The via Egnatia is the name of the old trade route from
Rome to Istanbul. It crossed the Adriatic, arriving in the
Albanian port then called Epidamnos, later Dyrrachium,
Durrazzo and today known as Durres. It continued across
Albania from west to east, travelling over the mountaintops
as the road still does today, to Elbasan, and then on to Lake
Ohrid and Macedonia.
The first time I travelled over the mountain road it was still
winter and we were going to the opening of the new
covered marketplace in Elbasan.
|Whitney cuts the red ribbon to open the marketplace and someone hands her flowers|
From The Via Egnatia
As we climb up the winding mountain road, heading for
Elbasan, we leave behind all signs of habitation and are
surrounded by the wildness of the mountains. The
landscape becomes stark and bare, a sea of brown-peaked
frozen waves, breathtakingly beautiful. Clearly, we are in
another world, one that belongs to nature.
It begins to snow a little, small flurries of white blurring the
sky with the landscape. The road curls along the top of one
of the mountains, with valleys falling away on either side.
Some of the peaks are rocky, slanted and so thin they look
almost shaved to a point, like giant pencils. Thin cloud
dances on the mountain-peaks, throwing off a snow as light
as the reflection of emotion in water.
The second time was in early summer and we were going to
the opening of a greenhouse at the Zera Jete school.
From Tirana Nights and the Ethem Bey Mosque
The school is in a quiet shady suburb of Elbasan. The gates to the school are of delicate metalwork.
The school is located in a large, high-ceilinged old building that was donated to them by the Church. There is a large yard in the front, and a small garden at the side. On the other side of the yard is an old Orthodox Church. Its grey stonework and shady arches cast an atmosphere of serenity.
The building was lucky to have survived the ravages of the
communist hunger for destruction and desecration in the
early seventies. Every time you come across an old
building in Albania the effect of its beauty is inevitably
tinged with poignancy for all the other buildings that have