One of my Albanian friends suggested I go to Albania so I packed a bag and headed to the bus station to head on down. She was nice enough to speak with the driver as he only spoke albanian to ensure I ended up at the right place and didn’t get off to soon. He was very nice and waited until I got on the bus before departing. Actually but the time I got on the bus I think everyone knew I was an American and couldn’t speak Albanian. I wasn’t sure at first if that was a good thing but at this point it was too late a we were underway. Just as we were departing another guy got on and sat across the aisle from me as there was enough room for everyone to have two seats which I thought was nice.
He leaned over and asked a question to which I replied, “I don’t speak Albanian, Sorry”. His fact lit up a bit and he began speaking English to me. He apparently was on his way to Tirana to see his father and had just left his wife and new daughter at home to make the trip alone. He was so friendly the entire trip which I came to learn was quite normal and made the trip that much more enjoyable. He had a small plastic bag with two pops and two bags of sunflower seeds which and he reached in and handed me one of each. It didn’t appear as if he could afford to do this but he did anyhow and wouldn’t allow me to give them back or pay so I thanked him and we chatted a bit. Along the way we stopped somewhere so everyone could get a bathroom break and perhaps get a bite to eat. So, I jumped off and went in the restaurant, grabbed a cup of coffee and about 30 minutes or so later my friend and the bus driver motioned for me to get on so I didn’t get left behind and off we went. When we arrived at the border the guard came on the bus and gave everyone’s passport a cursory glance and smiled at me when showed him mine.
So, we were in Albania now and it was night. We drove through the countryside, past the airport and into town where the main bus stop is. I forgot to mention that before I left my Albanian friend called people she knew in Tirana to provide more assistance and when I got off two guys walked up. I’m quite good a blending in but apparently I stuck out or she gave them a great description of me because I was immediately recognized.
The hailed a cab and we were off to my room where I checked in and dropped off my luggage and proceeded into the night. The gave me a tour of the Biloku or Ish-Blloku which is the hip area of town where everyone goes for a vibrant nightlife. It was alive and the restaurants were full of people. We did a bit of club hopping while did most of the talking and they explained where I may wish to go while there. It was around midnight when they both had to go as they were students and had to wake up early for class. So they helped me make my way back to the hotel room and departed. Biloku looked like it could be fun and I ended up returning but after they dropped me off at the hotel, I came back out and wandered around the hotel area, stopping in a restaurant and getting a bit of local food. It was all quite interesting for my first night and I ended up back at my room around 2 am to check it out more thoroughly.
I figured I wouldn’t be spending too much time in the room so I rented something basic, just a bed, continental breakfast and a bathroom. The bathroom was typical of what I came to expect and was completely tiled with no shower door just a shower head. So, when you took a shower the entire room was flooded more or less which I guess makes the thing easier to clean. I came to prefer it as the norm when I traveled. Simplicity, a key word I came to use frequently when I travel as it makes things easier. More on this on other pages but if you are in need of western accommodations be sure you investigate the place thoroughly before you rent. This is because what a western thinks of as minimum acceptable standards are almost certainly not the minimum in many parts of the world. The people however are almost always friendly if you act as a guest in their country. Well more on the next page.