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Published: July 11th 2015
We thought there was a step down from Croatia to Montegreno.
It’s quite a number of steps further down into Albania.
Here in Albania the things that hit me first up – and stayed with me- are
· A marked difference between the haves and have nots,
· Unfinished houses – and other buildings,
· Building supply stores and building products for sale in huge quantities at numerous outlets, and
· Constant displays of tolerance and patience amongst general chaos – most markedly by those of humble appearance. PLAYING BEDLAM ON THE ROAD IN SHKODER
Driving along a tree lined but cluttered street in the city of Shkoder there were pedestrians and animals walking out onto the street without a care as to the direction, speed or flow of traffic as well as cars ( usually a black Mercedes driven by one of the well to do) driving at significant speed veering onto the wrong side of the road , for no apparent reason other than to practice the skill of driving to scare the populous. Cyclists text or talk on a phone and do everything possible to
show they do not care a hoot about staying alive – they pull towards the path of heavy vehicles without missing one bit of phone conversation. Along the side of the road trucks would pull up to make a delivery, just anywhere even in a roundabout or on a corner. Then they pull out without a glance from beside me from a stationary position on the kerbside lane, as soon as the nose of my vehicle gets level with the driver. Always without indicating – that would let others know what you’re doing, and besides someone might see you doing something considerate or safe. You could not have that on your conscience could you?
The great unwashed of Shkoder adjust their use of the road to allow for these idiots.
Well I was plodding along nice and steady when this lady on an ancient and rusty bicycle rode towards me with a tray in her right hand, steering the bike with her left . I call her the 2 wheel coffee taxi. Her hand was above her shoulder with wrist arched backwards and the tray poised on the tips of her fingers – posh waiter style. Tray perfectly
level and next to her ear lobe. On the tray were 3 cups and saucers – with the cups turned upside down - and a pot of hot coffee. She was delivering morning tea to a local business. Suddenly I noticed a manhole cover missing from in the middle of the road – between me and the 2 wheel coffee taxi lady. I swerved to miss the deep wide hole revealed by the missing manhole cover and seconds later glanced in a mirror observing the 2 wheel coffee taxi lady continuing nonchalantly towards her destination.
Just another minute in a day of Shkoder traffic.
We proceeded to a campground on Lake Shkoder – as it is rated as amongst the top 10 in Europe. There is a nice restaurant with prices as cheap as chips. In fact we had their chips with our grilled pork that night. Most of the campsites (pitches - as they are called in much of Europe) are covered by a thatch of local timber. It’s a good camp. New and quiet. Very clean and modern dunnies etc. but it doesn’t hold a candle to the resort style camps we stayed at in the north of Croatia.
BUILDING IN ALBANIA
Maybe Albania is working to shake off its tired Cinderella look. I hope so. The building products yards and hardware merchants selling bricks and blocks, timber and roofing, fixings and tools along with home ware stores with appliances and furniture – on almost every block of every main road and stretching out into new areas. Everywhere there are houses already started. But so many are looking like abandoned projects. Often the concreting and block work is done up to at least 2 floors with rusty steel rio protruding indicating more levels are intended. But then the project seems to have stopped. There would have been many thousands of these sort of part completed buildings that we passed by. Invariably they did not have doors or windows or any signs of habitation. What I can’t understand is why they build such a big structure, if they can’t see their way to finishing the job.
Then there are the fuel stations – servos to us. One almost every block. Where at home we might have a tattoo parlour next to a pizza shop beside some take away next to a gym on every town block, the Albanians have a hardware store, a building products yard and a servo on every block.
In Lezhe we got to see how the haves live alongside the have nots.
We pulled up at a place calling itself Camping and Riviera something or other.
What it is – is a swimming pool sort of day resort.
Just up the road there is this tacky looking Alcatraz night club -All the decadence amongst the struggling workers.
We got there early and parked up. Before long the young would be if they could be of the city rocked up. It was surprising in a Muslim country to see 100% of the girls clad in slinky bikinis and everyone partying all day and into the night displaying such debauchery.
We walked into the town and observed drivers of black Mercedes driving dangerously fast and not giving way to anyone or anything. Then there were buses carrying those who do not have cars. Full standing loads with passengers riding on platforms and with doors open to accommodate a few extras and to allow a bit of ventilation into the ancient chariot of a bus with no air con.
So those with cars might be ok, but those without have a leaner hungrier look, and quite a bit to put up with on top of jumping out of the way of rick kids in black Mercedes and sports cars.
We bough some fruit and vegies from a roadside vendor after asking if it would be ok to pay him in Euros. We had not exchanged any money for the local Lek currency as we were only staying a short time in Albania. So we bought what we needed. I thought it would be about 3 or maybe 4 euros. He would accept only 1 Euro. Its an example of honesty and generosity of Albania’s ordinary folk. And I hope that a better life does come their way , but that they keep their values as it happens.
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