Albania – Shkoder and Tirana
I travelled to Shkoder in Albania with Jude, we were only intending it to be a stop over for a few hours before continuing onwards to Tirana but the town had a nice atmosphere so we decided to stay. There was a nice central street lined with cafes, bars and restaurants and it all seemed quite European.
Other parts of the town weren’t as nice but there was something about the place. We checked into Florian’s Hostel for the night, it was a bit out of the way but the dorm was clean and it was a friendly place.
I didn’t want to use the shower though as it had an old toilet in the same room. Basically a hole in the ground with footplates.
That night we found a nice restaurant that served huge portions for very little money, Albania is certainly a cheap place to eat out. Walking around the town we found that people stared at us, we presumed it was just because we were foreigners or that Jude was wearing shorts.
Later we learned that men and women in Albania don’t socialise together, groups of men and women go out separately. It seemed very strange to me but it’s just part of their culture.
Train to Tirana
There was a bus to Tirana but I was quite keen to get the train as the journey had been described online as memorable. So at 5am we traipsed to the railway station a mile or so away and boarded the 5:45am train towards Tirana.
The train could be described as ‘run down’ it looked to be an old German train from the early 90’s, which had broken windows ripped seats and interesting graffiti. The worst part was the toilet, a hideous place with a rancid smell to match!
Although the train was a little retro it was a welcome change from the bus. There’s something about trains that I really like, unfortunately there aren’t that many in the Balkans, which is a shame as the countryside is stunning.
The train took us as far as Kashar, about 5 miles outside of Tirana, apparently the city railway station was closed several years ago for renovation and has never reopened. To our surprise there was a replacement bus service! Even more surprising was that the whole journey cost less than £1!
Unfortunately my view of Tirana is pretty negative and I would have to describe it as a bit of a dump. There wasn’t much to see or do and the city just seemed run down. Sure there were a couple of nice buildings and a square but that didn’t make up for the rest of the place.
The roads were packed, pavements broken and people a bit aggressive and not at all friendly. No doubt there are some very nice people but I didn’t get to meet them.
The hostel wasn’t that great either, there were no lockers to secure valuables and the place was staffed by a clueless guy who couldn’t work out how much it was for a night.
He was very vague and probably suffering from excessive use of some kind of drug that had messed with his head. Either that or he was just thick.
We thought we had got away with only paying £4 for the night but unfortunately they realised their mistake and we had to cough up another few euros.
Jude described it as a 1 night only hostel and that sums it up pretty well. It wasn’t the kind of place where you would want to stay too long and realistically it was only worth £4 a night!
Wow there are some crazy drivers in Tirana! The zebra crossings don’t seem to mean much to them at all, whether the light is red or green they will try to run you over regardless. Then if someone does stop at a red light, they get tooted by the car behind for holding them up.
If that wasn’t bad enough, Albania’s inhabitants like to drive with food in one hand and their phone in the other! There are clearly no laws on that here like back in the UK. I noticed that the the bus drivers do that too!
It became a game of cat and mouse, who would blink 1st you take a step in the road and hope the car will stop and then be prepared to jump back on the curb if not. A good stare at the driver seemed to help but safety in numbers was the best way.
I’m glad I came to Albania as it was certainly an experience. Shkoder had a nice feel to it but as it has given me reason not to come back. I didn’t find much here to intice me to stay longer than 2 nights in this country.
I had been travelling solo up until I met up with Jude in Kotor, Monetenegro and travelled with her to Shkoder and Tirana. I found it difficult to travel with someone else as I’m just used to travelling on my own. After Tirana Jude wanted to go to Lake Orhid and me to Kosovo, so we went our separate ways.
I booked myself on the 3pm bus to Kosovo and made my way to the bus station, wondering what would be in store for me on the other side of the border.