In my previous post about Mykonos which I hope you have read, I said that we had only a couple hours sleep before waking up, going to Greece mainland (a very quick 2 hour boat ride), and jumping back on our coach. It was really weird to be back on our old coach after not being on it for about 4 days. We were headed for Albania, but it was too far to drive in one day so we stopped off in a city called Preveza. Seeing as we slept on the bus the entire time, and when we arrived everyone pretty much went straight to bed with no drinking to be done, it was a pretty uneventful day. Except for the Rio-Antirro bridge which was quite spectacular, and quite expensive – the toll for our coach was 64 Euro. Here's a picture of it that I didn't take, I couldn't really get a good shot of it from in the coach. I found this pic on the Wikipedia page for the bridge.
The next day we went through to Albania, and as soon as we were across the border the first thing we noticed was that there were turrets, bunkers, pillboxes, and trenches everywhere. Up until the 1980's and 1990's Albania was communist, and there were plenty of invasions and social unrest etc, so the defenses are pretty recent. They are of course unmanned now, but they don't look too out of shape. In the mountains there are caves that were used as bomb shelters.
After driving through Albania for a while, I noticed that the country was very poor. Like as in the poorest country I've ever seen, and I've been to Mozambique – a place where there is a whole lot of nothing. I checked the facts, and while Albania's GDP is similar to Mozambique's, their population is only 3 million compared to 23 million in Mozambique.
We were driving through a town behind a truck with kids in the back, and at first they were waving to us, and we were waving back. Then one of the kids pulls out this knife and starts yelling who knows what, and then the other kids join in. They had a dog in the back too, and lifted it up by it's collar and made as if to cut the poor thing's neck. Kids these days right?
We arrived in Durres, and went to our hotel. It was a pretty nice place, and everything was nice and cheap.
In Albania there is a tax that when construction of any building is completed, they have to pay quite a lot. So what do people do to get around it? Well they never completely finish the buildings! In the city, all the buildings were missing the top storey, or had a wall missing, or in some cases only half of the roof was done. It gave the city a feel as if it was all under construction at the same time, but of course it wasn't.
Here's a pic from our hotel looking out at the city.
The next day was another travel day, and we were headed for our next country – Croatia. But on the way there was plenty of wacky and awesome things to see. Driving out of Durres was... an interesting experience. There was hardly any sealed roads for one. There was no apparent rules of the road, with traffic coming and going as it pleased. There were road side restaurants where people were getting a nice side of dust as cars drove past. There were abattoirs that were busy skinning pigs also on the roadside. There were crazy old women that stepped in front of traffic because that seemed like a good time to cross the road. There were 1 lane bridges made of wood that looked like they would crumble under the weight of our coach. I actually got most of this on video, and one day I might share it with you.
Once we got to the border between Albania and Montenegro I noticed some illegal immigrants crossing the border.
Montenegro is a brand new country, quite small and quite poor, but it's coastline is amazing. Well it's pretty much the same as Croatia's coastline which you will see in the next installment of Mark's Adventures. We stopped at some services before getting to Croatia, and all the smokers on the coach bought cigarettes because you could get a carton for about 8 euro – the same price as a single pack in England. If I was going to holiday in Eastern Europe I would consider Montenegro quite carefully because of it's great bang to buck value.
After blazing through Montenegro it was through to Croatia.