The majority of the participants of the Roundtrip was joined by the other ones for the seminar on the 7th of August with a welcome dinner in Emblema in which everybody got their seminar T-shirt.
Next day the seminar started at 8:30 in the rehearsal room of the Opera building with live music. All days in Tirana we had morning and evening classes, ending the days with dinners in different restaurants in town. On the 9th we had no evening classes as we went for dinner up Dajti mountain, the national park north-east of Tirana. A cable car brought us up to the mountain and after a short drive in a minibus we arrived at the restaurant Gurrë e Perisë, where fresh trout is served.
It was nice to see the sun going down from mount Dajti and on the way back to see Tirana beneath at night.
On the 11th of August we left Tirana for our trip north. After visiting the Ethnographical museum in Kruja (which is one of the best) and having done some shopping in the old bazar, we continued the trip to Shkodra, to have a late lunch at the river Buna in restaurant Enea, while the luggage was transported to hotel Meteor. Having arrived at Meteor some took a swim in the swimming pool of the hotel and relaxed afterwards outside with a drink.
Later than planned we left Shkodra for Lepushi next morning on a long trip into the mountains, which took us across the “balcony of the north” , a high pass. As told, this was as far north as Enver Hoxha, the communist dictator ever went. Just before Lepushi one of the minibuses got a flat tire, but it was repaired pretty fast. Having arrived in Lepushi there was some quarrel about how many people to stay where, but in the end it worked out fine. Six of us stayed in the Hotel, the others in two guest houses. The guest houses turned out to be more comfortable then the hotel, but the hotel served later as exercise room for dancing lessons.
On the 13th of August was the Lepushi festival “Logu I Bjeshkeve”, held every year on the second Saturday in August. Some groups from Kosovo, Montenegro and Albania perform with music, songs and dances, but the major activity is the election of Miss Bjeshka, a girl in full dress from the region. It was exciting to be part of that festivity, see all the beautiful Xhubleta’s and other costumes, hear the music, and just being amidst all those friendly Albanian highlanders. The authentic group from Rugovo gave an extra dimension to the festival for the participants.
Next day the group donated the things they brought to the local school. Some teachers and pupils showed up and presented the group with a small show in song and dance. The gifts were accepted with great enthusiasm.
Dance lessons took place in the hotel. Not really an adequate rehearsal room, but just enough space on a stone floor. When the electricity failed once, we were happy to have audio equipment which could work on a build-in battery, so no problem.
On the last day in Lepushi the opportunity was offered for some of the participants to take a long walk to Vermosh, a village in the nearby valley and the most northern village of Albania, close to the Montenegrin border. Others went on a short hike and got dance lessons afterwards.
Then we left Lepushi back to Shkodra to Hotel Meteor and again some of us took a quick swim in the pool. Later we had a short excursion to the Mesa bridge, one of the oldest Ottoman bridges in Albania and the Rozafa castle, from which you have a perfect view of the Drin and Buna rivers coming together, the Shkodra Lake and the city. The excursion ended in Restaurant Tradita, run by Gjon Dukgelaj, who reconstructed his traditional parents house into a traditional restaurant. Two musicians with ciftelië and sharki presented us songs on our last dinner in the north.
Back in Tirana we had morning and evening classes again, mainly rehearsing all we learned before and a little surprise, a lesson in polyphonic singing by Gramoz Burba.
On the last night in restaurant Sarajet, a small folklore show was presented by Vitore Matoshi, lady singer from Tropoja, Llani on keyboards, Genci, Helga and Besmir Aga performing some dances in costume. Esat Ruka from the Centre for Immaterial Folklore was present and announced that there could be a Gjirokastër festival in August next year, due to the 100 year of independence, but depending on the decision by the ministry of culture and tourism. After these announcements the participants got their certificates of participation, signed by Genci and Helga. Being from Mati, Esat Ruka stepped in to the dance with the participants and all danced the dance from Tirana, All people involved in the organization got thanks from the participants, which resulted in a wonderful last night.
Unfortunately we had to see one participant off before the last night and at the day of departure some had to leave for the airport very early in the morning or rather late at night, but during the day all were on their planes home.