Albania, fact and fiction

From Podgorica I cycled to Shkodër in Albania. The border was a formality and I was only a bit disappointed not to get a stamp in my passport. You are in the system, the custom officer said waving dismissively at his computer.

The traffic in Shkodër was slightly chaotic, but there were lots of bicycles on the street because the city is flat. In 1995, drivers in  Shkodër refused to pay a new  traffic light tax because, as they argued, the  city had no traffic lights, but only the occasional traffic police. The traffic police is still there and seem overall very ineffective…

Albanian flag on top of Rozafa castle

Albanian flag on top of Rozafa castle

I had a nice day cycling around to the old bridge at Mes, some 8 kilometres out of town and then having  a delicious lunch at the lake, before heading to Razafa castle which was on a steep little hill with nice views over the surrounding coutry side.

Trying to  learn something about Albania, I read that nodding your head means ‘no’ and shaking your head means ‘yes’ in Albania.
Interestingly, when I asked an Albanian, he showed me the shaking of the head and it seemed to be more like the wiggling of the head as they do in India. He also told me that shaking his head means ‘no’. This is all very confusing.

The manager of the hostel told me had an income of 200 euros per month which he thought was very reasonable.

Buying some groceries threw me back to the basics of bartering. On the street I bought some veggies by picking out what I wanted: two tomatoes and a cucumber. The man showed me a coin of 50 leks and so I gave him a coin of a hundred leks. He took two paprikas and after I nodded approval, put them in my bag.

On the road to Kukës

On the road to Kukës

The mountain raod to Puka was, as expected, hard work and even though it was half September, still very hot. In Puka, or ‘Puke’ as it was spelled at the entrance of the town, I had a nice lunch and in the bathroom I washed my hands and face and rinsed my sweat stained shirt. After refilling my water bottles I continued my way.

Fushë-Arrëz was a shambolic roadside town and after asking around, I found the Internacional Hotel which looked grand and its facade reminded me of a Chinese hotel. It cost me 10 euro and it looked great. The smiling manager said there was no need for my passport and so I just gave him 10 euro and that was it. Breakfast was included, good bye. Inpsecting my room I found there was a gaping hole in my towel and when I hung it on a rack, the rack came rattling down the wall. Otherwise it was great.

The road to Kukës was steeper and it seemed even warmer than the day before. Luckily, there were quite a few waterholes with nice cold water on the way which I used to douse my head and rinse my shirt. Riding downhill needed careful navigation as there were a lot of rocks on the road.

Road conditions were overall good.

Just before Kukës I steered my bicycle on the highway as there is no other road. There was a policeman and I asked him if it was alright, but he didn’t speak English and poited in the direction of Kukës, so I put up my helmet for the occasion and crossed the highway to the other side and started the descend to the city. It was glorious.

Kukës turned out to be a nice little city. Very friendly and clean. It lies at the confluence of the White and the Black Drin. According to Wikipedia: the district is impoverished, with poor road connections, and major problems with crime. I didn’t experience anything of the kind.

Mosque in Kukës

Mosque in Kukës

Next post will be from Kosovo.

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