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LIVE from the Camino Via Egnatia (towards Jerusalem)

timr

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Several and counting...
Wednesday 24 April 2019
Day 0
I walked the Via Francigena (VF) from Canterbury to Rome in the spring of 2018 and later I walked onward from Rome to Brindisi. Some people call this the VF del Sud but some object to this term. I am neutral on this issue.
If I had stopped in Rome that might have been it. Going beyond Rome, for me, means sort of continuing to Jerusalem. There is no other satisfactory end point. I blogged the first part of my VF (walkingtim.com) but the blog became increasingly arduous for various reasons, technical and social. I continued on Facebook (FB) although I don't really like it. I may one day return to the blog. One reason I dislike FB is that I find it difficult to retrieve information I have seen there, whether from myself or others. Blogs and this forum are better for that I think.
I don't find any great enjoyment in discussing, for instance, whether the road to Brindisi from Rome should be called 'del Sud' or not, and several other contentious issues. But I do find it helpful and interesting to read of others' experience and I have a lot of patience for answering specific questions, as I have benefitted enormously from the generous advice of others. I avoid discussions of bedbugs, blisters, snoring and packing lists (and many other things) but would defend vigorously the right of others to discuss them.
I am a completist, but a non-evangelizing and, I hope, non-judgmental one. I walked every centimetre from Canterbury to Brindisi except the English Channel and the Po ferry. And I cannot bring myself to omit the 'boring' or dangerous(?) bits. Which is why I came to Brindisi when it would have been so much easier to fly to Tirana.
But I need to be practical too. There is no ferry from Brindisi to Durrës at this time of year. It goes to Vlorë, which is too far south. So I flew to Brindisi from Stansted then took bus and train to Bari. (€1.50 + €8.50). Having traveled since before midnight I did nothing in Bari except have lunch.
I walked across the road to the smart looking ferry port with big boats a-plenty only to discover you can not buy your ticket there. You need to go back out on to the road and walk about 3km west to 'the Port' at Marisabella. I'm sure you could get a bus if you wished but I was enjoying the sun. Like most ferryports it is a bit bleak. But you can get a ticket - there appear to be three different companies all sailing a boat at 10pm. There are two small cafés and toilets but quite basic. There were over a hundred bikers heading for Albania tonight all parked there.
At 8pm a little shuttle bus came and brought all the pedestrians back to the ferry port in town. And here you join a noisy queue for immigration (or strictly emigration!) There were hundreds, but when the officials came it was apparent that only a handful were EU citizens and the rest I guess were Albanians.
NOTE: If you had bought your ticket online, or perhaps at a travel agent in town(?), you could, *I presume*, avoid going out to Marisabella and just come straight to main ferryport in town at 8pm as there are no formalities at the other place. The ferry terminal is only a few hundred yards from the church of St Nicolas (of Bari) and the cathedral - a much nicer area to pass the time. And further to the east along the coast road but still in town there is fantastic market on quay of seafood direct from the boats. In October I had half a dozen oysters for €2 or 3 at
I chose Adria Ferries for no particular reason. You get another shuttle to it after you complete immigration whereas you can just walk direct on to Ventouris Ferries. But that's not really an issue. For €41 you get an unassigned 'poltrone' (armchair) in a dim lounge. Berths are available but another €40 or so. There's a bar and cafeteria. It's my second consecutive night without a physical bed. Not ideal but OK.
The Via Egnatia is the old Roman Road from Durrës port to Istanbul. It passes through Albania, the newly named North Macedonia, Greece, and Turkey.
 
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VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/Francés ('16)
Baztanés/Francés ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/?/Invierno ('19)
The Via Egnatia is the old Roman Road from Durrës port to Istanbul. It passes through Albania, the newly named North Macedonia, Greece, and Turkey.
Wow, Tim. How far are you going?
I am in awe.
 

jungleboy

Nick
Camino(s) past & future
Francés (Spring '17)
Primitivo (Spring '18)
Madrid (April '19)
Can’t wait to follow your journey. Best of luck!

I’ve made the Adriatic ferry crossing before in the other direction and slightly further north - from Bar (Montenegro) to Bari.

The main Brindisium-Dyrrachium crossing is steeped in history, especially at the fall of the Roman Republic. Julius Caesar once had half his army stranded on one side due to the Republican blockade during his winter crossing chasing Pompey, and a few years later, Mark Antony and Octavian ferried 19 legions (~95,000 men) across to hunt down Caesar’s assassins. Centuries later, the Norman Robert Guiscard used the route to invade Byzantium, though the eastern port was called Durazzo by that point.

Hopefully there will be fewer casualties during your crossing than there were in the past! ;)
 

timr

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Several and counting...
Can’t wait to follow your journey. Best of luck!

I’ve made the Adriatic ferry crossing before in the other direction and slightly further north - from Bar (Montenegro) to Bari.

The main Brindisium-Dyrrachium crossing is steeped in history, especially at the fall of the Roman Republic. Julius Caesar once had half his army stranded on one side due to the Republican blockade during his winter crossing chasing Pompey, and a few years later, Mark Antony and Octavian ferried 19 legions (~95,000 men) across to hunt down Caesar’s assassins. Centuries later, the Norman Robert Guiscard used the route to invade Byzantium, though the eastern port was called Durazzo by that point.

Hopefully there will be fewer casualties during your crossing than there were in the past! ;)
Thanks Nick,that is very interesting. I must read more. I was a bit disappointed not to be able to cross from Brindisi. I think it is possible in high season.
The multitude of names for a single location here abouts is a great reminder of history. Today I will just walk to Golem.
 

Harington

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Vézelay/Francés 2011, Primitivo 2012, VdlP 2013, Via Domitia 2014, Inglés 2015, Francigena 2016
Wednesday 24 April 2019
Day 0
I walked the Via Francigena (VF) from Canterbury to Rome in the spring of 2018 and later I walked onward from Rome to Brindisi. Some people call this the VF del Sud but some object to this term. I am neutral on this issue.
If I had stopped in Rome that might have been it. Going beyond Rome, for me, means sort of continuing to Jerusalem. There is no other satisfactory end point. I blogged the first part of my VF (walkingtim.com) but the blog became increasingly arduous for various reasons, technical and social. I continued on Facebook (FB) although I don't really like it. I may one day return to the blog. One reason I dislike FB is that I find it difficult to retrieve information I have seen there, whether from myself or others. Blogs and this forum are better for that I think.
I don't find any great enjoyment in discussing, for instance, whether the road to Brindisi from Rome should be called 'del Sud' or not, and several other contentious issues. But I do find it helpful and interesting to read of others' experience and I have a lot of patience for answering specific questions, as I have benefitted enormously from the generous advice of others. I avoid discussions of bedbugs, blisters, snoring and packing lists (and many other things) but would defend vigorously the right of others to discuss them.
I am a completist, but a non-evangelizing and, I hope, non-judgmental one. I walked every centimetre from Canterbury to Brindisi except the English Channel and the Po ferry. And I cannot bring myself to omit the 'boring' or dangerous(?) bits. Which is why I came to Brindisi when it would have been so much easier to fly to Tirana.
But I need to be practical too. There is no ferry from Brindisi to Durrës at this time of year. It goes to Vlorë, which is too far south. So I flew to Brindisi from Stansted then took bus and train to Bari. (€1.50 + €8.50). Having traveled since before midnight I did nothing in Bari except have lunch.
I walked across the road to the smart looking ferry port with big boats a-plenty only to discover you can not buy your ticket there. You need to go back out on to the road and walk about 3km west to 'the Port' at Marisabella. I'm sure you could get a bus if you wished but I was enjoying the sun. Like most ferryports it is a bit bleak. But you can get a ticket - there appear to be three different companies all sailing a boat at 10pm. There are two small cafés and toilets but quite basic. There were over a hundred bikers heading for Albania tonight all parked there.
At 8pm a little shuttle bus came and brought all the pedestrians back to the ferry port in town. And here you join a noisy queue for immigration (or strictly emigration!) There were hundreds, but when the officials came it was apparent that only a handful were EU citizens and the rest I guess were Albanians.
NOTE: If you had bought your ticket online, or perhaps at a travel agent in town(?), you could, *I presume*, avoid going out to Marisabella and just come straight to main ferryport in town at 8pm as there are no formalities at the other place. The ferry terminal is only a few hundred yards from the church of St Nicolas (of Bari) and the cathedral - a much nicer area to pass the time. And further to the east along the coast road but still in town there is fantastic market on quay of seafood direct from the boats. In October I had half a dozen oysters for €2 or 3 at
I chose Adria Ferries for no particular reason. You get another shuttle to it after you complete immigration whereas you can just walk direct on to Ventouris Ferries. But that's not really an issue. For €41 you get an unassigned 'poltrone' (armchair) in a dim lounge. Berths are available but another €40 or so. There's a bar and cafeteria. It's my second consecutive night without a physical bed. Not ideal but OK.
The Via Egnatia is the old Roman Road from Durrës port to Istanbul. It passes through Albania, the newly named North Macedonia, Greece, and Turkey.
God speed and buon cammino plus whatever that is in Albanian.
 

timr

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Several and counting...
Thursday 25th April 2019
Day 1
Durrës to Golem 16km
The boat was the Adria and we boarded about 8pm. Several hundred people standing in line, which divided into EU and non-EU. Only about 20 EU members. The remainder I presume were Albanians.

The boat was large and looked seaworthy as much as one can tell. We entered through the car entrance and then up several flights of stairs to find my 'poltrone' or armchair. They were in a dimly lot low-roofed lounge. I bagged two seats in a rear corner. The boat was due to leave at 10pm but was still more at midnight - an announcement in English, Albanian and Italian seemed to mention 'apologies' and 'customs' but was equally incomprehensible in all three languages.

There was a bar - full of jollity, and a self-service restaurant, with rather unappealing looking food.
The poltrone lounge was extremely cold on account of air conditioning and although I snoozed a little I was woken up when we set sail as the engines were really very noisy. I got out my sleeping bag and lay on the floor and slept soundly for about five hours. People were reasonably quiet, and I always sleep easily. There was good coffee and croissants in the bar.

By 10am we docked in Durrës and after minimal formalities I was in the old port centre. On reflection, the boat was fine and good value for €41. Not the luxury end of the market though! There were cabins available if you wished.

Durrës port bussles, and bristles with history but I was tired and hungry and needed to get on the road. I got lekë from an ATM at the second bank I tried and got a local SIM from Vodafone very easily very cheaply. As Albania is not in EU roaming would be prohibitively expensive.

The road out was easy to find - basically head to beach and then turn left and head south. I walked on beach at times and moved into road at others. The beach was nice, the growing mass of ugly hotels was not. Plenty of bars and shops. I was endlessly encouraged to take a taxi!

I had lunch in a cheap bar where the owner spoke Italian. There is some English spoken but seems more Italian and German. You need cash to buy anything. Cards rarely accepted.

The last bit into Golem was on a sort of slip road parallel to a railway and motorway. I could see where my BnB was on the far side. Suddenly a voice with a Welsh lilt said behind me "Are you Tim?" That was surprising! It was Rosh my host for the night. He had lived in Cardiff for 12 years. He said he was working on a building nearby (he is a property developer) and saw me and thought I must be his guest. He insisted on driving me the remaining 1km and I agreed. He had built a huge guesthouse about 500m from the beach. Perfect for my needs. His mother and a nephew were there.
I explored the little village of Golem in the evening and had a pizza and slept well.

Over breakfast Rosh was very interesting on Wales and Albania in equal measure. I had found the place on booking.com and my criterion was simply it was the cheapest (€13). Well worth it.

At 9am I hit the road for Memzote.
 
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VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/Francés ('16)
Baztanés/Francés ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/?/Invierno ('19)
This is way more adventure than many of us are up for, so thanks for sharing it with us, Tim.
Buen Camino!...and whatever that it in Albanian (Google Translate says "rrugë të mirë," which is probably gibberish).
 

VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/Francés ('16)
Baztanés/Francés ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/?/Invierno ('19)
I just looked out of curiosity...
'Udhëtim i mirë' means 'good journey,' which under the circumstances may be more intelligible.
May you have a very good one!
 

lettinggo

Active Member
Hola timr

Thank you for sharing your experiences on this walk.
I am reminded about my InterRail travels by train in the 80' all over Europe and the adventurous and open mind of the youth.
To leave home and go explore the world.
Of course back then everything was new so it was a learning proces and to experience that one could handle matters and find a way through problems, made one self grow as a person.
I sense that what you are undertaking can have a similar notion, but still there is one major difference.
Age.

As a young person you meet other young experiencing the same things and together you help each other.
As a middel age (I hope this is a fair assesment :)) person I think it can be far more difficult to make contact with strangers. Especially with language and cultural barriers.
But of course it doesn't have to be so. It is all in our way of seeing things and our own self perception.

On our Caminos we form groups, ties, families with fellow pilgrims - gain experiences that theere is a kindness in most people.
On your travel you seem of the grid - who do you meet and form ties with? How do you gain a feeling of safety and connectivity?
I find it inspiring to reflect on these qustions and will look forward to hear more about your experiences.

All the very best and I hope that you will be meet with curiosity and kindness.
Lettinggo
 

kazrobbo

Tassie Kaz
Camino(s) past & future
CF(2012)
Portugues, Muxia-Finist(2015)
St Olavs Way(2016)
88 Temples Japan(2017)
PWC & VF (2019)
Thursday 25th April 2019
Day 1
Durrës to Golem 16km
The boat was the Adria and we boarded about 8pm. Several hundred people standing in line, which divided into EU and non-EU. Only about 20 EU members. The remainder I presume were Albanians.

The boat was large and looked seaworthy as much as one can tell. We entered through the car entrance and then up several flights of stairs to find my 'poltrone' or armchair. They were in a dimly lot low-roofed lounge. I bagged two seats in a rear corner. The boat was due to leave at 10pm but was still more at midnight - an announcement in English, Albanian and Italian seemed to mention 'apologies' and 'customs' but was equally incomprehensible in all three languages.

There was a bar - full of jollity, and a self-service restaurant, with rather unappealing looking food.
The poltrone lounge was extremely cold on account of air conditioning and although I snoozed a little I was woken up when we set sail as the engines were really very noisy. I got out my sleeping bag and lay on the floor and slept soundly for about five hours. People were reasonably quiet, and I also easily. There was good coffee and croissants in the bar.

By 10am we docked in Durrës and after minimal formalities I was in the old port centre. On reflection, the boat was fine and good value for €41. Not the luxury end of the market though! There were cabins available if you wished.

Durrës port bussles, and bristles with history but I was tired and hungry and needed to get on the road. I got lekë from an ATM at the second bank I tried and got a local SIM from Vodafone very easily very cheaply. As Albania is not in EU roaming would be prohibitively expensive.

The road out was easy to find - basically head to beach and then turn left and head south. I walked on beach at times and moved into road at others. The beach was nice, the growing mass of ugly hotels was not. Plenty of bars and shops. I was endlessly encouraged to take a taxi!

I had lunch in a cheap bar where the owner spoke Italian. There is some English spoken but seems more Italian and German. You need cash to buy anything. Cards rarely accepted.

The last bit into Golem was on a sort of slip road parallel to a railway and motorway. I could see where my BnB was on the far side. Suddenly a voice with a Welsh lilt said behind me "Are you Tim?" That was surprising! It was Rosh my host for the night. He had lived in Cardiff for 12 years. He said he was working on a building nearby (he is a property developer) and saw me and thought I must be his guest. He insisted on driving me the remaining 1km and I agreed. He had built a huge guesthouse about 500m from the beach. Perfect for my needs. His mother and a nephew were there.
I explored the little village of Golem in the evening and had a pizza and slept well.

Over breakfast Rosh was very interesting on Wales and Albania in equal measure. I had found the place on booking.com and my criterion was simply it was the cheapest (€13). Well worth it.

At 9am I hit the road for Memzote.
Wow Tim...what an extraordinary experience & undertaking. Enthralling reading. My head is spinning just thinking of the complexity involved. I & many others will be hanging on every word & behind you every step.
Safe walking & thanks for sharing a journey that fires the imagination.
Take care.
👣 🌏
 

timr

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Several and counting...
Hola timr

Thank you for sharing your experiences on this walk.
I am reminded about my InterRail travels by train in the 80' all over Europe and the adventurous and open mind of the youth.
To leave home and go explore the world.
Of course back then everything was new so it was a learning proces and to experience that one could handle matters and find a way through problems, made one self grow as a person.
I sense that what you are undertaking can have a similar notion, but still there is one major difference.
Age.

As a young person you meet other young experiencing the same things and together you help each other.
As a middel age (I hope this is a fair assesment :)) person I think it can be far more difficult to make contact with strangers. Especially with language and cultural barriers.
But of course it doesn't have to be so. It is all in our way of seeing things and our own self perception.

On our Caminos we form groups, ties, families with fellow pilgrims - gain experiences that theere is a kindness in most people.
On your travel you seem of the grid - who do you meet and form ties with? How do you gain a feeling of safety and connectivity?
I find it inspiring to reflect on these qustions and will look forward to hear more about your experiences.

All the very best and I hope that you will be meet with curiosity and kindness.
Lettinggo
Thanks very much.😀😀 Yes I agree with much of what you say, except that 'middle aged' is a bit over generous, unless I live to be 110 maybe😀. I enjoy being alone and off the grid. Perhaps specifically I try to overcome this by learning languages, even a bit. I don't mind 'Camino families' but I never look for one. And I have no problem with traveling companions if they appear. After a few Caminos I learned Spanish so I was not dependent on fellow pilgrims but could enjoy chatting to local people. I usually walk in low season. I used French and Italian throughout my VF last year, and I met plenty of local people to talk with. I don't want to know only how to order a beer and find the toilet. It is hard work but rewarding. I am not a super-linguist but I'm willing to try.
Here in Albania I can manage with Italian. I stayed, at their invitation, with a Muslim family last night. I met most of the village and we talked long about religion and politics (I am a Catholic priest) and many lighter topics. I'm not sure how I will manage in Macedonia!
I've been learning Greek since Christmas and will plan to learn Turkish before I continue beyond Istanbul, later in the year.
There were easier aspects of inter rail long ago, but I'm not sure I'd go back in time if I had the chance! 😀😀😀
 

timr

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Several and counting...
Friday 26th April
Day 2
From Golem to Memzote. 21km
NOTE I am also writing on FB but this is more expanded version. Take your pick! 😀

Within 10 minutes you have left the 'city' behind and are heading out on an open road. It is a tarred road, in the beginning but there is really no traffic! I'm using GPS trails on my phone. And I have a Dutch book linked to these trails. It is 'Via Egnatia on foot' by Marietta van Attekum and Holger de Bruin. It's in English. Obtainable from www.viaegnatiafoundation.eu They supply the gpx files on condition you do not share them, which is reasonable I think, given they are a charitable foundation working to promote and develop the route, working with local partners. Having said that, my own trace is recorded daily (including getting lost) on Strava under my name.

Being very dependent on GPS brings added difficulties I will come back to.
Navigation otherwise very difficult....tiny villages have no names and I haven't seen any kind of signpost anywhere.

I took the shorter 'dry weather' route which soon headed into the hills. Would be difficult if wet. There is a fair bit of fording of streams!

I can say 'good day' and 'good morning' and people in the fields are happy to respond. No one much has English but quite a good bit of Italian spoken.

I met two old men riding donkeys. A donkey could set you back €1000 I was told. I wonder could that possibly be true? But certainly it would give you some status. I saw ponies and traps as well. And occasionally funny little tractors that looked like they were powered by a lawnmower engine.

I found a little bar in a place which is called Helmas and had a coffee - Turkish style with lots of sugar. The host refused to accept payment. I got talking to a young man in Italian. He is a nurse in a government clinic and is paid €200/month. It is a poor country, though costs are quite low. But petrol is €1.40 a litre!

After Helmas I took the wet weather route avoiding another ford. My feet were slightly wet from previous episodes. I came upon three men planting trees and one called me and said I could stay the night in the next village. He called his wife and said I was on the way. Up to then I had no plans for the night. There was a hotel further ahead which wpuld have involved crossing a motorway and climbing over the central reservation!

In Memzote (which Google does not know) I met Lindita, Saku's wife and sat in the shop. Italian works well - there's usually someone who can translate into Albanian. Lots of people interviewed me. Everyone was Muslim and interested in why I was here. A young boy took me on a tour of the village including the cemetery. We didn't have one word in common but somehow we both managed to pray for his Granny, to the same God, by slightly different routes.

In the evening we had a barbecue and many visitors came. All male, apart from Lindita! Women stay at home in Albania. One shop and a mosque - that's Memzote. A place of great old fashioned hospitality of the road.

A few thoughts:
  1. It's a very poor country. Infrastructure, like roads, is very basic. I lived in Kenya for many years. Could Albania be poorer? I guess not but certainly the poorest country I've been to in Europe.
  2. I'm thinking it's a hard country for women. They are out in the fields doing manual work and herding castle and goats but otherwise not much to be seen. I don't think that necessarily means they are unhappy.
  3. In Memzote there were lots of cheerful boys in the street playing football. No girls to be seen. My host told me his own primary school girls go to school in Tirana. But not everyone could afford this surely.
  4. It sounds a cliché, but the people are lovely and welcoming.
  5. Bunkers- Enver Hoxha had 700,000 built. Everyone in the country could fit into them! They are everywhere, like a parody of the trulli of Puglia. It's not clear what they were really for our who they would repel! I was told women had to give up there wedding rings to pay for their construction.
  6. There is a new mosque in every village and the muezzin can be heard calling throughout the day. But I've not seen anyone going to a mosque! All religions were banned completely in the Communist era. There are Catholics and Orthodox, but where I am at present is particularly Muslim. The people I've spoken to are very tolerant. All the cemeteries I've seen have Islamic symbolism, though none a very old.
 

kazrobbo

Tassie Kaz
Camino(s) past & future
CF(2012)
Portugues, Muxia-Finist(2015)
St Olavs Way(2016)
88 Temples Japan(2017)
PWC & VF (2019)
Friday 26th April
Day 2
From Golem to Memzote. 21km
NOTE I am also writing on FB but this is more expanded version. Take your pick! 😀

Within 10 minutes you have left the 'city' behind and are heading out on an open road. It is a tarred road, in the beginning but there is really no traffic! I'm using GPS trails on my phone. And I have a Dutch book linked to these trails. It is 'Via Egnatia on foot' by Marietta van Attekum and Holger de Bruin. It's in English. Obtainable from www.viaegnatiafoundation.eu They supply the gpx files on condition you do not share them, which is reasonable I think, given they are a charitable foundation working to promote and develop the route, working with local partners. Having said that, my own trace is recorded daily (including getting lost) on Strava under my name.

Being very dependent on GPS brings added difficulties I will come back to.
Navigation otherwise very difficult....tiny villages have no names and I haven't seen any kind of signpost anywhere.

I took the shorter 'dry weather' route which soon headed into the hills. Would be difficult if wet. There is a fair bit of fording of streams!

I can say 'good day' and 'good morning' and people in the fields are happy to respond. No one much has English but quite a good bit of Italian spoken.

I met two old men riding donkeys. A donkey could set you back €1000 I was told. I wonder could that possibly be true? But certainly it would give you some status. I saw ponies and traps as well. And occasionally funny little tractors that looked like they were powered by a lawnmower engine.

I found a little bar in a place which is called Helmas and had a coffee - Turkish style with lots of sugar. The host refused to accept payment. I got talking to a young man in Italian. He is a nurse in a government clinic and is paid €200/month. It is a poor country, though costs are quite low. But petrol is €1.40 a litre!

After Helmas I took the wet weather route avoiding another ford. My feet were slightly wet from previous episodes. I came upon three men planting trees and one called me and said I could stay the night in the next village. He called his wife and said I was on the way. Up to then I had no plans for the night. There was a hotel further ahead which wpuld have involved crossing a motorway and climbing over the central reservation!

In Memzote (which Google does not know) I met Lindita, Saku's wife and sat in the shop. Italian works well - there's usually someone who can translate into Albanian. Lots of people interviewed me. Everyone was Muslim and interested in why I was here. A young boy took me on a tour of the village including the cemetery. We didn't have one word in common but somehow we both managed to pray for his Granny, to the same God, by slightly different routes.

In the evening we had a barbecue and many visitors came. All male, apart from Lindita! Women stay at home in Albania. One shop and a mosque - that's Memzote. A place of great old fashioned hospitality of the road.

A few thoughts:
  1. It's a very poor country. Infrastructure, like roads, is very basic. I lived in Kenya for many years. Could Albania be poorer? I guess not but certainly the poorest country I've been to in Europe.
  2. I'm thinking it's a hard country for women. They are out in the fields doing manual work and herding castle and goats but otherwise not much to be seen. I don't think that necessarily means they are unhappy.
  3. In Memzote there were lots of cheerful boys in the street playing football. No girls to be seen. My host told me his own primary school girls go to school in Tirana. But not everyone could afford this surely.
  4. It sounds a cliché, but the people are lovely and welcoming.
  5. Bunkers- Enver Hoxha had 700,000 built. Everyone in the country could fit into them! They are everywhere, like a parody of the trulli of Puglia. It's not clear what they were really for our who they would repel! I was told women had to give up there wedding rings to pay for their construction.
  6. There is a new mosque in every village and the muezzin can be heard calling throughout the day. But I've not seen anyone going to a mosque! All religions were banned completely in the Communist era. There are Catholics and Orthodox, but where I am at present is particularly Muslim. The people I've spoken to are very tolerant. All the cemeteries I've seen have Islamic symbolism, though none a very old.
You paint a vivid picture as always Tim. As women are obviously there but not seen, how do you think a female traveller would be viewed/received?
Safe & happy continued travels.
👣 🌏
 

VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/Francés ('16)
Baztanés/Francés ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/?/Invierno ('19)
Take your pick!
Here, definitely.:)

As women are obviously there but not seen, how do you think a female traveller would be viewed/received?
My immediate question. Especially a solo female walker...

We didn't have one word in common but somehow we both managed to pray for his Granny, to the same God, by slightly different routes.
Gorgeous. This has made my evening, Tim. Thank you this, and for the vivid post.
 

timr

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Several and counting...
@kazrobbo @VNwalking Yes indeed a very pertinent question and I will keep it under review. My book, half written by a woman, says definitely there is no problem (more than anywhere) for a lone female. I'll post a quote tomorrow.
It's very difficult for me to realise what it is like to be a lone female but there are potentially problems with being a lone older man too. I could be vulnerable, and I'm never going to fight! But I have not felt threatened in 3000km from Canterbury. But I know it is deeply different for women.
Women in the fields - there are many - are happy to say hello. Towns and larger villages are very different to the country. Children will come there and say hello and want to touch your watch, your camera, your phone. You are a bit like a visitor from another planet. They want a photo or a selfie. But in a gentle and innocent way - so far.
Occasionally you hear "money, money" but I have never felt threatened. I've lived a lot in Africa and it is similar in very rural areas there.
I spent today in the town - although it's Sunday I guess it is a weekday here. No sign of any work being done! Lots of men sitting in bars drinking coffee, playing cards or chess. Women selling in the market. Men often speak Italian or German. They can easily go to work there without "papers". The women don't, so very few I can speak do.
I DID see a group of young women (twenties, thirties) together in one bar sipping sodas and would have loved to chat with them, but didn't feel I could, easily.
Genuinely I don't get the impression that the women are oppressed - but that may be presumptuous. Cultures are strong. Saku whom I stayed with in Memzote seemed "traditional" but his wife, who runs the shop, well able to speak for herself. But equally he told me not to clean my shoes or make up the bed, as that was her job. He did do the BBQ. Is it a cultural universal that men do BBQs???😉
I will keep thinking about this....
 
Last edited:
Camino(s) past & future
Frances(2006) portugues(2013)San Salvador (2017)
@kazrobbo @VNwalking Yes indeed a very pertinent question and I will keep it under review. My book, half written by a woman, says definitely there is no problem (more than anywhere) for a lone female. I'll post a quote tomorrow.
It's very difficult for me to realise what it is like to be a lone female but there are potentially problems with being a lone older man too. I could be vulnerable, and I'm never going to fight! But I have not felt threatened in 3000km from Canterbury. But I know it is deeply different for women.
Women in the fields - there are many - are happy to say hello. Towns and larger villages are very different to the country. Children will come there and say hello and want to touch your watch, your camera, your phone. You are a bit like a visitor from another planet. They want a photo or a selfie. But in a gentle and innocent way - so far.
Occasionally you hear "money, money" but I have never felt threatened. I've lived a lot in Africa and it is similar in very rural areas there.
I spent today in the town - although it's Sunday I guess it is a weekday here. No sign of any work being done! Lots of men sitting in bars drinking coffee, playing cards or chess. Women selling in the market. Men often speak Italian or German. They can easily go to work there without "papers". The women don't, so very few I can speak do.
I DID see a group of young women (twenties, thirties) together in one bar sipping sodas and would have loved to chat with them, but didn't feel I could, easily.
Genuinely I don't get the impression that the women are oppressed - but that may be presumptuous. Cultures are strong. Saku whom I stayed with in Memzote seemed "traditional" but his wife, who runs the shop, well able to speak for herself. But equally he told me not to clean my shoes or make up the bed, as that was her job. He did do the BBQ. Is it a cultural universal that men do BBQs???😉
I will keep thinking about this....
Thanks. I know zilch about Albanians, bar one who came to a class I had. A gentle man. Buen Camino, time. Keep safe.
 

VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/Francés ('16)
Baztanés/Francés ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/?/Invierno ('19)
Got it, thanks, Tim.
Some Dutch friends walked in Albania last year and really loved it. But they are a couple, and so I wondered...
One line in there sums it up "they are still expected to behave demurely and stay at home."
This is one edge I would not consider pushing against. And fortunately there are enough caminos in Spain to last the rest of my life.
Buen camino, and good walking today, Tim!
 

timr

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Several and counting...
Got it, thanks, Tim.
Some Dutch friends walked in Albania last year and really loved it. But they are a couple, and so I wondered...
One line in there sums it up "they are still expected to behave demurely and stay at home."
This is one edge I would not consider pushing against. And fortunately there are enough caminos in Spain to last the rest of my life.
Buen camino, and good walking today, Tim!
Yes I know what you mean. This article suggests situation is difficult but maybe not hopeless. http://eca.unwomen.org/en/where-we-are/albania
 

kazrobbo

Tassie Kaz
Camino(s) past & future
CF(2012)
Portugues, Muxia-Finist(2015)
St Olavs Way(2016)
88 Temples Japan(2017)
PWC & VF (2019)

timr

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Several and counting...
@VNwalking @kazrobbo I was in Elbasan yesterday - a university city. A nice cosmopolitan feel and looked like many European cities although being 2000 years old and walled within a castle unique too!
Women looked very 'normal' - smart clothes, ripped jeans, phones, sunglasses etc.
By chance on the path today on a rural track I bumped into three young women and walked about 40 mins with them. All studying nursing in Elbasan. All planning to head off to Germany when they have qualified. Pleasant, cheerful, articulate and forward looking and pleasant company.
 

kazrobbo

Tassie Kaz
Camino(s) past & future
CF(2012)
Portugues, Muxia-Finist(2015)
St Olavs Way(2016)
88 Temples Japan(2017)
PWC & VF (2019)
@VNwalking @kazrobbo I was in Elbasan yesterday - a university city. A nice cosmopolitan feel and looked like many European cities although being 2000 years old and walled within a castle unique too!
Women looked very 'normal' - smart clothes, ripped jeans, phones, sunglasses etc.
By chance on the path today on a rural track I bumped into three young women and walked about 40 mins with them. All studying nursing in Elbasan. All planning to head off to Germany when they have qualified. Pleasant, cheerful, articulate and forward looking and pleasant company.
Thanks for the update Tim...great to know women are enjoying more freedom & choices. I'm interested as to the perspective of a solo female traveller rather than a female citizen. Obviously we would 'stick out' due to clothing, carrying gear & a general 'non-local' look; do you think we would be able to move around freely (& I don't mean 'officially') without undue (& unwanted) attention or additional personal safety risk? I know this is a virtually impossible question for you to even surmise, but just after your gut feeling. As you've already acknowledged, men travel with a completely different mindset to women but you are the best current info source we've got! 😁
Thanks & continued Happy Trails!
👣 🌏
 

timr

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Several and counting...
Thanks for the update Tim...great to know women are enjoying more freedom & choices. I'm interested as to the perspective of a solo female traveller rather than a female citizen. Obviously we would 'stick out' due to clothing, carrying gear & a general 'non-local' look; do you think we would be able to move around freely (& I don't mean 'officially') without undue (& unwanted) attention or additional personal safety risk? I know this is a virtually impossible question for you to even surmise, but just after your gut feeling. As you've already acknowledged, men travel with a completely different mindset to women but you are the best current info source we've got! 😁
Thanks & continued Happy Trails!
👣🌏
Everywhere I have been so far, that would be my intuition. Prefectly safe. If you were ever really considering it, it would be worth discussing with Via Egnatia Foundation people (who produce the book).
 

kazrobbo

Tassie Kaz
Camino(s) past & future
CF(2012)
Portugues, Muxia-Finist(2015)
St Olavs Way(2016)
88 Temples Japan(2017)
PWC & VF (2019)
Everywhere I have been so far, that would be my intuition. Prefectly safe. If you were ever really considering it, it would be worth discussing with Via Egnatia Foundation people (who produce the book).
Thanks Tim. Of course the way women are treated within their own society is a fair indicator of how foreign women may be viewed so your input is invaluable. I am considering Rome to Jerusalem (like you, it seems a natural next step) but its just which route to take & safety is the prime concern even though there are never any guarantees.
👣 🌏
 

VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/Francés ('16)
Baztanés/Francés ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/?/Invierno ('19)
May your walking today be a joy, Tim.
Thanks for the observations - I'm so enjoying seeing a place that I likely never go through your eyes.
 

timr

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Several and counting...
Via Egnatia Day 3
Saturday 27th April
Memzote to Pequin 26km
Again this is my FB post but expanded at the end.
Oh dear! A very hard day. The first 5 km took an hour. The remainjng 21km took another 9 hours. Because of rain!

The day began with coffee and farewell to my hosts. It was cool and dull with rumbling thunder a long way off. The route for the day along a high ridge to the side of a valley. A significant amount of climbing up and down.

The route sticks to footpaths which *often* today were difficult, or even very difficult, to identify as often overgrown. Sometimes very narrow indeed. It would be very difficult to find them without GPS, although you would find the right direction.
The first hour or so, with a significant climb was fine and the ominous rumbles and occasional lightning seemed always behind me and I was moving "into the light" not inappropriately as it is Easter weekend here.

But eventually the rain came. Not torrential, but steady and almost immediately the path was transformed into thick soft mud. This happened astonishingly quickly. I was quite high up and it also became very misty. Not enough to cause confusion but enough to obliterate the main "selling point" of today, the stupendous views in all directions including right back to the coast.

Progress forward was really difficult. The mud very claggy, sticking to shoes and almost pulling then off. And removing all traction. It was rather like skiing - though I have never skied. Or like being in an escalator - you could stand still and slide downhill. Quite steep in parts and very hard to climb.

Add to this the occasional obstruction to the path from a new fenced field and the need to improvise. I had to slither under a barbed wire fence and then climb over one. Fording of streams became wetter! Occasionally road blocked by rain gullies - climb down and find a way out on far side.

I met a few wet people with their animals who were sympathetic. I met a rather drunk young man who asked me for money and shouted a lot but he was harmless. He spoke two more English words!!!

Twice I met loud free dogs but both times kind ladies came and dealt with then.
I was aiming for a railway which I was to walk down but the climb on to the viaduct was impossible so I took the road and finally after 9 and a half hours found a bar with lovely Turkish coffee which as ever I could not persuade him to accept payment for!

Final couple of km to hotel Maçi along road were fine. I passed a Christian church but it looked disused. No signs of any activity for Easter. I asked some children but all they could tell me was that it was a church! It must have been Orthodox I think but disused. Peqin a modest sized town on main road and railway.
I "fell" four or five times not to dramatically - more of a slide backwards or sideways. I was fairly covered in mud by the end.
Really the path not passable in mud! But I was well into my stride when the mud came.
Thoughts
  1. GPS track following is essential. This raises problems. I use my iPhone which works perfectly. But battery life a problem, so I have a back up battery pack for second half of day. OK. BUT rain and iPhones don't go together. I found this in Italy. The power connector when wet corrodes until contact fails. Equally a problem with Poundland version (£1) or Apple original (£15 ?) Though the original lasts longer. I got through about five last year. One had failed already on this trip.
  2. Wet touchscreen very difficult to use. I had to keep doing it to make it register a finger press until eventually I had nothing dry left. Then very hard to use software.
  3. Ah! I have a spare call Android for such eventualities and I used it.
  4. Good thing - GPS works fine in airplane mode so data not an issue.
  5. I occasionally wonder about a dedicated satnav but they are very expensive I think and mono functional.
  6. Hotel Maçi was great. Erion the young owner/manager spoke perfect Italian which helps. Most helpful.
  7. I decided to take a day off and recover from being wet and tired. Never the wrong thing to do. I explored Peqin which didn't take long (!). And had lunch in a tiny Ma and Pa café and several coffees.
  8. Another problem with GPS : you need to be looking at it quite often or even very often which is not good for stability or using poles. I 'kind of' fell four or five times in the mud. Always fairly gently. But it is an issue. If I was seeing our again on that path on a rainy I wouldn't do it- I'd go on road. But looking back now, it was enjoyable. Sadly the rain and mist meant the stupendous views didn't materialise.
  9. Does lightning pick out day-glo wet weather gear???🤔 I met quite a few shepherds along the way. They recommend an umbrella and Wellington boots!
 

KinkyOne

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
I'am not perfect, but I'm always myself!!!
Hi, Tim :)

Only this evening I came over your thread. New adventure for you and I'm happy for it.

I know quite a lot Albanians from Kosovo and (now Northern) Macedonia that live here in Ljubljana and they are all extremely hospitable people. I also know some Macedonians and once entering NM you won't have any problem regarding that. Social/financial situation there might be just a little bit better than in Albania so would the prices be a wee higher. But we're talking 5/10 cents here for a coffee maybe.

Overall in Albania many people speak Italian while in Macedonia it might be more German apart from other Slavic languages from former Yugoslavia (Serbian, Croatian, Slovenian). That's the decades long legacy of men working abroad and sending money home for their families.

But people in Balkans are extremely friendly and I know you'll experience many more nice encounters on your route.

Wish you nice walk and hope to see you again someday!
 

Stripey Socks

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances- 2013,Via de la Plata-2014, Portuguese - 2016, Via Francigena - Italy 2018
This sounds like an amazing and interesting journey. I look forward to following your steps - virtually for now... Take care, Mel
 

timr

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Several and counting...
Hi, Tim :)

Only this evening I came over your thread. New adventure for you and I'm happy for it.

I know quite a lot Albanians from Kosovo and (now Northern) Macedonia that live here in Ljubljana and they are all extremely hospitable people. I also know some Macedonians and once entering NM you won't have any problem regarding that. Social/financial situation there might be just a little bit better than in Albania so would the prices be a wee higher. But we're talking 5/10 cents here for a coffee maybe.

Overall in Albania many people speak Italian while in Macedonia it might be more German apart from other Slavic languages from former Yugoslavia (Serbian, Croatian, Slovenian). That's the decades long legacy of men working abroad and sending money home for their families.

But people in Balkans are extremely friendly and I know you'll experience many more nice encounters on your route.

Wish you nice walk and hope to see you again someday!
Boštjan
Lovely to hear from you. Little wifi but I'll write later today from Macedonia.
Tim
 

timr

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Several and counting...
Boštjan
Lovely to hear from you. Little wifi but I'll write later today from Macedonia.
Tim
@KinkyOne Hello again Boštjan
Wifi problematic!
I'm more in Ohrid on eastern side of Lake Ohrid which sits between Albania and Macedonia. It is at about 700m and it is very cold up here. - colder than normal apparently. But as always once you get walking it is OK although rain had been quite a problem. And mud😩
Very mountainous terrain from Elbasan onwards. No waymarking of any kind anywhere😢 but the paths are identifiable and follow the old Via Egnatia where possible.
As you said very obvious difference between Macedonia and Albania. Macedonia much more developed but hardly any more expensive. The walk today is to Resen and follows "overgrown paths". Hmmm.
It's increasingly different to CdS and indeed quite different from VF. I've met just one other walker, from Australia, whose field is ancient history.
Food exclent!
Tim
 

VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/Francés ('16)
Baztanés/Francés ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/?/Invierno ('19)
A very hard day. The first 5 km took an hour. The remainjng 21km took another 9 hours. Because of rain! ... The mud very claggy, sticking to shoes and almost pulling then off.
Ai yi yi. And...
The walk today is to Resen and follows "overgrown paths". Hmmm.
Meaning brambles and nettles, Tim? For your sake, I certainly hope not.
What an adventure.
Vaya con dios, peregrino.
 

timr

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Several and counting...
Ai yi yi. And...
Meaning brambles and nettles, Tim? For your sake, I certainly hope not.
What an adventure.
Vaya con dios, peregrino.
Yes exactly but......an advantage of a chilly spring is that nettles are only inches high and brambles not active yet. I've arrived in Resen. Tough day but it's done. Here's what I just said on FB. (Wifi is a real challenge here so I'm way behind here on the forum.)
I'm in Ресен which we would write as Resen. My 12th walking day. This is the only day the book describes as "difficult" - though it was shy about saying anything derogatory about the life-threatening and truly dangerous day after Mirakë!
Ohrid to Resen
Two genuine problems. The distance - 29km. And the climb to 5,213 ft. (Nairobi is 5,800 for comparison). It was very steep up - which for me is the easier bit. Coming down felt like a plane coming down from 35,000 feet. It took forever, and hard on knees and ankles. Stunning views of first Lake Ohrid and then Lake Prespa. The walk was mostly through a National Park, so a bit of helpful signage and waymarking for the first time since leaving Italy.
Resen is now famous for apples - huge orchards as far as the eye can see as you finally get near. And actually in blossom which was nice to see.
Macedonia is a very Christian country - about 80% Orthodox, 10% Catholic and 10% Muslim. The Pope is here today as it happens, in Skopje where Mother Teresa was born. The countryside is dotted with shrines and churches and tiny monasteries which is rather nice.
It's a busy little town. I found the hotel after a while. It is also a hostel for migrant apple pickers, so you might rightly imagine it has no pretensions to be the Ritz! There are tourist hotels down at the lake as many told me. "Haven't you got car?" Walkers are a bit of novelty here!
The book spoke of "scrambling downhill" following the sound of a bubbling stream. I think I found a better path than that myself, different to the one described. I have something of a sense of achievement today.
Only dampener.....my left shoe is not in great shape. They are the ones I bought in Pavia, over 2000km back. I can't imagine where I can buy any before Thessaloniki. May need duct tape. 😢
 

KinkyOne

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
I'am not perfect, but I'm always myself!!!
Yes exactly but......an advantage of a chilly spring is that nettles are only inches high and brambles not active yet. I've arrived in Resen. Tough day but it's done. Here's what I just said on FB. (Wifi is a real challenge here so I'm way behind here on the forum.)
I'm in Ресен which we would write as Resen. My 12th walking day. This is the only day the book describes as "difficult" - though it was shy about saying anything derogatory about the life-threatening and truly dangerous day after Mirakë!
Ohrid to Resen
Two genuine problems. The distance - 29km. And the climb to 5,213 ft. (Nairobi is 5,800 for comparison). It was very steep up - which for me is the easier bit. Coming down felt like a plane coming down from 35,000 feet. It took forever, and hard on knees and ankles. Stunning views of first Lake Ohrid and then Lake Prespa. The walk was mostly through a National Park, so a bit of helpful signage and waymarking for the first time since leaving Italy.
Resen is now famous for apples - huge orchards as far as the eye can see as you finally get near. And actually in blossom which was nice to see.
Macedonia is a very Christian country - about 80% Orthodox, 10% Catholic and 10% Muslim. The Pope is here today as it happens, in Skopje where Mother Teresa was born. The countryside is dotted with shrines and churches and tiny monasteries which is rather nice.
It's a busy little town. I found the hotel after a while. It is also a hostel for migrant apple pickers, so you might rightly imagine it has no pretensions to be the Ritz! There are tourist hotels down at the lake as many told me. "Haven't you got car?" Walkers are a bit of novelty here!
The book spoke of "scrambling downhill" following the sound of a bubbling stream. I think I found a better path than that myself, different to the one described. I have something of a sense of achievement today.
Only dampener.....my left shoe is not in great shape. They are the ones I bought in Pavia, over 2000km back. I can't imagine where I can buy any before Thessaloniki. May need duct tape. 😢
Hi, Tim,

Although this stage was demanding it must also be spectacular because of the views over the lakes.
Don't worry about the shoes. Ask about a village open air market or a shoe maker. Pople that don't have much are very good in improvisation and they will no doubt help you. With duct tape at least.

Enjoy the food, the hospitality and pristine nature!
(BTW - I know you won't walk through it although it's close but Kosovo's capital is Pristina. Nothing pristine there though :) )
 

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