Journal - Napló

Days 28-37. Albania, Greece

Posted on April 10, 2011 at 9:15 PM

Days 28-37. Albania, Greece



Days 28-30.


   We were enquiring about everywhere, we crossed the traffic jams of Fier many times but we couldn’t find the factory and grounds at either side of the town. Saying goodbye to the Dutch guys, we started to head towards the sea-side. As we got to Vlore, we escaped from the blazing sun into the first coffee house offering wifi connection and we spent the rest of the day ’lost in computers’. After closing time we climbed up the nearby mountain side and pitched our tent at the feet of a hotel.

   Our camp for the next day was the coffee house again. One of us was working on the blog, whereas the other one was exploring the town. I wandered for hours, now and then getting lost in the woods of huge investments. In the district near the dock, residential parks that are being built touch each other, depriving the old, poor houses of the bay’s scenery.


   On our third day, the videoblog attracted us to the coffee house for hours; however, at nightfall we were now walking out of the town. Ardi and his cousin picked us up at a gas station where we were resting for a sec; about 20 kilometres on we stopped at the cousin’s bar. We were chatting, playing cards and board games until dawn; then we fell asleep on the deck-chairs at the beach in front of the bar.


   …Ardi was a professional football player until the age of 17. He had to give up because of an injury. He was the fastest Albanian football player for short distance. With his team, he visited many countries; being ’enlightened’, he told us a lot about his country’s conservativism which manifests itself mainly in man-woman relationships. The family, especially the brothers watch every ’love steps’ of their sisters and eventually they either approve, or not. There’s no such thing as going out time or flurting. Ardi, having experienced the liberalism of ’West’ in this area, was talking with sorrow. Still, what brought most pain to his facial features, was the memory of football. His big love, that his body did not accept so he had to give up.

   After the ball, his dream became his dad’s path: he wanted to be a military officer. His love for a girl made him say ’no’ to the army and so he went to university. Now, as a graduate architect, he wants to build an architecturally unique house at his favourite place on the beach...


Day 31.


   After a little bathing time, we were heading south as passangers of a Dutch number plate carrying minivan, again. Martin and his son were on their way to Dhermi, to the Dutch DJ Tiesto’s concert. Though the road leading among the sea-side mountains gives your stomach and head a hard time, it offers spectacular view to the eyes. The road is winding upwards, sometimes it gets lost in the clouds. On the barren, rocky parts you see sheeps and shepherds now and then; also, blinding white walls of little villas, houses facing the sea. Dhermi is a little sea-side town but that day a wicked mass took possession of it. After the fortunate parking, we walked down to the shore where the music was already rumbling from the speakers. We didn’t buy tickets. We settled down in the sand about 100 metres far from the stage, but even there, our pants were almost streaming because of the volume. Tiesto’s performance was still hours away, and the air was getting cold so we lit a fire around which we were listening to Martin for hours.

   …He grew up in a strictly religious family; then he spent years under the influence of serious drugs, until his conversion. Deeply moved, he told us his story of life, his view on genesis and sometimes he was joyfully chuckling at some of his remarks. They moved to Tirana years ago: he teaches children of missionaries. We had a great time together. In the meantime, more and more small fires were lit, tents pitched and the whole beach got invaded by the ’tiestoists’.


Days 32-33.


   In Albania, taking cabs is ’in fashion’. That’s how Martin and his son ended up heading for the South-Albanian Saranda, instead of Tirana. A six-membered Albanian team ’bought’ them, and luckily, there was still room for us. Eventually, we said goodbye to them about 20 kilometres from the Greek border.

   The former leader of the country, E. Hoxha, referring to dangerous, outer enemy(ies), gave an order to set up artillery bunkers all over Albania. At the Greek border, there were tonnes of these concrete cupolas.

  We reached the border after two rides (our backpacks got searched through thoroughly) and we spent the night close to Thessaloniki, in a little village.


   The day following, we were picked up by the owner of a Chalkidiki-peninsula-hotel; we went with him on his way to one of the ’fingers’. During our long trip, we talked about our upcoming destination, Turkey, as well. He has never been there and he never will be, as he told us. He does not go to a country where he wouldn’t enjoy freedom; he does not even give a dime to that country. He mentioned his country proudly, as the example of free democracy.


   After a sleepless night (mosquitos), we hitch-hiked over to the other end of the island, where we were told there’s less bustle and more local people. A French-born, Greek scuba club manager gentleman took us there. Out of his lifetime, he spent two and half years under water.

   We were just walking around in the street of a tiny village, Skioni, looking for fishing-boats at the dock, when memories rushed into Kenneth’s head and he found out he had been there once before, 14 years ago, with his family. We found the little hotel they had been staying at. We engaged in conversation with the manager; Kenneth even wrote something in the guestbook. We were given permission to set up our camp at the beach in front of the hotel. We were playing a cardgame called Gin Rummy that Kenneth had learnt how to play here, from his mother; we were drinking wine and listening to music. The stray dogs of the neighbourhood gathered around us and comfortably lay down in the sand.


Day 34.


   At 5 a.m. we were already standing at the dock because the day before we had been told that’s the time when fishermen usually push off. We wanted to ask for a lift on a boat and follow the events. A couple of fisherman were already there. We were walking around at the little dock, enquiring about. We were just at the northern part when we heard the bubbling of a boat from behind us. Turning backwards, we noticed that the fisherman who was just about to leave was the same guy we’d talked to the day before (though back then we didn’t really know what he was wanting to say). Waving we said hi: the boat answered with a slow turn and started to approach us. In two minutes we were now on board. In the company of a grandfather and his grandson, we were heading towards the nets that were placed the night before.

   While Sophokles the senior was handling the steering mechanism from the prow with the help of a rope system, his grandson was cleaning the board. Sitting amongst the pile of nets, for now we were just observing them, deeply smelling the salted scent of the sea. Above our heads there was a canvas, set with a rusty, string- and wire-fortified ’how the hell is that still standing’ iron structure.

   Buoy indicated the place of the net. Sophokles junior lifted it up to the board with a boat-hook, then he led it through a capstan-system and they started to hoist it. The sunburnt and net-trained hands gathered the net to a knot. Where the net contained fish, it got cumulated, as a loop, to the edge so we could get the catch out of it. Hoisting the second, bigger net took us 40 minutes. Considering numbers, there were not many fish on board, but in value, the 4-5 different kinds of fish were worth 60 Euro – grandfather and grandson were smiling on each other.

   Slowly, we rattled along the coast back to the dock where we thankfully said goodbye to the Sophokleses and trudged up to the road. We were given a ride to Thessaloniki by an agent of a corporation producing sweets. We dropped in on his mom’s who was waiting for us with warm lunch – turulu. We were revived by this food made of vegetables, hot spices, cheese and lettuce.

   We got trapped. We decided we’d ’celebrate’ that day and go see a movie. We landed at a suburban shopping mall forest. The film was bad, and afterwards we were hitch-hiking in vain, trying to get out of the mass of parking and access roads as much as we could.


Day 35.


   In the morning we continued our attempt to leave Thessaloniki. We were picked up by a boy who had worked in Germany for years as a truck driver. He was driving a sportscar. He told us he was free so he took us into the heart of the city, showed us the major sights from behind the car windows, bought us delicious ’Greek hot-dogs’, and then dropped us off at a road leading up to the motorway. We were standing there for hours, we even dared hitch-hike on the motorway, but it was in vain. As it turned out, we were in the western part of the city, held captive by an industrial establishment. Eventually, we started to walk on the old road along the motorway, towards the –allegedly- 6-7-kilometre-far gas station. Thanks to a short ride we landed at the next access road. Rain clouds were assembling, so before nightfall we began walking again. We were watching the rain pouring down from under the shelter of a factory’s entrance. That night we marched for many hours. Reaching a gas station, we were sleeping/asking for a ride by turns, until morning, without any success.


Day 36.


   We walked over to the nearby crossing from where there was an access road to the motorway. In a few hours a truck carrying cars stopped. The trunk got initiated by our backpacks, and the still nyloned new front seats by us. It was weird sitting at the steering wheel and going without touching it or the pedals.

   Our ’angel-like’ driver indicated that we feel free to start the engine, pull the windows and listen to the radio, we just shouldn’t touch the pedals – and then, putting his finger to his mouth, almost impishly smiling he implied not to attract attention. At noon, he bought us lunch at a little buffet of a rest spot. His two little sons were traveling with him. He was pure heart – his kidness knew no bounds. When we got out at Alexandropolis, he –for like 20 minutes- was trying to get us a ride by stopping a truck. Eventually, he had to say goodbye in order to deliver the products in time.

   We were given a ride to the town by a Greek boy who grew up in Germany – after a quick dinner he dropped us off at the coast. The darker it got, the more revived the town –that seemed forsaken before- became. The coffee houses and bars got filled; the swings and slides of the playgrounds were occupied by children hanging on to their parents’ supporting arms; teen-agers settled down to the merry-go-rounds and engaged in big coversations whereas, from the benches, their grandparents were observing the bustle. Even the sea, with its quiet roar, contributed to the music of the evening.


Day 37.


   Only in the late afternoon did we reach the Turkish border where we were informed we’re not allowed to cross on foot. That’s what’s called a challenge! Getting a ride directly at the border, i.e. making people believe we don’t have anything on us that would get them into trouble. Our rescuer was a nice family. Hungarian mother, Turkish father and two little blond daughters, on their way to visit some relatives…

translated by Ágoston Galambos


Categories: English, Greece, by Peter

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