This is not what I expected coming to Albania. Whenever I meet a new Albanian friend the first question they seem to ask is “why are you here?”. This is said in a puzzled and perplexed way; they are actually trying to wrap their head around the fact that we would want to be here without having to be here. Up until today, I didn’t know the answer to that question. I think the country has a bit of a self-esteem issue as a whole. Perhaps I am just seeing the surface as a traveller passing through. Let me tell you though, from what I have seen so far, Albania is awesome. Let’s talk about the last 24 hours here in Tirana Albania, 21 of which we were awake for.

We arrived here midday yesterday from Saranda, after arriving by bus from Greece and spending a full week in an airbnb apartment rental. I had no idea what to expect from Tirana. I had never really heard of it before this month, and still wasn’t sure why I was in Albania. I had a great time exploring the south, and having fresh, clean teeth after a visit to the dentist in Saranda.

We got checked into our new apartment, were given the keys, and left to our own devices in Tirana. After the usual unpack, set up, look on the internet, and hunt for food, it was now evening and we sat with beers in our hands.

Going to explore Tirana on Saturday night wasn’t really an option up until now. The last time I was out in a capital city  I checked out the red light district in Paris. I didn’t even realize it was Saturday night, until that exact moment. It was quickly decided that we would walk out into Albania’s capital city and see what it had in store for 2 happy-go-lucky young men like ourselves. We headed towards the city centre in search of some excitement.

After a week in sleepy Saranda I think we both needed to blow off a little steam. As we walked through the dark streets of Tirana we were wary of our surroundings. Just the word ‘Albania’ seemed to spark a general feeling of seediness. We asked a few people where we should head to and they all answered the same; head to “the block”. And to the block we went.

The block is a collection of pubs and restaurants in the centre of Tirana. At first we were turned away from a few pubs as they were full, but eventually some friendly bouncers saw our struggle and took us in. One of them would be our first of many Albanian friends. The pub itself was a surprise, to say the least. There were drinks at every table and everyone was smiling and having a great time. They played the likes of Dr Dre, Snow (do you remember Snow?), Snoop Dogg, plus a random collection of music that I quite enjoyed. The bartenders were friendly as were the other patrons. We stayed for a good couple of hours, really integrating with the locals. My opinion of Albania was starting to form.

We left our first establishment, and quickly found another. Here we met more friendly locals who then took us to an authentic Albanian club. The place was pretty nuts! While inside the authentic Albanian club it was quickly noted that we had exactly zero Lek on us. The authentic Albanian club was an unexpected turn of events to begin with, and we weren’t prepared with the proper funds to continue the evening. After some time we walked back to our apartment and that was the night. A great night indeed.

Today was spent walking around, getting some groceries, chatting to locals, and just generally livin’ the good life in Tirana. My opinion of Albania has now been set; and it’s a good one. Albania is extremely cheap, the people are super friendly. Surprisingly English is widely spoken, and it just has a good vibe. I’d love to see this place in the summer.

I now write this from our Tirana airbnb while pasta is cooking on the stove. Airbnb is such a different lifestyle then a hotel or hostel. You are just placing yourself in a random neighbourhood of any given city and throwing yourself in the lifestyle of a local. I’m not sure exactly how long I will stay here in Tirana, but the more time I spend here, the time I want to spend here. If you know what I mean. The view from our window.

7 Responses

  1. kokedoce

    Oh this is so great! I feel exactly the same. Granted, I was born there and returned as an adult, but this was my experience exactly. LOVE this. Thank you.

  2. Askan

    The image of the city is rather not so good, so coming there everybody in our group was really surprised. People are indeed very friendly and helpful. The city does not look very rich, but the parts where I was were really clean and renovated. People seemed enjoying being in public spaces, which always makes a city attractive.
    I also like their food market “new bazaar” with great vegetables, fish, large variety of pickles and the like. It was also the first maket where vendors sold open tobacco by the pound, great little surprise.
    Askan recently posted…Saturday market in Manosque / FranceMy Profile

  3. Iq0

    *I think the country has a bit of a self-esteem issue as a whole. *

    And you are spot on !!! That s exactly what it is , and i can even dare saying that i know the reason .

    You saw albania and Tirana of 2014 . Yet up until 1990 albania was the most isolated place in the whole world (see north korea today only that albania was in even worst position ) , and when communism did collapse , albanians did find themselves finding out that they were the poorest as well .

    Believe it or not within 24 years , they managed to get whatever today they have . So even though their economical and social situation in in fact already better than quite a few other balkan countries , and approaching slowly but steadily the average of EU countries . Granted it will take another decade or so , but it will happen , there is simply too much energy and dynamism in that nation and i am sure you must have felt it in one way or another .

    Anyways , my point being is that albanians have not yet realized themselves that their society has changed that rapidly , and somehow EU seems in their minds ( at least in some of those minds because they become less and less to that extend that today they are a minority ) as the utopia land , so some of them can not comprehend why someone would like to live for a short time in Tirana .

    Hope it does make sense to you . I only commented because you were spot on , on that phrase .

    Greetings from Tirana from an albanian 🙂 . Dont forget to come back again after some years , i am sure you will be surprised by the tremendous changes in such a short amount of time .