A few years ago, the holiday vacations in Albania appeared from nowhere.Like most of people, I hesitated and shook my head thinking about this country. I was wondering what I even know about this country. I only recalled the image of the 7th year of elementary school, when the teacher of geography told us only the capital is called Tirana.
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In fact, since then, looking at the map of Europe, I have been sneering at this mysterious bow, which nobody knows about, because there is nothing. "What does a country look like where nothing is?" It didn't make sense to me, and that made me more and more interested. A piece of land that is not spoken of, no one knows anything about it, and now they are sending us there on holiday.
Weird. A strange instinct made me buy the History of Albania, an Albanian-Slovak dictionary, and a few books that eventually brought me closer. The beetle drilled and drilled in my head until I got angry and I thought I'd go check the situation live.
My first visit was just a one day trip to the border town of Shkodra. After crossing the border at Muriqani, you will immediately see you are no longer in Montenegro. It would not be obvious at first glance, but you will have a strange, alluring feeling, something like being afraid, but still going further. Stories about Albanian kebab vendors in Slovakia, who basically only mask "other business activities" are commonly known and police investigators have full tables of them.
There is a completely normal road from the border with a beautiful view of the mountains, sometimes a house with a red flag and fields with bunkers - the invention of the Communist dictator Enver Hoxha.
Our entire minibus was stuck on the windows and probably each of us was expecting an Albanian kebab vendor with a submachine gun to pop out from somewhere and we would not return home alive. We said "goodbye" when our bus on the road had to suddenly stoped. The armed kebabist, however, became an old man on a donkey who, with his step, stopped all traffic. After renouncing God, we stuck to the windows again and stared at the donkey overtaking him. Along the way, we passed a few piles of rubbish that did not look very attractive. But we were still alive to our astonishment.
The town of Shkodra (Skadar in Slovak) is dominated by Rozafa Castle and the largest lake in the Balkans - Skadar lake. In addition to these 2 symbols, we also visited the second largest mosque in the Balkans (Xhamia e madhe), yelling at kiwi fruit hanging above our heads in the garden Cathedral of St. Stephen and saw a market where shoes are sold per kilograms.
The impression of these tourist attractions was very good, all were maintained and really nice. Our tour guide recommended restaurant in the city center, where we ate fresh fish for 16 euros and the waiter told us few words in Slovak.
A typical feature of the whole Albania is that it is being built everywhere, sometimes unfortunately headlessly and without logic. Next to the old cabin, which almost remembers the Ottomans, stands a modern Western Union tower. In vain looking for logic in the Balkans, he has his own. You follow a modern road, suddenly it ends up and you have to look for a way and finally you are told that there is no way or no one knows where it is.
There are probably fewer who will get a positive impression of this country. My opinion started to be positive only after a week's stay. First you are captivated by fear, then disgust, disgust, you want to go away. There is terrible heat, chaos, clutter, dust, but also a lot of nice things everywhere.
There are no basic things that work at home. It is not enough that they have a paranormal currency that the bank empoyee did not even hear about, they have no place to exchange the money. They know the word 'ATM machine', but the nearest one is in the city, 10 km away. Tap water is not drinkable. You have no money to buy it, because you only have a euro and the guy in the market will calculate so much in euros, you have no chance to find out how he calculated it.
When we asked where we are, you will get the answer that here. Nobody knows the address, because many times the streets are not named and descriptive numbers are missing. They don't have a map here, but why they would have it. You shake your head and maybe even swear.
After 3 days of staying on the beach, when you realize that for sure you will not get a government special from Tirana to take you back home, you have to start thinking differently to survive here. Of course, in the meantime, you will get angry with travel agencies, their offers and how much money you have spent. How many tourists will start to think differently? Most of them get stuck at this point and vex until the end of the holiday.
And that unfortunate Albania is still there, looking at you and not understanding why you are dissatisfied when she tries to bounce off the bottom. On the fourth day you go to the reception for their paranormal currency. But you think you will try to behave differently now and not like a pitbull. The receptionist will again say that she has no leks, but now you thank her kindly and politely. She will advise you that your well-known guy in market has some over-the-counter leks in the shop. So you go to the guy, you say "Mirë dita. A keni leke?". The business-sensing guy squeezing his calculator throws it away suddenly and says "Po" to your question and ask you in English how many leks you need.
When you finally have those leks in your hand, you look around in his shop, which you buried in the previous days underground. You buy a few very tasty things for a very good price. This zeshkan shqiptar (tanned Albanian) in the cash register does not look so unpleasant and repulsive at all.
In the evening you need to get to another hotel, but the receptionist has no idea where it is. We asked her politely to check the google. According to her instructions, we should go straight on the beach about 10 minutes towards the hotel with a black roof, we will encounter a promenade and it is only a few minutes away. We have to look for white balconies. Surprisingly, we found it all according to her instructions.
Then you realize that our whole world is a slave of navigation, numbers, exact locations, GPS coordinates, and when you don't have them, you recalculate and you don't see what you walk around. We found the hotel and looked around and saw a number of other nice restaurants and hotels and a lot of attractions that we wouldn't have seen if she had told us the exact address.
In the evening when you go to bed you will find that you do not need a map at all, you do not even need ATM and that the chaos somehow ceases to bother you. You can get free water at the hotel bar. You even go on a trip and try to look at all those with other eyes, and it doesn't seem so bad and terrible. You can buy newspapers and books at the stand. The gabby salesman shows you everything he has.
The next day you buy a summer dress that does not deteriorate quality, but is nice and worn at a good price. Albanian women will choose 300 dresses for you so you can try all on and choose the most beautiful ones. If you do not buy anything from her , she will smile with humility and thank you.
The music you heard from first day, which was wearing you, because you don't listen to the local shits, is quite melodic. Of course, later, you dance at the foam discotheque to those local shits that you "of course do not listen to". The next month after you come home in your head is playing "jo s'ka si ajo, ajo, ajo, jo s'ka si ajo, ajo, ajo".
Do not forget to buy roasted corn, which is nothing special, because we have it at home too. Many Albanians have nothing else and for some, the corn is the only earnings. A typical comment of all tourists is that everyone wants only money here. I have the opposite experience. I got a lot of things for free.
When you listen to tourists who are stuck in third day and are still hanging around all week, you are just smiling and wondering where the mistake is? In us or in them? You will realize the answer when you return home. You are sitting in a swimming pool and watching how a small disobedient child does not want to eat a cold meal and makes noise audible to the whole swimming pool. You close your eyes and look for the smell of roasted corn that Albanian children used to eat without any protest. You look around and see people looking into their mobile phones. Nobody talks to anyone, no one else talks to you. Nobody buys a newspaper from a beach vendor, no one reads.
If suddenly you hear music or someone turns the radio on, everyone around them looks strange without no care and no interest. Nobody sings "jo s'ka si ajo". So where is the mistake? In us or in them?