Monday, November 11, 2013

A Storied Desk

When we had visitors in town a couple of weeks ago we took them to Kruje.  Because of its convenient (by Albanian standards) proximity to Tirana and its mix of cultural, historical, and shopping opportunities, it is our "go-to" location to bring guests who are short on time but want to get out of the capital city.  We've been there too many times to count but usually walk away having bought at least one special item.  During one of our early visits we purchased a beautiful hand carved dowry chest from a local merchant and have returned to the furniture shop more than once to browse what the owner has in stock.  That had been our plan during our last trip.  After all, with only a few short months left before we depart Albania, our mission is to purge our household items rather than add to them.  But then we saw the desk..........

It was tucked away on the second floor of the shop and the minute Glenn saw it he came out to tell me that I needed to take a look at it.  From the double dove-tail drawers and locking cabinets to its ornately carved sides and mother-of-pearl inlays on the doors it was beautiful.  While there is clearly a front and a back, the rear side of the desk is as ornate as the front giving more options for placement in a room.  Lacking a tape measure it was difficult to judge just how big the desk was and it was dwarfed by the larger furniture in the room.  We both loved it for its sheer beauty but upon learning the supposed history of the desk we liked it all the more.

The desk in its temporary new home
According to the shop owner, the desk had been built for King Zog I of Albania who used it to furnish one of his many houses.  Born Ahmet Muhtar Zogolli in 1895, he was a descendant of Skanderbeg, Albania's national hero, and educated in Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey) during the final days of the reign of the Ottoman Empire.  In 1912 Zogolli was a signer of Albania's Declaration of Independence and fought for the Austro-Hungarian Empire during the first World War.  The 1920s found him serving in various capacities within the Albanian government and saw his family change their name to Zog since it sounded more Albanian.  In 1925 Zog was elected as the first president of Albania and became king in 1928 when Albania was transformed into a monarchy.  While king he married a countess who was half Hungarian and half American and reportedly survived 55 assassination attempts.  Reliance on Italian support during the 1930s and the eventual invasion of Mussolini's army led to the royal family fleeing into exile in 1939.  King Zog died in France in 1961 but his family's brief time as the head of the Albanian monarchy is an important part of long Albania's history.

Did this desk really belong to King Zog?  Who knows if the story is true but it sounded good and only added to the beauty of the desk.  And it is a truly beautiful piece of furniture.  We clearly hadn't set out to buy a piece of furniture during our little outing but we were tempted to take the plunge.  After all, we had discarded our old particle board computer desk when we moved from Norfolk and have been using an Embassy owned one here in Tirana.  After a little haggling we went to lunch then returned for some final negotiations.  Reaching an agreement we made arrangements for it to be delivered to our house.  Of course, it was only when it arrived this past weekend that I realized exactly how big it is. It is huge.  It fits a bit awkwardly in our current office/guest bedroom space but who knows where it will fit in our new Belgian house.  But it is ours and I love it. Now I just need to let the moving company know that we have increased the amount of weight we will need to be shipping!

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