As I wrote in the last post, we are in Albania now. After walking across the border with Greece, we took a taxi to Gjirokastra, which isn't that far from the border. The town is one of the two cities that was classified as a museum city during the 50 years of communism and was thus spared all the demolition that buildings in other Albanian cities and towns were the victim of. The old town of Gjirokastra was largely built during the time when the Ottomans ruled the area and the architecture is obviously reflective of this. The town is in the mountains, which provide a great backdrop to all the stone houses and cobble stone streets (which were really steep and tiring to walk up) There's also a castle at the top of one of the hills of the town, which we walked around. There is a war museum inside, as well as a prison, which King Zogu (King from early 1900s) and the Nazi's used as a prison.
It was really nice there, and as I said, these were the first Albanian people we met, and they were very nice. Having no idea what to expect from Albania or the people, we have really enjoyed it here. People have actually given more than we have asked for on a couple occasions, which never happened in Greece, and would never happen to anyone in Egypt.
After a couple nights in Gjirokastra, we got on a bus for Tirana. The roads in Albania aren't the best, and the first part of the trip was through the mountains as well. So the bus was probably going something like 30 km/h for the first few hours of the trip, which was sometimes pretty bouncy. The whole trip took us 7 hours or so, but I don't think we travelled more than 300 km's.
Tirana is nice as well and we have enjoyed what we've seen so far, although we are spending tomorrow exploring the rest of the city. So far we've seen just what was around us while we ran errands or just wandered around. Today we took a day trip to Kruja, which is just north of Tirana, also on the side of the mountains. It was pretty nice there. There is also a castle, which we took a picture of but didn't go inside. There's also a good antique bazaar, with some shops also selling handmade stuff made in the town. We spent a few hours walking around the market before heading back with some souvenirs.
I also put up a picture of 4 Mercedes next to each other. We read in our guide book that in the early 90's, after communism ended here, there was a total free-for-all in the country and a massive amount of stolen Mercedes Benz from Western Europe arrived. Looking around I would say half, if not more, of all the cars in Albania are 1990's edition Mercedes. It's pretty funny.