Just to be clear, though, I don't love trains as much as this guy*:
*although I legitimately love his childlike joy
When I was researching trains in this part of the world, inevitably the travel forums would be filled with foreboding warnings to just avoid the trains altogether. Apparently they were so totally awful that to even consider subjecting oneself to a ride on them would be akin to self flagellation. The consensus was that they were best avoided unless one had some sort of point to prove. From the descriptions, I was picturing some sort of burned out husk of metal with little to no seats (mostly broken if present at all), precariously attached to the rails, filled with rats, homeless people, crime lords, and spider webs. There may or may not have been a creepy old man playing a sad violin in a corner, covered in rags (hey, I'm just going off of the descriptions I read). However, there was always one message about how "it's an experience like none other" and "it wasn't that bad, you guys, settle down". Now, I know two things about myself as a traveler: one, I have low expectations of punctuality, cleanliness, and comfort, and two, I don't mind going off the beaten path. Because of that, I figured I could trust the random, lone dissenting opinions of internet strangers whom I had never met.
And you know what? I was right.
We wanted to take the train to Durres, but we got to the train station in Tirana too late because we had the wrong time for departure. That meant we had time to take some pictures of the Tirana train station in all its glory before we hopped on the bus to Durres instead.
|The price of tickets is variable- white boards are necessary. For about .70 cents I'm not complaining.|
|I'm not saying I'd judge you for missing this. Okay, yes I am. I would.|
|A lot of people photoshop the hell out of their pics in blogs. Clearly, I do not.|
There was a train off to the left that looked out of commission, and yeah, it also looked pretty beat up. Broken windows, graffiti, super old cars- high speed trains would not invite it to their hipster parties, for sure. But, all in all, whatever, right?
|Not the train we took|
|Julius, Scott, and Tiara approve.|
|Train chaise lounge- that says class|
|Couch surfing- building bonds, forming friendships. Now get off my train couch, guys.|
|Random foreigner, as seen on an Albanian train|
All in all, the train was fine.It wasn't glaringly awful or dirty, it was just old and weathered and a little worse for wear thanks largely in part to kids with rocks and spray paint. And yeah, the tracks take you through some pretty rundown rural areas, but that's just the nature of the rural areas (trust me, I have seen some sketchy areas from the window of the Amtrak in America- after glancing out the window at around 3 a.m. I'm convinced the entire Omaha train station is a playground for zombies and/or is where they filmed the creepy underwater scenes for any ship wreck movie ever). I would totally take the train again, and I look forward to trying out longer trips. Once you see the driving around here, you feel grateful for a track that is nowhere near a furgon or an errant Mercedes plowing through cyclists and pedestrians.
I found this blog post about taking the train to Pogradec to get to Lake Ohrid. It's an interesting read, just in case you were thinking "You know, this long rambly blog post about trains is just whetting my appetite- I need more."
Also, I just feel like I have to leave you with this.
*this is certainly hyperbole due to too much sun at the beach