We’re on our way to Albania. We’re on a back road in between Ulcinj and the Albanian border. The road is tiny and extremely windy and over grown. The driveer wouldn’t be doing much more then 30k’s an hour. At the moment we’re ging through a series of tunnels which are nothing more then massive holes in that have been cutt into the mountain, there’s no supports apparent at all.
We woke this morning at about 830 and stuffed our gear away. Slobodan walked us to the bus station too. It was so funny. We were feeling quite chemically inbalanced from the previous night and were having a great time. We’re really learning how to play the loud obnoxious american Foreigner, and were getting quite good at it.
We’re in Tirana. Absolutely starving, but clean. We hadn’t had a shower in a couple of days and I think my shirt was on day 3, maybe four. Both Drew and I were on our last pair of sox too.
The bus trip to Tirana consisted of 3 bus rides. The first from Podgorica to Ulinj, a coastal city near the border but still in Montenegro. The second was a short ride over the border to Shakdra. And finally a bus from Shakrda to Tirana.
The first bus was a problem. It was just so hot and it made the hang over hardly bearable, I was so uncomfortable that I was genuinely hoping that the bus would crash and we’d all die so that I’d be put out of my misery.
At Ulinj there was a couple of other back packers waiting in the station too. We started talking to them, Aussies, from Byron bay. The bus ride over the border was pretty funny, the road was tiny and obviously isn’t used very often. It was also stinking hot. As we got closer to Shakdra I went and asked the bus driver about buses to Tirana. The man sitting near where I was standing grabbed my arm. I wasn’t sure if he was going to give me advice or stab me in the face with a pen knife. Thankfully it was the former, getting stabbed in the face would have kinda sucked, really would put a dampener on the day.
At Shakdra this Samaritan took us the short distance to the bus station. There was a bus about to leave but it was packed so we decided to just wait for the next one. It was only 40minutes and I really felt like a coffee. We stood around talking to the Samaritan, he spoke very very good English, he’s a GP in a villiage a hundred k’s south of Tirana.
The bus to Tirana again was packed, people even choosing to stand in the isle for the 2 hour trip. The bus air conditioning did work however so that made the journey much more comfortable.
I’m pretty sure I’ve got an ear infection. I’ll see how it turns out.
After the bus dropped us in Tirana. We grabbed some cash from an atm and I spent 5 minutes trying to work out where in the hell he were.
We were pretty close to where we were meeting Tine, our host, so we walked, we could have taken 2 major roads, or one minor road which was much shorter. This little back road felt extremely, extremely dodgy. And I was actually really glad that I wasn’t there by myself.
This town is filthy, there’s no waste disposal here so the rubbish just lines up of the side of the streets. The main roads are ok but as soon as you step off the beaten track it becomes filthy. And LP was definitely right about staring being a national passtime here.
We got to the end of the road where we were meeting Tine, it’s called Rruka skanderbej. But it’s also known as Rruka ambassador. As a lot of the embassies are on this street. I knew we were supposed to be meeting on an intersection of this street and another so I figured we’d just walk down it.
The only problem was the police gate at the end, a massive boom gate staffed by 3 policeman, who didn’t speak English. In the end we ended up having to get our passports out before they’d let us through. Which they did with much hesitation anyway.
I soon realized that there are no street signs here, so I just rang Tine. She said to wait where we were and she’d come and meet us. This was great in theory except I wasn’t too keen on sitting on my pack less then 40 m from a police check point. This worry was reinforced when a police officer approached us asking us, well gesturing, for us to keep moving, showing a mock explosion with his hands and pointing to our bags.
I tried to explain that we were waiting for a friend, this didn’t work too well. And I ended up pointing to myself and drew and holding up 2 fingers. I then had another finger held up on my other hand which ‘walked’ over to the two fingers. All three fingers then left together. I’m not sure if it got through or not but he eventually left us alone.
Tine arrived soon after and we went back out through the gate we’d unnecessarily come through and walked around to Tines. She lives just behind the German Embassy and she showed us the reinforced section of the fence which had been rammed down during the violent riots of the end of the 90’s.
What happened here was nearly 70% of the population lost all it’s savings in the pyramid saving schemes and when it collapsed the people went nuts. Some of them pillaging a military base, steeling a tank, and then used that to ram through the wall of the German Embassy. Their thoughts being that once they were on German soil that they had a fast tracked ticket out of here.
We sat around at Tine’s for a bit and had a shower. IT WAS SO GOOD!!. And Tine organized dinner. We were meeting another couch surfer, a guy who travels around heaps with work but uses couch surfing to meet people for dinner or drinks. So at 8 we left to meet him. We were supposed to be meeting him at 8, but although Tine’s a german, being a female over rides that I guess.
We met the French guy at his hotel, and he invited us up to his room to check out the view from the 9th floor. Tirana looked surprisingly pretty from up here, where he had a view of the main square and the main buildings. Tirana it’s self is really nice in the main areas. With some nice statues, buildings and fountains. It’s just when you walk down the back streets when you feel like you’re walking through the slums of Delli, sun light doesn‘t help either.
We walked to sky bar. A more expensive restaurant here, which is located 10 floors up with full panoramic views of the city. It also has a revolving bar upstairs. The place was really really fancy and the service was incredible.
The dinner was really fun. Drew and I were absolutely knackered but luckily the French couch surfer was really talkative so we let him do most of the talking. He wasn’t bad, for a French guy. He still possessed most of the annoying arrogant French traits, but he did know it and was very open to different cultures and different ways unlike “most my fellow countryman”. His English was great too.
I woke up yesterday at 8 with the intention of going for a run, I grabbed all my kit together and at 815 was ready to step out the door. I walked down stairs and went to turn the key In the door. It wouldn’t budge, I tried again, to no avail, and a gain and again and again but got no where. I scrapped trying that and went upstairs to wait for Tine to get up and to show me how to do it.
After a quick feed with Tine we went downstairs. She tried the key, no luck. “Oh I know the problem” she said. “It’s the wrong key” with my dignity returned I stepped out the door and headed off in the direction of the nearest big road.
The run was good, kinda funny, staring is definitely a national pastime here. I ran along two busy roads, staying to these as to not get lost. The only problem was the pollution and by the end of the half hour run I was feeling it.
Drew had risen from his slumber by the time I got back and we had some more food before stepping out to explore Tirana. Exploring Tirana took all of half an hour. There’s not much here a quick lap of the main square and we were done. I think I took 5 photo’s for the whole day.
After sussing out a bus to get to Prishtina we caught a free bus out to one of the shoping malls. Here we grabbed a feed it was awesome. I had bbq chook rice and a salad. I don’t remember the last time I’d had chicken and it definitely hit the spot.
Next drew and I went to the interspar to grab stuff for tea. We’d told Tine we’d cook dinner so we grabbed 3 packet Risotto’s and a chicken breast before heading home. We walked out to where we’d been dropped off by the bus and some security guy starting yelling at us. “some thing, some thing, some thing, blah, blah, blah, other side” he said while pointing over the building. We walked around to the other side of the building to be greeted by well over a bus load of passengers waiting for the next bus. Never the less after a fair bit of shoving after the timely arrivall of the next bus we got on.
On the way back I thought I knew a stop that was closer to Tine’s then the centre square. We got off and I soon realized we weren’t where I thought we were. I knew we were on the right road though so we just set off along that on the way towards the city.
I dunno what was up with Drew yesterday but he didn’t talk hardlly at all and pretty much walked behind me the whole time. It was really fricken annoying. I felt like a dog was following me all day, and by the time we got back to Tine’s I was ready to scream at him to pick up his feet and walk beside me.
As a result after we got home I left again and walked into the city. We’de been into a book store that day and as a result of Albanian being such an obsqure language they were all in English and I was in need of a new read. I grabbed a book and went and sat in a coffee shop. Reading and sipping my macchiato while the sun set. It was quite nice considering the dump of a city I was in.
Back at Tines I did some sit ups and we cooked, well Drew cooked, but it was pretty easy. The food came out awesome, and looked nothing like we’d just bought packet Risotto. Tine got home at about 730, which we were surprised by as we weren’t expecting her untill 830. She said she’d messaged me a couple of times explaining that her Albanian lesson had been canned but I hadn’t received anything.
Drew and I left at 2000, the interstate between Tirana and Kosovo was closed and as a result the 5 hour bus ride was going to take us closer to 13 hours and a connection in the middle of Macedonia. We got to the bus station well and truly early and got on the bus. We were startled at one stage by some loud bangs. We looked out side and some kids in the middle of one of the towns main streets were letting off fire crackers. They were quite impressive actually and we watched that show for a good 5 minutes before the bus left at 9. I was out like a light too. Drifting in and out of sleep untill I was woken at 4 in the morning when we were at Tetove, our stopover.