Back in 2013, we planned an adventurous road trip through the Balkan Peninsula, covering seven countries in eight days, using only public transport. Adventurous or mad…you decide! We managed to visit Macedonia, Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Serbia. You can read about the first leg of the journey in Macedonia below.
Having bagged some cheap Wizz Air flights we flew from London Luton and landed in Skopje in the early afternoon. I had been recommended by a friend to get straight out of the capital and head to Lake Ohrid, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, known as the ‘Lake Como of the Balkans’.We took the airport coach to the main bus station and after sampling a few local beers, we caught our bus south. By the time we arrived in the town of Ohrid it was pitch dark, and we navigated our way to our bed and breakfast, over a steep hill – in hindsight we should have taken a taxi! We couldn’t see the lake, so we explored the cobbled streets of the old town, and had a delicious and ridiculously cheap dinner of local wine and fresh fish.
The room had a lake view and balcony, so next morning we woke up to the full splendour of the view – red-tiled roofs sweeping down to the icy water of the lake, with snow-capped mountains rising in the background. Breathtaking. After breakfast we spent a few hours exploring the lake, and the stunning 13th century Church of Saint John at Kaneo. It was cherry blossom season, and as it was early in Spring, it felt like we were the only tourists around. There are some good swimming spots around the lake, but the water was a bit too cold…next time!
After lunch, we wanted to catch a bus to Tirana. Now, we didn’t have wifi, Google had let us down and couldn’t find us a bus timetable anywhere. So we walked to the main street and loitered around the bus stop for a while with no joy. We could see locals coming and going a bit further up the street, in what looked like unofficial shared taxis, so we joined the queue. We got a few interested looks, but soon we were on our way, hurtling towards the bus station with some locals and a very enthusiastic driver. My Macedonian isn’t the best, but he pointed out some sights, and dug around in the glove box for some tourist brochures so it was all good!
Arriving at the bus station we explained to the lady at the desk that we wanted to go to Tirana. She jumped up and motioned for us to follow her and as we ran into the car park we could see the only bus of the day pulling out of the station – FAIL! She held up her hands, defeated, but then we ran outside to a sleepy looking taxi driver, pointing and shouting at him that we needed to catch the bus. He got it straight away, started laughing and we hopped in & sped off. It might have been the most exciting thing to happen to happen to him in a while…
We were on the main road, and doing a fairly decent pace when we overtook the bus, lights flashing. The bus slowed down, and stopped, and we parted ways with our legend of a driver (we gave him a good tip!). We climbed aboard the Albania-bound bus and found two seats down the back. We were the only two tourists, but nobody seemed too bothered, so we settled in for what we thought would be a three hour journey. Not quite…
Read on for Part 2: Albania .