Arrival and exploring a bit of Tirana

Tirana Travel Blog

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Evening of February 25, 2009

WE FINALLY MADE IT TO TIRANA!!!

Everything you've heard and read about TIrana is true. TRAFFIC!!!   DUST!!!   and every other car is a Mercedes Benz. I think that this is where they come to die. Almost all of them are OLD and ragged out.....seriously ragged out!

I got off the bus and a nice guy points me in the direction of Skandenberg Square. This is the center of town and my hotel is there, as well. It's about a 10 minute walk.

I check into my hotel (Hotel Nobel). It's a 2 star that's really a 2 star hotel on a side street of the main square. It's a bit better than basic and impressive given the fact that it's location is fantastic and it is cheap.

I head out for food.....I am starved.

I go to 2 ATMs to get some LEKs and am denied both times. I am not worried and hungry so, I go to and exchange outlet to trade in my Macedonian dinar. I had quite a bit leftover. They trade at a terrible rate but, I had no choice and the dinar are useless to me.

I walk the town center. It's all lit up and quite impressive in the night. There are riding 4-wheelers and go-karts in a concreet park area in the very center of Skandenberg square.....STRANGE.....and a bit redneck. It's in the shadow of the National Museum. The mosque and clocktower are lit with mulitcolor lighting and quite pretty. The city center feels alive and vital. It's more developed and normal than I had expected given the views seen along the journey through Albania thus far.

Tirana is a bit more modern and better layed out than Skopje. Let's see how it fares in the morning. Good lighting can make anyone more attractive. I bought a cheese byrek and headed back to the hotel for a good night's rest. 

February 26, 2009

I got up early to see Tirana by daylight, before setting out for Kruja. Boy was it busy with activity but, was anyone really working. There were people everywhere.......just standing around having coffee, standing around smoking a cigarette, standing around chatting, ........just standing around. Is anyone going to work? I spent a few hours walking around taking in the historic sights. I went to the clocktower and climbed to the top for a fantastic view of Tirana and the mountains around.

The clocktower is only open on monday and thursday, it was thursday, lucky me. The caretaker would even take my money. He said "gratis".

I had read that there was an important mosque, here in the center, that was destroyed in World War II. It has been a subject of much debate as the people have wanted a new one built in its place for many many years. It turns out that the site is being rebuilt with an impressive new mosque. It will be quite a statement when completed.

I checked out of the Hotel Nobel and headed to catch my bus to Kruja. I made my way to the train station as instructed. To the left of it is a gravel lot with some busses moving in and out. They all have destination signs but, none of them say Kruja. There is a man who is walking around yelling out destinations.

....I guess the next bus to leave is yelled out. After a bit walking around looking lost, the man looked my way and said Durres. I said no. He said Kruja. I said YES. He then made and signals to when I needed to go. I asked him, again, to be sure. The directions given take me through a rough looking local market that was crammed full of peole. I have my backpack and suitcase.....screaming "TOURIST". I feel a bit uncomforable. It was a narrow passage and seemed to go on forever. I questioned whether this was correct. I finally reach then end of this "tunnel" revealing an almost emply dirt space between buildings and a tenement. There wre a few cars there and several really rough looking busses. One of them was even being worked on, there in the lot. I looked for destination signs on the busses and didn't see Kruja.
A guy was watching me do this. I noticed and decided to ask for help. I asked if he spoke English. He said no. I tried anyway. I said "bus to Kruja?" He shook his head yes. He then pointed to the bus that was being worked on. This filled me with confidence. I asked him when it would leave. He wrote 12 in the dirt. I thanked him for his help and walked over to the bus and just stood there. I had a 45 minute wait and the sun was bright and quite warm. It's actually hot but, I appreciate the sunlight.

During my wait, I look around in the direction of the "tenement". The homes are made of cardboard, tin, rugs, and scrap wood. I was shocked. I really was. I didn't expect this. I didn't feel comfortable in these surroundings. I didn't take the camera out to photograph. I go back to the bus and stand beside it.

Finally, it's time to depart. We board and go.....SLOWLY. Leaving Tirana is a slow process. The roads are not only crowded and potholed but there is an exteme lack of pavement in many areas. We stop about 100 times to pick up passengers. Finally, we are on our way......sort of. We are traveling at 40 km/hr, of course, and still dogging potholes.

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Tirana Hotels & Accommodations review
Value and location in central TIrana
Hotel Nobel is on a partially paved side street behind the Tirana International Hotel. There are several cafes and bars between the main steet and the… read entire review
Tirana
photo by: EmEm