Friday, December 18, 2009

My Kind of Town

Well, what can I say. I have fallen in love... with Prague. Snowflakes falling softly, violin street music floating through the air, cinnamon bread and warm mulled wine for sale at the Christmas Markets, cozy bookstores, majestic churches, holy synagogues, romantic bridges. Give me a minute. I'm tearing up. Seriously, I'm not exaggerating. I'm crying right now. Beauty does that to me. Two days in Prague were enough to convince me that, despite the expense of living there, I really need to apply to the Prague international school. I went to Prague with four of my friends, colleagues and fellow believers, who I dearly love.

On Monday morning, Stephen, Valbona and I headed out on a quick tour of Prague, while Amy and Travis went back to the airport to pick up luggage. The tour bus drove the three of us past the important buildings and then up to the Prague castle. The views from the castle were lovely. You could see all the red roofs spreading out through the city.

Our guide took us through the cathedral and we had a brief look into the palace (where in the Middle Ages, horses and knights would have tournaments). The tour was just an overview of Prague, so it didn't include all of the castle. Seriously, we could have spent all day on top of the hill. There were different museums to go to (like a toy museum and a design museum) and the Golden Street (where the jewelry stores are), but we were pressed for time.

The next stop was the astronomical clock. The clock made me think of my Uncle Ed who is a clockmaker in Sisters, Oregon. (Shameless family plug: if you are ever in the central Oregon region you absolutely must visit the clock shop, around noon. It's such a magical place. Uncle Ed's clocks are incredible works or arts which he builds from inside out.) Back to the Prague clock. Every hour, the twelve apostles pass by the top window. There are other statues surrounding the clock itself. We went back the next day, just to watch and listen again. I love simple pleasures.

We met back up with Travis and Amy just as a light dusting of snow began to fall. I kept looking at my coat sleeve where beautifully detailed snowflakes were gathering. We all headed back to the Christmas Market for mulled wine and "street treats."

Amy, Travis and I went to a small cafe and warmed up with more hot wine. Then, they went back to the hotel and I went on to the Mucha Museum. I really do like art nouveau. It's romantic and wispy. (Mucha died during Nazi interrogation). Then I went to a Kafka bookstore. I have never read anything by Kafka, but the few passages I did read made me feel like I had found another favorite author. Art in all forms makes me appreciate life. I walked around by myself for awhile, (It's very fun to be the mysterious solo traveler. Especially when cute Czech men come to talk to me. Too bad I only speak English.)and then met back up with Amy and Travis for dinner. I can't say I'm a huge fan of traditional Czech food. The dumplings were done well, but just weren't my favorite.

Tuesday, we started off with more snow (this time falling faster). Our plan was to wander to the Charles Bridge and then around the Jewish Quarter (called the "Pride of Prague" by our tour guide the day before).

There were so many charming alleyways and buildings. Prague makes me think of a fairytale. I want to live in a fairytale.

We passed by this church right before we came to Charles Bridge. I took a picture of it. Look carefully. Do you notice something unusual? Amy pointed it out to me...

Yep, there was an icicle hanging out of the gargoyle's mouth! In fact, the fire department came out to remove the icicle before it could drop on a passing tourist or motor vehicle.

And then, the bridge! The beautiful, beautiful, beautiful bridge. I am taking my husband (whoever he is) back to the Charles Bridge one day. I don't think you can possibly get the full effect of the romance unless you kiss the one you love on the bridge. This is why I encouraged my four friends to engage in some public displays of affection! (And why someday I'll go back).

After a stroll on the bridge, we found a restaurant to warm up in. Amy and I both had the French Onion soup. It had delicious croutons and goat cheese. I don't think I've ever had such a decedent French Onion soup.

My four friends walked with me to the Jewish Quarter. (They all are in Prague for a longer time, so they were savoring it, I was devouring it.) The Jewish Quarter leads you through amazing synagogues and the Old Jewish Cemetery. It's hard to process it all. My first stop was in the synagogue that displays the names of the Czech Jews who died at the hands of the Nazis. The names are written floor to ceiling, on two floors, in alphabetical order with the date of birth and the year of death. Then, there was an art display that is very difficult to see. A Jewish art teacher taught the children art while they were displaced. The art work managed to be saved, unlike the teacher and most of her children. God. Mankind is vicious. Each synagogue was a museum devoted to keeping the memories alive. I was lucky enough to be following a Rabbi and his student from synagogue to synagogue, so I learned more than I would have just by reading the signs. Basically, the Nazis required the Jews to catalog their religious relics, and then sent them off to their deaths. Only two of the eight people who worked on the "museum" managed to survive.

After this sobering experience, I rejoined my friends for dinner, then went to the Municipal House for a concert. (The Municipal House is the first picture on this post). We were expecting to enjoy the concert in the Great Hall. Imagine our surprise when we were instructed to go down to the Art Nouveau Hall. It was an intimate setting for some world class chamber music. And yes, I cried. Mozart, Vivaldi, the greats. During the concert, I was struck that I really do love the life God has given me.

I'm glad that I was able to share my first Prague adventure with friends with artistic souls. This is a city to come to for inspiration.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Lights, Camera, Athens!

Tracey, Sarah and I flew to Athens on Friday afternoon. I happened to be sitting next to a young girl who is a missionary in Greece (she assumed that I was right out of college, God bless her!). Talking with her really made the time fly by. Only an hour and we were in Athens. Getting around was incredibly easy. The metro was super affordable and easy to manage. A lady at an information booth showed us the two lines to our hotel. The directions I got from said, "Go out of the Metro and you are at the hotel." Vague to say the least, but promising. Indeed, we went out of the metro and saw every hotel except Crystal City. Sarah, who has some conversational Greek, approached a man at a kiosk for directions. He started laughing and pointed over her shoulder. The directions on ought to read, "Go out of the metro. Walk 10 steps, turn right and you're there!"

We (the three of us) decided that it was of the utmost importance to squeeze in as much Greek food as possible over the course of a few days. Breakfast, lunch and dinner were our highest priorities. After checking into the hotel, we set out in search of our first meal. I LOVE Greek food. Olives, yogurt, grilled meat, pita bread...sigh. (I meant to buy a Greek cookbook before I left, but didn't. Silly me.) I really enjoyed the first restaurant we went to, although there was a pesky Brit who (we overheard most of his conversation) appeared to be cheating on his girlfriend with a Greek girl. Charming, oh so charming.

The three of us were walking in the shopping district after our first dinner. Almost simultaneously, Sarah and I screamed, "H&M!" at the top of our lungs. Seriously, you know you are in civilization when you are surrounded by good shopping! We made plans to shop 'til we dropped. All day Saturday was literally going into store after store after store. For all the time we spent in stores, I managed to just do damage at H&M. I kept reminding myself that I'll be home soon (where shopping is cheaper). Sarah and I were thrilled to be using our credit cards...

And this is Tracey after a long, long day of shopping...

Sunday was much like Saturday. We decided to explore the oldest flee market in Athens (or so the sign said). Sarah was on a hunt for boots and Tracey and I were keeping our eyes open for anything interesting. Well, we found interesting! We found what looked like an actual jewelers. I made the mistake of walking in. Actually, we all made that mistake. We were instantly greeted by a kindly gentleman who informed us that we were lucky enough to stumble into the "Embassy's" jewelery store. He had pictures with former first ladies, current ambassadors, and Greek dignitaries displayed around his shop. He, George, said that for us, he'd give us 30% off anything on the ground floor. His colleague entered and said, "No, no, for these girls give them 40% off all the silver." We had just a little bit of fun picking out beautiful jewelery to take home. All the while, the three of us were laughing and talking. George looked at us, a bit puzzled, and said, "No one ever smiles anymore, but you three have contagious smiles." Yep, that's us, at least when we are on vacation! George's colleague poured us ouzo after our transactions were complete. I heard it as "boozo" and was slightly confused. Anyhow, I really enjoy ouzo. Not surprising since I'm a black licorice fan!

After our second shopping adventure, we decided to do something educational and absolutely essential. My new friend from the plane had advised us to go to the Acropolis on Sunday, since it's free on that particular day. Of course, walking around looking at antiquity is amazing, but I felt a little under-educated. I know a lot about the Roman empire, but I think I slept through my Greek history. (This is an unusual feeling for me. Usually, I'm thanking my Westmont education and cheering the Liberal Arts).

Now we come to my other favorite part of my weekend in Athens. We walked out of the Acropolis straight to Areopagus (otherwise known as Mars Hill). This was the one place I was eager to experience. I couldn't wait to stand on the mound where one of the most breathtaking sermons was preached. My plan was to read Acts 17 on Mars Hill. "'In him we live and move and have our being.'"

So after two days of enjoying Athens, we flew back home to Tirana. I'm afraid I'm in holiday spirits and can't wait for Prague, then Santa Maria! I love traveling: the people you meet, the food you consume, the pretty things to look at (or buy), the ancient history, and often, the spiritual encounters.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Stephen's Center Thanksgiving

I've been rather out of the blogging loop, at least for these past few weeks. The school year was dragging on and on; then November hit and wham! I feel like I blinked and now it's almost December.

This is my "sequel" year here in Albania. We all know that the sequels are never as great as the originals. The novelty loses its luster. Sometimes I feel like people won't want to read about another Marine Ball or another Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving, however, is one of those holidays that gets richer with tradition. Our established two year tradition is to go the the Stephen's Center for Thanksgiving dinner.

My Albania family gathered at Stephen's Center for another delicious meal followed by the most delicious pumpkin pie (made with real pumpkins as opposed to the canned... no bright orange color!) Travis and Amy joined us this year as well as our newest friend, Matt. I was especially thankful for Amy and Travis because Travis led us in prayer. (Sometimes I feel like I'm a big chicken when it comes to leading prayer around people who have a different faith than I do, even when those people are my best friends.)

We also shared favorite Thanksgiving traditions or memories. I shared about the theatrical presentations that I wrote staring my younger brother (usually playing the native, but who once made an appearance as Abraham Lincoln), my cousin Kim and me. Other cousins would join, but it was usually the three of us. Thinking about those plays made me miss my brother tremendously. Maybe someday, I'll share Thanksgiving with my real family again.

Happy Thanksgiving fellow Americans!
Praise God from whom all blessings flow
Praise Him all creatures here below
Praise Him above the heavenly host
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

P.S. Look for a new post next week~ I'm off to Athens tomorrow.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween Party 2009!

Drum roll please..... Ta-da! The four of us have been planning this group costume since last spring. We are the representatives for the Miss Universe Beauty Pageant (1990). Entela represents Albania, I represent the USA and Sarah and Tracey tied for Miss Canada (because it's such a large country of course). Mom sent us these magnificent tiaras, we had the sashes printed at the printers, and the seamstress worked her magic on the dresses. (Albania is swarming with tacky fake flower.) We were set for a night of magic at the Berg's annual Halloween party.

Children were welcome until 10, then they were dismissed! The Berg's eldest daughter's band played and did so well. It's primarily made up of half the swim team, actually. Travis, seen as Gandhi below, really was rocking out!

Amy came as a Samurai warrior. She and Travis won (for the second year in a row) the prize for the best couple costume. It was an accidental couple costume, but it was PERFECT. War and Peace... Amy is so clever.

Tracey decided that her talent was "Interpretive Ribbon Dancing." Florian had a supply of ribbons (he's our P.E. teacher) so Tracey was able to wow the crowd with her mad skills. I swear, I was laughing so hard I had tears rolling down my eyes. I think the parent I was talking to thought I had gone mad, or was a little drunk (neither were true, I was just highly amused).

Here are a handful of the students cheering Miss Epp as she was dazzling us with her ribbon routine. Apparently, they had been waiting for our arrival with bated breath, wondering, wondering, wondering what 4 of their favorite teachers were dressing as. I love teaching. It's like having your very own fan club.

And the winners are.... Second year running and we walked away with the prize for the best group costume. Sarah summed it up nicely as she accepted our prize. "We just want World Peace!"

What beauty pageant is complete with out a brawl at the end? It wasn't as well rehearsed as our skating routine, last year, but it managed to be just as impressive.

Another great party, another great night, another great reason why I love my oversea life!

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Nessesary Weekend

I love how one weekend can completely change someones perspective. This was just such a weekend. The plan was to take a van to an old Ottoman town, Gjiokaster, and spend the Mother Theresa three day weekend exploring an old castle. Well, some people were sick, others tired and the plan changed. It became a Tirana weekend.

Perhaps the catalyst of my attitude change came Friday evening. What a way to begin three days of bliss! I made my Christmas plans. Three days in Prague, twelve days in Santa Maria, back to Prague for a day, and then home to Tirana in time for the New Year! These travel plans may seem ordinary, but it took about two months of soul searching to arrive at this decision. I felt an instant peace when I acknowledged that I would rather go home for Christmas than spend two weeks soaking up the sun somewhere along the Indian Ocean. How many days until Christmas?

Saturday, Entela, Tracey and I set out to the the Chinese Turkish Market to find material for this year's Halloween costumes (which will be revealed in a later post, I'm sure). We found the perfect fabric and bought enough for four dresses (for Sarah too, of course). The shop keeper actually had a little shop, as opposed to a stand. He was quite friendly and took a great deal of money off of our purchases. At one point, I started laughing. The man, who is in his late 50s, looked at me and very seriously said, "You are very beautiful." That made my day! I'm not naive; I know it was just flattery, but it's not everyday a girl is called beautiful.

We had such a lovely walk all around Tirana. It was cool, but not cold, the sun was shining, and the Lana River was not smelly. The sky was intensely blue and clear. Autumn days like this past Saturday do not come around too often. The three of us stopped for Albanian fast food: suflaqe. It's pita bread stuffed with chicken, yogurt, onions, cucumbers and tomatoes. I highly recommend it. Our dining experience didn't end with the suflaque. Motla, and later Violeta, joined Entela, Tracey and me at Ferdinand's, my second favorite Italian restaurant in the city, for a late dinner. A good meal, followed by a relaxed drink, is always appreciated.

Sunday, I went to church, then went to lunch after. It seemed like such an American thing to do. Sometimes, I just love American customs. Especially, if it is dining with a family with two adorable boys. Then, I came home and Tracey and I baked cookies and walked to the produce market. While we were at the market, we heard the sunset call to prayer. It honestly is so haunting; I get chills every time I hear it.

The evening ended with Tracey, Entela and I having an impromptu dance party in my living room. We had had a movie/dessert night. Really, you can't watch Hairspray without feeling a bit inspired.

Today, was another good day. I did a bit of school work and then joined Stephen and Valbona for Transformers, at the Sheraton movie theater. Sarah, Tracey and Landi (our taxi driver) picked me up. We drove across town to the indoor swimming pool. It was a tough swim, but just what the doctor ordered. Tonight's excitement was Chinese food in the Vanest's living room.

Reading over this post, I realized how this sounds more like a journal entry than a normal post. Oh well. I needed a weekend like this. I needed to start seeing the good in Tirana. Finally, I looked past the crazy traffic, stray dogs, trashy streets and disorderly conduct. Rediscovering home is the ultimate adventure.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Dusty the Dog

I was pleasantly surprised to be greeted so warmly by Drita, the matriarch of the landlord family, when I returned to Albania this past August. For as nice as she is, she always seemed so serious. I watched Drita for three days before realizing, she was pretty much alone. Her family, including her eldest son and his family (Vladimir, technically, is our landlord) and Abdula, our legendary drunk landlord (Drita's husband), were vacationing. She was happy! Friends were stopping by and sitting on the patio, she was walking with a spring in her step; I even heard her singing as she was cooking. Only days later, the entire family descended on our happy Utopian apartment building. Peace vanished. Not only did we welcome back Abdula, but his 5 screaming grandchildren, and (gulp) a brand new dog.

At first, I was only genuinely annoyed at the new dog's nonstop barking. Then I had a hair-raising experience. Amy and I were coming home late one evening, after a particularly exciting book club (but that's another story) and ended up staring into the eyes of a big black dog. The dog was in our stairwell, just waiting for us. It was a Little House on the Prairie moment. If you know the books, you'll remember Laura and Carrie were out on the icy lake sliding along, only to come face to face with a wolf. Carrie froze, unable to move, but Laura luckily kept her head and saved herself and her younger sister from certain death. Well, at that moment, I was Carrie and Amy was Laura. I froze with one foot on the stair. The dog was baring its teeth and then began barking. Amy pulled me away and hurried us to Abdula's door. She began knocking fiercely. I think I still was stunned. Abdula came to the door and Amy pointed to the dog and said, "Get him!" I think said something like, "He tried to kill us!" Of course, Abdula can only understand gestures and irate facial expressions, but he did get the idea. Slowly he wandered over and grabbed the dog by the collar.

The next day, we quickly made our director aware of the situation. All of the residents of the apartment had complaints. Sarah and Anne were especially disgruntled because the dog liked to hang out below their side of the building and bark while they were planning and grading. I talked to Alma, the daughter in law who speaks English. She was the one who told me the dog's name...Dusty. She also told me that the dog was just a puppy and it wouldn't hurt anyone. Ha. Abdula tried to convince me on many occasions that all I had to do was pat my leg and say, "Dusty" in a sugary sweet voice and he would let me pass. All the while, I was afraid to go home by myself at night. Dusty wouldn't lunge at Sarah (she's the dog whisperer), but it often snapped at me, Amy and even Tracey.

Meanwhile, the barking and the territorial advances continued. I talked to Alma a second time. This time Abdula insisted on butting in. He began speaking Albanian and pointing at me. Foolishly I asked, "Alma, what is he saying." She looked me straight in the eye and said, "He says that you just need to bring a piece of bread with you and feed it to him when you get home at night." I started furiously laughing. "You have got to be kidding me! So I'm suppose to walk around Tirana with a slice of bread in my back pocket?" I left without another word.

The next confrontation (I mean conversation) about the dog occurred with Natasha, the daughter. Four of us ganged up on her and told her of our displeasure. Natasha reiterated the family line, "Dusty is a good dog. He won't hurt you." She told us that they bought Dusty for our protection. (Yes, I laughed furiously again). The real issue is that our apartment building is on illegal ground and they feel like they have to "defend" it.

Last weekend, Tracey, Anne and I were coming back from dinner. Dusty was there, of course, barking his head off. I decided to use sarcasm. "Dusty! Who's a good boy, oh yes, you are a good dog. Oh yes you are!" Dogs don't get sarcasm, but it was a good coping mechanism. Unfortunately I think Abdula took it as my final acceptance of Dusty.

Two nights ago Dusty barked from 9:00 pm until 11:00 pm and then from 4:30 am to 6:20 am. Our director had a line of angry sleep deprived teachers outside his door. I was close to tears. He assured us that the dog was going to be gone.

Well, two nights ago, I was walking home from the Film Festival. Thank God I was with a parent from the school. This parent has to walk through our property to get to her house. She usually takes a road and a car when coming home late at night, so I quickly filled her in on the Dusty situation. I said that hopefully, the dog was gone, but be on guard. Sure enough, Dusty began barking. I decided to walk my friend to the gate so she wouldn't have to face Dusty alone. As we were walking by, Dusty came behind me. If I hadn't turned around when I did, I doubt I would be in Tirana typing this post. He was poised to bite. Abdula nonchalantly walked out of the house about that time, Amy came flying to her window, and Tracey to her door. I started yelling at Abdula. "Get him! Now!!!!!!" I've never been angrier at another human, not to mention a stupid dog.

Friday night, it was official. "Ding dong the dog is gone." Unfortunately, our good fortune sent Abdula on a drinking binge. He really liked that crazy mutt. On the flip side, Amy and I walked up our stairs last night without fearing for our lives and I had a wonderful uninterrupted sleep. Sorry Dusty. Teacher victory.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Albania and the North

Practically from the moment we first met, Entela has been saying, "We have to go to Thethi." Finally, after a year, we went to Thethi. Breathtaking.

Thethi is a small settlement, I hesitate even using the word village, set back in the northern mountains of Albania. We arrived Friday night, only able to see the guest house in front of us and the dramatic shining stars. Roza, the patroness of the guest house we stayed in, had mountain tea with mountain honey, a hot soup and fresh bread ready for us once we settled in. Moments after we arrived our friend Gjergj and his girl friend showed up! Albania=small. They ended up staying in a guest house up the road, but came back for a visit the following night.

Now for the slightly embarrassing, and not so fun part of the trip. I woke up extremely early feeling very sick. I hoped that it was just from the zig-zagging roads the night before. Nope. It was the stomach flu. After an hour, nothing was left in my body. Roza heard me and got me a lime soda. She's an angel. I hopped into the shower and then back into bed. Three hours later, I was well enough to drink some tea and eat a biscuit. I probably wasn't well enough to go on a hike, but I don't like to miss out on things. It's one of my tragic flaws.

It did feel great being outside in the cool, clean mountain air. We walked by the little red school house. A teacher from Shkoder comes to teach there, when she feels like it. Children up to eighth grade go there, when they feel like it. Our guide, Juette, told us that the roads are so blocked in the winter, that most of the people in Thethi move to Shkoder or simply stay inside. It made me think of the pioneer life.
After about 45 minutes of hiking, I couldn't go on. Utter exhaustion had set in. I found a rock, close to a mountain home. Juetta and Entela both offered to knock on the door to see if I could stay inside, but I wanted to stay outside. Tracey loaned me her pocket notebook and a pen so I was quite content (although I was feeling a bit sorry for myself).
This picture, I took after sketching the scene to the best of my abilities (which are not good). I thought the tree roots were so interesting, and I loved the fence in the background. Besides sketching, I attempted poetry. One poem was a reflection on solitude, the other was a conversation between a river and ocean and the last was to simply poke fun at myself (Tracey gave me the opening line). To truly appreciate this poem, I suppose you might need some background information. When speaking of Thethi, we tend to lisp.:
"I once took a trip to Thethi
I'm afraid that it got quite methy.
My friends said, 'Wait here,'
I did so with cheer
But sat thinking, "Boy, I'm a thithy."

While waiting for my friends to return, I had visitors. The man who owned the house was out working and spoke a little English. He told his 13 year old nephew that there was an American out on the road. The boy came over for a chat. His English was quite good. He told me that he lives and studies in Shkoder and he's working on English so he can join his uncle in London. Like many Albanian youngsters, he loves football and is in training. I saw him the next day too and then found out his name, Mikel. Once Mikel was called back to work, two hikers from the Czech Republic happened by. They were friendly, but were trying to get to Valbona before nightfall. With eight more hours of hiking, they were on a tight schedule. I really wanted them to stay longer because I'm currently on a Prague kick and wanted to hear all about the city from two good looking men. (Who can blame me?)
We finally returned to the guest house to be greeted by a German, Gerald, and Tracey's Spanish friend from soccer (ok, I'm trying to be good... I mean football), Lande. We relaxed under plum trees in the front yard enjoying tea and coffee. I don't remember who said it, but it was a moment of paradise on earth.
We set out on an afternoon hike to the "Northern Blue Eye." Juette assured us that it was a flat, easy hike. (She just didn't mention how long it would be.) We actually found a map of the area! The German NGOs are trying to promote tourism in Thethi.
It started to rain about 40 minutes into the hike. We were pretty well equipped to handle it, so we pressed on. This was standing on a bridge over the river and gorge. Sarah didn't trust the bridge with all of us on it (she's a wise soul), but still managed to look adorable in the picture!
It's a fuzzy, rainy picture, but you can see the drop to the river.
The Northern Blue Eye obviously gets its name from the crystal clear water. It was worth the nearly 3 hour walk.
There was one waterfall that cascaded down into the Blue Eye pool. If you look closely, it's rather like three waterfalls in one.

I won't say much about the walk back, except that we had to hike out of the canyon at a break-neck speed, because our guide was calling us slow and we were racing the sun. That triggered a very grumpy reaction, particularly from me. Thank goodness that about an hour and a half into the walk home, a VW van came. Before Tracey could say, "Please give us a ride," the driver had offered us one straight to Roza's. (Apparently, everyone knows Roza).
Once back at Roza's, we gathered around the fire that Roza's younger brother, Alfred, made for us in Entela and my room. We also whipped out the wine that we had brought with us. Roza fed us, by then I was actually hungry, a yummy bean soup, the homemade bread, roast beef and the best grilled vegetables.
The next morning brought a new day, thankfully! I was in a much better mood after a semi good night's sleep. The morning was beautiful and we prepared for a hike to another waterfall.
The northerners, at least in Thethi, are often Catholic. I don't believe that they are a practicing group of Catholics. Even though it was Sunday, the church was completely vacant and locked up. It's not the original church (the original was destroyed, I'm assuming during Communism), but the German NGO built this one to blend into the surrounding old stone buildings.
We walked through corn fields and wheat fields. I was fascinated by this squash that seemed to have grown up to the fence. The locals were incredibly friendly and each invited us to their house for coffee. Sadly, time wouldn't permit those visits. I'm really surprised that the farmers were not angry at the group of foreigners crossing through their fields.
We stopped to take a look inside the Blood Feud Tower. It's one of the few left in Albania. Work is underway to turn this into an ethnographic museum. The tower was three stories high; the top most room used for sleeping, the middle for living, and the lowest for food storage. There were small windows and slight openings for weapons. Males, from the families involved with blood feuds, would retreat to these towers (or stay inside their own homes) until peace was negotiated with the offended family (usually the offend family had had a family member killed by the other). Very Romeo and Juliette, if you ask me! (Actually, there is a blood feud house in Tirana, on the banks of the Lana River).
Entela lead us up to this part of the waterfall, since she knew the trail. We scrambled over rocks and across mountains streams. It was so peaceful and ravishingly beautiful. The four of us girls recreated our ice skating poses for a picture worthy moment.
Here we are posing with our newest friend, Lande.

We took the higher trail and shortcut, back to Roza's. Tracey started singing Sound of Music, which is always the perfect song for mountain hiking, so of course I joined in. There was a laughing brook that did in fact, trip and fall over stones on its way. Then the laughing brook gave way to a silent stream and eventually the stream led us back to the river.
Juette told us that this was once used as an old mill. I think it looks like the Seven Dwarfs' house, personally.
We stopped to gather fresh, late summer black berries from along side the trail. Boy, they were tasty! I didn't attempt to pick berries the day before, so I was extremely glad to be feeling well and partake of nature's bounty.
And this is our guest house, which greeted us after the morning hike. We packed up, changed, said our fond farewells to Roza (who was headed back to Shkoder for her weekly job at the castle) and walked to the local "bar."
The bar is actually a collection of tables in little huts. We had an outdoor table under a beautiful shady tree. I had a Coke, though I could have had some raki. Ick. The picture below shows the ingeniously traditional method of refrigeration. That mountain water is cold, cold, cold!

We made it back to Tirana after a nearly six hour trip. But, it was worth the trip and, indeed, I would tell anyone, "You have to go to Thethi!"