We still remember how we were considering if to cross Albania towards Greece or to choose another alternative or more common route via Italy for example.
Albania is a country that was totally isolated and destroyed under communist dictatorship from 1944 until about 1990.
Exclusion policies, without freedom of expression, genocide, corruption, left to the population totally hungry and impoverished.
One of the most shocking things in its history is the execution of its President Ceausescu and his wife in 1989 after a civil revolution. The population couldn´t more.
As you see, we are talking about 90s, it is not so long time ago!
So I contacted the Spanish Embassy in Albania to ask the current situation, and I was told that there was much improved in recent years, although better not get out of the 3 main roads crossing the country, mainly due to its poor condition.
But lets go to continue with the approach of the route: the other option was to go down the Italian coast, but then, we would have to cross by boat from Bari to Greece. But in this way it would be longer and more messy.
In the end, we had to give a vote of confidence and go through Albania.
Total 420 Kms
Together the 6 stages were 3.270 Kms cycling.
Madre mía, more than 3.000 Kms!
The first day of arrival we stayed in Skhoder. The hotel wore a family with two very friendly young sons who spoke great English. They were very enthusiastic and energetic, those people who love their work. We started on the right foot in Albania. :-)
We went for a walk, we had a piece walking to the center. The neighborhood was crowded, there was much street life, families, children. But it was really all pretty knackered.
We wanted to take pictures, but we did not feel comfortable taking out a camera to photograph their daily lives. We seemed intrusive or disrespectful. We were the only foreigners strolling down the main street and height of Evert was taking attention he he he
We arrived at the center, it was nice, a pedestrian Rambla with many restaurants. We went to one typical food Albanians, it had a terrace garden inside, and there was a celebration of university graduates with their families, a cozy atmosphere.
Soon, came a group of 4 guys to the table next to us with a similar looking like us, what a coincidence, they were precisely from the Flemish part of Belgium.
Other “crazy” fun bicycle guys, who had come to spend a week’s holiday to make several mountain routes with bike and tent. Immediately there was a lot of connection beteen us and did not stop talking until it got dark.
In Albania the weather continued extremely hot. I was wondering how Evert could continue every day cycling 100 kms.
But the illusion of the project kept him alive
and to cross Albania was a challenge.
Especially when he found himself at a crossroads where the road turned into a stone patch and he had only the alternative of taking the highway.
He asked to a policeman making gestures what to do and he returned a confirmation also with gestures: “Come on you can cycling in the highway” !!
He couldn´t be more happier,
a unique opportunity in life to cycling on a highway!
Of course, the highway was quite original, you could find a family of ducks crossing it, or a stall selling watermelons…and believe me, the cars really stopped to buy there!
Meanwhile, I was doing my stops during the way to drink something, and I realized there were not women at all. I crossed Albania without seeing a single woman driving or sitting in a normal bar or service stations.
Driving through Albania was relatively easy, as long as you stay on the main roads. Still, missing a lot of maintenance, infrastructures, traffic signs, etc…
We went through Sarande, a little bit more in the countryside. Crossing a mountain peak, Evert by bike and me later by car, again lots of curves when I thought this would be over.
But it was worth it, we did not expect. A beautiful mountain area called the Albanian Riviera. If we had known we would have stayed one night in one of these mountain villages we passed.
Climbing this peak was one of the most challenges we had in all the travel.
Albania currently is a country under construction growing very fast, but still a lot to do.
For example, you find the part of the beaches that could be a current beach in Spain, with its apartment in the first sea line, their sun umbrellas, families and grandparents caring for their grandchildren, a Mediterranean life.
However, you cross two streets behind and you find all still missing to build.
Very friendly people, we always felt very safe at all times and ate very well and cheap!
Clearly, this is a country that in 10 years will change a lot,
so now we are very happy that in the end we took this route.
Next post, we arrive to Greece !!
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