July 26, 2007 GMT
Tirana tearaways

After a brief spell in Croatia (expensive!) we legged it to the more hardcore countries of Bosnia and Albania. The borders for both were suprisingly easy, the Bosnian one took a few of our hard earned sheckels for (needed!) insurance but got a free import docket from them (result).

First stop was Mostar, staying in the weirdest 'pansion', where much dodgy homebrewed moonshine (loza rakia and orahovaca) was drunk, accompanied by the bingo, which was avididly followed by our ex gymnast host (also saw footage of uber floods in dear old Blighty!)

Lots of war-damaged buildings and 'beware mines' signs, encouraged our non-free-camping status. There was an excellent road to Sarajevo with lots of Africa Twins zipping round (obviously a more rufty-tufty crowd!) Found the only campsite in Bosnia and headed (by ancient tram!) to Sarajevo, which is a really happenening city - full of life and really getting on with sorting itself out (oh, a good local beer - Sarajevsko pivo??)

minor worries.JPG

Best road was in the Republica Sprska, with the added bonus of all the signs being in Cyrillic (a quick gen-up was duly done). Some of the borders into Montenegro were closed (no reason given, of course!) so back to Dubrovnik and a looong wait in the heat (yup, it's been constantly in the 40s for the last couple of weeks). Turned left into Montenegro for a quick dip in southern Europe's deepest (only?!)fjord, and into Albania. A quick enquiry about whether James would like to give his biking gloves as a gift to the border guard was gently (and successfully) rebuffed by the pierats as the AT gently ooozed into the melting tarmac.

soviet era fun in Sprska.JPG

Tirana was our first stop and we managed to find, what we can only assume was a "love hotel" (yes, AGAIN) as rooms were by the hour or a "rest" for the night... Again, a happening city, with a multitude out and about enjoying the park and pavement cafes, feeling totally relaxed and safe, even after hearing all the horror stories of armed police waving guns in faces at the border and the like ....

Through into the mountains and being miles and miles from anywhere opted to freecamp. Saw forest fires coming closer and wondered about the bears, wolves and gun toting locals, surrounded by Hoxjo's weird bunkers (of which there are 70,000 apparently fact fans).

bunker love.JPG

Our last stop was the bizarre UNESCO town of Gjirokastra, where we watched the presidential elections (for those not fully versed in AL politics, it's Bamir Topi) on tv and the fireworks being let off in the streets by happy locals (we assume).

twinky in restaurant.JPG
Note: here is the bike in our B&B restaurant, to get it off the streets.

We really enjoyed Albania, and altho it has more than a whiff of Morocco to it (bad roads, even worse drivers in their ancient Mercedes, cows being butchered in the dusty streets...) it's a great country to explore, the locals friendly, and very beautiful countryside to explore, and we even managed to get out without paying the exit tax OR daily tourist tax - result!

After navigating the whole of Albania by the map ripped out of a Lonely Planet, we decided on buying a Greek map to help us traverse our way. Into Greece and our stops have been the amazing Meteora monasteries, swimming in the Aegean by the moonlight shadow of Mt Olympus and birding at the Dadia National Park, with more black vultures and raptor fun, despite the fire department closing the park as we left due to fire hazards from the heatwave....

Next country, Turkey!

Posted by Imogen Mitchell at July 26, 2007 12:30 PM GMT

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