Arrival and exploring a bit of Tirana
Tirana Travel Blog› entry 5 of 5 › view all entries
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 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.
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.
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.