Let me start off by saying the following:
We were STOKED to be leaving the rain behind, yet absolutely GUTTED to say sayonara to Slovenia. I can’t wait to go back there, but alas…moving along. As you can see below, our short flight to Albania gave us stunning views of both the country we were leaving as well as the one we were bound for. Don’t you just love smooth, clear flights?! Magic.
Arriving into Tirana’s airport was great, our car rental was quick and easy, and before long we were on the road in our little compact car headed to Krujë. The 40-minute drive was lovely, nothing too spectacular, but isn’t it just great to experience the freedom of driving yourself around in a foreign country? As grateful as I am for public transportation, I just love the occasional private road trip. There’s a self-sufficiency there that is super rewarding. Anyhoo, as I was saying, the ride was uneventful until we began the incline. You see, our wonderful hotel is 1,827 feet above sea level. Tirana is 361. Let’s just say that the ascent ain’t gradual! Poor car – talented Rob. There was no way I was going to get a manual transmission up a hill of that magnitude. And that’s without factoring in the hairpin turns! I fully get that the map below does not look like it contains a lot of twists, but just imagine that whenever you’re not spinning the car around a tight corner, the road is practically straight up. And everyone drives WAAAY too fast and trusting. But we made it to the top and were rewarded with a lovely hotel room, amazing views, a breathtaking sunset, and just an all-around romantic night in this serene, sleepy village.
We only spent one night in this quaint hilltop town, for there was more Albania to discover! The next morning we headed down to Schkodër and when the hunger struck, decided to take a ‘lil 3-hour road trip to the capital of Montenegro for a veggie burger. Crossing the Albanian border put me a tad on edge. Something about seeing locals have guns pulled from their cars and being required to get out, cross the street and sit in an unmarked office awaiting un-uniformed lounging locals to do something ‘official.’ Aside from the deserted sandy/sketchy stretch of the border, the drive is lush and filled with beautiful landscape views. We got the drone out (henceforth to be known as Henry) to capture some lovely shots of our short but picturesque visit to country number 99.
Another notable stop along our Albanian journey included the stunning, yet somehow secluded Mes Bridge. This was exactly the type of place you would expect to be absolutely swarming with tourists. Built in the 1770s, this moss-covered cobblestone bridge is complete with 13 arches and spans the Kir river, completely dried up at the time of our visit. Sadly, it is in dire need of repair work as it was damaged by floods – knowledge we were not privy to at the time we walked over it – and even more sadly, it sounds like the Albanian government has no intention of cleaning the litter and restoring the architectural integrity of this historical beauty. Sad face. Henry couldn’t get enough of the views here though.
And we found a sweet sad kitten crying in distress– tear my heart in two. I am happy to report that we shared the location of this scared little one with our AirBnB host and as far as we know, help was provided.
After that gem, we were back on the road and headed to Durrës, a coastal town with history dating back to the time of the Romans. I am super happy (as was Henry) that Rob was easily convinced to stop at the Cape of Rodon along our way. Well worth going hours out of our way over of pothole covered roads. The entire drive we only saw about a dozen other people and the reward yielded empty beaches and jaw-dropping landscapes. One thing that surprised us during our visit is that the entire country is covered in over 170,000 bunkers, built over 20 years from the sixties to the eighties. They’re abandoned and they’re everywhere! Total drain on Albania’s resources at the time (and I’m pretty sure their economy is still recovering) and a little eerie, but kind of amazing at the same time.
Our single night in Durrës was made complete by an excellent thunder and lightning storm directly overhead, accompanied by the most vibrant rainbow, and yet still very few other holiday-makers.
One last stop at the 1900-year-old Roman Amphitheater (only discovered just 50 years ago somehow…) before turning in our rental car near the bus station that would take me (and Boo) to lucky number 100 – Macedonia.
As much as I loved Albanian’s landscapes, we definitely had a strange vibe from some of the locals. It’s not necessarily something I can specifically put my finger on but there were moments where we just felt a tad vulnerable and prickly. Aside from those handful of moments, and complete LACK of vegan cuisine, I would highly recommend an Albanian road trip to anyone who will listen!
Never thought I would find one of these loos outside of Asia! And definitely never would have imagined I would have to PAY to use it.