Six months ago I travelled through Albania and it was one of my favourite countries that I visited in my trip through the Balkans. I learned quite a lot of shit there and despite the fact that this is well overdue, here is what I learned.
Albanian’s love American Presidents
In the capital city of Tirana not only is there a statue of George W. Bush, the first of the American President’s to ever visit Albania, but there is a George W. Bush Street and a George W. Bush café where he visited. They apparently rope the table he sat at off so that nobody else can sit there because that’s Bush’s table….. my gosh. On top of this, there is a Clinton statue erected in Prishtina (the capital city of Kosovo) most likely as a tribute from the ethnic Albanians as thanks for intervening in the conflict with Serbia. What I do find incredibly humorous, especially now post election, is that the Albanian’s had a special Hillary Clinton statue commissioned for Sarande in the south for when she became President…. I don’t know what they are going to do with it now since that went all pear shaped!
Albania’s roads are shit
The dictator Enver Hoxha during times of communist reign decided that with all of the money he had he would invest in spending it on 70,000 war bunkers at a cost of 1,000 dollars each. This is 70 million dollars that could have been spent on roads and other infrastructure. He did this because he was utterly paranoid that Albania was going to be attacked. Of course this was all unfounded and now as you drive across the country you can see bomb shelters all over the place that have never been used.
Speaking of Shit….
Shitet is the word used ‘for let’. I don’t know why, but I find this thoroughly amusing…. ‘shitet’ lol….
Albanians are lovely giving people
It annoys me a lot that I have heard a bunch of racist things from the mouths of ignorant people. At one point a British guy I met in Italy asked me why I would bother going to Albania as they are all aggressive gang members and thugs. As someone who has lived with and teaches Albanians everyday I can tell you this is not the case. In fact when the Bosnian’s were getting displaced from their country by the horrific Serbian regime to rid all Muslims from the country, Albanian’s gave refuge to more refugees than any other country despite how poor the country was at that time. They are a family oriented and giving people.
It’s all about the Eagle!
The Albanian flag is the black two headed eagle based on a red back drop to represent the blood lost fighting for the country. The eagle has it’s roots back to the Byzantine era. This eagle is featured and revered quite prominently. The Albanian word for eagle is Shqiponje. The flag is called the Shqiperise, the people are called the Shqiptar, the country is called Shqiperia. Everything eagle. It is a hugely embraced emblem of who they are as people.
Albanian drivers are crazy
Pedestrian crossing? What pedestrian? You will find your average Albanian driver cruising around with a cigarette in one hand and a phone in the other leaving you wondering what they use to actually hold the steering wheel and where their eyes are for driving. And yet somehow it seems to work. You just have to make sure that at all times you are on alert and don’t get in their way. Drivers also seem to get a little bit extra crazy if they are driving for weddings. They hang red and white scarves out the windows and wave them ferociously as they honk their horns loudly and often. It is quite the affair to behold!
Tortoises eat watermelon!!
Yeah I know right! Totally weird but totally cute!
So that is about it for my time. I did spend quite a large proportion of my time sitting on a beach in Jale down in the south and hiking from Thethi through to Valbona which is some of the most spectacular hiking I have ever seen in my life. It is such a beautiful country to visit and if you get the chance to, you should definitely go. Just don’t be in a hurry to get anywhere fast!