Day 121 : The New HNIC
Trip Start Mar 23, 2010
114Trip End Mar 23, 2011
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Where I stayed
The Presidential Zone
The majority of the morning was spent travelling on tight twisting roads around the coastal mountains, which were at best broken asphalt with uncovered manholes and at worst just pure rubble and dust - all of which was surrounded on either sides by a variety of wild animals and hawkers selling anything from honey to coal charred corn-on-the-cob. As we neared the city things started to pick up a little as we suddenly were amazed by mega-malls and expo buildings as large as we'd ever seen (think over-the-top Yank stylings) and the streets were now not only paved but also lit.
We then entered the main part of the city, and a transformation occurred once again, and this time we were really amazed
We then drove along the river, which was beautifully lined with trees, plant life, parisian-style street lights and other additions to really enhance its position within the city - and - to be honest, the best use of such a dividing river we've seen all trip. Enter the old communist leader block, which was once only allowed to be entered by high-ranking party officials and dignatries, and you were confronted with some of the best laid out and cohesive commercial blocks you could visit (central planning at its finest, perhaps?).
The architecture was amazing, and the Blocku, the area for the young and trendy with a mirage of cafes and bars was not only good but in fact great. The place had a fantastic atmosphere and vibe.
All of this was cool, but what really made Tirana an amazing place to visit, and at the risk of sounding like George Castanza, was the parking spot we got
Word to the wise: When the guide books say don't drive at night in Albania, they may be onto something. Seeing people drive the wrong side of a highway, twice the speed limit without lights on at 11pm is frightening. Pure and simple.