Tirane Albania Good Hospitality Good City
“Most travel, and certainly the rewarding kind, involves depending on the kindness of strangers, putting yourself into the hands of people you don’t know and trusting them with your life. The risky suspension of disbelief is often an experience freighted with anxiety. But what’s the alternative? Usually there is none.” -Paul Theroux
After having a few misses in a row on the couchsurfing front, Chaya and I rode into Tirane a little skeptical about continuously using Couchsurfing.com as a traveling tool. We jumped off of the bus and began walking the streets of Tirane looking for an internet cafe that we could call our host from. We were told that Tirane was a hectic place, and at first glance this appeared to be true. The city seemed to be rugged, dusty, and rough around the edges. I had half a mind to turn around and get on the first bus out of town.
Wade from Vagabond Journey.com
in Istanbul, Turkey- February 8, 2009
Travelogue — Travel Photos — Travel Guide
We eventually tracked down an internet cafe and made a Skype call to our host, and he said that he knew exactly where we were and would pick us up in a couple of hours. This sounded promising. In the meantime, Chaya mailed out couchsurfing requests for our next planned stops and I looked over maps and wrote a little on my Alphasmart.
At a little before 5 PM, we left the internet cafe and went to the corner were we arranged to meet our host. We stood out on the sidewalk like a couple of weirdo apparitions, as a couple of foreign travelers with rucksacks standing out on the street looking around seems to attract attention in Albania. Chaya and I just stood in front of Tirane’s UFO University, and made all of the obvious jokes about its name as we waited to be picked up by our couchsurfing host. It was difficult to tell who he may have been, as every person in genral proximity were staring at us. More than once we thought a wide eyed voyeur was our host-to-be, and more than once we were wrong. Waiting for a couchsurfing host is a lot like fishing. Well, fishing in the sense that you are a fish in a small pond just swimming around waiting for someone to catch you. There we stood on a street corner of Tirane just waiting for a stranger to walk up and take us home with him. We looked at everyone who passed by: “Is this the one? Is that him? Is that guy looking at us the guy from the couchsurfing photos?”
I felt a little like a street corner prostitute eyeing down prospective Johns. My only hope was that I was being picked up, housed, and befriended rather than screwed. We were throwing ourselves out to be caught in the net of a stranger’s hospitality: we could either be dropped and splat like meatballs upon a kitchen floor or we could find ourselves landing upon a soft bed of friendly comfort.
One of the most interesting aspects of Tirane is the fact that many of the buildings are painted in interesting colors and patterns. “The mayor is a painter,” Florenc explains, “and the city will paint the buildings for free.” Well, the city will paint the buildings for free if the owners consent to having them painted like the above photos.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, an Albanian man walked up behind us and spoke with near perfect American accent, “Hannah, I presume.” His name was Florenc and was the couchsurfing host we had been waiting for. Chaya and I liked him from the start: a smiling face and a shaking hand confirmed our introductions as we jumped into his Mercedes and drove off through Albania’s capital city. We knew immediately that our couchsurfing slump was gone, and that staying with Florenc was going to be real good.
Albania was also beginning to prove itself a cheap country for travel. Over some tangerines in the living room of his home, I asked Florenc about the average wages that someone makes in Albania, and was told that it was around seven to ten Euro a day. This is not much, especially in a country with a 35% unemployment rate, but nearly every family has a son in Italy or Greece sending remittances home. Florenc had lived and worked in the USA for eight years, and his brother was now in Prague.
“It is like with Mexicans working in the USA,” Florenc told us while we sat comfortably around his living room table.
“Did you know,” Florenc began our next conversation, “that Albania is the second most friendly country with the USA in the world?”
I had not known that.
“Yes,” Florenc continued, “94% of Albanians like the USA, whereas 97% of people in Kosovo do and 92% of Israelis. So more people in Albania like the USA than in Israel!”
This fact was amazing. There is even a road in Tirane named after George W. Bush. It was obvious that I did not have to fear the George Bush inquisition while in Albania. I felt relieved to finally be in a country where I did not need to faux liberalism in order to keep myself free from being bogged down in redundantly purposeless political discussions. In Tirane, an American can wear his colors without feeling the need to pull the drawstrings on his heritage: “I am from the USA, but I am not that kind of American. Don’t worry, I hate Bush, too.”
I suppose, when the straws are drawn, I am really not that kind of American – whatever that means – and I suppose that I really do hate Bush, too, but I would far rather sit merrily in a wrap of stars and stripes than comply with some funny type of international status-quo. It is an irksome experience to watch weaselly Americans try to back out of their country of origin by making sure that it is understood that they think their country is evil and their culture a plague. It is an interesting experience to not need to put up my guard when people in the street ask me where I am from, as affirmation of an American background gets a big thumbs ups in Albania.
The USA liberated Kosovo, and Kosovars are basically Albanians, therefore America is a friend of Albania.
After some great conversation with Florenc and some great Albanian food cooked up by his mother, Chaya and I laid down in a warm bed and thought warm thoughts in the face of pure and true hospitality.
I like Albania.
The next day Chaya and I walked aimlessly around Tirane, and I sipped coffee in cafes and drank cheap beer on sidewalk patios. This is how most of the people in this city seems to spend their days. In Tirane, everybody walks slow. Good city.
Wade and Florenc in Tirane, Albania.
Another Couchsurfing Adventure Shkoder Albania
Travel to Albania
Tirane Albania Good Hospitality Good City