We leave Bar Montenegro at around 8:00 am. It is hot and humid and I feel sick as a dog. The customs lady sends me on a wild goose chase into town – not much fun at 7:00am and it is hot and humid already. Luckily, after making a few inquiries, ignore what she said and go to the police station instead. From there, I go back to customs, find a different person, and soon I am done. Cannot wait to turn my back on this place…..
It is a beautiful ride south down the coast, across a wide bay, so we cannot see land at times. The sea is a lovely teal color, very calm and almost no wind. We arrive in Durres, Albania at about 3:00pm, a little ahead of schedule. Our agent, whom I hired on-line is there to meet us at the industrial port, where big containers are being offloaded on a ship just in front of us. Our agent has us sign a few papers, does not even look at our passports, and heads off somewhere. He will be back in the morning at 8:00am to give us the paperwork back, and give us whatever paperwork we need for the next port in Albania. No-one checked the boat or our passports, but according to the agent, who is not a government official as far as I am aware, we are free to walk out of the port into town.
We head out. Sure enough, we walk right out of the port and customs without anyone official requesting anything from us at all. We walk through the area with all the cranes used for offloading and loading containers, as they are doing it. Noone cares.
Here is what we see:
They love America – First thing we see is a statue of Mick Jagger and Tina Turner. American names and words are everywhere.
There are no cats – at all! However, many stray dogs are running everywhere, just getting missed by cars by inches.
Women my age all wear tents made out of polyester. The fashions date back to the fifties and sixties. Glancing in the stores, that is all that seems to be sold. John and I stand out like sore thumbs. I am wearing a dress that is cut above my knees. You don’t see anyone under 35 wearing the same clothing. Woman look at my legs with astonishment or disgust. Men of all ages ogle me.
The people of Albania are very friendly, not nearly as attractive as the ones in Bar Montenegro, especially as they get older. A lot more overweight people. They seem in awe of the fact that we are from America, and almost shy when they speak to us. It does not seem that they encounter many Americans.
Two Peroni beers at a bar cost less than 50 cents USA! Food and alcohol is ridiculously cheap here by American standards.
While sitting at a restaurant, we can see a parking lot and a street. A family of gypsies accost everyone who walks by or who palks in the parking lot. They are quite aggressive – especially the young boys aged 6 – 10. The break out in a full on fist-fight at one point with another group of gypsies.
My eyes nearly fall out of my head, when I see a man calmly walking down the street with a BEAR on a leash. I definitely thought I was seeing things. He apparently, as I discovered later, allows strangers to take photos of him with the bear for money.
There is a sense of decay. Buildings are abandoned. “Newer” buildings are not well maintained. The style of most of the buildings is just plain ugly. It is almost as if they had a competition to see who could create the ugliest building. Having said that, we did see a few newer, attractive buildings as well, but there were not many.
The beach is covered with some really strange plants that have washed up from the ocean. They look like brown fur balls that a cat coughed up. The whole beach is covered with them. They are soft and spongy when I pick one up. They do not smell. No idea what it is.
There are many families about. Parents are very young. Young Moms generally don’t look too happy with their lot. Most women either look very frumpy, or are wearing cocktail style tight dresses during the day – not much in between.
When we got back to the boat, there were two locals fishing near our boat off the quay. John offered them each a beer and started chatting to them. Now, for the first time, an official appeared and stopped them from talking to us. One of the men, said that 15 years ago, he would have been arrested and put in jail for talking to an American. The authorities are still reluctant to have locals speak to foreigners.
Having said all the above, I found it a very interesting place and felt safe, despite the gypsy element. People were very kind to us and made us feel welcome.