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Captain Nero goes to Albania

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One of the best things you learn while travelling is that everywhere, most people are nice. And most people will always help out foreigners and want to know them a bit.

A couple of years ago, in my last few days in Greece, a few people heard my plans of going to Albania next and warned me against it. There were quite a few Albanian refugees in Athens , and some of the locals felt it would be unsafe for me to go there.

Needless to say, I boarded the bus from Greece to Tirana. In the bus, there were forty people, all Albanians. Not a single person from any other country. We reached the border at 1 am. I was asked to step down and the immigration officer inspected my passport. When he okayed it, I got back into the bus to see all forty stare at me. Only one girl in the bus knew English, so they told her to ask me why I was visiting Albania. Ask me a question and I’ll unearth the showman. “because I heard it’s a beautiful country and has beautiful people”, I replied. A roar of approval went through the bus when she translated my answer back to them.

For the next three hours, no one slept in the bus. They kept asking questions, the girl kept translating and I kept answering. They hadn’t known any Indians. Most didn’t even know where India was, in the world map. They were very curious as to why I would travel so far to their country. But I kept answering all the questions and kept grinning like a fool.

At 430 am, we reached my stop – the pretty town of Girokastra. When I got down, the whole bus got down to say goodbye to me. It felt lovely to see all of them wish me luck. I hadn’t booked any hostel or hotel so there was a big discussion between them as to where I should go, but I just laughed and told them I’d figure it out. They refused to let me go alone and half the bus walked with me to find me a hotel, while the rest and the driver waited patiently in the bus. Only once I had checked into this cute inn, did they go back to the bus. Their kindness touched me absolutely and I wondered why we have these misconceptions about places.

Over the next week, I fell in love with Albania. Then with Pristina (in Kosovo), then with Bosnia and then with Montenegro. I fell in love with the Ottoman architecture, their history and route of conquest in Europe, and the bloody warlords of the past. I fell in love with Alexander Dumas all over again, and with the routine of not having a routine.

Keep travelling people, it’ll open up your head in ways you never thought possible.

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Neeraj Narayanan

Neeraj Narayanan, a.k.a Captain Nero, is the founder of OHOT. In the summer of 2013, he quit his corporate job and went backpacking around the world. In a year full of (mis)adventures, he ended up being chased by a bear in a Croatian forest, being held at gunpoint by a mafia gang lord in Turkey, running with the bulls in Spain, and dancing in the clubs of Spain and Italy. A year later, he started leading group trips for people.

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