Jennifer Carpenter
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Our Playground.

November 20, 2009 @ 6:00 AM | Permalink

The State Department organized an all-day excursion to the Castle of Rozafa in the city of Shkodra. Marigona, Jon and I joined the Foreign Service Officers for their very school-field-trip adventure.

The Castle of Rozafa was our playground: bright, green grass braided with pale, purple wildflowers -- golden lichen nestled in white, crumbling stone. We raced on ancient footpaths and swayed on tower edges -- brushed our hands against gray, smooth walls and rusting iron grates. We shouted down dark wells until our echoes sounded just like our gasps -- taking in this spectacular view.

Rozafa overlooks the Buna River, the city and Lake Shkodra (a border with Montenegro). The original castle was built by the Illyrians but has been occupied by the Romans, Byzantines, Venetians, Ottomans, and played an important role in the League of Prizren (Albania’s liberation movement). Centuries of invasions and reconstructions have turned Rozafa into a medley of stones and styles.

As the wind picked up and the clouds closed in (from Tirana, no less), we headed to the city. We shared a traditional Albanian meal (family style, and cooked on an open fire) in an old inn. After lunch, we wandered through one of Shkodra's most famous production houses -- handmade paper-mâché masks created for the Italian Carnevales in Venice and Rome. Marigona and I cooed over their elaborate, delicate intricacies. They were our little, colorful toys.

And then the rain started. Playtime was over. We were Tirana-bound.

 

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