My first day in Tirana was not exactly what I’d expected. I’d arrived after midnight the night before and the hostel had an interesting ‘room’ that was somehow connected to the rest of the space without a proper wall. So the 10 bed dorm could hear all the noise from the hallway. Besides, the 6 or 8 bed dorm upstairs had an open ‘wall’, so people could stare right into our room. Basically I felt like I was sleeping in a massive dorm and I felt so bad when I had to brush my teeth in the ‘bathroom’ which was just some wash basins in the middle of the room. Anyway, it was my first day in Tirana and I was excited to see some of it.
My hostel didn’t have tea at breakfast, so I made my way to the main street, got some cash out and sat down at a café. I may have been imagining it, but the girls I sat down next to were talking away in Albanian and then I heard one sentence that sounded pretty much like “go back to where you came from. We don’t need your money”. It was so unexpected and fast that I’m still doubting it was actually what they said. I decided to ignore it and sipped my tea. Then I went back to the hostel to get my stuff and plan my route to the Dajti Ekspress cable car.
While I was on the hostel couch, checking how to get there, a big guy started talking to me. He said he was from Kosovo and sometimes came to Tirana for holidays. When I said I was going to leave, he said he’d come along because he wanted to grab a coffee. When we arrived at his coffee shop he said “let’s have a coffee”. I had just had my tea and only wanted to get going, so I politely declined. He then reacted with not wanting a coffee after all. Weird. He then said he’s never been up the cable car and asked if he could come. I was a bit hesitant, but said “sure”. I should have said no.
First we had to get to the correct bus, the blue bus that leaves close to the main square. He said he knew the bus stop and we walked in a completely different direction. Then he asked people in Albanian that gave all kinds of directions. I said to him I’d read about where it was and that we could just walk there. So eventually, after a huge detour, we got to the right bus. It was an interesting system, where the bus stopped for a while somewhere way out in the suburbs, but there was a shuttle bus from the cable car company. We were the only 2 people taking the cable car, but the shuttle bus driver reluctantly took us anyway.
The cable car already had beautiful views on the way up. We shared the cabin with an Italian-Argentinian couple and chatted for a bit. Of course they wanted a picture of them with the beautiful view. Then she asked if we wanted one too. “Nooo” the thought came in my head, “that’s really not necessary”. But my new ‘friend’ had already said yes. He scooted over and grabbed my waist. He was way too close for my comfort, so I put a painful smile on my face and wished it was quick. He didn’t really move back, so I scooted over, little by little. I was glad when we were at the top. This guy was started to send the wrong vibes. He also gave advice to the couple, while he’d told me he’d never been up here.
There wasn’t much going on at the top, but there was a restaurant and a café and even a mini golf. I wanted to see the view and there was a short, cute path that led to the edge of the mountain. I took some photos and the guy sat down. “Let’s sit and enjoy the view for a while”, he said. Ok. I sat on the bench, an appropriate distance from him. It seemed like every minute he moved a little closer, so I moved a little more to the edge. He put his hand on my knee. This was going in the wrong direction. I really wasn’t in to this. “Look, I’m not looking for any of this. Can you please give me some space?” I said annoyed. Space seemed to mean ‘get even closer’ in Kosovo. Why do some men think that a plea and stammering some ‘come on’s’ would suddenly make a girl change her mind? I stood up to make the point clearer.
Well, my beautiful moment was ruined but I tried to enjoy the fresh air on the mountain and the views over the city. I had hoped there was some hiking, but nothing indicated a trail. We walked around to the back where we found a road. A little further was an abandoned building, the steps overgrown. Then we passed another building that looked empty, with 2 bunkers in front of it. “You know what those bunkers are now used for?” the guy said, “many people loose their virginity in it”. What had I gotten myself into? I couldn’t even pretend to laugh anymore. This guy was ridiculous. We walked further until there wasn’t really anything to see anymore and then got back to the cable car building. More dirty jokes followed. Awkward.
The guy started chatting in Albanian to a tour bus driver. Apparently the driver offered to take us to some restaurant further up the hill. My companion was pretty keen on going. I was not. I told him I had no interest and was kind of tired. I just wanted to get away from him really and the last thing I wanted was to be in some supposedly romantic restaurant with him. Before going down though, I had one more look at the view. And guess what? He tried again! He grabbed me quite tight and was begging for a kiss. I got so mad. At first he wouldn’t let go. How rude can you be? I said I was leaving and walked away. He still managed to get in the cable car with me, where I sat opposite him. He didn’t try anything anymore.
I was in such a shit mood right now that I didn’t go to the museum I’d wanted to visit anymore. The guy tried one last time to get me to join him at the local market for lunch. I said I really didn’t want to and left. I tried to relax on the way ‘home’ to the hostel. I found a small bakery and went in to grab a pastry. “One of those please.” “One?” “Yes, one.” “Only one?”, the lady said frowning, then shrugging, taking the pastry and muttering some stuff in Albanian. It seems like it was too much effort to sell just one pastry. But I was alone. What would I have done with more pastries?
I wasn’t sure what to think of Albania now. My first day was not the greatest start. My real friend would arrive this afternoon, so I went back to the hostel to relax a bit. But the time she was supposed to come came and went. She arrived quite late, way past my dinner time. She’d gotten lost on her way to the hostel, ending up on the other side of the city. Even though it was late, we walked towards the Blloku area and found a Greek fast food restaurant called Opa. It was absolutely delicious and made up for some of the strange experiences of the day.