Journal - Napló

The road to Tirane

Posted on July 28, 2009 at 5:55 AM

   I am sitting in the shadow and looking out on an explosion of colors. What used to be a straight and uniform street lined with communist style housing blocks has been completely transformed. Every block is different. The building opposite is white with various parts in red, blue, yellow, green and orange. Down the street, there are buildings painted pink, light blue, orange, blue and red with dots and trees painted on in different shades within a color theme.


Finding two buildings that look the same here in Tirane would be an accomplishment. The variation in styles, sizes and level of maintenancealone is extremely diverse. When they also added this paint to the equation the result is an impression of total diversity.

   The color of the facadesare complemented nicely by the life on the street which is no less colorful. I get invited to sit down at a shop ten meters down the street. He sells door frames, tires and sinks. Across the street is a vegetable stand, a cafe, another cafe, a kebab shop, an electrician and yet another cafe. In the alley to the left there is a basketball court with a three on three game underway.


   Somehow Tirane feels a little different from the other capitals I've seen in Europe. Firstly it has yet to be invaded by the big international chain stores. The streets are lined with small shops, each one unlike the next. Then there is the little things. Like bicycle repairmen fixing bikes at street corners or missing sewer covers that nobody seems to noticebeyond stepping over or around them.

   The city is full of cafe's! They are as one Albanian told me, one better than the other. There is something for every taste and they are everywhere. Given the life both on the street and at the sides of it pluss the abundance of cafe's to rest at I have to say that Tirane seems an ideal place to spend some days caffe hopping.


   The people we meet on the road play a great part in shaping our journey. Until now we have no better example of this than from our last three days in Montenegro. Hitch hiking south from Budva we met Roderick and Martha. En route to Albania they planned a two day stay with Albert who has a house up in the hillsides overlooking the Adriatic.



   We where grateful to him for letting us stay there a couple of days. We asked Albert to help us find some sort of work we could do in Montenegro. He introduced us to his neighbors who tried finding something for us without luck. Then Albert takes us to Ulcinj to meet the boss of a kebab shop. He says we should come back the next day. We do. He tells us that he could use some extra hands, but that he could not risk letting us work without a permit. He says we could try the supermarket down the street. Apparently the owner had a lot of land, maybe we could work there. The guy at the supermarket says we should go to another supermarket. On the way we ask around at restaurants. No luck. I get into contact with some Turkish guys selling some tasty Turkish food. They invite me for tee, give me some food and shows me how to make it. I ask if we could stay at the shop one day and learn how to make it properly. They say off course, had it not been for the fact that they were closing the shop that day to go to Kosovo and collect forty days of pay from the owner. On the way to the next supermarket we meet a guy. We explain that we are looking for work in every country we visit in order to learn. He likes the idea and wants to help us. We agree to meet at the post office in a town some 6 kilometers to the south in two hours time. We gear up and start walking. Turns out that this guy wasn't the best at judging distances. We walked at least 12 km with our huge backpacks in the middle of the day. But it was worth it. We get there and he finds a guy at a vegetable market who calls a farmer who comes and picks us up. We tour his fields with high hopes that we finally found a place to do some work. Unfortunately it wasn't meant to be. Also he was reluctant to let us work without a permit. Apparently there were a lot of inspections and because he was in hard competition with his neighbors he was worried they might tell. Also he said, there were really a lot of poison snakes in the fields and you had to know how to handle them.

   He treated us to a huge watermelon straight from the field before we went on our way. One last attempt was made getting work at a car wash, but there was no way. We resigned, packed our bags and left for Albania after trading Peters ashtray for a glass.


   The hitching down toTirane was surprisingly easy. Our first ride was with an American Albanian guy driving a brand new Audi with New York license plates. I had been surprised last year when I drove through this area on my motorbike at the number of cars with American license plates. I had figured that they were all stolen and that nobody cared. Turns out that there were some 10.000 people that emigrated to the US from the border area between Montenegro and Albania and many of them ship a car over for use on holidays.




   Next up is southern Albania. I have to admit that I am expecting easy hitch hiking south. My impression of Albania is that it is extremely hospitable. As a matter of fact there is a saying here that thereare no foreigners in Albania, only guests.

Categories: English, Albania, by Kenneth

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