Not Swimming at the Albanian Coast
Durres Travel Blog› entry 17 of 24 › view all entries
July 24th, 2008 – by: cneoridium
She was amazed at the changes. Instead of mule drawn carts and primitive housing there were modern resort hotels and condos, both in the capital and along the coast.
We explored the town, a mix of ancient forts and churches and modern buildings, most built in the last 5-10 years, and many still under construction. We tried to sneak on top of several high rise buildings, to scope out a route to a good beach, but were thwarted by locked doors or security guards.
We finally asked a woman on the street if she knew where a good beach was. "Just a moment..." she got on her cell phone, and a minute later a car pulled up and she stuffed us in. She and her friend drove us way south down the coast to the good beaches - easier just to take us than to try to explain how to get there. That seemed to be the way Albanians were, everyone we randomly met was helpful and friendly. They dropped us off, and we headed down the beach.
Even miles from town, the beachfront was still a solid wall of new development - resorts, summer rooms, restaurants... there were only remnants of the pine forest between the buildings. The good part was that Albanians had finally discovered the beach, and were now vacationing there. The storm had kicked up the waves and carried mud out from the rivers, so the normally clear, warm Adriatic was brown and choppy. We sat on the beach anyway, after walking a mile or so down past the larger resorts and private beaches, and played on the bunkers which were everywhere along the shoreline.
The local bus we took back followed the old road, so it was an all afternoon trip instead of the quick ride down the highway. We were getting nervous because we needed to retrieve our packs from the nice travel agents before the big bosses arrived at closing time, we'd promised so that they wouldn't get in trouble.
We'd avoided hotels the whole trip, staying in rooms or hostels, but stopped by the hotel across the street, "just to see how expensive it would be". It actually turned out to cost about the same as the hostels we'd been staying in, and was clean, quiet, and nice and right in the middle of downtown, so we checked in. Wow, now we were experiencing the high life, a private, 20 Euro room! Our own bathroom! I asked if they took Euros, and felt bad when the old guy at the counter said "yes", then ran down the street to the exchange office, converted them to Albanian currency, and came back with change so I could pay.
In the morning, we easily found the bus to Shkodre at the local depot, and off we went across Albania. The local buses are nice since you just get on and a conductor sells you a ticket as you drive, no need to stand in line at a ticket office ahead of time.
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