Balkans Day 8: Tiranë to Durrës

Despite its problems Tiranë is a fascinating place which deserves more exploration than we had time for.  Up early on Monday morning but without time for a breakfast we had to head off towards the rail station from near which buses left for our next destination Durrës.

We walked through the streets of the city as it was coming to life and shopkeepers were putting their wares out on the pavements for the day.  Finding our bus easily enough we watched as an impromptu market was set up on the street next to us.

Setting up a market near the rail station in central Tiranë.

As the bus attempted to pull out from where it was parked we had yet more evidence that there are few road rules in Albania.  The bus edged slowly out into traffic that steadfastly refused to give way preferring instead to swerve round the bus whilst furiously honking their horns and paying scant regard to oncoming traffic.  Eventually we got out into the traffic flow but progress was painfully slow at first through the city centre.  A little way further out we began to pick up speed as we passed through more of the run-down blocks of flats that surround the centre before hitting the main highway out to Durrës.

Passing through the blocks of flats that may be painted with trees but are crumbling as we move out of the city.

The terrain between Tiranë and Durrës is fairly flat with some low rolling hills here and there and the road is more or less straight all the way.  Coming into Durrës, Albania’s second city, it appears to be more of the same.  Dreary apartment blocks line the main road into town interspersed with the occasional hotel on one side and the overgrown railtracks on the other as we approached the port area.

Crawling through the sluggish traffic we were treated to the unedifying sight of, mainly Roma, beggars weaving their way between the cars, buses and trucks carrying young children in their arms as they knocked on all the car windows to try and get a few coins.  Not a cop in sight and no-one seemed to care.  These people are very much second-class citizens in a large number of countries in Eastern Europe but surely the children shouldn’t be put at risk and this practice stopped as soon as possible.

Pulling into one of the country’s few actual bus stations we were able to get a taxi almost immediately and set off towards our hotel.  This turned out to be in the newer section of the city to the south where there is a beach area surrounded by more modern, high-rise hotels strung along one long main road by the coast.

Durrës could easily pass for a ghastly, over-developed resort town from the 1970’s Costa del Tacky. Sunshades and loungers sprawled all across the beach in regimented rows with little in the way of diversion apart from the usual hot-dog and pizza stands.  Further along we found a pier with a small, somewhat dismal, amusement park for the kids and a fancy music bar out on pilings above the sea at the end.  This would no doubt be jumping at night but in daytime was empty.  A promenade backs the beach with a fairly varied selection of bars and restaurants of differing quality and we went to one for a bit of lunch.  Two Greek salads were served up each of which could have fed four people and they were very tasty and reasonably priced.

Regimented rows of sunshades infest the beach.
Looking back along the pier towards the beach.
The Ilyria music bar set out in the sea at the end of the pier.
The bar is set up on pilings above the sea and looks very nice. No doubt a very busy place in the evenings.

After our spot of lunch we thought we’d take a look up along the main street.  We wandered along in one direction without seeing anything of much interest.  More bars and fast-food joints were the order of the day with a few gaming arcades and a casino or two which about sums it up.  Nothing of interest to us anyway apart from a small ice-cream shop where we cooled down with some of their delicious offerings.

Going back in the other direction we found some small market stalls which were fun to look around but which sold, for the most part, the kind of tawdry tat that you would be loathe to part with any money for.  Anything of decent quality was, by Albanian standards, over-priced.  Here too we were accosted by a young woman and her son wandering around with a puppy offering the chance to take photos with the dog for €5 to help her sick daughter.  Eh, piss off or I’ll eat your dog!

By this time Mrs Mjollnir was getting a bit of a headache so she headed back to the hotel for a wee lie down while bored me sought solace in a bar with relatively cheap beers.  After a couple of them (well, OK, six) I headed up to collect headache girl and head out for some dinner.  A fairly uneventful shared pizza was enough to satisfy us followed by visits to a couple of bars which were nice enough but that was it.

We went back to the hotel and had a couple of drinks on the balcony while admiring the stunning architecture and wishing it was tomorrow already.  We thought we could maybe go down to the beach early for a quick swim the following morning before getting the first stage outta Dodge.  Thankfully it was an early night.

The hotel balcony in the evening sun.
Looking the other way and just loving the sexy architecture.
Durrës and its resort area. There may be a plethora of new hotels and developments here but the roads are still a mess.

16 thoughts on “Balkans Day 8: Tiranë to Durrës

  1. Some amazingly bright pictures there. Still the people are just struggling to get by, aren’t they? There seems to be no one industry that fuels the economy so, instead, the people find themselves just doing the ‘smaller’ jobs that may provide day-to-day money but which do little to grow the overall economy. At some point people made investments–those apartments and such were just fine at one point, but that time seems to be past. Too bad, it’s still a beautiful old place.


    1. Tirana is a place that deserves more than a two day visit but that’s all we had. It’s a place that’s on the up but that’ll take a long time to filter through to the rest of the country and so much needs to be done to improve the indrastructure. They probably need to join the EU and get the Germans to build some autobahns and electricity grids and sewers and bus stations and railways and public housing projects and…


    1. Durres is truly awful unless you’re one of those strange folk who like to lie on a beach doing absolutely nothing while listening to your melanomas sizzling! Still, at least Mrs M didn’t blame me for drinking too much beer 😀


    1. Thanks Scott. I really enjoyed Tirana and even Kukes had its great landscapes but Durres is a dreary beach town with little to commend it (I’m just not a lover of that kind of place – for some its great) although it does have a ferry service to Italy! 😀


  2. As, for some reason I’m reading your adventures backwards, I know what’s to come when you go swimming tomorrow… 😦 This place is definitely NOT on my list of destinations!


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