We didn’t really know what to expect but we had these „strange feelings“ when entering Albania. We were going to meet an old friend of mine in Tirana. Todd is participating in an accelerator project funded by the Swiss government to support Albanian start-up companies. The first stop at Lake Shkodra already was a positive surprise. The campground, a british/albanian project was right on the lake and in perfect condition. During breakfast we got to know a very sympathetic german couple with 2 kids, 4 dogs and a large RV. It’s what we had hoped for on our journey – meet open people with interesting life styles that have a story to tell.
Driving to Tirana taught us a first lesson on „albanian driving“. In summary it’s like this: – turn signals are for sissys, – you never indicate a sudden stop, – while you drive you must use your mobile phone, – speed limits are to be ignored, – you pass other cars only if you can’t see what’s ahead of you,
You can imagine that entering Tirana on a Friday afternoon was exciting. Since we were the ones with a big car, we had no problems to make it through the roundabouts . In Tirana we had chosen to stay in a hotel to be closer to the city center and be more flexible for meeting with our friend. The Rogner Hotel is one of the few hotels in Tirana where pets are allowed in the hotel. Joiz even got to choose his complimentary dogbed and immediately indicated that he liked the room.
Tirana, was a real (positive) surprise and very different from the cities and villages that we’d passed before. Very metropolitan and modern. The numerous chic cafe’s and restaurants where crowded with young people and expensive cars lined up along the streets. You really wonder where all that money comes from. The number of Range Rovers comes close to the one in Zurich. We met with Todd on Friday evening and accidentally picked one of newest and most prestigious restaurants in Town. The +39 Food & Club offered great food, a live DJ and a stunning atmosphere. On Saturday the temperature had dropped from 22 degrees to a felt 12 degrees over night and it was raining up until noon. Not the ideal weather for exploring the city but we did it anyway. In the afternoon the sun returned and temperature began to rise again.
Saturday evening we met Ueli, the friend of a friend who is now living in Tirana. Ueli had chosen to have dinner with us in a slow food restaurant called Mullixhiu . What great choice and fantastic experience. From Uli we learned a lot about living and working in Tirana and the mentality of the Albanian people. It was an entertaining evening that passed much to fast.
On the way to Vlora we decided to make a stop in Berat. The town is still renowned for its historic architecture and scenic beauty and is known as the “Town of a Thousand Windows”, due to the many large windows of the old decorated houses overlooking the town. It is unclear whether it really means “Thousand” (një mijë) or “One over Another” (një mbi një) windows. Indeed, the quarter is built in a very steep place and windows seem to be one over another. Similar views can be seen in Melnik, Bulgaria, Gjirokastër in Albania, as well as Catanzaro in Italy, where an Albanian minority once lived. The Citadel overlooks the river and the modern city as well as the old Christian quarter across the river. It is a well preserved area containing narrow streets, Turkish houses and Orthodox churches.
From Berat we intended to drive to Vlora and stay on a campground just south of the city. When we got there, the campground looked like an unpaved parking lot so we decided to drive on. 2 hours later we arrived in Dhermi but there the listed camp area didn’t even exist any longer. Driving further we finally arrived at Livandhi Beach near Himare and found a small but very nice campground called Kranea Camping. At the campground we met a very nice couple on a motorcycle traveling the world with the same intentions we have. (You can follow them on their website at http://fitnessriderz.com/). Now we’re here relaxing for a couple of days before returning to Durres to catch the ferry to Bari.