I'm traveling again in the Balkans, Albania specifically. This is probably my eighth time to visit Tirana since November 2004. I am again working with Vizion+ Television, a privately owned TV station based in Tirana but they have about 90% national coverage with several repeater transmitters.
Tirana has both changed and stayed the same since I was last here in March 2008. There are small businesses that have been successfully in business since 2004 or 2005. The streets are generally better--there's been some paving and street improvements. There are more cars but traffic seems a little better organized. Some things are the same. The smells of fresh produce sold by sidewalk vendors, the pungent smell of the white cheese that's so common here. It's somewhere between yogurt cheese and feta. Imagine slightly mild feta cheese and you'll have the taste of it. I have previously written about the city and my habits.
About the only significant change is that the TV station sends a car to pick up my translator and I. This is the first time I've had a translator. Altin (pronounced like Al-teen) is an interesting guy. He's a former TV journalist and has spent time in the US through a journalist exchange program sponsored by Voice of America and the Embassy. The morning ride means I don't take a taxi. I miss the interaction--not that the drivers spoke much English.--but we we could exchange greetings and grimace at some of the crazy things other drivers did. As I've walked along the street in the afternoon to stretch my legs, I've seen familiar faces of the same drivers from previous years.
Mr. Chicken is still in business. It's a favorite fast food restaurant. The serve sufllaqe (Greek souvlaki), roasted chicken and sandwiches. Albania food...whatever traditional food is supposed to be...is a little hard to find. I've not seen very many things that seem unique. Lots of the food seems to reflect the Turkish conquest.
I'm staying at Hotel President...but renamed Xheko Hotel Imperial. Xheko is the last name of the two brothers who own the hotel I'm in a fancy room.....really very nice...compared with the other basic rooms. There's a shower and tub. The bed has a real kingsize mattress. The plasma TV has CNNi and SkyNews. Check it out at: http://www.xheko-imperial.com/al/index.html
This isn't a very interesting post...will try to make time to do something better.