Sunday, June 17, 2007

Tiranë nights

A crowded night train brought us down to the coast, to Montenegro and Sutomore, a small town which never really has left my imagination since I was there at the age of 12 and fell in love.

Long gone; Gabriel and I went swimming, recovering after a night tightly confined to our "sitzplätze" in the train compartment. After a few relaxing hours at the Adriatic Sea, we embarked on a surprisingly quick journey. Using a combination of minibuses and taxis we managed to get all the way to Tirana for just 25 euro per person, all in little less than five hours.

Our first impression of Albania: bunkers. The dictator, Enver Hoxha, built around 750 000 of them during the Cold War to protect the country from foreign aggression. Or maybe, more likely, from internal revolution.

To me, Albania has always been the very defintion of a "white spot on the map" and it feels strange to realize that tonight I am walking the streets of Tirana. It is too early for any witten observations, I can only fill in what others already have said about the city: that it is amazing what a little paint can do (there is an ordinance saying that grey concrete buildings are to be given bright, if not outlandish, paint jobs), that it looks a bit like Italy, and that the dire poverty is still very present.

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