Slumdog Millionaire, Osama bin Laden, and False Advertisement

We woke up in the morning for our first full day in Albania…

I opened the blinds to look over the balcony and saw an endless jumble of buildings… nice buildings, ugly buildings, old buildings, new buildings… you get a little bit of everything here. The view reminded me of a scene from “Slumdog Millionaire.”

Monique and I got a good night’s rest… who wouldn’t, with all the gentle serenading we got from the dogs howling and the motorcycles revving up? Plus, when we woke up we got an extra special treat when the nearby mosque sang its call to prayer.

Yes, there are many mosques in Albania, but I haven’t seen any bearded Osama bin Laden types…

In fact, unlike most of Europe, Albanians seem to love Americans… Just tell an Albanian you are an American and watch their face light up! They tell you how much they love George Bush, Jr. and Bill Clinton, too… but they like “Bushi” more because he visited here a few years ago.

They even have a statue dedicated to “W” that I haven’t paid a visit to yet.

My brother, Danny, decided to come join Monique and I on our Albanian journey so we decided to get right to the house hunting…

We were so excited because we had found a vacation rental in Durres, which is 15 miles or so away from Tirana and right near the Adriatic Sea. The rental was described to us like this… a two story house with 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, big landscaped yard, kitchen, etc. They were even going to give us a deal for renting it long-term, as opposed to by the day!

When we get to the rental, the house is freezing cold inside, we find out that the landlords live on the second floor, they ask us to pick which room we want to stay in, and they further inform us that we could only stay until June.

Dreams shattered, we walk into the night with the one suitcase we brought…

It’s cold and raining, so we stop into a clothing store to call a taxi. There are a father and son in the store… “What do you need a taxi for?” they ask. We tell them we need a hotel room.

“Oh, we have rooms above this store!” they say.

“Wonderful! Take us to them!”

The rooms are cold and have the same type of “heating system” the other one had. “Monique, ask them if they have electric blankets?”

Monique just laughs at me… apparently electric blankets are not common. (The more I live here, the more I am impressed with how hardy the Albanians are… we’re a bunch of sissies in America in comparison).

But here’s the thing I really love about Albanians…

We tell them no, we do not want to spend money with you… and they proceed to offer us some candy, espressos, etc. while we wait for the taxi.

“What kind of hotel would you like?” they ask… Good? Very good? Or the best?”

“The best!” we shout in unison.

Next thing you know, the taxi pulls up in front of the best hotel in Durres, Albania…

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