(Albania) Welcome back to a hard day.

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I’ve felt peaceful and comfortable since I came to Europe. But I’ve had hard day in Albania which is the poorest country in Europe.


I’ve heard that I should be careful in Albania and many things are that many things are very cheap in Albania. But actually I think it is not much cheaper than Bosnia. I think the prices are about the same as in Bosnia. After the border, it is very flat. It has been a long time since I ‘v seen minivan bus.
In the morning, I heard some weird sounds from my bicycle and found another broken spoke. It seems like the mechanic in Montenegro was right when he said that my spokes are very old and easy to break now.



Many people shout at me from the road and car. Oh.. please.. stop it. If I am scared, then I will lose balance and fall down, and the car will crash me.



Last two weeks I’ve cycled on the mount. But today it is too flat that it makes me a bit bored. It is really interesting that there are so many gas stations and furniture stores. Even I learn the word of Mobileri without looking at a dictionary.



Today it is annoying because many local men bother me. I asked the other cyclist who traveled here. He said he never had experience which I had. There is difference between the other cyclist and me. He is male solo cyclist and I am a female solo cyclist.




I find a big cycling group. I though they are enjoying cycling by being supported by the city. But after talking to one of members, I realized that actually they are protesting for getting cycling path. There is short cycling path on the center. But it is used as parking lot. Every third Friday a month, they protest. It has been 8 months, but nothing is changed yet. But they say they will never stop until the city understands the road is not only for the car, but also for the bike and pedestrian.
At the other day in Tirana while touring, I walk on a crosswalk. One car keeps closing to me, but I just ignore it. Then suddenly one local guy walking warns me that I must ignore the traffic sign and watch the car all the time. He tells me that the car is a king here, because traffic sign is not important one.
It is shame that car drivers don’t respect other things on the road, so to cycle is very hard here. I am actually very interested about bicyclist’s right these days.
I hope one day those people can win and get rights for cycling in Tirana.
Their website: https://www.facebook.com/ecobicycle

I try to find a hostel on www.hostelworld.com . But every hostel starts from $14. Wow… why it is expensive? Who says Albania is cheap?? But luckily I find the hostel which accepts camping. Camping is $8.5 (6 Euros) in ‘Tirana Backpacker hostel’.



The staff in the hostel says there is a local mechanic just next to the hostel. The next day I go there to fix my one broken spoke. It is actually not a bicycle shop but an old small house. He smiles at me and he says he can fix it. (in a body language). I trust him first because he has a tool for taking off cassette.
But he doesn’t have the tool to hold cassette. At first he tries to holds cassette with a green screwdriver at the back of cassette. And Oh……My….Goodness……….He actually breaks another spoke with the screwdriver on the bottom of the picture. And…….break another spoke……and another spoke………
I am too panic to speak anything……… I just turn my head away not to look at him. There is nothing I can do……………

Oh…bad luck in Albania….. I feel like I just come back to Africa…….



He breaks a few spokes more, but he says no problem…………. Then he changes a tool. I feel like he will break my cassette now………. Oh……please………… Is there some way I can stop him?????
After minutes, finally he succeeds to take off my cassette. He shows me full of confidence smile. I just count… and… I realize that he breaks 8 spokes more………. Oh………….
And………. I see that he doesn’t know how to put spokes… he tries many different way to put them back…I will never forget him……….. the best mechanic I’ve ever met.

I don’t have enough time to watch him because I must make glasses. So I ask him to finish while I am going to the center.
My glasses were broken in Croatia. But to make the cheapest one was around 130~150$ in Croatia. I cannot understand why it is expensive while average salary in Croatia is around $600~800.
I think Albania will be cheaper than Croatia. Luckily I find cheap glasses for $70 included lens, test, and frame. I make an appointment to have a test after two hours, because a doctor will show up later.
When I come back to the mechanic, I see the miracle. There is an elder guy who knows bicycle. It seems the mechanic realized he cannot fix it, so he called some real mechanic.
The elder guy changes all my spoke and tries to put well. They say it takes time. So I go back to my hostel and come back and watch. But still they are working.

I cannot wait, because I have to have an eye test. So I ask again them to finish fixing.

My eye test is -2..5 and -2.0.
The way to measure is different from my country??? Because 4 years ago my eye was +0.8 ….
Anyway after testing, they say it takes two hours. So I go back to him. But they still work. Oh.. my all day is almost gone….



I go back to the glasses shop and get new glasses. Now it is dark, but I realize tuning bicycle is not good. I just give up. I will do by myself or find ‘real bicycle shop’.
From the first day in Albania, I’ve felt bad because of the treating of local men. Shouting, honking horn, and one child pretending smashing me when I ignored his playing;
To fix one spoke takes all day..
The worst part is I am bitten by fleas again. I am not sure it is from the hostel or the mechanic’s house. The mechanic offered me to have a seat. His house was really old. But a hostel was clean… but I spend lots of time on the living room of the hostel to use my laptop.
I don’t think it is bedbug. The bedbugs are worst creature in the world. It never stops like biting hundreds of places. But fleas bite dozens of places. I count that I am bitten over 30 places all over my body.
Mosquitoes is anger which has wings. But flea and bedbugs are seriously devil. It drives me crazy, because it is too itch ever never ever.
I think I am spending the hardest day in Albania since I came to Europe. I really enjoy cycling in Europe, because most of time people don’t bother me, but leave me alone.
But now I feel like I come back to Africa or Latin America.
In the world there are not many developed countries. As a solo woman, the treating is really tired in a poor country. My experience could be really different from couple cyclists, or men cyclists, or solo man cyclist.
I post on facebook’s page that I had really hard day in Albania. Many of cyclists who cycled in Albania said they had an amazing experience in Albania. But actually they are solo male or couple, not like me, solo woman.
I feel depressing ever after reading those comments.
I have to cycle two years more to go home in many poor countries where men’s treating will be not good to a solo woman. To ignore is not possible when hundreds and thousands of people bother me every day. I can ignore it if it is happened only for one time per day. But if there are tons of it.. then…. Just too stressful..
21 century is still not good for human right, especially for a solo woman in poor country.
Anyway let’s see how long I can stand it..



But there are not only bad thing in Albania. I made glasses, which is really good things for me!!
I had worn the same glasses over four years and actually there were too many scratches. It was good chance to make in Albania!
I wanted to buy soft lens, but it was quite expensive. Maybe next time I will buy. I am so satisfy that I got a new glasses for only $ 70.



Next day I posted on my blog and at late afternoon I start tour. Albania was not in Yugoslavia, so they speak different language. Albania remains one of the poorest countries in Europe, because Albanian had suffered from wars, high illiteracy rate, dictator, Pyramid schemes before. Enver Halil Hoxha was a dictator for forty years from 1944 to 1985 until his death. It is the biggest reason why Albania is the poorest in Europe.



Skanderbeg is Albania’s most important national hero. He fought against the Ottomans and he protected the country from Ottomans until his death in January 1468. After he died, Albania lost the control.
He raised a red flag with the double-headed eagle silhouette on it: Albania uses a similar flag as national symbol to this day.
There are many green parks in the center. I feel really different here from any other European or Balkan countries’ capital. The capital of Albania is something unique.



Travel abroad was forbidden after 1968 to all but those on official business. Western European culture was looked upon with deep suspicion, resulting in arrests and in bans on unauthorised foreign material. There was no such a human rights during Hoxha’s period. It is said that it was worse than North Korea.



After Hoxha died in 1985, the communism were kept going in Albania. Since 1991, finally the People’s Republic was dissolved.



Pyramid of Tirana.
The pyramid was a museum that opened on October 14, 1988. Formerly known as “Enver Hoxha Museum.” This pyramid-shaped structure was designed by the daughter and son-in-law of the late communist leader Enver Hoxha. During the 1999 Kosovo War, the museum was used as a base by NATO and humanitarian organizations. Since 2001, part of the Pyramid is used as broadcasting center by Albanian TV channel Top Channel.



Young people sit on the top of the pyramid, and I see a couple climbing on the pyramid. I am the one who must try the thing which makes me too curious. So, I start climbing at the side where I saw the couple climbing.
I can see whole city on the top. Some young people start smoking Marihuana.
To go down is scarier and it takes more time.



During the nearly forty-year dictator of Enver Hoxha, over 700,000 bunkers were built in the country – one for every four inhabitants. Some have been removed, particularly in cities, but in the countryside most bunkers have simply been abandoned. Some have been reused as housing for animals or as storehouses; others have been abandoned to lie derelict due to the cost of removing them.



I see the green area on my offline map. When I arrive in the park, it is full of a local people. It is really interesting to look at local people at the park.



There are many street foods. I have popcorn, donut, and fruit for each 50 cents.



The way back to the hostel



I borrow local money to take picture.
The lek is the official currency of Albania.
1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100-coins
200, 1000, 2000, 5000- banknotes
Usually now $1=104 lek. It is almost 1:100
I think banknotes are too higher, because Albania is poor country.



I start cycling very late, because there are many things to do before hitting the road. I have to climb one mount today. I decide to take easy road for saving time later. When I turn to the highway, the police officer doesn’t stop me, but he kindly guides to empty line on the tunnel. It is 2 km (1.25 mi) tunnel, but one line is empty that I can cycle very easily.



When I get out of the tunnel, it starts raining. I stop for taking rain coat.



Today my goal was to reach around the border, but I couldn’t make it because I started too late. I tried to ask a local people for the place to sleep with a body language. One local man helps me. He asks me “Do you speak Greek?”. “What? Why Greek??” Later I realized that many Albanian had worked in Greek.
Kindly local family lets me sleep at inside of their house. Although they have a big stove, they make coffee with small camping stove. Thanks to their hospitality, I feel better about Albania.




The center is a grandparent, the next right is daughter, and other kids are grandson. The daughter worked in Greek over 20 years, but recently she came back and now lives with her parents. One of grandson could speak English, so we talk until late night.



The next day I stop for taking water. There are many mineral water.



Yellow spider on my yellow bag



Today the weather is weird. It rains and stops and rains and stops.



I can see full of water on the road. It is waste of water or it circulates?



There are many car washings… Oh.. I see the same scenery in Colombia!!!! How come it is totally same way!!!!



There is one big uphill. I cycle slow and slow from 600 m (1,968 ft) to 1000 (3,289 ft) above sea level.



Because of bitten by fleas, my condition is not good. It is too itch. I don’t feel good in Albania, so I decide to get out of this country as soon as possible. My plan was to cycle 200 km (125 mi) more, but I will cross the border now. I am sure if I was not a solo woman, I will enjoy Albania more like other couple cyclists or men cyclists.
It is time to say good bye to Albania which reminds me of memory of cycling in Africa.


Days in Albania = 5Days
Distance of cycling in Albania = 231.75 km, (144.84 mi)
Cities I stayed in Albania = 2 Cities
Tirana, Miraka
Expenditure in Albania = $122 (Glasses $69, Hostel’s camping site $25)
($1=104 Reka)

[14/06/13~17 (D+1021) Albania]

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