Touring In Albania: Europe’s Most Harmful Nation?

by jpc_touring-bicycle

After leaving my condo in Tivat, Montenegro on the twenty fourth of June, I cycled for 2 days down the nation’s mountainous coast earlier than reducing inland, passing by way of dozens of darkish tunnels and flat nation again roads.

Lower than 20 kilometers from the border, it began to rain and I slipped on my jacket for the primary time in months.

All of the sudden, an oncoming automotive peeled to a halt in entrance of me. A darkish, grey haired man within the driver’s seat rolled down his window and barked one thing at me in Serbian.

“I’m sorry,” I stated. “I can’t perceive you. Do you communicate English?”

“Watch out!” the person stated. “Some individuals on bicycles crashed on this street. It is extremely slippery.”

I waved on the man and thanked him for the warning. I wasn’t certain, nonetheless, if he meant that folks on bicycles had crashed proper now, at this very second, or if he had merely appear a bunch of bicyclists crash on this street at a long way level up to now. Biking on, I shortly found what the previous man had meant.

After passing by way of what should have been the eighth or ninth tunnel of the day, I got here throughout three cyclists (two younger males and a lady) who have been standing on the roadside, tending to 1 one other and wiping blood from their arms, backs and faces.

I pulled my bike to a cease and requested, “Are you alright?”

Each males smiled and the girl waved me on, saying “Sure, we’re nice. The boys have been attempting to go as quick because the vehicles and slipped within the water. We’re okay.”

I seemed on the younger man the girl was tending to and assumed it was her boyfriend. He had his shirt off and had simply placed on a recent new pair of tight black bike shorts. His others lay in a tattered mess on the earth beneath his feat. He had clearly taken a fall on his left aspect as his thighs and shoulders have been purple with blood and black with tar from the roads. He seemed like he’d survive, however his male using associate seemed a complete lot worse.

The opposite male rider, who was a lot taller and skinnier than his bruised and bloody companion had taken a severe hit to the top. Proper above his eye was a deep three-inch gash that spout darkish black blood down the rider’s face and neck.

“The place are you from?” I requested the younger lady.

“Russia” she stated. “We’ve been right here for 15 days.”

“And you’re going to Shkoder?” I requested her.

“Sure. Albania. Tonight.”

With the bloody mess I noticed earlier than me and the ache I knew was certain to comply with within the coming hours, I wasn’t so certain these bruised and battered riders have been going to make it throughout the Albanian border, not to mention the additional 10+ kilometers to Shkoder – Albania’s second largest metropolis.

“We’re okay.” The lady informed me once more.

I might have preferred to have stayed and heard extra about their travels and probably cycled with them for some time, but it surely appeared as if they needed to eliminate me. I believe they have been simply embarrassed at having crashed and at having prompted such a scene. So I stated goodbye, wished them luck, and shortly made my strategy to the border.

By the point I reached the Montenegro/Albania border, the rain had stopped and the solar had come out once more. Three or 4 vehicles have been all that separated me from what I had been informed was Europe’s poorest and most harmful nation. However even with so few individuals crossing the border, the wait took half hour.

Automobiles leaving Montenegro have been compelled to take a seat idle at a small bridge, about 100 meters away from the precise border station. When it was your flip to drag ahead and verify in with the border officers, a feminine officer would step out into the road from 100 meters away and wave you in. Lastly it was my flip and I cycled up, parked my bike close to the curb and handed a person sitting in a small sales space my passport. With out a phrase, he scanned my doc below a small gentle, stamped a web page, and that was that.

With my passport in my pocket, I stepped again on the bike and cycled 200 meters east, the place the street all of a sudden turned to dust and gravel and I checked in with the Albanian border officers. Once more, my passport was scanned, I used to be requested the place I used to be headed, and a stamp was added to my e book. “Welcome to Albania!” I believed to myself as I stepped on the bike and rode previous a small group of border officers playing on a rock pile on the aspect of the street. I used to be in Albania!

After having spent the final two days biking up and over numerous hills, my first impressions of Albania have been surprisingly nice. The roads have been flat and the surroundings was lush. I used to be in farming nation and it smelled of dried grass and horse manure.

Easy nation properties made in conventional Adriatic model have been perched on hills in practically each path. Males on mules pulled trailers crammed with dust and instruments and numerous Albanian knickknacks.

In small villages, college youngsters chased beside me as I rode previous. Previous males on mopeds zipped by in well-kept fits. And each every now and then, round concrete bunkers would emerge from the hillsides – the remnants of a battle gone previous and a certain signal of the dearth of cash this small European nation needed to respectfully defend itself.

After passing a sheep hearder and his 100+ goats, I all of a sudden got here throughout a protracted picket bridge and was surrounded by teenage boys with darkish pores and skin and ratty garments. There have been so lots of them I used to be compelled to cease and so they swarmed round me and my bike, poking at my handlebars, squeezing my tires, and grabbing onto my garments. They have been simply curious to see what this unusual little bicycle was all about, however the swarm was blocking the bridge and I used to be unable to move till three previous males came visiting and chased the boys off with sticks, waving me adieu and pointing me throughout the bridge and within the path of town.

Throughout the bridge I hung a left and adopted a newly put in brick riverfront lined with small, shadeless tress and inexperienced metallic benches. A boy with one leg carrying a curler blade was being pulled by a buddy,on a motorbike. However as I rode by, the one-legged boy grabbed onto my rear rack and I pulled him for tenth of a mile earlier than he let go and shouted one thing at me in Albanian, smiling the complete time.

Again out on the principle road, two enticing women round my age approached on foot. The blond one was carrying a pair of big saggy black pants – a mode I’ve by no means seen any enticing lady in California put on, however she pulled it off with superb grace.

“Excuse me” I stated. “Do you communicate English?”

The blond lady’s buddy checked out me and smiled. “Somewhat.”

“Oh good! I’m looking for place to remain. A lodge maybe. Have you learnt the place I would discover one?”

“You need a room to sleep?” the blond lady requested, her watch.

“Sure, an condo or a lodge.” I replied.

“Hmm…” the ladies checked out one another and giggled, the best way that women appear to do after they have a secret that’s solely between themselves and never supposed for you. “No. I’m sorry” The buddy stated. “I have no idea.”

“Okay then” I shrugged. “Thanks anyway.”

I darted out into the road and the ladies walked off collectively, grinning and laughing in that means I’m certain I’ll by no means perceive.

The streets of Shkoder have been wild and huge. Tall decrepit buildings lined the roads, the place bombed out sidewalks (in case you can name them that) have been crammed with dust, concrete and litter. Automobiles parked within the gutter, on the sidewalks, ten ft out on the street, and seemingly wherever they happy. Within the street, individuals walked on foot; bikes roamed in each path; carts pulled by donkeys, horses, and aged males introduced visitors to a gradual; and vehicles honked and swerved as they made their means by way of this wild mixture of transport modes.

Intersections have been ever crazier. With no road lights to direct visitors, most intersections have been left empty and vehicles, bikers and pedestrians have been left to fend for themselves. Bigger road crossings, nonetheless, have been manned with a single police officer in a light-weight blue uniform waving a tiny picket board, which each bike, automotive and pedestrian appeared to fully ignore. When the officer would flip his again, a circulate of visitors would all of a sudden creep out into the road and vehicles would dart throughout the intersection, simply lacking the river of individuals and automobiles coming the other means.

Escaping the roads for only a second in an try to determine the place I used to be precisely, I rolled right into a small metropolis park, shaded by an enormous iron statue of some unknown Albanian battle hero. I sat on a bench and pulled out my map, which confirmed not more than 4 or 5 roads main into Shkoder and was fully ineffective for any sort of citywide navigation.

As I sat quietly on the uncomfortable picket bench, a small boy crept over, wanting curiously at my bicycle and the unusual gear I used to be hauling on my small-wheeled automobile.

I seemed up from my map and smiled… and the boy crept nearer, lastly doing as the opposite Albanian boys had achieved, he squeezed my brakes, ran his hand down the body, and patted my panniers.

The boy clearly didn’t communicate English, however I might inform he needed to trip the bike. And with nobody else round, I let him accomplish that.

With an enormous grin on his face, the small boy mounted the bike and took off like a professional. The burden of the bike and the peak of the seat didn’t gradual him down. He zipped across the park with ease, waving at mates in close by home windows and parked vehicles. You would inform that he loved it… and I washed intently, ensuring he didn’t dart off down a close-by alley and disappear with my bicycle ceaselessly. However that didn’t occurred. The boy merely circled across the park, jumped off the bike and handed it again to me.

Down the road I noticed a dozen or extra bike tires hanging from a dilapidated picket shed. It was a motorbike store of kinds, and I glanced inside to see who was working this tiny roadside enterprise. However there was nobody there.

I seemed round and a noticed a lady making eye contact with me. She pointed to a person throughout the road. I checked out him and he pointed to his left, to a close-by restaurant, the place a person was working towards me, his eyes fastened. “A buyer!” I might hear them screaming.

As the person approached I defined myself. “Good day! I’m sorry to interrupt your dinner. I simply needed to ask in case you knew of a spot the place I might sleep for the evening. A lodge perhaps?”

The previous man couldn’t perceive a phrase I used to be saying. So he waved over two younger boys, not a lot older than myself, and requested them to interpret.

Once more, I defined that I used to be on the lookout for a lodge or an condo or just a spot to pitch my tent for the evening.

“Ah sure,” one of many boys stated. “There are inns within the middle, however they’re costly. How a lot cash do you wish to spend?”

I didn’t wish to reveal how a lot cash I used to be carrying, nor did I wish to quote a value that is perhaps too excessive for this run-down Albanian metropolis, so I prevented the query, saying that I needed one thing low cost. “I simply want a spot to sleep” I said once more.

For the subsequent ten minutes the boys talked forwards and backwards whereas close by women and men came visiting and joined the dialog. Fights broke out, arguing ensued, and all through all of it I couldn’t perceive a factor.

After what appeared like an eternity, one of many boys turned to me and stated, “You see that previous man on his bicycle? Observe him and he’ll take you to a spot. It’s low cost. Go together with him.”

In order that’s precisely what I did. I jumped again on my bike and adopted the previous man down a busy fundamental street on the streets of Shkoder earlier than making two sharp left-hand turns down an alley, previous a row of road distributors and aged previous girls, earlier than lastly rolling to a cease exterior a busted up three-story constructing situated in a culdesac simply steps away from town’s deserted prepare station.

Inside, a velvet curtain separated the small darkish entry room from a set of stairs resulting in the second and third flooring and a person sitting behind a small folding desk within the nook. A tiny money field sat on high of the desk and the person stood as we entered and got here out from behind the velvet curtain.

My tour information on a bicycle spoke to the person and defined that I wanted a spot to sleep for the evening. A dialog ensued and after a couple of minutes I used to be informed that it could be 12 Euros. However I didn’t have to pay now, the previous man defined. “Pay when morning” he stated in damaged English.

My tour information then pedaled off on his bike and I used to be left alone with the innkeeper, who walked me upstairs, previous rows of scantily clad girls hanging from posters on the partitions. My room was on the third flooring and it was a dump. It didn’t appear like it had been cleaned in years. The mattress was made, however soiled. A used towel hung from the bedpost. Two posters of girls in lingerie hung from the dresser close to the window. And the bathe within the lavatory was nothing greater than a hose protruding of the wall and a drain in the course of the toilet flooring.

After hauling my panniers upstairs and securing my bike within the hallway behind the “porn star” velvet curtain, I hosed off within the lavatory, placed on my freshest pair of pants, and walked into downtown Shkoder.

Off the bike, few individuals observed me. I wasn’t be swarmed by youngsters, nor have been previous girls starring at me as I walked previous. With out my bike, I used to be simply one other resident, strolling the crumbled streets of Albania… on the lookout for my subsequent meal.

I made my means by way of trash coated streets, throughout police managed intersections, and previous each vehicles and donkeys parked on the sidewalks till I lastly reached the middle of city.

I noticed an Web cafe on the one road within the metropolis that seemed clear and fashionable. I paid with a twenty cent Euro piece and took off to discover a financial institution and get myself some actual Albanian cash.

Sadly, the financial institution throughout the road was closed and the ATMs on the town solely accepted VISA debt playing cards, which was unlucky, as a result of I used to be solely carrying a Mastercard.

Lastly, I went into a close-by vacationer company an requested the grey haired lady behind the desk if she knew the place I might get some cash. She knowledgeable me that she might trade cash there, within the workplace, if I had some cash to trade. So I handed her 100 Euros and was handed again 1,260 Albanian Lek.

Again out within the streets I heard loud music taking part in within the distance. “A live performance within the park?” I believed to myself.

I adopted the sound of the music and stumbled throughout a stage, constructed in the course of what gave the impression to be town’s largest intersection. Hundreds of individuals have been gathered round, as males on non permanent metallic platforms ran cables and ready video cameras. “It’s a live performance!” I believed to myself at first. However then a big white and purple banner was hung, asserting the looks of the democratic celebration of Albania. I used to be in the course of an enormous political rally.

After I started studying up on security and journey in Albania, I visited the U.S. Division of State web site, the place they warned “All gatherings of huge crowds ought to be prevented, significantly these involving political causes or putting staff.” But right here I used to be… my first day in Albania… and I discovered myself in the course of the biggest political rally within the nation! However you recognize what? I used to be loving it!

The rally started with a collection of musicians performing songs in each English and Albanian… and ended with a rain storm and a short discuss by a feminine politician.

Having not eaten something all day, I left the rally early and jumped inside a street-side pizzeria, ordering a big vegetarian to go.

The person inside spoke glorious English. He had labored within the UK for a number of years after which moved to Germany for some time earlier than returning to Albania to run this tiny roadside enterprise. I had nice enjoyable recounting my travels with this worldly Albanian man and listening to about his adventures in northern Europe.

After my pizza was prepared I paid 350 Lek (about $3.75 USD) and ran again to my lodge, which by this level I had realized was only a place the place individuals got here to have intercourse.

Again in my room, I locked the door and devoured my pizza – the very best I had had throughout my complete time in Europe. It was pouring rain and as I watched the ultimate minutes of the political rally by way of a fuzzy TV broadcast, I shortly fell asleep.

I woke the subsequent morning round 9 AM, hosed off within the lavatory as soon as once more, packed my issues, stated goodbye to the practically nude girls hanging from my dresser and ran downstairs to pay my invoice.

Sadly, the person who had checked me in the day before today was now not there. As an alternative, a younger Albanian lady, who was about my age, sat on the desk with the money field.

“Do you communicate English?” I requested. However she didn’t. “I haven’t paid for my room but” I attempted to clarify, however she failed to grasp.

I pulled out my cash to attempt to get my level throughout, however shortly realized how large of a mistake that was. Inside this hooker lodge, she thought I used to be attempting to purchase my means right into a roll within the hay and he or she shortly stood up and shook her finger in my face.

A person got here out of a close-by room and requested me what I needed. Once more, he didn’t communicate English, however I attempted to clarify that I had but to pay. He lastly received the message, however informed me to not fear about it. My room was free! So I thanked the person, packed up my bike and headed down the street, out of town and into the mountains of Albania.

The street to Vau i Dejes, a tiny city I wanted to achieve earlier than biking into the Albanian mountains, was in contrast to any I’ve ever traveled earlier than. A dust and gravel mess that winds by way of the countryside, the street was flooded with water from the earlier evening’s rain storm and the 22 kilometer stretch was crammed with gypsies, historic properties, army installations, and previous world cities lined with tiny street-side huts.

At first, the mountains that ran alongside this slender dust street didn’t appear all that unhealthy. However as Vau i Dejes grew nearer, the mountains grew bigger and I shortly realized that my climb and descent into Kosovo can be a protracted one.

Earlier than starting the climb, I finished and acquired a soda from a shirtless little one in a roadside stand who waved me down and requested me in damaged German about my travels. When our dialog got here to an finish, I crossed the road and spoke with a bunch of Russian males who have been using bikes from Turkey to Croatia. I requested if any of them needed to commerce automobiles, however I received no takers. “Are you loopy one among them requested?” However at that specific second, about to cycle into the mountains of Albania, alone, on a fully-loaded bicycle, I wasn’t precisely certain the way to reply that query.

Fortunate for me, the primary little climb wasn’t all that unhealthy. It began out with a brief collection of switchbacks, which I tackled with relative ease. Because the hill flattened out, I popped out of my lowest gears and commenced to make regular progress, biking alone on this lovely mountain street.

“If the remainder of the street is like this, Albania goes to be a breeze” I believed to myself.

However Albania wasn’t a breeze. Actually, the roads made little ahead progress. Twisting and delivering each path besides ahead, it took hours to cowl only a few miles on the bike.

After practically 4 hours of using, a protracted collection of downhill switchbacks and a trip throughout an previous concrete bridge meant one more lengthy ascent up numerous sharp ascending roads. After the eighth or ninth switchback I finished counting the turns and shortly thereafter realized simply how drained I had develop into.

I finished to relaxation below the shade of a tree and although to myself, “This is able to be an excellent place to cease and spend the evening.” It was lovely, inexperienced, and remoted. However stopping wasn’t an possibility. I wanted to maintain going, as I had a schedule to maintain and wanted to be in Macedonia by the twenty ninth of June.

So I saved using, giving up my hopes of reaching the small mountain city of Fushe Arrez and as an alternative, set my sights on the tiny city of Puke. However you recognize you’re drained when you end up stopping each three minutes for a ten minute break. I used to be completely wiped, fully out of meals, practically out of water, and I nonetheless had no thought how a lot additional I needed to go.

Ultimately, I pulled into Puke, an virtually microscopic city located excessive within the Albanian mountains, with a county-wide inhabitants of roughly 6,500. My legs have been shaking as I requested an previous lady hanging out a store window if she knew the place I might get a pizza. She didn’t communicate English, however two Muslim girls strolling up the road in head scarves did, and so they pointed me towards an previous man with two entrance enamel, whom they informed me to comply with. “He’ll present you have been to go” the ladies informed me.

I adopted the previous man by way of the streets of Puke, again within the path I had come. The person spoke no English and was clearly very well-known on this tiny hillside metropolis. Previous males greeted the person like they’d a brother and store keepers got here out to deal with him with the deepest respect. Teenage boys, after seeing the person on the street, would run at him with water pistols, and he would chase them off, laughing as he did so.

I parked my bike exterior an empty cafe on the nook of the road and stepped inside.

“Do you’ve gotten pizza?” the previous man requested the waiter as we entered. (He stated this in Albania in fact.)

And because it seems, they did have pizza! I ordered a big vegetarian (my security meal when touring in locations the place I can’t learn the menu) with out asking for the worth and took a seat at a desk close to the window. The previous man sat down with me and ordered a cappuccino. It was then that I noticed he was going to take a seat with me the complete time I ate my meal.

When my pizza got here out it was completely large. It was shiny yellow, on a skinny crust (virtually like a tortilla) and coated with a cornucopia of greens.

I dove proper in, however even after a full day of using, was solely capable of eat half of the monstrous pie. I requested for the invoice and that the remainder of the pizza be wrapped in tin foil so I might eat it later within the night.

A couple of minutes handed and the pie was wrapped up and my invoice was offered. The previous man’s cappuccino, which I used to be completely satisfied to pay for, value 130 Lek ($1.39 USD) and my pizza, which I anticipated to value a close to fortune, was simply 150 Lek (a measly $1.60).

Now that I used to be stuffed, my subsequent aim was to discover a place to sleep. I requested the previous man and several other males within the restaurant in the event that they knew the place I would keep, however there was just one lodge on the town, so the previous man walked me to the place after I paid the invoice and I booked a room for 20 Euros and secured a contemporary, recent and clear room on the third story with an excellent view of downtown Puke.

After showering, I stepped again out into the streets of town and located myself amongst a whole bunch of locals strolling up and down town’s fundamental drag – a road now not than 1 / 4 mile. Up and down the road individuals went, speaking to 1 one other, holding palms (males with girls, girls with girls, and males with males), and chatting with store keepers and ladies who unhappy idly on the sidewalks.

I imagined this identical scene happening each evening on this small city. Tons of of individuals, the identical individuals they seemingly see day after day, strolling this identical road, time and time once more, evening after evening, for years on finish. Apparently, that is what you do in Puke… and I completely cherished it!

Again in my lodge room, I felt just like the King of Albania. There have been three beds within the room, however I used to be alone, wanting down on the tiny village individuals from my monstrous window three tales up. The individuals of Puke have been fantastic and Albania was actually rising on me.

The subsequent morning I decided. The plan for the day was to get to Kukes, a big metropolis on the northeastern aspect of the nation. However after the day before today’s trip by way of the mountains, I knew that I might be unable to achieve Kukes by dusk. So I waded out to the road with my bicycle and luggage and thumbed a trip.

A person of about fifty, driving a purple Mercedes Benz, pulled up and requested the place I used to be headed.

“Kukes” I replied.

“I can take you. However it can value 40 Euros.”

“Ouch!” I believed to myself. “I believed Albania was alleged to be low cost.”

“It’s 92 kilometers to Kukes and I’ve to have cash to get again” the driving force defined.

I informed him I might go, however just for 30 Euros. He wouldn’t budge at first, however then I received him right down to 35.

After selecting the worth, I loaded my issues into the trunk of his automotive and took off into the mountains but once more, on the three-hour drive from Puke to Kukes.

Alongside the best way, I chatted with the driving force, whose title I can’t recall, however he spoke excellent English. He informed me about his youngsters, the poor economic system in Albania, the brand new freeways that have been being put in all through the nation, the political issues, the significance of carrying a condom, and numerous random, loopy issues you might solely anticipate to debate with a stranger from Albania.

Alongside the best way, the person would cease to select up different passengers, individuals standing on the aspect of the street in each small cities and in the course of nowhere. In Fushe Arrez we picked up an previous lady in a vale, her mouth and nostril coated with a white fabric, and an previous skinny man carrying a basket of nectarines. The person handed me a chunk of fruit and a pair stale pretzels earlier than we dropped them off close to a bend within the street in what appeared like a totally remoted location.

“The place are they going?” I requested the driving force.

He pointed to a small dust path that shot instantly up a steep mountain move.

“There’s a small village up there. These are mountain individuals.” And that was all I wanted to listen to.

I waved goodbye to the couple as they started their ascent up the tiny hillside path and we continued on by automotive down the windy, twisting street to Kukes.

The drive was lovely, however the street was harmful. Slender roads meant passing vehicles would generally must cease and wait or pull to the aspect as you slipped by. Sharp turns meant not with the ability to see oncoming visitors. And big holes within the street, which dropped a number of hundred ft, have been marked off solely with easy rock piles positioned simply ft in entrance of those big dying traps.

The drive appeared to take ceaselessly, however no less than I used to be getting my cash’s price. The entire time I used to be within the automotive I saved pondering to myself, I can’t imagine I used to be going to trip my bike over this. I might have achieved it in fact, however the considered having to cowl a lot floor in a single day was completely thoughts boggling. A street like this is able to take no less than two or three days to cowl on bike.

After what appeared like an eternity, we rolled into Kukes and my driver pulled to a cease on the nook of a crowded soiled road.

Stepping out of the automotive, I used to be instantly surrounded by youngsters and curious onlookers who seemed on in amazement as I handed 4,500 Lek to my driver and shortly assembled my tiny folding bike.

“Are you okay?” the driving force requested me earlier than leaping again in his automotive.

“Sure, I’m nice” I informed him. “Thanks… and drive secure.”

And with that, my driver was gone… and I used to be alone, but once more.

After assembling my bike, I discovered a small market run by an obese man with soiled fingernails and a poster of Invoice Clinton on his wall. I loaded up with snack meals for the street and paid not more than two {dollars} for a mountain’s price of food and drinks.

I had deliberate to get to Kukes that evening after which proceed on towards Kosovo the subsequent day, but it surely wasn’t even 4 o’clock but, so I made a decision to trip on and attempt to attain Kosovo by dusk.

Biking out of Kukes, I noticed that this was the final I might see of a serious Albanian metropolis. And whereas I had cherished the nation up up to now, I used to be completely satisfied to get out of this significantly soiled and crowded place.

The street out of city was full dust and rock and made for gradual journey. I handed a truck hauling big panes of glass and stopped for photographs with vacationers in a tiny black Jeep.

The development of the brand new freeway that may take future vacationers from Kukes to Tirane, Albania’s capital metropolis, was nonetheless below development, so big cranes hung over unkept roads. An extended, slender one-lane bridge was crossed and mud stuffed the air as I struggled my means by way of heavy development up and over a small mountain move.

On the high of the street, I paused for a photograph. It was lovely. Purple flowers blended with inexperienced grass and brown straw stuffed the fields within the foreground. However within the background, tiny brick properties and towering inexperienced mountains stuffed the scene.

As I cycled previous a row of bushes, the street got here to an finish and I used to be waved down by two males sitting in open vehicles on the newly paved street that may quickly develop into a serious Albanian freeway.

“This fashion” they yelled at me, signaling me to trip on the freeway.

“Are you certain?” I requested them. “ I can’t go this fashion?” pointing to a street that seemed to steer into a close-by city.

“No, this fashion!” they each stated with smiles on their faces.

“Okay” I believed. “I’m going to trip my bike on the freeway, in Albania!” And that’s precisely what I did.

For the subsequent forty minutes or so, I rode virtually fully alone on this main unmarked street. Automobiles would move each as soon as and some time, however for essentially the most half, the freeway was completely mine. The white strains that may separate the lanes of visitors had but to be painted and scores of development staff noticed the freeway in quite a few elements. Some would wave. Some would yell. And at occasions, I anxious that they is perhaps telling me to get off the freeway. However I couldn’t perceive them, so I simply saved using.

Lastly, I reached a small lake and what I knew was the border crossing that may lead me into Kosovo.

I fished out my passport, positioned it in my pocket and rolled as much as the gate. By some means, Albania appeared like house. I had develop into snug right here. I had loved the place. I cherished the individuals. And the whole lot I had ever been informed about this tiny seaside nation had been fallacious. However now I used to be simply two steps away from Kosovo… and as soon as once more, I used to be uncertain as to what I ought to anticipate from my biking adventures on this new, tiny, and disputed area within the Balkans.

Keep tuned for the subsequent a part of this story as I cycle my means into Kosovo, Macedonia, Bulgaria and Greece.


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