First Impressions of Albania

I got my first taste of Albanian culture when our plane landed in Tirana…

The flight attendant told us to remain in our seats with our seat belts fastened. So naturally the Albanians all got up and proceeded to get their luggage… Albanians don’t really follow rules. The Italian flight attendant came out yelling and tried to restore order. I think I’m going to like this country ;-)

When we get off the plane, half the passengers get in the line for Albanian citizens, and the other half get in the foreigner line… apparently, there were a lot of Albanians now living in other countries.

There are two customs officials taking care of our line, which has now split up into two. Monique and I choose unwisely… for every one person our customs lady is letting through, 4 are passing us by in the other guy’s line.

The lady looks at our passports for a loooooong time…

She then clicks a button on the computer… now back to staring at the passports. Finally, when she’s finished clicking and staring, she hands us back the passports without stamping them. We get her to stamp them.

Two friends of a friend pick us up at the airport (John and Esther, who are not Albanian, but Korean). Soon I get a little taste of Albanian driving… I enjoy it, now Monique on the other hand, prefers to hide her eyes behind her hands for some reason.

The streets are narrow and maze-like in Tirana…

Apparently, John and Esther live by “the prison.” I didn’t know this at the time, but I did notice that there was a lot of graffiti and trash in the streets. “Is it safe to walk around this neighborhood?” I ask Monique.

“Oh, don’t worry, that’s how they do it here,” she says. (And it turns out, she’s right – graffiti and trash are common no matter where you go).

Things look “rustic” here… that is to say that it doesn’t matter if the buildings are new or old… everything looks old.

John and Esther were great to us…

They let us stay in some guest quarters they keep for friends and family, fed us lunch, and we were soon off to sleep… in an electric blanket, because the inside is just as cold as the outside in most Albanian homes.

When we wake up, I get a real good view of where we’re at…


  1. Monique Alvarez on February 21, 2012 at 10:44 AM

    Just keep listening to your Sweetie! ;)

  2. Lianda on March 13, 2012 at 10:16 AM

    I am enjoying reading about your adventure. It sounds like the beginning of a novel! I’m so happy we’re to be able to keep in touch so easily with friends all over the planet! Keep writing! I’m hungry for adventures-

    • Derek Alvarez on March 14, 2012 at 12:37 AM

      Thanks Lianda,

      More adventures to come!

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