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Europe » Albania » West » Tirana
December 5th 2008
Published: December 11th 2008
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Live chickens for sale on the sidewalk. Broken bones ensure they can't run away. Pour guys could only peck at the sidewalk for their last meal.
Wow, Albania. Absolutely crazy place. Are we still in Europe?

Firstly, the trip from Bar, Montenegro to Albania was a nightmare as expected. Once again, we were travelling on a Sunday (we gotta mix up our schedule a bit). The first leg of the trip was a bus from Bar to Ulcinj, a town closer to the Albanian border where we hoped we could get a bus to Shkodra in Albania. Of course the only bus that day left at 6:00am and we missed it by a long shot. There are always taxi drivers hanging around the bus stations offering rides to stranded travellers but until now we always ignored them. We were approached by a guy who offered to taxi us straight to Shkodra. I knew it was illegal to taxi across the border but we had no other option. Jay used her gypsy skills to get him down to 25 euros and we were off. The first thing the taxi driver did was swing by his house where he removed the taxi sign from the top of his car. It was then that we realised that he wasn't going to taxi us across the border, he was just
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I guess this means keep off the grass (subtle).
a kind Montenegrin who offered to drive us across (according to the Albanian border patrol).

We pulled up to the border and this guy looked a little nervous. He took our passports and sweet-talked the border guards while we waited in the car. Hassle free border crossings, it's quite the service this guy offers. We did get screwed though as we had read that there was a 10 euro visa entry fee but later found out that some people didn't pay to enter while others paid only 1 euro. It seems to be random. Once we reached the other side, the driver seemed more relaxed and he dropped us off at the furgons (mini buses) leaving for Tirana. The furgon system is pretty interesting, they're basically just big vans that leave whenever they fill up so there's no set schedule. Once it does leave though it's pretty quick as the driver can perform crazier stunts than the bus drivers. The furgon drivers are quite confident in their driving, possibly because they are the only ones in the van with a seatbelt!

We finally made it to Tirana and checked into our hostel. It was a very cool place
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Alex in the outdoor kitchen.
that actually had other guests which is an oddity for Eastern Europe this time of year. It was nice to talk to other people.

Tirana is a crazy city. The traffic is horrendous and crossing the road is risking your life. We thought other European cities were bad until we came here. It is very smoggy and there's litter everywhere. The river is clogged with plastic bags and dirty little children will cling on to you until you either give them something or shove them off and run away. Despite all this, it was an interesting place and we ended up staying 5 nights.

The Tirana International Film Festival was on while we were there so we spent a few days watching short films from around the world. The film festival is a hit among the young locals as there aren't many cultural events like this happening in Tirana. The best part was that it was all free and you could come and go when you wanted.

It rained a lot while we were there so we spent a good amount of time hanging around the hostel. There was a building in the courtyard that housed a
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The main square at dusk. Apparently they plan to redevelop the square into something more pedestrian friendly. At the moment the only way to reach the middle is to dodge cars frogger-style.
kitchen, common area and wood stove. It was very cozy when the weather turned bad. One night we went out to a local cafe to celebrate the birthday of the guy who ran the hostel. We had a very diverse crowd and it was a fun night until they ran out of beer and we all had to go home.

We finally pulled ourselves away and headed for Ohrid in Macedonia. We need to keep moving if we want any time in Istanbul and the Greek islands before we meet up with the family for christmas in Athens.

PS- On a side note, we have been granted Working Holiday Visas for Australia so we are officially moving to Oz in the new year. We are trying to set up work and board on a horse farm and so far it looks pretty promising. Jay has enough experience to be a groom/trainer and I have enough experience to shovel poo and throw bales so hopefully we can work something out.


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Jay in front of a mosque and the Albanian flag
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Trying to cross the road. The country was so isolated in the communist years that cars weren't widespread until the late 80s. It's like a country full of young drivers.
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In the country you still see a lot of horse-drawn buggies. This one is parked among vehicles. I imagine it's not easy to reverse stall park a horse-drawn buggy
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The countryside is actually quite beautiful if you look beyond the plastic bags and industrial buildings.


16th February 2009

horse buggy
I reckon its pretty easy to park one of those buggies. Can't say i've tried though!

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