24 JUL


Rohan and I had brekky in the same outdoor dining area where we were dancing in the night before. Though the mood was much more chilled now. We wrote in our journals til about 10am, then got our stuff together to go for a walk and check out the sandy beaches in front of the Grand Hotel.

Once at the shoreline we walked north toward (more) public accessible beaches to take in the atmosphere. Durrës was (is) a major port in Albania, so the beaches weren’t as amazing as down south, but at least there was sand. The beaches were large (wide) and busy with people. hotels backed right onto the beach front. Some hotels looked like they were built during the communist period, utilitarian in design, others were more modern and somewhat tacky. Many tanned bodies laid on deck chairs lining the beaches, costing 200-600 Lek ($2-$6AU) hire per day.

Carts pulled by donkeys trailed up and down the beach selling all kinds of beach fun such as beach balls and blowup donuts chairs. Some donkeys were carrying ice-cream on saddles. Fruit stalls dotted the beaches.

We eventually made it back to beach front of Grand Hotel. Well at the hotel beach front next door actually, as they had spongy soft deck chairs.

I’d walked over to ask a girl several feet away for a cigarette, but before I could get a word out she said ‘I don’t speak English’. What a bitch I thought! So eventually I asked (and tipped generously) the waiter to run down to shops for a pack, which I offered to the girl and her friends.

We drank coffee frappe listening to chill-out music and soaking up the rays. Eventually Rohan went back to get towels (he’d forgotten) from our room and got caught by Spartak and Bashkim at front of hotel. I got a call from Spartak whilst I was on my way to the toilet then went back to have a late lunch with Rohan, Spartak and Bashkim at the Grand. Liliana joined soon after.

We all discussed potential business ideas. Rohan and I were excited by the prospect of doing business in Albania. Though I am not very business savvy, I was taking Rohan’s lead.

After lunch we packed to leave. A short stay indeed. Spartak took us for a quick tour of Durrës, by quick I mean quick, we went passed one hotel – the Adriatik! Took a picture of it and drove off, straight to Tirana. Ha!

It was a non-eventful 40 minute drive. Spartak recounted short stories of our relatives. When we arrived at Tirana we went straight to the Tuttestetica Health Tarm, owned by Spartak. We got the grand tour – it seemed like your resume must say babe!

As we were driving to our hotel Spartak pointed out the Travelodge hotel that he picked my dad up from when he was on his way out of Albania in 1984.

Made it to Hotel Iliria, room and view was very nice, hotel was suggested by Spartak. It was owned by some government minister friend of his. I think they were trying to pull out all stops for us, well for Rohan I believe, typical Albanian hospitality.

After we rested and showered, Migena and her husband Elidon picked us up to go for a night sight seeing walk down Skenderbeg Rruga (road) where all the municipal, military, civil, library, museum, uni, gallery and monuments were situated. All lit up brightly for tourists local and internationally to enjoy.

Took many photos. The night was clear and warm. Had many good laughs as we walked. We entered a district called Blloku (The Block) where all the hip café’s and designer shops were situated. This area had a very international feel. Blloku only became accessible to the general public after 1991. Rohan and I looked at each other and in chorus said – we got to come back here to party.

It seemed that copyright wasn’t a concern here! Stopped at the Casino Aladdin where apparently gambling occurred underground during the communist reign. We were told there was a water fountain show coming up, we eagerly awaited its hourly presence.

Migena suggested a very authentic Italian pizza place. The pizza was the best I had so far in Albania! A slow meandering walk to Skytower – a rotating observation tower bar/café – to have coffee and apple pie with ice-cream. The view was average, to me, coming from a city with tall buildings. Local artwork in lobby. Caught a cab to Iliria Hotel and went straight to bed.