Balkans Day 6 - Shkoder

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September 16th 2018
Published: September 16th 2018
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I start the day with a run round Tirana lake; an artificial lake in the heart of the city with a footpath round it. The receptionist explains it is easy to reach, just over the hill at the end of the road. The hill isn’t very big but it’s steep and there doesn’t appear to be a path so I scrabble up the bank into the park.

It’s a lovely scenic run with the lake in the middle and a backdrop of mountains. The lake looks like the designer used a paint splatter as a template, so even though it doesn’t seem to that big, a run round the edges is 6 km (it would make a great parkrun). Just before I finish my loop, I find the exit, which has steps and a ramp. My undignified clamber up the hillside was unnecessary.

Today we head west to the port of Durres. It’s an easy 40 minute drive along the motorway, complicated only by the fact that we mistake the port entry for the road into town and have to either reverse onto a roundabout or catch a ferry to Italy. Luckily, Albanian drivers are crazy and reversing onto a roundabout is a perfectly acceptable manoeuvre.

Durres is a fascinating place. Walk for a kilometre and you will find a Roman amphitheatre, a Byzantine chapel, an Illyrian city wall, a Venetian tower and a Soviet war memorial.

We choose to start in the archaeological museum. The entry costs 600 Leke. The old man hands over a 1000 note. The cashier says she can’t change it. We think she means she has no change. It’s not until later when he attempts to use the same note to buy a hat, that the shop assistant points out it is 1000 Macedonian denar.

After a second attempt to visit the archaeological museum, we set off along the motorway to Shkodër. After a couple of miles there is an exclamation mark sign and suddenly the road ceases to exist. We end up picking our way over what looks like the surface of the moon littered with tarmac hills. It’s only just wide enough for one vehicle but there are cars in both directions plus cars trying to overtake. It’s chaos. Eventually we reach a ramp, which contains a small lake, and the road is back.

Once in Shkodër we take a little time to regroup then go to Rozafa Fortress, a huge Illyrian castle on the hillside overlooking Lake Shkodër. The climb up the hill in 33 degree heat is brutal but the view across the lake and mountains is worth it.

We round the day off with a walk through Shkodër’s pedestrian precinct and dinner in a local restaurant with Albanian wine and lamb baked in yogurt. We have enjoyed our time in Albania. Next stop Montenegro…

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