Sun and smiles in Shkodra

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

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Where I stayed
Hotel Parku

Flag of Albania  , Shkodër,
Saturday, August 21, 2010

We arrived in Shokdra and set out to look for a room (these kind of hotels and hostels don't have advance booking by email). Or first attempt was at the concrete high rise hotel Rozafa, where it turned out that the communism-isn't-dead theme did not end with the building but also extended to the perfect-English-speaking staff. We were shown a room, and when we explained that the fan did not work we got an unsurprised stare and a "yes". We asked was it possible to have a working one, or a different room with a fan? a curt "no". They seemed glad to see the back of us.
Our next try (after wandering around a bit looking lost and being offered help a lot) at hotel Parku was the polar opposite - staff that spoke no English whatsoever with huge welcoming smiles. The lady found great amusement in trying to pronounce our names from our passports and then proceeded to show us around in Italian - Albanian hybrid.

Our next challenge was catching a bus 4km South of town to Rozafa fortress. It took an hour, and asking a lot of people to find roughly where the bus might pass by and a description of the bus so we would know which one to try and stop. Thankfully our wild arm flailing was successful at stopping the bus and afterward whenever the same bus driver passed us around town he waved and grinned at us. The fortress on the hill overlooks lake Skadar, which is shared between Albania and Montenegro. Built progressively by the Illyrians, Venetians and Turks and now rebuilt by international funding, the place is an overgrown maze, complete with escape tunnel (or maybe just some winding stairs, we stupidly forgot our torch). Complete with gruesome backstory, the fortress is named after Rozafa, a local woman who was walled into the fortress as an offering to the gods and asked for two holes to be left so she could feed her newborn baby (who doesn't like a good pagan sacrifice story?)

The next morning, unsure of the departure times of the Montenegro buses and warned that they fill up fast, we arrived at the travel agency about an hour early. As the office was still locked up, we settled down onto the footpath to wait. Our entertainment was the cafe next door where people were breakfasting - Albanian breakfast is a shot of Rakija (fruit brandy), a shot of espresso and a glass of water. Evidently we were doing our bit providing entertainment too as one elderly gentleman passing by stopped and turned to stare at us, bursting into friendly laughter before eventually moving on. A few minutes later, the jovial cafe owner wandered over, set espressos down on the ground next to us with a smile and wandered off again. Not a coffee drinker to begin with, the Albanian espresso (which is strong enough to stand a spoon up in or maybe even a whole cutlery draw), had us on a heart palpitating caffeine high which did not wear off until well into the late evening. When our bus arrived, the cafe owner popped his head out the door and waved us goodbye with an enormous grin. Leaving us wondering, why are we leaving Albania?

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