Bumper Cars, Berat, Albania

Trip Start Aug 11, 2009
Trip End Sep 30, 2010

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Where I stayed
Berat Backpackers

Flag of Albania  ,
Friday, August 13, 2010

If the Macedonian border had a money saving initiative on ink, then the Albanian side is saving money by not having the stamps either. They still needed to look at our passports for about 20 minutes though for some reason. On this side, the border looks as if it has just been built, although we found out from other travelers that it has looked like this for the last year at least.
The taxi rank is a bloke with a battered old car, who asks for a lot of money and is happily bargained down to half, despite being the only way into town. The road downhill into town leans at all sorts of alarming angles, or perhaps that was just the (lack of) suspension in the car coupled with the driver giving us an Albanian geography lesson on the dashboard and occasionally grabbing the wheel to steer. He dropped us off at the "bus stop" to wait for our bus to Berat, via Elbasan. There does not seem to be any such thing as a bus station in Albania, you just ask someone where the buses stop, he asks his mate, and they direct you to somewhere where the bus will pass by. Maybe. Its up to you to get it to stop, violent waving and yelling your destination will usually do it (and other people will stop to help) we didn't manage to get the hang of the local hand signals though.

Berat is a beautiful town. The hostel that we stayed at was located in Gorica, a suburb in the old town on the side of a hill. The houses are built over multiple levels, with roof courtyards and gardens of trees on various levels shading the whole building. On the peak behind the suburb are the remains of an Illyrian fortress - remains being a few foundation blocks here and there and the forested back of the hill covered in scattered marble chips. We spent the whole climb trying to dodge the millions of monster spiders, hiding in funnel shaped webs.

The opposite hill houses the ancient citadel where the buildings are in various states of ruin, many still lived in. We climbed down into the water storage building, to an accompaniment of eerie noises of echoing water drips and scurrying, squeaking rats. People climb all over the walls (which you think would be hazardous to the health of both people and walls considering the angles they lean at) and it seems to be a popular backdrop for photo shots.
Back down in the modern day town, the evening zhiro was cranking up. Albania does not seem to have a big drinking culture, instead on balmy summer evenings people dress up and descend on the main road to socialise and be seen. On our stroll, we passed a bumper car ride - considering how people drive in this country, you think a bumper car ride would be an extreme sport. So imagine our surprise to see people driving slowly around in single file. Guess they get enough excitement on the real roads.
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