Tirane, Albania

Dear all,

First off. Thank you Zach, a great chap from the states studying at harvard business school, he has just been on the site and sent me some feedback on how to get from Tirane to Budwar in one easy step. Legend. You can see his big cheesy grin on the picture of ‘the lads’ in Brasov a little further down the page on another blog, he’s in the very forefront on the right hand side in a blue shirt with white dots/specks/lines.

Okay. So far. Ohrid was nice, chilled and cooked by ourselves twice – my goodness! Vick was our landlord and generally an absolute legend. Today we traveled from Ohrid up to Tirane where we have a place for a couple of nights before steaming up to Budwar. The journey was quite a long one and very hot. First off we were up around 7am to consume a box of cornflakes between us [it was a small box!] and get our stuff together before getting our collective arses down to the bus station.

We caught the 8am bus to Sveti Naum, a one hour journey for about 1 quid 20. From there we were dropped off at the Macedonian Albanian border. This meant having our passports swiped and then a 5 minute walk with our packs across no mans land to the Albanian border. This was when the fun started. First off claudio quickly told me to put my camera away as I wanted a photo of the Albanian entry sign. Not a wise idea to take photos at border crossings of all places, especially when its a country which has only smelt the sweet smell of democracy for about 10 years. That was the least of our troubles. We got to the border in the knowledge that the scabby non-EUers were going to want 10 euros off us as entry tax but we thought that we’d probably be able to pay on card or that the border would be near a place we could change money. Oh how naive we were. That left us right royally screwed until a youngish guy approached us, mid teens by the state of his bum fluff on teh upper lip, and introduced us to a guy who in the end exchanged 20 quid [of claudio’s] into 28 euros.

Safe and sounds. Or so we thought. The next battle was the taxi driver. He wanted 6 euros for a short ride into Pogradec, the town from which we could catch a minibus to Tirane. Again we argued, and again we were approached by a young English speaking Albanian to help us. This time a rather attractive female one. After taking me by the arm she proceeded to explain that it was only a 4 euro ride, and that we were in fact being done. We feigned the old ‘we’ll walk it thanks’ routine and before you know it we had Bruce’s price.

The next task was to find an ATM to get some local dollerage. Not encouraging when its a Sunday, the banks are closed, and a guy at a touristy looking place tells you no where excepts visa. Not to fear, a short walk a way and we find an ATM that lovingly takes my Lloyds TSB card and rinses me at some crap exchange rate and then charges me 2 quid for the priveledge.

Pretty much as soon as we got our cash, after a little contemplation as to whether wee can be arsed to find a loo, we are hailed by a minibus headed for Tirane and we think bugger it, lets get in. The journey, around 3 and a half hours, and 140km through some amazing mountainous terrain and windy roads was the bargain price of 2 quid 80. On the way claudio got chin wagging with a local geeza in some filthy ital language, they got on quite well, Roberto was the chaps name and he was going to Tirane with his family. We enjoyed a bit of a history lesson en route and he even bought us both a cappuccino, on the grounds that Albanians and Italians have always been close – pretty good since theres only 25% ital between us.

Now we;re in Tirane, a small capital city and very very hot. So hot in fact one of my first purchases was an icecream followed by an afternoon nap. Tomorrow will see us go to the coastal town of Durres, probably just to sit on the beach all day and burn [of course if me mother is reading this I wont be burning as I would have applied copious amounts of suncream, block in fact]. The day after will see us traveling up to Budwar in Montenegro, thanks to Zach we can leave out all the crap of a minibus to Schodra and then a bus over the border to Podgerica and then another bus to Budwar. But it does mean I have to be up to catch the 5am bus. Great stuff.

Until the next blog ladies and gents, as I am off to find some grub which will probably be pizza [or pasta if I’m feeling healthy – come on! its pizza or local cuisine in these places, and there ain’t a great deal of the latter and its twice the price!].

Later

Andy

PS Dan, wheres me map! I’ll be on my third country before you get round to a map update! You’d have thought you’d have got ure own life to lead…

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