We wait about two hours on the Montenegro border – A journey through Albania – Karolina Siwicka


We wait about two hours on the Montenegro border. Frayed flags of the European Union are flying. Montenegro is not in the European Union, which did not prevent it from using its currency. We are entering Albania.
Immediately after crossing the border, we are attacked by the air that’s irritating throat and eyes. Our smog is a piece of cake. It is getting worse and we understand that this is the air that will accompany us for the next few days. We close the windows. We turn off the vents. The road that was supposed to be a highway escapes the accepted definition. From the moment we exit the border, we take part in the Albanian GTA. We pass carts harnessed by donkeys, cyclists going against the tide, every dozen meters at the road burn ubiquitous garbage, geese and chickens are walking along the length and breadth of the highway. After an hour of acclimatization with the surroundings, nothing is surprising anymore.
We are heading south. Every fifty meters alternately with abandoned hotels, there are gas stations. They seem to be the surrounding place of worship. It is where you eat, meet and wait. We already know that on the road the first one is the best, and the roundabout is a turbine revolving without rules. We came here seduced by opinions about the Albanian mountains and seas, about a country that has not yet been crushed by the tourism, and we only dream that our eyes will stop pinching and to see at least one roadside that is not a rubbish dump...

Albania is still struggling with a period of long-term ban and isolation. Bunkers and vacant spaces contrast with the brand new Mercedes on the road – it seems to be almost the only type of car appearing on the roads, whether it’s a village or a city. In addition to Moldova and Serbia, Albania is one of the poorest countries in Europe, and in extreme poverty, almost 25% of the population lives. Income from the black market is up to 50%. Broadly understood agriculture is the most important sector of the still underdeveloped economy. Many people also go to work abroad, especially to Germany, hence these Mercedes on the roads. After many years of seclusion, Albania is opening up to the development of international tourism, and the number of people visiting this country is over one million a year.

Finally we are charmed by the views; reserve Rezome ahead of us. The landscape is greedily needed after the dose of the smell of burnt plastic. The visual feast begins. We reach a state of euphoria before Saranda. Misty mountain peaks, shimmering with a maroon-green-gold sequence. On the other hand, rotting carpets of roadside garbage give way to more and more often appearing crosses, which in the majesty of nature, order to slow down the car.

Ksamil at the end of October turned out to be a deserted and peaceful place. The small village, which in the season scared the crowd of tourists, was strikingly calm. We came to the coast and I had the impression that someone stretched out a lively 3D image straight from Photoshop. We accidentally hit the beach with a meaningful name Bora Bora Beach! From the dumps of roadside trash, we were thrown directly into the Bounty 90 advertising. The clear and sandy coast gently falling down, joining with the azure sea. The palms highlight the Mediterranean landscape. The horizon, on which distant green islands are visible, regenerates our eyes. Fries never tasted so good. A fat red cat walks around the folded deckchairs. The season is over. We can all breathe. The cat, the lady who sells fries, and us.


Soon a heavy belt of clouds appeared in the sky, it was cold, the storm was coming.
We arrive to Greece, clean air, clear sky, November: 18 degrees..
>>Karolina Siwicka - comes from Silesia, culture anthropologist. Prefer animal above the man. Emigrant since many many years. Likes traveling and various cosmoses. Writes and photographs.<<