Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Overlanding Albania

We really liked travelling in Albania. Sure, they need to pick up their rubbish, but that aside the people are friendly and there's some great stuff to see. 

The first thing we noticed when we crossed the border from Montenegro was all the Mercedes vehicles. We think every second vehicle in Albania is a Mercedes: cars, trucks, vans, new and old. 

The next thing we noticed was that they have so many Gas stations, most without customers. Although many things in Albania are cheap (compared to other parts of Europe) the fuel is not. But then we heard that the fuel stations aren't so interested in selling fuel, and that many will sell dodgy fuel. We were told that the
fuel stations main business was generally money laundering. 

Albania drivers are crazy! Simetimes traffic on roundabouts gives way to traffic coming into the roundabout (and this obviously creates problems). They overtake on double lines, and others are willing to risk death to maintain their right-of-way. We had been pre-warned about Albanian drivers, but I guess sometimes you have to see it to believe it. 

In towns across Albania there are lots of cafes and in them men sit drinking coffee, All day! You'll never see a woman in these places unless she's serving or she's a tourist (I had too, I needed a toilet excuse!). Likewise the beer seems only to be served to tourists. 

Albania is a mix of Christians and Muslims all getting along nicely. On 2 occasions Albanians told me how tolerant they are and that intermarriage was more and more acceptable. Nice! If only the world could be like this!

Campsite owners were also friendly and 4 campsites were spotless. We stayed at 5 campsites in Albania (10 nights total, with a couple of free/wild camps too) and one brought us fruit each day (fresh from their trees), another brought us morning coffee and sat down for a chat, and another gave flowers and herbs from the garden. Each of these campsite owners was open for conversation, and it was so nice to have that personal touch. 

Albania has a bad reputation and so it doesn't get as many visitors as other countries on the Mediterranean coast. But we had no problems, nor did we feel threatened at any time. Albanians were completely friendly. Even shepherds (yes, they still have shepherds!) passing us (when we hiked) would greet us warmly and try to converse with us. 

Nobody mentions it, but the Albanian coast is lovely. This is South of Vlore. 

Overlanders note: 
fuel in Albania is expensive, it's less expensive (and possibly more reliable) in Montenegro and in Greece).
Groceries, especially fresh produce, are cheap. Don't expect big supermarkets, you won't get variety like you're used to. 
Pizza cafes are cheap, and good. 
We arrived middle of the day to Gjirokastër but we couldn't find a suitable place to park Blac. So, we didn't 'visit'.... We didn't trust leaving Blac in unguarded parking and there doesn't seem to be a camping place in Gjirokastër. 
We did Lake Komani from Koman on a tour. It was okay but not as spectacular as I'd read. The people raving about Lake Komani seem to have taken the ferry. The vehicle ferry is operating again, but only with sufficient clientele (which means less often at this time of year), so we couldn't do it. The passenger ferry runs daily from the other end, Fierze, at about 6am then returns from Koman at 9am. That didn't suit us, so we did a tour that was already running for other customers. If we had our time over, I'd suggest driving to Fierze instead of Komani. Maybe the vehicle ferry would be operating, and if not the passenger ferry would then be an option. 

H set this photo up, but, regardless of the staging, the Albanian wine, sold in a plastic soft drink bottle, is very good.... 1.5 litres was 350lek, about €2.50. 

No comments:

Post a Comment