Blogs from Albania, Europe - page 5


Europe » Albania » North » Shkodër June 24th 2018

Any preconceptions we had of Tirana – grey, totalitarian, unfriendly - are blown away within minutes of arrival. Everyone is friendly, greeting us with a smile. The old buildings may have been grey once but they are now painted in primary colours. The once-grey central square is in the process of being “greened” with mature trees. The World Cup has just started so the main square is the Fan Zone with a giant screen, fairground rides and food and drink stalls. This is not the Albania we had imagined. A walk around the capital city takes in mosques, the cathedral, bridges, public buildings, museums, cafes and parks. Some are old, usually renovated, and some are new, all glass and concrete. Everything seems to have happened in the last 20 years. The 20 years since communism lost ... read more
Climbing to Valbona pass

Europe » Albania June 19th 2018

In May, 2017, we spent 2 weeks with a tour group in the Balkan countries which lie along the magnificent, deep blue Adriatic Sea -- Albania, Montenegro, a tiny bit of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Slovenia. Since other destinations ranked higher on my wish list, I'm not quite sure why we decided to do this particular trip. However, now reflecting back on our experiences and observations, I can say enthusiastically that I'm extremely glad we chose to do this Balkan trip! It was particularly interesting to visit these countries now as they still might be considered democratic government fledglings. Most of these countries have become sovereign nations relatively recently and one, Albania, in my opinion, is still in the process of emerging from being ruled under a long-term dictatorship. Taken as a whole the trip was terrific, ... read more
Tirana - Mother Teresa Airport
View from our Rogner Hotel Rm. in Tirana
A "Hoxha Bunker" just near Rogner Hotel

Europe » Albania » South » Sarandë June 2nd 2018

In Albania under for Communists everything was under state control. Factories that had manufactured parts for farm equipment were closed and farmers had to buy from the Soviet Union. That industry has never recovered. Agricultural production was determined the state and products were exported with little left for the population. The main allies for Albania were Mao’s Red China and the Soviets. When the dictator died there were tears. Our tour guide remembers her grandparents and parents sobbing, and so she did too. It wasn’t until later that she understood that they were tears of joy. Life is still not easy in Albania but in one little corner of the country, the town of Sarenda has boomed. Located on the Adriatic with beaches, cafes and nightclubs, it is a holiday of choice for Greeks. New hotels ... read more

Europe » Albania » West » Berat May 31st 2018

Albania. Day 13. Rest day or 47 km ride to Polican. A thunderstorm passed over last night without touching us and the sun is out again today. Whilst most are riding today I am taking it easy and helping John A to strip down my bike and put it on its box ready for departure. My front wheel is buckled but should straighten ok when I get it home, and maybe other minor damage. I have a bad limp on my left leg, a bruised left shoulder, bruising on my face and a badly bashed right forefinger in a splint, otherwise I am in good health. I may need assistance to drag it out of the airport in Manchester to my taxi, otherwise it should be easy to get home on Friday. The bike was soon ... read more
my next transport?
Berat old town
The old bridge in Berat

Europe » Albania » West » Tirana May 31st 2018

Albania Day 14 Tirana Thirty degrees again today and we are bussed to Tirana. The journey crossed a huge fertile plain with a lot of activity with grass and crop cutting. Several small balers were in use and a big Class Combine was seen. It was not until we approached Tirana that we saw vehicle and tractor dealers selling new equipment of all brands. The rest of Albania only appears to sell used products. In Tirana a visit to the Bunkart (Bunker) was made, which depicted the history of the law enforcement by the gendarmerie and policia from 1913 to the fall of Communism in 1991. The museum is a huge concrete bunker with many small cells showing different aspects of the journey. Most harrowing is the way the secret police were set up and operated ... read more
Near the Bunkart
Bunker entrance
Bunker exit

Europe » Albania » West » Berat May 29th 2018

Albania Day 12 Radhime to Berat 92km. 720 m Well the day set if well but ended badly, for me at least. After a good breakfast with the compulsory cheese and egg we headed north along the coast with gentle slopes and a view of the sea on our left. As we entered Vlorë we ignored another ’No Entry’ sign and went through the tunnel on the footpath which had vertical angle iron posts which would be deadly if we caught our bars on them. On our exit we followed a very pleasant cycle way along the boulevard into the town centre. We had a problem here at the central roundabout where our exit was completely blocked off due to roadworks. After some dodging around side streets and up and down steep kerbs and steps we ... read more
coffer break
Ship hotel?

Europe » Albania » South » Vlorë May 28th 2018

Albania Day 11. Himare to Radhime. 64km. 1600m ascent. A bright sunny day again, reaching 37 degrees by lunchtime in the sun which were in, dropping to 29 in the shade by late afternoon. The first 7km were on a 16% gradient so I rode in the van with Armand and Lynda, who is still having pain in her elbow and hand. She had this x rayed later and the bone had a little chip they think and could take a while to heal. After this climb I got on my bike and rode the rest of the day. The first part was 7% to the coffee break and after that it varied between 7% and 11% uphill for 15km. Over the day I covered 57km and climbed 1100 metres. The long pull after the coffee ... read more
Resting on 16% gradient
Part of out climb before lunch.
A cheeky beetle visitor.

Europe » Albania May 27th 2018

Albania Day 10 Samande to Himare Today out to a bright, cloudless sky and hot for an 8.45 start back over the hill out of town and left turn at the big roundabout where resurfacing is going on. Wet tar is all over the road and we had to go the wrong way around. The climb now starts with the hills on our left with a wide valley floor to our right looking green and the higher we go we find vast expanses of olive trees until we reached the coffee stop at Shen Vasil. A village with square around a small cross on a very tiny religious building. At the side a memorial to village freedom fighters, of Italian and German occupation during 2nd World War. Also we saw the old men sat under a ... read more
Shen Vasil
Old village guys.
Village donkey.

Europe » Albania » South » Sarandë May 26th 2018

Albania Day 9. Saturday 26th May. Resting in Sarande Most of the rest of the group have gone off cycling, or by bus, to visit the nearby ruins at Butrint whilst I languish on our balcony reading in the sun under a cloudless sky and listening to the three tenors and other chosen music on my pocket computer. My leg is little better at weight bearing and am suspecting damaged muscle. The thigh bruising is worse, as expected, but the swelling is down. However, there are much worse places to recover and non much better. The temperature is around 30 degrees so just a little warmer than NW England. Busy on the promenade tonight and nice and warm for our evening meal of chicken soup and fish plus lemon sorbet. On the roads again tomorrow, but ... read more
coastal sculpture
The pebble beach

Europe » Albania » South » Sarandë May 25th 2018

Albania Day 8. Friday 28 June. Gjirokaster to Sarande. Last night saw my hip improving and able to hobble across the room without crutches. Therefore looking forward to riding the bike again before too long. We went to a restaurant up the hill from our hotel for another excellent meal followed by yet another red wine at a nearby bar in the moonlight. I am of the opinion that red wine has a healing effect on my hip. Correct me if I am deluded in this matter. The crutches were a godsend and I never fell over once on the way down the hill. Nearly 11pm by the time we got back, I must remember to keep better company from now on. I am being lead astray. The breakfast today was on the top floor with ... read more
The road up the mountain.
Do you want a lift?
More wine madam?

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