Many people told me that they use a lot of garlic in Albania, and I thought they were referring to the food. And for all intents and purposes, they probably were; but they couldn’t have been more wrong. Yes, there is lots of garlic in this country, but I’m pretty sure none of it makes it into the kitchen for cooking (which is unfortunate because Albanian cooking is incredibly bland most of the time and could really use it). Nope, instead garlic here is used to ward off the curse of the “blue eye” (or “evil eye” as they like to translate it for Americans so we are less insulted). Hanging outside of doorways and from the rearview mirror of cars you can often find a string of garlic bulbs.
One of my language teachers tried to explain that this is done to ward off bad luck from blonde-haired and blue-eyed people. The old superstition is that garlic or salt in your pocket will keep you beautiful and prevent you from being cursed by the beautiful blue-eyed people that pass you by. And you have to hang garlic or weird stuffed animals/dolls from any new building before you can finish it or live in it so that it is not cursed by the evil eye either. Just another one of those times when I’m thankful to be a brunette…but I’m definitely buying garlic for my apartment when I move to Shkoder just to be safe.
“It’s not better. It’s not worse. It’s just different.”