A combination of an early start and the heat yesterday wore us out. We had a late alarm just to make sure we didn’t miss breakfast and almost needed it.
Breakfast was included with the room, adequate but not exciting. We took a while to get going and left for the town centre about 11:30am. First stop was Mon Cheri Café. Florence had a strawberry smoothie and I had a coffee. It’s supposed to be the best in town – hmmm. We took a back street route to our lunch stop, this was a bit hard to find but well worth it. Luga e Argjendtë is an organic vegetarian restaurant and deli, their philosophy is that food should be fresh, seasonal and travel as short a distance as possible. We had four small dishes, spinach, chickpeas, cheese and courgette balls.
After lunch, we couldn’t put the sightseeing off any longer. The temperature was in the higher 30s so we decided a museum was a good plan. On the way, I stopped to photograph an interesting looking building. It has an Albanian flag so was presumably a government office. A man approached us and muttered something and pointed at the camera. We assume he didn’t like us photographing there so we moved on.
The National History Museum is a large marble building on the main town square. It has rooms covering most aspects of the country’s history from the stone age to the end of Communism in 1991 – sadly, no photos were allowed inside the building. Both the Romans and Ancient Greeks were here in the period before Christ; the Italians returned in 1939 as an invading force. They were followed by the Germans who were kicked out by Enver Hoxha’s communist forces in 1944. In the early years of his rule, he did a lot to improve the country – eradicating Malaria, increasing literacy rates and developing the countries infrastructure. He initially based his rule on Stalin, later moving onto Mao’s Cultural Revolution model. He died in 1985 and his successor carried on the communist model until its final collapse in 1991. Albania had become the poorest and most isolated county in Europe by then; it’s still recovering from those times.
The museum has many, many exhibits from stone age pottery, through Greek and Roman statues to possessions of victims of the Communist regime. The first section has good captions in English but they seemed to get bored of translating after a while and these become fewer and fewer. The stand out exhibit for me was a paving stone from Hiroshima, a few hundred meters from the centre of the atomic bomb explosion. 188 of these stones were engraved with a figure of a Japanese god and sent to all the countries of the world in the hope that this event would mean that nations could in future live in peace and a similar thing might never happen again.
There were a few fans scattered around the museum and a couple of air-condition units but they were fighting a losing battle and it was probably warmer than outside. By the time we reached the pavilion of the Communist Terror, we were both flagging.
We walked back to the hotel and had half an hour to cool down before meeting our guide and companions for the rest of the trip. They seem like a nice bunch. They’d decided to eat in the hotel’s restaurant. We left them as we wanted to try more dishes from last night’s restaurant. It was just as good as the first time. Again, the waiter warned us off ordering too much – he’s very helpful but not much of a salesman. I had a local beer, Florence was more adventurous and had Raki – a home brewed brandy.