Fire engine required...

Trip Start Jul 17, 2011
Trip End Oct 05, 2011

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Flag of Albania  ,
Saturday, August 13, 2011

At the risk of sounding like someone who likes to be right: A fire engine was called this evening. Embers from the four fires near to us had been carried on the ever increasing breeze and had set alight the shrubs and grass right next to the restaurant. Before this happened though came the town-wide blackout. One minute we were waiting for our bill in the light (a common time consumer in the Balkans, no-one ever seems particularly eager to take your money), the next we were in great need of a torch. Our friendly waiter went off to buy some candles when this happened and while he was gone people started driving their cars right past our restaurant at a frantic pace, we thought maybe there was a wedding on (this came later) as here in the Balkans weddings are accompanied by convoys of honking cars decorated in rosettes and ribbons carrying the wedding party and guests. When the fire engine followed the car several minutes later we followed the crowds to find the fires just a few metres away inching dangerously close to setting the adjacent restaurant alight. In a few minutes though the fire department's one engine had put the fires out and normality resumed. The power did not however as the fires had gotten to the power station.

Best castle so far (sorry other really great castles): Gjirokaster Castle (or Gjirokastra, many place names in the Balkans seems to have two different ways to spell them, have not gotten to the bottom of this yet). The Castle in a very intact, UNESCO world heritage thing of beauty. It also houses a major weapons collection (including tanks and cannons), a museum almost entirely dedicated to guns (hundreds of them), a former prison (which scarily, was in use until 1968), a clock tower from which a maiden threw herself rather than be taken into slavery or worse, a very out of place National Folk Festival stage (a bit of a blight on an otherwise stunning collection) and very interestingly an American spy plane. I have included the blurb from the castle information below for an explanation. There was also a couple who were having their wedding photos taken from within the castle. We were there for at least two hours and they were not even half done when we left. It was a scorching 30+ degrees on the day as well. Ouch!

American Spy Plane
The spy plane which in 1957 was forced to be landed. There are some hypotheses related to this plane. The first hypothesis is that the plane was forced to be landed by our military forces, while the second hypothesis is that the plane was forced to be landed because its engine was broken. During this period our country was under the communist system and it was also a member of the Warsaw Treaty. It was against the politics of western countries and our government of that time decided to put up this plane just on purpose to demonstrate the power of the Albanian military. 

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