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  • Aoife Lane

A moment of reverence for the divine experience of Bosnian coffee, plus a check-in.

Caravanserai Bosnian Coffee - Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina

An Overdue State Of The Nation

To start, it's not a surprise to me at all that it's almost exactly a year since I last wrote for the blog. I think by the end of 2021 I'd basically used up all my words and all writing, even for this blog we set up together, was just the last thing I wanted to do. That state of wordlessness certainly hasn't applied to conversation and having finally spent many precious hours face-to-face with loved ones in the last 10 months on the road, I realised that I'd probably used up my digital words for a time. Even the sight of my computer was very off-putting and I actively neglected the blog even with Simon's encouragement, exceptional administrative and photographic work day-to-day, and absolute patience in the face of my blog avoidance.

Now though, and in a spoiler-free turn of events, I'm happily on the opposite side of that previously closed door. My outlook on writing here and, writing in general, has started to shift and in the last two months I've felt a bit like writing again. It's nice (!) and I guess it reflects a dawning light after thinking for the last 12 months that I'd never want to write again.

The Travel Craic: Backpack City

Espresso and pastel de nata - Porto, Portugal

To dust off the old keyboard, let me tell you briefly about the past little while. In the last four months, we've spent our time doing a mix of things:

  • Travelling to countries nearly entirely new to us;

  • Exploring these places slowly and doing our best to get to know them;

  • Working on different projects on the road (a little complicated to share here but things we're both thoroughly enjoying);

  • Meeting up with old and new loved ones in different places (planned, surprise, and spontaneous); and,

  • Planning our next moves for the remainder of this year and the first half of the new year.

We have many moments noted down to share and as the leaves turn in the Northern Hemisphere, it feels good to be getting stuck in to writing them down here.

Two Lane Lowdown (Like the On The J.Lo without the private yacht)

Not coffee but close: Churros con chocolate breakfast - Barcelona, Spain

In closing, throughout this year on the road Simon and I have talked a heap about the blog. We don't have social media anymore and in the bigger picture of keeping up with people, telling stories and sharing about things here is our online postcard for staying connected. It also feels like it's our own thing where we're not at the mercy of algorithms or giving away our data. It feels as close as you can get to the one-to-one or one-to-a-few form that we both prefer. Having this site of our own is a way we can recap more about what we've been doing and how things are going in a real way that is anecdotal. I also forget things a lot and a written record is something we value, too.

Cake and special espresso semifreddo - Varenna, Italy

Following lots of chatz, we've decided a few things about how we want to post moving forward. We're going to be working on the following style of posts to publish here:

  1. Travel Recaps - Overviews of each place, more of what we've experienced, and how we planned and experienced the place

  2. Postcards - Visual posts that capture more of each place

  3. Resource Posts - To share more about all different random things that might be helpful (or not) and also just because I love a power ranking on all topics

  4. Coffee Breaks - To disclose all the random things and recommendations, pitstop travel stories, and general chatter focused on all chaotic manner of topics

Please consider this post our first Coffee Break to share with you the craic of right now and to also say to you, how are you? What's the craic?

Raising a virtual coffee or tea to you or anything else you wish to cheers with us over. We're here for it and look forward to hearing from you, too.

All our love,

A&S xx

Ps, I am working on our next post, another Coffee Break that explains more fully the event that largely shaped the last four months. We've already colloquially spoken about it as 'the Toepocalypse', nevertheless for poetic sensibilities, the post coming for you is called, 'A Tale of Two Toenails'. Get ready!

  • Simon Lane

Corfu, Greece. OK, technically it's not Albania, but its where our Balkan chapter started. We took a ferry from Corfu to Sarande, Albania.

Next stop: Himare, Albania (pronounced him-ar-ah). Home to the Greek myth of the Chimera, with which it shares its name. Quite the hidden gem.

Vlore, further north from Himare. Home of incredible lamb chops, sunsets, and the toepocalypse. Gjirokaster was chronologically inbetween, but it gets its own post.

"I don't think you're ready for this feta"

"We're on a mission from God!" Blues Brothers spotted in Tirana

Surveillance equipment at The House Of Leaves, Tirana. A museum showcasing the surveillance state that existed under Enver Hoxcha and communist rule.

And last, but not least, a rogue tortoise roaming a restaurant in Shkoder.

Tortoises are wild and plentiful in Albania. We have saved several from busy roads, but that doesn't stop them from going wherever they damn well please. Did you know the collective noun is a creep of tortoises? Tells you everything you need to know.

  • Simon Lane

Berat, Albania

We are six months in to a year-long sabbatical and, at this point, we're so far behind on editing photos, posting and whatnot, that we decided to start in the middle by presenting the current stuff. We will also do posts about the previous locations and footage as well (we have a truckload of photos/videos from prior places to sort...) The aim is to create posts that move backwards and forwards in time, because its not as fun always writing in a lagged/past-tense capacity.

So we'll endeavour to label posts "present day" versus "happened a few months ago" etc. you get the idea. We'll put it in some kind of order eventually eh.

So without further ado, this is "present day" footage from Berat in central Albania:

View of Holy Trinity Orthodox Church and Kokovesh mountain range from Berat Castle

Southfacing view of the adjacent hillside village Gorice from Berat Castle lookout

In Albania, everything is drive through. Zuccinis, honey, whatever you need. Pull up beside someone sitting by the road and they'll sell you just about anything through the window.

East-facing view over Berat new-town from the Castle. In the background is Tomorit Mountain, a sacred site for local Muslim pilgramages.

Each town/city we have visited in Albania so far has been distinctly different. One explanation for this given by a local tour guide is that under Enver Hoxha and communist rule ('44-'92), Albanians seldom traveled beyond their villages. They were very poor, worked all the time, and didn't have cars until the reopening in '92. Travel outside of one's village was only when necessary (family weddings and funerals were exceptions). And if you were trying to leave Albania? Well, that could get you shot at the border.

Thankfully the country is free from that tyranny now, and despite lingering side-effects of communism in its administrations, is as hopeful and budding a young economy as you might find. Berat old town is nicknamed "The City of a Thousand Windows" and is heritage listed under UNESCO status. Albanians are incredibly generous, practical, and thoughtful, and Beratians (in particular our guesthouse hosts) were a prime example of this.

Visiting Osumi Canyon and Nearby Waterfalls

A short drive by Furgon south-east of Berat brought us to to the site below. Furgons are the small mini-vans/busses that take most of the inter-city traffic. They are sometimes chartered (in the case of this day trip), and sometimes have a/c...

The region gets as hot as low 40s in summer, but this little lagoon was freezing cold! Water here travels all the way from the Albanian Alps, partially underground.

Osumi Canyon from lookout (east)

Osumi Canyon from lookout (west)

Swimming Through the Canyon

Further downstream is a part of the Canyon suitable for swimming and kayaking. Thankfully the water is not as cold here (different water source) and we were able to swim and walk about a kilometer before turning back.

Back at the entrance was a small shack-like taverna where we finished the days activities with a late lunch, cold beers, and great raki.

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