Leaving Montenegro to Albania.
Today is the day of leaving Montenegro, my fourth country, to reach Albania that will be my fifth one.
Due to the fact that I will take the train from Nikšić to Podgorica and then from there the bus to Shkodër, the only direct one per day, I have a a big incognita. Would I arrive on time or the delay of the train will force me to reach Albania through some complicate route to the border and beyond with several mean of transports? I don’t have yet the answer but some disquieting hint is waiting for me at the railway station. As yesterday, even today the train to Podgorica is late, by 10-15 minutes they say but in the end is more. Train leaves the station with a 25-minute delay. This means that without additional delay, I will have about 10 minutes to find the bus station (I know is close to the railway station), to buy the ticket and to take the bus. It would be enough? There will be more delay? In spite of these questions I try to enjoy the trip. I’m always happy when I can use the train and this one has also clean window so I can see the landscape outside. I notice that the train slow down and stops not only when it reaches the stations but also in other less understandable occasions. In the end I realise something that looks crazy to me. In Montenegro are the trains, or at least this one, that stops at the rail crossings, not the cars! No idea about the reason. However, Podgorica is not so far and the train seems not to have any additional delay. Just few kilometres before I see the ruins of the roman town of Doclea. You can see a picture on the left. Once arrived I find immediately the bus station that is actually in the same square and I can do all I need in time to jump in the bus and head to Albania. Border, that is on lakeside, is quite busy and controls, especially on Albania side are long, so it takes about half an hour to be officially in the Albanian territory but from here in another half hour I’m finally in Shkoder.
My hotel is really in the centre of the town, close to a roundabout with a peculiar monument in the middle made in the shape of organ pipes vaguely reminding the Sibelius monument in Helsinki. In this area there is also the Clock tower and the town theatre called Migjeni. Just few hundred meters from here it can be found the main pedestrian street. Very nice, full of café and restaurants with tables outside. As a confirmation of the Albanian multiconfessional approach, around here there are three places of worship. The Great Mosque is just at the beginning of the street, a little behind there is the Orthodox Cathedral and in a side street there is a Catholic church belonging to the Franciscan order. On the pedestrian street, called Rruga Kolë Idromeno there is also the Marubi museum collecting old pictures of Shkodër made by an Italian but for me museums have always a lower priority when the sun is shining and today is an absolutely spectacular day and however on weekends the museum is closed. I look for a tourist info. According to a website, there should be one close to the mosque but no traces of it, it seems having been replaced by a panel with a map and a list of the main sights of the town. However it is enough to allow me to define next steps. I take a quick break for eating the local street food specialty called byrek and pronounced roughly bee-yurek. This one is different from the Jugoslavian one having almost same name. This one is made with puff pastry and it is filled with leek.
After the break I head to south to go to see the two most important tourist attractions in Shkodër.
The fortress & the mosque.
From the centre, there is a long street leading to the lake Skadar. It takes two kilometres to reach the area where my goal is. I’m referring to the fortress locally known as Rozafa and the lead mosque. Before I can see two other mosques. One is painted in yellow and I can’t say I like it. Second one, apparently much older and including also a Madrasa has beautiful decorations that remind me of Šarena mosque in Tetovo, Macedonia. That mosque is famous because they used 30.000 eggs for preparing the paint. If eggs were used even here, I don’t know. There should be also a local bus to get closer to the fortress but in the end is a 2,5 kilometres distance that is quite walkable for me. Fortress, as expected is on a hill and it dominates the town that is completely flat so to justify the wide use of the ubiquitous bikes as a mean of transport.
Climbing up to the fortress I see the lead mosque (Xhamia e Plumbit). I like it very much. It is set on large meadow, in a small valley, with lake Skadar on the horizon. It was built in the Eighteenth Century and strangely wasn’t destroyed during Hoxha regime. There’s no one here. I can enter and visit it in full peace. After the mosque it’s time for the fortress. Ticket is 200 Albania Lek, about 1,5 Euro. There is a legend about the name. It is said it comes from the name of lady that was enclosed in the walls as a sort of sacrifice to gods as a guarantee of solidity. The lady asked to have holes in the wall to let her breastfeed her sons. Nowadays, it seems that women are still coming here to wet their breasts with some milky water coming out of the walls. I didn’t see any milky water and any breast, however :-).
The fortress is huge and it is made of several levels. Visit requires at least one hour and from here there are great views on the town, the lake and the lead mosque. In the end, a very beautiful sight not to be missed.
Back to town and evening.
I walk back to the town still not using any bus. I know already the route. I walk again a little bit in the city centre and I keep appreciating the lively atmosphere of this town.
For dinner, after Nikšić meat I need something different and knowing that I can rely on Albanian cooks for Italian dishes, for the first time in my trip, I choose to eat pasta.
Here, as usual, my photo gallery.