The next day we leave for the airport to pick up our car – not a Mercedes, but a Dacia Stepway. The dimensions of the car are a bit smaller than I thought. Based on our good experiences with the Duster in Iceland, I thought the Stepway was comparable. That was a mistake. After all, with a lot of good humor and some yoga, we, the two girls and their luggage fit into the car.
Since I will be driving in the Balkans for the first time, I ordered the all-round carefree package when renting the car to be on the safe side. I have no idea how good this decision will be.
After the first twenty kilometers, however, the first challenge becomes apparent: the tire pressure sensor flashes. However, we have just made it through the city traffic of Tirana alive and decide to improve the pressure in the next best gas station.
We first visit a fortress called Pelenë in the south of Tirana. The fortress once belonged to Skanderbeg’s sister and served to defend the country against the Ottomans. Yes, exactly the Skanderbeg, THE great hero of the country after whom every second street and every second square is named. For some reason he wore a goat’s head on his own.
On the way I finally get to know the Albanian roads I had heard so much about. There aren’t many “streets” in this country that would have earned that word by German standards. Basically, you’re lucky if you find yourself on a track that’s paved and perforated by a modest amount of potholes.
The usual roads have more potholes and therefore less or no asphalt. The asphalt just stops completely in between or is torn away. On some roads in the mountains it also happens that the condition changes from asphalt to gravel to cut out of the stone.
At the fortress we will also witness our first Albanian wedding. We should see hundreds more…