Albania – our final thoughts
Albania – our final thoughtsJune
Albania has been a really interesting place for us. We’ve experienced the benefits of immigration in other countries and it’s really opened our eyes.
In Albania we rubbed shoulders with people who have migrated to England: some legal, and others illegal. Someone we met had even been deported! Everyone – and I mean everyone was helpful and kind.
If you follow our social media you will already know that our plans to get to Kukes, Albania were cut short when Stew’s front wheel hit my back wheel! I was lucky enough to recover myself, but unfortunately – Stew fell. I heard a shout and a crash. I’d managed to register what was happening, stop my bike and turn around and still managed to catch Stew skidding along the hot tarmac.
Luckily 2 cars stopped and helped Stew, one rushing to get a first aid kit and ice cold water and the other flagging down a van to take Stew to the nearest hospital in Krume. The van could take 1 bike and 1 passenger so I had to cycle the last few miles alone! For anyone who knows me will know that’s quite a feat!
Anyway, rather than going to hospital, Stew was taken to Jupa restaurant in the nearest town, Krume. I met him there and by the time I arrived he was looking better, albeit bruised and grazed the colour was back in his cheeks. With medical supplies on us we decided to skip the hospital and rest in Krume until Stew could bike again. We stayed in Krume for 4 nights.
Krume is comparable to Much Wenlock, likely a little smaller. Everyone knew everyone and those we met took great care of us.
There wasn’t a lot to do in Krume, but luckily for us the hero, Abdullah who flagged down the van made sure our stay was pleasant. He checked in daily and introduced us to his English-speaking cousin who was as real treasure, telling us more about Krume.
Albanian’s love England!
Locals informed us that everyone has a family member living in England and I trust this to be true. England is a very desirable place to live – unlike North Albania there are jobs and salaries are much better.
We were given a tour of Krume by car and it was during this tour we had a real appreciation for the Albanian/Anglo relationship from their point of view.
Our driver laughed as we put our seat belts on, Albania isn’t quite as health and safety conscious as the UK! We drove a short distance out of Krume to see the houses in development, many flying a Union Jack alongside the Albanian flag. These houses have been built using, “English money”, to quote the locals. (I wish so much I had taken a photograph of these! So disappointed! I might get some yet, I’ve asked!)
As we toured Krume we were told: “We respect England…all this was just land and trees, but with thanks to English money we can come home, buy land and build our homes.”
There’s a sense of pride in my new Albanian friends voice as he talks about what they’ve accomplished and a genuine respect for England, “this garage, [is here thanks to] English money – or French or German. We buy land, and build our house exactly as we like it. No one tells us what to do. We own it.” I can’t put how he came across in words – genuine, joyful, pride (but nicely so).
I start to well up as I see the difference England has made to Albania. I have never appreciated immigration quite like this before. We could really feel the difference that England has made and the gratitude and hard work the Albanians put in is heartwarming.
Our lovely friends who gave us a tour have done so much for us. They’ve taken Stew and I around the town, bought us a drink in a beautiful garden, showed us a glorious hotel, shared with us 2 great restaurants and overall just cared for our wellbeing. There were frequent offers to take Stew to the hospital but we insisted he was fine.
Visas and rejection
I’m told that England is hard to get into legally from Albania but Albanian’s can enter France and Germany easily.
If someone wants to enter England illegally apparently they can find a smuggler for 7000 EUROS!
During our stay in Krume we met another lovely Albanian who joined us for lunch one afternoon.
He was called to help by the restaurant owner. The owner was an older man and couldn’t speak English. He called his sons friend to help. He spoke almost perfect English.
He showed us an email he received that day with his visa rejection. He was an engineer, a talented person, well dressed, intelligent by his standard of English I would guess, but he was rejected. Genuinely disappointed for this lovely young man. He helped us order, sat with us for our entire lunch sharing stories and made sure we were totally happy with everything before he left. We hope he manages to get his visa next time!
Over the 4 nights in Krume we visited a pharmacist twice. On our first visit we wanted to pick up some treatment for Stew’s knee. The pharmacist who spoke good English inspected the grazed and swollen knee and suggested antibiotic cream and ibuprofen. He opened the cream in front of Stew and slid it across the counter. Leke in hand, I was ready to pay , but the pharmacist refused. “For free” he said, shaking Stew’s hand, “all the best with your journey.”
We were speechless.
The second visit to the pharmacy we wanted to buy a dressing for the huge graze on Stew’s knee to keep it clean on the bike ride. A different pharmacist helped this time and dressed the leg. She refuses payment and asks where we are from.
“England” says Stew
She responds with: “Sister, sister England” – to the Albanians we are one and I loved that.
Albanian’s are kind and respectful.
Albanians are kind beyond belief, on top of the medical help which I assume is private we are given a loaf of bread, baked fresh for 29p. I try to pay more since Albania has been so good to me, but she won’t take more. Returning my change she taps her heart.
Back at the caffe-bar/our hotel on our last day – we buy 4 drinks, 2 of them alcoholic. They are all given to us “on the house”. We are speechless.
Respect is incredibly important in Albania. I see this from the older men especially, many are in shirts. Hands are shaken, the table rises when one leaves and you can feel the importance of respect.
It is with great pleasure that we receive the respect for England. It really means something here.
After 4 days, Stew and I head to Kuke’s, our original destination! It’s just 18 miles away, so Stew would be okay. We settle down at a coffee-bar-restaurant to find our hotel for the night.
The owner comes out – we engage in the same small talk and tell him we are from England.
“I have a Union Jack in my bar! Come and see!” He says enthusiastically, camera in hand I follow him and see the Union Jack proudly hanging next to the Albanian flag.
“What is the reason for this?” I ask
“To me, it [Albania/England] is the same” he tells me.
This gentleman hopes to move to the UK one day. He has an Albanian son, named Ian after his Scottish friend.
Albania was a really great experience, despite the injuries! The culture was quite different to what is familiar to us an the people were amazing.
Now we are in Kosovo for a few days before we cross the border to North Macedonia.