Balkans – End

The Balkans are a fascinating, very diverse region in Southeast Europe which had to deal with a lot of conflicts in recent history – the Breakup of Yugoslavia and the resulting Yugoslav wars made it almost impossible to travel the region from 1991 to 2001.

A lot has changed since those darker days and most of the countries are back on track, the reconstruction is in its final stages and the tourism is on the rise. Changes can also be seen in the countries which haven’t been affected by the wars – Bulgaria became part of the EU, developed it’s infrastructure and is seeing an economic growth, even though this growth decreased recently.

Learnt so much about the Balkans during the trip. I find it so rewarding knowing that this was a region previously so foreign, so completely unknown to me. But now I know just a little teeny bit better.

Yay! Done with this!

Tirana to Montenegro


Bye Albania. (does eagle sign)

To get to Montenegro from Albania, 

one would need to reach the Albanian / Montenegrin border.

I took the bus opposite this shiny mall in Tirana to Shkoder. 
Apparently it starts moving when it’s filled up, with no particular bus timing.
I reached at about 145pm. When I got off (in Montenegro) there were many people asking where I wanted to go, offering tours to the nearest cities, beach-style resorts around. I walked around and found myself at hotel rozafa, in a bid to steal wifi to google further. somehow, it turned out that there was the spot I was supposed to wait for the bus to Podgorica. Hurray!

The minibus set off at 215pm
5 euros, not like the 50 euros they wanted to charge

Tirana, Albania

This is a choppy post that notes down some of my thoughts during my stay here.
Memory triggers

 

Ah, I knew Tirana was gonna be good
Moments like this I think, how could I have almost let this opportunity slip by because papa said no? I couldn’t help feeling annoyed. I am more often than not caught in the struggle between trying to be a good daughter and pursuing my wishes to grow (while stifling my own (admittedly decreasing significantly) fears)

why were there so many stray dogs in Tirana? 😦

I reached Tirana in the evening. They had a huge Christmas tree in its central square. I met Ela there.

This was 11 weeks ago. How time fliesFirst impressions of Tirana:

So sunny and so warm, both the place and the people.

 

Seriously, the sun in Tirana is amazing. I’m also surprised at how developed and shiny it was.

Things I learnt in the 4 days:

– Lottery for visa to the us once a year
– Applied for 5 times already
– 100 people are selected
– Nodding head shaking head culture
– Difficulty gaining entrance into the EU. Why? Because country doesn’t have that good an impression, based on some of the things they do; eg. letting people go out to war (they say it’s for education etc but there’s fear of local influence when they’re back = Albanians not allowed in the EU), and Gvt is corrupted and they don’t even try to hide
– Some Kosovo people want to be part of Albania but others don’t
– Kosovo as an independent state might find it easier to move towards a direction that allows them to gain eu status
– Not being associated with Albania (being 100+ years old now, still weak) may give them higher chance
– No life sentence or death penalty – murder maybe max 20 years? + pay yourself out
– Vday is a public holiday
– Rs with Italy – tourism, easy access 10 hours via ferry, call centers, institutions
– Byrek- for Xmas once a year
Byrek!
= christmas pie

Christmas decor

Daily meals yummy

 

 

Here, they’re religiously tolerant. The church and the mosque exists side by side and they’re very understanding as a community.

You can drink from the tap water because they have mountain water
Ah, we have this at the north of Albania too, they said, unimpressed as I showed them waterfalls and caves and rivers
Bus system: bus collector
Bus is cheap maybe because it caters to poorer average people, richer gets cars
Average wage -200-300 euros
In office maybe 700 euros
I told her I’ll see her in Singapore, but her immediate reaction (like diljana’s) is ‘yes but I don’t think my visa…’ and only after I checked and told her did she brighten up.

 

 

 

 

It was the simple things the mum did, like giving me oranges and bananas. Rubbing my shoulders.




The Pyramid, originally a museum to commemorate the dictator Enver Hoxha, then a conference center.


 

 

Sunshine and mountains and warmth, till we meet again 🇦🇱🇦🇱🇦🇱☀ Interesting to note that Albania was the first officially atheist country in the world in 1967 under Communist rule, and all churches and mosques were demolished or converted into other secular facilities. Today they’re Muslim-majority but known for their religious tolerance. The image of Mother Teresa, one of the most known Albanian, can also be seen within and outside some churches – statues, paintings, even stained glass windows. 🕌⛪

I think my stay here made me realise how privileged I was to carry a Singapore passport. The whole visa process poses as such a challenge for Ela here. For me, when I want to visit a country, most of the time obtaining a visa is not so much of a concern. I don’t think about visa issues (unless it’s some obscure place) because I almost assume I’d be able to get a visa for it anyway. But for Ela it seems like one of the key things to consider, not to mention the cost of it, and their already low wage. Such barriers.

Her parents were banana sellers. It reminded me that sometimes I walked past these fruit sellers in the markets and after work they could be going home, tending to their children by the table, showering strangers with such kindness. They were so sweet to me. I didn’t want to be any more of a burden; I know I’m far more privileged. I bought groceries, desserts and things I got from Italy during my stay.

300 euros a month? How difficult is it to save to visit someplace else