Sunday, October 23, 2022

[TIRANA] Mother Teresa Was Here

On this episode of Skip the Capital and Just Go Somewhere Else, our newest victim is Tirana! Clap Clap. Slow Clap. To be honest, Albania’s capital is not too shabby but truth be told, you can count the tourist attractions with your fingers. Or maybe I just didn’t know where to look? Suffice it to say that you are better of exploring the beaches of Vlorë if you want something more exciting. But if you insist, then let me tell you what I saw in Tirana. Who knows, maybe you also want to check them out, right?

First stop, how do you get to the city center? Exit the airport terminal by heading to the exit to the left. You will know that this is the right exit if you immediately see a KFC to your right. Head all the way towards the end of the parking lot and you will see mini buses and vans there. Some of them will have signboards telling you where they are going. The one you are looking for is either TIRANË or CITY CENTER. That’s it. This bus leaves approximately every hour and costs ALL400 (~PHP200). The trip to downtown should take around half an hour but this is dependent on the traffic situation. Ours took 55 minutes. CASH (Albanian Lek) ONLY.

They throw you out of the bus once you reach Skanderbeg Square, or at least the park right next to the Palace of Culture. Depending on where your hotel is located, you will have already seen half of the major tourist attractions because you will most likely pass through Skanderbeg Square itself as well as the National History Museum which was under construction when I was there. As well as the Opera. All of these are in the same square and this square is one of Tirana’s major tourist draws.

Once settled in your hotel and free of all your luggage, it’s time to walk around. I made it as far south as Mother Teresa’s Square. I’m totally clueless about Mother Teresa. All my life I thought she was from India, and then if I remember correctly, I also saw some tourist attractions in Skopje claiming her as one of their own. Apparently, our girl Mother T was Albanian, and she even has a square in her honor in the capital. Flanking it on three sides are the University of Arts, Polytechnic University of Tirana, and the eye-catching Air Albania Stadium.

The Air Albania Stadium is that weird ultramodern building shimmering in red and stalking you from the background every time you lay your eyes on the horizon. I thought the entire building was the Marriott, but apparently, it’s hosting several establishments including a shopping mall and some cafes. In any case, it is pretty and not a sight you will be getting tired of looking at. The open area in front of it also looks like a popular hangout spot for the youth, some of them skateboarding, some of them just lurking.

Another tourist attraction in the capital, the Pyramid of Tirana, is also under construction. As the name suggests, it is in the form of a pyramid and seemed to house many shops. It occupies an entire block and I would’ve loved to check it out if only it was open. Adjacent to it once you cross the river is Taiwan Park. Don’t ask me why it is named as such because I have no clue. All I know is that it is a quiet green park and is the best vantage point for that weird modern green and blue building across the church called Alban Tower which dominates the skyline thanks to its design.

I didn’t go inside the Orthodox Church. Skanderbeg Square also plays host to Et’hem Bej Mosque, which has a rich history of its own and is right next to Tirana’s clock tower. I no longer bothered to check them out. Instead, I met up with a fellow traveler I haven’t seen in a long time and we killed time at Bunk’Art, which is an ex-bunker transformed into a museum to showcase how life was during the communist regime when the fear of nuclear holocaust was an integral part of daily life.

Tirana is all chill, but I just like Belgrade better. Food is cheap. Hotels are cheap. Internet was not an issue at all. If you are just a digital nomad looking for your next affordable city to host you, then do consider Tirana.

[TIRANA] Mother Teresa Was Here

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