Route taken

The plan is to meet my father in Albania in a few weeks. Someone recommended me to visit Kotor Bay in Montenegro. The bay is actually a double bay and stunningly surrounded by high mountain ranges covered in thick rain clouds. All of a sudden, there a rarely German member plates on the cars anymore. Instead, tourists here are from Russia, Serbia or Bulgaria. I spend two rainy days resting in a small apartment just outside the city center of Kotor. The streets of the fancy medieval city center are tiled with big marble tiles and become very slippery in the rain these days. Every days a big cruise ship anchors in the bay, overlooking the city walls and churches by far. Flocks a tourists flush through the streets for a few hours then. Since there is heavy rain predicted for the next few days along the coast, I decide to move inland where the forecast is better.

The long climb from Kotor up to Njegusi is moderate yet provides stunning views over the Kotor bay underneath thick black clouds. Luckily, the road stays dry until I reach the former royal city Cetinje. After a break, I take a cool gravel track towards Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro. It starts to rain again on my arrival in front of a 4-star hotel. After carefully interpreting these signs, I spoil myself for a night in the hotel and enjoy the sauna.

The next day brings me into the lovely Cijevna canyon in Albania. The water in river is turquoise, the rocks are grey, red and black. Tamare is a small town on the verge to become touristic. Old Mercedes wrecks decay on the road side. The roads are mainly occupied by the new versions of the very brand. In Plav in the far north east of Montenegro life mainly ethnical Albanians, and it feels completely different to the parts of the Balkan I have been cycling through so far. The wooden minarets of the old mosques have beautiful carvings

Equipped with a funny permit from the local border police, I am allowed to cross the Cakor pass into the Cosovo. On the cosovarian side the road is blocked with big concrete blocks impossible to cross by car or motorbike. From there, a scenic small road full of random potholes and building sites leads through the Rugova valley to Pec or Peje. The people here in town are Albanians, too - and very welcoming, charming.

A mix of country roads and highways brings me to Giakova with its lovely restored town centre. Children in front of schools wave at me, shops display names familiar to me from my students. An old man on a bicycle chats with me in fluent German. He used to live in Germany for quite a few years. I mutter about my difficulties to remember even the most basic Albanian words. He would smile and quote a proverb I did not know so far: What you learn as a child is carved in stone, what you learn as an adult is written in sand.

An long climb brings me to the border to Albania, and a few hours later I arrive in the city of Kukes at the Fierza reservoir. My father and his partner welcome me at the hotel they booked for the night. They are traveling by camper van in Albania and perhaps Greece for the next few weeks and we consider to meet again in a few days, somewhere. Tomorrow, they will drive back to the coast, and I head for Ohrid in Montenegro.

Giakova Fierza reservoir and Kukes Family gathering

The road from Kukes to Peshkopie shrinks from highway to country road just after the brand new airport. The hills are steep, the sun burns but the wind is chilly out there. The few villages don't feature much but small coffee shops occupied with local man. Outside the villages, goats and sheep are seen on the road. Farmers pick fruits and harvest corn by hand. I must have been eating some odd blackberries from the roadside. With the last energy I reach Peshkopie where I spend two nights recovering from a bad belly. Peshkopie features a vivid pedestrian zone with a lot of restaurants with mostly local tourists. Most importantly, there are hot springs nearby - mostly inside an old spa complex which seems to be very popular. One of the hot springs is public, a small pool a little further away. Local man and woman in there welcome me to join them for a bath.

From Peshkopie it is just another day ride to famous city of Ohrid in North Macedonia. While strolling the stunning medieval center, I meet a guy from Lebanon who lives in Dubai since a few years. We talk the whole evening about travelling, and he strictly does not recommend to visit Lebanon these days. Next day, I visit Bone Bay (a neolithic pile house settlement) and cycle up the mountain range for a nice view. I spend night on a campground on the Albanian part of Lake Ohrid, and then it is just one more day to cycle via Podgorje and Bilisht to Greece.

Hallo Welt