After checking into the trip’n hostel in Tirana we left to wander the city. To our surprise everyone here is very well dressed and the young women are all really pretty! Don’t really know why we expected it to be a bit of a backward country but Albania has surprised us immensely – and pleasantly!
Being a communist ruled country until 1991 it’s borders were closed to foreigners for a long time. Many people we told we were going to Albania didn’t even know where it was and others who had seen the movie ‘Taken’ were worried for us. Can’t stress enough how these stereotypes are not true and the worries unfounded. I’m going to put it out there that Albanians are the nicest and friendliest people we have met so far on our entire trip! They can’t do enough for you, don’t try and rip you off all the time and are proud of their country and heritage and stoked you’ve come to visit. We loved it here!
They have a lot of roma (gypsies) here like everywhere in Europe. I think it’s fair enough to say the Albanians don’t like them. This young beggar girl followed Jono for ages up the main street eventually grabbing his arm so hard it stopped him in his tracks. I extricated her from off him and she hit me! There was another guy begging who had no limbs – none. He was so smiling an happy looking still which was incredible (Jono gave him money, we aren’t completely heartless).
Albania is wickedly cheap and so after a much-needed nap (hadn’t slept a wink during the bus ride) we went out to this great restaurant recommended by the hostel guys called Oda. We had the most delicious traditional Albania meal! The lady who ran it couldn’t speak English so another guy eating in there translated for us.
It was the first time we’d stayed in a hostel for months and it was awesome meeting some really cool people. There was a Swiss/Dutch couple in our room who had been to Iran and Afghanistan! I’ve wanted to go there for awhile so i had so many questions…maybe next trip??
We’d decided to pop down to the beach at Vlore for the day. We were told where the mini buses or ‘furgons’ left from and so off we skipped to try and find it. We Asked 20 or so people where it was along the way and each one if them were keen to help. Eventually we near the right spot and i see some guy who was just standing on the road say something to Jono. You need to realise that Jono loves a random chat with random people, especially people who it’s obvious don’t speak English. He will stop and ask old ladies for directions, then when they can’t communicate with him he just keeps on trying, which gets funnier the longer it goes on for because he starts to use terrible pigeon English – as if this is going to help. So up ahead Jono looks super happy and when i catch up he proclaims ” here, this man will take us to Vlore!” me- I’m like are you crazy how do you know that, where’s his van?? Jono looks around blankly, he could be suckered by anyone ay. So the old street spruker leads us to his ‘bus’, oh ok, his mates car. I was pretty unkeen to end up in the sex trade as I was sure this was what was going down (see above stereotypes which I hadn’t quite shaken yet) but this Old guy and his wife said they were also going in the car and translated the cost for us. We were parked next to a cafe so they even bought us an espresso and I felt safer.
On the way back to Tirana we actually got a legit furgon and had to stop for fuel. I was quite horrified to notice the refueler man was smoking!!! But he kindly put his burning ciggy down next to him while he filled the petrol bomb we were sitting in.
Had a sick night chilling at the hostel, thrashing Jono at backgammon and out for some more Delicious dinner.
Next day we headed to Montenegro via Skodra. While waiting in Skodra for the longer bus across the border Jono went off in search of supplies. A young guy sitting having a coffee heard him ask someone for directions and since he spoke English he left his coffee and actually took Jono to the supermarket! So nice! His name was Ulci and we ended up sitting waiting for the bus with him chatting about Albania over a coffee (which he wouldn’t let us pay for).
When we got to Ulcinj Ulci and his friend gave us a lift to our hotel and we met them later for drink on the beach. Really interesting to hear all about what it’s like living in Albania. Makes you realise how lucky we are to live and work in the land of oz.
Beautiful beach here! Wished we’d stayed for longer but we were only stopping over. The next day 2 bus trips, 35 degrees and Europeans hatred for air flow saw us arrive at the beautiful town of Kotor relieved and slightly melted.