Samstag, 5. Mai 2007

Going south

I am going to Saranda today. Or tonight, as the bus departs at 5 am. Saranda is about 250km air-line distance to Tirana. The road is not very straight. So, five to seven hours, they tell me. I wake up at 3,30 am, 3 1/2 hours of sleep after I left Mimoza's place. The urgency of taking this bus keeps me awake. The hotel owner helps me fetch a taxi to the bus station. I am very grateful, as "bus station" means a road someplace outside Tirana where for some reason buses meet. I would never have found that place. We arrive at 4,30. My driver finds out, the bus to Saranda already left, who knows why. 500m away there is another bus going there (or somewhere). I enter, not sure where I am really heading. Communication is difficult as english is seldom spoken fluently, mostly limited to young people. I hope for the best.

Bus leaves, picking up passengers along the road. Driver is a second Fangio, drives like there is no tomorrow, like a henker, at the same time honking, shouting at the street, into his cell phone he constantly holds onto his ear. The car has the urge to fall apart under the high speed and the shockwaves sent by deep holes of the road. I am calm. I have no fear. I believe at that point, the probability is quite high the driver and the car do this kind of ride every day without anything happening. The other passengers stay calm too. I accept the driving style as a tradition of this culture. Or, to put it another way: If life ends, it ends. If I die, I hope fast, without undue pain.

The rallye Tirana -> Saranda continues, we pass the beautiful landscape of Albania. A mountain area it is, with high white peaks and green valleys. The coast is always nearby. I got the impression there are not many settlements. We pass some villages, but no city. Maybe I get to know this part of the country better someday. We pass a military base near Gjirokaster. I spot a single soldier standing guard with a shotgun. Even though I did not see many armed forces, military is present to me much more in this country than in a western european state. The cause might be some associations of violence and threat I bear with Albania, like Kosovo, the flag (it looks menacing to me), some post-communist/post-facist structures and monuments in Tirana. However these are all subtle feelings, and I experienced no single personal threat in Albania yet. So maybe the subtle associations add up to this feeling of armed forces presence, or I might have missed something.

I am the rich foreigner in this country, and I cannot communicate well with the local residents. So I, too, experience some paranoia: I judge people, for example the passengers on my bus, by their looks. The darker their skin, the poorer their clothing, the gloomier their looks, the scruffier their face, the less I trust them. This must be a self-protecting pattern-matching mechanism, triggering emotions. This pattern-matching might go wrong, but if it protects me from one single hazard, it outweighs a lot of missed chances, I think.

We arrive at Saranda and I am happy to see the sea again. First impression of Saranda: Everything seems to be under construction. Most buildings and roads I get to see are in a half-finished state, other are finished but old and rotten. The sun does not shine. I am a bit disappointed. Maybe my headache from the bus trip focuses my view too much negative impressions and make me hypercritical.

I decide to get to a hotel soon and have some rest. I ignore the "hotel? hotel?" people running after me, they annoy me, and head straight to the seaside where I select the nearest hotel. I go to my room and sleep.

Report on Tirana

Antigone, Fatjon and I drive to Tirana in the morning, 3th of May. She commutes to the capital every day. Entering Tirana: First apparent thing I sense is the unbearably chaotic traffic. As a german, I am not used to this kind of approach to the problem of transportation. From a birds eye view, the traffic of tirana might look like a horde of ants simultaneously getting into their den. Antigone tells me, there are two rules on the street: 1. Don't get yourself killed. 2. Don't kill somebody else. No other rules. Forget traffic lights, street markings, sidewalks, signs, police, and other archaic means of regulating traffic. The system adjusts itself by sonic communication: If you get too close to another car, it will honk at you. Alternatively, the driver will shout at you. This works surprisingly well. Actually, I would like to measure the traffic efficiency and accident probability of tirana against a system relying on more formal rules like munich. I suspect tirana wouldn't compare too bad.

Next thing coming to my attention are high-rise buildings painted in expressive, if not psychedelic, colors. Fatjon tells me the story of the mayor who was so sick of the dull brownish-greyish post-communist structures, he ordered to brush all the buildings in strongly saturated colors in an overnight action. I liked that story. For me as a foreigner, the colorful buildings create a positive impression of the city. The colored buildings of tirana are now famous, some kind of trademark. The tiraneans themselves lead a more controversial discussion about the colors, but that is another story...

Fatjon and Antigone take me to a bar in the blokk area. This area in the center of tirana was forbidden to enter for normal citizens in communist time. This place was reserved by the communist leaders, offering large parks and luxury residencies to them. Now the area is the most expensive sector in tirana, home to divisions of supernational companies and in-bars and in-restaurants and in-cafes. I liked the place very much, actually, as it gave me the feel of being in a lively urban area of an interesting metropolis. It reminded me of some parts of Berlin or Hamburg.

There are some similarities between Tirana and Berlin I noticed:
  • Both cities have both facist and communist background. To me this expresses itself in some architecture: Some buildings, squares and monumenents seem alike to me.

  • Both cities have no economy. No real prosperity-creating industry like BMW in Munich.

  • Strong cultural ambitions in both cities, mostly among young people. I need to elaborate this more...

  • Both strong metropolitan nightlife & young lifestyle, i.e. in-bars, etc.

Some main differences for me:

  • Tirana is embedded in a very very poor, Berlin in a very very rich country. This makes the rich/poor contrasts heavier and more obvious. Tirana has huge infrastructure problems (i.e. broken roads, no public transportation) and less recreational possibilities.

  • Tirana has southern climate. Both mountains and seaside are very nearby. To me, this means a lot of potential towards recreation and tourism.
  • tbd.

Sum: Combine the climate and landscape of tirana with the industry of munich, embed it into a super-economy as germany is, change the language to english or french, and you have the perfect metropolis. What do you think? Would you like to live there?

Report on Durres


Very expensive and very many cars on the street.
Cars were not allowed in communist time.

Munich -> Bari -> Durres


Dienstag, 1. Mai 2007


Meine mitreisende zum zwischenstopp bari: einige italiener, ein paar touristen. Sie werden mich nicht nach albanien begleiten.

In der s-bahn zum flughafen

Das gepäck ist sortiert. nichts vergessen, der rucksack schaut mich beruhigend an. ich denke ich bin vorbereitet.

Donnerstag, 26. April 2007

Das letzte Mal im Biergarten

Werde ich meine Kollegen je wieder sehen?