Albania: Adriatic Sea, enigmatic forts and - great wine
When we left Tirana, we met different, "real" Albania. Anarchic, poor, filled with trash, depressed ... But still interesting and worth a visit.Shkodra is the Catholic center of Albania, with a nice big cathedral. This building survived the communist era for bizarre reason - it was converted into a gym! Of course, with the return of democracy, the cathedral was restored to its original purpose, and one part is dedicated to the martyrs killed during the communist period.
Above Shkodra is enigmatic fortress Rozafa, which history is thousands of years old. The place is ideal - high inaccessible cliffs on the edge of Lake Skadar are a great strategic location. Here ruled Illyrian Queen Teuta, and Romans came in 2nd century BC. Unconquerable for centuries, the fortress was conquered by the Turks in 1479th year, with huge losses. There are remains of the former church in the fortress, and a part of the complex was transformed into a restaurant.
In the near of Tirana is a town Kruja. Here a national hero Skanderbeg resisted the Turks for tens of years, and the town is reminiscent of the tumultuous past centuries.
The biggest port and tourist center of Albania is former capital city of Durres. Tirana became the capital in 20. century for prosaic reasons - Durres, because of its position, was too vulnerable and hard to defend. Although Tirana took precedence, at every step in Durres one can see the importance that the city had in the past. From Roman times, there are the remains of the ancient port, amphitheater and walls. From later centuries there are towers, antique squares and streets. Unfortunately, the old religious buildings were destroyed, including the main square, which is dominated by the mosque which was built some ten years ago.
Great wine and good food
Durres is all focused on the Adriatic Sea. Large harbor cranes along the coast are replaced by string of hotels. Great restaurants with casual atmosphere - it is not so bad to be here.
We were supposed to go in the village of Berat, located a hundred kilometers south of Tirana. This small town in the communist era served as a museum of Albanian history, with preserved medieval churches and mosques. However, we gave up due to the extremely poor conditions of Albanian roads and rain that was falling relentlessly those days. Those rainy days we acquainted restaurants and were pleasantly surprised.
Great wine, good food and all for a small price. Although the quality varies greatly, we were repeatedly delighted with the ratio of quality and price.
Visiting Albania responded to our questione, how does this completely closed and isolated country look like today? It`s hard to realize that this country located in the heart of Europe is so different from the old EU members Greece and Italy, which surround Albania. But precisely because it is so different and yet so close, we were pleased with our visit to this unusual country.
Crazy ideas of Albanian drivers
During communism, cars were a privilege of party officials and "ordinary" sat behind the wheel just fifteen years ago. To make matters worse, the anarchy into which the country was plunged into poured a huge river of stolen cars from all over Europe, and all are mostly Mercedes cars. Bad drivers in fast cars are a terrible combination. The only logical driver`s "strategy" is the ultimate defensive driving. Each curve is a danger, becouse someone from the opposite direction might cut the turn. In the city traffic is even more difficult, because the rules are almost non-existent. Traffic in Tirana is very stressful, but also slow and frustrating. Delays are everyday. A happy side of Albanian traffic are ideas that come to Albanian drivers, which do not exist nowhere in Europe. For example, the roof of a Mercedes holds two huge sofas that significantly exceed the width of the car. There are all sorts of cobbled chariot and tricycles, which are completely illogical and ridiculous traffic solutions. However, the driver in Albania feels most comfortable when he parks his car and continues to travel on foot.