Friday, July 27, 2012

globe-trotting : Berat, Albania

Even though I had no idea what to expect, Albania seemed to be exactly what I thought it would be. Our first glimpse of Albania was when we got off the boat in Saranda which is just a hop skip and a jump from Corfu. A very convenient 20 minute boat ride as a matter of fact. Our short time in Saranda would provide for us a taste of what we were to expect in the next 3 days to come. We needed to get on a bus to Berat but had no idea where to go. Fortunately, a guy that was trying to promote his hostel came and gave us a little flyer with a map of the city, so we used that to try to find the bus station. The ‘bus station’ happened to just be a corner that buses stop at. Some people get on there but many just flag the buses down along its route. Stewart had found a guy that spoke English who told us that there weren’t any more buses going straight to Berat that day so if we wanted to go there we would have to get on a bus to Tirana and change buses half way. So this is what we did. So many times on our trip, we just get onto buses hoping that the bus drivers will let us know when we get off. And so many times they let of out in the middle of nowhere! But in this instance it was pretty seamless. We managed to hop right onto a mini bus that was going straight to Berat.

Berat is very beautiful. This Unesco site is nicknamed the city of a million windows for the gorgeous ottoman houses lining the mountains along the river that runs through the town. You would think that with a population of 45,000 people, they wouldn’t look at me like they have never seen an asian person... EVER! But I seriously would not be lying if I thought that I was the only asian in that city. It made it very awkward since, like the rest of Europe, Albanians love the outdoor seating in cafes which are mostly occupied with men. I even had two instances where people just shouted out “Chinwa!.” Oh, and lets not forget about the times where people just honk and then stare at me as they drive by. OH! And the women who almost missed a step since she couldn’t pry her eyes off me. Haha. Pretty crazy. Anyway, back to this beautiful city. At night, the whole city comes out to the main walk along the river. And I mean, the WHOLE city. Men and women come out dressed to impress. I love how people in that city just enjoy walking, conversing, grabbing some popcorn or ice cream and just hanging out. I hope that computers and video games never ruin that for them.

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