Soccer and Skender in Albania

We went out for a little night on the town here in Tirana, and it was AMAZING!!! Here are some of the highlights:

Watching World Cup Soccer in Skanderbeg Square

So, one of the really cool things that has already endeared us to our new home is the very family-friendly culture. This centrally-located space is bordered by the National History Museum, The Palace of Culture (which contains the Opera House and National Library), and the Bank of Albania. While we’ve yet to make any significant inroads into any of these national treasures, we have felt more than welcomed by all the festivities happening right outside!

Since the World Cup is obviously huge, the city has set up a big playground in which people of all ages can enjoy the fun. There are plenty of comfy places to sit, loads of vendors selling food and refreshments, and music and/or other entertainment playing on the screen during down times between games.

World Cup Soccer in Tirana
Our Little Sous relaxes in a beanbag chair in front of the big screen at game time.

 

Selfies way up high!

Helping locals and tourists alike capture shots of themselves in this beautiful place, there’s also a huge tower that’s been erected near the south side of the square. We all climbed the stairs, enjoyed the incredible views of the city, and snapped a few pictures.

Family Selfie in Tirana
Family selfie from the top of the tower in Skanderbeg Square

 

Dinner out and about in the city

Döner kebab is a familiar traditional street food to many. We became very familiar with these rotating towers of meat during our time in Japan, as they were staples of summer festivals in our centrally-located prefecture. Loads of tacos al pastor in Mexico last summer continued to fuel the love affair. So when we saw those pivoting pillars of protein upon arrival in Tirana, we knew it wouldn’t be long before we sampled the local variations on the theme.

Döner Iskender in Tirana, Albania
Döner Iskender, a savory lamb dish with tomato sauce and yogurt

 

Enter Skender, also known as Döner Iskender, a plate of shredded veal kebab, traditionally smothered in butter and tomato sauce, and served with a side of savory yogurt. This moist and tender meat was piled on top of a fluffy flatbread, which soaked up all the juicy drippings and provided another satisfying texture to the dish.

I followed the recommendation of our sweet server, and sipped on an incredibly appealing yogurt drink called Ajran Bio. Hearing it was yogurt-based, and seeing the fluffy, foamy head on the cup, I was expecting something sweet like so many Indian lassis I’ve enjoyed in the past. This one was surprisingly savory, and Our Little Sous reacted strongly at first. Resetting his expectations after the first salty sip, he went on to drink about half the cup!

Ajran Bio in Tirana, Albania
Our Little Sous expresses his shock at sipping a salty yogurt drink.

 

A little research appears to suggest that the dish is Turkish in origin. It also shows remarkable similarity to some other Greek and Pakistani dishes with which we are also in love. We’re looking forward to sampling more variations on this deliciousness, and PLAYING with the ingredients as we learn how to make it ourselves–of course!

CURIOUS about the journey? Want to follow along? Join us over in our online group! We’d love to hear your voice in the conversation.

Please tell us what you think!