Albania

22. August 2015 | categories: Travel

It’s Wednesday, July 22nd. After a half-day stop in Prizren I wait for the bus to Tirana, which leaves in just over an hour. A lot of taxi drivers ask me if I need a cab. I’ll let you know that the bus is much cheaper. Then someone will come and offer it to me for 20 euros in Italian, he can’t speak English. I let him know that the bus would only cost about ten euros. Then he wants to drive me to Tirana for ten euros. When he confirmed to drive me to the hostel, I agreed.

The driver doesn’t seem to be a taxi driver. But there is another man and a child in the back of the car and several parcels that he probably transports. We leave immediately and after about 45 minutes we reach the Albanian border. In a nearby village the parcels leave us and soon afterwards also the man with the child. The driver invites me for a drink.

After about 20 minutes he tells me that his colleague would take me to Tirana by minibus anyway. I was supposed to give him the 10 euros. I’ll ask if I owe him anything and not the other one. After asking three times in the presence of the minibus driver I agree and give the driver 20 Euro, because I didn’t have a 10 Euro note. He gave me the money back in Lek, 400 Lek (later I found out that it was about 3 Euros).

About 40 minutes later, the driver of the minibus drives to Tirana. He reminds me of Mergim Muzzafer (played by Mike Müller). On the way along the motorway, cyclists drive us towards us between the fast lane and the guardrail, and on the breakdown lane pedestrians and tractor drivers meet us. In Tirana the driver invites me somewhere with a taxi and wants 15 Euro. I give him to understand that he can get the 15 Euro from the other and go to the taxi. He’s angry, but he lets me go. The taxi driver drives me to the Milingona Hostel and wants 10 Euro (the taximeter shows 8.80 Euro and is written in German). Since he can’t pay 50 Euro, he is satisfied with 5 Euro and the 400 Lek (totally more than 8 Euro, but according to the hostel owner about 5 Euro too much). On the trip I was cheated several times (instead of paying 10 Euro I paid 25 Euro from Prizren to the hostel), but I still arrived well.

Tirana

In the hostel I am welcomed friendly. A surprise is waiting for me, too. Since yesterday the hostel has an air-conditioning system, which is very convenient at these high temperatures.

The next day I walk through Tirana and look around the city. It has both mosques and churches.

As a pedestrian, it is best to cross the street at red just before it becomes green. As soon as the traffic lights turn green, the cars come from the right and they are hardly interested in pedestrians. And the horn is used almost as intensively as one hears from India.

It is also interesting to note that about every tenth car in Kosovo had a Swiss number. On the other hand, I don’t see a single Swiss car in Albania, although there are many similarities.

In the evening I go to dinner with two other students, a Russian who lives next to China in Siberia and an Asian. Afterwards we take a walk through the city and enjoy a free concert. Back at the hostel, the Russian is stabbed by a scorpion. After researching the Internet, we come to the conclusion that this is probably a harmless variant. Probably a backpacker brought him along, because the hostel owner has never seen one before.

Shkodra

On Friday I take the bus to Shkodra. There the brother of a fellow traveller drives me near the hostel. This after I asked if anyone knew where the hostel The Wanderers Hostel exactly. Nobody seems to know this hostel because it has an English name. After a rescue phone call I will be picked up by the hostel staff and escorted to the accommodation about 150 meters away.

I stay in the hostel all afternoon because I feel a little sick.

To see something of the Shkodra, I decide to go up to the castle with some others in the evening. Among them were an Australian, a Canadian, an American and a Flemish Belgian.

After a walk through the town and a climb we reached the ruins of the castle after about 40 minutes. We are rewarded with a beautiful sunset and a panoramic view of the city and the largest lake in the Balkans.

The next morning I leave for Montenegro. I take a minibus across the border to Ulcinj. (continued)