The last Përshëndetje from Albania!
As I mentioned before, Albania is a country that I didn’t expect much from initially but it turned out to be pretty amazing. If you want to know why I enjoy this place so much then be sure to listen to Part I and II if you haven’t already – it’s worth it 🙂
A big part of why I enjoyed Albania so much is because I connected with Adam – a really great guy who works in the travel industry and took time to show me around.
I would also like to mention that these episodes are not sponsored. I am not obliged to say nice things – everything I say is my own genuine opinion.
DICK & BALLS…WHAT’S IN A NAME?
If you’ve listened to the previous episodes of my Albanian adventure, you may have noticed that Adam only calls me “Bo”. When we first met, he asked if it would be okay not to call me by my first name.
When I asked him why he began to blush and told me that the word ‘Palle’ in Albanian is a very bad way of saying… ‘dick head’ (pardon my French).
This was not the first time I have been met with bemusement regarding my name.
When I was on Nomad Cruise, I met an Italian guy in the pool bar on the top deck. He just looked at my name tag, laughed and said, “Stay there…I’ll be right back”. A few minutes later, he came back with another Italian guy and pointed at my name tag. They both broke down laughing. When I asked what was going on, he said: “In Italian, palle means balls!” They told me that Italians have a term where they say che palle – which means ‘what a pain’, ‘how annoying’, or ‘that sucks.’
And in Finnish, palle means clown. No, my parents didn’t give me a travel-friendly name – they either had a wicked sense of humour or were blissfully unaware that my name has different, hilarious meanings around the world.
Anyway, enough about balls…
I’M FAMOUS IN ALBANIA…AGAIN
Adam was still intent on honouring his promise to make me famous in his country, and on Sunday morning we met up with Mohammed, a reporter, who interviewed me for Report TV. Check it out and marvel at my Albanian stardom 🙂
Report TV is a privately-owned TV station that brings news 24 hours a day and some information shows.
After the interview, I turned the microphone around…
I had a nice chat with Mohammed, who spoke with me about life as a free-press journalist in Albania, and how national television is run here.
The station was launched in 2015 by a former Albania correspondent for the Italian news agency ANSA, Carlo Bollino. The Constitution of Albania now provides freedom of speech and freedom of the press, but obviously that wasn’t the case in the Communist era. So, the tradition of journalism is relatively new (since the early 90’s), which can also be a challenge as the first journalism schools opened in mid-1990. But Mohammed tells me that journalism is growing in the country, and they are adapting to the challenges of new media, like the rest of the world.
COOL T-SHIRT BRO…LET ME BURN IT
Adam’s father was a powerful commander in the Albanian military forces and was quite famous in those days. Adam told me a story that illustrates what it was like living in the Communist dictatorship – which made my draw drop.
When Adam was about 7-8 years old, a police officer saw him wearing a t-shirt that looked a little bit ‘Capitalistic’ (and absolute no-no back then). The t-shirt had a picture of a monkey on the chest and was a gift from Adam’s father from his trip to Tanzania. The cop summoned young Adam and asked where he got the t-shirt from, to which Adam replied that it was a gift from his father.
The cop then slapped Adam in the face a few times, ripped his t-shirt off, and burned it in the street in front of horrified onlookers. Adam was then sent to a jail cell for a night – completely naked. Adam’s parents had no idea where he was. When Adam’s father came to the police station asking where his son was, he demanded they release him after finding out what happened. Being a famous military commander, Adam’s father then made the entire police force line up in the town square and told Adam to identify his attacker. To this day, Adam has no idea what happened to the police officer…
The next day, I took a bus to Berat – a beautiful small town in central Albania roughly 70 kilometres (43 miles) south of Tirana. It’s a tiny town with a population of around 46,000 people.
They call it “the city of a thousand windows” and I’ve seen it described as one of Albania’s most enchanting sights. It has a unique style of architecture with influences from several civilizations that have coexisted here for centuries throughout history. The old part of the city became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008.
Overall, Albania was a big surprise for me, and I discovered that it has much more to offer than I expected. Stunning nature, interesting history and culture, vibrant modern cities, great weather, reasonable prices, and most of all, really friendly people.
And I only got to see a little bit of the country. For one, I never made it out to the coastline.
The Albanian Riviera is known for its beauty and is one of the top beach destinations in the country. The southern part of the country has secluded pebble beaches, islands, and a few hidden and pristine sandy beaches.
I really think that Albania could be the next ‘big thing’ for people looking for a different kind of vacation in Europe with not too many tourists… yet.
One of the questions Mohammad asked me in the interview was what I thought it would take for the world to discover Albania. So, when I turned the microphone around, I asked him the same question.
“Albania was closed to the outside world for almost 50 years due to the Communist regime. This resulted in the Albanian people becoming very close with each other and found a connection under a common foe. This produced a culture of ‘welcomeness’ which is the most unique thing about my country – we are incredibly hospitable. Our coastline is beautiful, our nature is practically untouched, and we have amazing weather all-year around.”
THANK YOU, ALBANIA
If you decide to go to Albania, start by visiting Albania Express Travel, and if you get in touch with Adam, please say hi from me…just say “Bo” sent you.
As I sit at a cafe sipping on delicious red wine, I am given the opportunity to reflect on my time in this wonderful country, and to start planning my next trip to Kosovo…
Until then, my name is Palle Bo and I gotta keep moving.
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