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...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

21 May 2018

Tirana, Albania

27 April 2018

I rather like Tirana. It’s quite hard to say why. There’s nothing magical or ancient about the city itself, no great historic centre or charming residential neighbourhoods. Drivers and pedestrians mingle on the roads in a sort of dangerous ballet. It’s kinda flat, and the only river running through it looks like a big drainage ditched lined with grass and smells a bit.

And yet I still liked it. Maybe because it was 29 degrees through most of the day and we’ve just come from a UK April that is starting to feel like winter is never leaving? Maybe. I think I also liked all the little bars and cafes that speckle every district. It really does seem like Albanians need a lot of coffee. I can empathise. They’re also clearly modernising, with some quite spiffy architecture popping up amidst the old blocks of the communist era.

Modern architecture

Modern architecture


There’s an area called The Block, which I believe is where a lot of government buildings were in the Soviet era, but which is now an area of chic shops and restaurants, cafes and bars. It all looks very appealing. Of course, looks can be deceptive. But we have tried a few cafes and eaten lunch and dinner, so…

Lunch was a huge sort of slightly spicy veal and red pepper pasty/burrito. I mean, huge. Coffee is short, black and as good as Italy. Fresh squeezed apple juice is a good thing. They seem to like apples a lot in Albania (this may be a mis-interpretation of a very small dataset!). Dinner included some appetisers of Albanian classic dishes like byrek, followed by a lovely steak tartare in Maureen’s case and some nicely roasted lamb in mine. Not bad.

Okay, so really I only rather like Tirana. After half a day I feel like we may have explored the best bits. They have a lovely shady forest park on the edge of the city centre. Actually, they manage to pack enough trees onto the streets that it’s remarkably easy to stay in the shade everywhere; useful, when it’s 29 degrees in the sun! But yeah, I’m ready to move on now. We’ve got just four days in this tiny back-corner of Europe (a back-corner that has nevertheless been at the crossroads of several great civilisations; Greek, Roman, Hapsburg, Venetian, Ottoman and Communist have all left a mark) and as usual we’re getting out of the capital asap to explore the country proper.

Hurrah for Communism!

Hurrah for Communism!

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