My parents have been serving as missionaries for our church in Albania for almost 3 years now, and they invited us to come visit them before they come home in July. We decided to take just our oldest two kiddos with us, thinking they would travel the best. We had a great time, and I thought I'd share some things we learned on our trip.
|Playing Angry Birds in the Vienna Airport|
iPads are the traveling parent's best friend. Seriously. Didn't really need to pack anything else for the trip. Books, movies, games - the iPad has it all. Well, except for candy.
|Moooooove it cows!|
There are many hazards to watch out for on Albanian roads, which are usually windy and bumpy outside the city. Many people don’t feel traffic laws apply to them, and pedestrians walk across whenever they like. Other road distractions include missing man-hole covers, donkeys pulling carts, sheep, goats, cows, animals being slaughtered along the side of the road, and men relieving themselves.
Most toilets in Albania are of the Turkish variety. I don’t know how the ladies do it. We were very careful to not drink too much water on long trips and would search hotels and gas stations for usable toilets. Jason took this picture after Maren had to use one because she could not wait any longer. Jason thought it was funny. Maren was mortified.
|Maren with a few of her admirers|
Albanians love children. Maren and Joshua received many pats on the head, and pinches and kisses on the cheeks, as well as free cookies and candy bars. Albanians also love foreigners. We were well treated wherever we went. Once while playing at a little park, Maren was surrounded by a bunch of 7th graders who wanted to practice their english by talking with her. Afterwards, they all wanted to take a picture with her. I think Maren was a bit embarrassed, but ultimately enjoyed the attention.
|starting a new trend or just too tired to notice?|
Jet lag is hard to deal with on such a short trip. Maren got up one morning and apparently was too tired to pay attention while dressing. On the way back, Joshua could not stay awake and fell asleep instantly wherever we were - baggage claim, shuttle bus, etc. . .
Other than perhaps the rosemary potatoes, traditional Albanian fare is probably not worth trying. Jason felt adventurous and tried the Tavë dheu, which he later found out was some type of liver dish. Not very good.
Treasure is in the eye of the beholder. In addition to the pockets full of rocks that the kids would bring back to the misssion home after each excursion, they also found other keepsakes to remind them of their trip. I like looking at Maren’s collection, which includes a rock from “blue eye” natural spring, a snail shell, a doily from underneath the hot chocolate we had at the french cafe in Tirana, a tiny plastic fork from their copycat mcdonald’s (they don’t like eating french fries with their hands), hollow eggs they decorated with grandma, an expandable straw from a juice box which she thought was really cool, a mosaic rock from Butrint, and some albanian money (lek).
|castle at gjirokastra|
There are a lot of ruins in Albania which are very neat to tour around. The kids really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, the ruins are not protected and there is a lot of trash everywhere. Also, they aren’t quite safe. There is nothing to prevent you from climbing up walls or hanging out windows over steep cliffs. But since there aren’t people around making sure you stay on a prescribed path, you can do lots of exploring. Grandma and Grandpa happened to have flashlights in the car, and so the kids had fun going through dark tunnels and investigating hidden rooms and wondering what they used to be used for so long ago. I tried my best to not to worry to much but I did get nervous several times.
|NOT FUNNY MAREN!!|
And in case you are interested, here are some more pictures from the trip, in no particular order, and without adequate descriptions.
|Maren, with Greece in the background|
|at the "Mother Albania" monument, where the prayer to |
dedicate the country for missionary work was given
|It's hard to see, but Maren is performing on the stage for us|
at Butrint, which was such an amazing place, full of history. I wish we had
read more about it before we went there.
|There are hundreds of thousands of these bunkers in Albania|
|Albania Fried Chicken. Who knew?|
|13th century Byzantine church in the citadel at Berat|