Whenever it is time to write a blog post about a trip, I wonder what will be the most interesting and effective way of sharing the knowledge and experiences. The truth is, I still don’t know the answer to that, so I am going to do it the quickest way, so I can make the most of having wi-fi available.

So again, in no particular order, here are sosme interesting facts and expereinces about Albania:

– Albanians call their country Shqipēri

– Albania is generally very cheap, and although some menus are translated into English, they are often directly translated.

– The central square in Tirana, Sheshi Skënderbej is currently dug up and under construction.

– The national passtimes in Albania are smoking and drinking coffee. When you sit down at a cafe, the first thing you’ll be brought, is an ashtray.

– Driving is mad! Cars constantly hoot, no-one obeys traffic rules, no motorcyclists wear helmets and it is a nightmare to cross the road. We have a formula now: make eye contact with a driver, then just start walking in front of him. He’ll stop!

– There are many policemen and guards on the streets, but it feels safe.

– J2O “Made in England” is advertised everywhere! (It is posh fruit juice)

– The pavements are all torn up with many potholes and manholes without covers. You have to constantly watch where you are walking

– Tirana has a fantastic cafe culture. But most bars don’t serve food. Although, if the neighbouring restaurant does serve food, they might be able to order it from there for you. They also order in ice cream desserts from the neighbouring ice cream vendors. It is not uncommon to see an espresso being delivered to a nearby shop for the consumption of the shop assistant.

– In spite od the cafe culture, there isn’t a drinking culture. People drink, but in moderation. Not seen a drunk person yet. (My kind of town)

– Albania has a 0% tolerance on alcohol: no driving after a drink!

– Albanians don’t do breakfast – coffee only, but if you make your way to the French Pattiserie, the will seve you FANTASTIC pain au chocolat or croissants. But they will serve you a knife and fork to eat it with.

– You often see black market money exchanges on the street. You can identify them by the fact that they hold a thick gold chain in their hands, which they wind up and down their fingers. Very common sighting late afternoon and early evening.

– They will sell anything on the streets from mobile phones to chewing gum to ruby rings!

– Yesterday France played Albania at home in Tirana. There was true football fever. But alas, they lost. The national football ground is tiny – not much bigger to Altrincham’s stadium. And alsmost every outdoor cafe had a big screen up to watch. Fantastic atmosphere

– Lots of restaurant display non-smoking signs, but allow smoking anyway.

– Hardly any foreigners here: but heard some Americans before we saw them!

– Locals are intrigued by foreigners, and they will stare openly.

– You cannot buy diet coke anywhere!

– Examples of prices:
Local beer 150 Leke, 95p
Imported beer 300 Leke, £1.90
Espresso 50-80 Leke, 31p – 50p
2 courses with drinks at posh restaurant: 3150 Leke, £19.72
Ice cresm (fantastic!) 2 balls 150 Leke, 95p
Cigarettes 230 Leke, £1.44 (no wonder everyone smokes)
Return train to Durres (1 hour) 110 Leke, 69p
Single bus to Durres 120 Leke, 75p
Pizza 500 Leke, £3.13
Savoury crepe 200 Leke, £1.25
Sparkling water 100 Leke, 63p
Accommodation: mid-range €30 – €50 per night

To be continued …