Thursday, 25 August 2011

Day 6 – 23rd August 2011 – Ulcinj (Montenegro), Durres/Tirana/Kruje (Albania)

Today we were up at 6am for our planned departure to Albania at 7am. The first place we stopped was Durres on the Albanian coast. First impressions of the city are not great, as everything is very new thanks to an earthquake that levelled the city not so long ago. Albania has a reputation for being untidy and not so clean, with litter quite prominent, although their homes are said to be excellent cared for and very clean, as they take pride in their houses as part of the Muslim religion.


In Durres we saw an old Amphitheatre (or what remained of it) that will be atmospheric when it is finally restored to it's former glory. Entry costs €3 but it's really not worth it as everything worth seeing can be seen from the outside, and a photo from the hill climbing up around the edge of it gives a clear view of the ruins. We also saw some other old Roman ruins that were quite interesting, but again only a small example of their former glory. We ate ice cream going back down towards the bus, which only cost €0.30 a scoop – so I had red bull favour (!!) and straciatella – a creamy flavour with chocolate flavour pieces. Also got a couple of postcards, one giving various views of the more picturesque Albanian places and another with Kruja where we are headed later on today – it looks very picturesque and oriental, with several bazaars in narrow crowded streets. Before getting on the bus, we also get some postcards and have a look in a souvenir shop, where I purchased a traditional looking Albanian glass mug with silver patterning around the edge at the bottom.


Our next stop was Tirana, the Albanian capital – even though Durres was somewhat run down and felt like quite a poor area, Tirana is in an even worse state of disrepair. Everywhere you look something new is being built, and even the main square is being relaid and is a building site, so the famous statue of Skanderbeu (the leader of the regime in Albania) can only be viewed astride his horse from afar. The only other interesting point of interest was a Muslim mosque and an interesting looking clock tower, but the city in general has very little atmosphere and is very loud and overwhelming – there really seems nothing to stay here for, so I'm glad we only spent an hour here. Still I'm glad I can say I've seen it as part of the trip.


Upon leaving Tirana, we leave the city and take a long and winding climb up to Kruja, which sits quaintly upon the hills outside of the capital. This was easily the high point of the trip, as Kruja is bursting with character, with market stalls in a Bazaar style nestling on the narrow cliffs that make up this small enclave. The stalls sell traditional Albanian crafts, as well as the national drink Raki and Albanian brandy and cognac – with each of these costing only €2-3 for half a litre or 70cl, a bargain price. Dad bought Mum a handmade silver necklace on a chain, made from the silver crafted in these parts, and when asking if there was a box for it, the stall owner gave us a wonderful porcelain box with an intricate design on it to keep it in. After climbing up towards the castle to even greater views, we headed back down to the starting point and had a coffee for energy in the restaurant on the way back to the bus.


Now we have arrived in the hotel where we will stay for the night before our departure back to Montenegro tomorrow, with dinner at 21:00 and breakfast tomorrow morning at 9:00am. There is a wonderful swimming pool at the back, with rooms at the back overlooking it – unfortunately, ours overlooks the main road, but the view is not so bad, it's just a little noisy. From the balcony we saw the other group who travelled with us from Poland getting ready for their return trip to Montenegro, so had a little catch up with them before returning to the room.


Some time after this went down for dinner which was (I think!) some kind of pork fillet with a cauliflower cheese and tomato salad. I enjoyed it as I was ready for a meal, but Dad only ate the meat not being a fan of good, healthy food! Since there wasn't much to do after this, we retired to bed.

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