Serendipity is a wonderful thing. A few hours ago, I had arrived in Durres, Albania after a fairly miserable - headwinds all the way - and quite stressful, ride. The roads were not good coming into Durres and the traffic was bad. The road from Elbasan was nice, after an initial horrible section, but Elbasan was a very ugly place, and the towns and villages between here and there were not pretty. When the road turned north and joined the main road up the coast, traffic was heavy and, with the cross-head wind I was buffeted as vehicles passed, and sometimes blasted with wind driven debris and, a few times, with water dripping from some big dump trucks. I was did not enjoy that ride.
I was thinking of taking the ferry to Italy tomorrow, If I couldn't find a ferry up the coast ,and then coming back over farther north. I did not want to ride anymore in Albania and I was down on the country as a whole. Now, I'm planning to stay here at least two nights and possibly three. The difference, a lovely B+B.
This B+B is recommended, in The Lonely Planet Eastern Europe, as the best place to stay in Durres, but it is also listed as hard to find. I had started to saty at an upscale hotel on the beach, but they wouldn't let my bike in. That is the first time that has happened to me at a good hotel, and my bike has been in four star hotels in three countries as well as two and three star hotels in more than 16 countries.
Since the fancy place (It is the hotel behind the monument in the image above) wouldn't have me, I went looking for a hotel a few block away, across the square in front of the main Mosque. I couldn't get to that hotel because of street construction, so I tried the back alley way. As I rode, someone called out to me, which I ignored, but they persisted so I turned around and a fellow motioned me to follow him. Then he pointed to a green painted door and a woman at the door welcomed me to the B+B that was hard to find. It is every bit as wonderful as the Lonely Planet said it was. Now, thanks to that unlikely string of events, I will stay in Albania longer and see a couple of beautiful Albanian places I would have missed.
After getting through the REALLY bad road conditions near Elbason, the rest of the ride from Labinot Fushe to Rogozhine, where the the route turns north was not bad. The only real issue was the headwind. I was having to work pretty hard to maintain 11 mph.
Before Rogozhine, the nice freeway ended and there was several km of rough roads with pretty heavy traffic. A km or so of that part was cobblestone, but the cobblestone was actually smoother than some of the non cobblestone sections. The it was back on the expressway heading north, but now there was a lot of traffic, much of it buses and trucks. The next 25 miles was not good riding.
When the expressway gets near Durres, it splits with the left branch climbing over the right branch. I took the left branch, but I should have taken the right branch. The left branch was really bad roads - Romainian road quality - heavy truck traffic, and ugly buildings. The right branch goes along the beach past the fancy hotels on its way into town. It is four lanes, but two of them are closed for construction, and it also has heavy traffic, so it isn't great riding ,but it is much better than the other route. Despite taking the wrong road into Durres, I managed to make the right turns - roundabouts are more thrilling on a bicycle in Albania! - and find my way to the Mosque which marks the central point for the old town. I rode on a few blocks to the beach and took some much needed cooling down time at the park on the beach before trying to find a place to stay. The rest, as I said, was serendipity.