Sarandë is the 'resort capital' of Albania. It's the beach vacation destination. Not only do Albanians seek this coastal hot spot, but also other Europeans looking for a cheap vacation. The scenery didn't exactly blow me away, but staying up in a high rise created it's own amazing view. (Stay tuned for my next post, the true gem of Sarandë is coming up!)
When traveling, it's my main goal to spend time with locals in each country. As I had already been to Albania last year, I loved the country, and came back for the sole purpose of being able to explore more of the culture and dig deeper into the people's lives. I didn't have enough time to do a work exchange, but even through spending time around the family that owned the Himare hostel, I tried getting to know about their lives, customs, food, interests etc. It was impenetrable. My expat hostel owner in Sarandë finally explained to me that the Albanian people are private. They can know each other for years, yet know nothing about their closest friends. It's all a show. They have little money (average 200 euro a month), and spend all of it on clothing and their Mercedes cars. Even if they are starving hungry within their walls, they want to make sure the rest of the community thinks they are doing well. Albania is extremely safe, as nobody will steal from others because of the level of gossip and maintaining their reputation.
That being said, their pride for their flag and love for designer goods are both unparalleled. Any touristy street market overflows with both alike. You can buy whatever high end label for about 20 euros. Some places have better knock offs than others.