Midsummer Eve, I flew to Split to continue my journey following the book "Christmas Mystery" by Jostein Gaarder. The book is a journey back in time from Oslo to Bethlehem. This is my ninth year. I have 6-7 years left to the target.
It was good to get started. Getting away from work and all activities. Just be yourself. Clearing the head, have time to think. Sit down in a church and meditate. Be open to new impressions. After visiting the church where I ended last year's hiking, off I went on the asphalt along the coast.
The walk was prepared through the winter. I was well equipped with maps. Places to stay was easy to find. Daily distance was about 30 km. I got up at 5 o'clock and went before it got too hot. In the evenings I often took a bath in the sea. There were many border crossings and I got many stamps in my passport. I came smoothly through both Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro and into Albania.
Flowers and trees smelled good. There were birds chirping, locust swarms, large spiders in great cobwebs, hedgehogs, turtles and squirrels. Once I saw an otter running across the road. There was a danger sign with boar. The traffic take lifes; birds, wild animals, cats and dogs. Even greater impression made memory boards with inscriptions and flowers over people who had been killed in traffic. This year I think I passed more than 200 such places.
It has often been minimal space for pedestrians. I have been a part of the main roads with heavy bus and truck traffic. Along the winding narrow roads, I had to cross back and forth to the outer curves to be seen. Then it was good to get into the carriage roads sometimes.
One morning I saw a person walking in front of me. I took him over and talked to Adrien from France. Great was the surprise when it turned out that he was on his way to Jerusalem. After a nice chat and exchange of names and email addresses, we left each other. He had planned another route.
It was special to get into Albania. I went on a good road with little traffic through the flat farmlands. On one hand, I had high mountains over 1,700 meters high, on the other hand, the large Shkodra Lake with mountains of Montenegro on the other side. Often I saw women with headscarves and skirts work with the soil. A flock of sheep was moved along the path of a shepherd on the bike. On fields were single cows tethered in place. Along the roads, people came by horse and cart with large load of hay or other commodities. Donkeys, horses, sheep, goats and pigs walked along the roads. There was a lot of garbage to see. Garbage containers were full, or overturned by gypsies who took to the things of value.
In Albania people noticed me with great interest. They honked the car horn, stopped and offered a ride, invited on water, coffee or stronger beverages. Shouting or turned around after me. They asked where I came from and where I was going, age, if I was married, had children, etc. I had with me a note with information about my trip in Albanian. They told about unemployment and poverty. Many wanted to go abroad, had been away and come back, or had children or other relatives who had left Albania and sent money home.
After two weeks of walking I came to the city of Shkoder mentioned in the Christmas Mystery. I got a stamp in passport and pilgrim accommodation at "Hope for Shkoder", an organization engaged in relief and mission work. In Tirana I stayed at "Steven Center", another missionary organization that also runs a guesthouse, there was a new stamp. This year's goal was reached. I had walked 550 kilometers in 18 days. Next year I'll get my walking stick in Tirana and continue through Macedonia to Thessaloniki in Greece.
Next day I took a southbound bus for 7 hours to Sarande where I met my wife. There we rented a car and travelled in southern Albania for 12 days. We went through beautiful nature, met nice and friendly people and had a lot of experiences in a very special and different country.