Our tour of Albania continues.
Leaving our Albanian castle accommodations behind. So sad! :(
And back down the steep cobblestone road to the old city of Berat
I can't believe the beautiful weather we are continuing to have. Our friends all over Western Europe - from the UK, Belgium, Germany and Switzerland - they've been constantly PMing us to ask, "Where are you? It's been raining for weeks now! Are you here in town? Are you to blame for this?!?"
Sorry guys. It's absolutely perfect where *we* are! RideDOT.com curse is broken! (knock on wood)
From Berat, we backtrack north a little bit to ride past Fier towards Vlorë
At Vlorë, we turn back inland towards the mountains. Nice seeing where the road will take us up ahead!
Admiring the valley below us. We were Vlorëd by the beauty...
SH76 follows the contours of the Vlorë valley carved by the Shushicë river somewhere far below us. Not much traffic here, but the pavement is surprisingly nice and twisty. We enjoy the curves, the scenery and the perfect riding weather!
We turn off the main road and head to an archaeological site that Neda found online
About 40 kms south of Vlorë is supposed to be the site of the ancient Greek ruins of Amantia. Not a lot of signage, but we manage to find the turnoff to the gravel road that leads up to a stone fort up at the top of the hill.
"Oooh! Ancient ruins! I'm excited now!"
We park our bikes at the bottom of the hill. By the 3rd century BC, Amantia was quite a developed city, it had it's own temple as well as an acropolis. The city was abandoned by 6th century AD. Since then, most of it has been looted by illegal diggers and treasure hunters, but some of the foundations still remained for the archaeologists to dig up and showcase.
This is the Amantia stadium. It looks like they played football here. Neda sits at the 40-yard line:
"This is not even in the same league as the Pula amphitheater."
So far not that exciting. We try to find the rest of the ruins, and it looks like the only direction is up the hill. The road looks pretty steep and rough so we opt to leave the bikes down here and hike up. I'm not too jazzed about that, but I'm trying not to complain too much, otherwise I'll be stuck planning and leading this entire trip forever!
It's about a one km steep climb to get to the top. We should have left our riding jackets on the motorcycles. I'm huffing and puffing and sweating profusely carrying all the cameras and my jacket. But I'm not complaining. Excessively. I think...
Halfway up, we can see the road we took to get here. Nice!
This Albanian man was watching us hike up the hill.
"Why hike when you have a horse?"
"Exactly, Albanian Man. I have like a hundred of them sitting in that field down there... :("
At the top, the stone structure is just a little village, it doesn't look like it's part of any Greek ruins. We walk to the other side.
Are those the ruins? They don't look very impressive from up here...
Neda wants to hike down to the ruins. It's basically the same level as where we parked our bikes! I perform a quick reward-to-effort ratio calculation in my head and the number I come up with is waaaay too low. So I ask to be excused from this section of the hike.
I waited for Neda at the top while she hiked down. I took some pictures in the meantime.
She made it to the bottom. I'm using the extra-super-zoom feature on the camera here.
Neda says, "I walked all the way down here for *this*? What a waste!"
I felt pretty smug at the top of the hill. Saved soooo many calories! I waited for her as she hiked back up and then we trudged back down the hill towards our bikes. Neda doesn't seem to mind all this extra exercise. She's so weird.
When we reached the parking lot/field we saw two other motos with Austrian plates. We talked a bit with the riders and exchanged riding stories. Then off they went leaving us alone, except for another Albanian:
This guy travels even slower than we do! But not by much...
Despite SH76 looking to be more twisty roads south through the Kurvelesh Mountains, we instead double back north towards Vlorë.
There are random war memorials and statues scattered all over the countryside in Albania
Made it into Vlorë for a very late lunch
It's a pretty seaside town. We head to the boardwalk to try to find a restaurant. Lots of pizza places here in Vlorë. We had some really greasy pasta for lunch and then jumped back on the bikes for the main course of the day! The reason why we doubled back to the coast was because I had read there was a must-do road in this area.
The coastal road south of Vlorë towards Sarandë has consistently placed on many top ten lists of Best European Roads
The road doesn't just stay on the coast, it also jags inwards and up the mountains into the clouds. Rainsuit required.
Riding into the clouds of Mount Çika. Neda says it's pronounced Mount Chica. haha!
Coming down the other side of La Montaña de las Chicas. ¡Hola Mola! Muy hermosa!
I don't know why this blog has suddenly turned Spanish... in Albania...
Our helmets were like bobble heads. The mountains and scenery were so breathtaking, we didn't know which way to look. We opted to keep our eyes on the road whenever there was a turn ahead of us. Which was most of the time:
Staircase of switchbacks back down to the coastal road
More beautiful coastal scenery
Neda is riding off into the sunset
Okay, so the Greek ruins were not that impressive, but such a great day of riding though! So far, Albania is surprising me. I didn't know what to expect beforehand, but we're both super-happy that we're here!