Published: February 18th 2013June 3rd 2011
First views of Albania
Today we were up at 6:30 am to leave for Albania! The coach left at 8 am. It was going to be a big travelling day today. Although the distance wasn't that far, the road we were going to be travelling on were very bad (windy, bumpy, and unpaved) in this part of Europe, so it would take double the time it would usually take to cover the same distance. I was looking forward to seeing Albania since it is not somewhere that a lot of people can say that they've been to. I thought it would be very interesting.
We stopped for our first services at 9:30 am, which was just a tiny little gas station in the middle of nowhere. We had to line up to buy food and use the toilet. We should have stocked up here on food based on what came next, but none of us thought to do so. We were back driving by 10 am, and we arrived at the Greek-Albanian border half an hour later. First we had to exit Greece - here they stamped our passports. Then we had to enter Albania. It seemed like maybe it was going to get
a bit more complicated, but in the end we were waved through. The border crossing was tiny, and it had a separate lane for vehicles and for people walking. I've never seen that at a border crossing before. We were told that sometimes the tour managers have to bribe the border guards in order to be let through.
Right after crossing into Albania we stopped at a "gas station". Here we realized there were no toilets and no food, only a bar and some soft drinks. We all had to run into the bush to do our business...not fun! We had another "service stop" at 11 am, where there was a toilet, but still no food. I didn't understand...do Albanians not eat? I was so hungry by this point! We also got to experience squat toilets...interesting! Remember to bring toilet paper with you if you visit Albania too. I have to say that Albania is very dirty, and there really is no tourist infrastructure. The landscape was beautiful, and it was a great experience though, I certainly don't regret it. This is really the only third-world country in Europe, and it was the first poorer country I'd ever been
Me at our hotel
The roads seemed to go on forever, and the "highway" was so bumpy it felt like we were 4x4 ing. It was definitely a long day. After a while we drove into a major thunder/lightning storm. I got totally freaked out - we NEVER get thunderstorms where I live, and, although its funny looking back on, I was absolutely terrified at the moment. Now that I've been through a few of them, I think I'll be okay next time :P
We got to our first "real" service stop, which was just a wannabe Autogrill with barely any food, and when you did order some it took forever to get it. I ended up just getting an ice cream, that's the only snack I could find. Apparently Albania can't afford to use the real brand name for places like McDonald's and Autogrill, so it creates its own similar companies. At this service stop we experienced another huge thunderstorm and it started pouring down with rain. We all ran onto the coach for cover.
We headed off on the last leg of our drive and the storm started to ease off, and blue skies began to appear through
Sharna, Karly, me, and Debs
the clouds. It was another hour and a half before we arrived at our hotel - Mali Robit Resort Durres. At first glance it looked to be a dump, but the rooms actually weren't that bad, except for the bathroom, which could have been cleaned up quite a bit. I was rooming with Rosi, Karly, and Sharna. The hotel was right on the beach, and the sunset was absolutely gorgeous. I would have liked to have walked along the beach, however we were told that there is garbage and syringes thrown about so it isn't safe to walk around there. Instead we hung out around the hotel pool for a bit before dinner.
We got settled into our rooms before dinner at 7 pm. We had salad, lots of bread, chicken, and mashed potatoes. It was Tommy's birthday today, so we had cake for dessert. After dinner we went back to our room to hang out, I think tonight we showed each other lots of pictures from home and compared our significant others haha. It was into bed by 11 pm. It was certainly an interesting day in Albania!
There are more photos below