Theme: West Balkan & Turkey War Tour Country: Albania Language: Albanian Unit of Currency: Albanian lek Location: Shkoder & Tirana Year: 2013 Bucket list: Officially stepping both feet on the pyramid within the city
DO: EXPLORE THE CITY
- Spending the entire day photographing, eating, drinking, and hanging out with an international diversity of great mates
The Pyramid of Tirana:
Imagine a structure that one can walk, run, and bike (if feeling adventurous), but the catch is there are no strings, ropes, or steps to get there. On top of this, there are slivers of glass inconveniently placed on the sides of the Pyramid – a rather painful challenge one would think. Against these odds, would you still try to climb it?
The Pyramid was the first destination that I was told to visit once I arrived in Tirana, Albania. As mentioned in my previous post, I did get to take a few photographs before my mates unexpectedly met up with me and we wandered around the city. I made it my mission while I was here to trek up the Pyramid.
I was not told much about this teenager local hangout, just that this does not fit into Tirana’s history nor does it have any value at all. For whichever reasons, I was still intrigued to creatively photography the Pyramid and reach the top. My mates mentioned at dinner the night before that they had accomplished getting half way, but due to the slipperiness and previous rain shower they felt it was in their best interest to be satisfied at the height that they ascended.
I on the other hand, was focused to mount the Pyramid and photograph each of heights that I had reached. Little did I know, that my last night in Tirana it had rained yet again in the early morning hours, which created a sudden delay to my master plan. I did what every thrill seeker would have done, I attempted at first walking up the Pyramid – unfortunately, I made it about 10 steps and then found myself sliding down the Pyramid on my two feet. Thankfully it was a safe landing, then I witnessed how the kids do it.
This 10 year old kid had this pre-determined look in his eye and walked backwards before sprinting up the Pyramid while reaching the top! Right, so that is how we do it – well noted and I to think I almost decided to clap for the little show off! My last attempt was now being witnessed, so I felt a bit uneasy about the half my age spectators watching above me. I followed the kid’s footsteps and started running up the side of the Pyramid.
I wish I could end the story and tell you that I successfully climbed the Pyramid and high-fived the young kids at the top. However, with my project assignment in Madagascar in a few days, and the reality that my trainers are not meant for these slippery conditions, I decided to take the opportunity to photograph a few of the kids trekking up the Pyramid and consciously be satisfied with my 30+ steps that I took in attempt to conquer the Pyramid!
What made the moment even better was to witness one of the young kids (maybe 8 years old) slide down on his butt the whole way – I definitely could not picture a late 20something year old sliding down on her backside (especially when this girl has a coach to catch to Montenegro!)
Highlights for Tirana, Albania:
First impressions of Tirana: Arriving in the early morning dreary hours in Tirana in a torrential downpour, I was more than happy to stay at the Milagona Hostel and catch some sleep before daylight braced itself upon me. After 10 hours of cramped “in the back left corner and with a local woman’s elbow placed in my side (in her defense, she was really sweet and though we could not effectively communicate, she knew that we were placed in very tight quarters!).” And after 7 treacherous stops throughout the journey, my body was never as ecstatic as it was to fall into a full-sized bed that was all mine! Once I gained consciousness a few hours later, I was ready to seize the day!
I set out to find the “infamous” Pyramid that was my hostel owner’s recommendation, along with National Museum of History. At first, the loud deafening sounds of construction illuminating the streets with their “way too large and not attentive” bulldozers were not the best sounds to embrace during the early stages of my exploration. Since every city is different, and it was my 2nd time that I have been introduced to construction sites during my West Balkans & Turkey War Tour (Skopje, Republic of Macedonia was the 1st), I anxiously sought a path to a very quiet children’s park in the middle of the city.
Once I became familiar with the city and met some mates that I chilled with previously during my travels, these were a few of the fabulous highlights in Tirana:
1) The best path – It just so happened that the particular detour (placing myself in a children’s park) I discovered put me in front of the National History Museum. Though the Natural History Museum had engulfed itself in the Albanian language, there was about 10% of English throughout the entire museum. Since I started these travels to learn more about the war, I took it upon myself to absorb bits and pieces of each exhibit displayed through the captivating photographs within each figure. For those of you who know me , you are quite aware that I like to document my travels every chance I get throughout my photography and journals that I write. Fortunately, I asked to take a few “pocket-sized” digital pictures during my exploration in the museum. While I was told yes, I was also limited to just 3 photographs; however, the photographs I take out of there 3 story building does not count, so I managed to capture some unique shots of the city!
2) A delightful treat – I am not normally a sweet person, but after having the journey I had last night from Republic of Macedonia and not having anything to eat in the morning, I indulged myself in one of the ultimate chocolate croissants that I had ever tasted! This specific chocolate croissant had very creamy custard in the middle of every bite, including chocolate sauce and bits of coconut sprinkled on the outside. Did I mention that it was given to me in your normal “NYC doughnut box” and took up the length of the box? I have traveled in Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Czech Republic, France, etc and never had I come across this delightful goodness! In fact, it was such an orgasmic (yes, I explained a pastry in this manner!) that I decided to have one the next morning as well!
3) Incidental encounter at the Pyramid – Ironically running into my mates that I voyaged with from Skopje, Republic of Macedonia to Tirana, Albania at the Pyramid. Let me start in the beginning, consequently I had only a Macedonian SIM card, and it conveniently run out of minutes once I called the hostel owner in Tirana to let him know that I arrived safely and was outside in the rain waiting to be let in this early morning! Of course, I did not realize that I was out of minutes (since I could not translate the decrypted verbal message in Macedonian out of my smart phone!), and thus would make it hard for my mates and I to communicate with one another and meet up. As luck would have it, it started pouring down rain, but I had managed to view the Pyramid within only a short walking distance away from me.
Most of the time, rain (i.e. creates mist, rainbows, etc.) simply makes photographic images unique and helps give that extra pop that I constantly seem to be seeking when capturing images. With that thought in mind, I made my way to the Pyramid and kept myself completely determined to take these creative photographs. Not even a few clicks, and I hear my name: “Jessica, is that you?” I quickly flipped off the hood from my jumper, and to my surprise, standing there in a large crowd was hands down, the most awesome and sweetest Croatian that I have met throughout all my world travels, Tamara! And without a blink, she grabbed me by the arm and said, “We are all hungry, let’s go eat!” Come to think of it, as lovely as the chocolate croissant was, I still have not had a “proper” meal all day!
4) A little taste of Germany – A pub that serves “tasters” of various beers that is made within their own brewery that conveniently places itself in the middle of the restaurant! This fabulous and most delicious pub is called, “Bru Haus,” and our waiter gracefully presented our table of 9 with samples of 4 beers – 2 blonde and 2 dark ales. One of my German mates mentioned that this restaurant is a favorite local in Germany – I could definitely see why!
5) Proper night outs downtown – The main events of the evening: A) Chili pub = ordering mango & passion fruit cocktails, then asking the waiter to bring us a “house” surprise cocktail. Fresh fruit, little bit of fruit juice, and a shot or 2 of liquor was definitely a refreshing choice.; B) Pool madness = playing pool with a mixed group of nationalities, really made the basic game of pool a hellva a good time! I am used to shooting pool with different Americans, who always seem to have their own versions of how pool is played. Imagine 7+ different nationalities playing pool and thumbing through “their” own rules as we went along – highly amusing!; C) First real club experience (complete with dancing) – awesome sofas, but unfortunately, a lot of Albanians smoke and there are not present laws stating that you cannot smoke in bars or restaurants. Great music, and my favorite playlist created during this trip was played throughout the entire night!
Round 2 techno club – this popular local club had amazing lights, music, and sounds; absolutely had to take photographs! The next night my mates and I went to the Tiki Bar, which this pub was a great ending to all of the hotspots that we ventured to for the weekend.
6) An old train in markets – Another “must-see” sight recommended by my hostel owner and mates was located in a pathway of old markets and situated down at the bottom of the hill. Cunning placed at the end of all the markets, it was a trek to find this very old and battered train still resting on the tracks. The markets were a maze of clothing, household items, etc. – some pieces sold were valuable, while others resembled “someone’s garage sale.” But hey, you know the saying, “Another’s one garbage, is one’s treasure!” I kept this motto in mind and stumbled down the hill into a level path that opened into more markets and a set of train tracks.
Once I gazed at the train tracks, I quickly discovered the old rusty train that looks like it has been there for centuries. A few snapshots, and then a man approached me about buying his honey from his local bees that he was pleasantly proud of. This kind-hearted man was in his early 50’s, had a sweet smile, and a good personality – he was very tickled when I started asking him about his honey collection that he presented to us, and his solo “alive” bee that was comfortably rested on one of the jars. He seemed to enjoy our company, as he left us with a taste of his latest honey batch that he just made a few days ago.
7) Signature jumpin’ photographs – I believe it is well-known that I love my signature jumpin’ photographs, especially because every moment captured is different from the last. When I have the opportunity to include mates and random acquaintances in my photographs I am humbled to be able to show more highlights of my travels; however, when I am requested to take jumpin’ photographs of them I am without a doubt, marveled by their willingness to seduce themselves into such an awesomely wicked moment. It just so happens that Eduardo participated in a few jumpin’ photographs – he is definitely a natural!
8) Movement in the sky – After my mates and I were finished with the smoky pub scene, we decided that we wanted to visit a location that was unique to Tirana and smoke free (at least not many people smoking). As we entered into the Sky Tower, we did not bump into anyone. The security officer on the first floor whispered top floor as we made our way into the elevator. Once we walked up the rest of the stairs leading into the lounge, a marvel of lights bounced off of our faces. We found ourselves completely engulfed by the world below us – we were giants looking upon the tiny streets and cars of Tirana. Excited about this discovery, we sat down and felt a sense of movement.
Now at this time, you are thinking you had a proper night out, maybe a bit too many, and now you “think” you are moving?!? The beauty of the situation is that the Sky Tower slowly rotates showing you every little detail of the city in at least 5km. I am sure on a clear day, you could see the entire city at whole!
What made this night more special, was that we swapped all of our best travel stories (and even highlighted some locations that are on my bucket list).
Next stop: Coach ride to Skhoder, Albania; then taxi ride to cross into Montenegro and reach Podgorica, Montenegro! Wish me luck!