Road-trip Albania

My parents came to Albania or a visit. Yay! After my trouble with the stolen things it was bliss to meet and greet them. (and they brought a camera that I can borrow for the remaining time). I also had a secret motive for them to come and visit me: I wanted to research: what does the normal charter tourist think about Albania? I travelled with my parents and watched their reactions intently, every opinion they had I wrote down in a little notebook.

Firstly my own observations about the airport in Tirana as I travelled to TIrana to meet them at the airport. It is very small and easy to find your way around the airport. The trouble is getting to and from it. Well, it is no trouble if you know an American Peace Corps volunteer like I do who can tell me that there is a bus and approximately where. But Tirana is the only capital in the world that doesn’t have centre. Even as I took a bus around town when I arrived one day before my parents I had loads of trouble getting around. Even finding my hotel was no easy task. I knew it was close to (what I assumed) the centre of the town. I asked a bunch of people “Centre?” “Central?” “Quender? (centre in Albanian) but they all shook their heads – there is no central in this town and thus no bus-central. Nobody even knew where the Opera house or National museum where at. A very strange first impression of this city. I finally found my hotel by asking at other hotels.

The next day I tried to find the airport bus. On the airport page it just says “bus from Tirana centre” since there was no centre – what does that mean? Finally I google-found a private blogger who had drawn a map. I ran the streets bumping around with my hand luggage and followed another girl doing the same thing. I took a chance and secretly stalked her around town and she was running for the airport bus: oh joy!

Well I picked up my parent at the airport where we had rented a car. It took about an hour to pick up the car as nothing in Albania is prepared. The car where somewhere else and all papers and insurance and had to be filled in once more. I suppose they don’t trust anything to be settled until hands have been shaken in this country.

We drove out from the airport and made our way to Kruja – an ancient city with a marvellous market. I bought a carpet for no money at all from an old lady. It was a beautiful little town and my parents were so impressed by this unexplored beauty. To me it was still the most touristic place I’ve been to here – with shop owners acting the same way they always do “Yes, come to my shop” “Just look, ok” special price for you”  But we were the only tourists there!

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After that we drove down to Elbasan – a lovely tow too and my parents had their first experience with Albanian food. They were out of words – dad immediately said he would come back to the country just for the food. My mom said “I don’t like food but here I can’t stop eating” Yes it was marvellous and I was proud to share with them my last month’s joy.

We slept there in a hotel with the usual interesting architectural details…

IMG_1311 yes to get to the balcony you have to be tiny tiny

The next day we drove to Korca – where they make the local Albanian beer and also famous for their church.

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We drove around the lake Orhid and its beautiful landscape. All the time we shouted to dad “Stop! Photo time!” He started calling us “photo-maniacs” Albania is just breathtaking beautiful

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The rest of the time we drove around in the mountain, in the low clouds. We ate, drank and celebrated the beautiful life. We swam in hot springs, climbed rocks, stopped for sheep and made our way to Gjirokastra.

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My lovely little town – mom was all joy over the old bazaar – she simply loved it!
We drove to Saranda, Ksamil, Butrint and the Blue eye. It was 5 busy days and we only managed to see a small part of all what Albania has to offer.

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Conclusions by my parents
– Incredible – but why does the Swedish company Apollo bring the Swedish tourists to the worst spot in the whole country. The destroyed city of Saranda?
– There is no information, promotion, and maps whatsoever. Happy we had a daughter here who knew where to take us
-Road signs needs to be put up. It is kind of difficult asking for directions when no one knows English
– The hotel breakfasts could be improved. With all this amazing raw material: fruit, dairy products, vegetables – why does the hotels then serve you white bread and marmalade???
– Menus in English please!
– More activities please! If we didn’t have a car there is so much that could be developed: hiking trails, guided tours, daytrips
– If they want people to stay in Gjirokastra they need to build pools for hot summer days

Etc etc – My parents were the perfect object to study as they are the typical Swedish middle-aged couple who usually go on charter trips or road trips. Their inputs were very nice to hear as it also confirms my ideas of what is great and what can be improved. And I was very happy that they loved it and want to come back! Word-of-mouth people!

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