This past weekend, we went home. For the past school year, I've been looking forward to visiting Korca, Entela's home town. We planned on going this particular weekend because there is a large celebration for Orthodox Easter.
After we checked into our hotel (which is by far the nicest Albanian hotel we've stayed in...comfortable, clean, large shower...hooray) we set out to Entela's home. We walked by the amazing Orthodox cathedral located in the center of town. (By the way, does anyone know the difference between a "regular" church and a cathedral???) One thing that was very noticeable was the Korca cleanliness. Honestly, Entela kept telling us that Korca was tidy, but I had to see it to believe it. Believe it I do!
Entela's mom and sister were wonderful hostesses. We were served real Albanian food, complete with rabbit stew (Perfect for Easter. Entela told Tracey to think of the rabbit as the evil cousin of the Easter Bunny and not as the Easter Bunny himself!). I wasn't sure that I would enjoy the rabbit stew, but it ended up being my favorite...probably because it's made with wine. Oh, I should clarify. The rabbit stew was my favorite savory option, the dessert beats everything! Entela's mom makes the best baklava in Albania. No exaggeration. (Amy once told me that she didn't like baklava until she tried the homemade variety from Entela's mom). I want to try making baklava at home this summer. Anyone willing try this experiment?
After a delicious lunch, we set off to walk in this beautiful park, which is directly across from the college Entela attended. Speaking of academics, did you know that the Albanian language was first written in the late 1800s? The same man who founded the first school also created the written language (I think, I could be wrong...). Entela told us that all the best Albanian minds come from Korca.... hers included (at least I think so).
I love tulips almost as much as roses! There were tulips in practically all the flower beds we walked by. The city flower beds were planted orderly and with a plan. That's the biggest impression that Korca left on me: there was order and beauty.
After another delicious meal ($40 which included drinks and dessert for 6 people!!!!! I love Albania.), we hit the streets with the entire town. We brought the candles that we had purchased earlier in the day. The second we arrived outside of the cathedral, the bells started tolling. We lit our candles, the priest began singing, and we enjoyed the midnight Easter morning celebration. People had red eggs which they cracked and ate. We walked to the hotel after that, being careful to keep our candles lit...for luck!
What's this? It looks like a bear. It is a bear... the Easter Bear! The guy in front was trying to hide the bear from us because he wanted to charge us a bundle for pictures. I feel a bit guilty, actually. After some shopping (I bought Korca honey...yum!) we loaded up in the public van and headed back to Tirana. I can't wait to spend another weekend at home.