I arrived in Tirana on Saturday afternoon and checked into my hostel. It was quite a walk from the bus station to my hostel but got to experience a little bit of the city. After getting settled I headed out in search of grub, found a small food truck that had been recommended by my hostel so ate there. Didn’t do much in the evening though as I was still tired from the 7am start so called it an early night (pre-midnight).
The next morning I got up and decided to wander the streets. One of the first things I came across was a massive shopping mall, Toptani. Unlike the rest of this city, this place was filled with high end international brands; Versace, Adidas, Yves Rocher which was very surprising due to the vibe I got in the streets.
After walking around for quite a bit I decided to visit an underground gallery called BunkArt2. The place itself was built during the communist regime for the Ministry of Internal Affairs and was going to be used in case of nuclear attack. The inside housed loads of history about the dictatorship, from the rise of Hoxha through his reign and his ultimate demise. There was an absolute ton of information and then at the end there was a small art gallery of pieces influenced by the communism.
Having spent about 2 hours underground I decided I needed a little fresh air so I strolled through the city to the park in the south. On my way I did get distracted quite a lot, I saw a large gazebo with old me playing cards and then a little park with some ruins in. There were 3 small, original bunkers that were intended to be used for fighting, a section of the Berlin Wall and a monument to honour the victims of the Albanian concentration camps. There was also a large pyramid building that I witnessed children climbing but I didn’t want to risk anything so I didn’t participate but it looked cool. I found out later that it’s the dilapidated remains of the museum of culture and just next to it is a church bell that’s but from melted down bullets, it’s erected here as a symbol of peace. I passed through Mother Theresa Square and found the park. I sat down here for a while before wandering back to the hostel.
On the Monday morning I decided to take the walking tour. Turns out I had actually already been on the walking tour by myself but I didn’t have any information so it was a lot more productive. The guide also told me about the history of the country from its origin as a tribe settlement, all the way through communism, to its current state as an EU candidate.
One of the most interesting facts I found out about on the tour was that Mother Theresa was actually of Albanian descent (even though she was born in Macedonia) and that explains why the airport is named after her.
Shortly after the tour ended, one of the group members and I headed to the Sky Tower to take in some views of the city from above, and also to escape the oncoming rain. After a very expensive cola, well expensive for Albania, I headed back to the hostel to relax. When I got to the hostel I actually bumped into an old colleague from Prague (one I hadn’t already met up with again) so we went out for ice cream and a catch up.
I left the capital the next morning and caught a bus to Berat…