"Shkoder 2008" Shkoder by maykal
Shkoder Travel Guide: 145 reviews and 301 photos
I didn't really see the best of Shkoder.
Shkoder has three main attractions...the stunning Rozafa Castle on a rocky outcrop on the edge of town...the Historical Museum in an old Ottoman building...and the Marubbi Fototeka, a collection or rare old photos from around Albania. I saw none of these.
A combination of factors hindered me. First and foremost is Tirana's lack of a central bus station. Where buses leave from is anyone's guess, and it appears that even locals haven't got the faintest idea. A morning wasted trying to locate the Shkoder bus, led to an afternoon wasted on what is possibly the slowest train in Europe. I arrived in Shkoder with not long to go before sunset. I had intended spending that day visiting one or more of the aforementioned attractions, as the following day was my last on this trip and was reserved for the journey north towards Dubrovnik Airport.
Well, in the morning, things again did not go to plan. "Minibuses leave regularly from Shkoder for Ulcinj in montenegro, just an hour or so away" chirped the guidebook. Do they? Obviously these must be invisible minibuses. Either that or they all leave at 3am or something equally ridiculous. Asking around led to more confusion, as I was sent in all sorts of directions, until eventually someone in a cafe overheard one of my silly conversations and took me to a travel agency inside the cavernous Hotel Rozafa. They had a bus going to Ulcinj, just one a day...at 3pm! Damn...that was late, and I had a lot of distance to cover in Montenegro before the flight home. Was there anything earlier? No.
That left me with a few hours to kill. I had to choose between taking a taxi to the castle and hope I could make it back into town before the bus left, or seeking out the two museums in town. I opted for the latter...
Albanian towns are not made with tourists in mind. There are no street signs whatsoever. While I usually rabbit on about loving to get lost in cities, that's all very well if you've got time to get lost and aren't looking for anything in particular. It took me ages and several makiatos to find the Historical Museum, tucked up a backstreet and not signposted at all...and in true Albanian spirit, it's gate was padlocked, despite the sign claiming it to be open.
So, on to the Marubbi Fototeka. Now this was something I was really keen to see. I'm getting into photography at the moment, despite not being a very good photographer myself, and old photos have always appealed. This was supposed to be one of Albania's highlights. To quote the guidebook, "the Phototeque is located in what looks like a residential block of flats down an alleyway, and is a little tricky to find,", which should have acted as a warning. I was doomed before I started really. Following the map as best I could, I found where it should have been, and sure enough there was an alleyway leading to a block of flats. But no fototeka. "The people on the street should be able to help you find it". The first four I asked just shrugged, one lady pointed to the park and said, "Pizza", and eventually an old man nodded as if he knew. I followed him around the corner to a Foto Digjital Studio!
I should have perhaps gone in. Instead, I gave up on the Fototeka and decided to explore the old centre of Shkoder, an attractive sort of place where the old houses are slowly being renovated and given a lick of paint (thankfully not quite Tirana-style). But after two photos of backstreets, my memory card filled up, which explains why I only have these two fairly lacklustre photos of Shkoder.
Despite missing out on the three must-sees, Shkoder did seem a pleasant place to be stuck for a while. I liked the place...the buzz the previous night around sunset when the whole town comes out to drink coffee and parade up and down...the thousands of bikes, far outnumbering motorized transport...the picturesque old streets...the mosques and churches side by side...the friendly burektore...the eccentric lady at the Hotel Parku...the even more eccentric lady who tried to sell me her "book", a photocopied handout of her poetry and bizarre thoughts on life, helpfully translated into Germanglish (i'm not sure who her target audience was, as she had no copies in Albanian, and Shkoder isn't exactly overflowing with internationals...)...
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