18th May 2014 Entered Albania believing it to be a poor and backward place but so far it isn’t at all. Our camping area welcomed us with coffee and a floral arrangement. The amenities among the best we have seen, and at a reasonable price. Albanians are very friendly, surprisingly, I haven’t seen anyone with white hair and pink eyes, supermarkets well stocked, ATM’s with both Euros and Lek’s (local currency). Lek is also the nickname of our middle daughter so we had to come here.
19h May 2014 We visited the ruins today. Not the ancient ones but the modern ones. In fact so modern that they haven’t even been completed yet. They are illegal buildings that the police have demolished or at least half demolished, with slabs left remaining at eccentric angles, steel reinforcement jutting up and demented staircases just like an Escher sketch (not Etch A Sketch), all left unfenced for the children to play in.
Motored inland to see a natural spring bubbling up out of a mountain along with four bus loads of high school students complete with western “attitude”. The scale of it is what makes it worth seeing, it is huge, and it issues crystal water that makes the river hues, a blue the colour of Zanzibar’s beaches. We then motored further inland to see some more conventional ruins at Gjirokastra and if you can pronounce that you must be an Albanian.
Now camped at Kranea near Himara at a beach camping area along with twenty or so Germans with their mobile homes (tag along tour). They are a happy bunch and know how to produce a barrel of beer when necessary.
20th May 2014 Albanian campgrounds are a cut above, with ultrasonic guided soap dispensers, electronic hand driers and marblesque tiling that appears to be sterilised. The back roads are a little dodgy but supermarkets do take Visa card and no toll on their motorway.
Apparently Albania is the biggest exporter of cannabis in Europe. I do see a hell of a lot of black Mercs and BMW’s on the roads.
Throughout Albania there are many mushroom like structures of varying sizes. These bunkers were built by their President, Hoxha, during their fifty years as a closed Communist country, to repel an imaginary threat and they are indestructible and unremoveable. No other use for them has been thought of as yet.
22nd May 2014 Over the last couple of days we have visited the old towns of Berat and Kruje both of which have a castle at the top of the hill, cobble stone streets, three hundred year old houses and a bazaar. These old castles are still inhabited, having village sized populations, so you can walk around and see life in progress more or less as it were two or three hundred years ago, they could be called ethnological museums.
Now camped at Lake Shkodra Resort Camping area, which is to be recommended, right on Lake Shkodra.
Drove into town (Shkodra) in the morning to look around. The lovely old section of the town found us at an exhibition of old photographs dating from the 1850’s (the Marubi family) showing Albanian traditional clothing and customs, images such as chieftains armed to the teeth with curved swords and daggers or tribal wedding ceremonies. The quality of these photo’s rival anything we can take on our schmick digital job. See analogue ain’t so bad!