Long way through Albania

Trip Start May 08, 2006
Trip End Mar 07, 2007

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

This is going to be a real long one... If you dont read it, i understand.

So i went to the bus station at Kotor and caught 9:30 bus to Podgorica (Montenegros) capital that took a few hours. I ask the guy at the information desk and he said there are no buses or trains to Albania, you can hitch hike or pay 20 euros for a taxi to the border. That was extortion. I sat down pondering whether to go to albania. A taxi driver walked up and said "Albania, 20 euros" I thought why not.

He took me on a 20 minute taxi to the border. We even got stopped by the police who wondered why I was going to Albania. They thought it was funny that i even wanted to go. I had to walk across the border. The montenegrons were thorougly searching every speck on the albanians cars. I walked through gave them my passport easy as. I walk up to the Albanian crossing. Had to pay 10 euros to enter. This guy walks up and asks me if i want a taxi to Shkouder. The next city in town. He asked for 20 euros. When the albanian guy finished with my passport he gave me a salute with a big smile. If only they all gove you a salute! This would be the beginning of the friendly albanians. I didnt go with the taxi guy at first. I thought there must be mini buses into town. There was none. He was it. I got him down to 15 euros for a half hour drive. He was a friendly guy always slowing down so i could take a picture of things. He wasnt actually a taxi driver though, just a local with a car. Same Same.

Got to the town of Shkouder and then caught a 2 hour bus or so to the capital Tirana. Once i got to Tirana, I now had the trouble of converting my money into Leke on a sunday arvo at 6pm. Luckily i found a western union exchange open. The only one. Found my hostel on the other side of town. Dumped my bags, got some wierd triangular kebab, called a qebap. It had hot chips on the top and a wierd white sauce ive never tasted before. Down that with some IVI (NBN) takes like Fanta. I crashed at like 9pm after it taking so long and it taking nearly 90 bucks to make it 100kms.

The hostel was cool, had a cat, that sat with me. Different kind of traveller in albania. No party crazed aussies or pomies, just people with beards. There was an outdoor kitchen. But it was cheaper to buy food.

Everyone in Albania has a Mercedes. Apparently most have been stolen from the rest of europe. For such a poor country with broken pavement, no bus station, stray dogs and garbage absolutley everywhere, you wonder how the hell 90% of cars are Mercedes.

People drive like its asia. Honk at everything. Drive so crap. Half the streets its cross and pray. Sometimes theres the crossing man, but half the time it doesnt work.

Also in Albania there is bunkers everywhere. Little cement mushrooms. The defence obssessed old president or whatever had 700 000 thousand put all over the country. He made the guy who invented it test it out by sitting in it why it got blown up by a tank. They often paint them to make them look better. You will see them in next entry.

Albanians have to be the most friendly people i have met. They help you out with anything. Very polite in the way they speak to you. Always want to know about you. People walk up to you and make sure you know where your going and walk with you without asking anything in return. They almost baby you sometimes to make sure your ok. You get seats from locals or crowded buses, its crazy. Albanians although i have seen plenty blow up at each other. Are really touchy feely to each other. Men kiss on the cheek of other man to say hello and i saw more than once two mates saying hello then rubbing each others arms like they were dating. I love the poorer countries. Not filled up with tourists yet, your still unique and the locals havent been changed by rude and dumb tourists.

First real day i just walked around Tirana. You can see all the sites in 5 minutes. Its all on the main square. I walked a bit around the outskirts. Did my washing trying to get the bugs out of my clothes. Unsuccessful effort! Had dinner round the corner of the hostel at like 10pm. I walked in and just went omg. I didnt know what to eat. So i asked for a Qofta. It has like this elongated meat balls in bread. Not bad. But there was a communication fault and i got to much of everything. They asked if i wanted cheese. I got these 2 massive blocks of albanian cheese which cut and tasted like rubber. I was the only one there and they were so interested. The lady Magrita sat down with me and made some attempt to talk to me. She has kids in Melbourne. They all ask do you speak Itallianoish. I dont know if they just mean italian or what. They almost all speak italian as well. I pulled my camera out to take a photo of the food (see pic) and her and her husband Van Jelly (thats how you said it) got excited. They were honoured i was taking a picture of their food and they wanted me to take pictures of them too. So i did. Madness.

Next day i decided to head out to the nearby town of Kruja. About 50 k's away. Had to get a minibus, which took around an hour for me to find. There is no bus station, mini bus station etc. There is just roads they hang around at. Minibuses and busses leave as soon as they are full and they wait until they are full before leaving. Anyway, i got the mini bus to "F Kruja", then had to change to the minibus up the mountain to "Kruja". Was nothing really at Kruja, an old fort and souveneir market. Went to the fort. Im sure there was a guy scamming people to pay 100 leke (1 dollar) to enter. Bought a soveiner bunker then tried to leave. Walked up to the minibuses. Asked for Tirana. These joker guys said it was their minibus. This guy called Zelly (mid 50s) asked me where i was from, asked if i spoke Italianoish. His mate behind was pretind to do rude things to him, insuniating Zelly was gay. Zelly clicked it. Grabbed the guy from around the neck. Was pretty funny. They enventually told me there was a bus back to Tirana up the road. Which i got.

Once i got back i saw this skinny bonny dog looking for food. Maybe i was sad beacause i saw this kid chuck a rock at a dog and hit it the day before and laugh (i blew up at him). But if followed the dog through the streets of tirana for about an hour. Meanwhile looking for food to give it. I found it some food. Cheese pastry thing. It was scared of me, running away when i called it. Eventually i got close enough and put the food on the ground. I have never seen a dog so happy in my life. It gave this big smile and wagged its tale so much, and as it ate, it kept looking at me and wagging its tale. I was going to get it more, but it moved on. I stalked it some more and saw it found some other doggie friends, so i was happy enough with that. Made me realise i have to do something with dogs as well as tennis when i get home.

Finished the day with some pizza and the net. I went to one place and they said they were closing early to go watch soccer. So i want to a different place and they were all playing Call of Duty. (shooting game i play with my bro back home). I joined in, making my name the Australian. Giving them hell. Was nice to have a break from reality.

Woke up the next morning for the 6am bus which is another nightmare travel story.
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