The sea in Durrës smells more amazing than anything else you can think of. It smells like salt and freedom. The sea in Durrës smells like love. In comparison to it, wide and eternal, one feels small and unimportant. There is no single problem that cannot be solved, there is no worry that can take away your peace. You are filled with joy and courage. That is how the whole country of Albania feels for me, a Serbian girl, born and raised in Belgrade.
The first time I visited this enchanting, yet poorly known country, towards which we have tons of different prejudices, was in April of this soon-to-be-over year. And I had the best reason one could have: the love of my life lives there, in the aforementioned city of Durrës. I spent more than two weeks there and that was enough to make me wish to stay for a hell of a lot longer.
With its precious blue gem, its palm trees, its flat-roofed houses painted in all the possible colors (there is even a building that looks like Pete Mondrian’s artwork and another one that looks like kilim in Tirana), Albania feels like a mixture of Cuba and Tunisia. What is more, its streets are filled with old gentlemen in suits with their hats on and their walking sticks and with fruit counters with tangerines, pomegranates, watermelons, bananas…
From Durrës you can easily get to Berat, the city of thousand windows and hundreds of tiny hidden streets, that lies on the mountain edges protected by UNESCO, for a reason. Surprisingly, it seemed more touristic than both Durrës and Tirana since everyone there knew English, which is usually not the case.
Our third stop (so far) was Tirana, a busy and modern city that screams vitality and is probably the only world capital in which you can climb a pyramid that used to be a mausoleum of a communist leader Enver Hoxha (we have also some very nice tips & tricks how to get from Belgrade to Tirana). If you are brave enough and not clumsy, of course, which I surely am not.
But in spite of that, in Albania you feel like you can. Anything. Everything. Albanians are carefree, even though they may have a lot on their minds. They are energetic and optimistic and you can easily sense that. You can literally feel their will, their progress and things around you being built and improved. The energy of this unexplored wonder is so young! Moreover, Albanians look like the most confident people I have ever had the chance to meet. It is just something about the way they walk, hold their heads high and light up their cigarettes.
One can easily spot an Albanian in the crowd, on the main street, during the peak of a touristic season. But what I, a somewhat shy and awkward person, find pleasurable is that no one there will bother you in any way. Everyone just mind their own business and nobody cares what you are wearing, what you are doing or where you are from. I never got a single negative comment for being from Serbia, no one really asked how or why, and if they did find out, they were nothing but glad.
Finally, you do not have to be in love, to find Albania beautiful, but this mixture of Orient, communism and nature that takes your breath away will make you fall in love. Since the moment I got on a bus to come back to Belgrade, I have had this burning desire to return back to Albania. And I always will. Until one day I decide to stay. Forever.