16-17 July, 2011
The journey between Macedonia and Albania, that I envisaged in my previous post, worked out more or less as expected, with some twists. When I went to catch a minibus to Sveti Naum, a taxi driver suggested I take his cab instead. He aready had 3 other passengers lined up, so the split fare would only be about A$2.50. The others were only going to Sveti Naum itself, but I was taken the extra 2km to the border. Sweet. As I walked the 1km of no-man’s-land between the Macedonian and Albanian border posts a thought occurred to me. What if a crime was committed here, say a murder? Would the culprit get off scot free? Neither Macedonia nor Albania would have jurisdiction. Nor any other country surely. If anyone cares to write a novel with that theme, a simple acknowledgment and 10% of the profits will be acceptable, thank you. On the Albanian side there was a single taxi waiting. That looked like the recipe for a seller’s market and I was right. It was probably a 6-7 km walk to Pogradec and beyond to the train station, in the hottest part of the day. So, in the end, I was happy to settle for a cab fare of just under A$10. From the little I saw of Pogradec, it seemed a bit of a mini Ohrid. The railway station wasn’t much to look at, and the train that arrived for the trip to Tirana, was pretty beat-up, with most windows smashed, but quite comfortable inside. The fare for the more than 7 hour journey was 295 Lek, or about A$3.50. But as I was looking at my map and the list of stations after about 6 hours, I realised that the second last stop was Durres on the coast. I made a snap decision to get off there (to the concern of the conductress). It was about 8.30pm and still plenty of daylight left, enough time to find somewhere to stay. I eventually found the Italian-run Hotel Pepeto, close to the main square.
I walked up the hill to see King Zog’s palace (love the name!). I got the feeling it was closed to the public. The barbed wire across the path was perhaps in lieu of a notice to the effect: “Proceeding past this point is not recommended, but it’s really up to you”. Do you think?
I also saw an old Roman amphitheatre (originally a theatre with some seating ripped out to accommodate the gladiators). There was a house where the arena used to be. Also ruins of an early Christian basilica, just columns remaining.
I had a meal at a sea-side restaurant. Intrigued by the “Cliché Café”. Clichéd and proud of it. I can see where they’re coming from. Clichés have stood the test of time! I also had a drink at the roof-top bar on an old Venetian tower (part of the city walls).
At Hotel Pepeto a couple of photos on the wall piqued my interest. I had the funny feeling I knew the location. Then it struck me!. It is Taranto where I spent one night. The fort is an old Venetian one, closed to the public because it is now an Italian naval base. The first pic (looks like a Google map satellite image) shows a figure in white (obviously a sailor) in the middle. And the second pic solves a problem I puzzled over as I walked across the bridge that separates the mainland from the Old Town island (which divides the Mare Grande from the Mare Piccolo). I thought the bridge raised to let ships through, but I couldn’t see how. From the photo I now realise it doesn’t raise, it swings!
Tomorrow by train to Tirana, capital city of Albania.