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The travel blog for the backpackers guide to the world

Albania


Posted by | Evil Kristos | June 18, 2011 | 1 Comment

I want you to close your eyes and picture Albania. What do you see? Unless you said “A beautiful country with open minded, hospitable and friendly people that like Mercedes and throw their rubbish everywhere” you are dead wrong. Albania is spectacular on so many levels, I don’t know where to begin.

It very much reminds me of Greece 20 years ago; before everything went to shit there. Albania is nothing short of fabulous. It is like an paradise island surrounded by a sea of uniformity and commerce. I wouldn’t call it unspoiled – the rubbish flying around everywhere is a gentle reminder that we are living in the plastic age – but Albania managed to somewhat withstand the temptations of the western world.

If you look at it; pretty much all cities in the west are somewhat similar. They have the same shops, out let stores, drug stores, fast food chains and even the crappy bill boards are almost identical. Albania doesn’t have any of this. It is so refreshing to see a country where there is no McDonalds. Look what they got instead: Kolonat.

So not McDonalds

Look at it! Isn’t it beautiful? And their burger are as bad as they look. I tried one. Disgusting.

There a few drawbacks. Albania by all means is a third world country. And unlike Greece for example it doesn’t have rich friends that poor a lot of money into it just to later ruin the country. It never joined the EU or the Euro. For most of its recent history it was so isolated that you wonder how they managed to get this far.

Only a few years ago, people were literally starving. Enver Hoxha, their version of a communist dictator, was a mad man even by communist dictators standards. The guys here told me, they weren’t allowed music. Religion was banned, the government in their infinite wisdom and generosity provided one bottle of wine per adult per year! One old man explained the rules: You want to sing? You go to jail. You don’t want to work? You go to jail. You want to complain? You go to jail. You get the idea.

As a result of communist idea of managing a Balkan country, Albania is dotted with bunkers but there are hardly any roads that deserve the name. They are working on it now – you see construction going on everywhere – but they are nowhere near. The houses in Tirana all look like you’d imagine contemporary Communist design from the sixties: Ugly. Since they can’t tear down the entire city they simply painted them colourful and now they look ugly but friendly. That’s something.

Tirana is a dump then; noisy, filthy and butt ugly. You don’t go there for sight seeing. In fact if your idea of beauty is a medieval town with red tiled roofs and full of Americans, don’t go to Albania at all. But why would you go to Tirana? I’ll tell you: Because it is exciting.

You see and meet the modern young Albanians, the next generation, the hope for a better future. They spend all their money on a T-Shirt and a pair of jeans so that they at least look like they are doing all right. They have mobile phones but no credit to call anybody. You could call this show off or pathetic OR you could call it being positive. I sure do the latter.

I had a fabulous time there. The Tirana backpacker hostel I already mentioned as a true gemstone. I did do some walking around but there doesn’t seem be what I call the postcard picture of a city; a truly remarkable or beautiful spot where you’d take your one Tirana picture. Instead I played spot the Merc. In Tirana it should be called spot the “not a Mercedes” though.

There are some serious cars on the streets. In the evening they promenade along the bar area. Mercs of all sizes including a lot of pimped S320 are on the streets. In fact I have never seen so many big Mercedes in my entire life and I don’t think I ever will again but even then; there is a reason for Mercedes being so popular. They can deal with the crappy roads and they are easy to fix. Spare parts are easily available and they are cheap because there are so many Mercedes. It simply makes sense to go abroad buy an old Mercedes for feck all and bring it back home. That doesn’t explain the brand new S Classes but we don’t want to get into hat discussion.

Merc Spotting

In fact, lets talk about cars a little longer. I spotted one I never saw before: a BMW X6. I thought the X5 is ridiculous but now I know you can top that. I saw quite a few Audi as well, the car of choice for wankers worldwide. Especially the big SUV thing, the Q7 its called (I think). Who in the Audi headquarter came up with the idea: We must build the most pathetic car in the entire universe. We can no longer let the Americans have it. It must be possible to build a car that is even more ridiculous than Hummer and Escalade. And they did. When you see that car you simply want to punch it the face. I never had that with any other car. Some make you wanna throw up but they are not so revolting that you want to hit them with a jackhammer.

Tirana was a hit then. I loved it. I spend some quality time with some quality people. I was seriously looking forward to Berat. Allegedly beautiful and a top hostel.

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One Response to “Albania”

  1. A Week in Albania – Blogger’s Guide to Albania
    May 4th, 2014 @ 20:01

    […] Head Over Heels: Albania Kris comes away with a largely positive view in his examination of what is to like and dislike about Albania. […]

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