THIRTY-FIFTH MOVEMENT: ALBANIA
I woke up at 09:40 today, showered, dressed, packed my bags, and checked out of the hotel in Patra. I then walked to the bus company (Top-Lines) and reached the office at 10:35. I waited inside the office until it was time to go. Around 11:15, myself and other passengers were told to get inside two vehicles to take us to the Bridge, where the bus would meet us (I had originally understood that the bus would pick us up in front of the company’s office at 11:00, but I suppose it was running late). We drove to the bridge, exited the vehicle, and I had enough time to take some photographs before the bus pulled up at 11:40. We then loaded up inside (the not so top-o-the-line bus) and drove across the bridge to “Mainland Greece.” Very soon, at noon, the bus pulled up to a roadside restaurant for a fifteen minute lunch break. Since I’m no longer in the habit of scarfing down food in a short period of time, I just used the W.C. and bought an iced tea and water. Once done with lunch, we continued on our journey northward to Albania, driving through the mountainous Greek countryside, covered in different strokes of vivid green bushes and silvery olive trees; we also drove along the shore of a crystal blue bay for a distance – all of this created an image of unique beauty. At one point the bus stopped on the side of the highway and picked up another passenger, otherwise, we drove on, continuously, for four hours (luckily I didn’t drink too much beforehand) before reaching the Albanian border. At the Greek checkpoint, we exited the bus, walked through passport control, and received our exit stamps. Then, while waiting for the other passengers, an Albanian brother and sister pair (both of whom I had met back in Patra and who had acted as translator a couple of times for me) and I walked to the Duty Free shop, where I bought an iced tea, pistachios, and a chocolate-Oreo bar (pretty delicious). Afterwards, while the bus was refueling, I climbed back in and sat down in my seat. Once everyone was back on board, we drove to the Albanian passport control where a police officer came and collected all of our passports. After waiting about fifteen minutes, we received our passports back, with entry stamps, and the bus drove in to Albania (just after 17:00 Greek time / 16:00 Albanian time).
Immediately after entering in to Albania, the landscape changed. No longer were the mountains and hills covered in bushes; we entered in to pasturelands; also, there were now taller, steeper mountains with some patches of remaining snowfall – the mountains themselves reminded me of mountains I had hiked across in Montana many summers ago. At 16:45 (Albanian time) we stopped at another road side restaurant for twenty minutes before driving on with the sun to our port side. We continued in through some lower mountainous areas that were a return to what I saw in much of Greece, and then moved in to flatter countryside, nearer to the coast, with a ridge of hills to the east.
At 18:35, we reached a bus terminal and about half the bus cleared out; the Albanian brother then asked for me since no announcements were made and it was just assumed everyone knew where to go (based on what I’ve seen in my travels, if I ever ran my own business, I would be leagues ahead of most if the incompetent, clueless people I’ve met); it turned out that I too needed to depart the bus; I grabbed my bags and was directed to a shuttle bus, where I loaded my bags up in to and rode the rest of the way to Berat, departing the terminal at 18:42.
After dropping off the few other passengers in the shuttle bus, leaving me as the only remaining one, the shuttle bus reached Berat just after 20:00. I was dropped off at the large square in the city center and from there I walked to the hostel I had reserved a bed in the night before. Once at the hostel, I met the friendly owner, dropped my bags off, and was shown around. The owner then accompanied me to the city’s promenade, pointed out all the interesting sites, and showed me where the ATMs were; I then grabbed some Albanian currency from one. The hostel owner then took me to a fast food restaurant where I bought a gyro plate, that had all the usual ingredients for gyros (pita bread, chicken, lettuce, tomatoes, French fries, and that special sauce), but laid out, ready to be mixed together. I ate dinner at the restaurant and talked some more with the hostel owner. After finishing dinner, we split up and I walked back to the hostel. Once I had made it back, I pulled out my laptop, loaded more pictures on the website, checked my emails, and typed away on a small portion of my journal. Then, after 23:00; I quit what I was doing, got ready for bed, and went to sleep after midnight.