Buzëmadh. I could not find the name on Google Maps, or in the 1939 Guide to Albania. Albanian friends had never heard about this locality either. It was the “furgon” from Gjirokastër to Vlorë, on which I had to settle lacking better alternatives, that took me to the right place. A stop at the coffee shop on a roundabout, I got out to stretch my legs, and there was the street sign: “Buzëmadh”. And, suddenly, the old man with the kid riding the mule appeared at the horizon. A grandfather with his grandchild. He said hello.
“If It’s Not on the Web, It Doesn’t Exist at All” it is what we are used to think nowadays. But what about the places that elude the Internet? I found one of them looking for Muharrem Sulo. I could only find Buzëmadh by traveling 3 times up and down the country, thanks to a random bus stop. In Albania they say “E treta e vërteta” (Three’s the charm). This is why I entered that territory as a sort of magic land, where past, present and imagination merged - as soon as I got the confirmation that my grandfather hid there, with Mario. Pepi & Mario.
Muharrem Sulo’s nephew Isa and his wife Suzana welcomed us for a delicious lunch at their property. They recounted what they remembered his grandma used to say about Pepi (my grandfather) and Mario. Muharrem was Kryeplaku (Village Chief) until 1946, when the party confiscated his land. The family has got the land back after 1997, and I could visit the places where my grandfather worked for more than one year as a “sbandato” (straggler). I naively asked Isa if his land was full of turtles. When he asked me why, my answer made him laugh.