|Clearly, there are very stringent traffic laws in Albania|
Aussies are subject to the same restrictions, but always seem to overstay their visas (I met one guy who has been in the Schengen Zone for 3 years). Once a colony of law-breakers, always a colony of law-breakers. The Americans I've run into, however, seem to toe the line... I guess we're just a more law-fearing people. I certainly am. They can ban you from the area for THREE years for overstaying, and I'm sure as hell not gonna let an extra three days in Estonia bar me from Europe. Trust me, it's just not worth it.
My original plan was to fly from Tallinn, Estonia to Lima, Peru and continue the second half of my trip in various areas of Central and South America. It really would make sense seeing as how half of my time at Yale was spent in classes about Latin America, attending guest lectures about various issues in Latin America, eating the free food at said lectures, and generally just trying to pretend that one day I would be able to convince someone (presumably someone very stupid) that I'm originally from Colombia and that I enjoy chewing coca leaves with my grandfather whenever I revisit my hometown of Cartagena.
|Camel-sponsored smoking lounge at Munich Airport|
Also, you know those moments when you can tell you're just about to push your luck...? Well, that's what I was feeling. I kept having these flashes of getting myself into a little bit of trouble with the infamous South American "machismo." So I cancelled my flight. Yes, I cancelled my flight on account of overreactive feminism. HOLLA.
And where did I decide to go instead? The only logical choice — Albania — the land of the stolen Mercedes.
|AFC: Albania Fried Chicken...|
In a rare change of character, I rejected the flight attendants offer of coffee and he picked up an open bottle of wine and smiled, "Red wine then?" What a gem — an 8am wino. Then, the man next to me offered me a banana. DAWWW, what a giving people. After a short connection in Munich, I headed off to my final destination: the Mother Teresa Airport in Tirana (the capital of Albania). Needless to say, I was on my best behavior for various reasons.
|Tirana ain't pretty|
Little did I know at the time, but this bus was actually one of the classier buses in Tirana...I guess they want people to have a good first impression of the city when they arrive from the airport. It's the intercity buses and the "furgons" —ah, the furgons— that are my new favorite cultural experiment. I'm pretty sure the city of Tirana just stole them out of an enemy country's museum. Instead of employing the "yell and see if anyone wants to get off" method, the inter-city buses just perpetually leave the front door open. If you wanna get out before a designated stop, just jump and run across the street before someone hits you.
We'll come back to my favorite transport — the furgons — in a moment, but first, let me tell you that Tirana is perhaps one of the ugliest places I have ever visited. This was actually quite a refreshing change. Seriously, everywhere I have visited in Europe is so pretty that it's a little overwhelming. So the sheer ugliness of Tirana was a breath of fresh air. And it's not just ugly, it's quirky-ugly, which is the best type of ugly. Y'all know what I'm talking about.
|An example of "quirky-ugly"|
|This one's quite nice, no?|
|Rainbows & roundabouts!|
I'm convinced that the Albanians have set up this system really just to teach us all a little patience and faith, and at this point I am very accustomed to jumping into the stolen cars of perfect strangers.