As Summer Fades Away in Drymadhes

It has been an exceptional hot and dry summer within our continental climate boundaries! It’s September 8th and summer is still hanging in there. So am I. Driving up to curvy Llogara roads in search of the divinest spot thousand meters up in the air, in midst of mountains, it’s impossible to draw the imaginary line between the deep crystal clear Ionian sea and blue sky.

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Why did I take so long to return here? It is not associated to a break up story or a accident, certainty not. Though five years passed by incredibly fast and things might have changed for the better or the worse, I didn’t forget to write a mental note to myself: Don’t expect too much, these are just small villages by the costal line.

The paved road and sign of a Raiffeisen cash machine were the first things to capture my eye on the Dhermi/Drymadhes entrance. That’s definitely an improvement. So it is the list of hotels’ phone numbers on a poster. Booking hotels/rooms online is quite limited and bargaining deals are still in fashion here. Though it’s already September, the Drymadhes Inn was fully booked, but finding another place to stay was not difficult. My coworker Mr. Elton Gjika who is the architect of the impressive 4 stars “Mansion of Pasha” (Sarajet e Pashait Residence Hotel) suggested me to spend the weekend there. It felt like residing in old times, equipped in luxurious old setting, surrounded by thick stone walls, and the mansion itself was beautifully conceptualized with modern comfort deriving from the historical Albanian mansions of 17th-18th century. The place could not offer more then its historic feeling and hospitality in terms of full range of services and activities speaking, since we were few guests accommodated in these fading summer days.

Dining turned out more tricky. Both evenings sticking to a fish restaurant that seemed to be the only one operating in Drymadhes. Here comes the waiter with a booklet menu and a sarcastic smile. Great! We seem to have alternatives and plenty of choices by going through the menu. But after each attempted order or request there was still this persistent ironic smile of the waiter mentioning repetitively “No, we don’t serve this or we don’t have that…” Ok, my mistake, let’s leave the menu aside and reformulate the question: “Is there anything we can order apart from the 5,000 lek rip-off fish, please?” This time the smile seemed honest followed by a clearer explanation. We are closing down tomorrow, tonight is the last night we serve.

Walking through Drymadhes at daylight was depressive. It was a beautiful summer Sunday at 30+, but almost everything was closed down. The bars, clubs, restaurants, empty touristic information center, trash laying on the sidewalks, skeletons of the summer bars like an earthquake had just hit the area. Unfinished construction works and roads gave nothing but a sad closure to the summer season. Even cows seemed abandoned by their owners, taking lonely promenades in search of company at the beach or at a random hotel entrance.

Finally among free associative thoughts, reminiscences from the past, regretful observations and an inner refusal force screaming out “This can’t be it!!!” Then, the real thing by the seaside: Laying in a comfortable beach chair at the Albanian version of Nikki Beach, feeling the breeze blowing as sun got hotter, sensing the barefoot warmth of the little stones, crashing the playful waves as first sun-kissed rays leave their place to a breathtaking sunset. What a purity of nature and bonheur, what you couldn’t find in Marbella, Mallorca or St. Tropez! Finally: THIS IS IT…

Wired in Wireless Memories

The bonds to my past memories are not just those happy little ones sticking profoundly forever in mind. Nor are those sad reminiscences of loss beyond control. They can be found in every little object, early youth notes, photography and souvenirs of this kind. My memories are fragmented in life cycles. A black and white photo as a child, a classmate book note with funky eternal friendship quotes, handwritten lectures, a 2002 laptop lying in some forgotten shelf, a bulk of handwritten letters and postcards in a grimy corner, old pictures of my grandparents… Pretty much this crafts my past archaic collection. 

Going through these tiny bits and pieces can wake up nothing but sentimental feelings.  As well a little regretful sentiment since the tools of capturing those moments seemed quite limited. I can rely on parents’ story telling about my childhood experience since video footages were inexistent back then. It makes me smile when I think how big of a deal was to own a simple camera, or to recall the countless times us kids were brought by parents at the Skanderbeg square for photo shooting session. That’s the place where “paparazzi” were staying until late 90s. 

Now life snapshots are floating in digital clouds. Last time I remember stepping into a store and developing pictures was when I needed a photo for my biometric passport. I don’t even know how these shops manage to stay in business any longer. In digital age we have grown to be immense consumers. Springtime in Sicily resulted in 1,000 pictures taken in 5 days, 100+ for the perfect shot and yet not fully satisfied. My hard copy photo albums have been smoothly substituted by the irresistible power of photo sharing of Facebook or simple files in computer.

Technology is such a blessing and a curse at the same time. My worst nightmare is waking up and loosing those vivid life cycle collection due to some bug, hardware failure, topped by the horrendous thought of being victim of hacking.  Therefore, I can understand the fear or the reluctance that some people have toward technological advances and social networks.

How much my life changed in the last decade in framework to the technological discoveries?  A lot, unthinkable actually! Looking back it feels like I have been living in the stone age where time was ticking down much slowly. And now I’m always connected virtually at least. I only need my iPhone to access via currents all my favorite magazine and newsletters. To be in touch with friends and professional contacts it takes one click, so it does to scroll through my photo and video archive. There is an App for everything, even when mosquitoes disrupt my reading outdoors in these hot summer nights; some speedy Airbnb research to find apartments in destinations of choice or use GPS navigator or Google maps to get there with my iTunes music library on.

Things that now are taken for granted like the 3G or soon 4G networks were quite unimaginable back in 2008. I thought it was not possible to upload a picture with a status update on FB while canoeing around Alster Lake or posting a blog entry via WordPress app until I saw it actually works that simple. Just a click.

How future advances in technology will reshape our lives and trigger social change is yet to be seen. So far we live in revolutionary times of astonishing advances that have found their own fast speed track. It remains nothing but to follow.

With a nostalgic feeling of the past and impressions on the future, here’s my favorite Oscar Wilde approach: Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.