Friday, April 10, 2009

First Day in Tirana

We arrived at Mother Teresa International Airport in Tirana on 31 Mar 09.

My husband exchanged some Euro for Albanian Lek at the counter in the airport while I went out to meet V and I. We had been a little nervous whether they would be there to meet us since there had been quite a few changes to our travel itinerary and we hadn't been able to get a phone call to go through. Note to self: don't book flights to essentially third-world countries on airlines floating above bankruptcy.

After checking in at the hotel, Tirana International, and the first of many, many coffees (where we were informed we wouldn't be allowed to pay for anything), we drove to see their son, D, and a bit of Tirana. One of the first things we saw was a car with an Illinois license plate! Small world! If only we'd had the camera out to snap a picture...Throughout the trip, I think we ended up seeing plates from about 15-16 different states (NY, AK, NJ, TX, husband probably remembers them all).

We had the first of many, many Italian meals at "La Tavernetta." We started with the salad bar - not the usual salad bar, most things were very fresh but dipped in, sitting in, or soaked in olive oil. V served me to ensure we tried everything and got the best stuff. It tasted much better then it looked. After salad, we had pasta with prawns (little beady eyes and antenna included), followed with a chicken dish for the men and finished with a fruit plate.

After lunch, we went to the apartment to pick up their. We met V's father and sat for a while talking and drinking some very good (in my husband's opinion) whiskey. Then we went to the mall for more coffee. From the inside, the mall could have been in any state in the US - different stores of course, but otherwise pretty similar. Following coffee, we drove up one of the mountains to get a good view of Tirana. We actually went up to the hotel we were originally booked in for the trip last fall that never happened. Thank goodness we didn't stay there - very nice place with great views, but way out of town and the roads were horrible! We would have been stuck.
The night ended with a dinner of traditional Albanian specialties made by V's mother. We started with a cheesy spinach crepe dish and salad. Then, wow, this amazing northern Albanian specialty made of meat, cheese, yogurt - I have no idea. It was served in a dish for two people and was incredible. The name sounds something like "fergess" but I don't know how to spell it or what's really in it. Then there were Albanian sausages, vegetables, and a pork dish. Then, as if that wasn't enough, we finished with a platter of three different Albanian desserts - a northern Albanian cake which was really good - not very sweet but a nice texture and good flavor, Baklava, and "Kadaif" which made me think of worms squirming out of phyllo dough but was actually quite tasty. I was corrected in that the worm-like noodle things were some kind of spaghetti dessert thing ("vermiccelli-like pastry"). I am not describing it right and if we hadn't been in V's parent's home, I might have gotten a picture of it (the picture here comes from Wikipedia). Regardless, it was good. What was really amazing is that V's mom worked until around 5 PM, then went home and made all this stuff. We started dinner around 7:30 PM (which turned out to be one of the earlist dinners we had while there) so she didn't have a whole lot of time, but managed to have a beautiful table set and wonderful food. I was quite impressed.

V's parents are really interesting. The type of people you can spend hours talking with and constantly learn something new. It helped, of course, that they both spoke English and German (add in Italian and Greek and you still haven't covered all their languages...). We spent a lot of time talking about politics - both in Albania and the US. The Albanian elections are coming up in June so there were many discussions concerning their party and the current administration. We also talked quite a bit about Albania joining NATO, which was set to offically happen the day we left (4 Apr) and there were flags and signs all over Tirana celebrating that "miracle of freedom."

We got back to the hotel around 10:30 PM. Needless to say, the day was quite long, especially after having spent the day before in Milan walking around quite a bit and then going to the airport pretty early for the Tirana flight. Surprisingly, the bed and pillows in Tirana were the most comfortable of the whole trip and despite all the coffee and copious amounts of wine, whiskey, raki and water throughout the day, we slept very well.


  1. I got hungry just reading about it. BTW, it's fergese with the ".." over the first and third "e". I'm not familiar with it, just decided to try figure out what it was you were talking about. What a wonderful way to see the world!

  2. Thanks Trebord!
    I tried to find it myself but couldn't. Now that I have the right spelling, I could find it easily. I'll try to make it with one of the recipes I found...
    Thanks again!