Turning Back The Clock Albanian Style.

Trip Start Feb 01, 2005
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302
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Trip End Dec 31, 2018


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Mak - Albania

Flag of Albania  ,
Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Disco music thumps, playing early 80's tunes, and gentle waves lap the sandy shore on a totally deserted beach. Well not quite deserted – a bored security guard eyes the beach up and down.

Our group of 27 enjoyed having the place to ourselves. There seems to be no other guests in this beach front holiday accommodation. The "resort" served us a meal of salad, chicken breast and mashed potato then set the disco music free on us. Whilst it was a minor disappointment, they have no wine of any description to sell us, the meal was a bonus as it was included.

We are in Durres in Albania and our travel has taken us from the Island of Corfu in Greece by ferry then by bus over the border and into Albania. The difference to Greece is immediately visible. Firstly there are concrete bunkers everywhere. Small domes, looking like mushrooms, dot the landscape. They are made of concrete and iron and are virtually impossible to destroy, our guide Damo tells us, being able to withstand a full tank assault. (apparently the engineer who designed them, stood inside while it was bombarded, to prove his point)

The roads are bone rattling, and shake our bus and ourselves around. We pass rural scenes that are straight out of the 1930’s. Little donkey carts drive by, gnarled old men trot along the road, and road side sellers wave strings of cherries at us. Families work in the fields with hand hoes and chickens in small cages, line the road edge.

Albania has had a troubled and difficult past that has left deep wounds. Up until 20 years ago there were no cars to drive down the narrow roads, just donkey carts and bikes. The people lived through the worst type of communism, stuck firmly behind the Iron Curtain. Religion and private enterprise were banned and of course nobody could visit or leave. In 1992 with communist rule over, the country became a "free for all" with huge smuggling rackets springing up and Albanians being taken advantage of by unscrupulous entrepreneurs. In 1996 70% of Albanians lost their total savings, when an investment scheme collapsed.  

We spent several hours walking around the capital city of Tirana. Beat up Mercedes are the preferred means of transport, a legacy from the era of a “free for all” post communist period when many stolen Mercedes from Western Europe were brought over the border. Old Soviet style apartment and office blocks are beginning to be painted. Some tenants have painted the outside walls from their window and the coloured paint only reaches as far as their paint roller can reach!.  

Albanian ways are a little strange to us. They nod their heads up and down for no and shake backwards and forwards for yes. They are very friendly and are amazed we have come all the way from Australia to visit their country. This tour is a fairly new one and relationships of where to stop for snacks and toilet stops are still being formed. It was lunch time and Damo our guide, spotted a newish looking supermarket. They readily agreed they had toilets we could use, so with that out the way, we all headed in to their shop to buy cold meats, cheese, bread rolls, fruit and snacks for our lunch. We just made their day!

“Where are you from?” asked with a huge smile.

“Australia” we answer. (and similar for our other nationalities on the bus)

“But it is so far! Do you like Albania? Why did you come to Albania?”

They are hungry to know about other countries and thrilled we chose to stop at their village. Damo tells them he will bring his tour groups here again and they beam. They can already imagine how that will change their turnover for the better.

It has been a quick visit to a country that deserves more time, but Montenegro is calling and we will be off on the bus tomorrow to Budva.

  
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