A bit about Albania

*Another post I discovered I had written but not published. My brain was obviously in holiday mode...*

When I first imagined going overseas and travelling through Europe Albania was not on my radar! But I’m glad we decided to take the ferry from Corfu to Sarande. We also decided to slow down our pace of travel – instead of bouncing from place to place every couple of days to pick a destination and stay a week (staying in a place for a week is apparently very unusual, judging by the responses we’ve had – and on top of that we’re travelling in the off-season, people have intimated we should come back in the summer and see how vibrant and busy places are - we’ve seen the photos of rocky shorelines (aka “beaches”) crowded with chairs, umbrellas and people and though we don’t get to swim and the temperature is plummeting as we head north and it’s dark by 4.30pm – I’m still not used to that – I much prefer travelling this time of year. You get a sense of what the place is really like!

All weathers in Sarande.

Greece and Albania both have a thriving cafe culture. People catch-up and linger hours over espressos and conversation - there is no sense of hurry, nor the feeling that you should move on because you’re taking up tables – in Athens, when the cafe we were having lunch at was full the owner carried out more tables and chairs and set them up in the road – the scooters just had to dodge them.

Sarande was once a fishing town though is now a summer holiday destination filled with high-rise hotels which were mostly shut for the off-season. We walked along the promenade, tried different foods, wrote a lot (nothing shareable, all rough drafts and jotting ideas) and watched storms over the sea from our apartment on the sixth floor. The building had no elevator so we got no small amount of incidental exercise, which allowed us to make the most of our discovery that chocolate croissants only cost the equivalent of 50c from the local bakery.

Views of Durres.

From Sarande we hopped on a minibus to Durres – a coastal port city, where we swapped 50c croissants for 50c ice creams. The ferry from Italy arrives in Durres and there was a large Italian influence with plenty of pizza and pasta restaurants. We walked along the restaurant-lined promenade (walking was our prominent method of exploration) where plenty of people were taking their poses for photographs very seriously.

In the city centre were the ruins of an amphitheatre. The site was literally hemmed in on all sides with flats built up against the exterior walls of the amphitheatre.

We had some trouble in Albanian (and Montenegran) museums – and historical sites – because in many cases the information was not translated to English – and you cannot rely on the accuracy of google translate, as shown below.

(I was trying to translate a warning sign on the train from Durres to Shkoder.)