George Johnston: June 22nd

After biking from Kotor to Podgorica I did my laundry, let it dry on the balcony overnight, and slept late to recover from the ride. I was loaded and on the road at 11:00 am. Traffic was a bit heavy toward the border, but GPS directed me off the main road onto a quieter one. Unfortunately it climbed a lot more, too. It rejoined the main road on a down grade so steep I walked, as it would have been difficult to stop at the bottom if I had ridden down. Most of the traffic had stopped at the previous town so the road to the border was quiet. I crossed through both countries border stations with little attention. Montenegro stamped me out and Albania scanned my passport, but didn’t ask any questions or stamp it.

There weren’t any banks or currency changes at the border, so I just biked on a few kilometers. I saw an interesting looking restaurant and stopped for a late lunch of spaghetti and salad with a big bottle of water. It was quite a hot day so I took my time and let it cool down a little before I left the restaurant. I paid with a 20 euro note and got my change in Lek. I checked my GPS and found a Reiffeisen bank in the next village. They are a reliable bank that I had an account with in Romania, so I got about $100 even though they charge about a $6 atm fee. There weren’t any other options in the area. I continued on to the outskirts of Shkoder, but I didn’t find anything at the coordinates I had for the first hostel. I continued into the city and found the tourist office, and they directed to the next hostel which has turned out great. It has been remodeled and is bright and clean. The staff speaks good English, and I’ve had a dorm to myself for two nights. I did some shopping and fixed lunch at the hostel then biked about four km to the Rozafa castle, which, after a 100 m climb, has great views of the city. I finished the day with a supper of veal sausages, green beans, and instant mashed potatoes. Tomorrow I’ll bike six km north of town to the Mesi Bridge, built in 1768, by Albanian master builders under Turkish control. It was very hot today, so I’ll go right after breakfast. I think I’ll stay another day before heading to the capital and much busier city, Tirana. I’m trying to work on Albanian a bit, but so far I’ve found only an Albanian – English phrasebook, which is a little harder to use than the English – Albanian I found in Ohrid, Macedonia three years ago. I hope I can find it in Tirana.

I’m finding one day of travel and three days of local sightseeing is working out well for the third city in a row.

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