous vitality of the language that it has survived through the ages without a literature, untaught and unwritten in the schools."
Page 199

"Extraordinarily difficult language" - got to agree on that one!
But then is there an easy language to learn?
Albanians do seem VERY gifted in foreign language, and I have met some Albanians that speak English perfectly with no hint of a foreign accent!
They put us "English" speakers to shame!
The Albanian alphabet - yes, a post in itself. It is remarkable how the language survived, even during the times of Turkish rule and the language forbidden to be taught in schools and no(or very little) reading material in Shqip! Full credit to those that worked to get the Albanian language recognised, in written form, and agreed by, for the whole country! (I'm glad they didn't choose the Greek or Arabic letters for the alphabet!)

e premte, shtator 26, 2008

"5 Heronjtë të Vigut" to be removed!

Well, I really cannot believe it!

It has just been decided by the council committee(keshillit bashkiak) that the statue of the 5 heroes (5 Heronjtë të Vigut)is to be removed and replaced to the graveside of those that fought for freedom from Italy. ("varrezet te deshmoreve")

The statue which has been in the centre of town for over 25 years and is one of the landmarks and best known sites in Shkoder will be replaced by....a fountain!

I mean, sorry, but surely this is ridiculous!
Had I posted this on April Fools Day, none of you would have believed it!

Surely this is an important part of Albanian History, rightfully respected and one of the most best known, most loved and most photographed sites in the town of Shkoder.
I should know!
I live a stones throw from the statue, and pass it numerous times every day, and there are LOTS of tourists EVERY DAY all around it taking photos from all different angles.

How, anyone in their right mind can think that a fountain should be there instead of the 5 Heroes...I do not know!

The decision was based on a vote of 27 for the replacement against 9 against.
And so the 5 heroes are to be replaced on a decision by the 27 numpties!

e enjte, shtator 25, 2008

Albania - The Foundling State of Europe#2

The postal officials too in Europe had vague notions as to our whereabouts. A letter plainly addressed "Albania" was once sent to America and returned from Albany N.Y. With the inscription , "Try Europe"
Page 5

Yes, believe it or not that still happens. I had mail come about 4 months later, with "try Albania Europe, but it's not in Albany!'

At both places the ambulance halted for coffee it being clearly the opinion of the escort both officers and men that it is wise to drink coffee when and where you can as you can never tell when you will get it again...the old wagon went bumping, jolting, jingling and rattling over the inequalities of the road and even the waste of time caused by stopping to make coffee gave relief to the feeling that the spine was hopelessly shattered and every tooth loosened which was induced by a mile or two of that real carriage "exercise".
Page 30,31

Yes, just like the old road to Torovice!

The fear of the author that revolution was in the air due to much gun fire as they entered Albania. However it was explained to him that it was only Bajram!
Page 33

The date of its foundation is not known but it claims to have been the capital of the old Illyrian kings about 1000b.C. And Livy is the first Latin author who makes mention of it, in his account of the war against the Illyrian pirates, as the stronghold of their rulers in 230B.C. The city, though for centuries ruled by its native kings and inhabited by the Thrako-Illyrian tribes who are now represented by the Albanians, passed from time to time under the domination of the Gauls, the Bulgarians, the Serbs, the Venetians and finally of the Turks who took possession of it in 1477A.D. For over a hundred years under the Turks it was ruled by its native Scodrali Pashas and i1t was only after the Crimean War that it was ruled from Constantinople direct, though the mountains have always been semi-independent.
Page 35

The Mahometan and Orthodox women wore a more richly embroidered dress than the Latin Catholics and in fact no dress more absolutely unbecoming to women has ever been invented than that of the Latin women of Scodra. But in a few years time It will have no doubt have disappeared entirely.
Page 41

Oh Yes, a lot of truth there! "It will have no doubt have disappeared entirely". If only he was to see how literal his words have become - the dress HAS disappeared almost entirely and the girls wear next to nothing now!

e martë, shtator 23, 2008

Please consider voting

Someone has sent me this e-mail asking that I publicise their campaign. It is a good cause - to feed malnourished children.

You can take a look at the link, and if you like it, feel free to vote.


"My organization, International Medical Corps, has the ability to save the lives of malnourished children around the world and we just received some very exciting news. We have been nominated to be one of the Top 25 in American Express' Projects, "Saving the Lives of Malnourished Children." Our project was chosen out of 1,190 projects and is now eligible to receive up to $1.5 million to help feed hungry children. I've put together this microsite explaining everything.


I'm sure that the other organizations have worthy projects, but this one asked my help, and feeding malnourished children is as great cause!

Albania is heavenly...

...for history buffs.(and not just history buffs!)

Article from the Times newspaper in the U.K. advising holiday makers going for 2 weeks to Corfu to take a couple of days break in Albania.

I would recommend that as well...or how about holidaying in Albania and taking a couple of days break in Corfu?! ;-)

Albania - The Foundling State of Europe

Roman Catholics outside a church in the mountains

Just finished reading the above book by Wadham Peacock, former secretary to H.B.M. Charge D'Affaires in Montenegro and Consul-General in North Albania.

He writes..
"This book deals with a phase in the history of Albania which is passing away. The new King has arrived at his new capital and the European ruler has replaced the Turkish Pasha. But the soul of the Shkypetar people remains the same, and the Albania of tomorrow will be the Albania of yesterday with only a superficial variation. In the Near East things when they change, change slowly, and the transition from the Middle ages to the Twentieth Century will not be accomplished by a stroke of the pen because Europe has at last recognised its foundling State."
Wadham Peacock 1914

The interesting thing about this book for me, was that it concentrated on Shkoder and Malesia e Madhe. It was quite interesting to read some comments and stories, although at times he went into too much detail regarding dress of both men and women. This over emphasis on the detail or the geography of the area made reading a little tedious. At the same time it is interesting to read of his hopes and ideas for how Albania would change and become more European. The improvements that he hoped for of course never came about! I would recommend "Two Vagabonds in Albania" as a far better read. especially as the "vagabonds" went all over Albania and had a lot more humour in their writing.

Further thoughts will appear over the next couple of days.

e hënë, shtator 22, 2008

A day without cars!

Seriously, I need an explanation for this one!
Yes, I am all in favour of looking after the world and being more "green". And yes, that means we need to start in our own town. But what is the purpose of this day?

Is it to try to encourage more people to use their bikes?
Surely not in Shkoder!
Every man, woman, child, dog and cat in Shkoder has a bicycle - and they use them!( well,I exaggerated a little about the dog and cat, but you know what I mean)

Is it to get less cars on the road?
You can start off by making tougher regulations for cars on the road. Some cars being driven should NOT be on the road. They are being driven with broken wings or broken headlights. As a pedestrian, I do not want to be hit by a car - and certainly not by a car with a broken light. It would be like getting hit by a broken bottle.

If you want less cars on the streets of Shkoder, then PLEASE give us more buses and buses that come regularly and make a full circuit of Shkoder. That would enable many shoppers to go to the markets and return by bus, at the very least somewhere near to where they live.

The answer can't be to tell people to get on their bikes!

e enjte, shtator 18, 2008

Widow of Albania’s Hoxha defends his legacy

Here is a report from Reuters on a recent interview with Nexhmije Hoxha. This is from a part of history that I as a foreigner will never really understand, nor know the characters involved. ( other than by name and old film). I will say this, however, that any time I have watched the old documentaries from TV during communism and praising PPSH, I have been struck by Nexhmije Hoxha.
They say that behind every great man is a great woman?
Then maybe behind every evil dictator there is an evil woman!
I just get the feeling that she had a "hands on" role in much of her husbands plans and activities.
However, what do I know - I wasn't here during those days and it's just an impression that I get!

Here is the article...

"The widow of Albania’s longtime Stalinist leader said some things had improved since the collapse of Communism, but defended Enver Hoxha’s tough legacy as she prepared to honour the centenary of his birth.

“Some people want me to repent for things that happened in those times,” Nexhmije Hoxha, 86, said in a rare two-and-a-half-hour interview with Reuters on Thursday night.

“People should know from the start that I cannot criticise Enver Hoxha, I must protect his reputation.”

“Unfortunately, the 100th anniversary of the birth of Enver is taking place in an atmosphere of contradictions,” she said.

“Various associations that want to celebrate the date are afraid to do so in this almost fascist atmosphere.”

Enver Hoxha was born on October 16, 1908, and after leading the World War Two resistance, ruled Albania for 40 years as one the world’s most reclusive and oppressive states. He abolished religion, closed the borders and built thousands of pillbox bunkers against foreign invasion. Private cars were banned.

Today most Albanians condemn his rule as a dark period.

Although still largely rural, the country has seen fast economic growth and a building boom in recent years as it tries to catch up with wealthier European nations.

Hoxha acknowledged that some of the changes had been positive. “People are freer, I can talk any time, but I avoid it because I do not want to,” she told Reuters. “Some things are good, it’s development, progress.”

Nexhmije met her future husband in 1941, when both were in the Communist underground — and when dating between comrades was frowned upon. “Expressions of love were forbidden in line with the expression of party rules,” she recalled with a smile.

“It had its own romanticism.”

“We had some age difference between us and he came as a delegate of the Central Committee. The idea of being with him never crossed my mind,” she continued. “It was he who started courting me. He was very, very loving, very sweet.”

One night he ferried her alone on a bicycle’s handlebars to a Communist Party safe house. “That’s how we came to love each other,” she said. They were married in 1945.

The dictator’s widow, who is in good health, says he improved Albania’s postwar standard of living, its health system and education amid desperate poverty. “When the standard of living was compared to the West, it can be considered modest, but there was an egalitarian spirit.”

As for the pervasive secret police and repression, Nexhmije, who became an important party official herself, admits excesses.

“Unpleasant and unwelcome things did happen, but that did not come from above, let alone from Enver,” she said.

“People complain now that some jail sentences were harsh, but that was the law of the state at the time,” she added.

Referring to the closed borders, Nexhmije said: “If we look at it now, I guess it should not have been so restrictive, but those were the times.”

After Albanian Communism collapsed in 1990, Nexhmije was sent to prison for five years, accused of abusing state finances. She said she had spent $360 on new glasses after many mourners accidentally broke glasses when drinking rakia alcohol and coffee following Hoxha’s 1985 death.

“The object of my trial was political because I was the widow of Enver Hoxha,” she complained. “When I came out of jail I didn’t even recognise the streets.”

—Reuters - Adam Tanner"

e enjte, shtator 11, 2008

Spelling Albanian

They tell me Albanian is an easy language, as you pronounce the words just as they are written. So unlike English that has different pronunciations for the "ough" sound - "bought", "through", "enough", "cough", "thorough" and "bough" ( all these have different sounds!). - Albanian is far easier to pronounce and to spell.

Well, maybe not that easy!

e mërkurë, shtator 10, 2008

The Trials of Shopping

Shopping is different from abroad, and you really need to have a lot of patience to shop in Albania.

There are some things that no matter how long I stay in Albania, I just can’t get used to.
I am referring to the form of “bartering” for a decent price.
Most shops don’t have prices. You have to ask the shop keeper how much the article costs.

So, you want to buy a new pair of shoes. You ask how much they are and then you have to haggle the price down. That is something I have never been used to and still am not used to. It is far easier just paying the price they ask for!

I have an uncle in Scotland that gets discount on all his purchases, even though there is no sale price. He always seems to get a bargain by asking for money off. No doubt he would get on great in Albania!

Me, I am resigned to be embarrassed at asking for money off. I just don’t do it. I get the feeling that the shopkeepers are looking at me thinking to themselves, “ This guy is foreign, he must have lots of money!”, and then I should ask for a couple of pounds off the price!?
( If I did that, then they would be probably thinking, “ Typical Scotsman!”)

Another difficulty is in the cost of an item.
Albanians still speak in the old money. So they will tell you the price is 20,000 lek when it is really only 2,000lek. This can still be very confusing. Especially when buying something like a painting that you really do not know how to value!

Then another most frustrating problem is when you come to pay for the item.
At times, just as as you are paying, someone will eneter the shop and ask the shopkeeper the price of an item, and the shopkeeper will leave you and go and serve the other person. I mean, he is adding up your bill, and you have your money in your hand, and someone comes in and says…
“A kilo of cheese please” and the shopkeeper stops adding up your bill and starts serving the other person.
I am left pulling my hair out!

Once you have got past these problems, you get your weekly shopping in plastic bags that have the strength to hold no more than a bunch of grapes and you can head off home again!

If you have purchased a new pair of shoes, then be prepared to be asked about 100 times - Where did you buy them and how much did they cost you!
Sometimes I get stopped by complete strangers in the street asking me about something I am carrying and where I bought it, and how much it cost!

Then on return to the house you will be asked - how much did you pay for the tomatoes or peppers, and why you bought apples that are “soft” and “bruised”!

Shopping – it seems to be gift that men are never born with, and never learn!