Colorful Albania: Painting the Town (Red)

Colorful Albania: Painting the Town (Red)

MIR’s Private Journeys Specialist Lisa Peterson knows the back roads and corners of so many MIR destinations. Her passion is the Balkans, where she’s studied, lived, and returns every chance she gets.

The Balkans are Lisa Peterson's home-away-from-home, especially here in Dubrovnik, Croatia <br> Photo credit: Lisa Peterson

The Balkans are Lisa Peterson’s home-away-from-home, especially here in Dubrovnik, Croatia
Photo credit: Lisa Peterson

While living in Croatia, I often tried to figure out how to get from Dubrovnik to Albania, a country I’ve always wanted to see. Easier said than done. OK, so not really as difficult as it was just terribly time-consuming.

Then a light bulb went off in my head: I could simply book a one-day excursion to see the “Colors of Albania” via the shiny new high-speed catamaran that departs from Dubrovnik every Wednesday.

Autumn reds are aflame in colorful Albania <br>Photo credit: Elizabeth Raible

Autumn reds are aflame in colorful Albania
Photo credit: Elizabeth Raible

Welcome to AlbaniaIt took just three hours to speed down the Adriatic Coast and arrive in the historic port of Durrës, Albania. We were then whisked away to our assigned guides and herded onto buses to make the trek to the capital city of Tirana. On paper it’s a short distance, but in reality it took forever: the entire highway seemed to be a parking lot of Mercedes, Hummers, and other flashy cars. We were told Albania has the highest number of Mercedes per capita and Albanians helped “clean” Germany of their Mercedes. My bus companions just raised their eyebrows and nodded.

Painting the Town Red – and Green, and Blue!As I watched the Albanian countryside from our slow-moving bus, I realized why the tour was called “The Colors of Albania.” Albania is probably the most colorful country I have ever seen, on a lot of levels. Not just the colorful characters that swarmed our bus as we got off in the main square, but the buildings were painted lots of colors and in very interesting patterns.

Patriotic paint job: this building is decorated with a double-headed eagle, symbol of Albania <br>Photo credit: Martin Klimenta

Patriotic paint job: this building is decorated with a double-headed eagle, symbol of Albania
Photo credit: Martin Klimenta

The drab gray of Soviet-era Albanian apartment blocks is now a checkerboard splash of bright colors <br>Photo credit: Lisa Peterson

The drab gray of Soviet-era Albanian apartment blocks is now a checkerboard splash of bright colors
Photo credit: Lisa Peterson

From what I was told, some Albanian officials decided that dreary Tirana needed to get a bit of a facelift. The problem was that they didn’t have enough money to paint all of the gray buildings, so they asked for paint donations from various construction companies. They were very creative and the results were hodge-podge splashes of color everywhere you look!

After some free time to explore the center of Tirana, we headed back to Durrës and toured some of the archeological sights, including the Amphitheater of Durrës dating from 2 A.D. and the 6th century Byzantine city walls. The city itself had the feel of a ghost town, because everyone was at the most popular site in town: a very tiny store that was selling Skënderbeu cognac.

Nabbing CognacI had only learned the day before my trip that Albania is famous for its cognac and that I absolutely had to bring back as much as I could carry to distribute amongst my friends in Dubrovnik. All of the tourists from Croatia and Russia on our tour were in the store buying as many bottles as they could carry. However, none of the other nationalities on our trip seemed to know what the heck was happening.

It took some time to navigate through the mosh pit in the store where I was able to grab the attention of the overwhelmed storeowner, handing him all of my remaining lekë and asking him how much I could get. He handed me back five large bottles. I thanked him, turned and smiled for the camera crew from the Albanian TV station that was filming the spectacle and headed back to the boat with all of my loot.

A colorful day, indeed!

In Albania, red signifies strength and bravery – a popular color in folk costumes <br>Photo credit: Lisa Peterson

In Albania, red signifies strength and bravery – a popular color in folk costumes
Photo credit: Lisa Peterson

Travel to the Balkans with MIRLike Lisa Peterson, you can meet colorful characters and see the colorful sights and sounds of Albania on MIR’s scheduled tours to that country and the Balkans. You can also book a custom private journey.

(Top photo credit: Lisa Peterson. It’s a typical Tirana building in Albania, painted in eye-catching bright colors.)

 

PUBLISHED: October 1, 2014

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