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So I’ve sat on this post for about a week, because I wasn’t satisfied with it, but I’ve probably dillydallied enough.

It’s hard to give a complete picture of Albania. This country is beautiful, no doubt. But it is also poor. When I skype family or friends, I will probably mention going for my regular morning espresso at one of the nearby bar kafés. I probably won’t mention how my regular route includes at least one stretch where I walk in the street to avoid the dumpster that has spilled onto the sidewalk, because gypsies will climb inside and throw half of the contents out in order to get recyclables and other valuable items.

The village Darshen is an example of extremes meeting. When you drive over and around to the far side of the mountains from Tirana, there are views of pristine, pastoral landscapes, like these:

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A haystack occupies the corner of a field overlooking the valley.

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The clouds were low and heavy on the day we visited Darshen.

And in the middle of these landscapes sits the village Darshen. It clusters on one mountain slope, and when you stand on the road that runs through the middle,you can see other homes and farms scattered on the surrounding slopes.

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Some of the houses in Darshen, as seen from the main road.

It’s still beautiful. But it’s very remote. In Tirana, most of the streets are lined with communist concrete boxes for buildings, between 4 and 6 stories tall. In Darshen, if you shift your focus from the looming mountains to the homes that stand a little closer, you’ll see roofs that look like this:

Darshen006_web

Some of the roofs were actually made of flat stones, holding each other in place.

It’s not exactly what you’d describe as “quaint and rustic.” I would love to have this as my backyard, but I would honestly prefer if the setting came with a more airtight, watertight home.

It’s definitely a different sort of view.

But then again, so is this:

Darshen005_web

A glimpse of green through the fruit trees that lined the main road.

I’m still figuring out the whole perspective thing. The whole thing with understanding that different things aren’t necessarily worse, but also not using that as a pass for excusing things that really could be better. Thankfully, there is an abundance of coffee to fuel all this pondering!

Stay tuned for another perspective on Albania: the ancient ruins edition!

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