So. Tirana. Looks nice from the air. Some people think that’s probably the best way to see it. Not me. Only one way to know a city – walk. I’ve been walking. Everywhere. Tirana is compact – twenty minutes and you’re there. Wherever. Unless your driving – make that an hour, at least.
We came expecting the worst – maybe it was a cunning ploy, but it’s not as bad as ‘they’ told us. Yes there is rubbish everywhere. Yes the roads are falling apart, caked with mud, the footpaths disintegrating. The air is bad. Nobody seems to have a job. There are beggars in the streets. The electricity goes off at nine, so does the water. Minor details. I grew up in
The people are friendly – not effusive, but accepting. This is probably the most non-threatening city I’ve ever been in. The bread is fresh – baked ever morning in dozens of little bakeries scattered around the city. The pizza is superb – not surprising with the Italians just across the water. There are plenty of good restaurants. At the International Bookshop on
Cafes are everywhere. People – mostly men – sit for hours on end. Turkish coffee, glass of water, packed of cigarettes and mobile phone. Mobile phones are rarely used but often displayed. A fashion item.
Ten minutes to the artificial lake and the park. Sometimes its called
‘They’ told us at various times that you could not get: broccoli, French cheese, mushrooms, spices, fresh milk, French wine. ‘They’ were wrong – its all here. Sometimes you have to look a little harder; sometimes you have to go with a different brand; sometimes the instructions are in Greek or Italian. But if you want it, you can find it. Well – apart from Midget Gems that is. Still they are not the same since Maynards took over Lions and substituted blackcurrant for licorice. Very bad decision.
Now we have the Euromarket – it opened this summer. It’s Tirana’s first proper supermarket. More Stewarts than Tesco (for those who remember Stewarts). Does have McVities Digestives in the exotic foreign foods section, though. Yes, I bought some – pricey, but still cheaper than
There’s an IKEA in
And the streets with no names. Our street has a name – we think – but it’s not named on any map. Even the streets that are named on the map often have no street signs. Sometimes the streets don’t even appear on the map. We walk down one of them every day. It feels real enough, but it doesn’t exist as far as the mapmakers are concerned. No doubt there are deep metaphysical and existential issues to be delved into here – either that or the map’s just wrong. Sometimes streets appear on the map, but don’t quite match where they are on the ground – going in the wrong direction, non-existent interesections and the like. Makes walking around a bit of an adventure.