----- Forwarded Message ----
From: inna bakker <innabakker@gmail.com>
Sent: Wednesday, October 15, 2008 3:09:59 PM
Subject: Fwd: # 7 Macedonia and Albania

Dear friends and family
from Greece we crossed the border to Macedonia, stopped in a small poor town Bitola where gypsy kids surrounded us begging for money  " very professionally", saw monument to Tito, than drove to a beautiful lakeside resort Ohrid which is a jewel of Macedonia, center of tourism, Lake Ohrid is one of the oldest in the world and deepest in the Balkans, the whole town is UNESCO heritage site, Macedonia is a home land of Alexander the Great who conquered the ancient world in the  4 th century B.C.
now it is the only one of 6 republic of former Yugoslavia  which got independence peacefully, without a war, it is  still plenty of problems, not a member of EU yet.
 than we crossed the border to Albania and drove to the capital Tirana, first, we saw tremendous amount of bunkers---bomb shelters, small concrete domes, Albanian brutal dictator Enver Hoxha built 700 000 of them between 1950----1985 against foreign invasions, now it is impossible to destroy them, it is a mountain country-  70 % - and mountain people, than we drove along Adriatic sea,
 we had extensive tour of Tirana,  National Museum of History,  which has a gallery devoted to the misery of communist era and full scale  model of the prison cell, than i we walk the city, the most unusual thing is  paintings of the old, gray, Stalinist apartment buildings with bright multicolors, different shapes, forms, lines, cubes, etc, project of the mayor 0f Tirana who is a painter himself,
Tirana is one of the youngest capitals of  Europe, only since 1920, for dictator Enver  Soviet Union  was "too liberal" he reoriented  the country toward China and cultural revolution, it is used to be the poorest country in Europe, no more,
i went to the old capital---ancient city of Duress with Roman ruins and 10 km of pebbles beach, no sand, it has very impressive archaeological museum. but the best part  was my personal experience of meeting my Albanian friends whom i found on Internet when i was looking for a Jewish community  to be together for Yom Kippur in Tirana, there is no functioning synagogue here, so i just fasted, no service,
but i discovered that Albanian  people hided Jews during WW II, did not give them to Germans and took jewish Refugees from other countries, after the war Albania --the only country in Europe --- had more Jews than before the war, but world did not know about this heroic acts because Albania was completely isolated from the world by communist dictator,     jews were airlifted to Israel, now the world is learning, Israel is honoring people, making movies, writing articles, etc
since 1990 it is a democratic country, open to the world , building economy, 70 % are Muslims, 20 % are Christians, 10 % are catholics---- Mother Teresa,
my friends Vlady ---Albanian     and  Natasha [ jewish, born in Russia , married American who works for Piece Corp in Tirana} came to my hotel twice , i learned a lot about the people and history, Natasha took me to the conservatory , concert of Italian, barokko music, cultural life is very active, after we went to a reception and i met very nice professional people who are eager to develop the country as fast as possible,
i am so glad that i visited  Albania at this stage and now have personal friends there whom i invited to stay with me in New York,
next  Montenegro and Croatia.
love to all.

1Macedonia in cyryllic
2Macedonia--Lake Ohrid
3Tirana's museum---Mother Teresa
4Tirana--painted bld.
5 Tirana--painted bld.
6 Duress
7 my Albanian friends
9  driving along Adriatic Sea
10opera theater in Tirana