Our journey to Tirana was an eventful one. The border crossing took longer than usual due to the driver not having the correct paperwork, then the police did a routine stop of the vehicle in Albania and fined the driver for not recording his working hours correctly. He tried to prevent us from visiting Shkodra even though he’d been instructed to go there, then when we arrived in Tirana he didn’t know where the hotel was so we had to walk the last bit. None of this particularly bothered me though, it’s all part of the experience after all!
In Shkodra we (eventually) stopped for cake and coffee, or lemon tea in my case which is the closest I had been able to come to a nice normal cup of English tea so far. I’m not really a cake person but this traditional creamy cake was delicious.
When I left the hotel cafe I acquired a child. Yep, a child. She came from nowhere, grabbed onto me and would not let go. Ok, this is a first I thought. Her hand was suspiciously close to my pocket and she was mumbling something. I looked up to see if anyone knew how to detatch her from me. Nope. I spun around and she let go, so I skipped away quickly but she ran and grabbed me again. Hmm, this is going to be harder than I thought. I tried the spinning manouevre a couple more times but she still came back like a boomerang. People were watching me. Someone passed on a bicycle and tutted loudly. Did he tut at me or at the girl? She was a gypsy of some kind and saw me as an easy target. I escaped her grip after what seemed like a very long time, and skulked back to the mini bus confused.
When we arrived in Tirana it seemed like an alien environment to me as I have never been to a former communist country before and this city still had a communist feel because of all the concrete.
The orientation walk took us through Skanderberg Square and Blloku (the Block) and ended at the Sky Tower which slowly rotates giving you a 360 degree view of the city while you sip a cocktail or ice cold beer.
En route we also walked past a peculiar concrete pyramid which I actually found captivating rather than ugly. It had been designed by the daughter of Enver Hoxha and is said to have been a mausoleum and the most expensive building ever built in Albania but is no longer in use.
The food was quite meaty and cheesy and creamy. Meat with cheese and cream on top mainly. I had a Greek salad but just tried little bits of everyone else’s food. I don’t know whether it’s an Australian thing or just the people on the tour but everyone loved to share their food so that we could all try something new. What a fantastic trait! I adopted it immediately once I was out of my Greek salad comfort zone.