January 29 – February 2, 2020 (Winter)
Never have we turned against a place as quickly as Sarandë. But in fairness, Albania turned against us first. Thirteen hours of bus travel from Kotor was punctuated by a torrential downpour that centered entirely on our frantic transfer between distant bus stations in Tirana. When we finally reached the parking lot that started the last leg, we were harried and soaked to the bone, but faced one final obstacle: a knee-high moat of standing floodwater barring the path. We cobbled together waders from trash bags and soldiered on.
Several more hours of violently winding mountain road (with only a single solitary snapshot of Tirana) delivered us heaving to our new home.
We picked this glittering Ionian outpost based on rave reviews from other nomads. Cheap! Beautiful! Undiscovered! The familiar draws turned to ash in our mouths like the curse of the monkey’s paw. Inexpensive food, but it’s slim pickings of flat-frozen mystery meat and moldy butter. No crowds, but not in a charming way – the place was a ghost town. And the unspoiled view was being spoiled as we speak.
None of this was the fault of our Airbnb↗, which was every bit as cute and lofty as we’d hoped. Unfortunately, not as quiet. Truckloads of rebar and cement greeted us from the start. Our commanding glass and concrete perch captured rather than deflected the sound of jackhammering. Thankfully our gracious host let us back out of our stay, given the circumstances.
We left Albania seven weeks earlier than expected, wiping our hands of the ordeal after just a few days. It was a dramatic and expensive unwinding of our carefully-laid plans. But this was one time we just didn’t have the energy to make the the best of a bad situation↗.
Once we’d scrambled to right the ship and plot an emergency replacement course, we took our last day or two in town to take in any sights we could – we wouldn’t be returning soon. The center held an ancient ruined synagogue and church, and a waterfront that construction was underway to completely revamp. We will put in a good word for the döner and kebab shops.
One redeeming quality was the sunset from our apartment, which hinted at the magic others had boasted of. But our fondest memory was the fittingly gray goodbye. The ferry crossing to Corfu, Greece felt like a lifeboat from the Titanic. We don’t hold a grudge with Sarandë, but boy were we glad to leave.