Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Up against the beautiful Trebeshine-Dhembel-Nemercke mountains, the apartment blocks of communist Permet sit above the mighty Vjosa river like a hastily executed Mondrian painting. Seemingly ugly in their simplified functionality, I can't help but find myself searching for beauty amongst these mounuments to communist utilitarianism. I remember a line I liked from a display of everyday household items in the Byzantine museum in Thessaloniki commenting on the attempts of the church to restrain female vanity, “ ...despite the polemics of the church, women continued to make themselves pretty”. I know this universal female need extends beyond physical adornment and into the home. Squinting a little harder at the worker's paradise before me I discerned the presence of lacy curtains behind the flimsy single panes of glass, an unfinished balcony is decorated with a ledge of flowers in plastic pots.
The contrast and quantity of satellite dishes adorning these blocks has it's own beauty too. Isolated for so long, the whole world has finally arrived in Albania shrunk down to the size of a dish and it makes a 24 hour appearance in everybody's living room.
We wander into the upper part of Permet to see what remains of the older part of town which is made of stone from the mountain behind. Although in disrepair, the cobbled streets, stone walls, and handmade doors have weathered the storm of neglect better than the newer and much more dismal communist blocks will and has. I can't help but wonder if tourism will ever be drawn to these bleak quarters as curious vestiges of a communist era long gone by. I already can't help myself from gawking in mystified disbelief. I much prefer the old stone houses, but it seems that I am alone in this amongst the Albanians.