Albania packs a punch

Updated: Feb 3, 2019

Tirana, Albania has been a surprise packet of the trip so far. To be honest, we only come here as it was en-route to get to Montenegro. Boy are we glad we did.

After 3 weeks of attempting to get a tan (Tom advised me yesterday that I had a nice brownish tinge - the highest compliment for a strawberry blonde!), we are both quite excited to be in a city again where we no longer have to apply sunscreen every hour to our entire body.

We are staying at the Propaganda Hostel, a fantastic new hostel just south of the Lana river; apparently the most filthy stretch of river in Europe. Tirana has a reputation for having a huge cafe culture and the first thing we noticed was the number of cool, quirky cafes and bars that line the road. It is a kaleidoscope of colours with flowers and other colourful furnishings spewing out of each venue and enticing us in.

We wandered through the streets and popped into Era, a highly recommended restaurant, for dinner. We ordered traditional Albanian fare - elbasan casserole and oven baked Kosovo suxhuk with vegetables. Absolutely delicious. This, along with a 1.5 of sparkling water, only set us back €10!

We had originally planned to catch the cable car up to Dajti Mountain however Tuesday was the only day it didn't run - damn! Instead we wandered through the historical centre of the city to check out the tourist sights - the town square, clock tower, mosque and a strange rundown pyramid. Despite Tom's hipster beard and man bag (which are HUGE here), we were obviously easily recognised as tourists. As a result, Tom was mugged by a 6 year old girl who stormed up, grab onto the 2L bottle of water he was holding and refused to let go. Tom fumbled along for 10 seconds before being overcome by the child and surrendered the bottle. Tom 0. Small girl 1.

The other thing that is cool about Tirana is the colours of the buildings. When Edi Rama was elected Mayor of Tirana in 2000, he inherited a capital which still recover from communism. Upon taking office, Mr. Rama (who was previously a painter) dispatched an army of painters to canvass city buildings with bizarre colourful geometric patterns. In addition to this, the may cafes and bars have displays of flowers, adding more colour to this wonderful city landscape.

We went to the Sky Bar for lunch, a somewhat posh restaurant on the top of one of the tallest buildings in Tirana. It has a very slow rotating bar at the very top and despite being posh, only set us back €10 for lunch (It would appear everything costs around a tenner here).

In the afternoon we finally indulged in some cafe culture - iced coffees in the first cafe, cocktails (2 lovely cocktails for €5) in the second and third. We head to E7E for dinner, a bookshop come cafe come restaurant where we ordered randomly off the menu (turns out we ordered a salad and a chicken pasta dish - not so random), which, again, set us back a tenner.

As we wandered back to our hostel, the bars were pumping and people gathered to watch Brazil vs Germany. I retired to our room but Tom was keen to watch the game. He managed to get an invite from the hostel owner to watch the game from his private balcony which has a perfect view of the big screen erected in the bar downstairs. They shared a beer together and talked about history, politics, economics and property investing...or so I am told.

Our only regret is that we do not have longer to explore Albania now that we have had a little taste of it. It will definitely be on our hit list for when we venture back into Europe in the future.

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