A (long) day in Albania – Part 3

And so, after two months from last post about Albania I am going to write the last chapter of this story. I am sitting on the bed with Princess and I am happy, were two months of intensive work, travel, a lot of different activities and is only now that I find the time to write and I am realizing how much I missed this activity .. in which is clear that I am still a novice.

Returning to the facts, we had left in Koman, without ferry and with the idea (unscheduled as always)to go to Tirana. Left the valley, and its horrible trail, a road fairly well maintained drove us to the capital, we were already quite tired but reach the center was relatively easy.

Passing by car from Skanderbeg Square we were immediately fascinated, a huge space, according to Wikipedia 5 hectares, with wide streets, lawns, flowers, dedicated to the Albanian National Hero Giorgio Castriota. Leaving the car at the first parking available we walked, and here, at the same venue, the thing we liked most:

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This is the mosaic “The Albanians”, created in the eighties, from various artists, it represent the Albanian people history, still impresses me how a picture so beautiful could sum up the history of a country.

Tirana is a mixture of different architectures, the pyramid is impressive, built in 1987 as a mausoleum of the dictator Enver Hoxha, and then turned into a cultural center. Many time demolition was planned, but it’s still there, and I personally like it, I like to see young people who chatting around it, close to the word “Mos Me Harroni” that in Albanian means “To Not Forget”, a piece of history, good or bad, is always a piece of history.

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After a short walk, we got hungry, you will have already guessed by reading other articles, we’re both foodies, and that in all of our stories you will find something to eat. Recommended by our Lonely Planet we visited the restaurant Oda, in a side street not far from the center, after having turned around a few times, we found the entrance, a nice lady made us sit in one of the small rooms, furnished in Albanian style. We had great time, the furniture were not the only traditional thing, the food there really surprised us, we strongly recommend to visit this place, we tried several dishes doing our best and challenging the elasticity of our stomachs !! Me and Principessa look forward to come back!

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Sunset is coming and we decided to leave the city, destination Lake Ohrid, Macedonia. Leave Tirana was not easy, a few directions, no detailed map of the city and a traffic devastating. We drove along a mountain road, without even a light, I tried to follow the local cars, driving better than me, or so it seemed. At about 22:00, tired, we arrived at the border and we made our first entry in Macedonia, after having finished the formalities of the case, and politely rejected the offer of the border official who wanted to rent us a house, we reach Ohrid, where we stayed for two days, lovely place, but that’s another story …

And so the 5th day of our trip is over, we drove a lot, took ferries, rented a small boat, met a lot of people, ate ate ate, visited cities, swam, met animals and slept little, only the first taste of a trip that we will never forget.

A (long) day in Albania – Part 2

As I told in the previous post in the morning we left Shkodra to head towards Lake Koman. Initially we drove across a beautiful highway, surrondend by towns, bars and retailers of used Mercedes. The idea was to reach Koman by car, take the ferry to get to Fierze, look for a place to sleep in that area between lakes and mountains and the next day reach Tirana, or if we had arrived late for the ferry, sleeping in Koman and catch the ferry the following day.

Left the highway we continued on SH25, a sign indicated that there were only 32Km to our destination. Our legendary Fiat 500 was climbing the mountains in this place out of reality. If you decide that you want to spend some time with no contact with civilization, this is the place for you, we have crossed kilometers of mountain road near a great river, blue with mirror effect, and trees, trees and more trees. Sometimes an isolated house or a village of a few houses, fenced, tidy and where everyone has fruit trees, vegetables, and animals.
Now you may wonder why such a place near the highway is so isolated, simple, the road is horrible, sometimes there is the asphalt, sometimes no, no shoulder, the asphalt slippery goes straight down the mountains, holes so big that you can take a bath inside them, and the closer you get to Koman is worse, it takes about 2 hours driving reckless, plus some (pleasant) unexpected meetings like this:

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Once I established a relationship with herd of goats (is correct to say herd of goats, or the herd is for cows is only? Perhaps a flock of goats, or this is only for sheeps?) and politely asked them to move away from the roadway, everything went smoothly until the “country” of Koman, along the way we met a large fenced area with barbed wire, which we later found out to be a mine and a series of large circles formed by rubber pipes in the water, which still we do not know the purpose; of course we stopped several times to admire the view and take some pictures:

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The last stretch of road start from Koman and climbs uphill on a narrow road remnant of a quarry, made from large stones (this is the only dangerous part of the road, where you have to go extremely slow), is near a high dam monitored by security agents dressed in a funny uniform and armed with a vintage firearm with the wooden handle. Near the dam, a tunnel carved into the mountain takes you to a parking lot where ferries depart.

Just parked the car a kind girl asked us in perfect Italian if we needed information, I asked in English about ferry, to allow even Principessa to understand, and in a good English it was explained us that because of the level too low the of lake, the ferry could not leave, it that day, and following 2 or 3 for sure, but that if we wanted we could do a private tour by boat, without car, and without going up to Fierze, at a price much higher than the ferry.

During a first comparison we smelled a rat, we thought that the ferry had already left, and that for this girl was better to sell us a private boat tour rather than make us wait the next day and take the ferry .. Ferry being used from local to carry everything, that for sure is cheap ..

We went back to the town and we asked other people about the ferry departure time, and all advised us to ask to pier because there was low level of water in the lake, so we were untrusting this girl, but she was honest … Here came the despair, we had come all this way with the horrible road certainty of not having to go back again, plus we were really curious about this trip on this ferry passing through lands untouched by any road, where the time stopped long time ago, where people do not have “heard” the Italian occupation or the German one, or Communism, or the modernization of these days; they live in the same way, in nature, thanks to the hard work regardless of Saturday and Sunday with the days marked only by sun and by night and the moon to indicate the seasons and the day to sow and reap.

I realize now that I have written a papyrus, am I long-winded? If yes, tell me, it’s the first time I am writing a blog, I’m not an expert ..

Always with a smile we went back, towards Tirana! But this I’ll tell you in the next post

A (long) day in Albania – Part 1

**Just a reminder, I am writing in English for fun)

On September 18th at 04:00a AM we left Montenegro, because of an unwanted meeting (we will tell about this in another post), and at five in the morning we started our unique, long and wonderful day in Albania accompanied by the call of the Muezzin, starting from the minarets, spread amplified in the beautiful valleys surrounding us, making the sunrise magic.

Our first stop was Shkodra, we arrived in the town too early, we had a walk in the desert center, and then we parked along the road to the castle, where Principessa had  a good sleep, and I’ve read “Siberian Trilogy” from Nicolai Lilin (which apparently is a “liar” https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicolai_Lilin, I was sad when I discovered it, and I am suffering, I do not know whether or not to buy the last two books; sorry I can’t find any article in English about him).

Shkodra or Shkodër for the Albanians, Scutari for us Italians, is an ancient city, the cradle of Albanian culture, on the shores of homonymous lake and often known as the “Florence of the Balkans” because here the press arrived early and was taken The first photograph of the entire Balkan area (1858): http://shkoder.net/en/ . Looks like we made the tour of the “Florence of something”, in this post I wrote about the Florence of Bulgaria, I swear it was not wanted!

At about 9 am we ventured into the center, we immediately noticed that most of the cars were Mercedes from ’90s, that’s Albania! The main street is super romantic, a series of restaurants, small shops and cafes surrounding the street, and tables crowded with people concentrated on smoking and drinking coffee give color to the pedestrian area. The thing that certainly impressed me was the extreme kindness of the people, as the waiter who has worked hard to make us an omelette because the chef had not yet arrived, then asking if it was good (and it was), or the guy who offered us to take a picture, and got scared seeing photo getting out of the camera, confessing that he had never seen a snapshot:

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Also in the center was being the beer festival, sponsored by the national beer “Stela”, which we did not get to try for a number of reasons: start drinking at 9 am is not recommended, we were going to drive , we were uninsured because the green card does not cover this nation and insurance office near the borderwas close and mainly all the stands were closed. For the curious, this is the link of the brewery: http://www.stefani-co.al/.

The city is very accurate, even the fences of the yards are decorated and parks are full of strange sights, such as giants Chupa Chups:

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In the morning as well we left towards Koman, with the idea of taking a ferry and sail up the valley above a breathtaking water views, we thought we had the day well planned, but something unexpected was around the corner. I’ve already written too much, I will tell this adventure in the next post. For now one anticipation:

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