From Novigrad to Dhërmi.
Novigrad turned out to be a fishing village that in modern times became a large yacht harbour but the fishing is still in progress and a dozen fishing boats were in the harbour at the center of the village. Here vi resupply and ate dinner. Many tourists, mostly Germans but also Danes were left and kept commerce going on despite the drizzle. Our umbrella was very useful today. About thirty motorhomes and twenty caravans had found their way to Camp Sirena. The campground has now waterlogged pitches and the streets are 1.5 m narrow, with only a few cm space left between motorhome and the trees lining the streets. A very inappropriate motorhome camping. No one is swimming in the 22 degrees Adriatic Sea and neither are we. The day passes with laundry, cleaning, reading, and "surfing". Bonnie refuses to go out when it rains, dog walks are few and short, with the exception of the walk to the village in the afternoon.
If is was sour yesterday, it was even worse today. We had planned to drive around the entire Istria, right down to Pula but it is raining mostly all day, therefore we aim on a shortcut of Istria via Pazin och Opatija to Rijeka. We become sinners by running a tollway from Pazin, through 7km tunnel to Rijeka. Everything we've seen of Istria in three days is Novigrad, which is actually worth visiting, a rainy landscape similar to the Swedish on a late summer and the mist-shrouded mountains of Istria. After Rijeka, the rainfall finally ends but then it starts to blow instead. Just before dark we stop overnight at Senj, Kamp Skver. It stands approx. thirty motorhomes near the water, for 90 kuna/day all the facilities available, including electric power and free Wifi. However, we need nothing more than a nightly parking lot with sea views and WiFi. It is already dark when we've eaten dinner.
Next morning begins with sunshine and good drought in the air. Night temperature was 14 degrees and in the morning it crawls towards 18. Bonnie is probably the happiest of us, as soon as she gets outside, she shits so a St.Bernard would be ashamed. She eats well but hates the rain, then it can become like this. We do a long “walk with the dog” and a short sightseeing in Senj.
Yesterday was a holiday, independence day, with much rain. Today we go a walkaround in Senj Harbour and after 11-coffee, we see that clouds are approaching again. The weather forecast promises nothing good, sad, because we had planned to take the coast road but it may be another time. We drive up into the mountains to get to the highway to Zadar.
There are two times when we prefer to drive highways. When we are, due to lack of time, forced to travel long distances at night or when we see very little at day time, due to the bad weather. Today the color of the sky is grayer than my beard, so we have decided, against our wish, to drive the highway. Croatia will have to excuse us, but we start worrying about if our journey is proceeding too slowly, according to our "script". It was never intended to do sightseeing in Croatia. Greece is our target, including a weekly visit in Albania. Near Zadar it starts raining again, we continue on the highway to Split. Green dressed rolling mountains and some really deep valleys. In these endless, unpopulated areas, there lives both wolves and bears. Before Sibenik the high-class highway goes on high bridges over the beautiful bays at the Krka National Park. "We should have sailed here! "Exclaims Stina" "You never know, it's not too late!" I reply.
At Split the rain is getting worse, so we continue to Dubrovnik. The beard is still around us, but now it appears tiny brighter openings in the south. There is a very high standard throughout the highway, almost all the way to Dubrovnik. A grey day like this we appreciate it very much. Near Dubrovnik the clouds scatter slowly but it is soon getting dark. We eat dinner at a beautiful parking before we leave the highway. In a separate EU-file we run with open passports that we hold up, straight through two border controls by Bosnia-Herzegovina, the border police waved cheerfully. In the dark, we drive to our proposed overnight parking in Cavtat. Just before we actually got to see Dubrovnik by night!
Today we drove about 550 km. Diesel costs approx. 1,2€/liter and 350 km A1 (high standard) motorway, from Senj to Vrgorac cost 238 Kuna. Obla-di-obla-da! In the morning at Senj, in the evening 20km from Montenegro. Good work, despite the crappy weather! Or is it due to? So far, we enjoined what we’ve seen of the Adriatic coast but we’ve had more than enough of the heavy rain.
It was dark when we drove past Dubrovnik yesterday and it felt wrong! Partly even to fill the tank and the refrigerator, we drove back to the southern viewpoint, to take some beautiful pictures. Now we can say."We have seen Dubrovnik!"
Customs checks us out of Croatia and in to Montenegro, with the special file for EU-inhabitants, it is only a formality. From a macho, nasty border police in expensive uniform, we got a nice Montenegrin stamp in the passport with that kind of large stamp tool that emits the characteristic click-clack sound. Stina was hard to keep from laughing, it was like a Monty Python sketch. After an hour, we arrived at the ferry location Kamenari - Lepetane, a ferry across Lake Kotor, which shortens the route by 60 km on bad roads and it costs us only 9 €. Not anywhere, ever, have we seen so many cars and drivers pressing forward and ahead of both the car line and the ticket queue. When we had stopped by the trafic stopline, several cars parked in front of us. When one had passed, the place was filled quickly by another car. Similarly for the tickets queue, they heave themselves up Before one, just to buy a ticket. All should travel with the same ferry and there was plenty of space! Only the ticket seller behind the disk was a cheerful and pleasant man speaking good English. The other passengers were real ”asholes”, rude and brutal mountain man. This explains the name "Montenegrins". Regrettably, we got this negative impression.
Well, I'm not finished yet! We were to get off the ferry too! We stood in the middle, the line that should drive off first. Same behavior, the cars besides the middle line were all honking and driving first, the cardrivers diagonally in front of us were waving their arms to us to disappear, while the cars behind us, honk because we did not run, which we couldn’t, because the cars from the right and left had pleasure to block us. They yell, scream, honk and wave their arms towards Stina who was slowly driving forward on the ferry. "The monkeys on Gibraltar behave better!" she says.
Montenegrins must be Europe's worst drivers. They park double everywhere, car doors are thrown up regardless the traffic coming from behind. Everyone expects to get priority everywhere, even if they legally do not have so. People we meet when we stopped are sullen, grumpy, can not or do not want, neither speak nor understand a single word English. Could it be the war syndrome that has made them so bitter and angry? We feel really sorry for these poor people!
The road system has seen its very last days, without any noticeable change in the infrastructure. The country is currently negotiating for EU-membership! Good Luck! Hopefully not, within my lifetime! They can start by learning to stand in a queue!
"I want out of this country as soon as possible" Stina says and so we do! “We are certainly wrong and had just bad luck!” I answer, sarcastic! Along the coastal road that we drive, are some very beautiful places and beautiful sceneries!
The Albanian border policeman is friendly, he even wonders “Hovvarjo” in happy English and he asks a lot. He greets us at the same time “Welcome to Albania!”
I shake hands with him. Our passports, car registration and green card is scanned and copied by his colleague and we pass the Albanian border where a cow is grazing in the first roundabout. The roads are better and often resurfaced with new asfalt. Farther down the road, there are peasants on their way to the stables with cows or donkeys, all walking in the middle of the road or street. People laugh and are happy, they are curious and like to talk and help us find the way. More cattle on the road, including poultry and all these lazy dogs who are reluctant to move. But everyone seems so happy! There are few lights in the streets and roads and it's almost black when the gate opened for us at Camping Albania in Barbullush. They have a big pool! Risk that we stay here longer than one night!
Barbullush is a genuine Albanian farming village and on our daily walks, we meet the curious population and cheerful children. We hear all the time: “Hallo! How are you! Where do you come from! Nice dog!” Especially the children are talking a little English, enough for simple communication.
Our time in Albania is so exciting and interesting that we can not find the time to write our diary. Although we sometimes have Wifi, there’s no time to complete our daily reports. We stayed two days at Camping Albania, nice pool!
The day after, we were in the city of Durres and stayed at Camping "Pa Emer" which did not fill our expectations. It’s a good looking scenery from a distance but it’s expensiv with bad facilities. Here we encounter a Dutch motorhome, parents, daughter, and a dog. They were completely destroyed by grief for their other dog, also a Bordercollie, had died after two weeks of illness. We felt that we wanted to help/participate in their grief and solidarity arose. Bonnie and Ijona (the oldest of their two bordercollies), got along well. We joined together and continue traveling through Albania after Pa Emer, to Fier – Vlorë – Llogara pass – Dhërmi. Llogara pass is a beautiful highlight! Bad road upp, good road down and we found our way to Dhërmi in the dark. We missed the road to our beach parking and found ourselves parked in front of the local polis station, near the beach. We met “Chief of Police” on our walk to a restaurant and he welcomed us staying there for the night.
Albania is a very poor but stunningly beautiful country if you look through the garbage and the bad roads (there are also some very good roads). The population are the nicest, friendliest, helpful people, we’ve met for a long time. We feel safe wherever we go! After contact and a chat they like to "take care" of us and make sure we get to sleep peacefully at night. Particular at restaurants, we are welcomed to park for the night. Obviously, we take the opportunity to eat there. The food is not high culinary class, but it’s very cheap.
We did rather see Albania joining the EU before some other countries, they are well worth the investment. Viva Albania!