Thursday, August 9, 2012

Albania!!!!

In my opinion, one of the very best days of the trip! Today was our adventure through Albania. From the very first moments we already loved the country.  The boarder guards were friendly, giving us advice about which boarder stations were open and a funny Albanian man yelled out to us, "Montenegro Schei├če, Albania gut!" with enthusiastic thumbs up.  As we were checking the map a young Australian who had crossed the boarder on foot approached us and asked us if we were headed to Tirane, the capital.  It was in our plans and when he asked for a ride there we were more than happy to oblige. In exchange for the ride he took pictures of Mario and I with the "Welcome to Albania" sign and the Albania flag.  Our trip to the capital with Lindel (I'm only guessing at the spelling) was filled with travel stories and laughter and an overall good time.  We quickly saw that what Federico told Mario about Albania was 100% correct - there are SOOOO many fuel stations in that country.  I don't think you can drive 3 minutes without seeing one and I still do not know why.  Does every Albanian family just open a fuel station as a hobby or something? At one of those fuel stations before the boarder we exchanged some euros for Albanian Lek so that we could pay for parking and food in the capital.  We found probably the most central parking possible (literally right off of the giant roundabout that marks the city center) and negotiated the price with a security guard who neither spoke nor understood a single word of English.  We said our goodbyes to Lindel, wishing each other good travels, and began our little walk around Tirane.  We were quite hungry, so we stopped first in a supermarket for a snack of yogurt drinks and pastries. Leaving the store our run-in with a tiny Albanian boy began, as he begged us to buy a package of bandaids from him for a euro.  Of course, he was pathetically adorable and I wanted to just hug him up and take care of him, but I could not justify buying those bandaids from him. First of all, I'm nearly certain that the money given to him would be promptly swept out of him hands by whichever adult had sent him out with that package of bandaids.  Secondly, giving him money would be supporting child labor and while maybe filling someone's belly for a few hours (or unfortunately perhaps paying for drugs, alcohol, or cigarettes), it would encourage the continuation of the exploitation of a child who should be playing with his friends on a summer afternoon.  He stuck around for quite a while, breaking my heart more and more.  In the end he left after we told him we wanted to see his documentation that he was legally allowed to sell on the streets. I'm virtually certain that he didn't understand us, but had just finally decided that we weren't going to give in. We finished our walk through Tirane and Mario maneuvered the car out of the crowded parking lot with the help of our favorite Albanian security/parking guard. Leaving Tirane we began our drive through the Albanian countryside and spent the next few hours simply marveling at everything.  I don't even have the words! You just have to see it for yourself! It reached about 40C (104F), but we still decided to have coffee in a restaurant along the way, enjoying the shade a nice breeze in the outdoor seating area.  In the last "city" before the boarder we loaded up my backpack with snacks and drinks for about 5 euros and then filled up the tank at a fuel station that was, unsurprisingly, not hard to find.  It was very obvious from the German license plate to the taking pictures with the town in the background that we were foreigners. Something told me that that town doesn't see so many tourists ;) I have to admit that I was a bit sad to leave Albania and honestly see myself going back there someday in the future.  Mario had read in the internet that the roads in Albania are quite horrid, but actually they were great! The fastest Mario drove outside of Germany was actually in Albania, as he sped down the highway at 160km/hr before noticing the speed limit 40 sign. oops! We also passed a police officer on a scooter who was going so slow he had his flashers on, but none the less had to laugh about that fact that we zoomed past an officer.  With full hearts we crossed the boarder into Macedonia and were again greeted by friendly boarder guards.  While no longer on the coast, we found camping on lake Ohrid in Macedonia and were all the same able to do some swimming. That is, of course, until after Mario was attacked by a vicious water snake.  Ok, so he wasn't actually attacked, but that sounds much more exciting than "I saw a long thin snake and started screaming like a fool and swimming away yelling 'SNAKE! SNAKE!'".  Anyhow, it was a good laugh and reason enough for us to get out of the water. We cooked some pasta and peas and spent the rest of the evening relaxing (despite the oh so noisy inhabitants of the campground) before closing our eyes on yet another day of adventure.
Goodbye Montenegro

Hello Albania!!!









Fly! Fly!

Mosque 

Our friendly Australian backpacker friend

First views of Albania

Those great Albanian roads!






Driving through our first Albanian town

Tirane!

Central square and a big Albanian flag

Building off of the central square


Tirane, Albania



Albanian University and a yogurt drink! Doesn't get much better!

Again, flag!


Beautiful Albanian mountains





Don't mind the goats in the road

Again, the goats

If only the pictures could do it justice

On our drive through the mountains


Note the temperature

Going up!


Phew! 39.5!

Enjoy the 40 degree heat


That river looked pretty good for a swim

This is how you would feel too if you were in Albania :D


Our last stop before the boarder


Tourist!

Boarder station - you can already see the Macedonian flag in the distance

Welcome to Macedonia!



First town in Macedonia


Beautiful sunset on the lake

Watch out for water snakes!

camping space in Macedonia 

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