Opening Albanian and Macedonian reality
Before my trip to Balkans, I didn’t do any researches, not because I was lazy but I just wanted to succumb and rely on all circumstances we would ever face. One of them was visiting Ohrid and falling in love with nature and a lake. This little ocean in the middle of the mountains divides you totally from the Balkan’s hard life. The idea of renting a paddle boat was a good conclusion of our stay with Jet.
The village was pretty empty as the season was over. The same situation we faced, again and again, traveling along the coast. Most of Macedonians had left the country before the deep crisis started. Big, five- or six-room tall buildings remain empty during the whole winter. Macedonia is dying. Without summer tourists who are eager to spend 2 euros for a large breakfast, Macedonians have nothing to do and
Travel towards sun, money, and future – towards Greece, Italy or Croatia.
Ones Maja and I started to pave our way to Albania, an Albanian 50-something years old, started sharing his long love stories. He was married to a Norwegian old lady just for passport, he had a legal wife with kids in Albania, he was chatting with a rich daughter somewhere from Africa, he didn’t remember her name but perfectly understood the power of her bank account, he had many first-and-last nights all over Europe, and he had a big sincere smile and eyes willing to help us.
Four hours later we got to Durres and quickly enough found new drivers to Shkoder City. Three more cars, three more conversations in Russian, English, and Italian-Spanish (I was just pretending I could speak), and we ended up staying next to the mosque in the center of Shkoder.
Shkoder was simple and good. It was a mix of Greek markets, the smell of raw meat, tomatoes and oranges filled every street. We could see expensive BMWs and Toyotas all passing by gypsies’ children who were seeking for leftovers. We could see tourists eating pizzas and salads and Albanians who were serving them just to earn a couple of bucks.
I got to the country. It was so similar to my Ukraine.
People were different. Ones you catch someone looking at you disgustingly with a big desire to rip your clothes out, then you witness a little 6-year old girl bagging next to your knees and finally you find kind and friendly people in the hotel nearby. Bulldog Hostel was one of those places where people were able to host strangers in the middle of the night, give them a hug and deal with problems that others face. If you are a traveler with a paper map in your pocket, go and meet the owners of this place. The family half Albanian, half Italian, created a multi-colorful hostel with a special room for the backpacks, with a special garden for night integrations and a wall of wishes. All languages could be heard there, all skin colors could be seen there.
We experienced the city to the fullest visiting football match Kosovo-Finland, walking around the well-known lake, eating local food and meeting locals from hostel owners to policemen. I reckon two days in Albania changed my world irrevocably.