Trip Start Aug 14, 2007
114Trip End May 23, 2008
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ˇ GMT +1:00 hour
And so onto the capital of the budding bastion of new democracy that is this little corner of Europe. It's only a 30 minute bus ride from Durres but, having spent close on 3 hours in an internet cafe before getting on any bus, it wasn't until the early afternoon that we found ourselves walking around the streets of Tirana searching out a hotel. As it turns out the hotel found us through a nice little man who sold us on a room before we'd even stepped inside the hotel building (but not before testing the market and getting the price of an adjacent hotel). The Guva Hotel was nothing spectacular, but it was clean, quiet and comfy, despite the hunters-lodge style decor, complete with wooden walls adorned with tiger pictures (but sadly no stuffed carcasses of any kind).
That first evening we simply walked the streets, making observations and realising hey, just like Durres before it, and no matter what any guidebook might say, there really is nothing to see here, certainly nothing to keep us more than a day or two at most before moving on to Macedonia, a day or two we'd happily spend just relaxing and sipping cappuccinos in one of the city's numerous cafes. Or so was the plan.
Mocking is catching
Remember in the last entry how we mentioned Megs 'Ailment of the Day' idea and how we said we'd keep you posted on what ailment crops up next? Yeah, well how about food poisoning. Yep,
Good to go
This morning things were better, a lot better. But they still weren't good enough to head off to Macedonia, our next stop. Nope, although improvements in the patient's health had been made overnight, we balked, for one more day at least, at the notion of putting our worldly possessions on our backs and embarking on a 4 hour cross-border bus ride. That said, Meg was felling well enough earlier this afternoon to be able to leave our hotel room (for the fist time in 36 hours) and she made it to a café for a little food. And this evening, after another few hours in bed, she was even recovered enough to enjoy a whole meal, one we had in a fancy panoramic restaurant overlooking the city. Considering the past two days the meal was, without doubt, the highlight (no pun intended) of our time in the city, a city we've already noted is totally devoid of pure sights and is best enjoyed, in our opinion, from its comfy cafe chairs.
So that, as they say, was that from Tirana. We get the bus in the morning to our next destination, Ohrid, a small town on the shores of Lake Ohrid in Macedonia. The bus departs at 9am and we hope to be resting by the lakeshore sometime early tomorrow afternoon. Oh yeah, we hope.
Day 26 to 28 Observations (September 8th to 10th 2007)
One of the good things about our Tirana hotel room was the availability of a free WiFi connection. The connection could at best be described as sporadic and Tallinn, Estonia thanks to someone's generosity/inability to secure their network. Btw, PD_00 was the SSID (ID of the network) we connected to, when we connected.
ˇ Mother Teresa
We've spent three nights here and are leaving tomorrow morning for Macedonia but as yet we still don't know why there are Mother Teresa posters all over the city. And it's not just little on-the-lamppost posters. No, there are huge banners hanging off buildings. We assumed maybe she was born here, but we discovered no, she was actually born in Macedonia, our next stop. So as I type we're still at a loss as to why she seems to be the city's favourite poster girl and we haven't had a chance to google it. Any ideas would be much appreciated.
Another thing that we are leaving the city not understanding is how, or why, virtually every car (and that's no exaggeration) here is a Mercedes Benz. Some of them, but not a lot, are the old Eastern
ˇ Rags and Riches
Speaking of poverty, the contrasts here between the have and the have not's are pretty striking in places. It's still no India, but you'll still see a child vendor selling cigarettes outside the gates of a Porsche dealership, a BBQ corn vendor plying his trade on the steps of an all English speaking, credit card accepting & international wine list boasting restaurant and a swanky Hilton Hotel beside an unfinished building project, one that clearly ran out of money early into the construction phase (Btw, these unfinished buildings are legion, lining every road in the country... see the pictures).
Another aspect of Albania that'll be sure to remind you of the developing and cash-strapped nature of the country's infrastructure is the almost daily water cuts and power outages. It still beats working for a living but it's sort of annoying to need to wash your hands only to find the water turned off, or it's equally annoying to find your room in darkness due to yet another power outage. All this explains the rows of noisy generators you'll see out front of virtually every business in the city, or at least those who can afford it. We had a bird's eye view of a spike in the city's power grid from our seat in the panoramic restaurant overlooking the city this evening. We were waiting for our starters to arrive and eyeing the whole city, when everything before us went black, save for the car headlights on the roads. A few seconds later things started to come back on line - first the buildings, then the street lights. Kind of neat to see. Kind of.
ˇ Double not always a double
It seems like the Albania definition of a 'double' room is a room that contains two single beds pushed together. The ploy is disguised by a double sheet pulled across both beds, a ploy obviously discovered upon laying on the bed (or beds).
ˇ The Cafe Culture reprieve
Okay, so we realise reading this that we haven't really been very complementary to Albania and we doubt any of you will be considering here for your next jaunt abroad. That's not what we set out to do so with that said let's try to leave Albania, or more specifically its capital Tirana, on a good note, eh? The fact that there isn't much to see in the city means it's a great pace to come and just chill out, watch the world go by and recharge the batteries (and em, get food poisoning). A very young population and an abundance of cool cafés means you could quite easily pass a day, or two, just sipping coffee and people watching (that's what we planned on doing until... well, you know?). So the coffee isn't as good as it is in Italy. So what. You'd only know that having come form Italy, right?
Where I stayed