Saturday, November 4, 2017

Italia 2017 - On To Albania!

"What?" You say. Albania is by no modern definition a part of Italy. If this trip is supposed to be Italia 2017, what is this Albania thing doing in here? The truth is when we first started planning this trip we felt we would need a break from over exploring as we did when we went to Asia. But we had not accounted for our coming out of Asia as pumped as we were. So as we got into the serious planning for this trip, we started to feel it was going to be too boring to just stay in one country. By sheer serendipitous, incremental planning we fell into the idea of going to Albania. Research indicated that trying to travel around the country on our own was probably not going to be very easy but getting a guide with a car organized by a touring company (including hotels) was going to be pretty economical for us.

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.

Say What!
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
Large Mural
That turns out to be a mosaic!
As the sun goes down, the fountains light up


Agent W and the Derf said...

Your first day in Albania was full, indeed! Enjoyed seeing the difference between the architecture in Albania & the Puglia region!

Renee Michelle Goertzen said...

I know absolutely nothing about Albania, so I look forward to your upcoming historical posts. Which is good, because de-I can't be stopped when it comes to history anyway.

Tom P said...

Quite different than expected. Thanks for the Albania post!

alexis said...

I just learned Albania is one of the most digitally advanced governments, along side all that other goodness!