This past weekend, I took an UNMIK (United Nations Mission in Kosovo) trip to Tiranë, the capital of Albania. The trip took a bit over four hours (non-stop but always at the mercy of border crossings!) and was filled primarily with Eulex staffers, most from northern Europe. There was one other American on the trip, and I had the fortune of sitting and talking with him on the return trip. Most of us stayed at the designated hotel, the Rogner, which is centrally located and convenient to all touristy sites.
I got to see two sold-out performances: a puppet matinee at the National Children’s Theatre and a comedy at the National Theatre. Both were terrific…and, as in Prishtinë, tickets cost the equivalent of $4. (Why can’t we produce more affordable theatre in the U.S.?!) I also got to meet two of the Artistic Directors, who are interested in collaborating with my Kosovar (and American!) actors in the near future.
My two-day experience dismantled my preconceptions about the city and people. (The film Taken certainly was not good pr for the country.) Albania has had its share of challenges, namely forty repressive years under dictator Hoxha, who eventualy suppressed all religious practice. There have been coups and upheavals but without the physical and ethnic destruction faced by its northern neighbors. Several times I was told by locals that the population is diverse (Muslim, Catholic, and Orthodox) and striving to live in harmony. I hope this is true.