Sunday, October 13, 2013

Albania: Roadside Entertainment

Out herding the sheep and cows!

After my last few days in Albania, I've voted it the most amusing country on my trip so far because of their endless roadside entertainment!  Immediately after crossing the border from Montenegro, the Albanian hospitality was noticeable.  Not only do you have to look straight ahead to keep your eye on the road, but you also don't want to miss out on everything that is going on around you either.

First of all, everyone greeted me practicing the 4 basic words and phrases in English they know:  Hello! Where you from? What's your name? Good-bye!  They shouted this from a far or rolled down their window beside me.  Little kids even stood by the side of the road so that I could give them a high five.

Then there was the honking.  One little honk wasn't enough to let me know they were approaching, as is customary in Croatia and Montenegro, the Albanians honked continuously, as if their hand got stuck to the horn.  As they passed they would wave frantically in the rearview mirror.  I took this as a very ecstatic welcome!

One of numerous car washes in Albania
The highway signs make for a good laugh.  Bosnia was the country of "Vulkanizers" with signs for them every hundred meters, Albania was the land of "Lavazh”.  You can eat lunch, have a coffee and get your car washed.  Some car washes specialized in large vehicles, others in tapestries, and well, on a bike, you betcha I took advantage this country's roadside specialty and cleaned my bike up after trying out the rural roads.  I can't imagine there is a shortage of water in this country with all the car washes and when they aren't washing cars, unfortunately they leave the hoses on to water the roads and gravel.  Other signs that made me laugh were the "For Sale" sign, funny translation for this word!

No, the dumpster isn't for sale, it was the house behind it.

Sharing the road for real!
Albania seems to have a more developed roads system than Bosnia, yet, I found myself sharing the road here with a lot more than just cars!  They have recently started building a highway system, which uses similar signage to the toll roads in other countries.  I thought I wanted to avoid these roads until I experienced the rural roads first hand.  The toll roads warn you that you may find pedestrians, cyclists, and horse drawn carriages, yet they fail to warn you that they might also have herds of sheep, people out walking their cows, and stray donkeys and chickens.  These roads get good use! 

Entering my last Albanian town before crossing the border to Macedonia at Lake Ohrid, I even came across a funeral procession.  I had a hard time finding a place to eat in town as a result because everyone was at the funeral.  I was a little envious, no one honked at the group in the procession, cars just waited patiently for them.
No one got in the way of the funeral procession!

I think the Albanians enjoyed having me.  As I left the country at the border control, and cycled to Macedonia, they wished me farewell, by name saying, "Good-bye Melissa!"  I don't know if it was just that they don't see too many tour cyclists or that they just love to greet everyone as they go by, but Albania sure kept me entertained as I was cycling through.  Not to mention, every time I stopped to take a picture all the locals wanted to get in as well! 

There is a lot going on by the side of the road in Albania, which makes tour cycling enjoyable!

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