Monday, December 31 we made our way by car to Tirana! We had an appointment at the American Embassy and so we headed out at 10:00 am, giving us enough time to make our 1:15 pm appointment. It was a beautiful crisp day, perfect for an outing. We headed out of Shkodra toward Lezhe, a city in northwest Albania, in the district and county with the same name. For more on this lovely city visit Lezhe.The only issue with this city is the traffic. There is only one way in and out, you have to go through a roundabout and that’s where all the traffic gets hung up. It’s a bit of a nuisance, especially if there’s an accident. This is also where all the buses and taxis congregate so it makes it twice as hard to get through, however, after about 20 minutes were clear all the way to the outskirts of Tirana.
Driving further south we were surrounded by gorgeous scenery, clear skies and most importantly hardly any traffic.
We reached the city limits about noon. Now, I don’t mind telling that I had directions printed out from Google, and they were pretty accurate up to a point. We went through a large bazaar area, with a roundabout every five blocks, or so it seemed, the streets were not marked well and the chaos was a little overwhelming. Thanks to Vince’s experienced driving we made it through that district intact. Once we reached a main road, Rruga e Durresit and were headed toward Skanderbeg Square the traffic intensified somewhat but the road was a bit wider so it wasn’t too bad, except for the fact that I couldn’t really see the street signs. We stopped and asked a couple of times how to get to the “American Embassy”, which I found out was easier than asking where the next road we had to turn on was as everyone knew where the Embassy was. All three people we stopped to ask were extremely friendly, excited to point the way and wishing us a Happy New Year! We reached the Embassy early, about 12:30 pm. The office we had to go to was closed for lunch so we made our way to a parking lot and headed to a Coffee Bar. Now, I have to tell you, besides Skanderbeg’s Square, with the beautiful government buildings and Skanderbeg’s statue, I did not fall in love with Tirana, sorry! I know, some of you are probably wrinkling your nose right now wondering how I could not like the capital, but to me it was very chaotic, smoggy, big and disorganized, I don’t know, I just didn’t feel it, what can I say. I love Shkodra!! Regardless, we did have a nice day there and as soon as our appointment was completed we made our way out without problems…oh yeah, there was a little one…we made the wrong turn and headed to Duress, about a half an hour out of our way. This was not such a bad thing after all, as we had never been there. It made for a nice ride through the countryside. When we reached Durres we drove through the center of the city.
Durres is the second largest city of Albania and is located on the central Albanian coast, about 33 km (21 mi) west of the capital Tirana. It is one of the most ancient and economically important cities of Albania. For more on the city see Durres.I found the city to be in the booming stage. There were a lot of nice buildings lining up the coastline and one can clearly see the improvements that are taking place. I think it is an attractive location, rich in history, and certainly a great vacation spot.
As we neared the Shkodra city line dusk was settling in and we stopped to take a photo of Rozafa Castle, which was lit up and looked beautifu (sorry, not a great photo, I know).
We made our way back into the city and I can honestly say, without a doubt, that I was glad to be home!! Of course we ended the evening and year with a bang!!!