A tour of Durres,Albania

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May 22nd 2013
Published: May 24th 2013
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The BBA V2 in Europe 1/4 to 22/5

Gelato flavour of the day - Chocolate (back to trying to something basic and this one not too bad)

With just a local tour of the city planned for the day we weren't in a hurry to get up for breakfast.

Again there was no hot water so it was a quick splash just to ensure we were both passable from a hygiene point of view.

'Dolores'was ready with our breakfast and we had a repeat of yesterday.Today she had her hair 'fluffed'up and a green dress on and looked like she was going somewhere important after she had finished with us.Gretchen paid her a compliment on her 'look' but there was no point asking her where she was going as her command of English has a long way to go especially to understand the Kiwi intonation.

The weather forecast for the day was predicting some light rain by the afternoon so we decided to head off to take a stroll around downtown Durres mid morning and be home before any rain arrived.

It didn't take long to get to the main road that runs close to the beach from where we would catch an orange bus we have seen drive up and down the road.All the buses we had seen had had the same destination on them so we were pretty sure we would end up where we wanted to be.

A local at the bus stop exchanged pleasantries with us and we asked him how much was the fare to the station,where we wanted to get off.He didn't speak English but appeared to understand it and when I held my hand out with a range of Lek coins he pointed to the denominations we would need to cover the fare,a whole Lek30 each,about €0.25.

A bus came along and we climbed aboard using the double doors on the side and handed money over to a ticket collector who walked up and down the bus as it travelled between stops collecting fares from new passengers getting on board.

It was an interesting bus of a very old vintage of at least 40 years with no maintenance of the interior and we don't think it had been washed either for several years at least.

We motored off down the road stopping at each stop without anyone indicating they wanted to get off.Mind you the speed was little more than 10 or 15kph and we didn't detect a gear change and that includes when the driver had to get a fully laden bus up the ramp of an interchange in the road.

We didn't expect to find much of historical interest downtown so we weren't disappointed.It appears most of the historical buildings had been destroyed or removed over the years and beyond the station area there was the usual range of boring looking socialist type apartment blocks.

We planned to get around to the harbour and in doing so passed by a sidewalk market of mainly men selling a range of items although one of particular interest that we hadn't seen sold on the streets before was tobacco.The tobacco was displayed on a piece of material on the ground or in paper shaped cones.It looked like 'roll your owns' was still a popular way to smoke the drug in this part of the world.There is also a profitable healthy business to engage in here too and that is arm yourself with scales,stand on the side of the footpath and make eye contact with people who look like they need to check their weight.Oh,and throw in a tray of what look like burnt sunflower seeds to sell as well.Perhaps the seeds are weight reducing.Although we are eating well including more pastries that have been prevalent for the past few weeks,we don't think we have gained any weight with all the walking we have been doing.

Lunch time was approaching when we made it to the area where the café scene was thriving.Any time we have passed these enclaves,no matter what time of the day,the tables are all well occupied,mainly by younger set of people many of whom are talking on cell phones.Do these people actually work or are they sitting in these cafes drinking coffee from ridiculous small cups and doing business deals?We might just have to sit next to some of them and ask some questions!

With so many options to choose from,all under large square umbrellas,we opted for one that a sandwich board out with food specials on it that we could half understand.We ordered koftas and chips along with a couple of CocaColas and sat back like all the locals around us to do some people watching,seeing as we didn't have any business to conclude.

For around €4 we were fully satisfied and paid our jovial host who said he knew where NZ was when he enquired where we were from although we were not sure he had a full appreciation.

Our tour took us on past the port and down to what equated to the city beach where there a number of tourist hotels and an area that had stalls challenging you to shoot targets,a couple of railed motorised cars for kids to drive around a small circuit and a couple of those swinging small pirate ships that make you sick if your stomach isn't strong enough for the motion as well as the people eager to weigh you and sell blackened sunflower seeds as we had seen at the street side market.All the vendors were keen to get some suckers for business but apart from us there were precious few other numbers on the promenade.

Towards the far end a new pier, with a more modernistic look than the apartments and the tourist hotels were,was under construction and when completed will give the rather dreary promenade a new look.

We walked back towards the city to catch a bus home via the street just back from the beach.As we strolled we spotted a high diving platform with a lower springboard just back from the street but the swimming facility seemed to have been abandoned which seemed to be a waste of a resource which the large number of young people in the city could do with as an outlet for their energy.

On the corner opposite what remains of the old city walls which was started in 1st century BC and finished over the 5 subsequent centuries,was a deserted commercial building with all the windows missing and the words 'f--- the Greeks' was a real eyesore when one considers it was at the start of the approach to the beachside promenade.perhaps the owner,if they are Greek,has decided not to renovate or pull the building down.

We made it back to where the bus we needed to get home started from just as a large number of students from the University arrived to head home in the same direction as us.We gave the bus that was waiting to start its run a miss as it was so full that the driver had to get his ticket collector to push those standing in the door well of the double centre doors in so he could close the doors and get on his way.

The next bus arrived quickly after the first one left and we joined the throng of mainly students to climb onto the bus.With no seats available we kept close together just in case there was anyone with a 'light hand' standing next to us although we did have our money belts secured around our middle and covered by clothing.A woman who was standing near to us pointed at Gretchen's bag which was over her shoulder and across her body, wanting to make sure she was keeping her valuables safe.

The bus going home was the same vintage and in the same state of disrepair as the one we had coming into the city and again it seemed like first gear all the way home and a challenge to get up the ramp onto the interchange.

The woman who had shown concern for us had put the wind up us over our valuables and we decided to get off the bus a couple of stops before where we needed to and although it gave us a bit of a walk in the light rain that had to started to fall we felt at ease being off the packed bus.

Thankfully the rain didn't last and we climbed up the hill track to the hotel without getting any wetter.'Dolores'was at her reception desk to greet us back home with her never ending smile.

With the weather looking a bit more ominous we decided to buy some lettuce leaves and a tin of tuna to go with tomatoes and potatos we already had, to have dinner in our room and so not have to go back down to the beach promenade restaurants for dinner.It was just as well as showers came across the city at regular intervals and it would have been a miserable walk of a couple of kilometres each way just to have dinner.

Tomorrow we head south to close to the border of Albania and Greece with the unknown coastal roads ahead of us.

Additional photos below
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27th May 2013

You use the term 'bridge' very loosely by the looks of that photo there!
28th May 2013

Yeah,planks might better describe it.Brent would be employed for the rest of his working life sorting out the Albanian roads.Mind the pay probably isn't much.

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