Today we entered Albania. Our last night in Montenegro we spent near Bar in an “apartmani”, a room that is called an appartment because it has a cooker and a small sink. We were charged too much, we found, but these are the things that you have to learn during the process. In the house we met Sebastian, a 29-year old Polish marketing man in the paint business. He was on his motorbike (an Aprilia for the connaisseurs) making a tour from Poland to Istanbul and Athens and now on his way back. That day he had come from Igoumenitsa in Greece, had passed through Albania and now he had stopped in front of the same gate as we had. Until late in the evening we had a nice and interesting discussion, mainly on his motorbike, which indeed was a sleek and mean machine. He is an enthousiastic and energetic young man and it's always nice to meet youngsters like him. At breakfast this morning we said goodbye.
Our last kilometers in Montenegro were a preparation of what was ahead for us in Albania. After having left the urban area of Bar we had to make a left turn and the road changed into a narrow road steep uphill. We feared another heavy day of climbing. But after the initial 200 meters ascent the road stayed on the rim of the mountain range and was quiet and the scenery was really beautiful. This we liked very much, since all the way in Montenegro, except for the Kotor bay, the road had been noisy and busy. Now we rode smoothly and extremely quietly and enjoyed wonderful panoramas over the Adriatic sea and the most southern Montenegran town of Ulcinj. The road surface was poor, now and then a donkey would walk astray on the road, cows were grazing in the road side. We passed several little shops and bars, but all closed. What's up? Where is everybody, why is nobody working? We passed several mosques and Islamic graveyards; of course, we were entering into Islamic territory. The first break we could take was at a brand new and modern gas station. Lots of young man were sitting there and having coffee. When we left they started asking us questions about our bikes, they had seen they were special ones. On the other hand we asked them about them all being gathered there and the shops being closed. They explained: a muslin holiday. Then we realised; August 30th 2011, end of Ramadan (Lonely Planet!). So again we were entering a new world and we had to learn how things work in this region.
As a wiser couple we continued and reached the Montenegro-Albania border after some kilometers. It was so nice to see that the first border official we had to pass was a cow. These are worlds we like to be in.
We crossed the border without any problem and then we almost immediately recognised the feeling. This is a different world. The country makes a poor impression, but the people greet you friendly. Young children wave and shout and give you a high-five when yo pass. It reminded us of countries like Laos and Cambodia, this friendly and relaxed atmosphere.
The road to Shköder (Shkodra) was easy. Seven of ten cars is a Mercedes, of all types and years and we saw some dozen of the app. 60.000 one man bunkers that have been built under the great leadership of the late Enver Hoxha. Here and there between the simple houses and fields there were nice looking restaurants and just befor the town we enjoyed a lovely break at the riverside in such a new and very well run facility. It seems that Albanians from abroad invest in these enterprises, they look extremely well. Professional and agreeable staff, no nonsense, they make us feel very at easy and comfortable. We are now staying in Hotel Kaduku in the centre of Shköder, again a place where it is absolutely nice to be. Airconditioned room, wifi, tropical, cosy and cheaper than the appartmani of the night before.
We spent the evening in town where now everyone was about, enjoying the holiday. We had dinner and after that another drink in a bar, where the owner sat with us for almost 2 hours. We discussed many items and mutually learned a lot. This is what travelling is for.