Woke up after 12 hour + 'nap' to Mare complaining about the Greek passport stamp being close to invisible. Bon looked at her and made the very astute observation, "Well, they've used up all their red ink on more important things!" The stamp was using a red ink pad, ha! Love it!
Bus left right on time, 8:30 a.m.. The route out of Athens was accompanied by lots of road construction/expansion. In fact, all the way to, and some miles past the huge, beautiful Rion-Antirion bridge Info on Rio-Antirion Bridge
crossing the Rio Antirrio flowing from the Gulf of Corinth. almost to our lunch stop. After lunch we changed drivers and, whereas the first driver was very conscious of maintaining a comfortable temp.(AC on & off when necessary), the second driver smoked! Consequently, he did not have AC on sufficiently to keep the bus comfortable since he had to have his window open to vent the smoke! Being a chain smoker, the AC was off most of the time he drove...
The countryside was at first rocky hillsides and valleys with oranges, grapes,& olives as main crops. Once we crossed into Albania (easy, no visa fees) we entered a long valley after traversing a curvy, mountainous, narrow road. Roads in Albania were distinctly narrower and somewhat unmaintained ie. rough. Greek roads even where there was construction were in much better repair.
The valley was strictly field agriculture - hay mostly, but also lots of sheep. See photos. The towns and villages were all built along the edges of the valley (foothills) until we got closer to Tirana. We arrived at 8:30 p.m. Athens time, 7:30 here, a 12 hour long ride. No clue where to go from where the bus stopped a block from city center with opera house and university close by. We walked back to where the Albanian Tourist office was near the Opera House...it was all lit up but had just closed. Luckily, right net to it was a bookstore, still open and eventually we ended up buying a Lonely Planeyt Guide for 42 Euros+. A big expense but it covers all of the countries we expect to enter plus others during the next 30+ days. Will be handy knowing something about the area we're travelling through very rapidly!
There were lots of people out and about - possibly due to the proximity to the university. After talking with the gal in the bookstore and consulting the L.P. we decided to hunt down Freddy's Hotel
which was nearby and supposedly low cost. Back past the bus drop stop, I ended up asking a store worker where Freddy's was. He, in turn, called the Hotel and one thing led to another (all in Albanian) resulting in the fellow from the Hotel coming and taking us to Freddy's...a bit off the beaten track and back towards the university a couple blocks.
So we ended up at Freddy's kind of by default since he was so nice to rescue us. Bon was a bit peeved, it turned out to be 50 Euros with breakfast for 3 of us and in 2013 the LP showed it to be 12 Euros pp. To her mind dDI should have bargained, but here we are...nice room, TV, 2 beds, toilet, very clean! To me the lateness (past 8:30 their time) and our own unfamiliarity with the place made the decision for us. Besides, other than the gal at the bookstore and the young fellow who called the Hotel, we've encountered NO others who speak any English at all!