First moments on Albanian grounds were governed by sand storms and our stunned amazement at the number of bunkers that crowd the landscape. Not just on the border, but throughout the country, cement mushrooms litter and remind.
Bunkers are not a result of a xenophobic totalitarian ruler (though there was a King Zog nicknamed Dr Evil), but are in fact strategic. During World War II resistance was based on hill sides, so what better way to provide protection for soldiers fighting similar battles than BUNKERS! Generals and officers send commands to lower stationed Deathshrooms, manned by towns-people with guns, from their larger command bunkers at top.
A Macedonian Truckie, who has driven 2 MILLION KILOMETERS around Europe and the Middle East (aged 37), offered a scenic tour (inclusive of dinner, beers and smokes) to Absurdistan's capital of Tirana. Every "Absurd" drives a beat-up Mercedez Benz, and launders money through a booming construction industry. Put some paint on Brutalist appartment blocks and we get Tirana. Only, it doesn't work. It remains brutal and ugly.
Enlarged main streets, oversized statues, barren parks, littered streets and plentiful power cuts. It is not a surprise that there are few foreign mining companies extracting and investing, but fear not, there is the local company of Metabo that operates on the slogan of "Work. Don't Play."
What Tirana does offer is ONE grafitti MASTERPIECE by an Irwin, in 2007. Brilliant.
We pulled the plug and headed north to Shkondra. The countryside is beautiful, meandering roads through green pastures and castles on hills obscured by clouds of dust from Mercedez Benzes. Life begins after sunset, around 9pm, when it cools down, and done up summer dresses push prams and skinheads dominate coffee shops.
Our advice: read between the lines. Don't go to Tirana. ~Eline
Irwin's Tirana street art