May 22, 2015

Ohrid, MacedoniaTirana, Albania – Shkodër, Albania

I woke up today at 06:55, showered, dressed, got ready, packed my bags, and then researched my next planned destination: Kotor. At 08:30, I departed the hostel (while everyone else was still asleep) and walked to the city center. I had a local inquire the price of a taxi for me, but it was too high. I then asked several others until I finally found a shared taxi with an agreeable price. Two other passengers and I were then driven out of Ohrid and to Struga, which took about fifteen minutes. I arrived at the Struga Bus Station just after 09:00 and I bought a bus ticket to Tirana (it sucks having to backtrack to a place I’ve been, but as far as I have been able to gather, this is the best way to get to Kotor). I then waited for the 09:30 bus to show and I talked with a Japanese woman and an elderly American/Canadian couple; the couple had actually met while traveling and staying in the same hostel many years back; since, they have traveled together through this world. The bus finally showed up at 09:45 and we departed at 10:00. We reached the border at 10:15, had our passports collected at the Macedonian checkpoint, and waited until 10:40, when the passports were handed back to us.

We then drove to the Albanian checkpoint and had our passports collected again. At 10:56, the passports came back (with no additional stamps in mine, I guess Albania gives one stamp that is as good as a multiple entry Visa and that is valid for some time) and the bus drove onward to Tirana. At 11:38, we stopped at the same rest stop (near a railroad and a river) that I had stopped at on the way on to Macedonia. Then, at 12:08 (once our fifteen-minute rest stop was over), the bus departed and journeyed on to Tirana. I slept for most of the next two hours and was surprised to see the bus in Durres, next to the Adriatic Sea, at 13:55; so much for catching that 14:00 bus from Tirana to Kotor – which I probably would’ve been able to do if the bus traveled to Tirana before Durres (the internet has led me astray once again, informing me that I should’ve been in Tirana at 13:00). Oh well. At this point I feared that I would be eating sausage again tonight. The bus finally entered in to Tirana and drove around Skanderbeg Square at 14:54 before stopping at the first bus stop north of the square. All the passengers and I departed and we all grabbed our luggage. I then set out to try to find a bus to Montenegro. I went door to door along the street, where many bus companies are located, but none were traveling to Montenegro (strange, since Albania borders Montenegro). I was then told that my best option would be to travel to Shkodër via minibus and take a bus from there (in the morning) to Kotor. So, I walked westward to a large roundabout that had minibuses, regular buses, and some private vehicles taking passengers all over Albania. Also, as I walked to the large roundabout, I tried to exchange the excess Macedonian denar that I had in my wallet; howbeit, each place that I stopped at had very unfavorable exchange rates, so I didn’t bother exchanging the denars. Once I finally made it to the roundabout, I found a regular bus going to Shkodër; unfortunately, the driver would not take Macedonian denar and the price in Euros was a ripoff. I then had to let this bus go as I walked around trying to find a favorable money changer, but eventually gave up and went to an ATM to pull out some Albanian lek. Finally, with cash in hand, I returned to the bus currently waiting for passengers (at 16:40) and I stored my large backpack in the luggage compartment. I then waited for the bus to depart, which it did, at 17:08. We then drove northward, stopping at 17:45 to gas up, on to Shkodër. We reached Shkodër at 19:00 and as I was looking outside the window, I saw an old man drive around a roundabout in his wheelchair, coming dangerously close to the cars that were stopping for him.

Bottle of Albanian white wine made from Shesh-i-Bardhe grapes (I had this while stuck in Shkodër for the night).
Bottle of Albanian white wine made from Shesh-i-Bardhe grapes (I had this while stuck in Shkodër for the night).

The bus finally stopped at the city center of Shkodër and everyone exited the vehicle. I grabbed my bags and walked to a travel agency to find out when the next bus would be leaving to Montenegro (I was told 08:00 by taxi drivers earlier and 09:00 by the travel agent; we shall see who is right). I then left the agency and asked the taxi drivers how much it would cost to take me there. One taxi driver offered to take me to Kotor for 60 Euros (four times the local price given to me by the travel agent); I told him, “no thanks” and he then offered to take me to the town of Ulcinj (in Montenegro) for 30 Euros where I could then take a bus the rest of the way – well, I doubted any buses were still running, so I told him “no, too expensive,” and walked away. I then walked to a nearby hotel and got a room for the night. Next, I walked to find a decent restaurant, but did not feel like spending too much; so, I walked to a market (after taking cover from the pouring rain as it passed through) and bought juice, a bottle of Albanian wine, and a bag of muesli to munch on. I then returned to my hotel, ate the muesli, drank my juice, and relaxed. Later on, I opened the bottle of Albanian white wine I had bought earlier and drank that. It was made from Shesh-i-Bardhe grapes and tasted of lemon, pear, petrol, musk, and of hay; it was okay, but not great or particularly good. After drinking the wine, I went to sleep after 01:00.

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An open journal or an exercise in narcissism.