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.


About middleeuropeanmelancholy

64 year old Australian born male. Into travel, poetry, philosophy, music, popular physics, mathematics (especially topology)...
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