5 Fun Facts about Albania (part 3)
Religion friendly country
When exploring Albania, it might strike your attention that a catholic or/and orthodox church and/or a mosque can be found in the very same area of a city. During the communist period, all religions practices were banned. Religious facilities were repurposed as hospitals, gyms, weapons depot, or simply remained unused. Today, Albania has three different, accepted religions: Roman Catholicism, Greek Orthodoxy, and Islam. However, in the past years, Albanians never had a national religion to identify with. National identity has predominated religious identity and makes religious fervor extremely rare.
In smaller cities, when strolling through the streets, you can usually come upon cool old school bikes, slowly ridden by old, well-dressed men. It looks like a picture that could be described in a book. In other countries, you would probably categorize those bikes as vintage models and would have to pay a fortune. In Albania, those bikes belong there, have been used for a well and just create a full harmonic, authentic overall impression. However, I wish I would have one of those cool vintage bikes back home, especially as a memory of that created picture.
Game time in the park
Mentioning the old, very well-dressed men, you might watch a crowd of them sitting with cardboards on the benches in the park. But besides sitting there for a chat, they often play board games such as chess, backgammon, checkers, or even domino usually the whole morning. While two are playing, the others are standing and sitting around them, watching, or even giving advice. It is an amusing picture to look at. In the afternoon, however, the cardboards left on the benches barely give an idea about the morning playtime.
That might be the first word I learned when coming to Albania since you can find a Lavazh Lavazh everywhere. Car wash stations, where a group of men or boys wash cars, which is often a black Mercedes. It is a great demand to keep the Mercedes clean.
Besides the car wash, there are also quite a variety of (abandoned) petrol stations, so that a friend suggested I should open my petrol station. However, in Albania, you probably do not get the best qualitative gas. Often illegal gas stations with several different brands sell dirty gas mixed with water or other liquids and are mostly used for tax fraud or money laundry. Due to the bad quality and word of mouth when cars break down, they often close pretty quickly after their opening after all.
Where to get the best food
Life is too short for bad food. In Albania, off the typical tourism regions, you can find markets, people piling up fresh vegetables and fruits, offering eggs, or self-made oil, or vinegar in plastic bottles. Everything organic and quite cheap. It is such a joy to go for grocery shopping. You cannot get enough of all the delicious and colorful local’s home-grown or self-made products such as pomegranates, peaches, huge watermelons, beetroot, olives, and even feta. Also, baked goods, such as the traditional Byrek that is made different in every region with meat, cheese, spinach or even pumpkin, you can buy in small from the outside looking rather imposing shops. But inside, you can watch the ladies kneading the dough, making the filling and taking the trays out of the oven so that you cannot resist eating it right away.