One knows exactly that it just happened, but you simply can't plan it beforehand: suddenly, the holidays are over and traveling begins.
Suddenly, we are the only vehicle with a foreign license plate. The road conditions don't resemble central European standards any more (but that's what makes driving interesting anyway) and the information the map provides is not matching the real situation ... a "yellow" road in the map turns out to be a nasty single-track gravel mountain track.
The countryside here simply is impressive! Anouk says that it's fairy-country and that we have to be careful not to disturb the faries when being walking in the woods! Mountains, deep gorges, alluvial land alternates with farm land belonging to small farm buildings glued to the cliffs.
Going out for dinner is so outrageously cheap that it simply doesn't make sense to cook in the camp. Again, the most impressive aspect that makes Montenegro and Albania different compared to more touristy travel destinations are the people we meet: in the middle of a roundabout, we ask an old man for the way to the supermarket. We get the requested information while behind us other cars are queueing up bot nobody tailgates us or blows their horns. Everything is unexcitedly non-German! Wonderful! Exiting the roundabout, we immediately are flagged down by the police we did not recognize before. Guessing the approaching evil we stop at the roadside ... only to be kindly but directly informed by the police officers that we "should do as we are told" next time and ask them for help and not other passers-by. We meet friendly and welcoming people everywhere we go, who try to make our stay as positive as possible showing that we are really welcome in their country. But the friendliness has a sad background, too: just a few days ago, a young Czech couple had been shot in the neighboring valley and the Albanians we meet are really angry with their government and legal system, because the assassin had been imprisoned before for stabbing a 13-year-oly boy to death because of the golden chain around his neck. After only five years in prison he was set free again, only to put his hands on the Czech couple. I am sure that our western media are currently "promoting" Albania as a dangerous country due to this incident, thereby troubling our friends and relatives at home. Life here as we experience it turns out to be completely different: very friendly, open and positive! Albania simply rocks and will take its place in our list of the most wonderful places we visited so far.
Where are we?
Position: N 42°45.452', E 019°88.275'
Location: Valbonë, Tropojë Province, Albania
Weather: 30,9°C (midday), cloudless sky, light wind
In Croatia, we could relax so very well, because life there was just like home, maybe apart from life taking place in the camp instead of a house and garden and apart from the heat. Only the firefighter planes and helicopters were things that troubled us.
On our way to Albania, we don't take the coastal road as we had planned, but leave for the Montenegrinian mountains being annoyed by the multitude if tourists. We drive through wild romantic and remote mountain scenery slowly making our way up the mountains. Our travel "speed" is reduced to about 30 to 40 km/h which doesn't enable us to make it to our planned leg in northern Albania, so we simply set up our camp on a sports ground in the middle of a small village still exhales a morbid ex-socialist ex-Jugoslavian retro charme.
After an evening with an entertainment program of the village-youth playing soccer and after a very quiet night, we are on our way relatively early.
Crossing from Montenegro into Albania takes some time but everybody is correct and corteous still.
In Albania, we try our luck on a secluded mountain village (Vermosh), but due to a combination of really bad gravel track and a menacingly approaching bank of dark threatening clouds, we turn around and leave this beautiful place to be able to reach a campsite at the end of a catchment lake further down south. This campsite turns out to be a small guesthouse/restaurant situated directly under a concrete bridge, the bridge being the restaurant's roof. On its courtyard shadowed by olive trees and grape vines, a few travellers have set up their camps. We are informed that we don't have to drive back on the same road we came, but can take a ferry across the catchment lake Liqeni i Komanit, connecting Koman with Fierza. Our guidebook says that this very ferry connection had been terminated some years ago because a ferry sank in the rapids. Several passengers had drowned in this incident. Today, there are two privately owned ferries servicing this route regularly. Together with Gerd and Andrea, new travel-friends from Austria, we decide to take one of the two ferries the next morning which saves us a 160 km detour. Instead of taking roads, we are now sailed through a majestic mountain scenery which is hard to top.
Before that, we enjoy a nearly African seeming un-excited and friendly chaos at the jetty while the ferries and small passenger boats are loaded with countless cars, motorbikes, passengers and other freight.
Three hours later we reach the end of the lake ... only to discover that it was exactly our ferry that sank in 2011. In retrospect, we would have decided on taking the other ferry (which also looks way better!). At a small bar, we take a Turkish coffee (three for 1,80 €!) and then go on to Bajram Curry to store up on our provisions.
Camping here costs 4€ and a dinner at the restaurant for 4 persons including drinks costs about 27 €. Our first evening here fades away under a wonderful starlit sky while the moonlight projects the silhouette of one gigantic cliff on the opposite one. We are camping in wonderfully wild nature which begins right behind our camp. The landlady, a lady from Brooklyn, married to an exiled-Albanian, still bears the the imprint of a recent encounter with a local brown bear in her face. The wild nature here is wonderfully combined with the convenience of a hot morning-shower and wolderfully fresh-cooked traditional Albanian dishes.
We don't want to leave!