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Absurd travel day part 1: Warsaw-Berlin
Everything started on Friday morning. I woke up at 6:07am, like every day and headed to work. After the busy day I almost managed to miss the train (did I mention my office is located at the train station?) but made it in the very last moment. Agata joined me shortly after, at the next stop and to our great surprise the train was really empty! We didn’t need to implement our master plan to switch seats, there was place for both of us. From Poznań we even had the whole compartment to ourselves! The reason behind it was the strike on German railways and people simply were scared of taking the train these days. We figured that since we had tickets to Berlin we will get there somehow. And our flight wasn’t departing till 7am the next morning. The train arrived to Rzepin, the border town between Poland and Germany and there were two buses waiting for passengers! Two! There were probably three times more people than seats but since Agata and me traveled only with the carry on we managed to score the place right away. It took us some half an hour to depart as people entered the buses but there were no seats left and the driver refused to go with people standing in the aisle (and then they had to find their luggage in the complete darkness). So much fun! I don’t want to know how long those unlucky ones had to wait for next buses…
Absurd travel day part 2: Berlin, Germany
Eventually we got to Berlin, only one hour after the train was supposed to arrive! I’ve never seen Hauptbahnhof so empty and quiet, it was magical! As it happened it was the weekend when Berlin celebrated 25 years after the Wall came down so together with many Berliners we could walk along the former line between East and West. Some 8.000 balloons with the light guided us through streets, squares and park that used to be the heart of the conflicted zone. Being in Berlin then was also a perfect opportunity to finally meet up with Franca and Dale of AngloItalian, one of my favourite bloggers out there! They joined us for a walk and we were so deep in the conversation we didn’t really notice how fast we got to Kreuzberg! Suddenly it was after midnight and me and Agata have decided that after getting some delicious cheese fries under the bridge it’s time to head to the airport…
Absurd travel day part 3: Thessaloniki, Greece
The check in and the flight went by really smoothly (and we were trying to sleep for most of the time anyway) and at 10am we landed in Thessaloniki. The weather was grey and gloomy and we didn’t have big hopes for the city but still had the whole day to see a little bit of it. The tourist info at the airport was closed due to the cuts in personnel but there was an online info point where we found out there indeed is the direct bus from Thessaloniki to Berat, Albania. We had some problems with finding that info online and our initial plan was to go first to Tirana and then to Berat and waste much time that way so seeing the schedule and the company name was a huge relief!
We quickly found a bus that took us to the bus station and our first mission was to buy tickets to Berat. Easier said than done! There was the international counter, it had the schedule displayed and it clearly said there’s a direct bus to Berat (and around 20 other towns in Albania) but the lady there told us that the bus is not going to Berat after all. Instead she offered us a trip to some other random place in Albania that we haven’t heard of before, that wasn’t marked in the Lonely Planet map and that wasn’t even close to Berat! Because why not?
Absurd travel day part 4: Thessaloniki to Berat
The bus wasn’t a fancy one but still pretty comfortable one and I slept like a baby (well, this might by due to the motion sickness pills). When we left Thessaloniki there were only few fellow passengers but we picked more and more people along the way, not even from the bus stations but mostly from some random places along the road. With our two backpacks we must have looked weird there, every person had some really unusual luggage with them. There was just about everything: all sizes of packages, two boxes with pears, two old fashioned TVs, some pipes…I think some chickens or a goat wouldn’t have been so much out of place there… The whole back of the bus as well as the aisle were full of all sorts of things and we all had to do some kind of acrobatics when we wanted to get out of the bus! Of course no one spoke English and the majority of passengers were men but there was not a single issue and we felt really taken care of for the whole journey. Every time when there was something going on – a longer stop, a border control etc – people tried to communicate with us so we would know what’s happening and how much time we had. No matter how crazy this bus ride was it was also one of the easier ones I’ve ever taken.
We were supposed to arrive to Berat at 7 in the morning. Suddenly at 5am we were woken up by the driver and somewhere in the middle of nowhere me, Agata + one more guy had to change for another mini bus. It turned out we were the only passengers going towards Berat so they just organized an alternative transport for us and the bus continued in the direction of Tirana. It was already a bright day, the cafes we passed were filling up with local people and there were so many bunkers in the gardens. It was such a good introduction to Albania! The landscape was pretty amazing too and I already knew I’m gonna like it there!
Absurd travel day part 5: Berat, Albania
One hour and a half later we arrived to suburbs of Berat and yet again had to change the mode of transport. The mini bus wasn’t allowed to enter the historic center so we needed to switch for the local bus. It was departing from the stop when we approached so the mini bus driver stopped it, explain the controller where we need to get and left us again in good hands. We didn’t have the Albanian money yet but it was not a problem to pay in Euro, we even got a change back. When we arrived to the Old Town again we were told (well, gestured) it is our stop and the controller checked the address of our accommodation and pointed us in the good direction.
So far so good, we thought, we are almost there! It was around 7am and at that point I was pretty tired and dreamed of the bed. We climbed up towards picturesque white houses, walked the street where our booked accommodation was supposed to be and we found nothing… I could see like the vision of comfortable bed is moving further and further away from me… Fortunately down the street we’ve notticed the police station and we’ve decided to head there to ask for the directions. Two policemen were sitting outside, enjoying their morning coffee and even if they couldn’t speak English they tried to help us as much as they could. They had no idea where our accommodation is (even if it was literally few steps away), they tried to call the number we had on our booking but there was no answer. All kinds of thought were rushing through my mind but at that point it was all very amusing. The policeman stopped an older guy who was passing by and he knew our place and showed us the way. When we were on the streets that we were at before he just pointed that our accommodation is in the upper row of the buildings. We thought we will be fine from that moment – well, wrong again! We went up the stairs leading to two houses. There was no sign to be seen but we heard some voices from one of them so we knocked the door. An older men who opened tried to tell us that the owner of the accommodation (whose name was on our booking) is dead – it took us a while to figure out what pointing to the sky meant… We were confused what to do but he showed us where our place is located.
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It was almost 8am on Sunday morning when we finally knocked the right door. The day was the prettiest (a nice change after Thessaloniki), the view from our room was amazing yet the only thing I could think of was to finally get some sleep! Finally, 50 hours after I woke up in my bed in Warsaw, after going through Poland, Germany, Greece and Albania, after some really absurd situations and some nervous ones I finally was where I was supposed to. For most of the time when things got pretty bad or weird I was just laughing like crazy as there was nothing else I could do. And now I keep laughing when I look back at these 50 hours, after all it was a pretty funny adventure!
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