I spoke too soon. Not only do I have signal tonight, I actually had time to compose before I fell asleep. I am posting this early and may supplement. I learned the hard way that drafts sometimes mysteriously disappear.
Getting from Prizren to Valbona is no small feat. Valbona is in the mountains with one bus per day from Bjram Çurri. Minibuses go through Prizren across the border to Bjram Çurri, but there are no schedules and no guarantee they will stop. The only sure way is bus to Gjakovë, taxi to minibus stop, then 13:00 minibus to Bjram Çurri. How did we learn this? At least six people in Prizren got involved in making sure we got there. No question, these people remember. Although Prizren was lackluster on things to see, we were treated as honored guests.
Ah, but reality was a bit different. Our instructions were to leave Prizren at 10. Contrarians that we are, we went straight to the bus station and found a bus to Gjakovë at 9. It seemed odd to take a taxi to go 200 meters, but we were glad we did–we would certainly have gotten lost. We were on a minibus to Bjram Çurri by 10:20.
It was an interesting trip. Given that it is Friday, we guess that the 5 parents and 5 small children were going visiting for the weekend. The small boy in front of us wanted something and threw a fit for quite a while. His stamina could rival Carrie’s. Of course, this upset the others…
Our first stop was to pick up some flower pots at the €1 store. Then we picked up eleven 25-kg bags of flour.
Enroute, we had several observations. There is a lot of new construction. Some would be because of the war, but in general, this area simply appears prosperous. Many flat fertile fields, some industry. The first wide scale use of farm machinery we’ve seen on the trip, but still some hand farming, too.
Bajram Çurri has little history–it was created during the Communist era to serve the area. It is an interesting mix of modern and traditional.
Here is a cheese stand on the street. The cheese is in the bucket, and the scale is to weigh your purchase.
The hardware store–place your order at the window.
Dumpster diving milk cow.
Herbs for tea spread out to dry just past the dumpster.
In Bajram Çurri, we had three objectives: lunch, extend my SIM, and get some Albanian money. For the SIM, we were sent to three stores before a man put us in his van and took us to the right store.
Lunch was across the street in a tiny mom-pop place. Instead of a menu, the routine is to go to the kitchen, look in the pots and choose. Our stew was quite good when we ignored that those strange bits were brains.
The only ATM in town was out of order. A man on the street exchanged our Euros for leks with no fee and the standard exchange rate.
All this was done with locals falling all over each other to help us. Children were anxious to practice their English. As we waited for the bus to Valbona, three children about 8-10 were particularly friendly. Before we left, each child had bought us something–a bottle of water and two candy bars.
The bus was supposed to leave at 2:30. Fortunately, we were there before 2:00. By the time we left, this 12-passenger van contained 19 people, our packs (in our laps) plus other luggage, one of those 25-kg bags of flour, a large box of bananas, and several flats of drinks. That doesn’t count what was strapped on top.
The Valbona valley is simply drop-dead gorgeous. Even our first glimpses of these mountains were a treat.
It got better.
We are staying with Catherine and Alfred. She is an American who fell for a tall, dark, and very handsome Albanian. The view from our balcony:
An incident I forgot to put in yesterday’s post: Accommodations are not abundant in Prizren, so I pre-booked. To be safe, I copied the reservation and directions to the camera roll. Then I forgot I was going to need this and ran down the battery checking news while my Macedonian SIM still worked. When I realized the battery was dangerously low, I turned the phone off.
Oops. Here we are on the street in Prizen, almost dead phone and locked SIM. Only a vague notion of where the pension is and I can’t remember the name.
After a few moments for panic, enter Carolyn’s organizational skills. Stop at a shaded park bench. Open pack. Remove crocs. Pull inner duffel to top. First grab is auxiliary power. Second grab is card with SIM PIN. We made it to the pension without a misstep.
We will discuss our options with Alfred tonight.