Today is our last day in this beautiful place called Albania. Mike heads to Ukraine and John and I are on the bus tonight to Podgorica, Montenegro. Albania has been a challenge and a surprise. Rough yet beautiful. We decided yesterday on our 6-hour car ride back to Tirana that this country is a string of contradictions and is excellent in the random category.
We are driving on the main road- their version of a superhighway- and every now and then, when there is an intersection for a road to a small town, there is a roundabout. Not an exit ramp. And it is a free for all- the rule of people in the circle having the right of way apparently does not exist here. It’s every car for itself, and you hope to get through it and headed in the right direction, just so you do not have to return and do the roundabout again.
Cars ahead will be suddenly breaking from 60 miles per hour and swerving to the left- that’s because a horse drawn hay wagon is on the highway, or a bicyclist, or the regional bus has stopped in the right lane to off-load and board passengers waiting on the side of the road. Often large groups of people are congregated on the shoulder, smoking cigarettes and waiting for a taxi or bus. When re-entering the highway off the shoulder, vehicles just pull out as if on a side street, and looking for a break in traffic is apparently not allowed.
The number of new Mercedes, Audis, BMWs, and Range Rovers is mind-boggling. They have no fear of passing us with oncoming traffic. The oncoming car moves over to his right, and we move over, and the Albanian crazy man zooms on up the middle, passing a semi with a bus coming from the other directions. Albanian drivers narrowly miss each other all the time, and then scream at each other. Mike says it’s worse in India, but that is little comfort.
Things were tense in the car after several harrowing close calls, and getting lost twice- we took the route Google suggested and ended up either in a dead end or on a gravel cow path. But towards the end of the trip, as we were taking the last turn towards Tirana, we see a man walking on the entrance ramp with … a large bass drum. In Albania, that doesn’t seem out of place.