Every year, as students of Albanian language in Belgrade, Serbia, we have the opportunity to go on seminar of Albanian language, literature and culture in Tirana. First time I went there was in September 2013. At that time it was much harder to persuade my parents, family and friends that the situation in Albania is normal, that no one will kill me, kidnap me or something else and that my stay there will be safe.
People asked me: “What are you going to do there? Why would anyone go to Albania?” and so on.
I have to admit that I have had a small amount of fear in myself, but I wanted to prove to myself and others that we are wrong and to break all the prejudices that exist in relation to this country.
I went with my colleges by bus, through Pristina, which was also terrifying for my surrounding. We needed 9 hours to get to Tirana. When we passed through Albania, I was amazed by the mountains, scarce with vegetation and I imagined our great-grandfathers how they cross these mountains in the First World War.
On the road to Tirana I count the bunkers next to the highway that were built during the Enver Hoxha ruling. Later we find out that it was built 600 000 bunker. As we entered Tirana, next to the highway there is an industrial zone, glass and modern buildings and then a big black eagle at the first roundabout. The bus left us in the city center; there is no main bus station. We were accommodated in a student dormitory near the city center, that looks like our “Studentski grad” – student campus in Belgrade. My first impression about the city was that it has a nice climate and the city is full of palm trees that made me feel like at sea.
At first I was afraid to say where I came from. But when I saw how everyone were kind and hospitable, I decided to tell. So, in the first market, I started speaking in Albanian, and after a few minutes, the seller asked me “where are you from”? I told him from Serbia. He was positively surprised and then continued the story of his son who works in Kikinda in the north of Serbia.
For the first time, I really saw so many similarities…
After that it was easier for me to communicate on the street, in the shops, everywhere. That first year we did not establish contact with our peers because we were at the college with other foreigners who came to learn the Albanian language.
And at that time, everyone was still on vacation and the sea, so at the faculty, besides us, there were no other students. I liked food too. We dined in a cozy old restaurant, where we tried the traditional Albanian dish – tavedheu – made from liver, goat cheese and tomato. It was fantastic. The cuisine is mostly under the influence of Italy and Turkey, as well as in our country.
Every day life is pretty much the same. In Tirana there are a lot of cafes that are full during the day. Everyone are drinking a lot of coffee, as Serbians do. The streets in the city center are as in Italy, but the buildings are in a communist style with many cables hanging everywhere. Then (still today) you could eat and drink for a small price.
Even though it was my first time in Albania, I didn’t see difference in every day life of two people. We have the similar if not the same habits, so I came back, and there is another story to tell…