Iowa Martins in Albania

Sunday, May 01, 2011

2nd day at Porto Palermo

I now know why the water pressure in the shower is poor. Everything at this place is environmentally less destructive than customary methods. Water uses gravity, the lights and hot water are solar-powered, the waste water from showers and sinks is put back onto the ground, and they have a windmill to power the community refrigerator. The owner/manager is a journalist who has written about environment issues for 30 years. Two years ago, he leased this place for 10 years. He has also made several documentaries about nature in the area; he made the latest one two years ago about the 1950’s era Soviet submarine base—the entrance of which can be seen from the castle. They used to hide subs inside the mountain. I can only imagine how big it must be down there.

We started Sunday with a trip to another castle 7 kilometers away. Oskar said, “This castle is much different than the other one.”

“It’s older.”

“How much older?”

“Well, as we read on the sign, it was used in the 4th century BC, and the castle by our hotel was built in the 1700’s, so that means it’s over 2000 years older.”

This castle is truly just the remains of a structure. Most of the area is simply piles rocks and a “series of small walls.” (Eddie Izzard, 1997) Oskar and Maxim did more young-boy things—climbing around, poking their heads into places, examining stuff. Oskar found a piece of something that had been growing. There was a bit of green, and I said it looked like a large ‘bulb.’ It was something that you put in the ground and at some point something grows.

“Can I keep it?”

“Of course.”

As we were walking down from the castle, he said, “I’m getting tired of holding this.”

I took it and said, “Let’s look at it a bit…there’s still some green here, so it must not be too old…and look at this, it still moist once you peel some layers off. Hmmm…it looks a lot like an onion. Ah, yes it’s definitely and onion, or something like it. Do you want to eat it?” It made it all the way back to Tirana.

We left the castle and came back to the beach. As we drove up, I mentioned to the kids that the sun was in full regalia and the haze had burned off—a clear, beautiful day. In no time, we were in the water again—about 12:30. Today there were probably 4 times as many people on the beach—12. The greatest thing about going on vacation during the off season. Yesterday, the boys had climbed/walked along the rocky shore and said they were excited about doing the same thing today while I swam along. They would be exploring the water—finding sea urchins and cool-looking rocks. Once, they called me over to look at a reddish, squishy thing. It was a ‘sea slug’ if such things exist—stuck to the underside of a rock and feeling gooey. Maxim was still up for this, but Oskar had changed his mind. I think the tall rocks and great climbing that was demanded put him off of the adventure—he wanted to stay in a smaller area to investigate. We had a dilemma. Oskar wanted to stay; Maxim wanted to go with me. I wouldn’t leave Oskar by himself. Maxim showed great maturity when he said, “Okay, I will stay here with Oskar.” Maybe I showed less maturity when I didn’t offer to stay with both of them.

The rocks along the coast were of epic beauty. I was Jacques Cousteau again for 30 minutes. After warming up a bit after the swim, and since I hadn’t gone to sleep after writing until 2 am, I was pretty tired, so I took a nap on the rocks. At one point, I woke and didn’t know where I was…I certainly didn’t know why the bed was as hard as rock—duh, it was rock. I turned over and it was already 4:00. I had thought the yesterday that it would be cool to swim all the way around the island. I asked two Albanian couples that were having a picnic nearby if they would be around for awhile. I asked them to keep an eye out for the boys, and if my boys could call on them if they ever had a problem. They readily agreed to the arrangement.

As I swam around the island, the bright sun made the view idyllic. As Maxim had pointed out earlier, the water was more “active” today. This meant that as I swam, with a mask and goggles that I had borrowed from the journalist/owner who is also a dive instructor, the speckles and glints of sunlight on the rocks was astoundingly lovely. As I swam on the opposite side of the island from the bungalows, I was again “thrilled” by the sense of hugeness of the ocean. To think that there is nothing below me, and the rocks were too jagged to climb on, and there is nowhere to go anyway, is a tad disconcerting. Just don’t think about it I guess. As I swam closer to shore, the bottom nothingness is replaced by a white rock in the shape of the map of Thailand. At first I was shocked and thought maybe it was a huge animal, or a shipwreck. You might think that my stomach took quite a few jumps as I saw surprises and confusions—you’d be right.

For supper, we I had fresh fish at near the bungalows—I found out later it was cod. Then the boys road their bikes down to the fishing dock. We saw people catch several fish, got a close up of a crab and a shrimp. Then we went to Qepero, a ‘town’ stuck on a hill a few km away. We were definitely the novelty for the evening as we ordered hot chocolate, AND ice cream. While we waited for our food, Maxim read a book and Oskar completed a few more pages in his coloring book. Back at the bungalow, I read the boys a James Herriot book—a section of one of his stories is illustrated and made into picture book form. This one was about Moses the Kitten who is rescued and begins to suckle from a mama sow named Bertha. Oskar, of course is totally jazzed about this story because his favorite animals are pigs. Even when he eats ham or bacon, he calls it ‘cow’ so he won’t feel like he is eating pig. Ah, the power of suggestive thinking!


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