Tirana: Mistaken identity and the fallout

Tirana Travel Blog

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The truck driver's friends

The driver has to make a delivery run in the south of the country.  He volunteers to take me to Tirana to stay with some friends of his for a few days.  Near the house, cherry trees are brimming with ripe delicious cherries that I pick and eat all day.  In town, I see Hoxha's former residence and the odd-looking soviet-inspired architecture.  When Russia de-Stalinized during Krushchev's reign, Albania split ways with the Soviet Union.  The strict Stalinist state was left with no friends so they turned to Mao's China for survival.  I see around me a sea of Chinese made Phoenix brand bicycles that form the backbone of their transportation system.  That and donkeys.

A former statue of Stalin
  Only a few privileged drive old Russian Ladas or even yet imported Western cars like the Mercedes that hit me.  This is poorest country I've yet seen in Europe.  

On the third day, my driver friend returns and we drive back to the Macedonian border.  When it comes time to present our passports, I panic, realizing that I'm going to have to expose the lie I've been living all week.  He sees the passport and gets very quiet.  "Spezial" I say.  He knows I've been lying to him and probably thinks I'm a spy.  He's quiet for the next while as we head toward Struga.  We cannot communicate on a level that would allow me to explain this away well.  Stopped at a cafe in Struga over a cup of Turkish coffee flavored with a piece of chocolate.  He finally looks at me, smiles and extends a handshake and wishes his American friend a safe journey.  As I thank him for his hospitality I feel terrible inside. 

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The truck drivers friends
The truck driver's friends
A former statue of Stalin
A former statue of Stalin
Hoxhas former residence
Hoxha's former residence
Burned out former internal securit…
Burned out former internal securi…
The Cuban Embassy
The Cuban Embassy
Tirana
photo by: EmEm