Monday, 22 September 2008


Unfortunately this is what I will remember Albania for the most.

Albania. Two weeks. Four days in transit on three different trains to get there. 300 euros each. Down the coast. Through the mountains. Hitchhiking. Buses. Walking. Taxis. Boat. Arse end of Europe. Little asphalt. Domesticated animals strutting through streets. Garbage management system – none. Unless you count the burning of rubbish in the evening by the side of the road. First private car to be owned 1990. Until then Hoxha the dictator allowed only state owned vehicles. Hence the lack of roads. And road rules. Car of choice – 1980 Mercedes, the toughest sucker out there to survive Albania’s dirt tracks. Aggressive development. Resort towns popping up with horrid speed. No planning. The sea is crystal and beautiful. Coastline chaotic, packed, uninviting. Freelance camping the go! Mind the turds on the beach. And a week’s worth of rotting nappies and watermelon. The fish is delicious though. And tomatoes taste like tomatoes. They do good coffee too. That’s the ‘Italian’ in them. People are wonderful and hospitable. They still scratch their heads and ask in amazement ‘so why did you come to Albania’? The mountains are stunning as are the villages wedged in between them. Especially at night. When you can’t see the mess. The village roof tops are made out of stone. The fortresses grand. The one rail line is slower than the slowest mini-bus on a dirt track. We did 60ks in 6 hours once. We were still patient then. Ohrid Lake is mind-blowing. 300 metres deep in its deepest part. It is known for its koran fish, the most expensive on the menu (a whole 8 euros). It tastes like a more dignified trout. Nobody goes fishing with a rod. Too deep. The lake is translucent. You can see the bottom even when you’re on a dingy and far out. Interesting since all the sewage flows into it. The beer is served in chilled beer mugs. A wonderful treat, since the days are always furnace hot.

after a 6hr train delay we missed out connection to Montenegro. So ended up in Belgrade. We bribed a Serbian train conductor
to get us a free sleeper. He did. For twice the amount sleepers usually go for. The compartment was the official blanket and pillow storage space of the train. It took us half an hour to move the stuff elsewhere before we could go to sleep.

intimate, cozy, relaxing. We sunbathed standing.

days of searching later we found this secluded spot. Shared it with two Hungarians. Nice boys. Beautiful water.

Trusty mover. Town of Gjiokaster.

stone rooftops. Fortress on hill. Gjiokaster.

Ksamil. Village down south. Apart from the smell and feasting on garbage cows, a nice spot.

Donkey chariots faster than rail. "Shite" means 'for sale'.

Ochrid lake. The owner of the hotel we stayed in took us out on his dingy. For fun. He had nothing else to do.
My favourite place in Albania.


mischa said...

i love that "shite" means "for sale" (though i imagine it's pronounced differently?)

Kukus said...

was this for the music festival or sumin with those friends of urs i met? loving the blunt prose and cynicism by the way muhahaha

Michael Wong Thye Seng said...

The water does look nice, but I think the garbage would do my head in.

(Soft, I know ...)

mischa said...

nice shot of michal's arse in the train compartment too.

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