Crossing the border into Albania meant crossing the border into a non EU country. We have noticed that this always takes some time. Border crossing has been really easy so far and we are pretty sure it will be a lot worse when we get to Asia, since we need Visas for all the places we visit. Entering Albania only took 1 hour and after crossing the border we had a lot of guys shouting to us in Albanian. They were probably telling us to exchange money. We didn’t want to stop, but now we know that we should have done that! The next three days we couldn’t spend any money, because we only had euros…
So it took us three days to find a working ATM that would give us Leke, but luckily the people in Albania also except Euro’s! They make up their own exchange rate and tell you 100 Leke is 1 euro. Some inside information: it’s not! 80 Leke is 1 euro, so paying in Euros really is a ripoff! But since we didn’t have any Leke for 3 days we had no choice but to pay in Euro’s.
On our first day in Albania we already noticed how different the country was. Driving in some parts of the Balkan has already been scary sometimes, but it was nothing compared to Albania! The first big city we passed was Skhoder and it was so crowded and hectic that we decided to keep driving. In all the other smaller villages we passed, we hardly saw any women on the streets, just men and kids. As two women driving a foreign van, we felt stared at a lot of times. That’s why we decided to leave the cities and head into the countryside. We drove towards a village called Koman to visit the Komani Lake. The view on this road was gorgeous, but the road itself was absolutely horrible. There were potholes everywhere and we could only drive 20 km/h for about 1 hour! Time flew by on this shitty road and it was getting late, so we decided to drive the last part of the shitty road in the morning. We found a spot just beside the road with a view over the lake and mountains, it was stunning! What we didn’t think of was the fact that we were standing on a kind of unprotected cliff, the wind was hauling all night and we didn’t sleep much because Tiny kept shaking. Both of us were scared that we would end up down in the lake at some point… Don’t worry moms, dads, family and friends; when we are parked in a scary spot we always put some big rocks in front of the wheels!
After a short night we continued our journey on the most horrible road so far. After 45 minutes we got to Koman, but there was nothing there! We were disappointed and decided to continue our drive to the Komani Port to see if that was ‘the place to be.’ On maps.me we could see that we were really close to the port and all we had to pass was a sketchy, 1 lane tunnel, so we did. We got to the port; it was just not what we had imagined…
At the end of the tunnel two guys were selling tickets for the ferry. We could drive Tiny on the ferry, backwards, on a steep dirt road. It would cost 90 euros and lead us to the north, into the mountains. It looked so scary that we really wanted to run and leave, but there was no possibility of turning and heading back out. The guys working at the ferry weren’t very pleased with us in our big van wanting to get out, but at least they were helpful, and they offered us a place to park. We would just get on the ferry ourselves and let Tiny be at the port for the day. There was no other option since the ‘port’ was filling up and cars were honking everywhere so we decided to just spend a day on a ferry. It was a very pretty boat ride of approximately 3 hours to another city and 2 and a half hours back. Since all the workers knew us from our great entrance, we got some privileges. First, the captain invited us to have lunch with him and the crew. Then, on the way back, Tamara sat behind the steering wheel fore almost 20 minutes! It wasn’t very difficult to be in charge of a big ferry, but you definitely need strong arm muscles! When we got back to the port, we were really happy to see that Tiny was still there and no one had damaged him! The road back was really bad again, but fortunately Tiny did really good.
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Our next stop was Tirana, the capital. Nienke was really brave and maneuvered Tiny through the crazy traffic all the way to our hotel. It was our first time in a bed that’s not on wheels and we slept really well! We had never used hotels on this trip before. We found a campground in the Tirana area, but it was still 15 km away and wild camping is always really hard in big cities. So this time it was gonna be a hotel! Tirana itself wasn’t our favorite capital. It definitely has some pretty spots, like the main square and the pedestrian street, but a lot of the city is still under construction. We think it will look a lot better in 5 to 10 years. In the morning we did a free walking tour, which was really interesting and the tour guide Eri really did a great job. He told us all about history of Albania and that it had been under communism until 1991. No wonder there is so much that still needs work! Just before we wanted to leave Tirana one of our bikes got stolen, so we spent our last hours at a police office. Luckily, we have insurance. Hopefully someone is really happy with our bike now, because we already miss it!
Our last days in Albania were the best! We really liked the south of the country. Our first stop heading south was the city of Berat. This city is on the Unesco list and is also called the city of 1000 windows. It’s was a great place to visit! The houses are all built in the same style and together really have 1000 windows! We parked Tiny on a 24-hour parking lot with a very friendly men who didn’t speak English. He used Google translate to tell us there would be a guard at night. In the morning we hiked up to the castle on the hill with a whole little village hidden inside. We absolutely loved the place and would really recommend it if you ever go to Albania!
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Last on our Albania ‘tour’ was the ‘Albanian riviera’. We had to pass a mountain to get there and simultaneously the landscape changed a lot. From high up in the mountain we could see the turquoise ocean and the wide sandy beaches. It felt like we were back in the Western world when we finally got to the Riviera! Little boulevards, cute and clean towns and women on the streets. (Off course there were a lot of women in Tirana too). On a small beach, we found one of our top wild camping spots so far. We were there with two other campers. Being with other vans actually makes us feel a little safer. It was a parking lot right next to the beach. We opened our backdoors and from our bed the ocean was only 20 meters away, with just some sand and a few stretchers and pretty umbrellas in between. We had such a relaxing day there and I am sure we could have stayed for a couple more, but we had to leave for Greece!
Right now, we’re about to start our next Workaway. Let’s see what we’ll do for the next couple of weeks.