Trois mois en Albanie et un peu plus
During three months, from september to december, I will share with you my trip to Tirana. Pictures, video, point of view...As a citizen, and not as an expert, I will present you my experiences and understanding. Pendant trois mois, de septembre à décembre, je partagerai sur ce blog mon voyage à Tirana. Photos, vidéos, points de vue...Comme un citoyen, et pas expert en la matière, je vous présenterai mes expérience et apprentissages.


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Le livre Tirana, la fin d\'un été

Paradoxcity /Parodoxcite

Ecriture sur un clavier sans accent, retour a la case decryptage pour les lecteurs francophones. Version francaise juste apres les photos.


Before to visit anything, it's needed to find your marks. If I am used to intentionally get lost - and don't find my way back unintentionally- it's still useful to know the main axes.

Our flat is literally located at the crossing point between the ring and a long and straight main boulevard.  From this highly contrasted street you can reach Skanderberg, the center of the capital, which unless is, unless its greyness, quite contrasted too. 

Two of the main arteries of the capital with universities, casinos, banks, some fancy bars, many shops...Those ways, seem to be like amplifiers of Tirana's paradox -and maybe Albanian's- on architectural, social and even religious level.

In the present article I will present you the few things I got from my different walks, talks and researchs.

Regarding to the architectural side, the contrast is easy to get. According to
BBC News, Tirana' population passed from 200 000 and 800 000 in the 90's in a certain anarchy.
Following the fall of the communist dictature and due to an economical and demographical development Tirana had to build a lot of towers - a bit like during the 60'-70' in France- and not to care so much about the old buildings from the communist period (or even previous) which will, at a point, be destroyed to create new residential or business buildings.

But, one the other hand, if no plan or architectural specifications seem to be respected, the mayor,
Edi Rama, put order and life in his city. Since he is mayor, 10 years ago, he destroyed many illegal shops or buildings to create parks, plant trees (around 1800 according to Wikipedia...I know BBC is much more serious), and even painted many buildings in bright colors to give a new aspect to his city.

But he didn't solved  the drinkable water, electricity access, and traffic problems, so for some opponents it would be tied to his former artist background. The city is looking better, but the life standards can still be considered as lower than in Western Europe. But, looking at the post obituaries on utility poles, we realize that Albanians have the same Life Expectancy at Birth than the Americans (around 78 years).

The other significant paradox is social. Between those who benefit and those, like for examples Roma people, who don't benefit at all from economical development it's not a gap, nor a fracture, it's a canyon. During the communist period, even if everyone was employed (to build the hundreds of thousands bunkers at the border line) and was living from low wages and few rations...the life level was low for the majority of the population.

From this contrast, or this canyon, I would remind those boulevard, frequented by  beggars (children or not), street sellers...trying to earn some Lek from people who can now enjoy their purchasing power to spend time and money in coffees, fashionable clothes or various equipment.

Recent establishment of social services can't yet equalize the situation and NGOs still seem to be needed. The canyon will still be a reality for a few years. But, you can say, that's not a breaking new on this planet. Living in an Albanian shanty town or a french one is equally the same.

Then, the last contrast I'll develop today, requires much more attention and discussions. It's the religious aspect. Religion is such a hard topic in Balkan as it defined the conflicts and actual map of the region. And in Albania, it takes place in Skanderberg, the city center.

Even if the, still recent, explosion of Yugoslavia began during the huge bankrupt of the early 90's which ruined the former federal state, those events are mostly presented as religious or ethnical conflicts   (orthodox Serbia against the Muslim Kosovo, Vojvodina, or Bosnia and Herzegovina or catholic Croatia).

The conflicts between Greece and Albania are too often presented as orthodox-muslim conflicts. But the religion appears to just be a symbol in an old and complicated History between those two countries. There is no holy war or Jihad.

First, even if religious practice was forbidden during the communist period, Albania was a peaceful mix of cultures and religions until the 90's when Western missionaries took advantage of the new political system to enter Albania. With those new missionniries, and the Balkan crisis, the religion became tied with political, ethnical and territorial issues.

In Albania, a "70% Muslim country" (according to more than
40years old statistics) the recent erection of a massive orthodox cathedral is, somehow, considered as a provocation. Just in front of the main, but medium, mosque of Tirana this new building is dressed in white, blue and golden yellow.

Low level of pray practice, alcohol (I don't mean alcoholism), food habits, dress code...Tirana, can not  be consider as a practicing Muslim city. So if people care about this orthodox church it' much more because the colors remind of Greece than any religious aspect.  The architect of this new cathedral is Steven Papadatos, a greek-american. And there, in Albania, Albanian Orthodox are often named "Greeks". But in Western Europe, how do we talk about people with arab or african roots? As citizens with various cultural background, or as muslim? How do we appreciate mosques constructions? Any look to Balkan, or precisely Albania and Tirana, from above wouldn't be justified.

So, unless the high (and old) rates, Albania is not a muslim country. If the politicians -and a part of the population- is phobic it's not religious. We can talk about an "Hellenic-phobia", which is given back by Greeks who are also, for a part, suffering of "Albanian-phobia".

Through this walk along the main boulevards, I so found some marks in the city as in the society, even if both are full of paradoxes and shades.
Without being a specialist, it appears one more time that a city and its streets, buildings, and people can be considered as a huge opened learning area.
And, still, being in an other country always make you reconsider your own marks in your own (former) country.

Architectural contrast

Some colors in the greyness / Un peu de couleurs dans la grisaille

Religious contrast


Publié à 02:28, le 29/09/2010,
Mots clefs : tiranëtiranaAlbanieshqipteriaalbaniaphotographyphotographiecontrastesvilleparadoxescitébbc newsboulevards

Traffic - Trafic

 Version française, plus bas

Tirana is a big city, so you can miss some details, nice streets, or some important monuments. But if there is something you can't's the traffic. We, me and my room mates, don't miss it. Leaving on the "ring", from morning to evening, in my flat or outside, we always have to deal with this traffic. It's a part of our life.

Tirana, according to a french embassy' presentation, was empty of cars until 1985 because of the political and economical situation. For sure, someone who came 25 years ago wouldn't recognize at all the Albanian capital. The previous and recently built infrastructures don't seem to be adapted to this new influx.

It's a huge, chaotic, and so noisy, jam. At least on the main avenues and boulevard going across the city. As I told you earlier, a blind person would, from our flat, be able to discover the "dynamism" and the life of the city. But he would, for sure, need some assistance to go across the city. The priority has been given to cars and there is not even clear passages to cross the streets.

I was asking to a friend how many pedestrians die every year from traffic. Surprise, one died last year and it became a focus point for the newspapers and the politics. The circulation was even worst after what, because of policemen trying to "regulate" the traffic. Like they did when I just arrived to Tirana: they stopped all the cars for 10 minutes on a round about -a crossing point between 4 main avenues-, running and whistling as much as they could. An "official" had to pass through Tirana. He passed. And then, to reorganize the traffic, the policemen just left to let the huge chaos go back to a normal chaos.

But the good thing is, as long as you don't need an ambulance, that the traffic is quite slow when it's not paralyzed. That's probably why there is not so much mortal accidents. 

Anyway, after a few days you just get used, and become a "hole-in-the-traffic" hunter. You stare at the cars, find the hole, run a bit, find your way, reach the other -holy- side alive, and try to look like the most normal as you can.

You just have to got used to your new high and permanent adrenalin level.

"Hole-in-the-traffic" hunter in Tirana
Uploaded by
nibal01. - Exotic and entertaining travel videos.

Tirana est une ville important,avec environ 800 000 habitants. On peut donc manquer quelques détails, quelques petites rues ou quelques monuments importants. Mais si il y a bien quelque chose que l'on ne peut pas manquer, c'est...le trafic. Nous, moi et mes colocataires, on ne rate pas. Jamais. Vivant sur le périphérique, du matin au soir, à l'intérieur ou l'extérieur de l'appartement, le trafic est une partie de notre vie.

Tirana, selon une présentation de l'ambassade francaise, était vide de tout véhicule jusqu'en 1985. Pour sûr, quelqu'un qui aurait visité la capitale albanaise il y a vingt cinq de cela ne le reconnaîtrait pas du tout. Les anciennes comme les récentes infrastructures ne semblent pas adaptées à ce nouveau flot de véhicule.

C'est un immense, chaotique, et donc bruyant, embouteillage. Tout du moins sur les principales avenues et principaux boulevards.
Comme j'en parlais plus tôt sur ce blog, une personne aveugle n'aurait aucun mal à découvrir le "dynamisme" et la vie Tiranaise depuis notre appartement. Mais il aurait sûrement besoin d'aide pour traverser la ville. La priorité semble clairement avoir été donnée aux véhicules et vous ne trouverez nulle part un passage piéton.

Je demandais récemment à un ami combien de piétons décédaient du trafic tous les ans? Surprise...une seule personne aurait été victime d'un accident mortel l'année dernière. Tellement surprenant, que les médias mais aussi les politiques s'étaient emparés de l'affaire. La circulation en était devenue pire. Les agents de police dépêchés sur place chargés de "réguler" la circulation peuvent parfois avoir l'effet inverse.
Comme par exemple, le jour où je suis arrivé à Tirana. Deux policiers arrêtaient tous les véhicules sur l'un des principaux rond points, faisant la jonction en quatre artères principales, en raison du déplacement d'un "officiel". Après un blocage de dix minutes, pour réorganiser la circulation, les policiers sont justes...partis. Laissant l'immense chaos redevenir un chaos de taille normale.

Mais le bon côté, du moment que vous n'avez pas besoin d'une ambulance, c'est que la paralysie chronique de la circulation évite probablement les accidents mortels.

Peu importe, après quelques jours, vous vous habituez et devenez un véritable "chasseur-de-trou-dans-le-trafic". Vous observez les voitures, trouvez un trou, courrez un peu, faites votre chemin, atteignez l'autre -et saint- côté de la rue. Vivant, vous essayez de reprendre une démarche normale. (voir vidéo ci-dessus).

Vous avez juste à vous habituer à votre nouveau, permanent et élevé, taux d'adrénaline.

Publié à 02:09, le 23/09/2010, Tirana
Mots clefs : piétonswalkerspedestrianstiranëshqipteriaalbaniaboulevardstacioni trenitrain stationtiranaAlbanieHistoiretraficdangercirculationhistorygarevoitures

Orthodox pray and traveling to Tirana

Version francaise, plus bas


On the morning, I still did not know how I was going to reach Tirana. I was  in Podgorica, Montenegro' capital, and had to do something like 160km. I asked a taxi to drive to the road going to Tirana close to the bus station. When he made me pay, he made me pay like a tourist. It wasn't the first time and it wouldn't be the last. So I decided to forget about the bus and hitch hike as far as I could to avoid this kind of situation when you can't even argue or defend yourself.

Hitch hiking seems to be quite normal in this area. It's not only young-hippy-bagpackers who use their leither on the side of the road. A driver picked me up soon, and five minutes later he picked up a woman carrying shopping bags looking like 40 years old. With my few italian words (our ''common language'') I made sure that he was driving me for free. The woman apparently did not, and after a short argumentation she gave him 70cents and he dropped her out. Beside that, my driver seemed to be a nice guy and he dropped out, for free, in Tuzi, last city in Montenegro before the border. Some guys used their english to understand who I was and why I was going to Albania.

I'm probably not the first traveler, or foreigner, walking through this city, but it didn't seem to be a everyday habit. Some students tried to practice their english with me.

A kind of cow boy taxi driver proposed to pick me up for 5euros or so. Regarding to his car and to the price I though it was better to not accept. Thanks again, bye. After a small walk a car stopped. That was a couple, the man from Montenegro and the woman from Shkodar in Albania.

"Hey dude, where are you going to? Shkodar? Great, we are also going there. We saw on the road the while we were praying, and I said to my wife: "Let's do something good. It's god who put him on our way". Now if you don't mind we will continue our prays." :



Orthodox pray
Uploaded by nibal01. - Exotic and entertaining travel videos.

They dropped me off two hours later or so in the center of Shkodar, after long talks about religion and history and being sure that I ate something. I wasn't sure about  my way. Where to go? No sign on this main place. By chance, an american living there since a while (?) tried to help me. He was behaving like Di Caprio in Blood Diamond in this albanian landscape. I don't mean that Albania looks like RDC, not at all. That was just a kind of funny contrast.
Under a heavy weather, I was walking in a long and straight main street. People were a bit smiling at met when they saw my sign "Tirana". After twenty three kilometers (I felt it like that but that was surely quite less), some guys saw my sign. They were "bus" drivers. "Tirana, eh! eh! Come! Tirana!". As I said earlier, I was feeling that I already walked twenty three kilometers so I asked for the price.
500 leks or 5 euros...I just changed some euros in Lek and I knew that 500 leks were something like 3.60euros. So, I decided to pay in Lek. Anyway, they still fucked me. It should be something like 300lek. Nevermind.

In this bus, who stopped dangerously on the side to pick up a client in the deep country side or on some kind of "highway" if it's not full enough, I met an albanian who just came back from the States. He was living there since a few years, trying to got a Green Card. He was not the first albano-american. It seems that albanian were and are still a migrant people. Mostly because of the bad politic (dictature system for a long time), and then economic situation. A lot of young are hanging out the whole day in bars, or having some small jobs like "Bus yeller" or even in small stores. 

My bus driver dropped me out somewhere in Tirana even if I tried to ask him to drop me out close the International Hostel. He just didn't care. A bit lost five minutes, I paid a taxi(400Lek for 10 minutes when I paid 500lek for 100kilometers...I love taxis). Met a friend, drove me to my new apartment...That was done, I was now in Tirana. For three months.


      Version francaise:

Au reveil, je ne savais toujours pas comment aller a Tirana. J'etais a Podgorica, capitale du Montenegro, et devait parcourir quelque chose comme 160 km. Je demande a un chauffeur de taxi de me deposer sur la route menant a Tirana, c'est relativement direct et pres de la station de bus. Il me fait payer comme un touriste, ce n'est pas la premiere fois, ce ne sera pas la derniere. Aux vues de cette ''tradition'' je decide definitevement de ne pas prendre le bus depuis Podgorica et de faire du stop. Tant que je ne peux pas me defendre et negocier, l'autostop s'impose.

Le stop semble etre une activite normale dans cette zone. Il n'y a pas que les jeunes voyageurs hippies qui usent leur cuir sur le bord des routes. Rapidement, je me fais prendre en stop. Cinq minutes apres il s'arrete pour prendre une femme, la quarantaine avec un sac de courses, qui faisait du stop sur le bord de la route. Avec mes quelques mots d'italiens (notre langage ''commun''), je m'etais assure que ce coups de main n'etait pas payant. La femme, n'en fit apparemment pas de meme, et apres une petite discussion dynamique, il la laisse sur le bord de la route apres qu'elle lui ait donne 70 centimes. Au dela de ca, mon conducteur semblait etre un mec sympa et il me deposa, gratuitement, a Tuzi, derniere ville du Montenegro avant la frontiere albanaise.

Je ne suis probablement pas le premier voyageur a passer par la, mais ca ne semble pas non plus etre une habitude. Quelques lyceens exercerent leur anglais avec moi.

Un chauffeur de taxi deguisait en cow boy s'arrete et me propose de me prendre pour 5 euros. Apres un coups d'oeil au prix et a son vehicule, je refuse. Merci encore et a bientot. Petite marche. Cette fois-ci c'est un couple montenegro-albanaise qui s'arrete. Ils vont a Shkodar, premiere ville albanaise sur ma route.

" Hey mec, ou tu vas? Shkodar? Cool, c'est aussi la qu'on va. On etait en train de prier quand on t'a vu sur le bord de la route alors j'ai dit a ma femme: ''Faisons une bonne action, Dieu l'a depose sur notre route''. Maintenant, si ca ne te derange pas, nous allons continuer nos prieres.''

Voir video plus haut.

Ils me deposerent deux heures plus tard au centre de Shkodar, apres de longues discussions sur l'histoire et la religion, et apres etre surs que j'avais quelque chose dans le ventre (j'avais un peu neglige cet aspect).
Je n'etais pas vraiment sur du chemin que je devais prendre. Ou aller? Il n'y a aucune indication sur cette place principale...Par chance, un americain semblait vivre la depuis un moment (?) et qui se comportait un peu comme Di Caprio dans le film Blood Diamond, m'a aide et m'a montre la route a suivre. Je ne veux pas dire que l'Albanie ressemble a la RDC, c'etait juste un contraste assez amusant.

Sous un temps lourd, je marchais le long d'une loooongue avenue principale, completement rectiligne. Les gens me souriaient un peu lorsqu'ils voyaient mon panneau ''Tirana''. Apres une marche de vingt trois kilometres (je l'ai ressenti comme ca mais c'etait surement beaucoup moins), quelques gars remarquerent mon signe. Ils etaient ''chauffeurs de bus''. ''Tirana! Tirana! Tirana! Viens!''. Comme je l'ai dit plus tot, j'avais la sensation d'avoir marche des kilometres et des kilometres, alors je les ai interroges sur le prix.

500 lek ou 5 euros...Je venais d'echanger quelques euros en lek (monnaie albanaise), je savais donc que 500 lek valaient environ 3,60euros. J'ai donc decide de payer en lek...Mais peu importe, ils m'ont quand meme arnaque, le prix normal (donc pas pour les touristes) est aux alentours de 300lek. Tant pis.

Dans ce bus, qui s'arrete dangereusement sur le bord des routes de campagne ou des ''autoroutes'' pour embarquer des passagers si le conducteur considere qu'il peut remplir son engin, j'ai rencontre un albanais qui revenait juste des Etats Unis. Il y vivait depuis quelques annees et essayait d'obtenir sa ''Green Card'', le fameux sesame. Ce n'etait pas le premier albano-americain que je rencontrais ce jour la. Le couple arrivait egalement des Etats Unis. Il semble que les albanais soient devenus un peuple migrant. Principalement pour des raisons politiques (la dictature y a longtemps regne) et pour des raisons economiques. La plupart des jeunes semblent trainer dans les rues et les bars, ou ont des petits boulots dans des petits commerces, ou comme ''crieur'' pour remplir les minibus.

Bien que je lui ais demande de me deposer pres de l' ''Hotel International'', le chauffeur n'en avait apparemment rien a faire et m'a depose au milieu d'une avenue. Un peu perdu pendant cinq minutes, je decide de payer un taxi (400 lek pour une course de dix minutes, quand je venais de payer 500lek pour 100 kilometres...j'adore les taxis).

Je rencontre un ami, il m'emmene a mon nouvel appartement, je pose mon sac...C'est fait. Je suis a Tirana pour trois mois.

Publié à 02:22, le 14/09/2010, Tuzi
Mots clefs : MontenegrotiranaPodgoricahitch hikeTaxisauto stoptrajetbussongvidéoalbaniaprayreligionreligiousspirituallandscapesshqipteriaorthodox

J - 100

ENGLISH version right after the flag

 Me voici maintenant à la fin de mon premier voyage européen de huit mois, que vous trouverez ici, et désormais à environ 100 jours de mon prochain voyage, albanais celui-ci, comme l'indique l'intitulé de ce blog.

Pourquoi ce voyage?

Premièrement, je souhaite rester sur le rythme de mon premier voyage et m'habituer de plus en plus à bouger ma carcasse, mon appareil photo, mon regard dans de nouveaux endroits. Je ne le vis pas comme une aventure ou un voyage initiatique. C'est plus entre le voyage d'étude et le voyage culturel. Rien ne sera fait pour jouer les grands voyageurs. Je vivrais en appartement, avec ma copine et une de ses amies d'origine albanaise.

Pourquoi l'Albanie?

Lors de mon passage dans les balkans entre février et avril, je me suis découvert un certain intérêt pour cette région. La situation géopolitique, sociale, économique, mais aussi les gens et leur philosophie, la nourriture, les paysages...toutes ces choses rendent cette région attractive.

Si mon choix s'était d'abord orienté vers le Kosovo, j'y avais déjà des amis, les évènements m'ont finalement dirigé vers l'Albanie. Ce qui s'avère finalement être très intéressant pour moi. Cela va me permettre de changer mon point de vue sur la situation balkanique étant donné que l'avis de mes amis serbes et grecs est plutôt hostile envers la communauté albanaise. Sans adhérer aux discours des uns ou des autres, je pense qu'il est important de tous les prendre en compte.

Pourquoi trois mois?

Trois mois. C'est court et c'est long à la fois. Cela me permettra de comprendre, ou d'approcher, la culture albanaise et me laissera le temps de développer deux reportages, et, peut être, d'évoquer la question du traffic d'être humains. Ce temps semble également nécessaire pour rencontrer un nombre suffisant d'acteurs locaux et internationaux. 

Comment se débrouiller?

Le fait d'avoir une amie parlant albanais couramment est un avantage important pour ne pas obtenir le prix touriste quand il va s'agir de louer un appartement. C'est aussi un premier pas vers l'apprentissage des basiques en albanais. Ne serait-ce que pour être poli et ne pas se comporter en petit colon. Ensuite, l'italien, langue que je souhaite apprendre, est également utilisé par la population branchée sur les chaînes satellites italiennes ou qui aspirent à migrer vers l'Italie. Pour le reste, l'expérience se fera d'elle-même, jour après jour.



I am know at the end of my first european trip which lasted eight months, you can find it here, and in 100 days begin my next trip to Albania. I will try to translate each article in "globish" as long as my english is still not academic.

Why this trip?

First, I wish to keep this rythm I get during my first trip and get more and more used to move my body, my camera and my look into new places. I dont feel it as an adventure or an initiatic trip. It's between a studying and cultural trip. Nothing will be done to try to look like a great traveler. I will live in a flat with my girlfriend and one of her kosovo-albanian friend.

Why Albania?

During my stay in balkan, between february and april, I get an interest for this area. Geopolitical situation, social and economical issues, but also people and their ways to behave, their food, their landscapes...all those things made balkan countries quite attractiv for me.

If I was more focused on Kosovo at the beginning, I have friends there, events leaded me to Albania. Which is at least really interesting. I will be able to change my point of view on balkan issues as  my serbians' and greeks' friends opinion is quite hostil against albanian community. Without agreed with discours from these or those people, it seems important to me to care about all of them.

Why three months?
Three months. It's short and long in the same time. It will allowed me to understand, or try to, albanian culture and will let me the time to make two reportings, and, maybe, to talk a little bit about human trafficking. This time seems also to be necessary in order to meet enough local and international workers.

How to manage?

Having a fluent albanian speaker is an important advantage when you consider to get an appartment in Tiranë. We will maybe not have to pay the "tourist price". It's also a first step in learning basics. Just to be polite and not behave as a pioneer discovering Africa during the 19 century.
Then, I would like since a while to learn italian which can be quite interesting when you consider that it's used by the satellit italian chanels connected population. It's also important for the looking to immigrate population.
For what remains, daily life experience will follow its own ways.

Publié à 02:47, le 30/05/2010,
Mots clefs : clément blainlanguagealbaniaAlbaniepictureslanguetripphotoblogvoyage
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