and now, Albania

Getting to Albania turned out to be harrowing.  I do not exaggerate.  The drive from Macedonia into Albania required us to traverse two mountain passes in a snowstorm.  Although the sky appeared clear and promising before the journey began, that quickly changed as the temperature dropped, our van climbed, and the snowflakes began to fall.

Pretty soon we were driving on a road over an inch of snow, and more snow was falling fast.  At this point we began to be seriously concerned and implored our guide and driver to please put the snow chains on the car.  In retrospect we overreacted, but they also waited too long to even attempt to put the chains on.  By the time the first attempt was made, we were high in the mountains, stuck in a bank of snow, and getting the chains on was impossible.

We did get out of the car at that point, at which point my mom took this picture of me.  I do like playing in the snow… even in dire circumstances! 

After this pit stop, we traveled slowly down the mountain, snow-chain-less and nervous, creeping along past banks of fresh snow.  Finally on the flatland between the two mountain passes we pulled into a mechanic shop to get the chains put on the van professionally.  (See the first picture, where we all huddled around the wood-burning stove in the corner of the shop.)  At this point we learned that the chains were too small and so they couldn’t go on anyway, not in a mechanic shop and not in a snowy mountain pass.  Our driver magically found a larger size, the mechanics fit them to our tires, and we were off again, feeling much more secure.

Our Lena was such a sweetheart that day, managing to smile even after 11 hours of driving.  (Note: We didn’t take any photos of her screaming to get out, but we could have taken about 50 of those and it would give you a more accurate view of how the trip went!)  We took her out of her car seat at the border between Macedonia and Albania while we waited for our passports to be stamped.  She loooved those border crossings.  And we hated strapping her back into her car seat after we crossed the border in 10 minutes.  Poor darling.

After passing numerous stranded vehicles along the road while we were safe and sound with our snow chains, we spent the night in Tirana, the Albanian capital.  For such a deceptive greeting with horrendous snowy weather, Albania itself turned out to be quite peaceful and lovely.  After a well-deserved rest, we went on a walking tour the next day.

We visited a museum to get a background in the history of Albania.

 We visited a beautiful mosque with an intricately painted ceiling…

… and a very new Catholic cathedral…

… and my parents shopped for hand woven tablecloths after a delicious traditional lunch…

 … and we posed for various photographs.  The usual.

And that, folks, was the last of our trip through the Balkans!  Epic and unforgettable.  We loved sticking through the rough times and the happy ones with you, my family, and we’re ready to do it again!  Well…. actually… hmmm…

And now goodbye from Albania, Green sister-style:

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5 Responses to and now, Albania

  1. Autumn January 20, 2012 at 5:01 pm #

    haha I love the one of Lena in the car seat on the left. also…no comment on the video…embarassing…

  2. David Garber January 20, 2012 at 6:02 pm #

    You do know that I expect a royalty payment for the use of “And Now, A_____” blog posts, right?

  3. Sarah Boschung January 20, 2012 at 7:01 pm #

    So glad you made it safely to Albania! Thanks for documenting the trip on the blog with stories and pictures. It was a fun way for me to visit the Balkans without ever leaving the States! XOXO

  4. PoppyG January 21, 2012 at 9:01 pm #

    I love the Emily video!!!

  5. Becca January 21, 2012 at 9:10 pm #

    Dave of course that was in reference to your blog… and yes, royalties (when I get some) will be forthcoming. :-)

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