Trip Start Aug 27, 2011
98Trip End Jun 01, 2012
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Where I stayed
Freddy's Hostel Tirana
Read my review - 4/5 stars
Read my review - 4/5 stars
Landing in Tirana, I am greeted by the hot sun and zero cloud cover. The temperature on my keyring says 30C. My little keyring also has a miniature compass. Perfect for when I usually get lost. Here begins another adventure, but firstly, let's take my jacket off. I don't miss the uk climate one bit!
Tirana is a short 25 minute bus ride from the airport. The city is built up around Sheshi Skenderbej. A centre piece of the city. The only remaining statue is the equestrian statue of Skenderbeg. The centre has a distinct feel for its Ottoman Italian and communist past. Sadly, my arrival coincides with the development of this area. There are cranes and diggers dominating the viewpoint, although I'm sure the development will look magnificent when finished.
Tirana is lively and it is colourful. Beeping horns and racing traffic give the city a tense feeling but this contrasts with the relaxing feeling from observing the colourful buildings. From what I gather, Tirana changed its dull lifeless city by painting building with bright colours. From my viewpoint at the Skybar, I witness a normal block of flats with orange stripes painted around it's walls. You cannot help but smile when observing a brightly coloured building.
The city changes again in the evening. Gone are the speeding cars, they are replaced by hundreds of people on an evening stroll. Walking as families, couples or friends, Tirana has a soft edge. The culture of the city is coffee. Coffee. Coffee. Coffee. Everywhere I walk, there are cafes spilling onto the pavement. Old men chew the fat of the day, sipping their espresso, drinking their water, and slowly puffing away on their cigarettes. I cannot help but join in, well, just ordering an espresso. It's delicious and cheap.
The people of Tirana are friendly. Not once did I feel threatened or under duress. I guess it must be the flag that gives me an unsure impression of this country. A red flag with a scary, dominating black eagle. With my experience, the people of Tirana are helpful, respectful and kind.
Maybe not when considering an old man who works at the hostel I stayed in. My last night, I was reading the plantation (borrowed from my brother, a good read, but I couldn't help but picture the lead character as Stan from American Dad) when the old man walks into my room at 11am telling me to move. I paid for a three bed dorm but it's not my fault if they can't fill it! If he asked earlier, I might have moved, but I was ready for bed and comfortable. After saying 'no' five times, he left me alone, not before he'd dropped his keys around my crutch! I instantly picked the keys up to save him the hassle! Hmm!
But yes, apart from that, gentle warm people.
Food wise, I tried the local byreke. Similar to a Cornish pastie but flat like a pizza. It tasted great! This trip is going to be very tight on the old pennies, so I'll mainly be eating from supermarkets, well, until I hit China.
Durres, Albania - I took a short trip to the west of Tirana on the Adriatic coast, a town called Durres. I wanted to experience more of Albania than just the capital. Ultimately, I didn't want to venture too far from Tirana and Durres was less than an hour away by bus. You can pick up a bus from Tirana to Durress outside the train station. The area is packed with buses and fruit sellers. Behind where the buses are us a cute little market. Duress has 10kms of coastline. The centre is mainly focused towards industrial docks and ships that connect with Italy. I venture passed the docks and found the shoreline. The beach front contained empty and derelict amusement parks. Some rides might work, some look like they haven't been used in years. Continuing north along the shore front, there are many empty restaurants and bars. There is a small family beach that I pass before I walk through a building site to reach a packed and very popular beach. I am not dressed for the beach and clearly stand out. I witness a wedding procession driving through town, constantly honking their horns. They drove around a similar loop a few times, letting everyone know about the big event.
Everyone smokes. They smoke on coaches, buses and in office locations. Puffing away on the cancer sticks. I assume the campaign to alert smokers to the risks of smoking have yet to begin. It makes bus rides very uncomfortable and my clothes stink.
Small bit of Triana trivia, which prolific Premiership striker scored his one and only goal for England in Tirana? Come on Dave boy, no looking at google. He got booked in the same game and missed out on the next game, sadly, he was in the form of his life.
That was Albania, next stop, Macedonia.