Albania. The nature is breathtaking, the people friendly and the food incredibly delicious. I can tell you already now that I will go back!
As this was mainly a family vacation I only got to do one bike ride in the South but let me just share some pics from some places in the country so that you get an idea for any future trips here – cause you should go.
Yes, the country is very poor and is of course still suffering from what their crazy paranoid leader Enver Hoxha did during his time in power 1944-1985. And on top of that there is the story of the Albanian Pyramid Games in the 90-ies… But beyond that, and to someone like me, the nature is almost overwhelming. Very far from Enver land. Rather Never Never land. The guys in Berat were witty when changing Enver to Never on the hill side. The letters are 100 meters tall so quite a job (upper right corner in the picture).
From Berat and to Gjirokastër the nature is almost resembling South-East Asia but spiced up with something else.
Layers… a roof top without mountain tops…
Making it over the mountains down to the Mediterranean totally changes the scenery again. Crystal clear waters, mountains, olive groves and blue skies… This is the Albanian Riviera – hard to not like.
Prior to going here I was in contact with really helpful people in Albania. If you ever need help, proper guiding or just someone to ride with I suggest you contact:
Enid – again, thanks a lot for your help!!!
Tobi – A pity we didn’t get that ride. …Next time, I will be back I’m sure!
Mountain biking seem to be developing fast in Albania these days. It should be said that there are not so many single trails, but things are changing. Tobi told me about a project by the German Development Agency (GIZ) that sounds promising. He has been supporting them in mapping trails in the south. Looking forward to seeing those maps!
So, what about the biking…? Well, I started out in Himarë an early morning. The asphalt road this time of the day and year is heaven for road biking. With my picture of Albania I couldn’t imagine such good roads – gotta bring the road bike next time. One of all the small beautiful beaches along the Albanian version of Highway 1:
It was a pity that the peak of Mount Çika was not visible this day as the view with snow on top so close to the sea was absolutely astonishing the other day
Port Palermo with Corfu (Greece) in the background:
The place is still a military restriction zone even though it looked totally abandoned to me. The James-bond-like tunnel is said to be for submarines but rather looks like a base for some smaller, faster vessels.
Around the corner you get to Qeparo. Look closer and you see some houses on a cliff in the middle of the pictures – that’s Qeparo Fshat (Upper Qeparo), that I was aiming for.
The climb is only some 250 vertical meters
Finally. The real stuff. That rear tire that I was skeptical about turned out to perform very well in these conditions. For Swedish conditions I’m still skeptical…
If it’s the bigger wheels or the geometry I don’t know but a climb like this on this bike is just so easy.
I reach the sleepy village of Kudhës. Coasting down the small street I come across something that looks like a coffee shop and yes indeed it is. A lady, something like 1,3 m tall, dressed in black is exiting as I enter. Another one, not much taller is operating the coffee machine. Two guys sitting at the only occupied table invite me over to sit down. They smoke. Car keys on the table. I get my coffee. Not a word said. We watch TV. Goat bells ringing in the distance. On the TV: a documentary about chimpanzees. The coffee is outstanding. …Life in Kudhës a Wednesday morning. Sort of.
I leave with a smile as I enjoy the downhill down to these guys
Then a climb of 500 vertical meters. I’m at 170-175 in heart beat all the way but just keep going. I woke up with a thick throat the morning after so I guess that explains the heart hammering like that. Anyway, good view of the mountain and the village Kudhës.
From Google Earth
One of Hoxhas 700.000 bunkers
Too tired to continue further up the mountain I decide for a downhill back down to Himarë.
Back to beach life with the kids
And a well deserved Korça