"Don't lock your bike - nicht festbinden" shouts Alberty. "It's safe here!"
Haha, as if! I'm even gonna lock my bike when I'm sitting in a cafe right next to it!
Moments later I'm being led into a bar, surrounded by grim looking guys, most of whom could work a security job in a Western night club. It's Alberty's extended family. How did I get here?

I had just come to Durres from Bari the day before. The ferry ride had been surprisingly comfortable (despite horrific reviews of my carrier, Ventouris ferries, on Google) and after spending a day and a night acclimatising in Durres I am continuing my journey in Albania.

The GPS track out of Durres does not exactly lead me through the nicest part though: the canal along the main road (which is a dirt/gravel road) is filled with trash. At one point when I'm contemplating to cross the canal via a sketchy looking bridge, a guy warns me.

Impressions from Durres

- "That's no good. Don't cross here. Better go this way... Where are you from?"
Turns out he speaks German and has actually lived in Germany for a few months and he quickly invites me to join him for a coffee down the road.

Sitting in the cafe/bar now, the communication isn't all that fluent (nobody else speaks German or English) and I'm asked every now and then to tell them about my travel and plans so far, which Alberty translates into Albanian. After about 30 minutes I'm anxious to get going--I wanna reach Tirana today!

"Don't talk to other people on your way", Alberty warns me when I'm leaving. "Be careful. They're all a little bit crazy.".

Kembimi pjese

I fight my way through terrible roads: on one particular road, all manhole covers are missing and I have to watch out not to accidentally steer my 50kg bicycle into a giant hole. For a (very) brief moment I wish I was still on Italian roads.

The first word of Albanian I learn is "Kembini". If my Google research is correct it means "parts". Car parts, more specifically. On the way to Tirana I'm passing dozens of car part dealers, the majority of which specialize in Mercedes Benz. Anyhow it seems like the country has the highest Mercedes car density -- mostly older models, of course, probably imported from EU and refurbished.

In Tirana I spend a few nights doing touristy stuff, walking around the city, chatting up other cyclists at the hostel, enjoying the Albanian cuisine and petting the 4 hostel kittens. Overall I'm quite positively surprised of Albania so far: despite the obvious poverty (especially in rural parts or a bit off the city center) people are friendly and seem a bit more relaxed than in Italy. Also, many speak English.

Impressions from Tirane

On August 21 I've petted enough cats

In the morning I fill up my water bottles and continue to Elbasan...