Category Archives: ALBANIA

SHKODRA, ALBANIA> my favorite place in the Balkans

I’ve been to Shkodra, 4 times in the past 7 years. I’ve been working on a Postcard project in Slovenia and thought the painting of my photo would make a nice postcard too. So I printed & sent 100 to a friend in Shkodra, Albania, the unreliable post of Albania? the cards never arrived. So I printed 200 and decided to deliver them and maybe make a little money?

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ALBANIA: KRUJE (handmade rugs) Shkodra (my favorite town in Albania)

     I found myself with a few extra days, so I head to Kruje,, home of Albanian handmade rugs.  This is my 4th time to Albania, it’s almost a second home.  I rented a car last time and passed 40 police checks and was never pulled over.  Well they finally pulled me over, for speeding,  it’s great being an American here, we made some small talk and I was set free.

Last time I drove this road there was a river I wanted a photo of.  I realized I was near the same river again, this time I stopped and took a picture.

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SHKODRA, ALBANIA: Eastern Europe’s Biking Capital. Part V

Sorry, this has taken so long to finish, it’s a busy life.
Shkodra was the first Albanian city I visited, 3 years ago  I was surprised by the number of cyclist, especially the number of older riders, who were nicely dressed for office jobs. HERE’S the history of the bicycle in Albania and especially Shkodra, it’s an interesting read.
I have an interesting history with Shkodra, HERE’S that story.  So needless to say I couldn’t stay at the hostel that I stayed at last time.  So I drove around until I spotted something interesting,

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A BICYCLE SIGN

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SARANDA, BUTRINT NATIONAL PARK & GJIROKASTER ALBANIA part IV

When I rode my bike into Saranda, 3 years ago, I was so happy to be here.  That was some of the most challenging biking I had ever done.  I went to the neighborhood I stayed in last time and found the beautiful Apollon Hotel.  I like staying just a 10 minute walk from town, it forces me to get some exercise!  Nothing has changed, 1/2 built buildings, gravel roads, garbage, dogs & cats everywhere.  I was talking with a realtor, he was telling me how much has changed in the last couple years. I told him nice try, it looks exactly the same to me as it did 3 years ago. Continue reading

ALBANIAN COAST & BEACHSIDE APT. PART III

I’m going to my little beachside apartment.  I really enjoyed staying in Dhermi 3 years ago and really look forward to returning.  Shopping in the store last time was humbling to say the least. Only Plain yougurt, meat- was to cut how much sausage you wanted, cheese-cut it off the block. The store has been remodeled and has lost a lot of it’s charm.  I bought pasta & sauce since there’s only one restaurant open.  I use to have a landscape business, so I asked the owners for some clippers and trimmed the trees and bushes around the apartments. Continue reading

ALBANIA RE-VISITED (by car), PART I BERAT

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When I biked through the Mediterranean 3 years ago, I picked Albania as my favorite country.  Why?  Number 1 is always the people, they were so warm, welcoming and generous.  The nature was spectacular, the history: (both the Roman & communism) was super interesting. The arts and crafts, especially the rug designs that are very vibrant & colorful.  Albania  offered the main things that interest me when traveling.  On a bike I  wasn’t able to buy the souvenirs that I wanted, like a rug.  So I had a mission on this trip (mission accomplished).
I have never rented a car when traveling, this will be a first.  I wanted to revisit people & places and retrace my bike tour route and also visit the middle of the country.  I first drove an hour to Durres, on the coast.  I’ve stayed here before, but never really connected with this town.  I got a great ocean view hotel for $25, with breakfast.
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JEFFS BUS TOUR–THE GREAT ART CAPER

I was window shopping in October 2013 in Shkodra, Albania.  I came across an artist who’s style I really liked

LOCAL ARTIST WHO IS PAINTING MY PICTURE

SHKODRA, ALBANIA

LOCAL ARTIST WHO IS PAINTING MY PICTURE

Montenegro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I really loved the bike vibe of Shkodra and wanted to capture it.  So I sat on a park bench taking photos of people biking.  I captured the image I wanted.

 

 

SHKODER BICYCLING IMAGE So I took this photo to the artist and he agreed to paint this scene.  I had be-friended the owner of the Hostel where I was staying and asked him to pay the artist the other half and ship me the painting.  It was going to take a week and I had already been here a week.  Months went by, I heard nothing. I called Tonin (hostel owner) and he then  sent me a photo of the painting, but not the painting. It’s been 10 months and still no painting.  I’ve begged him to return the artwork to the artist, he says he will, but it never arrives.  I finally tell Tonin I’m going to call the police, I got his attention then, but still no painting.  It’s been 3 months since the artist agreed to take back the painting, so by the time Tonin finally decides that I’m not going to give up about getting the painting, he takes it back to the artist.  The artist now refuses to accept it, holy shit, I was so close. Tonin informs me of the situation and says the painting is at the Hostel.  So I make plans to go to Albania and retrieve MY painting.  I promise Natasa that if I don’t get the painting, I will let it go. I plan to sleep on the bus to Dubrovnik, Croatia, rent a car there and drive to Albania, get painting and drive back and catch next bus back to Slovenia.

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WAITING ALONE IN ZAGREB, CROATIA BUS DEPOT (free WiFi)

The bus stops for food and the bathroom.  I’m half asleep but can’t beleive what I’m looking at.

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ANIMALS STUFFED AND DRESSED.

No one sits in the seats above the engine, maybe not a comfortable  seat, but one great bed.  The bus is 45 mins late to Dubrovnik.  I grab the shuttle to the airport (that’s where the rental car is).  I’m on the road for my 4 hour journey to Albania.  With in 15 minutes the traffic is diverted to another road.

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CARS LINED UP AT MONTENEGRO BORDER CROSSING

 

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WAITING ISN’T ALL BAD

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WAITING ISN’T THAT FUN, FOR EVERYONE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a small border crossing, so they only have 2 people checking passports.  So I’m losing time, I was hoping to be in Shkodra by noon.  I had seen this ferry last time through here, it cuts 30km off your trip.  I load the car on and hope to save some time.                   IMG_0639 It didn’t help that much, I finally arrive about 4pm to the Hostel.  To my surprise, the painting is nowhere to be found.  I emailed Tonin 3 days before and told him I would be here Sunday to get it, but no painting.  The hostel host speaks no English, none.  But he get’s I’m pissed, I kick the wicker table and put my foot through it.  Now, I’ve got Tonin on the phone and he says the painting will be there in 2 hours,  I’m so pissed.  I leave the Hostel and go looking for some Policemen.  It doesn’t take long.  They take me back to police headquarters to file a complaint against Tonin.  There’s a guy at the police station telling me I’ve been conned and should forget about it and go home.  It’s over,only after I leave, without the painting. I drive the head detective to a Restaurant, where the owner speaks English and Albanian.  We get the whole convoluted story told.  I give the detective Tonin’s phone number and he calls him.  Within a 1/2 hour the painting was brought to our table by Tonin’s dad.  In turn Tonin’s dad wants to have me arrested for damaging his table.  Everyone looked at him and asked him to leave.  The detective didn’t want me to take his photo, getting my painting. I eat my dinner at the San Francisco restaurant.  By this time the sun  is down but it’s still somewhat light out.  I’ve got a 3-4 hour drive back to Dubrovnik, crossing 3 countries. I had to show my passport 14 times on this trip. I return the car back to the airport and take the shuttle bus to the bus station.  It’s 2 am now, no bus till 7 am. IMG_0647 I opt to sleep on the bus platform (I’m not alone) The lights were bright but I laid my head in the shadow.  I actually slept some.  IMG_0660I got my bench seat bed again, I didn’t do one tourist thing, this trip was strictly business.

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED

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Thanks for reading Jeffsbustour

Jeff

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STORY & PHOTOS OF POLICEMEN & POLICEWOMEN!

I was in Portugal and spotted this Policeman who looked like the “terminator” cop. I wanted to get a photo. I asked if I could, then his friend said yes, I just wanted terminator, but OK, I took this photo

20131203-091859.jpgPORTUGUESE POLICE PHOTO WITH THE TERMINATOR COP AND HIS FRIEND
I take the ferry to Spain, there were 2 policeman who were giving me directions to the phone store , I showed them the Portuguese photo then they offered to have their photo taken.. I said “Heck Ya.” This was the start of collecting policeman photos in every country I visited.

20131203-092332.jpgTHE SPANISH POLICE WERE SUPER FRIENDLY AND HELPFUL
A friend (?) from France wrote and told me to look out for Spanish cops. I sent him this photo and asked, “these guys?”
I’m biking around France, shopped at a farmers market and spotted 2 policeman. I asked him for photo? No. I show him the Spanish photo, he walks away. He joins his partner across the street, then he waves me over.

20131203-102226.jpgTOOK SOME CONVINCING BUT I FINALLY GOT THE PICTURE OF FRENCH POLICEMAN.
My first day in Venice, Italy at the ATM I spotted 2 policeman and they eagerly agreed to the photo.

20131203-150825.jpgTHESE ITALIAN POLICEMAN NEEDED NO CONVINCING TO HAVE THEIR PICTURE TAKEN.
Slovenia was a real task, I had to compromise some with this one. First, there are hardly any police around! I had always tried to get 2 policeman together, that wasn’t going to happen here.

20131203-151409.jpgTHIS IS THE SLOVENIAN PARLIAMENTARY BUILDING “POLICE” GUARD. THAT’S THE BEST I COULD DO. There are really no police to be found and not 2 together for sure.
The Croatian policeman shot was just about as difficult as the Slovenian. I hardly ever saw the police here either. But when we were dropping off bike boxes at the ferry dock, I spotted several armed “dock” police.

20131203-152142.jpgTHIS IS THE CROATIAN MARITIME POLICE, AGAIN IT’S THE BEST I COULD DO.
The Montenegro police photo was totally by “accident.” I was only going to be in Montenegro for 24 hours, so my chances were pretty slime. The bus I was riding in got in an accident, so the police arrived to take a report.

20131203-152736.jpgTHE MONTENEGRO POLICE DELIVERED THIS PHOTO BY WAY OF AN ACCIDENT.
Albania was fairly easy, the first night in town I walked into town with a local. He convinced them it would be OK, somehow?

20131203-153123.jpgTHIS ALBANIAN POLICEMAN PHOTO WAS TAKEN MY FIRST 5 MINUTES OF WALKING THE STREETS

The Greek policeman photo should have been of at least 2 policeman. Of the four policeman, only this one agreed to a picture.

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THE GREEK POLICEMAN ALL COMPLAINED ABOUT GERMAN CHANCELLOR MERKEL’S AUSTERITY DEMANDS
This next photo of the Turkish police is the Gold Standard from which all policeman photos should be judged.

20131203-161812.jpgHOT TURKISH POLICEWOMEN WITH MACHINE GUN–YEP HOLY SHOT
It was fairly easy to get all the 10 countries I visited policeman photos, but one Morocco. When I asked maybe 10 different policeman the answer was always the same “IT IS FORBIDDEN.” So I pretended to be adjusting my music while taking a few pictures:

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THANKS FOR READING, TALK SOON
RIDE ON, JEFF

FINAL THOUGHTS AND RECAP OF ALBANIA

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.

20131107-234022.jpgTHIS IS A LOCAL PAINTING OF THE TOWN SQUARE.
I loved all the bicycle images found around the city.

20131107-234311.jpgLIKE 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.

20131107-234815.jpgEVEN IN A RAIN STORM THE STREETS WERE FULL OF BIKERS DRESSED FOR WORK, INCLUDING LOTS OF WOMEN.

20131107-235500.jpgVENTURING 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.

20131108-000147.jpgTHE BIKE LANE IS CONSTANTLY USED AS PARKING

20131108-000321.jpgTHE GYPSIES/ ROMAS WERE PUSHED FURTHER FROM TOWN

20131108-000620.jpg RIDING OUT OF TIRANE WAS CRAZY, BUT ONCE YOUR 5 MILES FROM TOWN THE TRAFFIC IS NEXT TO NOTHING.

20131108-000844.jpgFRUIT SMOOTHIE WITH SLICED APPLE

20131108-001016.jpgTHIS IS ONE OF THE 700,000 BUNKERS BUILT DURING 40 YEARS OF COMMUNIST RULE.

20131108-001155.jpgFOOD WAS SO GOOD AND INEXPENSIVE, IT WASN´T WORTH COOKING YOURSELF.

20131108-001443.jpgMORE CAR-FREE TOURING

20131108-001541.jpgTHE MUSEUMS HAVE PAINTINGS THAT PORTRAY THE MANY ASPECTS OF ALBANIAN HISTORY.

20131108-001905.jpgALBANIAN WEDDING
The big ride was Vlora to Saranda, following the coast. Albania´s coast is 611km (380 miles). One third of Albania is forested

20131108-002500.jpgVIEWS ONTHE WAY TO LLOGARA NATIONAL PARK LOOKING BACK TOWARDS VLORA.

20131108-002753.jpgTHE RIDE WAS THE MOST CHALLENGING, BUT WORTH IT.

20131108-004952.jpgEVEN IN OCTOBER THE OCEAN WAS VERY INVITING

20131108-005126.jpgEVERYWHERE THERE WAS SUN DRYING CORN ON MANY SIDE STREETS AND PARKING LOTS
Albania is the 13 largest producer of figs in the world.

20131108-005542.jpgTHESE ARE FIG DISKS, SO AWESOME AND BETTER THAN A SNICKERS BAR.

20131108-005855.jpgTHE 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.

20131108-012049.jpgTHIS 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.

20131108-072104.jpgI 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.

20131108-072609.jpgWOULDN´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
Jeff
ALL THE ALBANIAN PHOTOS ARE HERE
NEXT? FIRST WEEK IN GREECE