Thursday, September 23, 2010

Beaching it.

One of the nicest things about living here is that when we come back from a 'summer' in England we know we will always have at least 4 if not 6 wks of warm weather (up to the 30s) to enjoy.

So we often go to the beach. The water is still warm & the beaches are empty. Albanian have a very funny attitude to swimming 'out of season'. The local pool, heaving from end of May onwards, is always quite quiet at the beginning of September, & in fact it is always closed by the 15th of September. Albanians seem to think that the minute August ends, if you stick a toe in the water you will contract flu. Believe me, there are far more likely disease scenarios than flu from our local pool & local beach So it means the beaches are all quiet too. And of course Albanians generally, like France & other Mediterranean countries where August is sweltering, if they can do so, take most of it off, but then go to the beach......

So we went to the beach. This is guaranteed to be an interesting cultural experience. Once we had made it to the coast, we turned North to head up an unmade up rd so that we were on a small beach well above the conurbation of Durres, where raw sewage is pumped into the sea & friends have complained of rashes, itchy skin & tingling sensations after swimming there.

Unfortunately Mr Ingo somehow managed to drive into a 'pothole'. I was map reading, vainly looking for clues as to how to get out of Durres onto the right rd. (using our 1 & only map which is of the whole of Albania.) Mr Ingo had pulled round the car in front who was dawdling. (Usual scenario; on the phone, changing a CD & lighting a cigarette whilst steering with his knees) - OK, so maybe only 3 out of 4 of those were true. In fact he probably had a small child on his lap steering for him. So neither of us saw the 3 ft deep, 3 ft wide hole until we fell in it. Well the passenger side wheel did & the underside of the car bellied onto the tarmac. Bit of a pickle. Fortunately in these situations, which are quite normal here, a passer by stopped, grabbed hold of the bumper & told Mr Ingo to reverse whilst he was effectively lifting our car. It worked. The guy gave us a cheery wave & continued in his crossing of the road. I was very thankful we hadn't been driving our 4x4 tank at the time!

So we continued on our unlikely way past the ubiquitous concrete mushrooms, a few lone houses & disused factories until we got to a military base, where we turned up hill & parked on the small cliff overlooking our little bay. We then proceeded to pay our 200 lek for a lounger & umbrella. The umbrella is vital because of the sun, & the umbrellas don't come without the beds. The price is non negotiable, despite the fact that most of the equipment is obselete; my umbrella collapsed on me removing most of the skin from one elbow & trapping me momentarily inside. It may look very Mediterranean & 1st world, but believe me, those umbrellas & sunbeds are ancient.

On the plus side, the little café at the top has a man who comes down to the beach to take your order, disappears off again only to return with our cappuccinos in china cups & saucers on a tray. Bliss.

Not being very frequented, this beach is reasonably litter free & quite pretty, though this year somewhat marred by a landslide which had sliced the beach in two.

However you'll never guess the main reason I like it. It is, believe it or not, because you can't get cars onto the beach. This was an eventuality that I had not prepared for BA (Before Albania) In Albania, people drive on the beach, for fun, for practice, for......I'm not really sure what. Slaloming through sunbathers, ball games, toddlers paddling in rock pools; it is, not surprisingly, unnerving. It seems nowhere here is free from traffic. Nor is it free of boy racers.

On one beach trip, to a different beach, we drove onto the beach to park, (on the very edge) & were entertained for the rest of the day by a couple of lads one 7, one 11 I would guess, driving a very old clapped out Merc along the beach. They weren't going fast enough to be joy riding & they had been fishing & were collecting a friend, but nevertheless they ploughed repeatedly up & down. You can just abt see the old Mercedes in the background of this photo. (& the litter if you look closely.) This beach isn't very busy either, but in Durres, a city beach, there are quite a few cars & loads of people to negotiate!

And the other big cultural difference is a Western/Southern Europe divide I surmise. Or developing/developed world one. What people take to the beach. The Albanians will go to the beach with their towel. Possibly a small plastic bag with a sanduic, qofte or byrek in it & a soft drink. That's it. And when they leave, the towel goes home with them. The plastic bag of food/leftovers doesn't. It is just left on the beach where they were sitting. Always.

Cue arrival of the Brits, the Germans, the Americans. It looks like a beachside garage sale: cool bags, boogie boards, beach bags, (no windbreaks but many bring umbrellas), buckets, spades, inflatables, changes of clothes, a towel per person, the list, & the bags, go on. I guess it's that Western disease of 'needing' all the equipment for any eventuality, (& being able to afford it.) the beach is a simple pleasure, the expedition there is not.

So what would you consider absolutely essential for the beach? And what marks out your nationality from others when on the beach??


Anonymous said...

Cold sea! I simply can't come to terms with warm sea, feels so wrong....

nappy valley girl said...

When we first came to the US we were amazed by the amount of stuff everyone took to the beach. We would turn up with a towel - they would turn up with umbrellas, chairs, giant coolboxes, barbecues, trailers full of kids' toys.

A year later and we have acquired the beach umbrella, a large bag of buckets and spades and the giant cooler. A trip to the beach is now a major expedition. But somehow all this stuff suddenly seems necessary....

Sarah (Chez Lee) said...

Fabulous post. Here in NZ the beaches are beautiful and uncrowded; we are very fortunate. However the sea is COLD! I take far too many bags to cater for all the potential needs of the children and littering is really frowned upon (people volunteer to do cleanups every so many months around the city beaches).

I love the sound of the coffee in a china cup - perfect!

Iota said...

I really wouldn't enjoy the beach if cars were driving up and down.

Once upon a time I looked on a paperback as an essential accompaniment to a beach trip, but those days are long gone.

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Evelina said...

Albanians are not used to swim when the temps go under 75F so,the reason it that they dont like to go to the beach and be cold. It is different in England or Northeneast of USA, we can swim in the ocean at 70F.