Day 1 - The Taxis
The rest of the bus ride from Kosovo to Albania included one shocking tidbit - there was so much trash literally everywhere! I had noticed this in a few spots in the Balkans, the large amounts of trash just everywhere in the countryside, but in Albania, it hit its peak. Literally, it was everywhere. At one stream, for instance, you could not even see the banks as they were just covered in plastic and trash. It was bizarre and just sad to see.
When the bus finally arrived in Tirana it was dark and the bus station was not really a station. There was nowhere to exchange money, no ATM, no one who spoke English, and no taxis. Some men attempted to “help” me but they were more overwhelming than anything else. One said he was a taxi driver but came back with his normal car so that was a no go. I decided to walk away when someone finally spoke English and found me an actual taxi driver. There ended up being more around the corner, but there is no sign of that where the bus drops off. It was a bit overwhelming but they really all were just trying to help. The language barrier strikes again!
Thankfully the taxi ride was not long at all, and the driver readily took Euros. I checked into my nice room at Diplomat Fashion Hotel. Their restaurant was closed but the nice girl at the front desk ordered me a pizza and it was so good. Just the perfect thing after a bit of a crazy day! I got a good night’s sleep before having a day to explore the city.
Day 2 - The Bunker
I had a great breakfast at Diplomat Fashion Hotel before heading out to see Tirana! I took a taxi to the city center where my first stop was the National History Museum. The museum was really quite big and I was able to learn a ton about Albania. The English translations were great in the beginning but began to dwindle as I made my way through the museum. I was able to learn a lot about early Albania, though! After the museum, I walked around the square that it sits on, Sheshi Skënderbej. It is a giant area in the middle of the city that was just filled with people. It is also home to the Et'hem Bej Mosque which was closed but very pretty outside, and the Kulla e Sahatit clock tower which was also closed.
After enjoying the square for a bit I made my next stop at a very unique museum: Bunk'Art 2. Bunk’Art 2 reconstructs the history of the Albanian Ministry of Internal Affairs bunkers that were used from 1912 to 1991, with the museum aspect focusing on the secrets of Sigurimi, the communist police state. It is such a unique concept - I really enjoyed it and learned a lot! The exhibits in Bunk’Art 2 are more focused on politics as opposed to art like in Bunk’Art 1, but I unfortunately did not have time to visit both.
After a really enjoyable experience at Bunk’Art 2 I made my way to the Resurrection of Christ Orthodox Cathedral. It was probably the most modern Orthodox church that I have seen and it was a really cool structure. Afterwards, I walked past Park Rinia and then to the National Arts Gallery. There was an extremely cool work of art outside that you could actually walk through! I had to decide against visiting the museum, though, as I was cutting it close on time and didn’t want to be late for my flight. My last stop, then, was Kambana e Paqjes, the Bell of Peace. It sits in front of The Pyramid, which is a worn down building that used to be a museum dedicated to the former Albanian dictator. The statue and its entire setup were quite unique. At this point, the rain was really starting to come down and I needed to be aware of the time so I took a taxi back to Diplomat Fashion Hotel.
From there I grabbed my things and took a taxi to the airport. There was a bit of traffic and instead of waiting in line people were literally driving on the sidewalk. It was insane how impatient people were being as we were so close to the airport, but I guess this is normal in Albania! I arrived at the airport which was nice and newer, and at the check-in counter, I was told that my bag was overweight and that I would have to pay thirty-five Euros. I don’t know how I did it, but I guess I just looked sad enough to get out of it because within a minute the very kind girl told me that she would let it slide. Thank goodness! I was relieved, to say the least, and really appreciated it.
I had a pretty short flight to Athens, which is somewhere that I have wanted to visit for a very long time! When I arrived at the airport there were once again people repeatedly breaking in line - it actually made me start to wonder if this is truly just a thing that Albanians do? Anyways, after making it through immigration I headed to the metro. I bought a twenty-two Euro pass that is good for three days (though I won’t need it for that long) to use all of the public transit in Athens. Considering just the airport and back would cost twenty, it was a good deal!
The metro was very easy to take to my hotel, Attalos Hotel. It was just a straight shot for about forty minutes and then a walk around the corner from where I got off! My room was nice and I was very glad to finally be in Athens. The best part of my arrival was realizing that I could see the Parthenon in the distance from my room’s balcony! Thank you so much to Attalos Hotel for sponsoring this night of my trip.
I had an enjoyable stay in Albania and am very glad that I was able to see the city, walk around, and visit some great museums. I’m very excited to be in Athens, though, and look forward to spending tomorrow exploring a city that I have always wanted to visit!
89 countries down, 107 to go.
To learn more about Diplomat Fashion Hotel click here.
To learn more about Attalos Hotel click here.