Now that winter has well and truly passed, many of the bars have courtyards filled with people, and all along Nene Tereza boulevard, the restaurants are set up for al fresco dining. It's a sociable, but civil, affair, with a macchiato being as common as a beer or glass of wine - coffee being as much the social lubricant as alcohol in the local culture.
Once the sun has finally set, it's approaching 9pm, and the temperature begins to drop a little. For the more traditional continuation into the night, there are a number of rakija bars (I will explain rakija in another post), where you'll see a blend of local young people, and older Albanian men. However, at the same time, there are a number of hip modern places - two of my favourites being Dit' e Nat' (Albanian for "Day and Night") and Soma Book Station.
Both of these are unique in that they are cafe/bars that are also bookstores (or are they bookstores that are also cafe / bars?). They often hold performances by bands - both local and visiting - and attract the closest thing to what you might call the local hipster community. I'll often see posters advertising local creative startups and cultural festivals, and I'll often see young people set up with their laptops and notebooks, sipping their coffees or local craft beers whilst working on some creative endeavour. And so, I quite like both of these places - not just because they most remind me of my home town of Melbourne - but also because they provide unique creative spaces in the community. Also, it's dangerous to have books for sale in a place where I might have a few drinks, and lose my inhibitions...
|Soma Book Station|
Finally, once the midnight hour is upon us, it's time to make a choice. With the onset of my middle-age, I must confess that I'm usually in bed by midnight, or 1am at the latest. However, on one occasion, I'd had more than my daily quota of espressos, and was ready to push through into the darkest hours of the night. In this case, we ended up at an extremely smokey underground bar called Zanzi. There was quite a good cover band, ripping out some power anthems to an appreciative crowd, and then some DJs of varying quality. Entry was free for the women (and 3 Euro for the men) and looking around, I could see why. By 2am, it was 98% men bopping along on the dance floor (plus the 3-4 women that I'd arrived with). I've been told that this is just part of the local culture - and whilst I made the observation that it seemed far more progressive for women here, who seemed quite liberated in their dress sense, here was an indication that there are still conservative social attitudes where women don't stay out late. Either that, or we were at a particularly crappy dive spot that women just didn't want to go to!
Eventually, the DJ started playing some pretty obnoxious techno (still not as bad as Vietnamese house though!) and we used that as an excuse to leave. I arrived home at about 3:30am, and, smelling like an ashtray, put all of my clothes straight into the laundry, and made a mental note to wash my hair in the morning.
The next morning, I woke to find that I'd spent more money than I planned, but on the plus side, I had a new impulse-buy novel to add to my bookshelf.