Off the beaten track in Albania

I know I am on the right track in my travel adventures when there are small children shyly staring and trying to get a better look at me. Usually this is a great indication that they don’t see any other tourists and I know I have found what I am searching for in my travels – that untainted, unexplored spot that doesn’t appear in any guidebook and you hope it never does.

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They totally stopped their game to come over, could not stop giggling and agreed to a picture but were too shy to come away from the wall.

In my opinion, in a world that is increasingly connected with more people than ever travelling, it is getting increasingly hard to find that place that has both beauty and is also undiscovered. However don’t despair fellow travelers! There is a solution – grab a trusty bike and an extra bike tube (for albania preferably one that can handle some rough streets!) and hit the road. Last weekend I had the chance to do just that and I can’t wait to ride out again.  We did not bring any spare parts and I think the gods decided to spare us but next time I will be more prepared.

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Just one happy girl with a bike.

I road out of Shkoder in northern albanian with Patrick, an Austrian friend here teaching computer science, with our first stop being the second of the two must see sights in the region around Shkoder. The first is Rozafa castle, and the second is this bridge.

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The famous bridge of Ura e Mesit, literally translated as “bridge in the middle”, was built in 1768 by an Ottoman pasha and is the largest and best preserved Ottoman bridge in Albania. If you travel to Shkoder everyone will ask if you have seen this bridge, apparently it is a must do.

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The bridge, while impressive in itself was a bit of a let down due to all of the garbage around the site. It really is incredibly sad to have what could be a very cool tourist site and yet so neglected. *Authors note: This is the only sad reflective item in this blog post, read on without fear of being more depressed. 

The rest of the scenery from the road looked a bit like this…

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So freaking gorgeous! I was pretty much in heaven the whole time. Welcome to the countryside in Albania.

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green grass

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Patrick riding hard towards our lunch destination.

In general we had lots of people calling out greetings and people seemed pretty happy to see us, and amused that we were biking for fun.

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One of the bikes was stuck in the hardest gear so going up the hills on our route was definitely a challenge. Patrick and I traded off to keep things even so both of our burning thighs were ready for the lunch stop in the village of Prekal.

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Taking a little break to take in the scene and rest before the next climb.

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Lunch time!

There only water available at this bar was clearly pulled from the river in a half full dirty open water bottle, so we decided to play it safe and avoid the beaver fever and drink coke instead. 

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On the way back we stopped for a swim on this sandy part of the freezing river, so refreshing after all the uphill pedaling. Patrick went in all the way and when he was emerging a local on a moped nearly crashed trying to get a better look at what was going on.

As if the river in between the mountain gorge wasn’t enough scenery on the opposite side we were treated to more gorgeous scenes.

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Roadside waterfall!

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Look what donkey cuteness ran by while we were hanging out at the waterfall…

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Surveying the valley below.

If you saw these pictures and needed some of this action for yourself, here is the google map of the route we followed. You really can’t mess this up.