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Published: August 24th 2013
Berat to Tirana - out we went on the same roads we came in on until we headed off to Tirana, the capital city of about a million people. There are some highways built in Albania so we had quite few k's of smooth riding on four lane motorways in between the lesser roads so a better ride than yesterday.
Tirana is bustling, busy, bullish - on the surface anyway. We got the impression of a city in a hurry but still with too many men looking as if they had no job to go to. There are some impressive buildings in a style different to western eyes - almost a mix of eastern, western, communist and capitalist ideas struggling for supremacy. The mausoleum that Enver Hoxha, the communist dictator , had arranged for himself in the shape of a huge Egyptian-like pyramid was lying in semi ruins as the modern Albanians were pretty much saying, get stuffed Enver, by letting it slowly crumble into the ground. Casinos looked like a growth industry and they were the giltziest places in town.
Accommodation was again better than we had expected so big ups to Balkan Road Trips. As it was
Albania wide; either gone bust or saving up for the next stage.
our last night together as a van group we all went out to dinner to a place suggested by Claudi. Good food, good fun,with all our young companions, who seemed to think we were OK for older types. Then on to another bar on the way back to our hotel where a young pickpocket surprised me while I was sitting at a table with others, by leaping the fence between me and the footpath; the first I knew of his presence was an arm around my shoulders and this kid whispering sweet nothings in my ear, pretending to be selling me lollies. Gave me a hell of a fright. When I reacted (piss off kid) he tried the same thing with the guy next to me. Then the wait staff spotted him and frog marched him off the premises while he protested loudly. I estimated him to be between 10 and 12 years of age. He was scary in a way because he was so skilled and so knowing - you could see it in his eyes and the way he carried himself. Also felt sorry for him because he was just a mule for whichever gang sets him up
Horse and donkey still important when tractors are a luxury.
The younger ones (and (Gavin and Heather) stayed on but Lyn and I walked back to the hotel. Gavin apparently wanted to stay even more on but Heather talked him out of it so I'm told.
Next morning we were on the road for Dubrovnik by 8.00am. This was the longest day in the van and as some of our young companions had got to bed quite late after even more exotic drinks the night before, today's journey for them was twice as long. We left Albania, passing through border control fairly quickly at the Montenegro border. Driving behaviour seemed a little better in Montenegro and the overall look of the place (from the van anyway) gave more of a positive vibe than Albania had.
Our lunch stop was at Kotor, an old, fortified town at the head of a drowned river valley so it looks as if it's at the head of a fiord. It has a spectacular setting up against a precipitous mountainside as it is, and walled to repel invaders. The old city is built of stone with narrow alleys and byways and a steep stepped pathway leading up the mountain to
Looking up at the fortified mountain top.
a fortification on top. It was very impressive. We had an hour and a half there so only skimmed the surface but it appeared to be a place to include on one's touring list if one is in the Balkans.
And on again toward Croatia and Dubrovnik. Our route was mainly along the coast of Momtengro which we had been told was quite beautiful. It was. Heavily populated by holiday makers lying in the sun or swimming. Claudi told us that 90% of Montenegro's tourists are from Russia so if you fancy lying on a beach with lots of Russians then Montenegro could be the place for you. Montenegro was aligned with Serbia and Yugoslavia in the Balkans conflict of the 1990's (remember "Goodbye Sarajevo"?). Maybe that explained the holdup at the border crossing between Montenegro and Croatia. The Croation border control personnel, guns on their hips, were not inclined to expedite traffic through. We saw cars stopped, with families on board, the driver told to unload all luggage, unpack it, have it gone through, then repack and on his way. We didn't have to go through that; it was just extremely slow in the queue of cars inching
Albania to Montenegro. Relatively painless.
its way towards the official crossing point. We reckoned about 40 minutes from the time we first stopped in the queue to when we entered Croatia.
But enter we did. A smooth road, good driving, well kept housing and small towns, and then, 40 minutes later we saw it.......Dubrovnik. We thought Kotor was quite special but the first sight of Dubrovnik was heart pumping. Explain that next time.
Tot: 2.376s; Tpl: 0.049s; cc: 8; qc: 36; dbt: 0.0315s; 2; m:saturn w:www (184.108.40.206); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.3mb