Leaving Podgorica, enter Albania (4th country) A couple surprises…
Not a town you’d necessarily choose to go to. However at the hotel I met at French guy who was here working on a major water treatment plant project, so maybe it is on the up and up. I think as I mentioned before the newer parts of town are obviously all flashy, but the old part is going to take a long time to make it look like anything attractive, however unkind that seems to say.
This city definitely feels like you can see very clearly the former Russian influence, the buildings are extremely drab and industrial, very little character in design of any sort. Many of the people look like (I guess) what I observe Russians do.
Out walking to dinner now about 1 mile away to one of the series of restaurants around what is called the clock tower that I haven’t seen yet. I’m sure I’ll get a photo! Thankfully it may be slightly under 90° now, so as long as you walk in find some shade, not too bad.
Walking through this residential area though, I definitely see a lot of older people that look like they have been through a lot in their lives. Older people are very unhealthy here, and my goodness almost everybody seems to smoke! Even in the restaurants unfortunately…
Note to self, don’t ever get a draft beer here again. I forgot, but I noticed the other day and this is the third draft on the trip now, clearly nobody has cleaned their tap lines in years, the matter how fresh the keg might be, it always tastes skunky. First world problem…
Had an interesting dinner starting with a Greek salad, those are my favorite every day! Then an interesting plate of some kind of bean soup that seemed like it was out of a can with two very delicious grilled obviously homemade sausages inside the soup. Also some roasted potatoes to keep the carbs up. Walked back to the hotel and promptly fell asleep. That was my day and evening in Podgorica.
In the morning the hotel included a little cooked breakfast it was delicious so ate that and then headed out on the road.
So leaving Podgorica was kind of a slog on busy street shoulderless road with a lot of traffic, but thankfully google walking maps routed me onto a GREAT old road through the country, it was delightful being away from the traffic.
Well my beautiful country road lasted about 4 miles, suddenly a Montenegro Policia appears going the opposite direction and tells me very clearly that I cannot continue on the road.
He used the finger symbol for cutting with scissors and said GPS something something, so either the path was not crossable or it was not a legal crossing and I suspect the latter because I’ll be crossing into Albania shortly. They check your passport stamps both on the way out and the way in, so I’m guessing it would not be a good thing to show up at border crossing without the proper stamps.
He waved me to follow him back to the main road, so that’s basically what I did. That little endeavor probably added about 7-8 miles to my day. But it was a nice ride while lasted! The adventure continues.
Oh yeah, did I mention it’s 85° at 10 AM? Holy shit!
As usual, an uneventful crossing the border into Albania.
So made about 40 or 45 miles to Shkoder, actually a pretty nice town with some interesting history. I’m not sure if I mentioned it before but Albania has a mixture of Christian churches and Muslim mosques, there’s clearly and intermixing that seems to work OK. But we know historically that is not so true…
The town itself is one of those that has designated one of the old historic streets with shops on both sides as a pedestrian walkway. Arrived at the very nice Hotel Petit Elita. Shower and laundry and getting organized with all my gear in the room and my bike in the parking garage. Really a nice little place, one of the nicer that I stayed at.
From there I got out of the hotel as soon as I could as I had some energy left it seemed, I wanted to see the town a little bit. On that pedestrian walkway area, finally decided it was time for cold beer about 5 PM and sat down at one of many streetside places. Got a half liter bottle beer in a frozen glass, was so delicious! $2us.
After a while four British guy showed up, about my age. They were all on a group hike, the kind where they would hire a guide to take them up into the hills and through little villages, all they would carry during the day is basically water, somebody else would haul their gear to the next town. Kind of like but the Swiss guy did the other day that I talked to.
They of course said maybe the next time they will do a cycling trip, asked me a few questions about how I organized mine and of course I told them that it was very loosely organized, in terms of where I go each day. Let me rephrase that, I have a general direction I’m going, but each day is a made-up thing each day. And you know what, that is exactly the gift of cycle touring, you kind of just make it up as you go. I guess that’s why I really like it! Reflective of my view on life perhaps… In a good way I mean!
Sidenote: have I mentioned seeing a lot of snakes? Mostly dead on the road, but a few live ones as well.
Ended up having a dinner of Greek salad without olives as usual, a plate of cured meats with a couple of cheeses, and a bowl of penne pasta with fresh tomatoes and chili peppers. It was all very very good!
I probably haven’t mentioned much about prices of things here, this hotel at $41 was the most expensive hotel I’ve stayed out I think. The meal I just described came to about $11. That included a glass of wine. So things are definitely inexpensive in Albania, and considering that I was eating at a hotel restaurant, most other places are even cheaper.
As usual, I was back in the hotel room in bed by 9 PM. Rest is pretty important on this trip, plus I don’t like to sleep in as the later I get started the hotter I end.
Breakfast was included in the hotels but not until 8 AM so I was completely packed and ready to roll in at the restaurant at 8 AM. Had previously gone to a nearby grocery store to get another 1.5 L of sour cherry juice which has become my nearly exclusive cycling drink! It is so delicious!
My gosh, what a lovely breakfast, I bet I didn’t even get a picture of it but it is so common to get beautiful tasty ripe tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, of course always balsamic vinegar, it was an omelette, a couple chunks of cured meat and a couple chunks of cheese. Some bread as well. Fresh squeezed orange juice, double espresso. Yeah baby, that’s living! I got to say the food has been just so delightful here!
Hit the road and pretty much decided I was not going to make it all the way to Tirana, I probably could have it at about 65 miles, but really didn’t want to navigate the busy city roads late in the day and then try to figure out where I was going to stay, so I knew I would stop short somewhere but there were a limited number of choices.
I found a nice route with Google walking maps through some villages away from the main road, definitely Muslim area and not that that matters, it was just a nice quiet ride. But I’m stopped into a tree for a little break and to drink some of my awesome sour cherry juice that I’ve been drinking pretty much every day, and a young man on a bicycle shows up, obviously a local guy. First thing he says is are you lost? His English was great! So we chatted for probably 30 minutes about Albania and politics and his education and his plan to go to Istanbul to study computer engineering, and where he wants to go with his life and he asked me why do so many people hate Muslims and it was just an overall really interesting conversation. He is Muslim, of course. One of the highlights of the trip for sure.
But for probably half the day’s miles, I was able to find alternate routes. One of the routes was not a good idea at all! Following Google walking maps, I got off the main road and ended up on some gravel goat paths through a bunch of fields. It was OK for a while as I’m equipped for that kind of cycling, but eventually it got muddy here and muddy there and I ended up slogging through ankle deep mud at one point. Found a way back to the main road and gave up on Google walking maps for today. Ps: The photo below is only up the very first very clean water crossing I had to make, it got muddier and shittier after that…
At another roadside lunch stop for a Greek salad without olives, which of course I get looked at like an idiot when I order that, there was another cyclist from France who I chatted with for a while. He was on the road for about two months, starting in France and ending in Istanbul. Very young guy compared to me, he seemed more about just slogging through the miles every day and wasn’t really taking any time to find interesting side road alternate routes to the busy main roads. But definitely a nice guy And always good to chat with another cyclist. I probably saw a total of four other cyclists today doing long-distance touring. Didn’t talk to them all of course…
Beside the road in most of the little gas stations or mechanic shops, they also have lavage, a car wash. So I stopped at one of those, the guys fired up the pump and washed off my bike and it was great! I offer them 100 Lek and they refused, so super nice guys. I have found everyone here to be very kind!
Again I wanted to stop short of Tirana as it was about 3 PM by now, very hot and well I still felt good I knew I didn’t want to go another 25 km. My first potential stop was a hotel right next to the main road which is now a four lane highway, and it looked like kind of a dumpy place so I continued on.
Came across Nord Park, I will include the link below. It is a combination hotel, restaurant, campground, huge outdoor swimming pool. Seems like a really nice place, I got a very nice room in here for just €29, About $35 US. As I said, things are generally very inexpensive here!
Sidenote gripe, and something I know you are attuned to, Carol! Excessive noise pollution in the public space. Music everywhere which I tend to be able to ignore, but left a restaurant yesterday in Shkoder because they turned on that boom boom shitty music just after I sat down for dinner, before I ordered. What I have a more difficult time with is everybody’s cell phone goddamn notifications on all the time. Every form of little ding or tweet or little ditty announcing the arrival of some stupid message, people need to turn their damn phones off in the public space! Back to regular viewing now…
So that gets me caught up to now! My laundry is out on the fence drying right now, I’m washed up, my bike is clean, it’s just about time to go head out to find another delicious Greek salad or something like it, and a big huge damn plate of tasty salty pasta!
Except for this chronic damn cough, life is great! Thank you all for reading these words, I hope you find joy in every moment of your day!
As usual, photos mostly in order but you’ll have to guess which ones match up with the commentary I guess…
Link to Nord Park Kompleks: