Made it to Tirana with Lufthansa
First week of September – oh no – Lufthansa is on strike. Not again and not now! I have booked a tour with Jorik from albania2go – next week. But the strikes are canceled and on Monday 14th, “my” blue crane lands safely in Tirana. My guide, Ben, picks me up and, on the newly built boulevard connecting the airport with the city (built for the pope visiting Albania last year), he drives me to the hotel Vila60 that hides from the traffic behind houses with slightly decaying facades.
Mirë Dita to the welcoming Hotel Vila
The hotel is small, the front desk welcoming and the hotel room is tiny, but cosy. We have a small espresso Italian style, in the courtyard near the entrance. I practice saying hello, “mirë dita”.
Walking to Skanderbeg square… first impressions of this vibrant town
Along the river Lana (a useful landmark), the Abdyl Toptani (a pedestrian zone with busy little restaurants and some Illyrian excavations), we reach Skanderbeg square with the statue of this exceptional military leader withstanding the Ottomans for 25 years,
… the Italian style governmental buildings
… and the Er’hem Bey Mosque from around 1800 with its bell tower. We climb the bell tower and see the mosque from above.
The mountain Dajti can be clearly seen at the horizon… We decide to climb the mountain tomorrow (not using the cable car).
We say hello to the founder of the town, Pasha Mulleti, have lunch in a small restaurant (greek farmer salad, baked eggplant and lamb in a joghurt sauce).
Walking south towards Blloku, the formerly closed area
The newly built orthodox church is richly decorated.
We head down to Blloku, the former closed area for functionaries, and have a glance at the villa of Hoxhta (now closed).
I am disappointed. What my guidebook calls a trendy area, seems to be a mess of large houses with decaying facades… and in between some small, old villas. Also Ben does no longer like to come here.
Impressive is the Mother Theresa Square, with the monumental university buildings and the archaeological museum.
And following the boulevard of the national heroes back to Skanderberg square
“Do you know of a country, where the prime minister palace has no fence around it?” Ben asks proudly. Yes, I assume, Switzerland. “Okay, then Albania is the second country…”
But what is this? A huge house on the boulevard of national heroes, and it is decaying? Yes, this was the luxury hotel Dajti. The old stylish furniture has disappeared… and the hotel is just a ruin now.
The pyramid is the memorial that the daughter of Hoxhta had built for her father. I am not so convinced, but I do like this small olive tree planted for peace… peace is what we need in this world, and Tirana has just hosted a congress about this topic. Wonderful.
Qemal is another important statesman. He was very courageous and announced Albania as an independent nation in 1912.
The Bektashi have their center in Albania… I am always impressed by the dervishes rotating and meditating. Here is a small tomb hidden under a huge building that left space for the Bektashi. As the blue walls show, it is now being renovated.
The museum of national history is closed… it is Monday today. Oh yes, Mondays are always difficult for visiting museums. We will come back tomorrow to get an overview of the facts, as Ben points out (and I agree).
Ben takes me back to the hotel where I have a rest, on the charmingly furnsihed balcony near my room.
Thank you Lufthansa, for having stopped the strikes, and thank you, Ben, for sharing your enthusiasm for your country with me.
Hi Petra – enjoy your time in Albania – write somehing about how good the food is there? What is Albania’s favourite dish?
best from Basel – Hanspeter