Its time to leave the pot hole riddled Tirana for somewhere a bit more slow, a bit more laid back. And we aren’t talking about the buses. We’re headed for the small town of Berat – a few hours south of TIrana.
We set off on the journey. Its a bit of a two prong effort to get there. Mainly cause Tirana has that many bus/furgon stations – its hard to keep up with where certain buses actually leave from. The easiest way around this is to hop into a taxi at a taxi rank and tell them to take you to the bus station for what ever town your going to.
The bus station is a heaving lifeform of its own. There is a constant kick up of dirt and dust from the buses constantly leaving. A range of co-bus drivers trying to direct you where to go. And then the usual few ‘convenient’ store owners. The place is packed to the brim with buses lined up after each other – sadly the buses are pretty run down and would have to be on their last legs. Sadly I think they’ll be going for quite some time to come.
The bus ride is a general bus ride – nothing too exciting. Though I catch a few of those much sought after z’s somewhere along there. I also find that Albania’s main roads are more like country roads back home than actual decent highways. But I guess Albania was a lot more ‘backward’ from most of Europe for most of the last century.
We follow someone who actually knows where we are going, once we are off the bus in Berat. Its not a far walk from the station – its just up a few cobbled streets (these ones are a lot worse than those polished ones in most western europe towns) and uphill for a bit of it.
Caitlin, Aleesha and I decide to grab some lunch before getting some sort of food to cook for dinner. Caitlin and I go for some meat and veg to go into a pasta dish. Whilst Aleesha goes for something completely weird – much like herself (kidding). It takes a while to find the actual supermarket (if you could call it that). It was more of a large corner store but we pick up our supplies plus a few bottles of beer. We then wander about town for a bit.
Back at the hostel, we chill out and watch dvd’s and not do a great deal. Before we head out in our best clothes to head to the local nightclub. Well its not really the local nightclub – but some what of an equivalent. Most towns in Albania are pretty small and they don’t really have a place to go meet those fetching young boys/girls that you want to date. So they walk the streets in their best clothes and try to find a suitable partner. It’s called the Giro and is a major tradition. The street is packed full of young adults, older adults, kids, grandparents – everyone. And everyone is socialising. Seeing as we are the odd group out – we get a fair amount of attention. Its not a bad thing and a few of the locals actually are very friendly.
We then walk on back to the hostel, where Caitlin and myself cook up a storm. Before settling down with everyone else to watch Into The Wild. Its perhaps one of my favourite movies – and an inspiration to head off to find solace and isolation. But hopefully not with that kind of ending.
The morning we are met with amazing Burek for breakfast with a mixture of the usual staple hostel breakfast. Its a nice chain up – and I’ve missed Burek like it was my only child. So its all good in the end.
There is a fair few of us heading up to the top of the hill to the Berat to the Kala or the cities citadel. Though the walk up to the top is a fair slog, its hot, and the road is somewhat unsuitable for wearing thongs (flip flops/Jandals) as it was made up of marble like stones. But we do manage to get up there after a few stops along the way.
The Kala is one of the most impressive features of Berat, it dates back to the 14th century and is still a working and liveable part of the city itself. But they still slug you a few euros to go inside and wander around the city itself. The town itself is rather nice to walk around. Its got that traditional feel to it. And its got that there isn’t a lot of people wandering around too.
There are quite a few vistas to take in as we go along the walls but we kind of decide to get out of the heat before heatstroke sets in. And we bolt down to the town below – get a few things before going back to the hostel in Gorica. Where we sign up for a BBQ and I settle down to watch The Castle (for those who aren’t Australian – The Castle is a timeless piece of comedy from Australia) before every other Aussie in the joint turns up to watch it.
The evening is pretty much spent watching Blackbooks and eating the BBQ. Though I decide to do a bit of forward planning and line some things up for Belgrade. I do hear a few firecrackers go off though. And at the point where I am trying to go to sleep a German guy decides to be a complete wanker and make a scene. I do ask him to be quiet multiple times. But he decides to keep going so I tell him to fuck off. He apologised the next morning . Rule #1 for staying in hostels don’t be that guy who can’t keep quiet when people want to sleep.