I have really enjoyed my visit to Tirana Albania. I am finding the city interesting, enjoyable and relaxing. I had planned to go outside Tirana but Tirana keeps throwing up more surprises each day. That said I felt I needed to go see the coastal city of Durres just 35km away from Tirana. It is not only a seaside resort but a very historic city also.
In Tirana, there is no one main bus station. They are scattered all over the city and the main ones all seem to be about 5km from the city centre. Depending on where you are going you need to know the station. I needed to get to the Dogana bus station so I hopped on a local bus to get to the station. Buses are extremely cheap but always full in Tirana. Once I got to the station and made my way past the enemy Tirana Taxi drivers I took the bus to Durres. Just over 1 euro for 35km 45 minute trip.
Tirana local bus
One thing that hits you about Durres when you get off the bus is that it is a real city. People live here and it is not just a resort. There is a lot of history here. In 1991 when communism fell 20,000 people hijacked ships at gunpoint to go to Italy. In 1997 UN troops landed here to help stop a civil war break out. That all looks a long time ago now. Durres and Albania have changed a lot since.
I really enjoyed Durres and I felt it could be a place I could stay for a while. Enjoying a beer. Sausage and rice in Durres for the grand price of 330 lek which is 2.61 euro.
Check out my Vlog on my walk around Durres here
I have left Tirana. I have made my way to Shkoder in Northern Albania. I plan to stay here for 5 days but enough of that until next week. I am really unsure what to do next. It still is warm here in Albania in late September but the leaves are falling from the trees. I got hit in the head by a bunch of falling chestnuts the other day. Autumn is pushing summer aside.
I am really enjoying Albania but I am also questioning myself what am I doing here.
When I try to figure out who I really am I swing wildly between very boring and a bit crazy. Maybe there is a bit of both in me but I have done some crazy stuff before.
Grand Park Tirana
I came out as a gay man a lot later than most people. Something I will always regret. When I look back I think what a waste of years. I did not get married or anything like that. I just kept it to myself. It is what it is now and you cannot change the past. I suppose I am luckier than some people who never get there.
As I began to throw off the chains a guy from the U.S. on a chat site contacted me. He said he was a billionaire and lived in Calfornia. I might have been a late developer in coming out but I have a degree in spotting bullshit. Come to the U.S Pat. I will pay for everything. You will have anything you want. Sorry, I am busy I can’t go I said laughing to myself.
One day he asked me if Cork airport was an international airport. I said it was and why did he ask. Just to know if my private plane could land there. He also mentioned he had an Olympic size swimming pool in his mansion. I did not pay much attention. I did tell him I was visiting London on the date he said he needed to go to Europe for meetings.
As I was boarding my plane in Gatwick airport in London for the plane back home to Cork I received a message. Sure enough, it was a picture of this guy in the Ritz Hotel London asking me to join him for tea. Confused I boarded my flight. If he was crazy he was rich crazy.
Over the next month, he bombarded me to visit San Diago. He said he had more frequent flyer points than he ever would use and he could use them for a flight.
It was a late April Sunday in Cork. I just heard the Cork hurlers getting relegated to division 2 on the radio. I looked out the window and it looked like the end of the world. The rain that was falling for a week looked like it could fall for another week. It was 4 pm but it looked like 4 am. My skype rang. It was him. Let me use my points he said again. I will never use them. I looked out the window at the pouring rain. I cracked. Ok yes I said. That Friday I was in San Diago.
How did it go? I lasted 4 days in the mansion. Although he was very rich he was a bit controlling and never wanted to leave the mansion. I had warned him I was an extremely independent person. One night as we had another dinner with even richer people one of the serving staff asked me if I wanted another beer. I had drunk 1 beer up to this in about 2 hours. I said yes and he said no. That was that. Never come between an Irishman and his beer.
The next morning I told him it was not working. He said I could stay there if I wanted. I said no thanks. Surprised he asked why. I said I wanted to see what was outside the door. He said I could have had anything. I said I did not want anything. Even a mansion can be a prison if you don’t have your independence. As I left I am sure he was online asking someone else to come over.
Was he a billionaire. I think he was only a millionaire. Olympic size pool. Nope, just a regular one. Private plane. Who has frequent flyer points if they own a plane. Just proves even rich people need to exaggerate but on my low days, I still wonder if I could find his number.
A few days later in Los Angeles, I was telling this story to a Mexican in a bar. Let’s go to Las Vegas he said. When says I. Now he replied. For a moment I thought about it. I think if I have had one more beer I was gone. A lot of stuff happened that year. Maybe that is why I am here. I need an irregular year.
The G word
When many people think of Eastern Europe they will think Gipsie. Before I start just a small bit of history.
It is believed most of the world’s Gipsies came from a nomadic tribe called the Roma. DNA led the origin of this tribe to have come from Egypt and Northern India. Many wars over the centuries led to the Romany people to spreading into Europe but also other counties such as Iran, Turkey and Morroco.
My own country Ireland also has a gipsy minority. They reckon there are 100,000 Irish gipsies scattered between Ireland. The U.K and the U.S. 35,000 are on the Island of Ireland. The curious thing about Irish gipsies is despite having many similarities they did not come from Northen India or Egypt. They are of Irish origin.
I have now visited 4 countries in this region and here are my observations. I am not going to be politically correct or overly critical. It’s just what I have seen. I have visited Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia and Albania.
First of all, there are not gipsies people everywhere in these countries. Bulgaria has the highest % population at over 4%.
Gypsie population by country
Romania 621,000 or 3% of the total population.
Bulgaria 325,000 or 4.4% of the total population.
Macedonia 54,000 or 2.66% of the total population.
Albania approximately 100,000 or 3% of the total population.
When I arrived in Bucharest and Sofia I was surprised at how few gipsies I saw. Maybe it was me. I have associated these countries with gipsies. I probably saw a bit more in Bulgaria but I stayed longer in Bulgaria. I heard a lot of negativity about the Roma in both countries. There was real hatred from a lot of people. Don’t go near them. Dont visit anyplace with a lot of Gipsies. Don’t buy a house in a town with a high gipsy population. I just came across 1 guy in a hotel who spoke about how he admired how they managed to survive each day. I only saw a few people begging. I did notice one thing in Bulgaria. There seemed to be a lot of people checking rubbish bins. Almost exclusive Roma people.
Shutka Skopje Macedonia
In Skopje Macedonia, the Romany people actually run a local council in the city called Shutka. They also have a few members of the Macedonian parliament. I saw a lot of gipsies kids working the streets in Skopje. I am sure they are sent out by their parents. In their defence, they just don’t ask for money. They are trying to sell you something. I did not feel the same hostility from the local population to the Gipsies that I heard in Romania and Bulgaria. They still are the poorest of Macedonian society.
Albania is a bit more confusing and interesting.
There are the Jevgj who have assimilated more into Albania society and speak Albanian. They claim Egyptian descent but today consider themselves Albanian.
Then you have the Gabels who consider themselves Roma and live to the Romany tradition.
Both groups share the same genetic history but the Jevrj do not like to be put in the same category as the Gables as they feel they now are Albanian and not Romany.
I have heard of seen very little discrimination of the Gipsie people in Albania. But as the poverty rate is 75% among the gipsy population and 25% for everyone else there is institutional discrimination.
That is just my observations on what I have seen as I pass quickly through this area of Europe. I am no expert and I am sure it is not a simple as that.
Gipsie Ghetto Schoder Albania
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