Memories of a very different Albania

The letter on tourism in Albania in the late 1980s (12 August) reminded me of our early 70s package holiday there. Arriving by coach from the then Yugoslavia, my Guardian was confiscated at the border, and my fashionably long hair was cut by the border hairdresser. (The newspaper was returned on our exit.) Our excursions included a visit to the Mao Tse-tung copper wire factory. Although we didn’t see any cinemas showing Norman Wisdom films, an open air theatre was playing Hitchcock’s Rebecca. We found the meals (full board) very good, especially the crème caramel, which was served at every meal. We were free to explore Tirana on a day trip, and often recall the tasty burek (cheese pastry) found in small kiosks.

We met some wonderful Albanians, including a doctor with whom I kept up a correspondence. He always expressed his support for striking British workers of the time.
Clive Downs
Reading, Berkshire

• Progressive Tours organised package holidays to Albania in 1972 – we remember the company because we joked about the holiday getting progressively worse the longer it lasted. There were only three hotels in Durres – one of which showed propaganda films on the roof of an evening (the only evening entertainment offered). No personal exploring was allowed; a member of the group who made it to the local station was soon brought back by the police. Organised trips were to communal farms and the Ho Chi Minh cotton factory, ignoring the hilltop castles and archeological sites we passed.

Local people walked along the seashore but were forbidden to speak to us – how good to know that 50 years later so much progress has been made.
Barbara Flannery

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