Albania

Once we passed the crazy construction, our ride in Albania was smooth sailing. Or not so smooth, really. Albania definitely had the worst roads (in terms of surface quality) of any country we biked in. It seems as though they’re working on that, however. There was construction everywhere.
 

This is just outside the bartender’s house. You can’t tell in this photo, but the road is super steep in front of me. You know the roads are bad when they’re too steep and bumpy to bike down!

 

 

Oh, you know, just crossing the rebar of an unfinished bridge. This happens at least three times a day in Albania.

 
In the morning after our stay with the bartender we passed a dam rebuilding project that looked pretty extensive. Mike took lots of construction photos because he likes that stuff.

 

Dam construction

 
In general, we headed for the coast. We had some trouble finding accommodation that night, but we eventually found a hotel attached to a gas station. That’s a thing in Albania. 

 

Share the road!

 
The next morning we hit the coast and dipped our toes in the Adriatic. It was nice, but the beach wasn’t actually that lovely. There’s an insane amount of hotel development around Durres, but all of the buildings are hideous. It looks more like The Projects than a resort town on the Adriatic. Albania is lacking the style we found later on. 

Our highlight of that day was finding a nice campground in back of a four star hotel. The grounds themselves were weedy and bare, with a chicken enclosure at the entrance, but we were allowed to use the hotel’s nice pool and a shower in one of the rooms. We also had a pretty fancy dinner in the restaurant. The chef treated us with a bunch of extras (crusty bread and cheesy dip for an appetizer; watermelon and peaches for dessert) and enthusiastically told us about the time he saw George and Laura Bush during their 2007 stop in Albania.

Our favorite memory from this campsite was the show put on by the old German nudist couple, though. Besides us, there were three older couples in camper vans or mini RVs at the campground. This is definitely a demographic we’d encountered before, but we were in fairly close proximity here. We chatted for a bit with a gentleman from The Netherlands. We didn’t talk to the nudists, but we got an eyeful. The woman was modest enough (in this non-nudist campground) to wear a towel outside, but that didn’t mean she was willing to close the door to her camper after disrobing. The man had a teeny hand towel he wore when walking around outside, but he dropped that when lounging in his chair. Mike gave me a blow-by-blow of the spectacle. I’ll spare you.

Nudist (or naturist) campgrounds are pretty common in Croatia, supposedly. I’m sure the couple was making the rounds. They weren’t going to let something like a non-naturist campground behind a four star hotel stop them from feeling the breeze on their nether regions.

The next day we went north toward the border with Montenegro, but we stopped for the night in Shkoder before crossing. A Warm Showers host put us up for the night there. He was an awkward conversationalist despite English fluency, but the digs were nice and free!

There were certainly some lovely aspects of Albania, but it wasn’t my favorite. The poor road conditions, aggressive drivers, obsession with white bread, lack of decent breakfast options, and unattractive coast made it less than perfect. I did enjoy many of the views as we came through the mountains, though, and the people/hospitality were excellent.

On to Montenegro!

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