These days my private Facebook-account constantly reminds me about the fact that six years ago I spent a few days in Albania to attend (as a journalist and photographer) the wedding of Crown Prince Leka II of the Albanians and Elia Zaharia.
Already years before they got married, I had said to myself that if Crown Prince Leka would get married and I would have the opportunity, I’d love to go to Albania for the wedding. I kept my promise to myself! I never regretted my decision for a moment.
I arrived on Thursday 6 October 2016 from Amsterdam with a stop in Vienna, and was met at the airport by some people I knew, which was lovely. The rest of the day was great and my rather cheap hotel was good enough for me. The only thing I regretted in the days afterwards, was that their best bread – a kind of huge croissant with nut or vanilla cream inside – was usually gone very quickly so you had to be in time for breakfast in the morning. The Internet was not quick, but could have been worse. It was better at the press and guest hotel nearby, where as a journalist I luckily had access to the network too.
One of the best memories is the audience me and a Belgian friend I had with Crown Prince Leka the day before the wedding. I finally have cut my friend – who doesn’t really like to have his picture online – off the photo. Just for the record I am about 1.71 meters tall. We were a bit embarrassed as we of course hadn’t expected it and arrived in our daily clothes – in my case my coat, trousers and a few sports shoes – with backpack and a camera around our necks. We were just dry enough after the rain earlier that day. I wished I would have had more time to look around at the inside of the house. The royal residence is situated in the center of Tirana.
The wedding day itself the weather luckily was much better than the day before, or the days afterwards. No rain, even a nice temperature. Which was my luck as my coat had become very dirty when I slipped on Friday and had to be washed. My blazer came to my rescue. Advice: never take too little clothes with you when attending a wedding, even when you’re just a journalist or photographer. And try to dress properly, at least at the wedding festivities. Just wished my left foot – hurt some months earlier – would have allowed me to wear my heals. I had them with me, but the slide on Friday had left me with irritated ankle ligaments and at the end of the wedding ceremony and reception my ankle was quite thick. I didn’t let it spoil my fun these days though, although I had to be careful sometimes as Albanian sidewalks are not of the best quality sometimes.
The wedding day itself was packed with events. Be at the press hotel at 9am in the morning, by bus to the presidential palace – built as the royal palace – and a rather long wait. Photographing the guests and finally also the bridal couple, managing to get back by bus to the royal residence to wait for them all to arrive for the reception. I still find it a pity I wasn’t one of the happy few to be allowed to attend the reception, as I would have been able to enjoy all the music, dance and local food. We had some good food near the wedding venue. Then I worked for a few hours in the press center at the hotel, very nice and quiet place, sent out pictures and some text. And then it was time for the evening party at the former royal palace. A bit dark, but my photos were acceptable. My colleague from the Ukraine and I did see some more royals on Sunday when they were at a reception at the Prime Minister. I flew back home on Monday afternoon, very satisfied with this wonderful, but actually a bit too short trip. It was an amazing experience and met some lovely people too.
For more reports, photos and information see: