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Old 2 Mar 20, 11:44 PM  
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Join Date: Mar 02
A weekend in Tirana - King Zog, Enver Hoxha, Norman Wisdom and me! Part 2

Saturday 14th December

Blimey! Last night was really hot with no air-con, couldn’t get to grips with the heat and unfamiliar bed as is typical for the first night’s stay away. Showered and down to the breakfast spread which turned out to be one of the most comprehensive spreads we’d seen for quite a while.

We packed and got ready for the day and we headed out to Skanderbeg Square to find the right bus stop. Plenty of buses around but none that fitted the description we were looking for so just pulled over and got some cash out of a bank machine. After a bit more wandering around we found the area where we were dropped off by bus on the previous day and bingo, we found our bus.

No paying the driver but casually dressed conductor came round and Alison offered up a handful of coins in exchange for a couple of tickets to Dajti. We weren’t really sure if we’d know when to get off the bus apart from knowing that it was the last stop and a rough idea of the timetable – well, it all adds to the experience.

We got off at the last stop and the driver beckoned us over to him. He asked where we going and we said we were heading to the Cable Car. He gave us a look and suggested getting the bus in front for a couple of stops and he’d have a word with the driver to take us for free. We said we’d walk which was just as well as the bus in front pulled away.

Interesting to walk around areas where people actually live and far away from any tourist attractions, interesting blend of high rise blocks and rural farming communities, all very safe apart from the odd shotgun sounds in the distance, never did figure out what was going on with that but it didn’t appear to be of concern to anyone.

Eventually we found the entrance to the “Dajti Ekspres” and mulled over the options before settling on the cable car and mini golf combo.

I wasn’t expecting much but it turned out to be a really great 15 minute trip with outstanding views over the Balkan Mountainside and view over the city of Tirana. We arrived at the summit and took in the view and looked around the area at the top, all well-presented and extremely clean.

We sized up the 18 hole mini golf course as I mentally prepared myself to give Alison a good thrashing in this trips sporting challenge. How wrong could I be, Alison got lucky on the tricky 12th and left me in her wake – oh well, better luck next time.

Feeling a bit peckish by now we had two distinct choices; Full restaurant meal in the Dajti Tower Belvedere Hotel in the rotating restaurant or the Restaurant Ballkoni Dajtit. We settled on the latter, built on the edge Dajti Mountain at just over 1000 metres above sea level. We settled down for a light meal of soup and bread as we took in the breath-taking views – amazing!

We finished off watching the swirling clouds come and go before retracing our steps back down the mountain and picked up the bus back into town.

Tirana itself doesn’t have any “big ticket” attractions like a Taj Mahal or Eiffel Tower but there are a few things worth checking out and this is what we decided to do.

Just outside the hotel was the Postbllok (Checkpoint) Tirana (Memorial to Communist Isolation), this area is a park that signifies the time when communist rule was still in force, but now replaced by democracy. Here you’ll find joists and beams from one of Albania’s labour camps, a bunker and a section of the Berlin Wall donated after the fall of East Germany. Poignant reminders of that era so it never returns.

Next up was Reja "The Cloud" – according to the blurb “REJA-The Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2013 is designed by multi award-winning Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto and reflects the connectivity of technology and cloud networks” – Hmm – looks like a child’s playground climbing frame plonked in front of the National Art Gallery (under renovation).

Nearby was the impressive Enver Hoxha Pyramid, or would have been when it was first built. It was inaugurated in 1988 as a mausoleum for Enver Hoxha, the building then became a conference centre and now it’s just gone to rack and ruin and no idea what the future plans are for it.

Nearby is the less than impressive Peace Bell – however, the story behind the bell is interesting, made from 20,000 bullet cartridges, gathered by children in Shkodra in 1997 and melted down.

We made our way back to the hotel and had a hot drink in our room before heading out into town for wander around.

We thought that Skanderbeg Square might be a full on Christmas Market but it was more like a fun fair with lots of rides and a couple of German sausage huts.

The atmosphere was really good with all the bright lights and sounds and smells of a fair anywhere in the world.

Feeling hungry we made our way to an Italian restaurant called Artigiano Vila Restaurant nearby. Nicely presented place and mainly Italian with some local foods.

I tried the traditional “Bryek” ort Spinach pie (feta cheese and herbs in pastry), interesting but not really to my taste but glad I tried it. Main course was wild boar ravioli, again, quite nice but nothing exceptional.

We wandered back the short distance to the hotel and had a couple of drinks in the bar before calling it a night.

Sunday 15th December

All very quiet at breakfast this morning with very few people around, appeared to be more staff than people actually staying. We packed and checked out and asked the reception desk to order us a taxi. The taxi arrived promptly and drove us through the deathly quiet streets to the airport, hardly anyone about on the roads on a Sunday morning.

Unfortunately there was no online check-in facility but we found BA desks eventually tucked away in a corner of the airport. Security and passport control was fine and we made our way through to the small lounge. Interesting array of food and drink here, lots of pickled items and dubiously coloured fruit drinks but a nice view of the runway though.

There's not much more to say - we boarded on time, the journey was smooth, the service was good and we landed on time!

Overall it was an interesting trip - the weather was good and a weekend was about the right amount of time!

1988 ~ Contemporary ~ Honeymoon
1989 ~ Off site
1994 ~ EuroDisney ~ Santa Fe
1999 ~ Off site
2001 ~ CBR (Aruba) ~ Poly (Tahiti)
2003 ~ WL & HRH
2004 ~ Pop Century, RPH, CSR, PBH, Contemporary
2006 ~ DLP ~ Newport Bay
2007 ~ POR ~ HRH ~ GF
2008 ~ All star sports, BCV, RPH, Vero Beach, VWL
2010 ~ OKW ~ BCV ~ HRH ~POP Century ~ Vero Beach ~ VWL
2013 ~ AKL ~ HRH ~ BCV ~ Vero Beach ~ VWL

Edited at 10:37 AM.
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Old 3 Mar 20, 02:43 PM  
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Join Date: Aug 04
Location: Southampton
Looks a lovely, interesting place to visit. Always good to go somewhere unusual for a change!
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