The Chinese often refer to a great place if it constitutes these two natural elements- mountains and water. I first visited Tirana Albania back in 2014 when I did a short trip of 2 days and 1 night with our close friends. Due to the time difference traveling in from Asia and the drive journey from Pristina, Kosovo to Tirana, I was somewhat exhausted and did not know what to make of the quick turnaround trip other than probing my eyes open with toothpicks for the delicious seafood lunch in Tirana. Try to imagine yourself booked on a holiday with a tour group (aka, this is just 4 of us) going from one tourist spot to the next.
So, not much recollection of the place until fast forward to October 2020 when the Covid was at its peak. My husband and myself had to make the call to travel from Singapore to Kosovo to see my mother in law against all odds as she was feeling very ill and the thought of not seeing her for the last time was too much to bear. Thankfully, my mother in law got much better when we were there. We then decided to take off and explore the neighboring country Albania as it’s a short bus ride of 4- 5 hours from Kosovo. We booked our stay on Airbnb easily as I supposed most people are still confined in their own countries and not able to travel freely like they used to before.
Back to the mountains and water. This time, when I arrived in Tirana, the capital of Albania, I was well rested prior and had my eyes wide open. I was taken aback that you could literally see the mountains right smack in your face, and mind you, we are talking about a city. The mountains seemed to encompass the whole city like an envelope and the air was amazingly refreshing. The water that flows down from the mountains form lakes and pools which look crystal clear that you want to drink off it. I remembered thinking in my mind, what an idyllic place this is, time seems to go by slower even as we sip coffee and tea in the endlessly interesting and creative cafes and bars that will give any top tier city a run for their bucks. Best of all, it does not hurt my pockets like when in London or Paris.
The city is extremely walkable and easy to navigate with a pair of willing legs. Otherwise, taxis are easy options and not way too over the top should you need a breather. We decided to venture further out and found this eco-friendly agrotourism place called Mrizi i Zanave about an hour drive from Tirana. We stayed on the farm site for 3 days and 2 nights and had some of the most wonderful orgasmic experiences in terms of food and surroundings. It’s like back to basics with some creature comforts that we are well associated with. And, you guessed it, the place was surrounded by mountains.
My husband and I returned to Kosovo refreshed and renewed. Suddenly, the possibility of living in a country like Albania seems so alluring, given the fact that by now, work can be done remotely and is widely accepted in most countries due to the pandemic situation. We returned to Singapore early in 2021 still talking about and missing Albania. We did plenty of research on it and discovered there are so many more interesting places and cities in Albania that we would love to explore at some point.
After more than a year, we made up our minds and moved to Tirana in March 2022 of this year. We are now closer in distance wise to any other European cities, midway to the United States or even Asia. We have since settled into our new apartment comfortably and look forward to sharing with you all our adventures in this part of the world soon. Stay tuned for my next piece which I’ll be covering about digital nomads flocking to Tirana and what are my top places to visit.
Janice Hui Fern KWA