Monday, July 21st 2008

I felt pretty sure I was the only traveller in Gjirokastra. I didn't see anyone else foreign-looking, and I seemed to be the only person in the place that I stayed. I headed for the castle, and on the way got into a strange conversation with an old man. He spoke Italian, and the best I could do was reply in Spanish. But we chatted for a little while. He said he was 70 years old, and lived in one of the very highest houses in the city. He sparked up a cigarette and set off up the hill.

I went on to the castle. It was supposed to be closed, but the two ticket sellers were just relaxing outside enjoying the views, and waved me in. And it was awesome. The castle was huge and crumbling and a lot of it was totally unrestored. I picked my way down corridors with walls that had fallen in, and at one point a bat flew past.

Eventually I found my way to the roof, and watched the sun set over the mountains. A warm wind was blowing down the valley. On the roof was a captured US fighter plane from the 1950s, once the pride of the Communist regime's anti-Western military museum. I stood up there in the warm wind until it got dark.

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