From “A” for Albania to “B” for Berlin
After a couple of very relaxing days at Livadhi beach it was time to head back north to catch the ferry to Bari. Checking the weather report we waisted some thoughts on heading south instead but decided to stick to our original plan. Since there is only one road along the coast we had to drive back the same way. Dennis, the owner of the campground at Livadhi beach, recommended a visit to the site of Apollonia.The site of Apollonia lay on the territory of the Taulantii, a cluster of Illyrian tribes that remained closely involved with the settlement for centuries and lived alongside the Greek colonists. The city was said to have originally been named Gylakeia after its founder, Gylax, but the name was later changed to honor the god Apollo.
It is mentioned by Strabo in his Geographica as “an exceedingly well-governed city”. Aristotle considered Apollonia an important example of an oligarchic system, as the descendants of the Greek colonists controlled the city and prevailed over a large serf population of mostly Illyrian origin. The city grew rich on the slave trade and local agriculture, as well as its large harbour, said to have been able to hold a hundred ships at a time. The city also benefited from the local supply of asphalt which was a valuable commodity in ancient times, for example for caulking ships. The remains of a late sixth-century temple, located just outside the city, were reported in 2006; it is only the fifth known stone temple found in present-day Albania. It was a great place to visit and we found it despite the Albanian attempt to prevent tourists from getting there. You enter Vlora and there is one sign pointing left (Apollonia) and that is the only hint you get. From then on it’s up to you (and/or Google maps) to find it.
The really entertaining part awaited us a couple of hours later in Durres. The departure time on our ferry ticket to Bari read 22:00 hours. The screens in the passenger terminal indicated 23:00 hours and the actual departure time was at 00:20 hours. With all the love we have for Albania, the boarding put it on a stress test. Total chaos looked like the well organized brother of the on-boarding process. Cars, trucks and passengers boarded without any guidance, blocking each other. Our ship, the Galaxy, had seen much better days and the communication equipment (visible in the reception area) could compete with any museum. It didn’t boost our confidence when the captain ordered a „Mr. Electrician“ to the loading dock to help closing the loading ramp. Despite being captured on this „wreck“ we arrived in Bari at 09:00 hours as predicted. The de-boarding and unloading was just as chaotic as the boarding. One of the doors to the lower docks didn’t open so we had to squeeze ourselves in between moving trucks to reach our car. The ramp was to short and had to be extended with two beams which made leaving the ship a real challenge.
After we cleared customs and immigration we headed to a northern suburb of Bari and found a typical Italian cafe offering fresh cornettos and fantastic cafe. Life was good (again). Not wanting to spend to much time driving we decided to make Manfredonia our next stop. The area around Manfredonia is plain beautiful. Large olive groves stretch right to the coast. The beaches are wide and (at this time of the year), deserted. Most of the campgrounds were already closed, reducing our choices. The campground in Manfredonia was a good decision. Located right on a wide, sandy beach we found the perfect spot. The restaurant was still operating and surprised us with a much better (and bigger) dinner than expected. Too bad that we could stay only for one night.
We spend most of the following day driving further north to Bellaria (just north of Rimini), The „Happy Village“ campground didn’t live up to what the name promised. Maybe, the „Happy“ in the name refers to the feeling the owner has when collecting the fees. So far this was the most expensive and most noisy campground of our journey. We didn’t understand why the numerous swiss RV-campers chose this place to spent their holidays. One night was enough and we left early for our 630 Km drive to Rosenheim.
Rosenheim greeted us with blue skies and sunny weather. Staying with very good friends in Stephanskirchen, just outside of Rosenheim, we were in the perfect location to explore the city. When we were in Italy, I had already fixed an appointment with a local Landrover garage to check out the whistling sound our Landy was doing when accelerating. It turned out that the turbo-charger had decided that 6 years of hard work were enough and that he was up for retirement. His decision gave us an extra day in Rosenheim as his replacement was being shipped. Now his successor is up for work and will hopefully take us through the rest of our journey. We enjoyed the city and the hospitality of our friends and left Rosenheim after 3 days to head for Berlin.
On our way to Berlin we stopped at Bayerischer Rundfunk for a coffee with Christian, a good friend and former colleague, before heading to the Rittergut Positz, our next stop on the way to Berlin. This hotel, located south of Leipzig is amazing. Friendly staff, great location and excellent food exceled our expectations.
We are now going to stay some 3-4 weeks in Berlin to suck in that city feeling and spent time doing all the things you can only do in this buzzing city.