Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Albania has been called the North Korea of the Balkans; but considering the country broke with the USSR in 1960 and with China in 1978, accusing both countries of compromising Communist principles, connecting Albania to North Korea might have one time been considered hard on North Korea. Today, however, things are different. As Albanian democracy and a free market take hold, it is more than visitable, it's even agreeable.

Hence, our class on Venetian Corfu took a boat ride there today (more on Corfu and Athens later on). Upon arrival our guide explained that there would be a funeral at the site of Butrint where we planned to go. Tragically, here's why. Thanks to a hangover from hardline Communism, Albania is still one of the poorest countries in Europe, and people still risk their lives to leave.

More importantly than either democracy or capitalism, what Communist dictator Hoxha declared would be the "world's first atheist state" is now enjoying religious freedom. The Orthodox heritage of Albania is quite strong. Our visit brought to mind a line from Over the Rhine, "You can't run truth out of town, only force it underground." Albania has a long way to go, but it's at least going, and is not without captivating beauty. History's next stop: North Korea.