Tirana 3000

I mostly write this post because of the headline. It refers to the number of kilometers I hit driving into Tirana but the name made me think of a lot of other things on the bicycle. A sci-fi novel or movie or a pixelated video game might be the obvious choices, but it could easily be the brand of a moped taking you from your parents garage to the burger joint down town, or a revolutionizing sowing machine with the promise of a better future for the world’s house wives or maybe even an Albanian version of Banksy obsessed with painting kids just as they appear in real life.

There you have it. How I spend the daily 5-7 hours on my bicycle. And here are some pictures from Tirana (all shot with my phone), which I really liked to be in. The streets in Tirana are always full of cars and pedestrians moving from place to place, the city  (might) have a world record number of coffee bars where the locals meet up for coffee before and after work, and life seems in general simple but happy, as a Turkish man put it. And with a huge divide between rich and poor, I should add.

The man to the right told me he was American and pointed to his tiny Stars and Stripes pin on his jacket. His English was no good though.

Some government building in the main square. They all look like this and most of them are the cleanest in the city.

Other buildings look more like this. Chaotic with funky shapes.

Just a year before the Berlin Wall fell, this pyramid opened as a museum. It looks absurd and dominating in real life.

Behind the surface.

Different eras of people fighting! And winning, I assume.

On some of the bridges over the almost dried out water they sell books.

Tirana only has a few bike paths, still you can rent a bicycle. One Euro for six hours. All the bicycle were available when I passed by and a few of them had flat tires. I like the idea though.

Everyone seemed to have tv turned on the night I arrived in Tirana. Albania played Portugal away – and I had timed my trip so I could get a bit of ¬†Albanian football enthusiasm. Though Albania surprisingly won their first victory against the Portuguese ever, they didn’t go mental afterwards. At least not in Tirana.

- It’s always like this. We win in the beginning but in the end, nah, and then we don’t make it, my football companion in the bar, Jentor, told me.

The next day I made quite a few short time friends because the result meant that Denmark and Albania is leading the group. Wuf.

My host Antoniette. She is Orthodox but married to a Muslim. The Albanians seem very relaxed about all this, especially compared to other parts of the Balkans. Antoniette told me about Albania during the communist reign.

- Today my country is free, she said with her big smile and told me, how she during nine years of her youth had to build rail roads for one month each summer. And go to the military for another. That was her summer holiday.

Antoniette is from 1952, so until the mid 1980s she only experienced the rather paranoid Enver Hoxha as the country’s leader. Hoxha built more than 700.000 bunkers during his four decades in office, he tortured all political opponents and made foreign investments illegal. With the result that Albania ended up as one of the most poor and isolated countries at that time, not far from what North Korea is today.

Lastly: evidence and a great feeling.