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Albania Sarandë Albania Vlore

All Moved In

Yesterday Sarandë Taxi picked me up (in a Mercedes!) and brought me back to Vlorë with my big pile of stuff. It only took 2 3/4 hours rather than 4 hours by bus and was far more comfortable, though it did cost 12x as much ($100). He took the coast road part of the way, then cut over to the new, faster inland route.  Both are pretty curvy but that coast road is a constant series of corkscrew turns with hardly any straightaways. He was a fast and good driver but he was a big fan of passing everyone else on the road, mostly on blind curves. Oy! But we made it in one piece and he helped me cram all the stuff into the elevator at my building. There was hardly any room left for me! (It’s a very small elevator, maybe 4′ square)

That elevator! They gave me a little old Nokia cellphone that I have to use to call the elevator.  Literally…it actually calls the elevator! And then when the elevator answers, then it unlocks and I can use it. I’ve never heard of such a thing. They said it was for security purposes so I thought “Oh okay, that’s a good thing, even if it is a royal pain.” But wait….the stairs are all open; are all the thieves and lowlives here too lazy to take the stairs? If they can’t access the elevator, they just give up and slink away? Interesting.

I’m almost all unpacked, just one more big suitcase to go. I acquired some new stuff before I left Sarandë so I had more to move than I anticipated. The little supermarket had a new display of really pretty stoneware dishes. The new apartment only had one serving size bowl so I bought one bowl. The prices weren’t marked (that’s pretty normal here) and I was shocked when I checked out….it only cost $1.46! I went home and started thinking about how I really didn’t like the dishes at the new apartment, and I went back and got 4 dinner plates and 4 smaller bowls. The plates were $1.90 and all the bowls were $1.46 each. Such a deal! And the really funny thing is that not mine, but some of the other dishes had Walmart’s Mainstay logo on the bottom! How on earth did they find their way to Albania?!

I also bought some good slippers in Sarandë, for only $5. I know they’re good because it says so…in English!

GOOD slippers!

So I’m here until June. NICE! There are many things I like better about this apartment.  I like that it has two bedrooms, in case I ever do have guests, and the beds are all comfortable. I like that the floor tile is a marbled beige color and not plain white like the other one (it showed every little speck of dirt). I love that it’s got the cool stove with two gas and two electric burners, and a nice convection oven. And it’s very sunny in winter…hopefully not so much in summer! The little grocery store is only 100′ away instead of 4 blocks, the beach here is sand, not gravel, and it’s much more accessible. The buses run every 15 minutes instead of only once an hour. And the city is cleaner, with wide safe sidewalks.

Trash here is a huge problem. It’s everywhere. People think nothing of just throwing their cigarettes, wrappers and trash on the ground or out the car windows. I’m not sure if it’s just Albanians with this attitude or if it’s other nationalities also, because tourists here come from all over. It’s ugly though.

Remember my sweet potato with the long sprouts? It’s now my first houseplant! I stuck it in a mayo jar in water, cut the sprouts a lot shorter and it took right off! I emptied out the water for the trip here and it came out looking pretty sad and depressed but it’s perked right up. I think they’re pretty hardy little vines. I’m happy to have a plant! I’ll have to find it a nicer jar or vase. Maybe when I have to leave, the new renters will care for it over the summer.

It’s supposed to rain on the weekend so I’m planning on staying home. But with all that walking last week, I did lose 2#! I hope to do more of that but right now I’m ready to sit here in my cute little apartment and read to my heart’s content, and let the rest of the world go right on around me.

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Albania Sarandë Albania

Sunny Days

We’ve had a couple rainy, gloomy days but today is brilliantly sunny and clear, with a projected high of 70°. Nice weather is forecast for the next six days, yay! I have realized the weather becomes a lot more important when you can’t just run out and jump in your car to go shopping, you have to walk in it, carrying all your purchases. Right now the temps are around 72/55, which is pretty perfect. I’ve noticed that the indoor temperature doesn’t change much between day and night, which makes me hopeful that the apartment will be easy to heat in winter. I’m surrounded by other apartments on all sides plus above & below; with only one wall exposed to the outdoors. That one wall is nearly all glass, but I do have the storm/blackout shades that can add an extra layer of insulation, I hope. I have to pay for my electric usage but the wifi , TV and other utilities are included in the rent.

It’s so clear today, I can see those two tiny Greek islands, which are Othonoí and Erikoússa. (Slight humps off in the center distance) Corfu is on the far left. Qqq

I had a nice time with my visitors on Monday but they have opted to go on to Kosovo instead of returning here. Sarandë and the coast are not really their favorite places; they really love the mountains. At any rate, I’m glad they came for a visit.

I finally found a bathroom scale! It was at a store I’ve been in before but I guess I just missed them the first time. It was about $20 US so I guess that’s about in line, as it’s a fancy electronic one that also measures body fat percentage and BMI, though I’m not at all sure I want to know those things! And….I’m back to stricter eating for awhile. I needed to lose about 8#. I was afraid of that; I gained a few pounds in Ecuador and another couple in Michigan. And here I’ve been snacking on too much cheese and nuts. I’ve been getting really hungry in the evenings. I tried drinking water to fill me up but that resulted in a LOT of trips to the bathroom all night long! So now I just try to tough it out, and I’m pretty much back to that famous “If it tastes good, spit it out” diet. But on a brighter note, I have lost 2# already.

The choices here for keto-friendly snacks here are really slim, unless I want to snack on veggies (I don’t!) I haven’t found any almond or coconut flour here, or any natural sweeteners except stevia. So baking snacks is out, and that’s what I crave most. I brought a small amount of almond flour with me but I’m hoarding it, along with the sugar-free chocolate chips. I’m now down to three chips a day with my paltry amount of daily walnuts or almonds.

Check out my sweet potato! I’ve only had it for two weeks, stored in a nice dark place. It not only has sprouts, it’s got leaves! I wish I could plant it but since we’re going into winter and my balcony doesn’t get much sun, I guess it wouldn’t do any good. It would be nice to have a plant though. I need to check and see, can’t you grow sweet potatoes just in water??

Downtown near the bus stop is Friendship Park, which I use as a landmark. It’s the starting point for all my Google Maps inquiries. It’s quite nice….a resting place for people, with some sidewalk vendors and old men gathering to chat. Yes, we have palm trees!

I think I’ve mentioned that during the Communist Era here, the dictator Hoxha was extremely paranoid about the country being invaded, so he commissioned about 170,000 cement bunkers everywhere. That’s about one for every square mile! A lot of them have been dismantled but about half are still here. Some are just big enough for two people but some are quite large, with underground tunnels connecting them. I just noticed this small one in downtown Sarandë the other day. I know I’ve walked right past it at least four times before this!

There are some really old ruins near the park but I can’t find any information about them. t looks like some of the local stray dogs like to nap there!

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Albania Sarandë Albania

Touring the Town

Company day! The Reads and their friends Helen & Tony from England arrived at 2:00. They visited the Blue Eye and Ksamil Beach before coming here but invited me for a late lunch. They were starving so we left immediately to get lunch. They had a restaurant in mind that they thought was right around the corner so we walked. And walked! Either that place had changed hands or was closed. So we kept walking while Keven went back to get the car, and we ended up at a place called Mamacita’s. That sure doesn’t sound very Albanian, does it?!

It was kinda funny, the waiter who was also the cook and owner, changed three of our orders. I ordered chicken kabobs and he said “No, no, you should get this instead! Much much flavor”. So I got chicken in some kind of sauce, I haven’t a clue what it was but it was pretty tasty. It came with french fries that I didn’t eat, and cost 800 Lek ($6.66 US) Well okay, I ate one french fry. Tony wanted pork kabobs but was redirected to a different pork dish, and Helen was made to get meatballs with rice. He didn’t have a problem with Kevin & Ruth’s seafood risotto order. We think maybe he was wanting us to eat what was available.

My chicken dish
Seafood Risotto

Then we hopped in the car and drove the rest of the way to town. We walked along the promenade at the boat harbor and walked through the farmer’s market. An old woman offered us fresh figs, which I’ve never had, but then got mad when none of us bought any. Yikes, beware of accepting “free” samples! Then went to find the only fee-free ATM in town, which was broken. We stopped at several other ATM’s but they all charge service fees of $6-7 US! So they didn’t get any cash. We walked past a hardware store so I bought a small adjustable wrench that hopefully will give me the leverage I need so my feeble fingers can use my key to open the doors here.

This is what’s left of the original city gate, which dates back to the Byzantine Age…7th century! In the background overlooking the city on top of the peak on the right is the 15th century Lekuresi Castle. It’s in ruins and the site is now utilized by a restaurant. On top of the hill on the left is an old monastery.

So then it was getting late and they didn’t want to be driving after dark, so they just dropped me off at home and I didn’t get a chance to be a good hostess! And now I have a bunch of beer and wine that I have no interest in drinking. And I didn’t get any photos of them, either! I tried but my stupid phone’s camera is often really stubborn and refuses to take photos. (I really hate this new phone; it’s a Samsung Galaxy 12.) Well if I end up being mentioned in their blog, maybe I can steal a photo or two. Anyway I had a really good day.

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Albania Sarandë Albania Uncategorized

To The Beach at Last!

I finally made it down to the beach! Most of the beaches in Albania are private. If you want to sit there you have to pay $7-9 a day to rent beach loungers with an umbrella; you can’t just plop down on your towel. The beach in front of the apartment is “wild” (public). I am about two blocks in each direction from very popular private beaches, Mango and Flamingo.

I didn’t go down to the water because I was wearing flip-flops and it looked like an ankle-breaker. This part of Albania is mountainous and they start at the sea and go straight up! So the path down to the water is steep and rocky. My apartment building is the one on the left and I’m around the left side.

Here it was about in the middle of the tides; high tide was in 3 hours. The tides only vary about 8″. It was pretty windy again so the waves are bigger than normal.

It certainly isn’t the kind of beach you’d be able to walk along for very far, but it’s pretty. The beaches here are gravel, not sand. Other cities do have sandy beaches. In town there’s a nice promenade all along the beach. That’s the city of Sarande in the second and third photos. I’m about a mile from the main part of town.

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Albania Sarandë Albania Uncategorized

Another Beautiful Day

Yesterday was quite breezy, with gusts up to 47 mph! I thought I left that kind of wind behind in Arizona. But it was pleasant inside with the slider open and I didn’t need to use the AC.

Yet another early morning shopping trip because it’s supposed to be 86° today. (I really need to learn Celsius) In addition to the other stuff I bought an 8 liter bottle of water…..1.75 gallons. It cost $1.10, the same as only two of the 1.5 liter bottles. I had a hard time bringing it home though; it weighs 15# and only has a small plastic handle. Both hands wore out within the first block and I ended up carrying it in my arms like a baby. Next time I’ll buy it from the little store across the street! Even if it costs a little more there, it’ll be worth it. They don’t seem to use the big 5 gallon jugs of water in a dispenser here but it’s probably just as well; I probably couldn’t lift one high enough to get it into the dispenser.

I still can’t find a lot of items on my list. At this point I’m trying to get the basics, as I’m starting with nothing. I hope to do better once I figure out how to find the big supermarket in town but right now I think I’m done with shopping for the next few days. I wanna go to the beach! I get worn out just walking to the market and back, probably due to spending the last three months sitting on my butt in Ecuador, plus jet lag. I haven’t felt up to shopping and the beach in the same day.

Along the way today I passed some olive trees in front if a hotel! I was very excited about that. Too bad I don’t like olives.

I used my washing machine yesterday. It’s so tiny! It’s only 15″ deep. I don’t understand the little icons so I just picked a cycle out of the 14 available and it took 2 hours and 36 minutes! I saw that on the display but I thought it couldn’t possibly be the time. My clothes aren’t even really dirty; they sure don’t need to be knocked around for that long! I see now that the shortest cycle is 50 minutes….still pretty ridiculous. I haven’t a clue what water temperature I’m using.

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Albania Sarandë Albania Uncategorized

Arrived in Sarandë

The day started pretty early with my ride arriving at 6:30 to pick me up in front of the Pizza Point Restaurant. It’s right under my apartment and I didn’t know that a small pizza is only $2.50-$3.75! Probably a good thing. I managed to wrestle all my luggage over there myself.

The driver only spoke Shqip (Albanian) and Italian! So it was a pretty quiet 3.5 hour ride but he was really nice and looked exactly like a young Telly Savalus. The gps coordinates for my apartment were not quite right but he was able to talk to the rental agent on the phone to find exactly where to go. I thought my apartment had a full front sea view but it’s a side view only, and I guess that’s okay. Here’s the view. You can barely see the tip of the Greek isle of Corfu on the right. I’m not sure but I think my view is towards the west so maybe I’ll get some good sunsets.

I guess I can live with that! It’s a nice place but it seems bare and sterile. The sofas are hard as a rock but the bed seems comfortable. It’s on the main street in and out of town and it’s a little noisy but I assume it will calm down at night…..not that I actually sleep at night lately! And by the end of the month the town will be pretty dead; the population swells hugely in summer.

The door key is huge and strange and I’m unable to unlock the door from the outside; my fingers are not strong enough to turn it! I’m so glad the agent made me try it before he left. He went to get some WD-40 or the Albanian equivalent and didn’t come back for four hours. In the meantime I was starving because I only had a small dinner last night and no breakfast. I guess it’ll be a fasting day.

Even after the lube job, I still couldn’t open the door! Yikes! He said there’s nothing wrong with it, I’m just old and weak. He’s probably right but I’ve sure never encountered a door this hard to unlock! Maybe this is why….FIVE deadbolts plus a spring latch?! (The 5th one is down near the floor)

He packed the spring latch with paper so it doesn’t engage and I can open it now but I’ll need to get some tape to permanently disable it. The only problem now is that the same key also opens the outside door which gets locked at night! I guess I’ll just hope I don’t have to go out at night. Tomorrow I’ll check and see if that one is just as difficult.

The apartment is supposed to have kitchen basics like oil, salt and pepper, etc. but there’s nothing, not even any drinking water. I planned a grocery store trip right away anyway so it’s no big deal I guess. There’s a little store almost right across the street and a larger grocery about 1000′ away. l went to the little one today and it’s got a little bit of everything. It’s probably expensive but I didn’t care; I am feeling totally exhausted this afternoon. I don’t know if it’s the jetlag, too much walking the past two days, too little sleep or stress. I guess it’s probably all of them heaped on me at once. The store owner was really nice.