Balkans Day 5 - Tirana

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September 15th 2018
Published: September 15th 2018
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We get up and have breakfast. The food’s not great but at least the chef has gone to the effort of writing the hotel’s name in HP sauce on my plate. The old man is usually the master of the all-you-can-eat buffet, but today he meets his match. An elderly lady at our table manages 6 plates to his 3. He says this an unfair comparison as she poured the entire first plateful into her handbag. I am keen to stay and see if she can manage a 7th but beat a hasty retreat when she starts stirring Nutella into her tea.

We depart for a day sightseeing in Tirana. Most points of interest are on Blvd Deshmoret e Kombit; a wide, tree lined boulevard which runs between two squares, Mother Teresa and Skanderbeg.

Our first stop is the Pyramid. This hideous carbuncle was designed by Hoxha’s daughter as a museum to his legacy. It now lies derelict and decaying while its future is debated. My guide book says children enjoy climbing and sliding down its sides. The old man is determined to give it a try. It’s not a pretty sight but at least he doesn’t get stuck.

Next we visit the National Gallery. It has some great socialist realist art. Photography is prohibited but the guard, like most Albanians, is a smoker so I manage to photograph almost the entire collection during his cigarette breaks.

We continue to the National History Museum which documents Albania’s history from the Stone Age onwards. Unfortunately, shortly after the Roman invasion, the English subtitles cease so if (like us) you can’t read Albanian, it’s just a random collection of stuff until we reach the postwar era and the subtitles reappear. We continue a run of scary doll encounters with a collection of costume dolls.

We have reached the enormous Skanderbeg Square which isn’t sure if it’s a pedestrian plaza or a fountain, with water pouring out of vents between the marble tiles onto the feet of passers-by. We return along the boulevard taking in the usual city sights; a church, a mosque, theatre, opera, the city’s name in big letters. Finally we are defeated by the heat and retire to our hotel room.

We stop en route to buy ‘vegetarian’ sandwiches which turn out to be a combination of feta, roast courgette and aubergine. This backs up my new theory that aubergine is tasty as long as it is outnumbered by cheese.

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