Serial Killer

Trip Start Jun 22, 2012
Trip End Jul 30, 2012

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Where I stayed
Hotel Nertili Sarande
Read my review - 4/5 stars

Flag of Albania  ,
Friday, July 6, 2012

Though I've thoroughly enjoyed Albania so far, finding all the negative stereotypes to be full of crap, and the urban legends to be complete myths, I was shocked by some of what I saw today, things that sent shivers up and down my spine.  I'm not one that scares easily during travel - aside from today, the only things that have ever scared me were the idea of venturing into chin-deep water without my water wings or my trusty inflatable duck life preserver, or riding a bike in Amsterdam.  But today, I was left completely shaken by what I saw on the short bus ride to Butrint, site of some spectacular ancient ruins.

This stretch of coastline is dotted with unfinished construction projects, sometimes unfinished by choice, and sometimes abandoned because the owners are forced to.  With all the illegal construction taking place in the country, there are rumours that the police have started to resort to sabotage, taking out key structural pillars in unfinished buildings, and leaving the owner to deal with the resulting collapse.  Not sure how this accomplishes anything, as it doesn't appear that anybody is in a rush to clear the wreckage, or if they'll ever clean it up - it's perhaps an even worse problem than the illegal construction, but that's how things run in this country.

But I've gotten off topic - it's these locations where I discovered the horrific truth about Albania - that there is a serial killer loose in the country, one without any regard for life, indiscriminately killing and displaying the rotting carcasses, all throughout the nation.  In the north or the south, small town or big town, it doesn't matter - this murderer doesn't have the normal M.O. of confining his killings to a certain area, so no matter where you are in the country, you will never be safe.  I was so terrified that I questioned why I came to Albania at all, even wanting to leave the country immediately.  The incomplete buildings of Albania are the perfect place for this Master of Masochism, this Sadistic Sculptor, to display his gruesome art, for all to see, and all to fear. 

Quite often in Albania, houses are completed one level at a time - it could be that a family does not have the funds to complete the house all at once, adding levels as more money becomes available.  Or perhaps there are other reasons why, based on practices I've heard of in neighbouring countries.  In countries with high inflation, it's common for families to spend money on constant renovations, rather than leave it in the bank, only to decrease in value - home additions are a tangible way of guarding your savings, at least until the property bubble inevitably collapses.  There are also certain countries where property tax is not charged on homes until construction is complete - but if a home is never complete, such tax can never be levied, a clever loophole exploited by many.

The reasons behind so many incomplete constructions are not important; what does matter is that on the top level of houses, there are usually rods of rebar sticking out, for the addition of concrete pillars to support future levels of the house.  Smart from a construction perspective, but sadly, it provides a playground for the Serial Killer to do his business.

It's horrific, the sight of something skewered on this rebar, left to rot under the Balkan sun - only a person of no remorse could do something as terrible as this.  What an inglorious way to die ... what kind of person does something like that?  Only a person completely bereft of any moral fibre could even conceive of such pure evil ...

Some would suggest it's because of Albanian superstitions, that locals impale these poor little creatures as a means of warding off the evil eye.  But I know the sick, perverted truth - there's a Serial Killer loose in Albania, randomly murdering innocent teddy bears!  Oh, the horror!!!  Luckily for me, the ancient ruins of Butrint provided a brief escape from the mental trauma induced by those perverse images dotted alongside the road.  Not normally a fan of guides for sights like this, I actually opted one for today, since Tea (as in Tea Leoni) was an official guide of Butrint, and the cost was only a small tip.  Looking at ruins, I find it difficult to enjoy as there is rarely any context nor descriptions - this is where the guide came in handy.

Butrint is a neat spot, because the forest has overgrown much of the ruins, making it feel a bit like you've walked through the jungle and stumbled upon them.  It's a rather large site, though not as huge as a place like Pompeii - for me, this was far more enjoyable, since Pompeii can overwhelm with both its size and repetition.  Every few minutes in Pompeii, you walk and go "Here are the baths.  There's a restaurant here, and a brothel there.  And over there are some houses."  Butrint is nice because it's easily digestible, with the highlights doable in just over an hour, something I was grateful for, on this hot and humid day.

Probably the most interesting thing about Butrint was the prevalence of shrines dedicated to the Nymphs, from where people made offerings to them.  I mistakenly thought this was a belief introduced by the Greeks, but Tea gently reminded me how long Albanians have inhabited the area, and that they had believed in the Nymphs long before the arrival of Greeks.  In fact, I was told that Northern Albania remains fairly superstitious, with the belief in Nymphs having morphed into a belief in fairies during modern times - when something good happens, the fairies are credited with making it happen. 

You'd think that Southern Albanians would be more traditional in their beliefs, as they are farther away from Western Europe, but in fact, historically it has been more accessible to Italy and Greece by boat.  The north is bounded by mountains, making the passage of both ideas and people much more difficult. 

After feeling as hot and sweaty as if I'd been trekking through the Amazon, I made my way over to Ksamil, famous for its beaches and three little islands within swimming distance.  Like Saranda, it's starting to become over developed, but on a much smaller scale.  It was quite the shock, with its crystal-clear water looking like something out of a Caribbean postcard, though the sand was nothing to write home about, coarse with the texture of gravel.

Still, it was a picture-perfect spot to escape the blistering afternoon sun, with a cold drink and grilled fresh fish, straight out of the water.  Just another relaxing day in Albania, lazing about the Ionian Coast ... 
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