Stay with me- A French/American couple roadtrip through Europe. They arrive in Albania and meet a local through couchsurfing. Harmless at first, he becomes upset and makes them uncomfortable. They try to leave, but are met with threats if they don’t stay.
Paul: So, this was a couple of years ago. Five six years ago.
Me: Why’d you go to Albania?
Paul: I had this ex-girlfriend from the US, and she would travel in Europe under that three month visa (Schengen). She’s like, “If I’m coming to Europe, we might as well make it worth it.”
So we buy this van. Fully equipped…ish. There’s a bed there. We could travel and live in it. Yeah, let’s do it! We buy this van and the goal was to go to Romania. We’re gonna make a big, round circle and cover like 10 or 15 countries. First thing, funny thing, is that she didn’t tell me something important. She arrived, we had the van, and everything was set. Then she said, “Oh, by the way, I didn’t tell you something. I don’t have a driving license.” Yaaaaay…
Paul: I had to drive fourteen thousand kilometers. That was not fun. But yeah, we started the trip, and everything goes fine. We stop on the way and do a bit of couchsurfing.
Group: You were in a van or something?
Paul: Yeah yeah yeah. Living in the van, traveling in the van, with van life. Stopping at remote places, seeing amazing things.
Everything went fine until Montenegro, just before Albania and Kosovo. People would tell us, “If you go to Albania, roads are fucked.” I’m not talking about “the asphalt is fucked,” more like “there is no asphalt, this is stupid, don’t do that.”
Well, we still have to go to get through Kosovo, so we kind of have to. What are we gonna do? We’re gonna leave the van in Montenegro at a friend’s place, hitchhike to Albania, and check it out first.
So that’s what we do. We’re here, hitchhiking to Albania, everything works fine. We make it to the capital, Tirana. It’s this big weird place, like Africa in Europe. Really weird. You been there? Absolutely chaotic.
Anyway, we’re having fun there, been there a day or two. We decide, “Hey, let’s meet locals.” We go on couchsurfing and meet this guy, a lawyer. He seems a bit strange, like a bit off, but… alright. Why not?
So, we set up a meeting and go meet with him. We’re standing in the bar where he told us we’d meet. Ah, he doesn’t come. After awhile, I text him, “Hey, where are you?”
He’s like “Yeah, I’m watching you. I’m at the end of the bar.”
[Chuckles] OK, why not. We go to the end of the bar and the guy says, “Yeah, I’m been here for twenty minutes just observing you.”
Whatever, whatever. “Cool, nice to meet you.”
He shows us the town, everything’s alright. The guy’s not the funniest person in the world, but it’s fine. It works for awhile, and after awhile it’s getting dark.
“Hey man, it was nice meeting you, but we’re gonna head off.”
“Wait wait wait…” It was the time of the last World Cup. “I’m a big fan of Germany.”
“Oh yeah, I really like Germany too.”
“Do you wanna watch the football match with me?”
“I mean, to be honest, I don’t know if I wanna spend my evening watching football.”
“Comon, comon! Let’s have dinner and talk about it.”
Ok… we have dinner, and then he says “Comon please, watch the match with me, we can go to my place. I have some paints, we can paint our faces with Germany’s flag.” Bla bla bla…
Ahhh, I’m not crazy about that. Maybe more people… but no.
Group: What’s the vibe in Albania? Are people doing this? Is everyone else painting their faces?
Paul: No, just him. I mean, usually they do that in the country playing. I don’t know why the fuck he was on so much with Germany, I don’t know…
Group: So he’s there, in Albania, but he was dressed in German colors…
Paul: He liked Germany a lot. I don’t know why.
So, we have this dinner, and we have this argument.
He’s like “Comon, come!”
“No.” First, we’re polite, you know, he invited us for dinner, he showed us the town. “…No, I’m sorry. No.”
“Please think about it.”
“OK, we’ll talk about it.”
He goes to pee, comes back. “So, did you think about it?”
“Yeah we talked about it, I think we’re gonna head off, thanks.”
“No no no. You have to come.”
“Dude, we told you… we’d rather not.”
“No no, please. Please think about it, it’s gonna be fun. We’ll watch it on a big screen.
“Man, really, I think NO.”
“No, but I insist. Stay.”
“Man, like… no. No. We’re not gonna stay.”
He keeps on going and going, and at some point, he becomes really insistent, it’s very awkward.
“Man, my girlfriend is not feeling comfortable, so I’m sorry but, I think we’re gonna leave.”
And then he stands up, and he goes off.
“You know who I am?”
“Yeah why? You told us you’re a lawyer.”
“Yeah, I’m an important lawyer. And I’m telling you, I want you to stay with me.”
“Dude, that’s like really not cool.I think we’re gonna go.”
Group: Weird! That’s so weird! He just wants you to go to a game and watch it?
Paul: Yeah yeah yeah… I think he was a really lonely guy. I don’t know. At some point he starts shaking [mimics shaking with anger].
Group: It’s affecting his self worth.
Paul: We didn’t want to hurt him, but fucking hell I didn’t want to do it.
Group: Is that all he wanted? He didn’t want you for any other dodgy purposes or anything?
Paul: At the beginning, we’re thinking, “Oh maybe we could do it,” but then he became so awkward.
Group: Yeah there’s something weird…
I tell him “I’m gonna pay the bill.” I put down some notes, but he throws them away.
“I don’t need your money, I’m a lawyer! I have money.”
“OK, well, we’re gonna leave. Thank you for everything. It was nice.”
“You know what, I know people… I’m important. You’re not gonna leave the country without me knowing it. You’re not gonna leave this country…”
Group: You’re in the middle of fucking Albania and you don’t know the language.
Paul: That’s what got us even more scared, he might know people and fuck, we’re in the middle of this country.
Group: He’s saying he’s an influential person.
Paul: Exactly. He told us “I know you don’t have any mean of transportation. Everywhere you go, I know people… You’re gonna try to pass the border. I’m gonna make some you can’t get out of my country.”
At this point, we didn’t wanna back out because we didn’t know what we could expect from him. Ok, we’re out. We have to get out of the country now. We don’t know what can happen, we don’t know who’s this guy, you know?
So, we start hitchhiking… doesn’t work, doesn’t work. At some point we find a taxi and decide “Fuck it, we’re gonna pay, just bring us to the border.” At the border, we tried to explain our situation, but they didn’t speak any English. Ahh fuck. Ten minutes pass, but we made it.
Group: So you made it to the border and just left the country?
Group: So that very night, you went to the border?
Paul: The guy probably didn’t know anyone, but we didn’t wanna take the risk.
Group: Do you think he actually wanted you to watch the game?
Paul: I think so.
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