Albania had intrigued me since childhood. A secretive secluded country run by a single man, Enver Hoxha for over forty years, tourism was near impossible. So now was my chance to get a look behind newly opened doors of a country and particularly its capital, Tirana.
The city’s landmarks included an ancient bridge, unkempt and overgrown; it was not worthy of the title ‘highlight’. And this just about summed up Tirana. A city that was in its day, full of pomp but on a budget. There were a few peculiarities such as the ‘mushroom’ bomb shelters that populate the country. It was no surprise to learn that Albania held us for only 24 hours. The Sky Bar though did offer up superb Martinis!
Montenegro was the next destination on the eighteen country odyssey. But this was one of the few countries that we did not call upon the national capital, Podgorica. A couple of nights at the coastal resort of Budva gave us opportunity to visit another beacside town of Kotor. Both have Stari Grads or Old Towns, as have every destination visited thus far. Kotor though has the greater benefit or panoramic views of the area.
Two days was perhaps an injustice to Montenegro that has a lot to offer. But the railroad continues.
And this particular train (or private transfer) now took us onto Bosnia Hertsovogenia; formerly two countries but now united. A country with a recent past of terrible conflict that has now turned the corner to prosperity. For me, this was a delight.
Sarajevo, a city scared by a three year siege and near 75% destruction, is now a vibrant place. The city centre is easily walkable, and whilst I travelled around independently, others took what was reported to be an excellent tour. The latter included the tunnel built under the airport that was used during conflict to move humanitarian aid. Sarajevo is a must see.
And then on to Mostar, famous for its bridge and equally remembered by me or the most torrential downpours; three in the space of a few hours. But wading through the rivulets and slippery cobbled streets gave an insight to a wonderful town. Reminders of the wars abound; having been left unattended for a variety of reasons such as lack of finances, contested ownership, and reminders to lives lost.