We took a big bus to Fier. The roads in Albania are legendary BAD. The ride to Fier was a rock and roll affair with the bus swerving back and forth across the highway dodging the bigger holes & often coming to a complete halt before diving into and lurching its way through a pot hole. The rule of the road is the biggest vehicle rules the road. This became quite evident when we arrived at a narrow baily bridge where we stopped and two cars coming towards us had to reverse and back off. The bus slowly weaved its way across the bridge bouncing through several potholes.
We have never been on a bridge with pot holes in the bridge decking. Now we know why the people in the waiting cars were smiling as we reached the other side. They were probably thinking, “if the bus didn’t fall through the decking it’s safe for us to cross”.
We arrived at the outskirts of Fier, got off the bus on the shoulder of the highway in an industrial area and had to walk to where the furlongs (mini bus) park. The bus driver gave us directions by hand signals and a crook of the wrist to indicate there is a right turn somewhere up ahead, but no indication of distance or time. This walk is taking place at 35 C with us carrying our full packs…it’s a very warm walk!! So off we go wondering where were going to end up this time.
We actually found the mini bus stop without any trouble. Then the fun begins. Everyone is trying to help by pointing to different buses & different directions. A rather beat up yellow mini bus pulls up with a Berat sign in the window, & with the price negotiated, we pile in. The bus is equipped with 9 seats, no A/C, only the driver and passenger side front windows open and a sliding side door that no one can open. When people do get it open, it won’t close and stay closed. It’s +35 C, the bus is full of passengers, it’s stifling inside and the 1 hour trip was spent with the passengers struggling to open the door, close the door or hold the door closed while moving.
At the stops with the passenger trying unsuccessfully to either get out or into the van, the driver would hop out, run around the bus and miraculously close/open the door then turn to the passengers and hold his hands out with a look on his face that in any language meant “What’s the matter you”!!
On the way to Berat the driver had to stop to put air in his front tires, then later stops to do some shopping for veggies for supper. At one point Sharen got into the door act when she sat beside the door using her foot to hold the door shut. We hit a bit of a bump. Bernie started yelling and laughing & Keith turned around to see what was happening. The back door had flown open and Keith’s bag was trying to escape. The driver, not knowing what’s going on continued to drive for a bit before stopping in the middle of the street to close the door. He jumped back in the bus, turned to Bernie and Sharen with a twinkle in his eye with a smile and shrug that seemed to indicate a normal day in Albania. We’ve arrived in Berat!!
We wanted to stay in the Goric area ( old area). We only found Lorince Guesthouse after a fellow who lives in this area took us to it. This guest house is 400 yrs old and really cool! We met Mike a nice young man from London, UK who hung out with us.
We visited the Medieval Centre & saw the Ottoman houses on the hillside earning the title “Town of 1001 Windows”.
The castle here is 4th Century AD and the oldest inhabited castle in Europe. An entire village is built within the walls of the castle. It has been declared a World Heritage Site since 2008. Quite a neat site.
We climbed up to St. Michael’s church which is perched on a cliff ledge below the citadel.