Archive for the ‘Albania’ Category


In Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Dubrovnik, Montenegro, Pittsburgh, Uncategorized, Vermont on October 30, 2010 at 7:46 pm

This afternoon, a dream finally came true: I picked up 162 copies of my book, The Archipelago, from the offices of Autumn House Press. They look fantastic — I even love the spine. I am so grateful to my Autumn House dream team: Kriscinda Meadows for keen editing, Rebecca King for her magnificent design, Rick St. John for his business acumen and Michael Simms, President, who took a chance on a 30-year-old grad student.

And now you, too, can have your own copy.

There are two ways to find one:

Amazon: You can go to and order a copy. This is the most efficient way to track it down. Orders will start shipping on November 1, 2010. You’ll have your very own volume, full of mind-blowing adventures, in a matter of days.

Me: If you don’t want to pay for shipping, and you tend to run into me on a regular basis, I plan to carry around copies wherever I go. Copies are $20 (which is about the same price as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and it’s $280 less than a Playstation 3! What a deal!). I now have 162 copies to peddle, and nothing would make me happier to furnish you with one.

What will you discover among these pages? You’ll learn:

  1. What it’s like to get solicited by prostitutes in Athens.
  2. How it feels to fly down mountain passes in Albania. In a bus. In the middle of the night.
  3. Just what it takes to wreck a hotel room in Tirana.
  4. The joys of getting interrogated by Montenegrin border patrol.
  5. How to cross a [potentially active] mine-field.
  6. The awesomeness of Austrian mimes.
  7. What to do when confronted by American G-Men at the Sarajevo airport.
  8. The mysteries of “Turbo-Folk.”
  9. How Bosnians courageously survived the siege of Sarajevo.

Makes the perfect Christmas gift.

Thanks to everyone who made this project possible! Enjoy!


The Road Ahead

In Albania on June 3, 2009 at 1:00 am

Archipelagos 100 

The agent, Dëfrim, nods understandingly. He seems impressed and pleased that I should cross his country on my own. He tears a sheet of scratch-paper and begins to write down my itinerary. “You must take a bus to Shkodër,” he begins. “From there, you will have to transfer to Podgorica.”


“From there, you will take another bus to Tivat or Kotor.”


“No, this is not the best way.” He crosses out all the names he’s written down and draws an arrow from Tirana to a re-written Shkodër. “So, you will take the bus from Tirana to Shkodër. From there, you will transfer to Budva. And in Budva, you will find a direct bus to Dubrovnik.” He tallies hours and costs. “In total, this will probably take one day. And it will most likely cost between fifty and seventy-five euro.”

When he’s finished writing the itinerary – a confusing flow-chart of cities and arrows that leaves more questions than answers – Dëfrim asks why I’ve come to the Balkans, and why alone. I explain how little Americans know of the region. I tell him about Amila, my estranged high school friend, and how I want to see what happened to Bosnia after the war. Dëfrim gives me his full attention, balancing his pen in one hand and a cigarette in the other. He hands me a business card and insists that I update him on the journey.

“Thanks so much for the help,” I say, shaking his hand.

“Well, if you are lucky, you will find your way.”

I’m still grinning with appreciation, but this well-wishing freezes me. If I’m lucky? What does luck have to do with finding a bus ticket through two foreign countries? Now that I’ve committed to continuing through Montenegro and Croatia, there is no turning back. Either I find a way, or I’m stranded in some random village. There is no choice. I must have luck on my side.

Dëfrim directs me to the train station, where the Shkodër bus is supposed to be located, and when I stand to go, I ask how much I owe him.

He waves off the idea. “In Albania, we do these things for pleasure.”