Yes, I know; I’d planned to get into Monte Negro today, but….
I woke at 6:00, showered, packed my bags and handed the key in around 7:00am. I scored a free short black – no breakfast available, but I’d saved an apple, which I ate before riding off.
The SH1 lost it’s one metre divide shortly after setting off, which made me a little nervous, and also made me concentrate on staying close to the right edge of the road, rather than enjoying the view. A cool start, around 14C, and the road fairly level – just a slight head wind.
Three hours of steady pedalling. I dithered at the roundabout into Shkoder; left to Monte Negro, or into Shkoder? There was some light rain happening, so I pulled into a cafe and had a coffee while I thought.
I still had about 8,000 Lek, I had no Monte Negran cash – didn’t even know what they used (turns out it’s Euros). I had a lot of laundry – hand washing stuff doesn’t get it really clean. It was now around 10:30 am, so I decided to take an early mark, and take a last look at Albanian life – in the cities, anyway.
Right in the middle of town is a large roundabout with a fountain in it’s centre. There was a Raiffeisen bank on one edge, so I pulled in and asked about currency for Monte Negro, Euros, from the first ATM outside. Sure enough, and it was that easy. Above the bank is a high-rise four star hotel, but behind me was a red brick hotel, called, imaginatively enough, the red brick hotel. 5,500 Lek got me a room, breakfast, and my laundry washed and ironed – it’s just been delivered to my room.Which is a great room; here’s the view from it’s window.
Once booked in and laundry organised, I took a walk. Took a look at the castlecastle, but I really couldn’t face the climb up to it. I’m not walking well, and it took me 50 minutes to get to the road leading up to it.
So; back into the centre. Lots of street vendors –
some with little to sell, really. A mosque or two:-
and endless rows of really shitty social (?) housing. Here’s a typical one –
Every other shop is a cafe – few of which serve food; just beers and coffee. Hundreds and hundreds of men sit at these – obviously unemployed – and watch the world walk by. Those that aren’t in the cafes are sat in groups under trees in the parks. I think I’m the only non-local in town too.
I found a bakery that made me two cheese and cucumber rolls – the only other food I could find was from the kebab shops, and I could no longer afford a restaurant – down to 700 lek after a couple of coffees, a glass of red and the two rolls, plus donations to some of the beggars – dozens of them, all with a child or two under the age of four. Not much social security here.
Just East of my hotel is the university, and a suburb surrounding it bubbling with youth and vitality. There is hope.
I’ll be glad to get to the coast again, and not just for a wider range of foods that I can eat. Albania has scenery coming out of it’s watoozie, but has massive pollution, an amazing litter problem, and poverty like you cannot believe. I’ve had some great cycling days here though; dunno if I’ll see solitude on this trip like I did in the mountains between Bourazani and Fier. And it’s on track to join the EC – the four poorest countries (PIGS) will become PAIGS. I Don’t know how Germany and France will hold it all together, especially as Britain is leaving.
See you down the road.