Tirana, Albania

What a bizarre country.


It’s filled with some 700,000 dome shaped concrete bunkers built on the orders of former dictator Enver Hoxha. That’s one for every five people in the country. They now sit disused (not that they were ever used, no-one was interesting in invading) and provided an eerie backdrop along the highway as we rolled into town.

We made the mini-bus drivers’ day when six of us emerged from the taxi’s we used to cross the border from Montenegro and agreed to each pay €5 for a ride to the capital, Tirana. He even pulled over to buy us pomegranates for the trip.


A nice local fellow on the bus gave us a quick rundown on local customs and we discovered that Albanians nod their head when saying “no”, and shake it when saying “yes”. Except when they don’t because you’re a tourist. Except when they do. Confusing.

Honestly there’s not a lot to say about Tirana; it’s not a pretty place, the traffic and pollution is nasty, the standard of driving probably the worst I’ve ever seen.

Naturally we met a young guy from Melbourne, visiting family, with such an unmistakeable Broadmeadows accent that I instantly felt a little homesick.

Oh and there are dudes racing quad bikes around the main square in the middle of the city:


Bizarre. That’s the word that keeps cropping up.


Of course, the real excitement came on the 14 hour overnight bus ride to Athens.

Now, sure, I was aware that Albania is a predominantly Muslim nation, at least from a historical perspective. I know that I should take my shoes off if I enter someone’s house.

Evidently I shouldn’t take them off when I enter someone’s bus. Not unless I want to create an international incident.

Once, with the help of a translator, the level of the offense had been made apparent to me, I was rather glad that we had arrived on the Greek side of the border and felt, perhaps optimistically, that I wouldn’t be set upon by a swarm of angry Albanian men.

So remember, shoes off in the house, and on in the bus.

Unfortunately Albanian’s don’t seem to have any similar rules about keeping one’s engine and gearbox in the bus. Not long after the shoe incident the bus’s gearbox began to make horrendous noises, and I had absolutely no doubt that it would fall off altogether at least 300km short of Athens, at around 3am.

We began stopping at 20 minute intervals so the driver and his lackey could climb under the bus, curse several times, then resume the cog-crunching antics.

I jammed my earplugs further in, closed my eyes and tried to sleep.

To our collective astonishment we made it. An hour ahead of schedule. It was only the second overnight bus trip in our travelling career, and we’ve vowed never again.

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One Response to “Tirana, Albania”

  1. Ryan Richardet says:

    Hey you two! It seems things are going quite well, except of course your last overnight bus ride. The story itself gives me slight hypertension, and a feeling of absolute frustration, I can only imagine what you must have felt. Me and Daria absolutely miss traveling. It seemed like people cared we made it home for about 24 hours, and then it was back to reality. Loving the Blog, keep writing.

    Remember my email: ryan.richardet@yahoo.com
    - Jules send me those video’s of the soccer field / airport.

    Stay safe, based on my limited geography, it seems to me that you’ll be heading into some perilous territory.

    Look forward to your next post.