The capital of chaos (sounds rather dramatic eh)

Trip Start Jan 17, 2007
Trip End Aug 29, 2007

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Flag of Albania  ,
Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Time for a new country and language!
Alright while the country itself was quite interesting, getting there was quite the bitch!
We had to take a minibus from Kotor to Podgorica (Montenegro's capital), then take a very pricey cab a half hour to the Albanian border, where we were told that there was a minibus available to the next town...and what do you know there wasn't...we walked through the border whilst conversing with the border guards in Italian and paying our 10 Euro Albanian entrance fee, then were forced to take another cab, 15 Euro this time for an hour or so to Shkodra the next big town...(big run on sentence I know, but really who needs punctuation! :p)
Then upon arrival in Shkodra, after a very scenic drive through the countryside and lot's of bunkers (I'll come back to those later), we arrived and caught a bus to Tirana (7 dollars or so this time...a far more reasonable price for a 3 hour drive)...the driver asked, "what are you doing in Albania?" with a disbelieving voice...he couldn't fathom why people would want to visit his country...
Now I must admit that up to this point I was a trifle skeptical about Albania...all I had heard up until that point where warnings (mind you the warnings were from Serbians and Montenigrans, who are rather soured on the country due to the whole Kosovo issue) thus I was a bit wary on what to expect, the driver's question did not help.
But what do you know?  Shocking surprise, yet again I was pleasantly surprised by the helpfulness and generosity of the people...
In fact our worst problem in Albania was the bloody lonely planet guidebook, which:
A) failed to mention the difficulty in getting from Montengro to Albania
B) Put the Macedonian embassy in the bottom right hand corner of the city, where in reality it was in the upper left...although how long ago it was moved I don't know...however, wandering around in the hot sun looking for a building is a rather frustrating experience!
C) recommend a hotel (and probably because of its' recommendation) that had pretty much doubled in price since the book was written...I'm sticking to Hostelwrodl from now on!
Aside from these frustrating experiences and the fact that we didn't get to go to Macedonia (because by the time we finally found the embassy it was closed for four days), the experience was very pleasant!
The thing that made our experience so greatwas Deni!  We met him in Kotor, but he lives and works in Tirana and he gave us a full Albanian experience!
He took us out for a traditional Albanian meal, drinks, drove us around town for sightseeing and basically did everything he could to ensure that we had a great time!
Thanks Deni!
I will give you a little back ground:
- Tirana and Albania have a very underdeveloped tourism industry, but i think that in a few years the country will boom...
- It is a very cheap country to do anything: transportation, eating, goes far...
- Their currency in the lek, but they often take Euro as well...
- The capital city itself isn't terribly exciting, but there is a great night life and lot's of shopping and eateries...
The main sights are those left over and/or converted from Hoxha's (pronounced hodja) dictatorship...museums built in his honour (as well as a glass  pyramid) and the thousands of communist bunkers that he had built all around the country in case of a war threat...(quite cute actually, but apparently quite a waste of the countries money)
- The government, while trying to clean up its' act, is still unfortunately rather corrupt...and money goes to the people that don't necessarily need it
- Mobile cost about 200 lek per minute (about 2 dollars us)'s so high because there are only one or two mobile phone companies in the country and they pay the government (or bribe...) a hefty sum to keep the monopoly  
While the country has things that it needs to was far better than I expected!
Don't listen to what people tell you before you go there as it was great!
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