Well here I am in a rather warm Tirana (33).
It seems longer than a week since I started out. A lot has happened since then.
What can I say about Albania. Well, its very Albanian for a start. A very different feel and energy to the country than the previous ones. It is certainly poorer in some respects and bit grubby around the edges. The heat does add something to the atmosphere as well. There is a harder edge to the place but is still welcoming and friendly. In fact the Albanian flag (which I now have to add to my other 2 for this trip) is a black double headed eagle on a red background. What should also be added is a three pointed star I.E. Mercedes Benz. They seem to be everywhere. The country has certainly come along way in the past 15 years or so and still has some way to go.
Tirana is a mix of Soviet urban concrete in pastel colours and a small bit of Istanbul energy all mixed together, very odd but it works. They are very proud of their ancient Illyrian heritage and the fact that they have remained true to it through the tests of time.
There are many significant museums and statues to their great hero Skanderbeg. I have just come back from a hill fortress nearby called Kruje which has a whole museum dedicated to him and takes itself very serious indeed.
Super views of the rocky mountains to the rear and the open flat land to the sea. Obviously more coffee on the terrace cafes to take it all in. After all it is very warm and rushing about does not work. You just have to live at the pace of the locals, after all, they all can’t be wrong. Nobody gets up tight about anything despite or because of the madness of the driving.
There is also a current link to the past. During the journey from the Montenegro/Albania border yesterday we past a very old, hunched, leather faced shepherdess tending her goats in the searing heat, all dressed in her traditional mountain dress of black and white(ish) felt with brightly coloured ribbons. Further along the road two women similarly dressed were starting the process of spinning wool whilst sat in the field. I am sure that if I had more time and got off the beaten track a bit more there would be many gems of contemporary yet timeless culture and life to discover. Alas, it will have to wait until another time … maybe?
Whilst searching for the mini bus this morning, which is a task in itself as there are no signposted stops or stations just vague areas of the city where you may find a minibus waiting for a full passenger load before it leaves. I almost went to Puke. Yep, there at the side of the road was a bus going to the small town of Puke about 100Km or so to the north, makes you sick, and other such jokes.
Talking of which, I nearly stopped at Hotel Kalifornia in Skhodra in northern Albania last night. As I was told it is a lovely place at this time of year. However, they did say that checking out presents no problem at all but leaving is another matter altogether. It must be the flag, it all links together now!!!
Having said that, Skhodra did have its far share of heritage. A wonderful photography museum with photos from 1860’s onwards, located in a block of flats. A great little archeological museum and helpful curators along with ancient hill fort complete with restaurant (more food again).
Time to see more of Tirana anyway, with espresso and ice cream of course.
Speak to you soon