I couldn´t have found ALBANIA on a map before this trip. I had an Albanian ask me “What do Americans think of Albania?”, I had to tell her honestly I thought America doesn´t even know where Albania is, sadly and truthfully. My original intention of this trip was to bike through all the Mediterranean countries, which includes Albania. The Lonely Planet Guide book rated Albania a top 10 place to visit in 2011. In 2005, 500,000 people visited in 2012, 4.2 million people visited, up 840% in 7 years. Tourism is 10% of their economy.
The first city I visited was Shkrodra, the BICYCLE CAPITAL of Albania (the link is a fascinating read) . Being a bike guy, I fell in love with the city.
THIS IS A LOCAL PAINTING OF THE TOWN SQUARE.
I loved all the bicycle images found around the city.
LIKE THESE BIKES IN FRONT OF THE LOCAL FLOWER SHOP
There is NO bike infrastructure: bike lanes, sharrows or anything. What I found was that car drivers give bikes the right-of-way. I rode in a Taxi, (usually they´re the worst), he braked for every cyclist and patiently waited for an opening to proceed.
EVEN IN A RAIN STORM THE STREETS WERE FULL OF BIKERS DRESSED FOR WORK, INCLUDING LOTS OF WOMEN.
VENTURING JUST 5 MILES (8km) OUT OF TOWN, HAD IMAGES THAT TIME HASN´T CHANGED.
I took the bus (with bike) to the capital, Tirane. The bike culture here is competing with the car culture.
THE BIKE LANE IS CONSTANTLY USED AS PARKING
THE GYPSIES/ ROMAS WERE PUSHED FURTHER FROM TOWN
RIDING OUT OF TIRANE WAS CRAZY, BUT ONCE YOUR 5 MILES FROM TOWN THE TRAFFIC IS NEXT TO NOTHING.
FRUIT SMOOTHIE WITH SLICED APPLE
THIS IS ONE OF THE 700,000 BUNKERS BUILT DURING 40 YEARS OF COMMUNIST RULE.
FOOD WAS SO GOOD AND INEXPENSIVE, IT WASN´T WORTH COOKING YOURSELF.
THE MUSEUMS HAVE PAINTINGS THAT PORTRAY THE MANY ASPECTS OF ALBANIAN HISTORY.
The big ride was Vlora to Saranda, following the coast. Albania´s coast is 611km (380 miles). One third of Albania is forested
VIEWS ONTHE WAY TO LLOGARA NATIONAL PARK LOOKING BACK TOWARDS VLORA.
THE RIDE WAS THE MOST CHALLENGING, BUT WORTH IT.
EVEN IN OCTOBER THE OCEAN WAS VERY INVITING
EVERYWHERE THERE WAS SUN DRYING CORN ON MANY SIDE STREETS AND PARKING LOTS
Albania is the 13 largest producer of figs in the world.
THESE ARE FIG DISKS, SO AWESOME AND BETTER THAN A SNICKERS BAR.
THE BEST BREAKFAST DEAL IS THE EXPENSIVE HOTELS, $7 FOR BUFFET AND UNLIMITED COFFEE DRINKS!
I´ve reviewed the good things about Albania, but it still has it´s problems. The ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT is ranked the most corrupt in Europe. The ALBANIAN MAFIA is the most feared in the under world. The garbage and sewer problems permeate nearly every city I visited.
THIS PICTURE DEFINES THE PROBLEM, GARBAGE DUMPED INTO AN OPEN SEWER, VERY SAD.
We give billions in “AID” to Israel, to stuff into their bank account, when countries like Albania really need help. America has given less than $25 million a year in Aid. I heard many times how much the Albanians love America. I saw the American flag everywhere and people dressed like an American flag.
I CAN´T COUNT THE NUMBER OF TIMES I HEARD “AMERICA #1”
America gives Egypt money to buy our tanks. Why not give Albanians money to buy our sewer technology? Not only will we build good will, but we can protect the planet for future generations.
WOULDN´T THIS LOOK GOOD WITH AN AMERICAN FLAG?
If you want to explore a fascinating country that is trying to shed it´s brutal history of isolation under communism, Albania is for you. The biking away from the big cities is virtually car-free. I got more thumbs up, waves and horn toots than anywhere on this trip. Albanians are very honest and hard working. When I visited farmers markets, I spoke no Albanian, I would just hold out a handful of change, they always took the smallest coins and many times would give me something extra! This is from people who have virtually nothing.
Put Albania on your must visit list.
Thanks for reading
ALL THE ALBANIAN PHOTOS ARE HERE
NEXT? FIRST WEEK IN GREECE
2 thoughts on “FINAL THOUGHTS AND RECAP OF ALBANIA”
I am really glad that you liked Albania. It is a really nice country and very beautiful places to visit. But as you mentioned the goverment is very curropted and doesn’t care that much about the people and the country.
It is really nice to hear nice words about my country, because mostly people find what’s wrong and forget about the honest and hard working people. I think that they matter the most 🙂
Sounds like you are having a great trip. Love the photos!!