So after driving to Rome and spending an totally forgetable evening in the least friendly Hilton Hotel I've ever been in (I am Hilton frequent stayer) we were at the Rome Airport early this morning. The Alitalia "Easy to use" check in proved to be anything but. However, an incredibly helpful airline employee took us under his wing and did the whole thing for us including having us skip the line to get to a baggage drop of unit. A short uneventful flight and we were at Tirana, Albania International Airport. A bus took us from our plane the 300 yards to where we entered the terminal. Really? We couldn't have just walked it? There were maybe 5 of us on the plane who had checked luggage. Got our cash out of the ATM with no problem and met up with our guide/driver Migen without problem. We immediately jumped into our touring.
First we drove up to a castle on one of the many mountains surrounding Tirana.
Migen had asked us if we were up for a little walk up to get a nice view.
Ha! The Siena panoramic view experience all over.
The 'short' hike up
This is actually a watch and signal tower, one of a system that went the length of the county. It has antecedents going back to the Illyrian times (a pre-Greek civilization). But the current structure is more from the Ottoman times of the 16th and 17th centuries
Sample of typical Ottoman gate structure
There was a cafe/bar/restaurant on the top where we had some coffee and tea and discussed the expectations for the next 6 days.
Donkey with massive load sighting
The view of Tirana from the castle
I will note that the drive up and down to and from the castle was so steep and twisting that both Wife and I were thanking each other that we had a driver/guide.
We drove back to Tirana, checked into our hotel and dropped our bags off. Then we headed out with Migen into the city. First was dinner.
Outdoor dining - We're still in the Mediterranean culture
Migen told us that food here was going to be very fresh.
This first course of a salad and grilled vegetables confirmed that
Wife had a risotto with chicken and pistachios
I had a traditional lamb dish that was braised and then dry roasted. This would not be for many American's taste but I found it very tasty. The roasted potatoes were tops.
Migen had this dish of farmer cheese and veal cooked in a clay pot with a tomato, onion, pepper sauce
Prices are about half of Italy. This dinner including a half a liter of wine was $26. Migen said this is an expensive place. We will see as we get out into the country.
Now a brief look at Tirana
A bridge dating from the 16th century when the local river flowed under it. It joined the Christian and Muslim communities.
I was quite impressed with the architecture of the city
Improptu Bookseller whose been doing this for years and years
Ruins of walls that date to 500 years BC
Skanderbeg, National Hero during the early Ottoman period for his efforts to keep Albania independent
That turns out to be a mosaic!
As the sun goes down, the fountains light up