Land Rover Defender 110

Frank & Steffi in Albania
Albania - That's where?
2019 / 06

"It was a cold, foggy night. Our train screetched to a halt at a small, dimly lit platform near the border. Men in black trench coats entered our coach, blocking all exits. "Passport!". Quickly we handed our Western German documents. We had our visa. We had nothing to fear. And yet we did. A grim inspection later, we held our valuable IDs back in our hands. When the Yugoslavian border officials left, we heard a scream from the platform. A young blond woman was dragged out of the coach next to us. We saw her being carried away, crying, by two trench coats, as our train started to continue its journey through the Iron Curtain..."

These are my memories from the last time I travelled through the Balkan states in the south-east of Europe. It was 1987 and our school class was on a train from northern (West-) Germany to Turkey. Cheapest route was a 48-hours non-stop trip right through Yugoslavia. The state was part of the Sovjet bloc, which to us kids was Dark Territory. Albania, well, that was even more remote and largely associated with criminals and loony rulers.

Getting There...

More than 30 years later our journey to Albania would be much more relaxed. Meanwhile Yugoslavia has splintered into Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia. From where we live, Albania is a 2000km road trip through six countries, so let's look into that first.

Day 1: 700km / 7h20 driving / 1h20 breaks
no motorway speed limit

Downpour almost the entire day. We stayed at a camp site just behind the Austrian border.

Day 2: 560km / 6h45 driving / 1h15 breaks
130 km/h motorway speed limit

130 km/h motorway speed limit

non EU
130 km/h motorway speed limit

Although not member of the EU, there are no border controls with EU countries.

Bosnia and Herzegovina
non EU
non Schengen
130 km/h motorway speed limit
Green Card required (at border)

Yes, BIH still have the Mark currency. While it is not called Deutsche Mark but Konvertible Mark, its value is exactly what the Deutsche Mark was: 1.95583 KM = 1€. Very easy to handle for us German guys :-)

Downpour almost the entire day. Very small camp site. Great dinner at a nearby restaurant. We couldn't understand the menu but the owner pointed at an entry and said it was one pound of meat for two. It was probably one pound
each. Delicious.

Day 3: 310km / 5h30 driving / 1h30 breaks
We took a scenic route through Bosnia and Herzegovina and did some sightseeing in

Day 4: 85km / 2h30 driving / 1h15 breaks
non EU
non Schengen
no motorways :-)

Not member of the EU or Schengen, but they have the Euro.

The further east you get, the slower you make progress. Partly because of size and state of the roads, partly because you enjoy the landscape. After a short drive we found a camp site and took a hike in the Durmitor NP.

(click to enlarge)

Day 5: 185km / 4h10 driving / 1h20 breaks
non EU
non Schengen
120 km/h motorway speed limit
Green Card required (at border)

Careful: currency is the Lek, the new Lek. There also is the old Lek, in people's minds. Which is ten times the new Lek. If you are asked a price way too high, it's probably not a rip-off but just old Lek. If you then only pay 1/10 of the price asked (in new Lek), no one will be angry. And don't give a tip. It's considered rude. I like that.

Most of the driving was still in Montenegro. In Albania we took camp in beautifully secluded Vermosh valley.
Next day it took us 2h30 plus 1h30 breaks to drive 85km to Shkodra, where we met our group of 4x4s to spend the coming two weeks with.

So, in total it took us 1860 km in five days to get into Albania, with about 33 hours on the road, including six to seven hours of breaks.

... and Back Again

Greece: Good bakeries and bread - who would've thought ;-) Ferry from Igoumenitsa to Ancona, Italy.
Italy: Complete chaos abord the ferry's car deck, when "everyone" tried to drive off at once... Traffic jam for miles from harbour into the city... Highways and motorways in a dreadful state, where you voluntarily stick to speed limits for your own sake... Later that evening we were headed for a farm camp site (agriturismo). Driving only 7 km/h above the country road speed limit of 70 km/h earned us a nice colour photography for 60€ only...