When I told my friends that I’m planning to go with R to Albania, most of them reacted in a similar way. All of them wished us a great time in the beautiful and safe country and they have shared some tips regarding what’s worth seeing. Or rather that would happen in the positive scenario. In reality there were questions appearing: why do you go there?! And wishes to take care, common shock and lack of understanding. Having in mind what people think of Albania and the fact that we truly don’t know a lot about this country, we have started our car and set the GPS to the south of Europe.
How was Albania in our eyes? Is it really that scary in Tirane?
Well, Albania truly doesn’t belong to the most popular summer destinations; I also before never met anyone who would drive of fly there. But in the same time as we had our Balkan travel, our friend from Czech Republic managed to visit the Albanian coast and was very fond of it. However we decided to stick to the city.
The road to Albania itself was an adventure. Again we have blindly trusted Google navigation, which marked our route as relatively short. Doesn’t matter that Croatian roads have already shown us that it’s better to always count extra time, stops and roads which aren’t allowing to drive with normal or fast speed. We also didn’t think of doubling the time we wanted to spend in the travel. Still believing that we will be in the correct place in the late afternoon, we have even planned some evening sightseeing, or maybe even a dinner in a restaurant. Well, we actually came in the late afternoon but to Albania itself, and the capital – Tirana, welcomed us almost at night. Why?
Road constructions, disappearing asphalt in some moments (on the highway!), speed limits up to 20km/h lasting for kilometers. In this way we were watching the setting sun while still being in the car and dreaming of some good dinner.
Even though that was a big tough, the Albanian landscapes were beautiful! The nature we have passed during our way was definitely making-up the city views, abondoned buildings and single, made of sheet tin meat stores which looked a bit spooky in the evening. So since the very first moments in the capital we knew it is not gonna be easy. Dogs running up the streets and people crossing suddenly before the driving cars – welcome to Tirana!
Right in the beginning when we came, we had in our heads completely negative opinion about Albania. The way there was a nightmare and driving in the city centre gave me goosebumps. Cars were driving without any signal, changing the sides suddenly, honking and having no respects to any rules of the traffic or speed limits. We also had some troubles with finding our hotel and at that time I really appreciated the help of the local waiter, who asked for directions not only shared detailed information in English with me, shared the wi-fi password and walked us to the correct spot (turned out it was a proper neighborhood).
The next day, welcomed with the albanian breakfast we were slowly changing our minds. The owners of the Guest House Mary (located by Hygeia Hospital Albania, Rruga Gjergj Kkastrioti, 1000 Tirana, Albania) were very friendly people, thanks to whom we had not only a cheap, but also comfortable stay. Unfortunately we didn’t have much free time for sightseeing, because we tried to get to Macedonia quite quickly to meet up with the Czech friend I have mentioned before. So a walk in the city centre, lunch and the next adventure were on our list for that day. Keeping it simple!
City centre of Tirana was in my opinion a cultural mixture. On one side you could spot a mosque, modern buildings, on the other side paintings reminding the russian posters from the previous century. All of it with a closeness to the mountains, abondoned buildings and one of the best and cheapest ice-coffees I’ve ever tried. And speaking of the prices, Albania has been definitely friendly to my Polish wallet. And even though it’s not such a big distance between Poland to really feel the cultural shock; seeing in some spots cows in the city or children walking them… I really started to appreciate the reality that I know, and that I complain about many times.
All in all it rarely happens to travel in most popular regions and feel that you can afford more. Usually prices are quite disappointing and the whole trip seams to be pricey. When it comes to Balkans, it was different for the first time. Especially in Albania and Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina).
And so even though Tirana wasn’t my favorite spot during the travel, I would truly want to come back there again and discover other places, see how the coast looks like and make a new impression.And most of all, this time not be in a hurry and plan everything with a bigger chillout. 🙂