>Travel Pictures


Through the countryside...

Albania is the 'lonely man' of Europe. Populated by descendants of the original Illyrians (a group that some think was completely wiped out in all neighboring regions), they have no 'close relatives' in the Slavs or other European groups that live around them. Add to that a history of near isolation due to both a rugged geography and by a 40+ year rule under a hard-line Communist dictator, and the potential for isolation becomes clear. I'd never been to Albania and had actually never met anyone who had, so I was unclear as to what I should expect. Crossing at the southern tip of Lake Ohrid from Sveti Naum, Macedonia, I was in for a shock.
Three things stuck out at me as a drove through central Albania. First were the fantastic mushroom shaped bunkers that were everywhere throughout the countryside. They dotted the sides of the roads, sprouted in the middle of fields, and bumped up in the middle of cities. Reports are that some 600,000 are plunked down throughout the country, ostensibly to guard against invasion from wherever it may come.
Second was the ravagement of the countryside in terms of ecological disaster. During the communist era, the land was considered just a resource to be used up and discarded, and the remnants of crumbling projects are everywhere. Garbage was impossible to ever avoid - from piles alongside the road to ditches full to city streets covered to riverside tree branches that were so full of plastic bags that it looked like they were the leaves. Add to this the abandonment and looting of factories and the scale of the mess begins to set in. I had heard that the country was 'dirty,' but this defied any expectations that I'd had coming in.

The third was the openness and friendliness I found along the road. I was immediately recognizable as a foreigner (because of my clothes), but most people I came in contact with assumed at first that I was Italian. They were excited to hear I was from the US, and wanted to hear lots about the country.

 fish on the shores of Lake Ohrid, 

questions about life in the USA near Librazhid,

 I was offered lunch and lots to drink outside Kraje, 

vegetables on the road to Tirana, 

a smile from the town shepherd,

and an enthusiastic welcome from the young boys outside Skoder.

The landscape was something out of a movie, with snowcapped mountains ringing wide valleys. There were plenty of horse-drawn carts, and many fresh meat stands. Notice this calf's fate hanging in front of the store behind him? Yup, that's a steak...


and my favorite sight, the typical Albanian "For Sale" sign.

I saw lots of fishermen including this one casting below a single-lane bridge that carried both buses and buggies, exotic ancient castles above modern apartment blocks,
Back to Sveti Naum, MacedoniaOn to Durres

On to Durres
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