Monday, April 27, 2009

Shkodra Albania

After visiting Lezhe, we drove to Shkodra. We didn't see much of the town other than driving through it. However, we drove up a mountain to Rozafa Castle and from there we could see all of Shkodra and the surrounding countryside. On one side you can see the Buna Rover and on the other side was the Drina River.

It was neat for me to see the Drina since on my 2003 Balkan trip I got to see the Drina in Bosnia-Herzogovina. I read Ivo Andric's book The Bridge on the Drina before going and actually got to have lunch next to, as well as walk on, the actual bridge from the book. As I said, it was kind of cool to see the river again in a different country. It also seemed to somehow join both trips...both were to visit with friends from the Marshall Center, both were to the Balkans and now both showed me different parts of the Drina...

Rozafa Castle seemed to take up the whole top of the mountain. The history has been traced back 4000 years to a Bronze Age settlement. Still standing are some Illyrian "Cyclopean Walls" from around 350BC. Because of its long history, the castle has had many additions over the centuries. Wandering through the different courtyards, you can see not only the Illyrian construction but Ottoman and Venetian as well. The main medieval building still standing is St Stephen's Church. At one point, after the Ottomans invaded, a minaret was added and the church was turned into a mosque.
Even though the museum inside the castle was closed, Igli had made some phone calls before we got there so we were allowed inside. Most of the items originally in the museum were plundered following the 1997 pyramid scheme collapse and resulting riots and chaos. There were however documents detailing Shkodra's history, a full-scale model of the castle and city, as well as many artifacts found in the castle and surrounding areas. On the main floor, just inside the doorway was a large sculpture of a woman feeding a child. the sculpture commemorates the Legend of Rosafa.

Rozafa Castle is "named" for the woman in the legend. The legend seems to be essentially an aid to show how important and worthy it is to put the needs of the many above the few (or in this case, above an individual).

The legend describes the initiative of three brothers who set about building the castle. They worked all day, but whatever they had built during the day, fell down at night. After this happened numerous times, they went to an oracle. The oracle advised them to make a sacrifice and then the walls would stand.

The three brothers couldn't decide whom to sacrifice. Finally, they agreed whichever wife brought them lunch the next day would be the one to be buried in the wall of the castle. They promised not to tell their wives. Yet, the two older brothers told their wives of the agreement while the youngest brother said nothing.

The next afternoon at lunch time, the brothers waited anxiously to see which wife was carrying the basket of food. It was Rosafa, the wife of the youngest brother. He explained to her what the brothers had agreed to - that she was to be sacrificed and buried in the wall of the castle so they could finish building it.

Rosafa had an infant son she would be leaving behind. In order to ensure her son's happiness, she agreed to be sacrificed on the condition they leave her right arm exposed so she could comfort her son, her right breast so she could feed him, and her right foot so she could rock his cradle.

V's parents have a painting representing the legend in the living room of their apartment, so it was nice to come full circle having seen the painting on our first night in Albania and seeing the castle on our last day.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. What an amazing journey. I'm so glad you shared it with us!