The bus ride down south towards Saranda went slow. As experienced before, there's no chance for cars to go fast on the curvy roads alongside the coast. But that's more than okay. The views are just beautiful and totally worth it to take some time. The bus stopped at a small restaurant half way which gave me the opportunity to refill my water bottle at the hose outside. It's been another hot but beautiful day and of course the bus didn't have air conditioning. Drinking cool water from the hose felt like heaven to my throat and soul.
Another 1.5 hours later I arrived in the coastal town Saranda nearby the border to Greece. Since I started collecting flyers of hostels since the beginning of this trip I also got one of a place in this town. I heard other travelers saying good things about it before. So walked from the bus station towards the city center. The hostel was easy to find but unfortunately it was fully booked. However, the receptionist told me where to find another hostel nearby. Two boys, probably 13 years old, insisted escorting me to the other hostel. I expected them to ask for a tip when we arrived. However, I didn't even have the chance to give them something. Instead, and to my surprise, they just ran away the moment I hit the doorbell. Since the hostels entrance was in a quite sketchy side road I expected something unpleasant to happen now anyways - like getting mugged. I felt some nervousness coming up inside of me and were watching out for someone or something strange around me. However, no one was waiting for me around the corner to mug me. It was just two nice boys who were happy to help me. Shame on me! Just expecting the worst!
This hostel also didn't have a free bed available but the receptionist gave me directions to another hostel just a few minutes' walk away. He said: "It's a new place right at the stadium. I didn't hear anything about it yet, so I've no idea what you can expect there". This is how I ended at Hostel Hasta la Vista. Probably the best hostel in Albania.
Although they didn't have a free bed available for me, I convinced the host that I could just sleep in some niche in the corridor until he would have a bed available. Happy that I finally found a place to stay, I dropped my backpack in the laundry room. I spent the day on the beach just chilling, reading and jumping into the water here and there to cool down. I grabbed some beers on my way back to the hostel and sat down on its patio. Just a little bit later a guy with two huge bottles of beer under his arms appeared and asked: 'Can I join you?' Which I happily affirmed. We started talking about our travels and I realized very quickly that we're on the same wavelength. Nick just traveled all the way from Australia to Albania on his motorbike over the past 1.5 years. We kept getting more beers from the kiosk on the side of the road and throughout the night more and more hostel guests joined us until we had a party on the patio. At some point the host came up to me saying: 'I've got some good news for you. I've a bed for you. Someone didn't show up. So you don't need to sleep in the niche on the corridor.' That was good news indeed. And since I knew that all the fun people were staying for a few nights I also decided to stay longer and kept having a good time and enjoying myself.
As expected, I didn't catch the first bus in the morning. The night was just too short and I might had one beer too much. It was an incredibly hot day. The screen at a pharmacy stated 36 degrees Celsius and there was no single cloud to see on the sky. Knowing that the bus won't have aircon I didn't look forward to the ride to Vlore in Albania.
The first mini bus from Ulcinj to Shkoder didn't even have aircon, it didn't even have a free seat for me. Thus I had to sit on a box which was squeezed in between the seats in the aisle. That was definitely something else but comfortable. On the next bus I got lucky and got to sit on a regular seat. Gert - apparently named after Germanys "Bomber der Nation" Gerd Mueller - was sitting next to me. We talked about all the world and his wife until he had to get off the bus somewhere before arriving Tirana. Chatting to him definitely helped me to forget about last night's missing sleep. He even helped me to make sure that I would get on the right bus to Vlore. Cheers mate!
The ride seemed to take forever. Traffic is going slow in Albania, especially alongside the coast. There's only one main road with one lane for each direction. The landscape in this region is also very hilly which also forces cars to go slow. However, going slow also had the advantage to enjoy the beautiful landscape and its views.
About six hours later I finally arrived in Vlore. I hopped on a taxi which dropped me at a small hostel. A group of guests were chilling on the patio and a weed smelling cloud hang over their heads. This hostel was definitely a unique place. People of all ages were around. The oldest guest was around 80 years old. A guy from Philadelphia, USA traveling the Balkans by himself. Very impressive and inspiring! I hope that I'll be able to do that when I reach that age. After checking in and getting some dinner I finally got to catch up the missing sleep.
There are not really sights in Vlore so the hostel host recommended to spend the day on the beach. I asked him how to get there and if he had a free city map. He said: You've two options. Either you take the bus or a bicycle. Just know, the bus will drop you off at the not so nice city beach. If you go by bike then you could go to the nicer beaches outside of the city. That made the decision very easy and I rent a bike for the day. Unfortunately, he didn't have a map so he sat down and just drew one quickly for me. To be honest, I was a bit skeptical about its accuracy but to my surprise it was very accurate. I didn't get lost at any time. Amazing!
There are not many cyclists in Vlore. It actually seemed like I was the only one in town. It also seemed that car drivers are not too used to cyclists on the road. At one point I almost got run over... by a police car. Luckily nothing happened so I could continue my way and spent a nice and relaxing day on the beach.
Since I figured that there's not too much to do and explore in Vlore, I left the next day and headed down south to Sarande.
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