Tuesday 14 April 2020

2018 Tirana


In the cavernous National History Museum.  Surprisingly good and devoid of tourists.  Flew in last night, easy direct flight from Gatwick.  Slept as usual for most of the journey.  On landing, half the plane started opening the overhead lockers as we were still taxi-ing… Albanians obviously don't care much for rules.  Used Rideways taxi booking service for first time – good price, seems to work well.  Will use again.  Drive in from typical modern airport showed a lively scene, lots of evidently new buildings along the main road, which was in good condition.  Staying at Hotel Millennium, on road named after Murat Toptani – a pedestrianised area, right in the centre.  Hotel simple but clean – and very cheap: about 110 euros for three nights.  Wifi slow but usable.  

Up early, breakfast generous if not exactly delicious.  Out for a walk before the threatened thunderstorms.  Went to T-Mobile to buy a SIM - £10 for 5 Gbytes of data plus ten minutes of international calls.  Not bad.  Wandered down to the Pyramid, which is a near-wreck.  Reminded me of the huge ugly sports hall in Prishtina.  Concrete decays so badly.  Then back across Skanderbeg Square, where an old man plays haunting Albanian melodies on his clarinet.  Earlier, I had seen him preparing the reed by pressing his lit cigarette against it.  After a detour to the post office to buy a stamp for a postcard (also bought insane 1990 book about Hoxha's Albania) back to the café near the hotel.  Under a big awning – necessary now sun is out.  Lots of people in cafés – everyone very relaxed.  Some thoughts on dress.  A little shocking to see fully-veiled women around – but natural, of course.  Young women only seem to wear trousers here – skirts are for the old.  And the only men wearing shorts are tourists, of which there are few still.  Big French group in the museum, but I managed to avoid them, and they stuck together.

Mobile phones everywhere, but that seems a long-standing addiction.  In the Land of Eagles book, which worked better than I expected, the Albanians there were already on them all the time.  But it's universal now.  And who can blame people?  It's incredible tech in the palm of your hand.  Back to the hotel to change – it's getting sunny – my "përshëndetje" was (almost) good enough, and the hotel owner (?) asked if I could speak shqip...alas, "jo".  Then out to Blloku.  Quite lively, lots of restaurants.  Now in Restaurant Piceri Era "Blloku", which has good reviews, and looked good from outside.  About to eat chicken and pea soup, then veal fërgesë – very hot, slightly spicy, salty.  


Sitting on the rather fine stones benches around Skanderbeg Square.  After lunch yesterday, back to the hotel to rest – lunch rather heavy.  Weather awful – rain bucketing down.  Had light supper in the shopping centre near hotel.  Reminded me of the spaceship in the film "Passengers", and not in a positive way.  Went to bed early and slept well.

Up at 6.30am, ate large but not very appetising breakfast, then out.  Broken sun, quite warm.  More rain due this afternoon.  To the main market, which is modern, but not unattractive.  Lots of cafés, full of people relaxing with coffee and fag.  Smoking still common here.  Now about to wander off to the west of the city.  First, looking at Adrion Bookshop.  

Long walk out to the west, along main Rruga e Durrësit street.  Nothing special, but signs of emerging economy.  New hotels and shops etc.  Sat by fountain and statue for a while, then back.  For lunch, went to "Passengers" shopping centre.  Good value.  After lunch to here, the National Gallery of Art.  Upper floor closed off, rest filled with the glorious workers doing workery things.  A little oppressive, but interesting.  Went back to Adrion to buy some books.  Now drinking espresso in Dorgen Bar, next to Sophie café.  Lots of young people doing the same.  Don't they need to work?

Walked around by the Pyramid.  A dark, gypsy-looking boy climbed right up to the top along its rough concrete exterior.  Half the windows are broken – doesn't look very safe, but nobody said anything.  Then further on to Mother Theresa Square.  Some odd architecture including the Congress building, which had hundreds of people waiting outside.  Nearby a rather splendidly over-the-top building with plenty of colours.  "Xheko Imperial" on one side – a hotel.  Odd.  Eating supper in "Passengers" shopping centre.  Great view of huge new mosque being built. Lively.  

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