Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The road to Berat

I'm behind on blogging already, since we're sitting here by the beach in Himare already, after two nights in Berat I haven't told you about yet. I'm going to stay behind, since before dinner I just have time for a quick post about the drive from Tirana to Berat. It's okay though, we have some lazy beach days scheduled, so I'll be able to catch up then. 

We left Tirana about midday on Sunday to drive more or less straight down the country to Berat. The GPS suggested going all the way across to the coast, down and then inland again, but I wanted to drive right down the middle since we were planning to spend quite a bit of time on the coast anyway and I thought it would be more interesting to see the interior as well. 

Although most of the roads were paved and in a reasonable condition, we got a sense of why the GPS told us to take the coastal route when we turned off the highway on to a narrow, basically single-lane road. Which proceeded to twist and turn through the hilly landscape, at times on gradients that just have been at least 20%. The car engine was screaming as we went up some of these - I didn't have the presence of mind to take any photos to show how steep it was, I was just praying we'd get up the hill. Add in people walking along the sides of the road, occasional chickens, dogs and donkeys, and Albanians not quite grasping the concept of lanes, and you have the makings of an interesting trip. Oh, and did I mention it was raining?

Luckily, the gorgeous landscape made up for the moments of terror, and while they seem prone to weave all over the road, overtaking on blind corners or pulling out into oncoming traffic to drive around a pothole or donkey cart, luckily the back roads have the advantage of being very quiet for the most part. Plus the abysmal condition of some of the roads mean that you can't drive very fast anyway, although never has 50 km/h felt faster than at some points en route. (Sorry for freaking you out, mum.) 

Jules was a hero, as usual, and we arrived in Berat some hours later in one piece but definitely in need of a sit-down and a drink!

Spot the cool oldie-timey haystacks in the foreground?

I don't know if the photos do it justice, but at times you could swear you were driving through the hilly Tuscan countryside or something. Or what I imagine the hilly Tuscan countryside to look like, Florence is the closest I've got to it. 

Shortly before driving down that road looping down the hillside. 

You wouldn't know it from some of the other photos, but it really was raining quite hard at times. This photo shows the state of the road a bit better. 

This was a park in Berat, showing the after-effects of the rain. Fingers crossed, it's sunshine from now on, but the landscape is obviously quite green, so I suppose it rains more often than I would have thought. 

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