Nothing like mixed messages.. last stop in Montenegro parking at the Starigrad, old town, of ‘Bar’, a local oldtimer bustles over with glee at the sight of pumper … as the security lock is attached to the steering wheel protesting furiously with hand motions… “…this was not necessary in his village”. No English spoken here. Only to be informed this was not a good place to sleep for the night … “No No No… Mafia”!!
The camera stayed in its’ bag in Albania, the images are all Montenegro.
The roads expired abruptly at the Albanian border… as did life almost! Felt like we had been thrown back in time and if we had a dollar for every time we said this could be Mexico we would be eating in a fancy five star restaurant tonight… Not that we could find one!
Potholes and sections of gravel road everywhere. Driving all day… Fancy and grand gas / petrol station one after another followed by a multitude of equally grand furniture shops… for a country that is struggling… who buys this stuff? As another family chugs by in donkey drawn cart!
Then there are the Mercedes Benzes: where does that money come from? Many of the older Merc’s are apparently stolen from Western Europe. For sure on that, as motorcades of them fly by!! 8 of every 10 cars seem to be a Mercedes! Several donning plates from one US State or another apparently imported… stolen or otherwise.
Police are everywhere… fortunately totally uninterested in us and happy nabbing every speeder in sight… Driving skills are abysmal and we dare not take our eyes off the road for a second, otherwise someone is sure to pull a stunt!
Back at the border.. Go figure, a line up with a 30 min plus wait to exit Montenegro. What is with that? Could have been a US border . Perhaps they were taking an inventory of stolen cars!
Another pothole and blaring heat with hours of nothingness, we try to find inspiration swearing some more about the condition of the roads, lack of food stores, and rubbish strewn everywhere!! Very sad, and leaves us rushing to get through the country to Greece!! Albania has a way to come up the learning curve when it comes to tourism, and with respect for the environment and cleanliness? Yet another parallel with Mexico and several Central American countries… the place is a ‘garbage dump’. They say prior to the 1990′s the country was all but litter free… Get educating those kids!
OK, so we should have known better than driving off without local currency, the ‘Leke’. How were we to know that banks are few and far between outside the few major cities, and that many gas stations don’t take credit cards? Fortunately we had a small stash of Euro’s they quite willingly accept at a crappy exchange of course.
Albanians call their country: Shqiperia, the language descending from Illyrian… Whatever that is!!!! Albanians shake their head sideways to say “yes” (po) and nod and “tsk” to indicate “no” … There will be no head shaking here just to avoid a mix up!! We’ll be passing on the sheep head soup… after one of our first sights this morning was of a guy gutting an animal… Nasty!!!
We are sounding rather negative and not considerate of what has been a brutal past. Communism ruled until 1990… there are many signs of that era! Life looks harsh for most. … 1996, 70% of Albanians lost their entire savings when private pyramid investment schemes collapsed! Not unlike what other progressive countries have experienced since 2008!! A twist of fate in 1999, 465,000 Kosovars fled to Albania to escape the Serbian ethnic cleansing… Suddenly the economy boomed!!
Enough of the history lesson: Back to grass roots stuff, our day to day existence that seems so glam to most and to others a living hell… We do have our days!! We have relaxed into the lifestyle maybe a bit too much… one time gadding about wearing odd flip flops!! Then wandering the beach with toilet tissue hanging from my bikini… I have lost count of times I have worn my clothes inside out! Too Hippie or too relaxed? Or just more likely – losing the plot!!
Steve has even been caught shaving once in a while!!! Maybe that’s his excuse for having food on his chin! The real issue: as we are sometimes asked, “How we will ever settle down or begin to fit back into normal society”. This is a good question… get back to ya on that!
Back to drying underwear… waving my knickers in the breeze as we drive along… you mean there is something peculiar about that??? We flip the peace sign to a farmer as we cruise the country lanes. Or no, maybe this is the major highway. They all seem the same! Sorry sir, it isn’t a purple flag, it’s my underwear!!!
There are always positives:
The price of things here are ridiculously cheap, which makes us ask: ‘Why the heck is everything so expensive everywhere else?’
Camped out on a shabby abandoned beach, we wake to the most stunning Kingfisher eating breakfast on a small rock outside our window!! We continue south and the climb through the mountain pass and national park… Snow tire chain signs a grim reminder of a different reality! But the views are spectacular from over 1500 metres high; clear across to the ‘Boot Of Italy’. Life ain’t all bad.
Peace and love … if people could just pick-up after themselves!