Saturday, September 21, 2013

Balkan triplet...

As our Educational Centre is part of a project through the Finnish organisation, Fida, they organise, from time to time, joint seminars for all of their partners in the Western Balkans (Kosovo, Albania and Bosnia). They try to have them in different places, so through these trainings, I have been to Montenegro and last year to Ohrid, Macedonia and also to Dubrovnik! This year it was the turn of Albania to host and as we saw that it was going to be mid-way down the country... closer to Greece... the plan started to form.

My crazy team decided that we could stop off in Greece on the way there (even though it is a much longer way round, most of it is on highways, so it is actually kind of nice) and have a team-building time in Greece. Although we weren't all able to come (David and Irena just had a little baby girl in August), those that came along had a great bonding time (spending that much time together on the road does do strange things to you!)

We drove 12 hours the first day through Croatia, Serbia and Macedonia... and when we arrived in Greece, and as many of our team hadn't been before, we stopped at the border to get a shot of this: I kind of like that effect of the sun (completely unintentional!) kind of like the promised land...
We went straight to Thessaloniki and had nice evening wander around some of the sights - below is me at the Arch of Galerius - and grabbing a nice "gyro" for dinner before heading on to our final destination...
Olympic Beach! My Finnish colleague, Rami, found us a great deal in this little place by the sea and we were happy that our "day off" on the way was by the seaside: Dragana, Ljilja and I enjoying the seaside bar :)
There are actually a lot of Serbian people here, as it is quite close to Serbia, and one of the closest places to go to the sea... and we discovered that there are actually people also from Banja Luka in a fun way: We asked a guy to take a photo of us at the sea and he said to Ljilja "are you from Banja Luka?" And she said "yes, but why did you ask particularly for Banja Luka?". It turns out that he works at the market in Banja Luka and sees her there when she takes the parents from our sponsorship project there to buy clothes for the kids. So, she didn't recognise him, but he recognised her :)

Here is a picture of Sinisa and I actually at the water: (I didn't get any good photos with him or with any of the 7 Finns, so this will have to do...sorry). Later on we did actually get into the water as well!
The next day we were on the road again EARLY and on the way went past the "other side" of Ohrid lake (we had been to the Macedonia side last year) we saw many of the bunkers built when Enver Hoxha was leading communist Albania against the rest of the world...
Albania was a mixture of quite surprisingly nice roads and horrendously horrible potholey ones... and of course I didn't get any pics of the nice ones... but here are some of the not so good ones:
The bridges always seemed to be the worst:(
And here is one of my favourite photos of the whole trip - Ohrid lake, a donkey, an old couple and lots of potholes...lucky shot through the car window!
The seminar was held in Lushnje, and of course I didn't think to get any photos of the seminar. Oh well... it was the boring bit of the trip anyway :)

We did get to go to the lovely city of Berat on one of the days: Here we are with some of the team from Tuzla at the Castle in Berat. It was amazing:
 And BIG:
And very picturesque:
 With some stunning views of the old town:
Which was also stunning: Can you see why they call it the town of 1000 windows?
 There was a lot of contrasts through: beautiful new university building, really old buses:
There were some funny things to be seen everywhere: On many houses they have bears or stuffed animals hanging on the houses: it is supposed to keep bad spirits away...
We managed to learn some Albanian along the way: This isn't related to the English word at all, but means "for sale"!
Also, the waiter seems to have a sense of humour as this means "Ms Stubborn" or I am told, literally "Ms Hardheaded": (although I am going to take it as the good side of the word, like tenacious...)
After the seminar was over, we came back via Montenegro, and stopped off in Trebinje to see Ljilja's family for a very quick hour... before carrying on for the total of 13 hours it took us to get back. In the end we travelled over 2000kms, through 6 countries and were in the car for over 30 hours (granted over 3 days - but in our car Sinisa did all of the driving...luckily he likes to drive!). But as my Finnish colleague, Rami, commented on my facebook page "it was an amazing experience".

1 comment:

Victor said...

Wow. Very cool. All countries and places I have never seen, but still hope to see one day. Thanks for sharing. -V

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