Day 11

Sunday, 04 April 2010
Total: 0 km



Today we hesitated between exploring the South of Albania, or seeing the rest of Tirana. As we were a bit tired and it was, after all, Easter Sunday, we decided to make a lazy day of it. We had already seen so much on this holiday, we deserved a quiet day in-between. So after a late breakfast, we set out to explore the parts of Tirana that we hadn't seen the first day. First on the agenda was the area in which our hotel was located. It was the hip, new area south of the Boulevard Bajram Curri. Our travel guide assured us, that here we would find loads of in-bars and shops. Well, maybe we walked through the wrong streets, but we didn't see too many shopping-places, merely a lot of casinos and smoke-filled bars with bleary TVs showing football matches. We had liked the Northern part with Skanderbeg Square much better.
Nevertheless, we saw some interesting sights. Without realising it, we passed the house of Enver Hoxha. Only when we saw the electric fence around the run-down villa, did we have a closer look. The former dictator may have imposed frugality upon his people, but he didn't live in luxurious surroundings either. And his no-debts policy should appeal to many of our politicians. That said, the garden behind his villa was stunning. I love palm trees and I can imagine that it must have looked pretty during his lifetime. Now, though, the house seemed shut-down. We had hoped they would have converted it into a museum, but it didn't seem open to the public.
Not far from Hoxha's house was the university, but since it was Sunday, the place was deserted. We ambled past. Meanwhile, the sun was burning down mercilessly. Good thing we had decided to visit Albania in early April. I cannot imagine how hot it must be there during the summer. Right next to the university, we spotted a Sheraton. Impressive, with its gated entrance and security guys posted up front. Much more fortress-like than the Hoxha-place. A perfect place, if you want to be in Albania without - actually - being in Albania.
But we didn't want to hide behind American walls. We wanted to see Tirana. So we ambled on. Next we saw the football stadium. Gazi, our waiter, had told us that Albania would play against Luxembourg this year. But right now, the grounds lay deserted. In fact we seemed to be the only people stupid enough the walk around in the midday sun. We were quite glad when we were back in the Northern part of town, with its trees and parks. We found a small art gallery, with no one inside. After hanging about for a while in the entrance, an employee appeared and assured us - using sign language - that they were indeed open and that the entrance was free. There was an interesting exhibition with works by Zef Soshe. Unfortunately, they didn't sell any prints.
Then we started a second quest for that elusive teqe. And we found it! It was hiding behind a construction site, and it seemed to be closed for renovation. While we were standing there, debating what to do next, an Albanian approached us. He seemed happy to speak English and told us that he lived in England. Judging by his suit and tie, he seemed to be a businessman or senior employee of some sort. We chatted with him, but after a while, he started to get a bit too touchy-feely and he insisted that we have coffee with him. We told him off and when he assured us, that he respected us, we asked him to respect our wish not to have coffee with him. I'm not sure if he was simply a very pushy person, or if it was some sort of cultural misunderstanding. In any case, this was the only time that we felt a bit out of our depth. All other Albanians were a pleasure to talk to and very respectful.
On the way back to our hotel, we found a little gallery that sold works by local painters. The paintings were sort of Caspar David Friedrich (our cousin said later: gloomy), but we liked them a lot. We bought a small painting by Serxho Petrela, depicting haystacks. It cost only 80 euros and is presently hanging in our hallway at home. Re-reading this three years later, I'm happy to say that I still like the painting very much and it often reminds me of this wonderful holiday.
Back at the hotel, we rested in the lounge and did some crosswords. It was simply too hot to run around. In the early evening, we went back to the shopping complex Tajwan in central Tirana and tried out the steak house that we had seen there. Very good. I must say, we had a lot of pleasant culinary experiences on this trip. We decided to call it an early night. Tomorrow, we would be driving all the way to Kotor in Montenegro. Not at all sure how the road conditions would be (we had heard horror stories about Northern Albanian roads) we decided to set out early.


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