Sleeping Beauty

From our starship’s Log Book

Jackie is looking for a pantomime to take Alexis to, this Christmas. We’re sitting in the harbour of Katakolo, on the Peloponnese, and I’m trying to write my next diary post. What about Sleeping Beauty, she says. It breaks my concentration and yet…
We left Dubrovnik in strong sunshine and diminishing winds. We climbed inland to enter the Bosnian corridor. This is a nine mile strip of land with access to the sea. Hardly worth putting our passports away before we climbed higher and crossed into Montenegro. The country is a delight. Mountain roads are very good here. The views, as we wound ever upwards, were awesome. People live up there, remote and majestic, and obviously very happy… Once over the gigantic barrier, the long descent on the other side is equally remarkable. It’s home to Europe’s largest canyon, one of a network of such natural fissures in the earth. In the valley we passed through spa towns and inland holiday resorts as the landscape grew ever softer. We passed a lake which is home to the only colony of pelicans in Europe. As you’d expect, we didn’t see one, but still… At the border we queued for over an hour, just to get out of Montenegro. On to the Albanian customs point for a mere 15 minute wait, then the Sleeping Beauty that is Albania. Cultured Europeans in the know say Albania, we just say it as it’s spelt…It looks really good, but just like Ikea bookshelves, you need a guide. Not the map. That only shows the one road; the state highway that runs from top to bottom – though it doesn’t really. Even with the map, the absence of road signs and maybe of roads, make it impossible to sample the many fine beaches. The happy visitors are the ones in tour buses, with local guides, and the promise of a hotel at the end of the map… High winds didn’t help. We had intended staying for two nights on the road, but couldn’t find another road. Our road came to an abrupt halt. The sign called it an extension under construction which we could feel free to use. We did. We hit a lump of adamantine Albanian Schitz which threw the mirror wall in our bathroom to the floor. Our roof vent popped and was abruptly carried away by the strong wind. We decided to limp all the way to the sanctuary of the Greek border in gathering gloom. In the dark we came to another extension. With the absence of any diversion signs; signs of habitation; road markings, we thought ‘what the hell?’ It couldn’t be more than a hundred or so metres. Ten kilometres later and our springs were sticking through the floor of our van, Hamish… According to our map, the border was just up ahead, and so it remained for the next two hours. We gave up. We pulled in at a lay-by and went to bed. We discovered the springs had come through the mattress too. Not really, though by now I could have slept on a bed of nails. With the dawn we discovered the real sleeping beauty of Albania. Sun kissed mountains; bright fields of ripening corn, and the border just 500 metres away. We may well visit again once they finish the road…

© franciman 2023
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i like this very much. reminds me of Byron and his band. and the van, Hamish, is a stroke of genius. look forward to reading about the rest of your travels; did you ever go back to the sleeping beauty?


Albania has always been mysterious to me. I would imagine it has some of the most unspoiled forests in Europe, but maybe I am just projecting. The road trip is great, but kind of wanted the protagonists to get out of the vehicle and prowl around outside.


I have always enjoyed your travel tales, JIm, and this one hasn’t let you down. Really enjoyable.

I’ve never been to Albania, and your description and the analogy to Sleeping Beauty makes it very intriguing prospect… some time.

If you ever do the walk to the tomb in Santiago de Compostela it would be brilliant to read. I can just imagine! (Having watched a UK TV program which followed some ‘celebrities’ who made the pilgrimage, and was fascinated by it.)


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