Linda 
 on Tour

Himare, Albania

“Dog bite” and “There are Killers” – NO of course not!

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Sooner than expected I am able to write about my time in Montenegro and Albania! Due to the weather yesterday, we stopped before the border to Greece and take a day off. The wind is blowing strong, and so its raining horizontally… Well, its not that funny to ride like this, so we spend our last albanian leke here in Himare, waiting for better weather.

I feel like home in Montenegro and Albania. You might see on the images: Sometimes it really looks like at the lake lucerne! The only difference: there are minarets instead of church towers. :)

On the day we left Podgorica, we crossed the border of Albania. Okay, first time we got into a traffic jam at a border crossing. And the first time we had to show our passports instead of our identity cards. The good thing about the traffic jam: The road was empty afterwards – and of course, we weren`t stuck in it, we passed it smiling and waving…

The first impressions of Albania: I wouldn`t have expected such a huge difference! Life happens on the streets, shops look more like a bazar on the street, and you`ll find whatever you want there! The landscape in the north is amazing, we felt like riding through a steppe in the wild wild west. Our first night in Albania, we stayed on a campsite in the national park at the lake shkodres. Lake and mountains in the front, snow-covered mountains in the back, huge clean and empty campground, hot showers and a very kind campsite manager (we could stay for free). Wow, thanks a lot! For those who are interested to go there one day: www.lakeshkodraresort.com

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We experienced great hospitality here in Albania. For example, when we were camping in a small and poor town between some bushes, about thirty kids came to visit us and see what`s happening. After about two hours of loud trouble (you know, they had to see everything we were doing: unpacking the bikes, change clothes, preparing dinner, cooking, eating, …), the parents of those kids came by and invited us to their homes. It was very kind, but because we were too tired and everyting was set up and prepared to go to bed we decided to stay in the tents. Because they couldn`t persuade us to stay at their places, the brought us blankets and some wood to light a fire (only the wood for the fire of course). For a more detailed report, read on Angelas blog…

The road conditions are interesting. Highways appear suddenly, and end the same. We realized, that that`s no problem: The asphalt is in best condition, and I guess they built the emergency lane just for cyclists. :) You just have to be careful while crossing mopeds, driving the wrong way on your lane – or passing pedestrians with cows. Haha!

We got used to the Albanian traffic rules, and ride now “albanian”: Choose the shortest way through a roundabout (right or left doesn`t matter), cycle in the middle of the street to avoid potholes and trucks, and so on… After one night in Tirana, eating a lot of meat with fries, first ice cream of the year, and rolling on six lanes streets; we wanted to see a bit of the country – not only highways: “Small streets are difficult, but possible”, a guy told us. “Do you have things to repair the tires? Well, then it`s possible… You know, I see you more like strong men, not like girls!” HAHAHA! Great decision to avoid the highway, it was really worth to have a look at the small towns in between fields of vegetables and fruits. And, to get more offers to sleep at some people`s places (e.g. a policeman showed up at our camp and gave us his private number, in case of emergency…).

Fier was the complete opposite: Clean and wealthy-looking city. The streets were good, the cars even better and more expensive. I think cars are status symbols in Albania. So everyone drives a Mercedes or BMW (or tries to get one). But in Fier, we saw even Bentleys! Big difference to the poor and unfinished-looking houses in the countryside…

There I found a bicycle shop, to tune my bike: I wanted to buy one more bottle holder. Both two Japanese guys we met on the road, had one attached to the handlebar. I wanted that as well, a supergood idea! So I went into the shop with bicycles in the front. He found one bottle holder, unscrewed it from a new bike and gave it to me. When I asked for the price, he refused to take my money – it was a gift! Wow, thanks a lot again!!

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South of Fier the landscape changed: we left the flat and came through hills planted with olive trees. Just at the time we were entering Vlore, a touring cyclist caught me up: “You`re Linda, right?” WTF? Who`s that, and why does he know my name? :)

Paul was coming from Graz, Austria, and met Luca (the Swiss guy I met in Dubrovnik) on the road. They were cycling for about two days together and followed us at our blog. So the knew where we were – and tried to reach us! HAHA, sooo cool! Of course, we had to drink a coffee first, and then found a georgeous camping spot at the seaside just after Vlore. It was such a great day, the weather was perfect, and we swam in the sea for the first time this year! YES, bathing in the sea in february: check!

With the four of us, we cooked a five-star-dinner (rice with soya-honey-chicken-and-vegetable) and the boys lit a campfire at the beach. Angela played the saxophone, and we just had a superduper evening! Thanks a lot!!

The next day, Paul already left us. He does have some pressure, because he does not have so much time as we do. Luca, Angela and I climed a pass: veeery steep, and because of that luckily not such a long distance ;) 1027 metres above sea level was the highest point, the slope was always 10%, and a strong wind was blowing down the whole day (which means directly in the face) – and then: The “summit” (highest point of the pass) was hidden in clouds that we had absolutely no view.

Due to the cold (yes there was snow over there), the wind and we were quite tired, we had lunch in a restaurant. It was “Panorama”, but unfortunately we couldn`t see that. For us it was just great to get into a warm and cosy place and eat spaghetti. Two guys who saw us riding uphill, spent us a whole jug of red wine… WOW, thanks! Sorry Paul, I guess you should have stayed with us! :) The serpentines downhill were even better then…

Yesterday it was raining and winding the whole day, so we just rode untill noon and got a room in Himare. Hot showers, washing and drying clothes, eating Gyros, relaxing, reading books, playing Jazzy, and so on. Today we slept in, had brunch on our balcony, and now just have a lazy day writing blog, reading again and relax. Probably on Wednesday we will cross the border to Greece.

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