We had breakfast at the hotel with Val, Esterina, Erjol and Sophie. Then we said our goodbyes and took a cab to Prizren in Kosovo. The trip was beautiful. We were incredibly close to the huge mountain cascading over us, identifying all the crevices and paths up to the top. It was a beautiful day and the taxi driver had, according to Ednora, the most beautiful eyelashes anybody had ever owned.
We got dropped off in Prizren and bid farewell to eyelash man. To get across the border in a 30 minute cab ride was about £3 each. We strolled through the quaint town of Prizren, which was split in half by a small river. Cafes, bars and restaurants populated the cobbled streets. It reminded me of a small, Italian Riviera. It was so pretty, you couldn’t get bored of walking along it for hours. One of the most notable differences to any of the Albanian towns I had visited was that there were a large number of mosques here. The mosques looked as though they had been strategically placed just on the outside of the town, almost to make it look like the modern mosques were there to protect the town, like a religious, metaphorical barrier. We popped into one of these mosques and pretended to fit in for a few minutes. I noticed that the mosques were quite newly built. But it was a young country which had taken a battering only 20 years ago, so was still rebuilding. The castle beckoned. The steep climb was steep but fun, unless you’re Ednora and believe that every twig is a yellow-bellied python. Our hardest trek yet, but the view, again, was worth it. At the top of the mountain, approaching the castle’s entrance, a gaggle of children descended on us, dressed in traditional Albanian garb. They giggled their way through a few pictures and then ran off back down the hill.
The castle was under a mass restoration project. We headed over the back of the castle but we were shouted at by the builders to stop walking. Apparently there was a wild rabid dog on the loose. We approached the man who saved our lives (apparently) - an archaeologist. He explained that the U.S. government part funded the restoration process, with the Kosovar government picking up the rest of the bill. This was pretty kind of the U.S., until they want something…
He gave us a fast track history of the castle, harking back to the Ottoman empire and the Serbian scientist who claimed the castle was built by Serbians, but this was later proven to be false; a piece of evidence to show how the Serbs believe the country to be their own.
We headed back down the cliff and stopped off at a restaurant by the river.
Our options to get back to Kukes were limited, limited as in we had one option. We had one more cab going back to Kukes for the evening, and we needed to be in it. After an hour’s wait in the driver’s cab, he finally explained he was waiting for an old lady and a young bloke to make the trip. Another 30 minutes passed and they arrived. But it wasn’t this cargo we were worried about. It was the seven airtight bags of clothes I didn’t have much faith in. Maybe it was the case that these clothes were very smelly and so there was a need to keep the smell from escaping. OR MAYBE HE WAS SMUGGLING DRUGS ACROSS THE BORDER. But perhaps I’m just being paranoid. Our journey took us through a tunnel in the mountain which lasted for some time, which made me think how you can take something so naturally stunning, only for the human race to blast a great big fuck off hole through the guts of it. Humans are awesome.
On the way there we got to know the people in the car. They all seemed lovely until the old lady asked Ednora if she was married. She said no, even the man next to her was whispering ‘yes, yes, yes,’ and the old lady looked at her like a piece of shit – apparently not a fan of Ednora’s attire as a ‘single’ woman. She literally wouldn’t speak to her for the rest of the trip. I guess a skirt down to the knees in 30 degree heat is pretty disgraceful.
We got through the border with no sniffer dog in sight. He seemed like a nice guy and his first drop off was over. I was more intrigued by his next drop off, but we’ll never know…
No it was our task to get to Tirane from Kukes – where we were due to meet with Petrit, Leda, and Tia. After much hunting and asking, we finally found a young guy heading to Tirane. He said he was taking his mum and so had space to take others for a price. 6000 leke each (£3) was the going rate which we snapped up. After a 20 minute wait in his car he explained that it was getting late and that he probably wasn’t going to get any more people to join. Therefore, he would have to charge 30000 leke in order to justify the trip (he said he could take his mum the following day, so not a problem for him). We said OK and the door was shut faster than any door has been shut before. He went to pick up his mum, and then swapped with his dad as the driver which wasn’t really in the plan, but we could adapt. We began to drive out of the town and then all of a sudden he pulled over for two more people, as if they had been waiting there the whole time!
The drive was a nightmare. The old man at the wheel was on a death wish. He wasn’t even that interested in looking at the road, even though he was travelling at 100kpm. It’s probably the worst driving experience I’ve ever had. The strangest thing about him was that he seemed incapable of talking to someone without needing to look at them, regardless of where they were sitting. He couldn’t have a conversation and keep his eyes on the road at the same time. Even when I spoke to Ednora he thought I was speaking to him and so turned around for that. It became easier to just not talk. Talking could have cost us our lives.
Our white knuckle ride finally took us into Tirane, and he dropped off the two other customers, who paid 6000 leke – the original price.
When he dropped us off he asked for 36000 leke! What the fuck! We explained to him that it was meant to be 6000 leke if he filled the two spaces, which he did, and 30000 leke if he didn’t. Ednora phoned the young guy who sold us the ride and he explained that they were family, apparently family who pay the going rate that we were meant to pay. We got it down to 30000 leke, but we’d been duped. We met Petrit, Leda and Tia, and stayed at Leda’s place as we did the first night in Albania.