Bradt Travel Guides New Travel Writer of the Year Award 2018 T

Part of the Ed­ward Stan­ford Travel Writ­ing Awards

Timeless Travels Magazine - - BRADT TRAVEL WRITING COMPETITION - by Alan Packer

Time­less Trav­els was de­lighted to be a spon­sor of the Bradt Travel Guides, New Travel Writer of the Year Award 2018, one of ten cat­e­gories of the pres­ti­gious Ed­ward Stan­ford Travel Writ­ing Awards 2018. A gala evening was held on the 1 Fe­bru­ary in Lon­don, where the win­ner was an­nounced. Here are the top three en­tries. The Win­ner: TheVil­lageSledgeRun

he first an­nual Kosovo snows are met with dis­may by the par­ents; ex­hil­a­ra­tion by the kids. Nazmi frets about freez­ing pipes when the elec­tric­ity is cut and the cir­cu­la­tion pump stops. He re­cal­cu­lates the cu­bic me­tres of wood stacked in the yard, as­sess­ing whether the early win­ter will ex­haust his store, "If I have to buy more later it is dou­ble the price". The early bird catches the dry wood and enough of it.

He has of­ten tried to ex­plain wood to me but I never quite get it. I am cer­tain of in­con­sis­ten­cies in lo­cal names and sus­pect the same wood has a dif­fer­ent name each time I ask. Nazmi ex­plains, "This burns fast, it is good to start. This burns hot­ter and we use it more on cold days. This is good at night, it is long and slow." Th­ese could be 'ahu', 'bung' or 'qarr', to­day at least; the tex­ture and weight are the real lan­guage. In reg­u­lar Al­ba­nian ev­ery­one is happy that rab­bit and hare are the same, like tor­toise and tur­tle, mouse and rat; bird is bird, mainly.

I creak open the oak door from the yard and snow pow­ders me. The chil­dren have been sledging since early and the runs have crushed the snow into ice. Ar­mend shouts, 'Watch, watch!' and re­dou­bles his de­ter­mi­na­tion that this run should be fast and long. I watch with some ad­mi­ra­tion as he flies past the neigh­bour's crum­bling stone gate­way, scrapes his shoe into the snow to brake and turn, ne­go­ti­ates the un­guarded bridge over the stream and heads on down to the school.

I slither along af­ter him, dodg­ing Ar­ber, Anita, Ari­jeta and Al­bion as they dare the same route. It al­ways strikes me as odd how many names start with A, like Al­ba­nia, as if the imag­i­na­tion stretch to think of B or Z is too ex­haust­ing.

I con­grat­u­late the chil­dren as they gather them­selves for the trudge up for the re­peat. I test out my Al­ba­nian, piec­ing to­gether ‘rruga’ for road, ‘plot’ for full and ‘akull…some­thing’ for ice, and shout, ‘Rr­ruga është plot me akul­lore'. Sud­denly the whole group of vil­lage boys are over­come with laugh­ter. The girls, a lit­tle too em­bar­rassed to laugh, glance at me and turn away in ex­plo­sions of gig­gles. Their mirth sub­sides and they catch each other’s eyes and smile. Then, more ex­cited by the snow, they all yank on their sledge teth­ers and head up the hill.

I go off to find Nazmi and hope to be in­vited for tea. He is sat­is­fied with his in­spec­tion of the wood, wa­ter and roof. He calls, 'Ha­jde, qaj'. We head out of the cold. Strong tea is poured into the glass and hot wa­ter tops it up, a chunk of lemon. The lemon is a sop to the for­eigner and sub­sti­tute for my re­fusal to take three spoons of sugar.

Ar­mend and Anita ar­rive, their boots kicked off out­side and the glow of cold on their cheeks. They po­litely shake my hand and wish me a good day as is cus­tom­ary, a ques­tion­ing shy­ness play­ing around their con­tin­u­ing amuse­ment.

Ar­mend whis­pers some­thing to his Dad. Nazmi slaps his knees and gives me a friendly thump on the shoul­der. What­ever I said down the hill is an ad­di­tional high­light to the morn­ing's sledging. Un­able to ask for an ex­pla­na­tion for ev­ery odd thing that I fail to un­der­stand, I let the friend­ship carry me through the un­know­ing. Dar­ing to trust takes courage. I sip the tea. I smile. They smile. Anita gig­gles. I laugh. 'Okay', I say, 'What, what?' Ar­mend fi­nally breaks his bar­rier of po­lite re­spect and, grin­ning, says, "You said the road was full of ice-cream!"

It al­ways strikes me as odd how many names start with A, like Al­ba­nia, as if the imag­i­na­tion stretch to think of B or Z is too ex­haust­ing

Left to right: Hi­lary Bradt and Jon Lorie with fi­nal­ists Chris Walsh, Joanna Grif­fin and Alan Packer

The three fi­nal­ists with pub­lisher Fiona Richards

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