The Foreign Office warn about travelling to Albania – get your jabs done, don’t drink the water and most importantly, watch out for traffic. They aren’t wrong about the traffic. It’s not that drivers in Albania are aggressive or fast, just, well, clueless.
You can see all sorts on the road: knackered mopeds, bangers, there’s loads of VW type 25 camper vans, donkeys… there’s also brand new pimped up Range Rovers with blacked out windows (don’t want to think about who’s driving those). Drivers seem polite, but just decide to do random stuff like stoping and getting out in the middle of the road, joining and leaving roundabouts feels like pot luck. As for lane discipline…. Forget it. This is meant to be three lanes – but I counted 7 rows of cars battling for space. Not much room for motorbikes to filter.
I want one of these. You see them everywhere, even as family transport.
There aren’t many tourists in Albania, in part because there isn’t a great deal to see or do – a few national parks, some waterfalls, old churches, but not a great deal more. I paid a quick visit to the capital Tirana, the sights are all based around a single central square – Skanderberg Square. There used to be a giant statue of the communist leader, but these days it’s just a giant statue of Skanderberg on a horse
The jewel in Albania’s tourism industry is the town of Berat, where I spent the night. Most of the old town is a UNESCO world heritage site – Otoman homes inside a hill top castle. I took the opportunity of going late in the day when most tourists had left, I also took advantage of having an off road bike, to ride up the Ottoman cobbles to the top (most people walk up).
Finally, a note about the roads in Albania. The lanes you see in the photos above, of 400 year old cobbled streets, are some of the best roads in the country! Seriously the roads are a disgrace. I appreciate that it is a poor country, but the roads defy logic, main streets can be smooth Tarmac one minute, then, without warning, there will be a section of un tarmacked road, then a section where it looks like six different crews have thrown Tarmac down but not bothered trying to flatten it, then a raised section for a pipe, or a man hole cover, then smooth Tarmac, then gravel, then a bit where the road buckles…. Locals know where the good bits are so swerve all over the roads to try to avoid the obstacles. Tourists like me just carry on regardless. Thankfully, having a bike that can ride off road helps – I’ve been on so called green lanes in the UK that are in better conditions than some of the main roads in Albania. I’ve taken some video footage, which I’ll try to figure out how to edit and upload, but for now, a photo.