Saranda, Albania

I left Berat early to catch the bus to Saranda. My first six hour albanian bus ride on my own.

Rewind

So after a day in Tirana, Ben and I pretty much decided that we need to go back to traveling on our own. Basically, Vlad happens to be one of the most annoying human beings on this earth. Sorry vlad.

And I vow to never make a big fuss about having protein ever again.

I am friends on fb with a couple I met in tirana, and they happened to be in Saranda and said it was great. So I booked a hostel bed and made my way down.

The bus was funny. I’m pretty sure I paid way to much for the bus ride there. It was kindof like driving through a mixture of Henry coe and quicksilver park. Only with random people selling things on the side. It was all men and they were arguing the entire time, and the music was three tracks on repeat. I had my own so it was fine.

We finally arrived in Saranda and as I was coming around the corner, there was a man stood outside waving at me yelling my name. It’s the host Toni. I put my bag down and the couple who I spoke with and a guy George were about to leave to get drinks. They asked me if I needed a minute or if I was ready to go. Haha. So out I went. We were bar hoping along the promenade a d we watched the sunset at a hotel where he waiter showed us a picture of himself and Jeremy Clarkson when he came to that same hotel.

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We all had about one liter of wine each and headed back along the promenade stopping to get some pizza. We were that rowdy drunken group in the restaurant. The best part is that is was six thirty pm.

Then we went and hired bumper cars.

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I can understand why drunk drivers get less injured in a car crash then sober people.

Then we ate crepes at the shop below our hostel. Mine was Nutella, white chocolate, and nuts. It was heavenly.  After the crepes, then we went back to the hostel and watched team America on Georges laptop. Then a few of us went to sleep and the others went out for second crepes.

I woke up this morning and breakfast was already made for us. We all kindof talked about how to get different places and now we are on the balcony writing our diaries. I’m the only one not writing in a book. I just look like I’m texting.  Oh well.

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Tour of Berat

I have never done a walking tour when I go to different cities, but since I have come into Albania, I feel pretty dumb about not knowing any history of pretty much everywhere. What DID I do in school?? Anyways, the guy Max at the hostel took me and Ben for a Walking tour around the city. It was great.

It was a bit of a mixture of retracing my footsteps from yesterday, only this time I learned the mea ing of so many things. And to start out, I was able to walk inside of a mosque even where women aren’t allowed. The city of Berat heavily believes in the ability to coexist. The fact that I respect their religion to take of my shoes before entering means it balances with their respect to me that I can enter their holy place without an issue. That didn’t make sense. Anyway, the mosque also had two starts of David imprinted on the entry outside. This was because way back in the day, the Jews were not allowed to build their own synagogue.  So the Muslims created this to show their respect. I really wish I could explain it better.  Max was explaining to us that “Berat is not an exporter of wheat, but coexistance, and we hope that he world will spread out belief and we can all coexist together”

It actually tickled my cold heart a bit.

Then we walked up to the castle again and I learned about how the red brick pillar was just old rubble was actually one of the oldest mosques and is a very important price of history.  I also learned that what I thought was an old run down apartment was actually an old communist hotel and bar for powerful people, but now converted into a christian church.  I learned so much today. It was great. I learned about all the consequences and things in the communist era, and he pointed out to a small village that still practices communism. And the mountain that had the word ” never”  spelled across it that used to say “enver” for the dictator in power.

We finished he tour at a coffee shop that makes the best turkish coffee in Berat. He made us try two different kinds and it sent me to the roof. This coffee shop was only accessible to very powerful communist people. Complain about it, and you will go to prison for fifteen years, your family will be moved to work in he fields, and your donkey would not be able to be used in a film, due to its owners poor reputation.

I picked up some groceries for dinner, and stopped for lunch at a crepe shop. For 150 lek I got a veggie crepe that was bigger than my head. Awsome!! Now I’m sitting on the patio drinking more coffee (bad choice.) And watched the sunset. Now the bridge has lit up and changes colors like red blue green yellow. It’s like Reno, but different.

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Tirana to Berat

I had a good time in Tirana. At first I was a bit worried about how to fill my time there, but luckily the weather was great and I was able to see a lot more of the city. The little old lady at the hostel is so cool. She makes us all breakfast and it’s either an omelette, French toast, or this other combination of pastry and cheese and eggs. We had a bag in the fridge with our food. And it either got stolen or it was stupid katies fault for putting the current date on it and not our check out date, because it all when missing. I asked the cleaner lady and we had a game of charades trying to explain the situation and she made it sound like it didn’t get cleared away. All hope was lost.

I went on my own to go to the big park nearby, and I walked down the main boulevard past the prime ministers house, the pyramid, and other big monuments.

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The park had a lot of war memorial figures and it was full of people walking and socialising.  I also went to the art gallery…It was alright.

I found a juice shop and had a detox drink and pomegranate juice. The owner of the shop was there and helped me order and we talked about Albania and it’s history. He was telling me about  how Albania is starting to grow and now is the time to Invest in property. He was also telling me the reason a lot of people sound Italian is because when albania first started on their own, they only had very little to no media, and people would Watch and listen to Italian shows and caught onto the language. He could of made that all up, but I bought it. 

I walked around some more and eventually got followed by a man on a bicycle for twenty minutes until I ran around some side streets and came out to see Ben and Vlad.  Then I took them to the juice bar. 

I finished off the night sitting in the hostel talking with a big group of people. Then some of us including myself went to bed and the other boys and girls went out to a lesbian fire masochists show that had been advertised everywhere that day by people riding bicycles pulling huge banners and handing out flyers.

The next day was an early morning bus ride to Berat. The cab pretty much stopped the bus from leaving by parking in front of it. It was very bumpy and muggy, but I must have fallen asleep for a good chunk of time. The walk into he old town wasn’t bad either.

I really prefer Berat over Tirana. There is a nice path along the river and hey are reconstructing bridges and building a more park like setting in the main area
They want it to be themed like the park in Paris with all the little paths and flowers and stretch along the river. I walked up to the Berat castle after picking up some fruit and found a local coffee store. This woman grinds coffee and puts it in little bags. I smelled it from far away and knew I needed this. I walked up to the castle, and didn’t have correct change for the entrance so I just stood there confused and the guy let me go in. I fell asleep in the sun and then enjoyed a cup of turkish coffee inside he old city of a thousand windows.

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I got back to he hostel and had another turkish coffee and went out with a norweigian and mexican guy and we hung out at a bar and restaurant.  Then ended up hanging out with people in the hostel that was right across the street. There are three different hostels all right next to each other. I also scored a discount with the hostel I am at because no one was there to let me in when I arrived. Boom.

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Arriving in Albania

The bus journey was a lot better than I though it was going to be. I thought it would be twenty of us crammed all together for ten hours but it only took about four hours total.

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That’s the border control for leaving Montenegro. Here is no control for entering Albania. Haha. It was a  flashback journey through Ukraine.Cows tied to the side of he road. Random empty building, and holes all over the roads.  He closer we got into Tirana, the more the traffic got out of control. People just do wwhat they want. He guy who drove us was said good luck to us and we all puked out of the van at the city center in the rain. Luckily, these Canadians had kid of looked at directions to the hostel and we navigated together through all these random roads. We got checked in and headed out for some lunch. 

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I had a big greek salad. It was like they dumped a huge slab of feta on a bunch of onion and tomato. Really good. Then we wandered through the center past the history museum and a mosque. He prayer call went off and a guy was singing over a loud speaker. We went into a christian church, and Ben and I lit some candles and put then in with the others.

Then we went to a casino.

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For dinner we went to the recommended albanian restaurant that we were originally looking for to get lunch.  It was a perfect Anthony Bourdain experience. The food, and the host who wouldn’t stop venting about how much he hates Albania and why he wants to leave and all of his problems. Vlad had a lamb head for dinner and it reminded me of disecting them in school. Bleh. Anyway, we finally made it back to he hostel and are planning our next move.

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Change of plan

Today was kindof a lazy day. I walked around looking around the city. Outside the walled bit seems like a normal working city. Kids on their way to school, on their way to work, and he locals all gossiping outside the small cafes.

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I decided yesterday that my route Was changing. I was invited by Ben and Vlad to go with them to Albania. It’s somewhere that I wouldn’t plan to travel to on my own, so I figured why not. And splitting a car rental three ways will be very cheap.  We have talked with a lot of people at the hostel finding out where to go, national parks, food, coffee. I’m excited for a new adventure. So the new plan is to take the shuttle tomorrow to Tirana,  and rent a car from there. Then travel through Albania and Macedonia, and eventually get to Athens, Greece. And on the 7th I will be flying from Athens to Geneva. Because I WILL GO TO SWITZERLAND!!!

Dad, it’s going to be fine 🙂
And for he record, Jenny already knows all of this. Hehehe. 

Wednesday Roast

First off, I’d like to introduce myself.
My name is Katie Alton :Role model, and charasmatic hero.

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Moving on.

Today me and my fellow Dubrovnik friends hiked up to the fortress again. It was pouring and the wind was blowing sideways. I was really hoping they would change their mind because I was not about to wimp out. Nope. So I realized that I don’t actually have any rainproof stuff and so I pieced together an umbrella and rain trousers and a vest.  But the view was really good. I’ll be waiting for better photos from the others.

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Then we got a whole chicken, veg and made a roast. We all shared wine meat and cheese while we waited for lunch.

Hopefully the weather improves tomorrow.

Arriving in Montenegro

The trip there was so much better than a bus or train. Marin(the driver) is twenty two years old, and he is studying the restoration od old paper. He knows a lady who was hired to work on some documents in the Vatican, and the level of security was extreme. It was a better story than how I am telling it.

We stopped at a few places along the way and he pointed out special things about the area and gave us a chance to stretch our legs. And take selfies.

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From left to right we have..ummm. (insert name) from Portland Oregon who works to find housing for people living on welfare and wants to teach English in Columbia. ..and not sell drugs. The  there’s Marin, then vlad (short for vladamir) who was born in Uzbekistan, lived in Florida, now lives in Oakland. I knew vlad was alright when I overheard him in the last hostel talking about all the tins of sardines he has eaten on this trip to keep his protein intake high. And he knows the nutrition facts about octopus. Protien  and B12’s
We finally made it to old town kotor, and went into the city walls where we dropped our bags at the hostel and went out for dinner. Picture menus never do food any justice, so I just had chicken and grilled veg.

After that we dexicded to do the hike up to the fortress since the weather was most likely to be bad today. It was really cool views in the dark with the wall all lit up, and the view of the city was pretty clear.

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We walked Miran back to his car and said our goodbyes and thank yous. He wouldn’t except and money or let us buy his food because he said it would be akward. What a nice guy!!
Back at the hostel, it was packed and everyone was enjoying the free sangria and drinking all the local raikia. The atmosphere was like being in an old castle.

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Then when people were either in bed or out on the pub crawl, Vlad and I raided the hostel kitchen and made scrambled eggs with someone else’s mushrooms and feta cheese. Label your food, suckers!