As you’ve seen from our border crossing / shipping post, we made it to Europe and Greece. And even if Israel in some ways felt quite European, arriving in Greece definitely took the edge of the adventure level. We quickly decided to skip the “easy” route involving a ferry to Italy and driving north on Italian highways, and instead went for the road up along the Adriatic Sea through the Balcans. Before leaving Greece we stopped for a few days on the beach on the Peloponnese Peninsula.
On the way out to the peninsula we drove across the Corinth Canal, first started in the first century AD, but not finished until 1883. And with this canal cutting 6,2 kilometers through the base the peninsula, it is now, technically speaking, an island.
Our final stop in Greece before crossing the border to Albania, is the impressive and slightly surreal tourist attraction, Meteora. These monasteries were built in the 16th century, so it is not that they are very old (from a European point of view… (but it is almost as old as Machu Pichu)), but the locations are incredible. Yes, that is a real building, and it is a BIG house!
New for us are the crowds of tourists. We were expecting them in Egypt, but as you know we hardly saw any even at the main tourist attractions. Here in Greece it is bus load after bus load, and we fear that it is going to get worse as we drive north along the Adriatic coast towards Central Europe.
Crossing borders in Europe is very different from what we have been through the last couple of years. Even crossing from Greece to Albania, which is not in the European Union (or EEC), it took us only a few minutes. The road changed instantly driving into Albania, and the feeling of adventure was back.
On our map we were following a road marked as a “secondary road”. It was narrow, but the surface was good, and we were doing good time. At one point we were looking for a place to stop for the night, but we saw no obvious places. Normal procedure is then to start asking, but looking at the map we had only about a hundred kilometers left to Berat, the town we were driving towards. We decided to keep going. That became quite interesting. The road got worse, and soon we were on a 4x4 trail. A nice feeling of course, but it was slow going and it was getting dark. We kept going and arrived in Berat around nine o’clock.
Berat is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and we wanted to spend a day visiting the old castle and walk around in the old narrow streets. We were looking for a backpacker hostel we found in our guide book, but luck had it we stopped at one of the first hotels to ask for directions. Malin went in to ask, but came back out telling me we were booked in. It was a fantastic, small hotel, just opened, and not too expensive. It also had one of the best Italian restaurants we’ve ever tried. Are you going to Berat, check in to Hotel Muzaka (south bank)!
Roads were better from here, and after a stop on the coast on our way north, we drove back inland to the Theth Mountains.
Again, the roads quickly turn into rough gravel roads as soon as you leave the main highways. It is not like a technical offroad trail, but very nice to have a 4x4, or at least solid ground clearance.
This is not a very developed area, and you think this is how the Alps must have been before all the hotels and gondolas came around. Visiting some of these places in the mountains is almost like stepping back in time. Wouldn’t mind going back to Theth to explore more of this area, but now we are on our way to Montenegro…