Helpful stuff - Tirana
If you can arrange it, try and have someone meet you at the airport, it can be a bit hustly bustly. If not arrange with the taxi driver where you want to go BEFORE getting in the cab, you can barter.
In Albania you need a 4x4, end of. The Police are bribable, and dollars are accepted everywhere, the people are generally very friendly, so don't be afraid to try everything! The best way to get money is by western union, or take your credit or debit card into the bank ( I used bank of Tirana)where you will fill out an ancient form and get cash (Leke) over the counter.
Tirana is a good city, there are many bars there and a university, so no lack of students, also the Embassies are located not far from the city centre so you encounter Americans, Brits, French and lots of other nationalities there, they also have a good Opera house and ancient greek auditoriums, the restaurants there are really good, which is quite surprising! Its a bit dirty and dusty, but its got character.
The road between Durres and Tirana is the best in the country, don't be alarmed that almost every car on the road is a Mercedes!!
Mafia is quite widespread there, so be sensible, no jewelry and try not to look like a tourist. Driving down the road and getting stuck behind a scraggy donkey pulling an old wooden cart, on top of which was the Mercedes-Benz sign firmly nailed.
Being invited to a local guys house where his mother fed me up with Baclava and I found out his 18 year old sister was married to an American guy. Interesting.
Maybe this tip is a bit misleading, as Durres doesn't really have what you'd call an old town. But the lanes surrounding the amphitheatre (i.e. between the city walls and Rruga Tregetare) contain many oldish houses, and its nice to spend half an hour or so wandering around. It feels older than the rest of the city, probably because the streets are narrower, steeper and quieter.
Albanian Resistance Monument
When the Italian army invaded Durres in the Second World War, British secret agents teamed up with local Albanian resistance fighters to stop the occupation. They didn't succeed, but they did manage to be commemorated down on the seafront, in the form of gun-toting resistance fighter Musa Ulqinaku in bronze, aiming at the sky. The platform underneath is covered in graffiti, but a bronze two headed eagle (still with communist star) has so far escaped vandalism. Around this bizarre monument is a small funfair which seemed to be lacking in fun on that warm April afternoon, but is maybe more jolly in the summer months.
Durrësi, new housing in 2007 along the main avenue
Along the wide main avenue, new buildings for housing are mushrooming. As can be seen on both photos, they are all simple but elegant. The colors range from cream, yellow, orange, blue, pistachio green, brown but even if the result can be amazing they are always elegant.
"AA Roadmaps and Reality"
As we sat by the lake at Ochrid, Macedonia, in the comfort of the Eastern European interpretation of civilisation, we knew it was time for our Balkan tour to move on. We had no particular place to go, so decided that after a Lake the sea would be good. The closest sea-side city to us was Durres, in Albania, so there we would go, and everything would be just perfect. Azure waters, sandy beaches and semi-naked women would be there waiting for us. What a disappointment Durres was. A pebble-and-dogsh*t beach rolling into a sea of suspiciously brown water with assorted household rubbish floating in it. A country where they use two different versions of their currency to confuse foreigners. Oppressive heat. Massive vampire mosquitoes. Such fun.