Shit everywhere!!!!

Trip Start Sep 05, 2011
Trip End Jan 04, 2012

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Flag of Albania  ,
Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Ah Albania, you charming hunk of junk. Today was our first proper day in the futuristic, cosmopolitan capital of Tirana, where dreams are made and BIG global decisions are hammered out. 

We woke up quite early and decided to try and find a local gym. There was one right down the road in what can only be described as a shed (see pictures). It was a complete dump but it had enough equipment to do the job. The muscular guy working there was really friendly and curious about us and watched us for pretty much all our workout. The gym was empty as it was early morning, which was lucky as the gym could barely fit our 2 bodies inside it. 

Both of us had been quite surprised at the quality of the men over here, which is even more impressive considering our very different tastes. Now I have completed the trip and am writing this entry in hindsight (im a naughty boy), I would actually say that Tirana and Tehran would be tied 1st for being the hottest cities on the whole trip. Its kinda surprising, as you'd kinda expect the people here to be all backward and inbred and definitely not attractive. 

We then walked around the city. Its a lively place but at the same time you could see all these abandonned buildings everywhere which was a weird juxtaposition to the young coffee culture that seems to be emerging there. We walked through the main square, which was undergoing major restoration, and then into the oldest mosque in the city (see pictures). There are a lot of signs for 'shit' over here as shit, unfortunately, seems to be the word for 'sales' or 'free' and so appears on most shopfronts. 

Albania is a bizarre country that really does seem a bit alien in Europe. Its a mostly muslim country, with a very unusual and unique looking language and a style of architecture that is hard to put your finger on. The people are extremely friendly and curious and there are ZERO tourists. It really is bizarre to walk around it and have to remind yourself that you are still actually in Europe. People stare at us A LOT as there is hardly anyone else with blue eyes and we are much taller and fairer than they are. Its history is rather unsual too, especially in the 20th century and my lasting impression is that Albania is this mysterious wildcard.

We then headed on to my favourite part - the Enver Hoxha pyramid. Hoxha was the leader of communist Albania after WWII until his death in 1985, after which his architect daughter built a pyramid mausoleum for him in the center of Tirana. Ive included a picture of what it once looked like. Now it has become a decrepid, abandonned skating park with an apocolyptic feel. I scaled to the top of the pyramid to get some great views of the city alongside a french couple. 

We grabbed a latte and then headed home as I was not feeling the best. Rob was keen to get to Thessalonika as soon as possible so he decided to get a bus there the next day. I was absolutely loving Albania, and that paired with my general disdain for mainland Greece led to my decision to stay here another day. 
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