I also went into an interesting little shop selling paintings and embroidered cloths – two women – one my age, the other younger and speaking good English – are making cut cloth lace. I show them my knitting/spinning/art work and they are really interested and show me their work too. They say it’s the very first time ANYONE has ever come and shown them craft work and they were really pleased I’d done so.
There is a lovely place selling freshly squeezed juices across the road which I haunt – redpepper, apple and ginger to boost my immunity. The American woman working there, Alayna, gets a painting or three too. She tells me of an Albanian custom where they will say “Bless your hands” if you show generosity or do something for someone else, or show your prowess at making something by hand – or if you can sing beautifully, they might say “Bless your mouth” – she says it sounds better in Albanian:”Te lumshin duart” We also discussed the habit the locals have of ‘promenading’ down the marble paved boulevard in their finery – to be seen as much as to see who’s there.. Alayna told me that she quite likes her wellies (autocorrect just changed that to willies – whoops!) – and wore them all day once – when it was raining and then just because – and the locals were truly horrified – the women anyway – and couldn’t help but laugh (in horror sometimes) at the mortification, at the shame of having to wear them. They’re just green wellies, nothing more or less. I haven’t seen anyone with grey hair since Austria I don’t think – apart from the one in the mirror. Every woman over a ‘certain age’ seems to dye her hair. What a pain that must be – all that constant covering up of roots.
I visit the museum – a replica of an old residence – I think it’s just closing by the time I find it (It’s hidden in amongst blocks of flats) but the volunteer who shows folk around stays a little longer. It’s a new house, built using old techniques and in the old style – Italian, Austrian and Ottoman influences. It’s a beautiful green oak building though I don’t get to see inside – only on the spacious verandah where there’s a wardrobe that ought to go straight to Narnia by the look of it, and a glass chandelier. There are also two kittens playing who just seem to be accepted as part of the museum (mother came along later – and there are a couple more kittens, apparently). There was a carving of St George in the garden - a little bit of England. I tipped the guy telling me the history and showing me around – and he accepted the money with alacrity.
I’d been told that the best time to visit Rozafa castle (on a hill on the outskirts of the city – I’d ridden right past it on my way in yesterday) – was sunset. So I cycled over there. The castle was huge with crumbling walls and interesting nooks and crannies. Where the gardens would be cultivated and the grass would have been trimmed and neat in an English National Trust property, here, the castle was wild and untamed – with brambles waiting to snare if you trod the less trodden path. I loved it. The sunset was indeed spectacular seen from the castle walls and one could see 360˚ all around, with Shkrodēr laid out like a map below and the river meandering along the flat valley, with mountains layering into the distance.
The day after my sightseeing tour I stayed around the hostel and did very little except the laundry, the blog and the daily drawing.
I went out for supper and decided to ask the waiter what he’d recommend – he was confident I should try one of the house specials: a ‘terra cotta’ – with beef (as I didn’t like the sound of the ‘internals’ mentioned on the menu, which you could also get it made with – ‘offal’ I presume?). It turned out to be a one pot dish like a tagine – brought still bubbling to the table. Lean bits of beef in a sharp and tasty onion, red pepper and curd cheese sauce – absolutely delicious and I wish I’d asked the waiter’s opinion before! It was served with toasted rounds of white, crusty bread to mop up the juices. At the equivalent of £2.40 in lek, it was a bargain methinks.
Tomorrow, after three nights in a bed, I really must move on.