For the "Bed and Bath in Albania" campaign, I went to Albania with Mirsa and her husband Jasper. We have visited old acquaintances in strategic places along Via Egnatia, trying to persuade them to start a B & B, that is: to do some home improvement like build a suitable bathroom and ask a little money for the hospitality provided. That money is not at all self-evident. For most people there, old-fashioned Balkan hospitality is still the norm. And no matter how noble that is, now that more and more people are walking through Via Egnatia, we cannot always let people provide free accommodation. They are poor, often extremely poor. And they defend their honor with fervour! The men often with more vigour than the women. We usually had to talk at length to persuade them! Especially Mirsa then, who is originally Albanian.
For example, there was a middle-aged couple who did not want to accept money from guests. They did, however, periodically go to Greece to earn a living and to have their children study. When we told the woman that the walkers would like to contribute to the study of the children, the idea became more attractive. Eventually they tacked and were happy with the sponsorship of a refurbishment for their bathroom.
Another family consisted of a widow with nine children. They are extremely poor, living together in two rooms. They have a small café with a "squat toilet". Passing hikers often spend the night in the school next door or camp on a meadow. When we proposed to turn the cork-toilet into a better bathroom for the passers-by, to serve breakfast in the café and to ask for some money, they became very enthusiastic! They happened to have a son-in-law who was a plumber and could install everything himself. With € 500 these people were greatly helped and they have an extra means of existence.
That way we could help four families immediately. It was very moving to experience how grateful they were. The hugs, the coffee and the raki were actually meant for you all - generous givers...
Marietta van Attekum
see also Accommodation for places to stay in Albania