Thursday, February 2, 2012

Winter in Tirana

Prior to moving to Albania all of my research told me that Tirana had a Mediterranean climate, namely hot dry summers and mild wet winters. While sweltering through June and July visions of mild winters filled my head.  Hot summer days gave way to comfortable autumn weather that on some days, even reminded me of New England falls.  When the calendar page turned to November and the "rainy season" that so many people talked about wasn't as bad as I had anticipated, I was pleasantly surprised.  In my mind, the Albanian weather was turning out to be rather nice.

I may be from New England but that doesn't mean I like winter.  Our Christmas sojourn to Slovenia was cold but I comforted myself by saying we had headed "north" and after all, it was Christmas.  Upon our return to Tirana I was to be greeted by a mild Mediterranean winter.  Or so I thought.

Not so. January, and now February, have been cold.  Even Albanians are saying it is cold and this winter is proving to be colder than usual (For some reason, this phrase "colder than usual" seems to follow me wherever I go).  Last Friday morning was so cold that our front gate froze shut.  I know I have friends in The U.S., Russia, and northern Europe who are laughing at this right now.  That's OK, go ahead and laugh because this New England girl laughed too when the 30 F temperatures were cited as the reason for the gate's malfunctioning.

Throughout the past few cold weeks, I've comforted myself with the idea that at least there wasn't snow.  We can see snow in the mountains to the east of Tirana.  Since early December snow has been gracing the silhouette of Mt. Dajti and the surrounding peaks. On colder days the snow line creeps lower and closer to the City but by midday it has receded back towards the peak.  From afar, its pretty but perhaps I feel this way since I don't have to deal with it.

All of this started to change yesterday.  Our bi-weekly staff meeting was abuzz with talk of snow and contingency plans for dealing with it. The northerners among us listened skeptically to the worry while those from south of the Mason-Dixon Line sounded excited at the prospect of a white blanket on the ground (I told them that once they have spent an entire season dealing with snow on a daily basis, they would rethink their enthusiasm about Mother Nature's cold fury.  But I digress........).

As the day progressed the temperatures dropped and the air smelled increasingly like snow.  By nightfall a wet mess was falling and when Glenn returned home he gleefully informed me that it was snowing.  Sure enough a few large wet flakes were floating to the ground.  Unlike the other two-thirds of the Brown household, I wasn't amused.  I asked myself, "is this really Mediterranean weather?"

Fortunately, for me at least, the "snow" stopped and turned to a heavy blowing rain that fell throughout the night.  Our drive to work was wet with rain and the nearby mountains were shrouded with low lying clouds.  I was sure snow was falling somewhere behind the gray mass.  By noon, when the clouds had lifted and the sun had come out, I could see the very low lying snow line on the mountains. For the first time this winter it dipped to the very outskirts of Tirana.  Close, but still not in the city proper.

If yesterday was the only snow I will experience here in Albania I'll be happy.  After all, it is so much more enjoyable to look at the snowy vistas from our balconies than it is to commute through it on Tirana's already treacherous sidewalks and roadways.

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