Albania - a land of eagles, Enver's bunkers, a lost corner of the world with the cruelest mafia in the world that few tourists know about and just frightens most people.
You can get there either by endless kilometers of Balkan roads of varying quality or by plane, which I think is the easiest and best way to travel. I chose the other way, as I just didn't want to travel 24 hours by bus. In about 80 minutes we admired the waves of the Adriatic from the plane and started to descend to the Mother Teresa Airport near the village of Rinas. Of course, the first thing that will strike you in the eye are red flags everywhere, not only at the airport, but also in the city, houses, institutions - a patriotic phenomenon typical of the Balkans.
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On the way from the airport to the resort where our hotel was located (Durrës, Golem) we enjoyed the surrounding countryside. We were expecting everything, but it did seem absolutelly ok. The four-lane new road has many buildings built or under construction. So the first impression is quite fine.
But it all finished by our otherwise very nice tour guide, who had to draw attention to some negative things. The tour guide was a realist and immediately pulled us out of the holiday ireality. After this information, she had a shorter talk about Albania being the most underdeveloped country in Europe (I don't know if the most underdeveloped country in the Europe is Moldovia) and a few very negative realistic facts such as "forget ATM and English".
After the first hour and a half of my existence on Albanian territory, I was seriously considering whether there was any point in going there and whether I was going to catch a bus"aeroporti ndërkombetare“1 She finally wished us a pleasant stay, which I do not know if after all the previous "positive" information it made sense, but she did her job.
The hotel was sufficient. This is not what other destinations offer under the term "four-star hotel". Although for the services you have paid for such as double room with balcony you got a triple room with a huge window suitable for committing suicide. If you want to realize it, be sure to choose such a room. However, it is probable that you would fall on about 50 plastic bottles of local mineral water Tepelene in the nearby Mari market.
Otherwise, in this mark they had everything needed to survive in Albania - ie drinking water ( the water from the tap was not drinkable, but next time I try) some foreign products and sometimes some leks. What was the choice of over-the-counter goods I did not ask with my poor knowledge of Albanian (I will find out next time). But back to the hotel.
A very kind and helpful receptionist with the name of a interesting etymology (which was also strange to the Albanians themselves), which I later learned was a engineer with a very warm relationship with Italy (she automatically became my favorite receptionist) changed our room without problems.
Other shortcomings of services reported by other Slovak tourists were related to food that seemed dull and unsatisfactory, frequency of cleaning and Wifi signal. On the other hand, they could be glad that there was no electricity ourtage and that we were something to eat. They probably didn't realize that. I find it necessary to remember the incredibly eloquent maid, who was unnecessary to remind of phrases such as 'english' or "nuk kuptoj shqip" to2 . At each meeting we were enthralled by some monologues given with so much enthusiasmand a heartfelt smile that you didn't want to interrupt them at all and just enjoy that smile. I was really sorry then that I didn't understand them.
There was a beach near the hotel. A normal sandy beach ie miles of beaches with thousands of beach deck chairs, beach vendors endlessly repeating "urdhëroni“3 or "rrush" dardha, pjeshkë, kumbulla“4, attractions and a foam disco on Sunday. Each room was assigned "një çadër me dy shezlonge“5. Shezlong was sometimes a problem when the wide-eyed beach boy (future computer scientist) said that he would block some of his chairs. According to the number of shezlongs booked, it looked as if he was a friend with at least half of 250,000 habitants of the city. He just didn't think about it because they were missing for hotel guests. But then he solved the situation and smiled further.
On the Albanian beach you will see that it is a very active nation. The beach was crowded with makeshift playgrounds that were football for a while and volleyball playgrounds for a while. During the day, there was a group of people who could play something for a moment. Albanians, like most Mediterranean people, are a football fans. The hit is AC Milano. I didn't know the reason. You won't find other sports here very much. They do not have sport possibilities, even though Majlinda Kelmendi stared at the last Summer Olympics. Maybe she also plays football.
Among the characters of the Albanian beach is worth mentioning old man with a donkey selling grapes from the crate, which was real grape and not an imitation of Tesco grape. We couldn't talk to him, but he was very kind. In addition to this gentleman, there was another gentleman walking on the beach with a bear, a young man with a tape recorder that constantly sounded Elvana Gjata (a listenable Albanian star) selling CDs and hopefully other local summer hits. Refreshment number one is called"petulla të çastit" and our cooked corn in baked form.
The nearest town about 9 km away from Durrës - the largest Albanian portwhich grew up on the site of the ancient settlement Dyrrachium. A modern city, equipped with everything you need for life with a mosque in the center and a well-preserved amphitheater. In this city, however, it is important to remember that you are in the Balkans.
It is futile to look for street names. It is impossible to access the map unless you have your own home. In the marginal parts the streets themselves are missing. However, the city is very lively and despite these shortcomings, it gives a very friendly impression. People are happy and willing to help, even if they don't understand you at all. There may be a problem with traffic. There are a lot of buses coming from the city, but I don't know how to travel in them. Probably the best option is to have your own car. As for historical monuments, the country has much to offer, but this article is not intended to describe the monuments.
Many friends ask me why I choose such extreme destinations? My answer is always “for the people”. If you are looking for a tip top service, clean blue sky and top level services Albania is certainly not the country for you. It has none of this yet. Throughout my stay I have been wondering whether this is an advantage or a disadvantage.
Albania is Albania for genuine Balkanswhich does not disguise itself as expensive hotels and does not create an unreal picture of itself. It is extreme in every way. It is as it is - cruel and ruthless. Tourists like to close their eyes and criticize. It's easier.
But the reason to go to Albania is the people who may be a little naive to give you the last one. There are few places in the world where one feels that they are among peoplewhere humanity has not yet disappeared. The magic of Albania is precisely that divine immaculate willingness to help, kindness, and the lack of civilization achievements.Everything - food, language and culture will seem very strange to us, and people will give a different impression precisely because of the cultural and mental difference. But not everyone who gives impression like this is mafioso, he is just scared and much more than you. You get rid of it with a single smile, and then you realize it's a country that's really worth it.
Faleminderit, Shqiperi! 6
1 International airport
2 I do not speak Albanian
3 Here you are
4 Grapes, pears, peaches, plums
5 One umbrella with two deck chairs
6 Thank you Albania!