My flight arrived arrived at Tirana airport half an hour early. Customs here was swift and as I had no checked baggage I was out looking for a taxi within less than five minutes! So the yellow taxis – One is strongly advised to only take official yellow ones. None in sight. Hmm. The kiosk is closed up tight. A fellow approaches, wondering if I want a taxi. He turns out to not be a taxi driver, no surprise there. But there are no busses either – and this guy’s English is good enough to tell me he has a sister in Toronto. (Sure he does.) His car seems sound enough – I gave it a once over – so in I hop and away we drive to Duress. The driver has no idea where the hotel was but as I have a map and the phone number we do OK. He phones for directions and gets us close. I read the map and get us closer. The back seat directions seem to surprise him somewhat. One of the hotel owners comes out to the main square to meet us and walks with me down the little alley to where our little hotel is located. He knocks on our room door and there is Pat looking surprisingly wide awake for 3:30 in the morning!
So after a sleep which was punctuated quite loudly by a resonating call to prayer just before dawn – we set off to explore our corner of Durres. Interesting place, but not too much to offer the tourist. Many signs of the recent communist past, and the city seems a bit run down. We took a couple of hours to check out all the ancient historic sights, Greek columns, a Roman amphetheatre, a venetian tower. We walked the first bit of the Via Egnatia – that’s the focus of this trip after all. This section of the ancient route is simply a busy main road along the industrial port so it was in no way scenic. It was stinking hot though! About 30 degrees.
Our day has proceeded like this: Exit hotel, search for and find a cafe for a tiny cup of strong coffee. Food is not served but a cold glass of water comes with the coffee. To a bank to exchange a small amount of British Pounds and Euros into a veritable mountain of Albanian Leks. A successful search for a sort of breakfast place. We sit on the street and soon a beggar girl comes along and leaves with my unfinished fries (Fries for breakfast? They had come embedded in this sort of sandwhich I’d ordered. She asked by the way and was quite polite about it.) Next we found the Venetian tower and climbed its very steep interior stair way to a pleasant roof top cafe where we washed down our earlier breakfast with a beer as we enjoyed the sea breeze and view. Then we set off to see the Roman amphetheatre which was quite weedy and underwhelming. Our search for a seaside promenade produced a long hot walk along the large industrial port. We found the bus station and a very kind taxi driver showed us where to catch the bus for when we head out of town in a couple of days to start our walk. We’re taking the bus for a few kilometres as The first part isn’t comfortably walkable due to a very busy highway and the current expanse of the city. We’ve now found ourselves some cold beer and sort of pizza things for later. We were looking for a grocery store for the beer purchase but ended up just going into a bar and getting four bottles to go. Not sure if that’s the “done” thing but we did it anyway. Our room has a fridge so they are cooling nicely.
Now back at our cute little hotel. There is wifi but despite three bars it is very slow, so no pictures I don’t think. I’ve been trying for some time to download some without success. Pat is having a much needed snooze while I’m doing this. We thought briefly about leaving here tomorrow but have decided to take one more day to rest up. While I’ve been in Europe a week, Pat is still dealing with the nine hour time change.
Despite the poor wifi this place is in a perfect location with everything we want to see and do within a few blocks. There are also many eateries of all sorts and coffee shops galore. I imagine tomorrow will proceed somewhat like today…..So unless seething exciting happens…. You will likely next hear from me once we have the first several kilometres of this 1000 kilometre walk behind us.
Cheers from Duress, from Kim and Pat