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Fatmir Velaj takes part at Vienna Biennial

VIENNA, Oct. 8 – The Vienna biennial stands open from Sept. 21 to )ct. 10 organized by a group of experts of the “Schillerplatz” arts academy and also a team of correspondents from Berlin, London, Zagreb, etc. some 60 artists

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Scanderbeg in Scandinavia

by Bjoern Andersen The stamp of Scanderbeg A few years ago a Danish archaeologist, Dr Peter Pentz from The Danish National Museum, published an article about the seal-stamp of Scanderbeg, a brass-stamp to seal documents. The stamp had been bought

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Cross Border Cooperation Prospective Euro-Region or a Pending Effort?

Traditionally, national borders have placed adjacent regions of different countries in a rather peripheral position thus resulting in a particular kind of economic development challenges for these borderlands. The emergence of the cross border cooperation phenomenon in post World War

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Excuse me, will you open that window, please?

Travel notes from a trip to Gjirokastra By Jerina Zaloshnja It was pure coincidence that I took a photograph of that tiny little window, while we were walking down “Fools Walkway,” and I felt my throat tighten with emotion. It

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Forsaken Albania

By Artan Lame Tirana, in the twenties’ The Clock Tower, or as it is known in the old language “the mound of the Clock”, together with the Mosque of Ethem Bey, constitutes the most valuable object of this city called

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Forsaken Albania

By Artan Lame Petrela, 1942. Petrela is a village full of the ancient history of this country, and it has managed to preserve some of this history at least in their memories. Legend has it that the rampants, rising above

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Province Town- where Albanians meet Gay and Lesbian comunity

By Alba ȥla Meet the funniest town in Cape Cod, Massachusetts: Provincetown! or as it is usually referred to shortly P-town, a safe haven for gay and lesbian couples to celebrate their diversity in a peaceful and funny atmosphere, away

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The New Rector: Reforming UP the IT Way

Professor Enver Hasani, PhD, Rector of the University of Pristina in Kosovo gave un exluzive interview to Tirana Times Tirana Times: Who is Enver Hasani? HASANI: Well, I am professor of international law and international relations. I did my PhD

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Forsaken Albania

By Artan Lame Italo-Greek War, 1940. In October of 1940, Italy attacks Greece from Albanian territory, in futile combat that dragged on for eight months and which Mussolini only managed to win following German intervention. The Greeks who felt betrayed

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Give me a break

By Jerina Zaloshnja “Sixty dollars! It’s a new rule from above. 60 dollars,” spoke the man with the white coat and unshaved beard as he lazily chewed on his gum. I was struck. “Where am I to find sixty dollars?”

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                    [post_content] => VIENNA, Oct. 8 - The Vienna biennial stands open from Sept. 21 to )ct. 10 organized by a group of experts of the "Schillerplatz" arts academy and also a team of correspondents from Berlin, London, Zagreb, etc. some 60 artists from all over the world took part in the biennial and among them Albanian painter Fatmir Velaj.He has sent there "country house", "the house in the forest" and also the "the red feeling rhapsody". They are worked in acrylic 100x120cm,130x180cm and 140x210cm.
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                    [post_content] => by Bjoern Andersen 

The stamp of Scanderbeg 
A few years ago a Danish archaeologist, Dr Peter Pentz from The Danish National Museum, published an article about the seal-stamp of Scanderbeg, a brass-stamp to seal documents. The stamp had been bought in Italy in the middle of the 17th century to the Danish king of a commission agent. For many years the stamp was looked upon as an artefact from the Byzantine Empire in Constantinople. Now, Dr Pentz made a thorough study and discovered that the seal-stamp had something to do with Scanderbeg. According to the inscription, which is in Greek, the stamp belongs to Alexander (= Skender) who is described as an Emperor of the Romans and a King of the Turk, the Albanians, the Serbs and the Bulgars. Since Scanderbeg never was in a position in which he could describe himself as an emperor or a king - or would be accepted as such of the other nobles in Albania - it is most likely that the stamp has been manufactured in Italy some years after his death of political or economic reasons, either in the 16th or in the first part of the 17th century. Furthermore, we do not know of any documents with this seal. Dr Pentz adds that another stamp is known with a simple and modest text: Georgius Castriotus Scendarbigo. 

Ludvig Holberg 
When discussing the stamp Dr Pentz and I recalled a text about Skanderbeg by Ludvig Holberg. Holberg was born in Bergen, Norway, in 1684 and moved to Copenhagen to study theology; at that time Norway, Iceland and Denmark were united with the Danish king as the sovereign. Later on, Holberg became a professor of the university which he was till he passed away in 1754. Today he is widely acknowledged as one of the main characters in the Danish-Norwegian Enlightenment. Holberg was a great scholar and a highly productive and versatile writer. His writings were on natural law and natural rights, history and philosophy, but he also made up scathing satires and vivid comedies that are performed even today. Some of the comedies are The Political Tinker, Erasmus Montanus and Jeppe of the Hill. Holberg wrote against haughtiness and false wisdom - in the comedies and in his essays as well. In his late essays - the Epistles - he discussed many problems of contemporary importance; like other European writers of that time he - for instance grappled with the insoluble theodicy-problem, the discrepancy between the good and almighty God and the overwhelming evil. 

Holberg on Scanderbeg 
In 1739 Holberg published The Achievements of Great Heroes. He had taken inspiration from the ancient Greek writer Plutarch, who once compared outstanding Greek and Roman characters. Holberg wrote about 12 pairs: Zoroaster and Mohammed, Sulla and Caesar, Socrates and Epaminondas - and Zizka and Scanderbeg. The characters were as it appears - highly important persons from different times and different places. One of the favourites of Holberg was Socrates, whom he highly appreciated because of his approach to knowledge and his moderation. Scanderbeg was appreciated as one of the greatest generals ever lived -and for his modesty. According to Holberg Scanderbeg never overrated his position, but stood up as an humble Christian Soldier since he left the Ottoman army and abandoned Islam. Writing about Scanderbeg Holberg took the work of Marinus Barletius (or Barleti) as a starting point, but he formed his own judgement. Possibly, he had an aim of his own to pursue - to promote certain virtues and to discredit other ones. Holberg realized that Scanderbeg -with limited support - was capable of holding his ground against the Ottoman forces. Even more, he fought the enemy vigorously, defeated him and often put him to flight. Holberg took an interest in Scanderbeg because of his great military achievements against the Muslims. Here we have to bear in mind the Ottoman attack on Vienna in 1683 (led by one of the Albanian-Turk K
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                    [post_content] => Traditionally, national borders have placed adjacent regions of different countries in a rather peripheral position thus resulting in a particular kind of economic development challenges for these borderlands. The emergence of the cross border cooperation phenomenon in post World War II Europe was a direct reaction to these regional challenges, aiming to better address the mutual concerns of border communities. Accordingly, cross / trans border cooperation is often considered by experts and policy analysts as an effective tool to reduce regional disparities, to boost social and economic development in remote areas and to move on with further integration of national economies in a given geographic area. In the context of Albania, border communities were afflicted the most by nearly half a century of communist rule in the country, as they directly witnessed the consequences of isolation from important cultural and economic centers. This is particularly true of Northern border communities which were deprived of their historical markets across the border without any corresponding efforts to integrate them in the national economy. Due to the economic features of Albanian communist regime, border areas are now facing two primary challenges: (1) within national borders - marginalization of their development prospects due to the "monopoly" of the country's center over the socio-economic development; and (2) compared to the communities across the border - sharp disparities and inequality of economic development. The Shkodra district constitutes an "excellent" example of this. Unfortunately, the Northern border regions continue to be an illustrative case of challenged communities in this sense. Although quite rich in natural resources, socio-economic development opportunities for this important cultural and historic center, Shkodra has remained marginalized from the general economic development of Albania in the post communist era.
The very recent publication of Albanian Institute for International Studies  presents a theoretical and practical  observation  of Cross Border Cooperation taking as  case study  Shkodra region in the context of Albanian Montenegrin relations.
                    [post_title] =>  Cross Border Cooperation Prospective Euro-Region or a Pending Effort? 
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                    [post_content] => Travel notes from a trip to Gjirokastra

By Jerina Zaloshnja
It was pure coincidence that I took a photograph of that tiny little window, while we were walking down "Fools Walkway," and I felt my throat tighten with emotion. It resembled a black cavity in that wall built out of huge and smooth white stone; or like a human mouth with a bundle of black rags jammed down its throat. Spine-chilling! Instead of glass window panes, somebody, probably the owners of this abandoned domicile, had nailed boards onto the frame, so you couldn't see anything inside, if there were anything left to see inside. As the occasional passer-by informed me, the house with the boarded up window had been abandoned for at least ten years now, and there was absolutely nothing inside. As if the boards were not enough, wires had been run underneath and over the iron bars covering the window on the outside, all very complicated. Who could ever attempt to have a look inside?
"This city is suffocating," I said to myself and quickened my step. Gjirokastra, (300 kilometers south of Tirana), gave me the exact same first impression as when I had visited it fifteen years ago. From the balcony of my room at "Hotel Turizmi," the only five star hotel in those years in Gjirokastra, the view of the city was so silent and void of movement; the streets were almost lifeless in this city of white stone. You could almost feel the pulse of the people as they went through the ritual of their evening stroll in the city's only square. It resembled the seclusion of a bunker, a small, stifling bunker within the confines of Albania-a bigger bunker. I distinctly recall that for the whole month that I was there on a business trip back then I never saw a single woman sit down in a coffee shop for a coffee or stroll down the street in the evening. Men were proprietors of this city. It was also dominated by many houses that were monuments of culture, and who knows why, but at night time a strange type of bird warbled from rooftops, a bird I had never seen in other cities before. I remember one funny episode from those previous times. Sitting on the hotel's veranda overlooking the city one evening, a couple from France who were having dinner suddenly started laughing whilst looking in the direction of the main square. "May I ask what you are laughing at," I found the courage to ask as there were only the three of us sitting on the veranda. "Well," replied the lady in broken English, "for a whole hour, only one vehicle has driven by, another car just went past, but, it was the same oneŢ It was probably one of the few vehicles in the city. It was the luxury vehicle of the First Secretary of the District, the most important person in the city, a gray "Fiat" of the seventies'.
The walkways between the houses still preserve that strange silence to this day, although the voices of the locals rebound like the sharp rapping of the wooden clogs over the cobblestone paths. The residents of the old city quarters still have the habit of squatting down against the outside walls of their houses and drinking coffee they pour out of coffee pots handed down over generations.
Locations have strange, mysterious names such as "Fools Walkway." This is a narrow alleyway, down which the inebriated would lurch at night, dislodging stones as they stumbled, making a terrible din. There are other strange names in the other city quarters too. Manalat, Varosh, Dunavat. The oldest houses are between two to three centuries old, but still await reconstruction work due to the insufficient funds allocated in the state budget for this work and flaws in Albanian legislation on monuments of culture. Up above the city, the Castle walls house the most interesting museum containing all the kinds of weaponry that have ever existed in Albania, since the Stone Age. There are still levels far below the castle that have not yet been penetrated. This city has always been distinguished as the city of the affluent, of memoirs, of personal libraries, of individuals who bequeathed property to relatives in wills - a unique case in Albania. This city has given birth to individuals, who, in a manner of speaking, have shaped the history of Albania. This is the birthplace of a linguist of European caliber, Eqerem ȡbej, the writer Ismail Kadare, Dino Cici, a self taught inventor who in 1930 built an airplane without water and without gasoline, with wooden gears, as well as the individual who stifled this country for forty five years on end, dictator Enver Hoxha,

The movement of the "Stone City"
At one of the eateries at Viroi (one of Gjirokastra's tourist attractions), at ten at night, the voices of women carry across the water. This is a major change; women appear to be enjoying themselves a lot more now. You can see them climbing into latest models of Mercedes Benz, going out for a drink. The traffic is endless; the luxury vehicles with their Greek number plates come and go, bringing back emigrants for holidays with their families. In the "New Town," as the locals call the lower part of the city, built during these past fifteen years and which has no connection with the old, museum and traditional part of Gjirokastra- the eateries and coffee shops are packed. There is a businesslike air about people, they seem to have a goal and are certain they will get to where they are going. As regards what I said earlier, and due to the fact that there are dozens of  money dealers on the streets, swamped with customers, very busy changing currencies, obviously there have been major changes in Gjirokastra. The air is far cleaner than in Tirana, the city is relatively litter free, you don't see beggars digging into rubbish cans. People laugh. Apart from the money in their savings accounts, they also preserve a kind of identity. Yes, it is obvious that things have begun to move in Gjirokastra. It's as if this younger part of the city is fighting to escape from the emptiness and the abandonment from which the castle and the entire surrounding museum zone suffer.

Stories of financing, foreign donors and hashish
"The City Hall belongs to everyone. It's like a donation box where everyone should drop something," says Mayor of Gjirokastra, Flamur Bime, for the Tirana Times. According to him, the good management of public finances and funding of projects by foreign donors have restored trust amongst the citizens. Bime is not a local, at least he is not one hundred percent from Gjirokastra, however he is wealthy. Before running for Mayor, he was the owner of a powerful construction company. This is one of the rare cases. In Albania, individuals who become Mayors or top officials in the State or in politics usually come from modest backgrounds. It appears that the fact that he has a considerable personal wealth already leaves no room for any incentive to misuse public funds. He certainly is very good at getting finances right. During the two and a half years of his mandate, Bime seems to have conducted a veritable fiscal revolution related to public funds. All indices that showed loss have been continually positive. All financial hemorrhage has stopped due to daily checks. 25 young men and women, all with foreign degrees, have been employed in the Municipality. Every evening financial accounts showing all activities of the Municipality are placed on his desk, so that financially everything is watertight. With the profits from these savings he has tar sealed 36 kilometers of new roads for the city and the locals call him the only Mayor who urbanized Gjirokastra. From 94 million new lek which was the revenue of the Municipality when Bime came into office in 2003, today, the Municipality realizes 150 million new lek. Foreign donors have been the second targets of the Mayor. Three years ago, "Pakart" was the only foundation operating in Gjirokastra, funding a few modest projects. Bime came up with the idea for the Foundation to join staffs with that of the Municipality to realize joint projects to restore the ancient city. The foundation realized 80 per cent of the projects, the Municipality 20 per cent. Following this incentive, the UNDP approached the Mayor with proposals for several other community projects. With fifty-fifty percent funding, the Municipality and the UNDP completed 6 projects, another four were conducted with the funding of the Austrian Government. A project with the Italian Government paid for the creation of the passport of Gjirokastra, the photographing and digitalization of the entire museum zone of the city. The tight control over finances and the work with the donors are, at the end of the day, fifty percent of the reason why things have begun to change for the better in this city of stone. "Hashish and the Kakavija Border Customs Point are the other half of the reason," says Odisea, a reporter who works for Deutsche Welle told the Tirana Times, and a young police officer of the city's Force who expects to be moved to a new post any day now. The police officer will be shifted to another district, to the Border Customs Point known as "Tri Ura," (Three Bridges), on the south eastern border with Greece. The young man does not appear to be happy with this. From what he was saying, this border post is located at a spot that is quite open and divest of trees and foliage. So it is easier to detect illegal border crossings by smugglers with their trucks. So financially the policeman thinks he would be better off where he is. Unfortunately others have their eye on his job in Gjirokastra, individuals who have their connections with the current government and do not want to waste time in becoming wealthy. The leading businesses of the city keep business thriving through trade with Kakavija. This is obvious when you look at the people in the streets, the bulk of whom unfortunately speak Greek. Linda, a reporter for one of the Albanian daily newspapers insists on visiting Lazarat, a village where instead of wheat crops the locals grow hashish, so that she too could take a photograph of these crops. It is now the peak of the harvesting and the processing of these crops. Linda seeks the assistance of the Police to get her scoop of the day. However, none of the police officers are game enough to drive a police van up into the area on such a perilous trip. "One of the local Police Chiefs even offered me a handful of money not to publish anything on the farmers who grow these crops. A few days after the publication of her photos of the fields of hashish crops, the local police force launched a major action, slashing and destroying entire crops, but they failed to capture a single crop grower, they had all disappeared without trace. "This is one of those strange stories that repeats itself at about this time every year, and everyone knows what's going on," said Linda. The crops that produce drugs, the Border Customs Point of Kakavija have become secure sources of livelihood in Gjirokastra.
* * *
"My family settled in this area about three hundred years ago. My grandfather sold limestone and building materials. My family laid the cobblestone roads of the Big Bazaar. We used to have a three storied house, with two wells and subterranean storage rooms. But still I am not originally from Gjirokastra," says Odise regretfully. Many people from other regions settled here. People like Odise believe that this is not good for Gjirokastra. They seem to be waiting patiently for some sort of "ending" to this episode, something like a duel to see which part transforms the other; the locals absorb the outside settlers or the other way round. Perhaps they hope that the words of the local folk song will come true, which says that this city will even transform the outside settlers into original Gjirokastri-ts. There are also others who believe strongly that the outsiders will change something in the rigidity of this stone city. They will be the motor that will make it move. They will revive life in the old, museum section of the city and will develop cultural tourism. The 200-300 year old museum houses will be transformed into museums, always attractive to tourists. Perhaps the outsiders and the new times will even manage to prise open that tiny window, all boarded up and closed on "Fool's Walkway." It is beyond doubt that in the state it is in, no-one would be interested.

The Castle of Gjirokastra
It is 800 meters long and 200 meters wide. It was first mentioned as an inhabited location in the fourth Century BC. The encompassing wall inside the castle dates back to the 6th Century, the year 568. The initial inhabitants of the Castle were the members of the Tribe called the Argjirins.  (In the 12th Century Gjirokastra is mentioned as a township too, with about 200 families).  With the Turkish occupation, offices were built within the castle walls, water reservoirs, and prison cells. To this day, there are levels beneath the castle that have never been explored. It is thought that they were used as prison cells because it is pitch black and the cobbling on the stone floors is pointed, possibly a means of torture. In 1812, Ali Pasha of Tepelena, the new conqueror of the castle, constructed the Great Porte and the south western section of the castle. (The inhabitants left when the Pasha of Janina arrived). On the same spot where today the stage for the national folklore festivals stands, the Pasha built a viaduct raised on stone arches. It was 12 kilometres long and it brought supplies of fresh drinking water into the castle from Mt. Sopoti. The last arches of the viaduct were destroyed by King Zog the First in 1929, who also possessed the Castle for a few years. With the stones of the arches of the viaduct, the King built a prison which was used as such up until 1968.
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                    [post_content] => By Artan Lame
Tirana, in the twenties' The Clock Tower, or as it is known in the old language "the mound of the Clock", together with the Mosque of Ethem Bey, constitutes the most valuable object of this city called Tirana. With foundations laid in the first years of the XIX Century, it took about 20 years to complete, not so much for the degree of difficulty in constructing it, but mostly because of a lack of finances. Begun with the money of Haxhi Ethem Bey, it was later financed by the traders of the local Bazzar, when the Bey ran out of money. Today, this would be called, "additional tender funds for unexpected construction work." This is anoriental type tower and the works of the clock have been installed above the clock's dial, where the two stone arches can be seen in the photograph. The clock originally did not have a dial or hands to tell the time, as western type clocks do, but the time was conveyed by the bell chimes. The bells were at the top of the tower beneath the small roof, visible above teh two arches we mention earlier. Urban legend has it that the original clocks made out of beaten iron and bronx sheeting, were plundered by the Austrian Army during WWI, in 1917, however, I don't believe these legends all that much. The upper part of the tower was destroyed in 1928  adn it was re-constructed in the shape it has today with state expenditure. I mentioned this just in case the owner of the land on which the tower stands comes forward.
The photo shows the entire complex-tower-mosque-minaret, taken from "28 November Street," the entire area of which has been dug out, it appears to be the moment when the tower was being fitted out in 1924. The building to the left of the photo was the State Hospital at the time and had been a hospital since the time of the Turks. It had originally been a school and was built in the thirties of the XIX Century.
At first glance, you can see a telephone pole, which Albtelecom of that time must have purchased by tender, because you could hardly find a more crooked pole. One thing I have always noticed in today's photographs of Albania, is the presence of  mazes of telephone wiring and power cables hanging everywhere and criss crossing the skyline inall directions. This photo above makes you understand that this is not a defect of modern times, but a ailment that has accompanied development in this country ever since the arrival of the telephone or electric power.
                    [post_title] =>  Forsaken Albania 
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                    [post_content] => By Artan Lame
Petrela, 1942. Petrela is a village full of the ancient history of this country, and it has managed to preserve some of this history at least in their memories. Legend has it that the rampants, rising above the village, belong to a castle that was recognised s the Seat of Mamica, the sister of Skenderbeg. Ballaban Pascha Badera was from the same  village and was one of Kastriot's strong opponents. He was killed in 1466 and buried in his village of birth. 
In 1935, the decision was adopted to bury General Gilardi in the village of Petrela. The General was killed in combat trying to put down the Fieri Uprisings. King Zog gave him a magnificent funeral.
Following the invasion of Albania by Italy, the village became a tourist attraction adn the Italians invested heavily here. After the War, the glory of the village began to wane somewhat only to be revived in the early 90-ties.
The first photo, taken from the castle, shows the square in the centreof the village (1) constructed by the Italians, the construction of a small hotel (2), the construction of several surrounding public buuildings (3,4), and a large sports field (5), below the main square. You can see two large tents erected in the lower field, used when school children visited on excursions from Tirana, organized by the schools of the capital and financed by the Italians. Top right there is a straight road (6), which winds uphill towards a smaller clearing on the hilltop, where the monumental grave to General Gilardi stood (7). You can see several willow trees behind the inn (8), amongst which nestled the place of prayer of Ballaban Pascha. A beautiful drinking fountain was erected and engraved into the wall of the village square(9). In this foto the drinking fountain is under construction. A fountain was also built in amongst the olive trees(10) and a more secluded garden.
For the curious who would like to know what happened in later years, I could say that the first to be destroyed was the grave of the General, stone by stone, during the fifties'. Later on in 1967, the place of prayer of Ballaban Pascha was next to go, It was obliterated mercilessly despite the 500 years it carried. Today there is not a trace of its existence. The fountain was abandoned years ago and you can only see traces of it beneath the bushes.The owner of the building that can be seen in the lower part of the other photograph, came forward and claimed his ownership rights, so the history of the village is no longer learnt there, but the underwear of the courageous wife of the also courageous property owner, wave in the breeze.
Yes, they obliterated the memories this village haboured, but still that does not impede us from remaining a people with ancient history and a rich culture!!!!
                    [post_title] =>  Forsaken Albania 
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                    [post_content] => By Alba ȥla
Meet the funniest town in Cape Cod, Massachusetts:  Provincetown! or as it is usually referred to shortly P-town, a safe haven for gay and lesbian couples to celebrate their diversity in a peaceful and funny atmosphere, away from the curious or prejudiced gaze that follows them elsewhere. P-town is located right at the tip of Cape Cod and is easily reached by boat or bus from popular destinations like Boston or Newport. It was the first place where the pilgrims landed, the supposed first missionary settlers in America, from whom Americans have inherited the tradition of thanksgiving, a popular holiday still cherished throughout the country. A high tower stands still near the center of the town commemorating the arrival of the famous Mayflower ship, and also the agreement that they all signed about the way they wanted to conduct their life away from Britain.
The changes form their arrivals in 1620 are breathtaking. The pilgrims were strict religious people and one can only take a wild guess at to what their reaction would be to the contemporary Provincetown, bustling with a gay and lesbian carnival parade every summer. Its main artery is Commercial Street, lined up with shops, restaurants and other tourist destinations. Surrounded by vast beautiful beaches and equipped with a generous choice of different entertainment offerings, P-town is not an unusual tourist destination. Curiously, over time it has developed into a place where diversity and individuality are accepted and accommodated with ease. In the summer it hosts hundreds of international students who work seasonally in the shops, hotels and restaurants of the town.
 I visited p-town in my second year in the States to meet some of my old friends who were working there for the summer but also to learn more about the community of gays and lesbians it hosts. I found a beautiful fun little town which had been a fishing village before. Sitting at the beautiful veranda of the caf顅uropa I thought that it is probably named so to celebrate its whitewashed walls full of decorative flowers in proper Mediterranean style. I met Bulgarian, Albanian and Romanian friends from school and they all had a story to share about P-town. Though not necessarily for religious reasons, our cultures as well have been quite rigid to the idea of homosexuality and the reactions are still uninformed at best. For these people who faced the culture of gays and lesbians everyday though things were easier to explain. "It is different to know real people with real lives. You understand they are no monsters, you understand that your own misconceptions were wrong- said one student from Kosovo who waited at one of the most popular restaurants in town-and above all they are al friendly and respectful. And that is what is important to me." 
One year later, I decided to chase other acquaintances to learn about their experience, their lives in the gay town. Having had two gay guys as two of the best friends (and 2 of the most important people) in my life, I felt compelled to send a message of tolerance and of the need to cherish diversity. So far I have found nothing more self-reflective and thoughtful as the account given by D from Tirana who spent only one summer in P-town. Here is what he recalls:

How did you decide to go to P-town? Was there something in particular that made you choose this destination?
I had heard a lot about P-town from my college peers. It seemed like each of them had a lot of fun there and also made decent money over the summer while we had no school. My first two summers in the US I did not "earn a fortune" as opposed to all my friends who had been to P-town, who kept telling about fun summer jobs and great wages. On the contrary, I barely saved to break even in my first two summers working as a lift operator in an amusement park in MD, and as a cashier at Burgerking in CT. So I decided to go to P-town both to make some money, but also I was very curious of the gay fun life everyone was talking about. Also two of my best friends T. and S. were going there that summer so I made up my mind to go the this exotic town.

You knew before hand that P-town was inhabited by lets say a little "unusual" community. Were you prepared for what you found on ground? How did the reality differ from your expectations? 
If by "unusual community" you refer to the gay community there, yes I knew that it was a gay, and hence weird in my mind, community. I was aware that it was a gay town, so to speak, but what I did not know was that what I thought was "gay" was different from what it actually was. Before going to P-town, I had always thought that 99% of gays were effeminate men (sissies, or queens). What I realized in P-town was that the gay men, were predominantly very muscular, much like Hollywood action movie stars, and they had no "feminine" behaviors at all: their bodies were quite manly, so were their voices, and their gestures. I would not tell they were gay, had I seen them elsewhere. So their appearance was different from what I expected. Many times I thought how embarrassing it was that me, being a straight guy and hence a real man as I considered myself, couldn't beat any of those gay guys. I felt I was the "sissy" oneŠBut of course, some of them had a normal body, i.e. not really built up. 
Also I had never thought two men, and two women could kiss in the streets, hold hands while nobody staring at them. In the beginning I was shocked, meaning surprised, at this, but after a month it was as natural as two opposite sex persons kissing and holding hands in the streets.
I had expected weirdo-s but I found people. Like everywhere else people are different: some are vegetarians, some love pasta, some love sports, some are too religious, while these ones have "same sex" relationships. Now, after the experience in P-town, I believe that being gay is like any other attributes.

What impressions do you have from homosexual people (gay and lesbian) in p-town?
Other than their appearance, I realized that the gay guys were normal people: some were mean, some OK, and some very good people. As a matter of fact I made friends with some of them, and found out that besides our sexual orientations we had a lot in common. Before going to P-town, I had never imagined becoming a close friend to a gay guy, but eventually this happened: one guy I was working with at the beach resort, named Paul. We had a great time together at work and off work. We dined together several times; and sometimes together with his boyfriend. I even hanged out at his house. 
Let me briefly tell you about the first time I went at his place: the first time Paul invited me over, I was so afraid to go, I thought he would allure me to sex, knowing that he had told me I was a cute guy, or as my other friends Jason always told me "sugar lips". My heart was beating fast when I was at the passenger seat of his car. We entered the house and I was searching for the "emergency exits". I thought that I would get out of the balcony in such a case. BUT NOTHING HAPPENED. Paul showed me the house and the garden. We had some refreshments and sandwiches, watched some TV and that was it. After that I felt so ashamed of even having thought the possibility of a rape. Oh god, how much prejudiced we are (I was!). 
What also struck me was that the gay gays were very style-conscious: the most of them had great style and they did not smoke. 
Here we interrupt our interview and D explains to me that the obviously gay guys like to call each other "fags", but would not allow straight guys to call them so. He compares this to another dichotomy in the American society: "It is very similar to what happens with the word "nigger" and the white guys; the colored people don't like to be called such from the whites, but happily call each other so." Most of my friends in the States have been able to discern this interesting observation about the African American community here but not all of us can extend that to the homosexual community. He proceeds to tell me that eventually he gained the right to call them "fag" and vice versa because they realized he was not homophobic. His account continues:
Well what else? Very, very, gentle as opposed to the female gays. I think that the lesbians in P-town were quite rude, they were the ones to cause trouble. Me being a security guard in a gay resort, never witnessed throwing out a gay guy, but every other day we'd have trouble with the ladies. Also contrary to my previous belief, I never saw a pretty lesbian like those in the porn moviesŠThe guys were handsome, oh yeah, but the girls, well it seemed to me they had become lesbian because of their looksō
Everyone has a story and some of the stories they shared with me were impressive. Some of them had had families for years before realizing that they had to be themselves and turning to be entirely absorbed in the gay life. Being able to listen to them made me realize how much more considerate I should be before judging.
Do you think that as a result of your summer experience something in you has changed mostly referring to the opinions you hold about gay people?
Definitely: before P-town I thought being gay was wrong. But being gay is not more, nor less than just, oh well, being gay. I tried to understand whether this was their choice or innate. From what I understood it was innate. Paul could tell whether a certain woman was charming/sexy or not, but even if she were she was "transparent" to him. He would have no desire whatsoever for the sexiest of ladies, even Marylin. Others like Kevin, told me that while other guys at his elementary school, would love to hold their girl classmates' hands, he actually preferred to walk hand to hand with his boy classmatesŠBut others found out they were gay in their late 20's some of them had even been married before. Whether inborn or not, it doesn't really matter. Everyone has their right to the pursuit of their happiness. I don't mind gay people. What bothered me was the fact that little by little, every day, I was tempted to "try it". Not only it was not "wrong" anymore, but now I was considering "trying it". They would come up and tell me the advantages of having sex with a male versus a female. But, I didn't budge. On the other hand, I would not like to spend another summer in P-town, because I'm afraid I would break and "try it". Frankly, I don't know what held me from trying. My best guess would be my parents, my friends, my teachers, everybody in Albania who views being gay as a crime. I was brought up thinking it is a crime, and I don't want to be a criminal. The same thing as having an earring or dying your hair. I'd love to have an earring but my dad would die of a heart attack, becauseŠ"this is wrong." 
 
What do you think about the general hostile attitude in Albania towards the phenomenon and the culture of gays? It is a rigid society that considers this topic a tabooō
We Albanians are messed up. We think that spitting in the street, throwing garbage out of our balconies, hooting the horns in the street as soon as the green light comes up, Ƴtealing arms and shooting at each other is OK, but being gay is wrong. Oh please, I can't understand my people! I can't tell what's wrong in our mindsō

D. ends on a perplexed and almost angry note and I consider his confusion as fully justified. Perhaps if everyone could have the opportunity (and a mind open-enough to welcome that opportunity) to live through such an experience, even the most stubborn homophobic could change their mind at least slightly about being gay and about how gay people are. Till then we seem to be condemned to live in a dark and anguishing prejudice.
                    [post_title] =>  Province Town- where Albanians meet Gay and Lesbian comunity 
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                    [post_content] => Professor Enver Hasani, PhD, Rector of the University of Pristina in Kosovo gave un exluzive interview to Tirana Times

Tirana Times: Who is Enver Hasani? 
HASANI:  Well, I am professor of international law and international relations. I did my PhD and MA studies in Ankara at the English-speaking University of Bilkent in Ankara. My first MA and the law studies I did in Pristina during the Communist era. I have been an adviser and worked with all governments of Kosovo since 1992, as well as being a legal adviser for the Kosovars at the Rambouillet Conference on Kosovo in 1999.  However, I never had any political affiliation, but only professional work I did with the political and other leaders of Kosovo during this time. I am a Fulbright Scholar from Northwestern University in Chicago in United States. 

Tirana Times: You have recently been  elected as the Rector of the Pristina University. What are the challenges ahead?
HASANI:  There are many challenges ahead, indeed. It is very difficult to single out a domain where the challenges will be greater. I would however have to say the UP needs two sorts of changes, similar to the way IT world functions. First, I have to fix and intervene as regards the hardware of the University- its physical appearance. There is a huge amount of work to do in securing a decent environment to study and research in, because almost all basic facilities were destroyed after the war due to negligence and mismanagement. Second, there is another major task in repairing and updating software of the University that is its intellectual property, starting from curricula, textbooks and research which are far below any western standards. In fact, the UP lags behind most of the universities in the region. I expect resistance from within because intervening in these two segments means destroying many undeserved privileges and advantages that professors and students have been enjoying since the war and several years beforehand when we were under the parallel system resisting Milosevic and his regime.

Tirana Times:  You have declared the intention for an overall restructuring and reform of the UP in order to bring it to European and Western standards required by higher education. What does this mean in practical terms?
HASANI:  As I said, this means changes to the very philosophy of the management of the UP and the way it works at present. It will take some time but I am optimistic that within my mandate clear changes shall take place and the UP shall embark on a normal route of development and progress towards proper standards of higher education. I will advance simultaneously on both fronts, fixing the hardware and the software of the UP. I have very concrete plans for this.

Tirana Times: The UP is the only public institution in Kosovo and there are several other private institutions dealing with higher education. What relations do you have with them?
HASANI: There is one other public university in the country, the one run by the Serbs in the North of Kosovo. However, its status is dubious and UNMIK authorities have removed its license due to its functioning on political principles. I sincerely hope that one day we shall have a common understanding to work together under the one umbrella and within the legal system of the society of Kosovo.
As for the private universities, apart from the American University of Kosovo, none of others are serious candidates to compete with and the way they operate is not correct. There is a conflict of interests because most of them, 99 per cent, employ our staff.  In addition to this, our staff is employed simultaneously by five or more universities, which runs counter to any moral let alone legal standards. In September I am planning to start a series of talks on this matter. I am sure I will persuade our staff not to do lecturing work at private universities due to their personal reputation and the very nature of our work at the UP. Besides this, their work there is against the law and seriously harms the interests of the UP and their personal reputation.

Tirana Times: What connections does the UP have with the outside world?
HASANI:  Until now, I believe that the UP has been the most isolated intuition in the region. Contacts with the outside world have been non-existent, apart from few with the Tirana and Tetovo Universities. I am hopeful that soon we shall re-establish contacts with the outside world and open the UP to outside influence. 

Tirana Times: What is the UP and Tirana University relationship?
HASANI: As I said, very few contacts have been established so far and they were based on personal connections, more that on an institutional basis. I met with the Rector of the Tirana University the other day, Mr. Shezai Rrokaj and discussed various ways and modalities of our cooperation, such as joint projects within the European system of higher education. I am confident that our cooperation shall be very institutional and transparent for the benefit of all. 

Tirana Times: What would be the briefest way to round up the urgent needs of the UP?
HASANI; To regulate the look of the UP premises and urgently change the textbooks used by our students, which are old books by local authors, having no match in outside world. Next comes the promotion of those who do serious research and proper teaching based on Western standards.

Tirana Times:  Is there any space for minority students at the UP? 
HASANI:  Yes, there is. We register a few of them every year, but the number is too small because teaching and research is in Albanian only. Serbs have been absent throughout these post-war years but I hope soon to make some positive changes. As far as the UP is concerned, I am ready to play my constructive role in addressing this issue, and fixing it, if politics of Kosovo decides for serious move in this direction. I have met with Serb Minister of the Government of Kosovo, Mr. Slavisa Petkovic, and discussed with him the ways to integrate local Serbs within the UP. There is some move in this direction and I hope soon to see some results.

Tirana Times: What about the brain drain phenomenon?
HASANI:  That is not expressed so much in Kosovo due to the fact that there are many internationals who work and live here, employing our better intellectuals. The only problem is how to get these young and well educated people to work at the UP. So far, the UP has been reluctant to open its doors to them. I am very much committed to opening the doors of the University to them and invite them to join our staff. This will happen soon.

Tirana Times: Where is the University of Pristina with the Bologna Process?
HASANI:  In the very distant future, for the time being. I hope, this year, to start the internal and external evaluation, with the help pf the EUA (European University Association), to see where we are. I have been in this post for two months and I hope that the UP draws closer to Bologna and other Western standards on higher education within my mandate.

Tirana Times:  As a well known professor of international law and relations and the adviser to all governments of Kosovo since 1992, what is the role of the UP in daily and political life in Kosovo? What is its impact on the overall political processes of the country?
HASANI:  The UP has been a very serious actor in political developments of the country in the former Yugoslavia. After we went into the parallel system, in 1991 onwards, to fight Milosevic and his regime, the UP won greater influence, although the teaching and research suffered very seriously as the UP became the political tool of certain interest groups in Kosovo. This situation deteriorated rapidly after 1999 so that UP became a very politicized institution, and groups of people, party hacks and bureaucrats of the social upheavals following the end of the war in Kosovo in 1999 misused it for personal gain and benefit to the detriment of progress and social development. I hope this situation shall change too soon. This means that UP shall be a normal institution for the benefit of all, free of political influences and devoted to study and research.. 

Tirana Times: What is the situation with research at the UP? 
HASANI:  Research in terms of a practice, does not exist in the UP. Almost all activity in the UP is devoted to teaching, very classical methods being used there. So we have to work hard to correct this very important parameter for the normal functioning of an institution of higher education. This is not because Bologna asks from us, but due to our needs for progress and development. In this regard, I will be counting a great deal on the help of the international community, our friends from all around the world and I have promises for this. Without them we alone cannot achieve anything seriously.
                    [post_title] =>  The New Rector: Reforming UP the IT Way 
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                    [post_content] => By Artan Lame
Italo-Greek War, 1940. In October of 1940, Italy attacks Greece from Albanian territory, in futile combat that dragged on for eight months and which Mussolini only managed to win following German intervention. The Greeks who felt betrayed and invaded in their own Homeland, put up a powerful resistence that had not been anticipated by the Italian forces. This conflict cost the Italians dearly, 13,700 casulties, including 70 Albanian army officers, and the Greelks lost 13,400 troops. 3,000 Anglo-Canadians abd 1,300 Germans also perished in this war.
The first photograph shows the graves of English fighter pilots. The British, allies of the Greeks, undertook a series of air attacks and bombing raids against supply bases of the Italian Army in Albania, chiefly in Berat, Tepelena, Vlora and Durres. Their aim was to intercept and destroy Italian military supplies destined for the front.  In this case, their aircraft must have been hit and brought down by Italian anti-air batteries. The crew members have been buried by the Italians with all military  honours. Wooden croses have been erected at the head of the graves, which bear the names of the fallen and the Army Force he belonged to. The little graveyard is fenced by damaged strips of metal salvaged from the wreckage of the aircraft. For the Albanians, who don't bother to honour their own fallen soldiers, let alone the fallen of the enemy, it is a little difficult to  comprehend such a gesture, which is only normal for foreign armies. On the crosses you may read the names of at least two of the "enemy". Lewis Bennet and R. Francis, while on the vertical post of the crosses the initials RAF (Royal Airforce) have been carved.
In the second photograph, you can see a monumental cemetry ffor the Italian servicemen who fell on the front. The graves hve been dug at the foot of a wall of a Church and also bear wooden crosses with the particulars of the fallen. At the head you can distinguish the words, "Sergent BARBIELLINI BERNARDO, 7. 11.1940; MAJOR VITO BEATO, 2.11.1940; VITO PANZA 4.11.1940, and so on. From the ranks, it appears they were high ranking officers which is quite significant, (60 years later, we liberated the whole of Kosovo without a single casualty, or am I mistaken, in the final account it was not us who liberated it?).
From the dates when they fell, it emerges that they were killed in the first days of the assult, in other words, on Greek territory, and this is why they were buried there. It is hard to belief that these poor souls rest today, with their own names above their heads. Who knows what names, like Janaqis or perhaps Harallambros,  the Greeks have erected with their names engraved in the wood, at the head of the graves so that the numbers of men lost in combat tally.
                    [post_title] =>  Forsaken Albania 
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                    [post_date_gmt] => 2006-09-24 02:00:00
                    [post_content] => By Jerina Zaloshnja
"Sixty dollars! It's a new rule from above. 60 dollars," spoke the man with the white coat and unshaved beard as he lazily chewed on his gum.  I was struck. "Where am I to find sixty dollars?" I asked myself as I put my cold hands deep in my pockets knowing fully well that they would come up empty.  I was sure that I had thirty dollars and a few cents in thereحy wife put as much in there early in the morning.  We had asked earlier at the hospital and they had clearly answered: "the price for storing a cadaver in the morgue is exactly 30 dollars and change."
-"Emergency situations call for emergency rules bro, the whole world knows that,"-said the man chewing on gum.  "This is an emergency."
I followed him like a well-trained puppy.  The Gummy Man opened all the drawers of the run-down freezing room with the plaster falling off the walls, the humidity and the smell.  "Emergency!"  Indeed, an emergency right and proper unveiled in front of my eyes.  There was nothing else you could call it but an emergency.  In one of the drawers of the small freezing room of the morgue of our city hospital, there where a single cadaver ought to be stored, I saw with my own eyes that those people, meaning Gummy and his lively colleagues, had carried out an emergency over the dead bodies!  They had placed two cadavers in one drawer and in one case evenō
What an emergency it must be in our city!  I was horrified.  I turned my eyes to Gummy and suddenly a wave of deep primordial respect for him washed over my entire being.  How was he able to place two dead in the space of one while mustering the necessary poise to pronounce the situation "an emergency"?  
Ecce Homo.  Instead of being saddened by all of these eventsشhe sudden departure of my dear father from this life, the sixty dollar payment for emergency situations, the two-in-one deal at the morgue؉ found myself deeply respectful of Gummy.  There we were, facing each other.  His hands deep in his pockets, mine fiddling with the insufficient amount of money.  I saw what had remained of my father six hours after his final closure of the eyes, and I may say that I was surprised at the contrast between man alive and man dead.  
"We've got to stick him in broƨe can't wait forever," said Gummy with the airs of a professional.
I called my wife. "Bring me thirty more," I told her. "What for," she asked.
"For entertainment," I snapped.  Gummy got curious and elaborated: "Wha',"- he asked. "Nothin'" I told him.  I knew that my wife would not let me down.  While Mary, my wife, had never enjoyed what they call a 'healthy relationship' with her father-in-law, she was imbued with a Protestantish ethic that meant that I would be able to not let my father stink. 
And that is what happened.  She arrived breathless half hour later, and gave me the money wordlessly.  "Give them to Gƥntleman" I told her pointing at Gummy. "Šhe knows what to do."
"An emergency situation, lady," he repeated calmly and put the money in his pocket.  I can't remember if he gave us a bill for our emergency spending, but it is a certain thing that my father gained a place to stay.
"We'll put him by this officer here,"-he said as he opened the last drawer to the right.  There they were, two manly cadavers one over the other. A miracle!  Gummy earned even more respect as he not only made the emergent seem natural, but he even remembered the names and professions of each cadaver under his watch! 
"There we go," he said after he balanced the new cadaver on top of the old one.
"And the late gentleman, what did he do, what was his profession?" he asked me.
"Nothing. He did nothing," Mary answered in my place.
What more can I tell you?  Some events are difficult to narrate for choice readers such as your honorable selves, but I will certainly do my best.
At the end of the story, Mary and I were 180 dollars poorer.  Right after the business at the morgue was over, I ran over to a restaurant to order a lunch as it is our tradition after the funeral.  I left there a nice little prepayment since, despite Mary's insistence, I wanted to honor my dead father that had worked all his life for his offspring.  The next day, when it was time for the burial, as I was hugging the cadaver one last time (they had brought him home two hours before the ceremony was due) someone touched both my shoulders and whispered: "stop everything, is frozen."
"Of course he is frozen," I told him angrily.
"No, stop, everything is frozen."
"Whaaat?"
"We have to return poor dad at the morgue. An emergency,"- said Ben, my first degree cousin on my mother's side.
An emergency! I was frozen worse than my progenitor.
"Yeah, bro! An emergency. No more room for the dead in the graveyardƨaven't you watched the news?" asked Ben.
Yesƹes I remembered them warning about it in the news for quite a while now.  And it seems they were right.  In the last few days, the mayor was accusing the government for the absence of land to bury the dead in Tirana, absolving the municipality of all blame.  On the other hand, a ministerƴhe pretty one, was doing the opposite. And, it turned out to be true!  How could I forget about this emergency?  "Of all the times to die..." I whispered.
-"Lord, what troubles!"-I heard my dear Mary.  She came close to me and she tried to lift my spirits.  But she was not as good at it as she used to be back then.
"Let us solve this as we are losing face,"-said Ben the first degree cousin and took control of the situation.
We returned father to the morgue where he stayed for another 48 hours.  We also cancelled our lunch at the restaurant of course, but they did not return the prepayment.  The people that had come from afar left somewhat angry but thankfully speechless as they had wasted all that money on the trip.
So, you will ask how did the burial take place as there must have been one since in this land of tradition we do not cremate.  As good old father used to say: "even in war one finds the strength to bury the dead." And, I did solve it.  I called Athens where I talked to Sasha an honest-to-God immigrant who also happened to be my other first cousin from the father's side and begged him to bury my father with his father who had left us fifteen years ago and now could not occupy too much space in his spacious and lonely grave.
Sasha was a bit hesitant, but when I assured him that all expenses for the common grave would be mine, he conceded. I spent five phone card for that concession of his and for finding out the location of the grave!
-"Third row?"
-"No, no, eighth, otto."
-"First bed?"
-"Maybe, but check first. I haven't been in a while because the Greeks at the borderŢ
-"The number of the grave?"
-"I told you to check first.  If I had a Greek name thenŢ and Sasha put the phone down.
Finding the grave of Sasha's father was not much of a problem.  Willpower can carry you far in this country.
I must say I did not have any big problems after my phone conversation with cousin Sasha.  Everything proceeded in the most common way possible.  I mean, no emergencies.
                    [post_title] =>  Give me a break 
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            [post_date] => 2006-10-13 02:00:00
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            [post_content] => VIENNA, Oct. 8 - The Vienna biennial stands open from Sept. 21 to )ct. 10 organized by a group of experts of the "Schillerplatz" arts academy and also a team of correspondents from Berlin, London, Zagreb, etc. some 60 artists from all over the world took part in the biennial and among them Albanian painter Fatmir Velaj.He has sent there "country house", "the house in the forest" and also the "the red feeling rhapsody". They are worked in acrylic 100x120cm,130x180cm and 140x210cm.
            [post_title] =>  Fatmir Velaj takes part at Vienna Biennial 
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