Albania

Having spent a little more time in Montenegro than initially anticipated, I had to check for alternative ways to get to Thessaloniki (flying out on the 7th). One option would have been a flight from Podgorica but that would have taken 5-6 hours with a stopover in Belgrade. Not too tempting.

In Ulcinj I learned that a lot of people from Kosovo come to the city on vacation and because of that, regular bus connections are available. Takes 5-6 hours which is not pleasant but bearable.

Before jumping onto that option, I wanted to have a look across the border. Albania has been described as the most unorganised and least developed countries in the Balkans. Can’t really be worse than Cambodia, can it?

The bus to the town of Skadar, which is just behind the border, left at around noon and for the first half hour went along a rather narrow country road.

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Closer to the border the road improved and after a 30 minute stop to check everybody’s passports, the bus rolled into Albania. The hostel was kind enough to provide a pick-up from the bus station. It is quite an unusual hostel, a house in a residential area about 1.5km outside the city centre.

There aren’t many guest staying and I spent the evening playing the guitar on the porch (it’s been a month since I played!).

Exploring the city today revealed a freshly painted pedestrian area lined with cafes and bars. Most buildings are in really good shape, although some seem to lack substance.

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The cafes were populated almost exclusively by men. Made the city look like one big sausage fest. For some reason most of the guys make an effort to look extra dodgy, don’t really know why.

Tomorrow I’m off to take a ferry across Lake Koman – said to be one of the must-sees in Albania, and hopefully reach either Pristina or Prizren by the evening.

Valdanos Adventure

5km north of Ulcinj a bay called Valdanos lures with a nice beach and 17,000 olive trees. Following its call, some of us took a taxi for the short ride out and had a look around. The beach is nice but “sadly”, after many months in Australia and Asia, it’s hard to impress me on that front. The view inland was more unique for me.

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Not far from the beach an uphill leading road was promising nice views over the area. There was a sign saying “Stop” but it was nailed to a tree trunk  resting on two rusty chairs. Didn’t look like much.

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A few minutes in, an old map revealed that there used to be a camping ground many years ago.

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Hooked on the promise of a little discovery trip, we ducked under a barrier (they are only for cars, right?) and not much later saw some cabins hiding behind the olive trees.

Everything was in pretty good condition (abandoned, but good) and there were no signs of fire or destruction. Back in the days it must have been really nice out there.

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Venturing in a little further, we stumbled across the former first aid building. Looked a bit like people left in a hurry, files and some medical utilities were flying around. The last entries in the files were from August 2002 – guess they didn’t reopen for the 2003 summer season.

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The place stretches quite far up the mountain and at some point the sun was announcing that it would be time for the way home soon.

On the way back to the exit some sort of security guys stopped us, claiming we were on military grounds. Sounded like bullshit and the fact that they weren’t armed didn’t really add to their story. They made me delete the pictures from my camera but that’s nothing that recovery software can’t fix.

Back at the hostel, the owner told us that the guys like to feel important and shoo people away from the property. Oh well, to each his own. Definitely an interesting little excursion.

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edit: There is some background information about the resort online – including a video of how it looked back in the days.

Holidays!

Muesli with sweet, ripe figs from the tree outside my room – that’s a nice start into the day!

I’ve spent the days mostly with holiday activities. Eating good food, going for a swim in the ocean or chatting to other travellers.

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Yesterday some of us went for a small hike along the coastline in southerly direction. The first half hour was the worst, fighting through the touristy hordes.

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But once that was cleared and the noise had given way to the sound of the ocean and the pine trees, it was really nice.

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The path is rocky and not exactly pram-friendly. Hence few visitors bother to come to that area and it’s mostly some older local guys enjoying the sun and the ocean. Skinny dipping seems to be the way to go around here.

Even though the area does not have any sand beaches, it’s easy to doze off on the cliffs between swims. The water is warm and crystal clear and the peace and quiet make it a great place to spend a few hours.

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Montenegro is a rather affordable country and the money I’m spending on accommodation, (good!) food and the occasional trip is less than what I paid on rent alone in Germany. Good place to do remote work.