Hello Blog, today is a sunny day and thank G!
I have told you that I live in this old old stone house in the old bazaar right? It’s a typical mediterranean white stone house which looks charming on the outside. Well, on Monday morning at 10.00, our electricity was suddenly cut and we stood without power for two days. The reason for this, it turned out, was some unpaid bills back in 2011 (!!) by a former owner. This reaction time must be considered as slow even for Albanian standards I’d say, and no warning was sent or phone calls made about it. In Sweden a power cut like this would probably be resolved easily but we thought the power-cut was just a random one and so we waited all day before we realized it would probably not be put on again without some action. We called Tyler, who called his boss Elena, who called the power company but they had gone for the day. And there we stood without knowing really what to do. A power cut in Sweden is usually a bit cozy I think: all machine noises disappear and you light some candles. But here in our old stone house a night without heaters would be unbearable, close to –0 degrees inside, with that kind of wet cold that creeps underneath your skin. Not pleasant to say the least.
Looking back on it now this is actually a fun story and an experience how a tiny thing like a power cut can affect you in a cold country. Well, we stayed in office as long as we could and then Stephan and Albert called here and there to try and find somewhere for us to stay. But all the houses were to cold apparently. We started planning for sleeping at the office floor – ”what if we carry my mattress here and yours over there…” Finally Albert found a hotel for us, the finest in town, for only 1000 LEK/person which is about 50-60 SEK. Mehran was convinced he would put himself to the test of sleeping in our house, in a sleeping bag and surrounded by candles. But finally I convinced him to tag along, as sleeping in a hotel we could make it a part of our study – see how it is for the tourist to come to Gjirokastra.
He took the bait. We went back in the house with our flashlights, funny how heat and light brings life to a house, it seemed we’d been gone for ages and I half expected plants to have grown up like in that Jumanji movie. We made our 400 m to the hotel and realized we didn’t know where to go. There was a sign on this big house ”hotel” but no entrance. We walked around a little up and down some stairs but finally made our way into the restaurant in the bottom floor. There two old men stood and we asked “Hotel?” One the men nodded and made his way to the door and disappeared into the night. We took this as a sign that we would follow him. After only a couple of meters we understood that this was just a very drunk man on his way home, who’d probably just nodded “goodnight” to us. Ha ha embarrassing! We walked back to the restaurant and held up three fingers “three persons, hotel?” the man spoke no English (of course). He just shook his head, which here means ”yes, no problem” So he took some keys and we followed him to the back of the house. I and Anastasia were showed into one room and Mehran another: to his own little cottage!
Our room can’t be said much about. Two beds, a little table in between and a small toilet. The toilet was actually quite confusingly built. Outside stood two pairs of slippers, one obviously meant for a women as they had heels (!) The bathroom was built so as when one would shower the entire floor would be wet, the sewage in one corner close to the door and the shower in the far back. The shower was also built so close to the toilet that that the toilet paper would be completely ruined if one would shower. We laughed about this for a while and then went to bed. Mehran on the other had lived like a king in his little own cottage totally renovated with cozy wooden beams and stone titled bathroom. If it wasn’t for the ants and the no instructions on how to turn the hot water on… in fact there were no instructions whatsoever. No check-out time, no contact numbers, no welcome letter, no map, and no wifi password no nothing. We don’t mean to be snobbish in no means, Mehran and I certainly know how it is to travel around with no comfortableness in various undeveloped countries. But this time we had our tourist glasses on, thinking that Gjirokastra wants to attract more tourist, and what kind of information would a tourist need to feel relaxed and taken care of.
Anyway, I was happy enough not to have to sleep with my regular 6 layers of clothes on (a tank top, a t-shirt, a hoodie, a summer jacket, a hoodie on top of that, a winter jacket on top of that and finally a blanket) I was sick enough to just fall asleep instantly after setting the thermostat to lovely 30 degrees tropical night. I got sick some days before, never being able to store enough heat to feel warm at night or day. So I was in heaven!
In the morning I awoke to people working outside building a hotel garden – nice! I walked around and tried to find out which time was check out time but one spoke English. Finally I found this old little cleaning lady who drew 10 in her palm – They are very friendly here and they try the best they can to understand you so you feel very much like a guest in that sense. Meanwhile Mehran gave up on trying to turn on his hot water (with the no instructions to help out) on and borrowed our shower. Afterwards we tried to pay and that took a lot of misunderstandings as Albert only booked one room since Mehran first didn’t want to sleep there, and the old man just thought we were random guests paying full price. And then his wife came and tried sorting it out and finally an English speaking young woman worked it out. She’d just been recently hired – wonderful!
After this we went back to our house and moved all the food into the office fridge and waited until 5 in the afternoon when finally the power came back. The End.
Ha-ha ha – so now you followed me on another adventure as tourist here in Albania and hopefully you draw the same conclusion as me: that spoken language is a tool very hard to do without when working with tourist. Information is the hey to success I would say. In this case a simple brochure in the hotel room would be enough, maybe a couple of phrases in Albanian to solve the “lost in translation” dilemma. A lot could be done here in terms of tourism development.
Well with those words I leave you. Have a nice everyone! Today it’s sunny and warm – around 30 degrees in the sun! What a difference a day makes!