Albania, at last! I've been skirting around its border for a while now, almost as if I don't want to visit. Which is crazy as I do. I've wanted to come to Albania for ages. Who wouldn't want to come to a country with a self proclaimed King Zog; the first country to delcare itself atheist (1967) and the place famous as a closed communist state throughout the Cold War. In the 1980s when I was learning to ride a motorcycle Albania was a forbidden land ( a little like North Korea now). What's more, there were only 2000 cars in the whole country! And now, now I'm riding my motorcycle in Albania! #happy
I entered the country from Kosovo and then took the famous three hour ferry ride down towards Shkoder.
Heidi and a I make it to our 43rd country together
I'd read that this was going to be an amazing ferry ride - I prepared myself for a disappointment.
I camped at 'Camping Albania' a lovely little place with lots of grass, wifi and a swimming pool for £3 a night
I went to visit Shkoder fort.
The story goes that when it was being built it kept falling down so to appease the Gods one of the daughters of the leader 'volunteered' to be bricked in to the walls ('cos that will help!) as long as two holes were left so she could breast feed her child. ( I so hope this story isn't true)
Now, at certain times of the year a milky liquid drips down the walls and some local women come to smear it onto their breast.
Back on the road I headed south for Tirana. I was so excited about actually riding my bike around a capital city which I associated with the Cold War/ Communism, an oppressive regime, and a place the teenage me would never have thought I'd visit. It's like planning a trip to North Korea or Syria. It may well happen but I wouldn't bet on it.
I visited all the sites, the National Museum, up the clock tower and down to the Tanner's bridge. Billed as a 'slippery when wet kind of old bridge' - context is everything.
This is what the bridge looks like- nice
But when you see the context- slightly less nice.
Several of the main Communist buildings were designed by the Communist dictator's (Hoxha's) daughter. That's true communism!
This pyramid building has been empty for years, they're not sure what to do with it.
I've no idea what the bell signifies but the 'youngesters' had fun trying to ring it.
I liked the look of this Communist Comgress building, designed by Hoxha Jn.
I quite liked Tirana.
I went for a walk in a park above Tirana and stumbled across a Commonwealth War Garves site. 30-40 UK and Australian servicemen who died in Albania during WWII.
All war graves are sad, solumn places but this one had a sad story associated with it. During the Communist dictatorship Albania refused to let the UK authorities in to Albania to collect and bury the dead. So, I think these graves are symbolic, as in the bodies are not there, and no one really knows where they are. And presumably between 1945 and 1991 relatives weren't allowed to visit.
Then south again to the pretty little UNESCO town of Berat.
Called the village of 1,000 windows.