Journal - Napló

Days 19-21. Tirana (Albania 1.)

Posted on March 30, 2011 at 12:25 AM

Days 19-21., Albania

Day 19.

   …The atmosphere was great at the border, we got through without a problem. We walked ahead a few hundred metres surrounded by gentlemen enthusiastically offering taxi rides, and we started looking for a ’normal’ ride. We were just trying to communicate with the nice old men on bikes when a minivan stopped. We made them double sure we were hitch-hiking and not taxi hunting.

   Up until Tirana, mountains followed us all along; we rattled along on a world war-iron bridge, we made it through crossings rushed by sharp honk sounds. Using the words of our driver: ’Here there are more gas stations than cars’ – and true, little gas stations follow one another.

   We got out of the car in front of a youth hostel’s entrance, taking advantage of the red lamp time. The mood was excellent in the yard. In the company of two Canadian girls,a Polish couple and an English guy we were waiting for the boss to return from the pub. When he came back, we soon made a deal that one of us would sleep in the yard-hammock so we’d only have to pay for one bed.

Days 20-21.

   Both days we were exploring the city, indefatigably. When we were done with our internet ’duty’, we walked kilometres in the centre and the poor neighbourhoods.

   In the 90s dozens of artists were asked to ’colour’ the town’s monotonous block houses. Today, as I’m walking among these buildings, I have to think of the colourful bustle of my childhood’s amusement parks. Behind the bright-coloured terraces, windows and house walls, the mountains veiled by the intense sunbeams make the town look even more fabulous.


  The line of the ’talehouses’ is here and there interrupted by new, modern, or, on the contrary, old, ruined houses. However, independently of the buildings’ condition, in poor and rich neighbourhoods as well, the ground floors arededicated to coffee houses. Once in a few steps the smell of baked corn, coming from the grills, flies up in the air, vendors offer cigarettes and all sorts of knick-knacks, in sunny and shady parts, too.

   Life is going fast in Taiwan-park,situated in the centre. The benches around the fountain and the spider-like bar building are usually used by old people, whereas kids are running, chasing each other or a ball, on the grassy parts.

   Both days we spent a few hours at a suburban T-crossing in the company of a couple of youngsters and kids. They all are open-minded, curious, macho and helpful. They spend most of their days sitting at a shady corner; one of them, coming from a ’richer’ family, cuts the hair of the locals once in a while, in a small room labelled as a hairdresser’s salon.

   Anywhere we’ve been, we have always been welcomed, given information nicely, invited for a cup of tee, or waved at from the painted window amongst a huge tree’s branches.

   Though many western companies are present in the capitol, towerhouses are being built, luxury bars are being opened, well-known banks advertise themselves; still, the Albanians are able to translate this overwhelming West to their mother tongue, insert it in their days, without their life overturning, their customs and lifestyle radically changing.

   One of them told us that ’they are not really affected by the crisis, as they don’t live off credits’. Still, everyone is building houses, and one can see maybe more Mercedes than in Germany.

   I’m sure about this: as we got to Tirana, we were thrilled by the will to live and the colourfulness of not only the houses but the people and the street life, too.

translated by Ágoston Galambos

Categories: English, Albania, by Peter

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