Next stop: quiet and patient Shkodër
Entirely uncertain where to go I jumped on the bus heading south, went across the border and jumped off at the first major stop. I still wasn’t sure if in general I would head north or south, although east and west are also options. General directions are good to avoid backtracking. However there had been a possibility to head to Scotland and with a cheap flight from Dubrovnik I was keeping within distant proximity to it.
Shkodër I said in perfect Albanian but the woman behind the ticket desk has no idea what I’m saying. She looks at her colleague as if hoping for help. I look up at the LCD with bus departures and see “Skadar”. I try again, with the Serbo-Croat name with better luck. Instead of taking the bus to Tirana as originally planned, I would get off half way and see where things take me.
The ride isn’t too comfortable as the road was being resurfaced and strip right down to loose gravel. A few windy turns, avoiding the occasional goats and cattle and we made it to the border. A slow but uneventful crossing. Approaching the border you finally make visual contact with the Lake Skadar, with a huge open expanse of beautiful wetlands and water stretching as far as the eye can see.
Shkodër is a small city in North Albania, much closer to Montenegro and Kosovo (Serbia) than the Albanian capital. It has been a place of continuous human settlement from middle of classical antiquity. So it is old but it doesn’t show. The place is best described as ‘quaint’, mostly well developed and clean. Major public areas have clearly had some facelifts. Besides the couple boulevards, a couple mosques and a church, there is only a few things to see here. It is supposedly the bike capital of Albania due to it’s flat terrain and indeed bike lanes are present on the major roads and a healthy jumper of casual cyclists are to be seen everywhere. Vehicular traffic is still rather assertive however. 10 minutes away by bike, the best attraction would be Rozafa Castle, which I will visit tomorrow. This sits near the lake which flanks the western edge of the Shkodër.
I’m staying at a guest house, more like a guy’s house who is genuinely welcoming. Cheaper than hostels and everything is so close, you can nearly walk. Things don’t go exactly to plan on arrival, I end up having to try and purchase a SIM card for phone and internet. And then I lack local cash and very few places accept cards here. Eventually I get both. Approximately €5 gets me 2000 minutes of calls and 2GB data for the month. The weather is lovely however, maybe even hot. A good place to catch up on writing. Could definitely stay here a while. I’m never sure where to next, until I’m there.