As promised, after last week’s list of really bad bits, here is my list of the best bits. It’s fair to note that this list doesn’t necessarily include my absolute favourite aspects of being on permanent holiday for nearly two years. More on that later, in the final posts from the Albanian housewife…
Five really good bits about living in Albania
1. Good old-fashioned community
There’s an old man who lives in our apartment building. His son works for the company that built our building. And so the old man has the job of just keeping an eye on things. A geriatric security guard. He’s a lovely bloke who stops to joke with us every time we see him. He says he feels like we’re his own children. And he wishes that we would soon have a son. We see him pretty much every day.
We also see our neighbour – a very elderly and slightly mad lady who resolutely continues to chat away to me in Albanian. And I smile and nod. There’s a bloke who I frequently share the lift with when he arrives home from work to his young family. He always takes the opportunity to practice his English on me. And every summer evening, when the heat cools, the residents of our building head outside, sit around on concrete walls and catch up on the news of the day with their neighbours while the kids play football on the makeshift pitch with goal posts marked out by plastic bottles.
I love the sense of community. I love that should I ever get into trouble and my hubby isn’t around, that there are at least half a dozen people I could find in five minutes who would drop everything to help me out. I hope hope hope that as Albania continues to go through rapid change, that this precious part of Albanian life is preserved and celebrated!
2. Food glorious food
Tomatoes that taste like tomatoes. Crisp cucumbers. Juicy watermelons. The most incredible nectarines, cherries and apples. Fresh-from-the-sea grilled fish… oh lordy I’m going to miss the food! Seriously, the food is amazing. Simple. Fresh. Unprocessed. Full of flavour. And stupidly cheap.
A few weeks back we paid a visit to Mrizi i Zanave, an acclaimed slow-food restaurant in the countryside less than two hours north of Tirana. We had a superb, gourmet meal. The type you talk about for years to come. The bill came to £30 for four people. It felt like we were ripping them off. Seriously, it’s nearly impossible to have a bad meal in this country.
3. Glorious landscapes
If you’ve been a long-time reader of this blog, I’m sure you’ve already seen how gorgeous this country is. Truly, it is a gem. It is no surprise to me that Albania is becoming an increasingly popular holiday destination for travellers looking for something different and authentic in an increasingly homogenised world. Albania’s got it. It’s just drop-dead gorgeous. And for six to seven months of the year the weather is brilliant.
4. It’s dirt cheap
We went out for dinner the other night for our wedding anniversary. Turns out it was the most expensive meal we’ve had since we’ve been in Albania (it was pretty good too) and it came to a whopping £35. Our monthly rent for our two bedroom apartment is 10% of what we paid in London. A pint of beer is about £1. If it weren’t for these amazing prices we never would have been able to afford to stay here so long.
5. Cheerful anarchy
After spending the last 10 years in the UK where increasingly we are ‘nudged’ into living in a way that causes the least amount of ‘offence’, and in anticipation of moving to NZ which is becoming almost puritanical, I have actually really enjoyed living in a society that really doesn’t care what you do. I mean clearly this has resulted in some issues (see my previous post) but genuinely it feels different to live somewhere where you can kind of almost get away with anything! (Please do not misunderstand – I don’t want to encourage criminal acts!) It’s very liberating!
There’s probably only one list left to do. Next week, my Albanian housewife highlights…