Remember earlier in the week when there was that stretch of days in Berat where I literally did nothing?
Well, I made up for it today.
I did so much today so buckle in, this blog is gonna have some substance.
I started the day early and was out the door of my hostel by 9am.
First stop – breakfast.
I was heading down to the Grand Park of Tirana about 20 minutes away and there just happened to be a place near it that was gluten friendly.
Yup, I’m talking about good ol Tony’s American Restaurant.
Even though my pizza experience with them last night left something to be desired, I was willing to give it another try.
Today, it was smoked salmon benedict on gluten free buns of course.
And today, the meal was a hit.
Man, I love eggs benedicts. Probably my favorite brunch item.
Grand Park of Tirana
This is one time when the name of the park isn’t actually hyperbole.
The park was indeed grand.
Being Sunday it was filled with families and people just enjoying the day.
I walked along the path near the lake and came across a few playground, outdoor sporting areas, an art exposition, a restaurant with beanbags for chairs, an outdoor theatre also with beanbag chairs, an amphitheater, a couple cemeteries for WWII, a holocaust memorial, and outdoor ping pong tables.
It was crazy. Each time you turned a corner, there was something new in the park.
It’s like someone when to Tirana Parks & Rec and said “what do you want in your park?” and their answer was “yes!”.
After an hour of walking through the park, it was time for my next stop.
Gluten free lunch
Honestly it was a bit too early for lunch as it was noon and I had finished my breakfast only 2 hours earlier but the place I wanted to go to was near the exit of the park so it was gonna have to be now.
The place is called Leaf Brunch Café and they also have gluten free options.
Lunch today was avocado toast with prosciutto, cherry tomatoes and parmesan cheese. Oh, and a pineapple, orange and banana smoothie.
Damn, that hit the spot.
I was feeling pretty damn full at this point but, no worries, there’d be plenty of walking in my near future to work some of it off.
Bus outta the city
My next destination was Dajti Mountain National Park about 10km outside the city center.
There’s a bus that takes you there but it was a good 20 minute walk away from where I was so that was my first workout.
The sun was beaming today and I decided I was going to forgo suntan lotion and see if I could peak in and out of shady spots to stay away from the direct sunlight as much as possible.
I’ll let you know tomorrow if it worked…
Anyway, I finally got to the bus stop and caught the “Porcelan” bus. Yeah, although the buses also have bus numbers, everyone refers to them by their destination names instead. Very weird.
Also, I don’t think I’ve mentioned it previously but the way payment is done is once you board the bus, a ticket collector comes up and down the bus collecting 40lek (60c) from new passengers boarding.
I had done a little map marker on my map of the bus stop I had to get off at so I was watching out for that.
After about 20 minutes most of the bus unloaded at a stop which I found strange but it wasn’t the stop I had marked so I confidently just stayed on the bus.
Yeah, I shoulda gotten off at that stop.
What I didn’t realize is the bus does a loop to the top of a hill to end it’s trip and then eventually comes back down the hill another street which just so happened to be where my stop I had marked was.
The bus stop everyone got off at was literally a 3 minute walk to my stop.
Anyway, the bus ended it’s trip at the top of the hill and then shut off its’ engine.
Hmm, wait here for who knows how long for the bus to start it’s route again or just walk the 15 minutes to my stop.
I chose to walk.
Sure enough as I was walking, the bus passed me cause, of course it did.
So, that was my little bus adventure for the day. Fun, wasn’t it?
Before the park, there a art museum I wanted to look at first.
Bunk’Art is a museum about WW2 literally in an old underground bunker.
The bunker was huge, by the way. It just kept going and going.
Inside the many rooms there were various remnants from that time period as well as alot of information about what was going on at the time.
Now I’m more of a visual guy when it comes to museums so I was snapping photos of every prop in every room.
Overall, it was a pretty cool museums as museums go and I definitely recommend it.
Dajti Mountain National Park
The Dajti Mountain National Park is a brief walk from Bunk’Art.
Well, let me rephrase that…
A cable car, the Dajti Express, that takes you up to the National Park is a brief walk from Bunk’Art.
The cable car ride is about 20 minutes and I’d love to share a bunch of photos of the views from the cable car but idiots had scratched their initials and messages on virtually every square inch of the pseudo plastic glass surrounding the car.
The 20 minute ride was relaxing though.
There are different activities to do once you get to the top including a children’s park, restaurants, paragliding and others but I was there for only one thing…
Yup, mini golf!
I haven’t played probably since I was a kid so it’s been awhile.
I gleefully paid for my club, ball, and scorecard and was on to the 18 hole course.
There were only a handful of people there so there wasn’t any traffic jams getting from one hole to the next.
I was actually doing pretty well on the first few holes and then I got the hole of death.
For a par 3, I ended up taking 21 shots.
Problem was my damn ball was off the course and I couldn’t chip it back onto the green.
I should have just taken a mulligan and started on the tee again but, dammit, I was determined to get it in the hole from off the course.
Plus, once you’re over 10 strokes, does it really matter if you shoot a 21 on one hole?
I did redeem myself on the last hole though.
It was only a par 2 and it was one of those “hit it into a metal loop to loop cylander to get to the green.
I can’t really describe it, so here’s a picture of it.
Anyway, I scored a hole in one on the final hole.
Let me repeat that…
I scored a hole in one!
Sure, it was mini golf and sure it was only on a par 2 and sure I was 18 over on a previous hole, but dammit, give me this!
In the end I scored 82 on 56 so, you know, just 26 over par.
PGA, here I come!
Now, you’d think I’d end the blog on me scoring a hole in one. I mean, honestly, it would have been a perfect way to end the blog.
Except I had one more thing planned today.
Yesterday I was looking up events in Tirana for something to do at night and I came across something at the Opera House.
I wasn’t sure if it was opera or ballet or what it was but I stopped by there last night to buy a ticket for tonight’s performance.
For only the second time on this trip, I wore my pair of pants. I was not going to go through the same thing I did when I went to the concert in Sofia a couple of weeks ago.
The show started at 8pm and lasted an hour.
It was a Albanian folk show and, I gotta say, it was pretty cool.
There was a little band to one side of the stage, singers on the other, and various dancing acts or performers coming out in the middle of the stage.
I had no idea what they were singing since it was obviously all in Albanian but I did get an immersive sense of pleasure watching my fellow concert goers enjoying themselves.
Particularly there was a couple of old ladies in the row in front of me clapping along with the songs and smiling with their hands clasped other times watching the performance as if they were recollecting moments from their childhood long ago.
Waiters running around
After the concert I walked over to a place that is really popular that serves traditional Albanian food.
Yeah, no pizza tonight. I was gonna get some good ol Albanian grub.
The place was packed and, I gotta be honest, I had no desire to wait in line like I had done last week in Berat.
It was close to 10pm and I was starving.
I just decided to walk back towards the main street and find a restaurant there.
Before I got there though, I saw a little restaurant on an off street filled with people and one empty table on the patio.
There were about 14 tables and only 2 servers. These kids couldn’t have been more than 19 years old and they were running around with their heads cut off.
So many tables were sitting there with dirty dishes and people kept flagging them down for something.
My white wine was delivered as a red wine.
I actually felt bad for these 2 guys. I just wanted to jump in there and help clear some plates.
So, while the service was horrible, I actually got a lot of entertainment from it.
It was also nice that I was sitting right by the entrance to the inside of the restaurant so each time the waiter would run (yes, they were running) past me, I’d get a nice breeze of air.
Did I tip?
You bet I did. I mean, just for the pure entertainment value of watching them run around but also I felt bad for the guys.
My waiter was genuinely happy when I gave him the tip as I’m guessing there weren’t many coming his way tonight.
And, on that note, I’ll end the blog.
See you tomorrow!