Albanian mountain cultures that keep us young


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There is a dreadful saying from the traditional Albanian Kanun of the rules determining community life that “woman is a bag to be used well”. But here, the stiff women in their wise scarves and long black braids were the ones who made good use of the bags, hoisting them up on the bus and around them. Beside me, a woman had a carrying bag filled with yeast with half a dozen large loaves of plain white bread, fresh from a bakery. In front of her was the woman I overheard discussing with the driver beforehand about putting away a huge scented sheet tied around a bulky mass of stems and flowers, some of which littered the floor of the minibus.

Fortunately for my curiosity, one woman – who later introduced herself simply as “Naim’s wife”, in an indicator of the region’s enduring traditional views towards women – insisted on telling the whole minibus what he was doing. was in that mellow pile of herbs that she was. bring home from Kukës.

“Without the rods, they said! Last year they were happy to have the rods! But now apparently that’s not acceptable. So everyone has to go home. I will probably go home. just feed it to the sheep. “

As it turned out, she was talking about primroses, one of the many medicinal plants collected from the wild in Albania. Her package was refused because she had plucked the stems instead of the flowers, apparently an unforeseen new rule at the market where she came to sell her flowers.

“So, are you going out to pick up the flowers?” I asked.

All the minibus answered me: “yes!”

Once my interest became clear, the trip turned into an illustrated lecture. For example, cuckoos – Naim’s wife scattered dried yellow flowers in my hand – are known locally as finger flowers. “Look at the way the flowers come together like a hand,” she said.

The man in front of me pointed out the window. “Elderflower. One euro per kilo.”

Someone else joined in: “And the hawthorn blossom – collecting it is hard on the hands. “

I was learning a new way to analyze the campaign.

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About Lillian Coomer

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