Kim’s blog 7/28/13:
We prepared for our trip to Albania with a bit of trepidation.
Few cruisers come here and the information is pretty sparse. Everything we read mentioned mines
laid in Albania waters during the communist era, but assured us there were no mines unless we dropped an anchor.
As we entered the harbor, we were unable reach our agent or any officials on our Greek cell phone or sat phone.
When we did reach the port authority on VHF radio, some moron constantly interrupted with singing, whistling and a
shout of “F*** the USA” on our frequency. We slowly entered the deserted commercial docks
with plenty of room for lots of ships.
To our port side, I saw a group of boys diving off the docks
and swimming in the harbor. When they saw us, they motioned us their way. We slowly
approached as 15-20 boys swarmed to help with our lines. They caught our lines and did a good job holding Georgia J off the
dirty tires and jagged metal on the dock. Soon an adult arrived, who said he was an agent and offered to
check us into the country (for a fee) without us leaving the dock. I was glad to see him, since I really
did not want to leave Georgia J and Sharon at a rough dock with young pirates.
The older boys spoke
English and said we were the first Americans they had ever seen. Come to think of it, I don’t know
that I had ever seen an Albanian. The young kids ask for money for their services, but the older ones told
us not to give it. Although we provided chocolate and water, the requests for money continued.
Finally, an older teen said he would divide the money among the young ones if we wished. We gave
him about 7 Euros of coins which he distributed.
This is when the fight broke out. There
was some disagreement over who had provided the most important service. I shouted authoritatively that
all money would have to be returned unless the fighting ceased and, surprisingly, peace ensued. Two other
boys suffered cuts when pushed off the dock by friends. They requested first aid, but ran away when I told
him the first aid spray I offered would really hurt. The agent finally returned with our papers and we
departed for the marina with lots of well wishes from our young friends.
Today we hired a tour guide who
drove us into the mountains and city. He explained the isolation and oppression of the communist years
and how this had held Albania’s economic development back from the rest of Europe. Most poignant
were the stories of how his family’s goats and land were confiscated because they were considered rich people. Our guide
drove us up into the mountains to a national park with magnificent views. We then drove into the town of
Vlore to see their most impressive monument to Albania’s independence. We returned
tonight to a wonderful meal in a very nice restaurant for a cost of 12.8 Euros (US $16.70) including plenty of good wine.
Oddly, the little marina where we are staying staged a very professional fashion show featuring Italian designers tonight,
but I had no interest in watching beautiful young women strut by in slinky outfits (although Sharon was
quite impressed with the clothing).
s/v Georgia J moored at Orikum Marina, Vlore, Albania