Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tacky Third World

The stone roofs of Gjirokastra in Albania today brought me back to our trek long, long ago through Nepal. Unlike south-central Albania, Nepal had few trees so homes had to be built of materials other than wood. Such as stone, stone, yak dung, and more stone. While other construction materials were present in Albania, the extreme excess of flaky sheets of limestone couldn't be ignored.

That was then, this is now and Albania actually has roads (of a sort). So cheap concrete and tiles have found their way inland and are replacing the traditional stone walls and roofs. Albania has moved from "quaint" third-world to "tacky" third-world status.

Our visit a couple of years ago to Pompeii opened my eyes to the magic of archaeology. Seeing the way that absolutely normal meadows and pastures can hide sophisticated cities underneath their soil was amazing to me. Today I got to see the obfuscation process in action. The hilltop castle in Gjirokastra was impressive from outside, but inside the fortress plants have taken over the upper levels. I have no difficulty imagining this citadel as nothing more than a tree covered hill in a few decades. I'm glad I got to experience what is still standing.

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