This whole cycling business is pretty good for my geographic knowledge… There is a few things I should have figured out before I left probably.
Who knew that just about the whole Balkan is full of mountains? I didn’t. I’ve slowed right down, but that isn’t just because of the mountains. I have cycled up and over more of them then all my previous trips together. that’s for sure.
I also found out that ex-Yugoslavia is now 7 different countries. of which I cycled 6; Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo and Macedonia. That just leaves Serbia to be discovered.
I crossed the border into Albania the 1st of May. Wich happened to be a public holiday. So lots of people on the streets all smiling and waving at me and music and dancing…
For no particular reason I changed my plan -well maybe ’cause it said 22% on my map just after Tirana 😉 – and I went across the north of Albania instead which I’m sure has hills of more than 22%….. but its gorgeous! If you just think away the rubbish that’s seriously everywhere…
Before I got to Albania people told me its a dangerous place and that the roads are bad. Ok, the roads are not brilliant and I do need new breaks… But I have never felt unsafe anywhere, even the night I camped on a mountain in the middle of nowhere with apparently bears and wolves and snakes around (I didn’t see them). All people where very helpful as well.
I did lose one bidon and my front light, but I blame it on the lumpy road.
Only the last-minute I realised I would cross the border into Kosovo and not Macedonia as I first thought… (told you this is good for my geography..)
So I crossed the border, found a nice quiet spot to camp just north of Prizren. Or so I thought. Untill I was about to have dinner and saw 2 little lights coming at me… A tank! At about 10 meter from me. I should have known since Prizren is the headquarter for the United Nation in Kosovo… Apart from that it was a quiet night.
And then it started to rain… again. But still my road was beautiful even in the rain, with snowy tops coming out of the clouds, waterfalls and all shades of green, great place to go hiking apart from the landmines a German soldier warned me for…
I was working my way up another mountain (surprise) when a red car stopped, the man told me I can get a lift to the top wich was still 5km away and was very surprised when I refused. So he told me I should come and have a coffee in the hotel/restaurant on the top where he worked. That I didn’t refuse and when I got there they let me stay in the hotel for free! And Veton rang his friends who live 75km across the border into Macedonia to tell them they’ll have a guest next evening…
On the way I stopped in a small cafe to dry up, a boy came running and gave me a pen, a map of Kosovo and some badges from Uck, the Albanian army… better not to show then to any Serbs, or Macedonians… and when I went to buy some bananas and chocolate in his shop he wouldn’t let me pay.
So I arrived in the small village of Gloggi. Soaking wet since my ‘raincoat’ doesnt stop the rain… There I was welcomed like a good friend by Burhan and Berlinda who live there with their 2year old son. They know Veton ’cause his family stayed with them in the war. I was told a bit about Albanian history and apparently the country is much bigger then the borders on the map, wich explains the trouble in the area. Although I heard a whole different story drinking with Serbian people at lake Ohrid a few days later.
Burham and Berlinda send me on to a friend of them, where again I was welcomed as a friend, and again they send me to another address…
When I arrived at lake Ohrid I put my tent up at Sv. Naum, just before the Albanian border. When I was about to start cooking some people came to tell me it was ok to sleep in the house.. so I came with them and had a lovely meal (the best BBQ!!) and a few pints..
The south of Albania is a world of difference with the north, there seems to be a lot more money, the roads are better and the houses bigger… in the north sometimes the only way you could see people actually live in the half fallen apart houses are the satellite dishes at the windows… The only thing the same where all the little bunkers that are all over the country, and the smiley friendly people.
And then, two days ago I crossed into Greece where just after the border I met Romanie, A french girl who lives and works with a bunch of european volunteers in Sv. Germanos and told me if I could make it there I was welcome to come and stay with them for the night. So I did.
Now, I normally don’t mind truck drivers too much, I find them generally better drivers than bus drivers. But they shouldnt pass me, stop the truck and start wanking in full view while watching me cycling… which is exactly what happened just across the greek border. The feckin’ eejit should’ve known though, that 1km ahead there was a police post. So I got them to go after him and I believe they held him up for a good while… try to explain that to 8 Greek police men who don’t speak english….
So far Greece is lovely as well, very warm and I had a good place to sleep in some ones garden last night where I was only kept awake by dogs barking all night…
So, I’ll keep going.. will let you know the craic when I get to Turkey!!! (how exciting is that!)