23 Aug Durres – Exploring and Falling in Love with the People
After nearly two months in the City of Durres, we have developed some knowledge of the people and experienced the beauty of the area.
The city itself can be divided into three sections. First, the northern section (where we live) includes the downtown area, a mile long stone promenade with artistic features, and numerous beach restaurants. Unfortunately, there is very little actual beach, though restaurants, bars, and hotels have private sections. Compared to the U.S., an umbrella and two chairs can be rented for the day a price between $5 and $10. One of the first things you see on arriving from the airport is a “I Love Durres” sign made with four-foot letters. Another fixture the young and old enjoy is the unique pyramid like steps that extend into the sea. The promenade includes many bronze statues we notice during our walks. Note in the photos, Georgene took a rest with a jazz group, and I helped the fisherman pull in his big catch.
Durres is the largest port in Albanian and at one time was the center of commerce and the capital. The central area is a secured industrial port with long lines of container trucks waiting to discharge their loads. Because of the commerce, Durres was the capital of Albania for hundreds of years. Also, we see ferries arriving and departing for Greece, Italy, and other parts of Albanian. Finally, the third section to the South is mainly a tourist area with hotels and restaurants that own the beach up to the Adriatic Sea. On weekends, crowds flock to a couple larger public beaches.
One of the joys of being a nomad is experiencing the sunrises and sunsets in different countries. Durres offers us partial sunsets that we view from our balcony while enjoying a glass of wine. On more adventurous evenings, we go to the beach or a nearby restaurant because it is the best place to watch the last hour of the spectrum revealed. Wish you could all be here to see the true colors and beauty as a camera never seems to capture the reality.
Expat Nomads Live For Sunsets
Italian Food and Fish at the Right Price
With over fifty restaurants along the coast where we live, you would expect lots of choices at mealtime. Unfortunately, every restaurant has nearly the same menu. Because of the location by the sea, we enjoy Italian pastas, pizzas, and fresh caught fish at all of them. Also, about half of them offer a small selection of grilled meat dishes. Fortunately, we know three restaurants that offer sushi and three that offer a substantial breakfast. Usually, almost all are open early, but breakfast will only be coffee of your choice with a sweet bread roll of some type.
One of our favorites is Marquez where we enjoy their seasonal salad. Typical of Durres, the salad is large enough for two plus leftovers and includes cheese, nuts, and a changing variety of fruits. Occasionally, for a quick and easy meal, we get pasta or pizza at one of the two closest restaurants: NEPS and Sapori D’Italia. On two occasions, we have dined at Westwood Meats. After a two-mile walk, we enjoy a bone marrow appetizer and perfectly cooked Grade A Filet Mignon.
A small Italian (six tables seat 20 guests total) restaurant, Spaghetteria Luli in the downtown area is a typical example of prices. At Luli’s, we each choose our main course from six pastas and a dozen sauces. In the photo below, you will see a white board with the choices written with a marker. That is the only menu. We share a large water, order one glass of wine and one beer. When the bill arrives, we are always pleasantly surprised at the $11.50 total. As to the quality, Luli is ranked number 2 of all restaurants by TripAdvisor and scores a 5.0 rating. We also have enjoyed a few fine dining restaurants with much higher cost. For example, a 4-course dinner with a bottle of wine will still be less than $60.
Durres boasts a rich history because of the economic value of the seaport and the seemingly ever-changing rulers. We visited the Archeological Museum here and the treasures there provide a brief view of the past. We saw large cistern pots and artistic vases in mint condition from the 2nd century B.C. Not surprising, archaeological digs provided proof of Babylonian, Thessalonian, Greek, and Roman occupation. Much of the evidence was from discoveries of grave sites because detailed carved stone markers were unveiled. Additionally, ruins of an ancient wall built around the city provide evidence of Venetian rule in the XV century.
An even greater reminder of the Roman Empire presence is the ruins of the Amphitheater. We learned that the amphitheater was built in the second century and seated up to 18,000 spectators. As you might expect, they observed gladiators fighting each other and beast such as lions. An early-Christian mosaic remains from a chapel built as part of the amphitheater in the fourth century. In conclusion, this site was not a repeat of what we saw in Cartegena, Spain because it was a unique treasure and experience.
Culture and People
With two months of experience in Albania, I am finally reading to discuss what we have seen. Visiting Albania is like stepping into the seventies. First, we have already discussed the cost of living is equivalent to that period with large country homes for $80,000, meals for $10 or less, and haircuts for $5. Second, we noticed life is built around the family unit. In the country we saw three story homes with bedrooms for each generation on separate floors. Large families go to the beach together and restaurants are full of entire families dining together. Finally, the work ethic is amazing. Whatever people are doing they work diligently with few breaks. Each member of a construction crew has his or her tasks and works a long day accomplishing that goal.
Although there is a language barrier (thank you google translate), we have been able to make good friends at the restaurants we frequently enjoy. For example, at the nearby Italian restaurant, Arti takes care of us and tells us about life in Albania. At the restaurant by our home, Ami finds us the minute we walk in and makes sure we sit at one of her tables. Ami is twenty and has worked in sales and service since she was fifteen. This coming year she has saved enough money for living expenses that she can attend high school and work just one job.