2017 has been filled with stunning impressions on our trips throughout Europe and Northern Africa, but the most exciting moments I experienced in Albania- Europe’s last secret, which wanted to be revealed.
And there was really the need to do so- with all the contradictory information we learnt we were eager to get going exploring.
As we have made good experience with AirBnB before, we booked the first accommodations in advance and looked for further ones during the trip, always trusting our intuition. However, to travel to the next accommodation always pressured us to make miles- often we couldn’t enjoy without checking the time- in future we will enjoy having our truck Fi with our bed with us.
Our first two days we spent traveling down Italy to catch the ferry from Bari to Durres- one night we stayed in St. Albino in undulating beautiful Tuscany, the other one in Campobasso in the region of Molise in a remote hostelry.
Bari was pulsating with going-out-saturday-night people where we mingled before checking in at 10 p.m. on the ferry. Here we saw the first Albanian trucks and cars and Albanians…. how would it look like in a country where Enver Hoxha’s communist dictatorship ruled for more than forty years? ( It has been quite a while, though) Before we fell into a restful sleep in our cabin-bunk-beds we read another history-chapter of our tour guide to be fully prepared for the next day.
After passing the border control we set out for Durres and Tirana. We found modern appearing and welcoming cities with relaxed and friendly people.
There is one particularity in Albania: I have never seen a country with a higher Mercedes density! This shows the status of a car, where private people were not allowed to have one formerly. And a lot of roads are still not fit for cars or not easy to be cruised. We made one experience taking the “short-cut” from Gramsh to Vlora through the mountains. The gravel road was narrow, but more or less easy to ride up, but at one point we completely lost the road. There was no conceivable lane left. What should we do? Go back, which would take two hours plus detour or continue, but where? We finally decided to take a path passing through a dry creek bed. This rocky mountain ride kept my adrenalin on a high level! I often got out to check the best way not to ground. After long hours going step speed we finally reached civilisation on a good “tarred” road without breakdown- so happy to be safe and alive.
We spent some calm days at the seaside driving down to Saranda visiting the ancient Greek city of Buthrotum or Butrint, an UNESCO World Heritage Site, inhabited since prehistoric times, now a museum.
The biggest impact on our trip left the Albanian Alps with untouched nature and breathtaking views over the mountains. The way to Theth led us on a narrow dirt road, but we were prepared. When we passed an old Opel Corsa we knew that we would make it. However, the road is impassable during the winter months. Because of the remoteness, the high valley suffers from depopulation. Recently remaining inhabitants live on green tourism. Our hosting family in Shpella Guesthouse welcomed us warmly. Gjon’s wife prepared dinner for all the guests and even cooked some vegan dishes for me.
After this stage we had to return home with overnight stays in Montenegro, Dalmatia and Germany. 13 days were far too short to fully arrive in Albania. Nearly 2000 miles and a multitude of impressions made us thirsty to indulge the next delights.
Link to Map (Tripline)